§ 3.34 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
I beg to move,That this House approves the proposals in Command Paper No. 6923 for the Central Organisation for Defence.The proposals for the central organisation of defence embodied in the White Paper which we are now about to discuss have, I think, received pretty general approval. There have been one or two points of criticism, with which I will deal, but, broadly speaking, I think the proposals are considered to be a logical development from the past and an application of the lessons learned during the war. As is usual in this country, they are essentially evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and they do not attempt to lay down the final form which our defence organisation will take. I would rather suggest that they represent a consolidation of ground already won, and a jumping-off place for the future.
It is not my intention this afternoon to paraphrase or reproduce what is contained in the White Paper. I would rather indicate the aims which we are pursuing, the steps we are taking to formulate these proposals and the general conception of Governmental organisation into which defence must fit. On this matter of defence organisation and that of a Minister of Defence, I have not infrequently spoken in the House in past years; I have even committed myself in written articles, and for many years I have been an advocate of the creation of a Minister of Defence. I sought, by discussions with officers and others, as far as possible to inform myself on these issues, and in addition to these prewar theoretical studies I had the advantage subsequently of testing them in practice. As a Member of the War Cabinet and the Defence Committee for five years, I had that opportunity and I do not find, on reflection, that I had to discard any of the main principles which I formulated in peacetime, although naturally their detailed application had to be changed.
The problem which faces us now is how to ensure for the fighting Services unity of thought, unity of supreme direction, unity of plan, unity of outlook, and, above all, unity of defence doctrine. The 618 Services are increasingly interdependent but, in obtaining this unity, we have to take care to preserve the responsibility of Ministers to this House, and, particularly, to avoid overloading one Minister with a great mass of administrative detail. In fact, we have to achieve what is the feature of all good organisations; we have to distinguish between the function of decision on broad matters of policy, and the function of detailed administration, without, at the same time, allowing the former to be divorced from the latter. In fact, in all planning, there must be an intimate connection between the people who plan and those who have to carry out the plan. We have also to consider, of course, not just the fighting Services, but the fighting Services and their supplies, and how they are related to the rest of the activities of the nation, without allowing the latter to become completely subservient to the former.
In the present age, when hostilities break out, as we are all well aware from experience, the whole energy of the nation has to be concentrated on a single objective—victory—and this objective involves every Department of Government. The Government have to take control of every phase of the nation's life, and that, of course, necessitates changes from the organisation which obtains in peace. We all remember how, in both the world wars, the function of decision was taken into the hands of a small War Cabinet. In war, the Prime Minister, of necessity, has to take the ultimate responsibility for the mobilisation and direction of the whole resources of the nation. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, on becoming Prime Minister, wisely, I think, assumed the additional title of "Minister of Defence," and he devised the machinery which functioned so successfully throughout the war. When I succeeded him, I continued to employ the same defence machinery although, necessarily, its content—the amount of work to be done—was different, and I assumed the same title.
When the war ended, I did not wish to revert to prewar practice, which I thought had various defects. At the same time, it was quite obvious that the machinery built up during the great war, and appropriate to its ends, must be adapted to fit into the peacetime organisation of Government. I had, therefore, to consider what 619 were the appropriate steps to take. I did not consider it useful to set up another Committee, as was done in 1904 under Lord Esher, because that would take time and, as a matter of fact, the decision, ultimately, has to be taken by the Government. Further, the relevant evidence was available from those who either as high ranking officers, Ministers of the Crown or members of the defence staff had a unique knowledge of the actual functioning of the machine. I, therefore, decided to conduct an inquiry myself, with two of my colleagues, to see how the machinery which had worked so well in war could be adapted to peace conditions, and this White Paper is the result.
While the Government naturally take the whole responsibility for these proposals, I should like to express my indebtedness to the wartime Chiefs of Staff, to the civil and military members of the Secretariat for their advice, and also to right hon. Gentlemen who are not of my party, but who were colleagues of mine in the wartime administration. They were so good as to give me the benefit of their views and suggestions on tentative proposals which I submitted to them in the course of my inquiry.
In the various Debates which I can recall in this House on the organisation of defence, there has always been raised the question of the exact relationship of any possible Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister. There have been those who either desired or feared that the Minister of Defence would be a kind of leviathan among all the other Ministers and would compete with the Prime Minister in authority. There have always been those who would reduce him to a mere shadow. I do not think there is any reason to fall into either of those two errors, and I hope and believe that in our present proposals, we have avoided them. I think we have to bear clearly in mind that there are two separate aspects of defence. There is the wider aspect which involves the activities of all the citizens in a nation at war, and the narrow one which covers only the problem of coordinating the three Services and their supply.
As I have already pointed out, in war, necessarily, the whole energies of the nation are concentrated on victory. Therefore, during the war these two 620 aspects did not stand out so clearly and separately as they do in peacetime. In wartime, for example, the activities of the Ministries of Food, Agriculture and Labour were harnessed to the chariot of the war machine. The Ministry of Home Security had its work supplemented by the Ministries of Work, Health, Education and War Transport I think it is perfectly obvious that, in war, this wider aspect cannot be the business of a single Minister; it must be handled by Ministers collectively. It is equally true in peace that, if preparations for defence have to be made, they cannot be entrusted to a single Minister, and, for this reason, action recommended on defence grounds in time of peace may often involve some sacrifice of immediate civil advantage. An obvious case will occur to hon. Members in the location of industry. Future defence advantages often have to be weighed against immediate disadvantages to our peace economy. Therefore, in peacetime, these decisions must be agreed to by the Ministers affected.
If we had one Defence Minister responsible for this whole field, he would obviously encroach on the responsibilities of other Ministers and, in fact, become that leviathan that has been dreaded. Our prewar organisation took account of this, and entrusted the whole business of planning defence to the Committee of Imperial Defence. It was created for that purpose, for facilitating the discussion of defence plans involving co-operation by several agencies of the Government, and in our new organisation we carry forward this principle. The Defence Committee, which will take over the functions of the old Committee of Imperial Defence, will be presided over by the Prime Minister. Its composition will be flexible.
I would here like to advert to certain criticisms that have been made in another place. While stating the fact of flexibility, we had set out in the White Paper that certain Ministers will be regular members of the Committee, and we did this in order to give the House and country a clear picture of the machine. Thus, among those permanent members, in addition to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence and the Service Ministers, mention is made of the Lord President, of the Foreign Secretary, of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Minister of Labour 621 and, of course, the Minister of Supply. In setting this out so fully, we have departed from a very sound principle and practice, that of not disclosing the composition of Cabinet Committees. That is a very sound principle. We do not want to depart from the principle of departmental responsibility and there is, after all, no obligation on the Government to disclose the exact domestic arrangements for handling its collective business. But I notice that, in a Debate in another place, this departure from the normal got us into trouble, because more weight has been given to our illustration showing that there are certain regular members, than to the statement that its composition is essentially flexible. The idea, of course, is that other Ministers are called in from time to time, as happens in other Committees when there is a nucleus.
In particular, a point was made of the fact that the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs was not mentioned among the regular members. Perhaps I might deal with that point now. The Dominions Secretary will, of course, be kept in the closest possible touch with all defence matters, and will attend all meetings and discussions which involve the defence of the Commonwealth as a whole or in any way affect the interests of any part of the Commonwealth. But, of course, there is a vast number of defence matters which concern only this country, and they need not occupy the time of the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs. I wish to make it clear that there is no intention whatever of bypassing all those matters with which he is concerned.
Another misapprehension I noticed in the Debate in another place was that one speaker assumed that because the normal organisation of the Defence Committee had been set out in a White Paper, the Government would be precluded from making any change of structure without coming to Parliament. That again is to disregard the point I have made, namely, that, like the Committee of Imperial Defence, the Defence Committee must not be rigid but flexible and must be adapted to circumstances.
I have stated the points of likeness between the new setup and the old, and there is one important matter of difference. The old Committee of Imperial Defence was essentially an advisory body, 622 set up, hon. Members will realise, as long ago as the beginning of the century, and I think the reasons for making it advisory were largely historical. The result was that it had no powers of decision. Its recommendations took the form of advice to particular Ministers on matters for which they were individually responsible to Parliament, and to the Cabinet upon matters requiring coordinated decision. Of course, I am well aware that in practice that advice was often tantamount to a decision, but the distinction is, I think, important. Under the new scheme of organisation, the Defence Committee will not be purely advisory. As a committee of the Cabinet, it will have powers of decision to the extent to which authority is devolved upon it.
I would like to depart for a moment from what is set out in the White Paper, and say a word on the organisation of government, because there have been very great changes in the last 40 years and especially in recent years, in particular in the development of the Cabinet committee system. Let me remind the House that, in 1914, there were only 15 major Departments of State, and all the Ministers in charge of them were in the Cabinet. Today there are something like 27 Departments headed by Ministers, and that means that we have either to exclude some of them, or have an impossibly large Cabinet. Practical experience has shown that there is a limit of size in relation to the effectiveness of an instrument of decision such as the Cabinet. In the war we were as few as five, and I think we never exceeded nine. One was overseas, so that the number was really eight. Other things being equal, it is desirable to keep the Cabinet as small as is reasonably possible.
At the present moment we have 18 Cabinet Ministers, and 13 Ministers in charge of Departments outside the Cabinet. This is only possible through the development of the committee system. In our present practice, which we developed greatly during the war, we have standing committees of the Cabinet acting under authority devolved from the Cabinet. They can make decisions or they can make recommendations to the Cabinet. There always remains—and let me stress this—the right of departmental Ministers in the last resort to bring matters to the Cabinet, but, in fact, experience has 623 shown that a great many inter-departmental matters can be settled in committee and a great deal of preliminary work done, so as to free the Cabinet from an excessive amount of work over detail. Thus by bringing within that general structure the work that was formerly done by the Committee of Imperial Defence, it is possible to give the Defence Committee a power of decision which was denied to its predecessor.
I would like again to stress the point that the Prime Minister presides over the Defence Committee precisely because the wider aspects of defence with which I am now dealing must be dealt with by the authority of the Prime Minister, who has to take full account not only of the claims of defence, but also of the claims of all the other activities of the nation, and obviously that could not be handed over completely to the Minister of Defence.
So much for the wider field which must be handled by Ministers collectively. Within that wider field there is a particular group of problems which can, with advantage, be made the responsibility of a single Minister. They are the problems of the three branches of the Armed Forces and their supply. This is a sphere of responsibility which under the White Paper is assigned to the Minister of Defence. There was, I think, a certain defect in the Committee of Imperial Defence just because it was an advisory body. In effect, it may have had a fairly large measure of executive authority, but I think there always was the lack of a guiding hand to formulate a unified defence policy. This we hope to remedy by the appointment of a Minister of Defence.
Here let me say that the new Minister must not be merely a coordinator or a chairman of committees. That was tried prior to the war and found wanting. Let us see why it failed. It failed because the responsibilities and powers of the three Service Ministers and the Minister of Supply were left in all respects unchanged. The new Minister was given a coordinating responsibility over the whole field as a deputy to the Prime Minister, but as he had no power and lacked the authority that belongs to the Prime Minister, he failed to secure real unification. In fact, his scope was too wide, and his authority too small. The scope of the new Minister's 624 responsibility is defined in paragraph 26 of the White Paper. The underlying conception is that the new Minister should be directly responsible to Parliament for a defined range of subjects, subjects which are common to the three branches of the Armed Forces and supply. Those three Service Ministers will continue to he responsible to Parliament for the administration of their own Services. The new Minister of Defence has a separate responsibility for matters common to all three.
I think there are four broad headings under which a unified defence policy is to be sought. First, there is the heading of strategy and planning. The formulation of unified strategy and planning as between the three Services remains the responsibility of the Chiefs of Staff in their corporate capacity. There is in effect one Chief of Staff in commission, responsible for advising the Government on technical questions. Though the Chiefs of Staff will continue to tender their advice direct to the Defence Committee and the Cabinet, the Minister of Defence will be presiding over meetings of the Chiefs of Staff whenever they or he may desire; and the Chiefs of Staff organisation, with the Joint Staffs for planning and intelligence, will be within the organisation of the Ministry of Defence. Let me hasten to add that there is nothing to prevent—indeed it may happen on occasions—the Prime Minister consulting with the Chiefs of Staff. I say that, because sometimes an omission is thought to make a tremendous difference.
Secondly, the Minister will be responsible for correlating the production problems of the three Services. He will discharge this responsibility through a Production Committee. The members will include the Service Ministers, the Minister of Supply and the Minister of Labour; and they will be served by a Joint War Production Staff.
Thirdly, there is the Minister's responsibility in connection with scientific research and development. That will be discharged in much the same way. He will formulate general policy and apportion the available resources between the three Services, and he will be assisted by a Defence Research Policy Committee, including the Directors of Research of all the three Services.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman a 625 question? When he spoke of the Chiefs of Staff meeting in their corporate capacity with the Minister—with which we are in entire agreement—I was not quite clear from what he said, whether the Service Ministers would normally be present on those occasions or not.
§ The Prime Minister
I do not think they would necessarily. There would be meetings at which there would be the Service Ministers and the Chiefs of Staff; but the Chiefs of Staff Committee meet by themselves—just the three—very often; sometimes, when they or he desire it, with the Minister of Defence, and sometimes they meet with the Prime Minister. I think it is a continuation of the present practice, with which we are both very familiar.
I am sure the House will be interested to know that the Chairman of the Research Policy Committee will be Sir Henry Tizard, the President of Magdalen College, Oxford, a gentleman of great distinction who gave great service to us in the war. I should like to add that in the field of science, there will be the closest liaison with the other scientific activities of the Government, which come under the aegis of the Lord President of the Council.
§ Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)
Before leaving that question, would the right hon. Gentleman say whether Sir Henry Tizard is leaving Magdalen College?
§ The Prime Minister
I am not quite sure whether that is so or not. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would wait for one of my colleagues to reply. My impression is that he is; I think so.
Fourthly, the new Minister, through a Committee of Service Ministers, will be responsible for developing in the administrative field the closest inter-Service collaboration; that is to say, he will be doing in the administrative field what is done in the operational field by the Chiefs of Staff.
I have now dealt fairly fully with the departmental functions of the Minister of Defence in relation to what I have called the narrower aspect; that is, the promotion of a unified defence policy as between the Services and their supply. However, we intend further that the Minister should also act in his personal capacity as Deputy Chairman of the Defence Committee. The responsibility of the Prime Minister for national defence as a whole must remain. He must take 626 a close and continuing interest in all the work of the Defence Committee. But in peacetime he necessarily has a great deal of other work to do, and it would be quite inappropriate that he should occupy himself continuously with the work of the Defence Committee. My conception of the Minister of Defence is that he would be acting in the closest personal contact with the Prime Minister; and, as the Minister responsible for inter-Service policy, he can ensure a close linking between the two aspects of defence. We must remember that in any organisation a great deal depends on the personal factor. There must be in this the closest possible working, in my view, between the Prime Minister and his Minister of Defence. In this respect, his position does not really differ very much from that of any other Departmental Minister who may be appointed to act as a chairman of a Cabinet committee, and, therefore, to go beyond his purely departmental functions.
It will be seen then, I think, that while in peacetime the Prime Minister will retain the supreme responsibility for defence, the Minister of Defence, without any derogation from the responsibility of the Prime Minister, will relieve him of much of the work concerning the three Services and their supply. I think many of the issues which are apt to arise between the three Services will be threshed out below the Defence Committee by the new Minister, and he will very often present to the Committee a single case on behalf of the fighting Services as a whole. In the Cabinet he will, normally, voice the defence aspect in questions which come before him; though I would stress again that where the particular departmental interests of any Services are concerned, they will naturally be summoned to attend.
The question may be asked: What about war; and how will the relationship continue? There is nothing in this organisation inconsistent with the Prime Minister taking over the office of Minister of Defence in time of war. Here again, I think we cannot lay down any hard and fast rule. As I say, much depends on the personalities of the two Ministers at the time when war breaks out. I hope I shall never come across that as a practical question in my lifetime. Below the Ministerial level the organisation is as well adapted for execution in war as for 627 preparation in peace. It is based on our wartime experience, and it is flexible.
Here may I say a few words with regard to civil defence, which, as explained in paragraph 33, is not within the jurisdiction of the new Minister? That is not because it is not an essential part of our defences, or is a matter of small importance. On the contrary, the protection of the civil population is vital. I may say that a complete review of the methods and organisation of civil defence is now in hand. But civil defence is essentially a matter for the coordination of a number of civil Departments—the Home Office, the Ministries of Health, Transport, Fuel and Power, Food, Works and Labour. Our war experience has shown that a separate Minister is required to co-ordinate the civil defence activities of their Departments. In peacetime that co-ordination, and that stimulation of defence planning, will be undertaken by the Home Office, which is the parent Department of the wartime Ministry. A small staff has, in fact, been established there for this purpose, and other Departments will be asked to make similar provision. The principle to be followed, as I have stated before, is that plans should be prepared by those who will be responsible for carrying them out; clearly, though, the Minister of Defence and his Ministry will be able to assist that staff in many ways. The civil defence planning staff will be kept in close touch with the Service staffs responsible for intelligence and research, and the production demands for civil defence must again be correlated with those of the fighting Services, and there will be a Home Defence Committee.
I turn to Part V of the White Paper. It deals with the organisation for collective defence. We have stated again and again that this country will be prepared to play its part in any measures under the United Nations organisation. These plans have not got very far yet; they have not been worked out. But we have to look to them, and I think everyone will recognise that the better our organisation here, the easier it will be to fit into any wider scheme.
I should like to say a word or two about Commonwealth cooperation, because I think there has been some criticism in another place of this section. There has also been some criticism by 628 Lord Hankey, who has had, of course, very great experience in the past of these matters. The fact is that this subject must be approached on the basis of present-day political and constitutional realities, and these are very different from what obtained in 1904. We have had the experience since them of two world wars in which major contributions were made by the great Dominions. I think Lord Hankey's regret at the passing of the old term, "Committee of Imperial Defence," is understandable, but sometimes new conditions need new phraseology. It is a matter of fact that that is a phraseology which is not very popular in all the Dominions. But the suggestion seems to have been made that there was an intent on the part of the Government to deny the Dominion Governments the opportunities which were previously available for the exchange of information and views on defence matters. I should like to assure the House that nothing could be further from the truth. Our present proposals are designed to increase those opportunities.
This subject was studied in the spring of 1946, when the general problem of cooperation between the different members of the British Commonwealth was considered at the meeting of Prime Ministers. I recollect that, prior to that meeting, there were Members in this House who were rather inclined to suggest that we needed some rather rigid and centralised machinery. In fact, there was some tendency to criticise the Government for not having created this. Well, it was my view at the time, and it was certainly confirmed when I met the Dominion Prime Ministers, that this particular point of view did not appeal to them. They preferred the methods which are now employed. There are two objectives to be achieved: there is the exchange of information, and there is the concerting of common plans. In order to bring about the exchange of information on technical matters, it has been suggested that there should be liaison officers. This is merely a suggestion, which was made in the course of discussion, and which remains to be adopted. If the Dominion Governments accept this proposal, and appoint such officers, the United Kingdom Government will make it their business to see that they are kept in the closest possible touch with the United Kingdom staff. They will receive all the 629 information which was made available to the Dominion Governments in the past—I hope even more Let me say this: The system would be reciprocal under the proposals we have made, in that there would be appointed by the United Kingdom liaison officers to the Dominions.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
Would the Prime Minister say who these officers would be? Would they be military officers, or what? Would they be of high rank?
§ The Prime Minister
Clearly, they would be Service officers. I cannot say exactly what their rank would be. This is a suggestion which will have to be discussed.
§ The Prime Minister
Obviously, they would have to be very responsible officers. I cannot say exactly what rank they would have, or what elevation the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggests. He and I start from different elevations. The development of the United Kingdom organisation in this White Paper is not unlike what is being developed in some of the Dominions, and that, I think, will help to make liaison effective. There is, on the other hand, the conclusion of agreements and the concerting of common plans. It is quite obvious that the exchange of liaison officers, however elevated in rank, is not enough. Decisions in these matters cannot be taken for Dominion Governments by their representatives in this country until they have been fully considered by the Dominion Cabinets. Dominion Governments, let it be remembered, are, like ourselves, member States of the United Nations, and defence arrangements will have to be considered in relation to our respective obligations to the United Nations, and within any regional schemes that may be evolved under that organisation.
I would add that it is the earnest desire of His Majesty's Government to achieve the fullest cooperation in defence, as in other matters, with the Dominion Governments. Remember, this, is not a thing we can lay down. They are equal partners in the Commonwealth. Therefore, all agreements must be done on that level, between equal partners. My right hon. Friend, who will speak later in the Debate, will reply to any of the detailed 630 points that may be raised. I have tried to give the House a general view of the conception in this White Paper. I believe that the present proposals will promote efficiency and economy in our defence organisation, and I therefore commend them to the House
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Lyttelton (Aldershot)
I think we must have it very much in our minds that we are discussing this White Paper against the background of victory. No war in which Great Britain, and the Empire, have been engaged has been conducted with so few mistakes in the higher direction, in strategy and grand tactics, than the one we have just concluded. I think that the most perfunctory study of our military history, from the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries, would show that statement to be correct. If we look at the relations of the Cabinet with the Duke of Wellington, we shall find a very different story from that of today. Perhaps I may be forgiven for reminding the House how those relations appeared in some very dramatic forms. At the battle of Vimiera in August, 1808, Sir Arthur Wellesley's pursuit of the enemy was whipped off by the commander-in-chief who superseded him that day, and the future Duke of Wellington turned to his staff and said, "Gentlemen, there is nothing for us to do but to hunt red partridges." On the following day, that commander-in-chief was himself superseded. It was not a new story, but that did not happen during the last war. Our earlier military history seems to be a story of the most successful of our commanders in the field rising above the limitations and mistakes and, indeed, the follies of Ministers in London and their officers.
In the main, the proposals of His Majesty's Government, as set forth in the White Paper and as explained by the right hon. Gentleman, are a continuation of the system of defence which stood us in good stead in the war, and which can be said to have proved itself under the most severe stresses to which any State has ever been subjected—excepting, of course, Germany towards the end of the war, but, then, she was defeated. My right hon. Friend and I are very grateful for having been taken into consultation on some aspects of this Paper. The present organisation is built up, admittedly 631 on foundations laid in the past. That is, I think, chiefly due to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.
We can detect, through the official language—and the cadence of that official language is very familiar, I might almost say painfully familiar to some of us—an ungrudging admiration for his conduct of the war as Prime Minister, so it is not surprising that we on this side of the House find ourselves, in the main, in agreement with the proposals. May I also say that we welcome the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman who is at present disguised from us tinder the title of the Minister without Portfolio, and who will be the Minister of Defence when the Bill is passed? The Prime Minister, among whose difficulties and anxieties a glut of administrative talent is probably not one, is, I think, much to be congratulated and thanked by us for having spared the right hon. Gentleman for this post. We all know him for his robust patriotism, and, if I may add a personal note, I like to remind myself that through many anxious and critical years we were in very close relations on supply matters when, I also like to remind myself, our relations were always harmonious, although our political differences are not at all small. We always found the right hon. Gentleman's word as good as his bond, and either is quite good enough for me.
Turning to the main features of the White Paper, I think the most important thing to notice is that the Chiefs of Staff Committee retains its key position in the new system, as also do the Joint Staff for Planning, Intelligence and Administrative Planning. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition held firmly to the belief that a military plan, whether by sea, land or air, should be made by those who had the responsibility, and, indeed, the power, to carry it out. The Chiefs of Staff, after the plan had been agreed, themselves set in motion the forces which had to carry it into effect. If this seems obvious now, and it does seem obvious, it was not always so, even to some hon. Members of this House, and it certainly was not a principle upon which the Germans acted. I am glad to see that paragraph 16 of the White Paper mentions this point and attributes many of the failures of the higher direction of war in Germany to this fact.
632 On the other hand, I do not think that paragraph 18 of the White Paper stresses sufficiently, or does full justice to, the flexibility of the system as it was used in the war. The Prime Minister, in explaining it, has removed some of the objections that I have to the paragraph; it is only a historical one, but I think it is worth remembering that the then Prime Minister presided over innumerable meetings of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and, at other times, called the Defence Committee together, but there were very many occasions when he matured his plans with the Chiefs of Staff Committee and then presented them to the War Cabinet direct. I understood the Prime Minister to say that that flexibility is still to be retained in the new system. I want to make the point that the most important feature of all the wartime machinery, whether it was through the Defence Committee or through the Chiefs of Staff Committee, was that it enabled a purely military view, a view which was confined at that stage to a study of what was militarily desirable and possible, to be put forward. When, for example, the Defence Committee was used as one of those instruments, I think it is worth remembering that it was a very small Committee, and that nearly all the Ministers who were members of it had a practical experience of war—and by that elegant phrase I mean that they had been well shot at in the war before and had experienced some of the feeling which those engaged in war sometimes suffer. I do not think there is any better way leading to the scientific study of war than to take part in one.
Looking for a moment at the Defence Committee as it was in the last war, I think it would be true to say that it rested upon three things. First, its work was in the main military; second, the number of members of the Committee was very small—and even then they sometimes proved too big for effective working—and, third, the Defence Committee was composed of Ministers who had all had practical experience of war or who were in charge of departments solely concerned with war. None of those features have been entirely preserved in the peacetime set-up. The offices of the Lord President of the Council and the Chancellor of the Exchequer—I am not talking of the individuals, but the offices—appear to carry with them membership of the 633 Defence Committee, and I think that this blurs the frontier which, I believe, at this stage, and I emphasise at this stage, should divide the military from the economic and financial. In my opinion, these Ministers should exercise their influence at a later stage than this, perhaps in the Cabinet or some other body.
Then I must say that the Committee appears to have become so large as to be cumbersome. It certainly could not function in war in its present form, and I fear that even in peace its discussions will be much protracted, that military matters, which should be its prime concern, will become overlaid with others, and that its decisions may even be indistinguishable from compromises. Thirdly, there are, in my opinion, too many Ministers whose Departments are not concerned with war, and who will, therefore, have to draw entirely on their personal experience if they wish to make any contribution. I am quite aware that these objections are open to the answer that this is a Defence Committee set up in peace time, but I still believe that the Committee will suffer from being too big, from the subjects coming before it being too diverse, and from too many civilian Ministers and Ministries being concerned.
To point the criticism, I would remind the House that one of the main duties of the Defence Committee is to review all current strategy. Perhaps the most perfunctory part of the White Paper will appear to the House to be that which is headed "Organisation for Collective Defence." I see that "The Times" describes the expression Collective Defence" as a coy alternative to Imperial defence." Certainly we are becoming more genteel in these matters every day. I do not think we can necessarily impute blame to His Majesty's Government for the nebulous nature of these proposals; clearly the Dominion Governments are equally responsible, and we are all aware how the Statute of Westminster bears upon the whole subject. I hope I may say here that in criticising this particular part of the White Paper we are not talking about a system where responsibility in the Chiefs of Staff Committee would be shared at the top level by the Dominions, because I think that that would be clearly impracticable
On the other hand, when we consider that the great striking force of naval power 634 is chiefly in the hands of the people of this country, and that we are a maritime Empire, we should have expected to see emerge from the discussions something more definite than the rather flaccid statement quoted in the White Paper. We have to be content in these matters with the appointment of liaison officers. That is a phrase used in the White Paper, and, if I understand aright the meaning of the words "liaison officer," he is someone who goes from one headquarters to another and informs that headquarters what the other man is doing. The term "liaison officer" excludes specifically the idea of consultation, and it does appear that the members of the British Commonwealth and Empire should do more than merely keep themselves informed about the organisation for our defence.
The Prime Minister has touched upon the need, and upon his desire, for full consultation to take place on the highest political level, but surely even if it is without commitment there should be, as a continuous matter, a greater degree of consultation at a higher level than that which appears to be laid down in the White Paper. I do not think that that can be replaced by occasional meetings at the highest political level. The White Paper takes refuge in the anodyne of the word "flexibility." I see that Lord Chatfield said, in another place, that there is no need to have a rigid machinery, but there is a great deal of space between rigidity and no organisation at all. Nobody wants rigidity. What we want is organised, consultation and planning in peace, on a high level. I take it that the Government are making some advance on these lines. I must say that I derive a little comfort from the last words in this part of the White Paper, which reads:There is reason to suppose that in the main they will prove acceptable, and that they will pave the way for machinery which, while giving full play to the Member States of the Commonwealth, will be effective as a means of consultation and collaboration.We are familiar enough with official language to have some glimpse of what is meant.
I turn to some supply matters touched upon by the White Paper, and I wish to make a point regarding the Ministry of Supply, with which is now embodied the Ministry of Aircraft Production. My point arises out of paragraphs 20 (b) and 26 (a). The Ministry of Supply is responsible 635 for the production of weapons of war for the Army and Air Force. Hon. Members must distinguish between the relations of the Admiralty with the industries which supply them, and the relationship of the Army and Force with the industries which supply them. The relationships are entirely different. The Admiralty, so to speak, do their own ordering direct, and follow the progress of the orders they place with industry. The Army and Air Force, on the other hand, have a separate and distinct Ministry to handle these matters for them. Those Services are, so to speak, one Ministry removed from the producers of weapons and implements of war. Perhaps this is not the time to argue the merits or defects of these different systems. It has always appeared to me to be a great merit that the Controller of the Navy and Third Sea Lord, after being responsible for the design of one of His Majesty's ships, may later find himself in command of it. That has actually happened within the memory of the House. Sir Bruce Fraser, as he then was, at the beginning of the war was Controller of the Navy and Third Sea Lord, and later was Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet, and subsequently Commander-in-Chief in the Pacific. Therefore, he was fighting in ships for the designs of which he had been responsible in his previous capacity.
There are, of course, defects in a system which orders separately what, for some reason, are called "common user items," such as shirts or .303 ammunition. Whatever system is used, no one who has intimate knowledge of these problems will deny that the most obdurate trouble is to try to bring into harmony the tactical needs, the everchanging nature of battle, the kaleidoscope of war, with the technique of production in modern industry. It is a complicated, slow, cumbersome and long-term process to change the products of industry, and nowhere more so than in mass production to meet the needs of the tactical battle. Tactics change under the spur of war, almost overnight—across from the North African Desert, with almost unlimited fields of fire, to the olive groves and vineyards of Sicily or Italy, where an entirely new tactical problem presents itself, requiring entirely different weapons. The adjustment between the user of the weapons and the producer of the weapons requires the most continuous 636 study. It requires knowledge of war by those who produce the weapons, and knowledge of the mechanical possibilities of modern weapons by those who use them. All this calls for the greatest foresight and closest collaboration. It is only too easy for industry to produce weapons efficiently, in large numbers and mechanically satisfactory, which are obsolete or useless when they come off the production line. It is only too easy for admirals, generals and air marshals to make plans involving the use of weapons which we cannot produce and on which they have no right to count.
This subject is one of the crucial subjects in war organisation. I should like to remind the House that no country has ever produced an aircraft, from the drawing-board to full-scale production, in under four years. There we have an instance where the nature of the tactical battle in the air has to be judged four year; in advance of the time when we are producing the weapon to take part in it. This is one of the most terrible responsibilities and it lies chiefly on the shoulders of the Minister of Supply. If it goes wrong, it means at the very best a serious dissipation of our resources, and at the worst it means a defeat. If it is decided to set up a separate Ministry or what are really two separate Ministries, to deal with the requirements of the War Office and the Air Ministry, it is abundantly clear that they have a most vitally important, difficult and hazardous task. The Ministry should devote all its time to the study of war, and to the development of weapons of war. Even then, great mistakes are bound to be made. Offensive weapons will be produced only to be found useless against a development of defence by the enemy, or by the appearance of new conditions and new weapons, or new theatres of war. I suggest that this is a wholetime job. Yet the Ministry of Supply is now cluttered up with all sorts of other jobs connected with housing and the like.
I believe this to be a cardinal error in the organisation for defence, and that a Ministry whose prime responsibility concerns war and weapons of war, ought not to devote its time to ordering the production of peacetime requirements. The Ministry of Supply should not be ordering aluminium houses, electric cookers, baths and lavatory seats at the 637 same time as aircraft, field guns and radar equipment. I trust that the Minister of Defence will look into this point, and will consider it desirable to prevent the competition of the Ministry of Suppy with the Co-operative Wholesale Society and others, and will segregate these tasks, and allow the Ministry of Supply to concentrate more directly on the production and supply of weapons of war.
This leads me to another part of the White Paper. I notice that the Joint War Production Staff—a body of which I can claim paternity—is to be continued. I believe it to be essential to war production. I understand that it will consist of officers of the Armed Services and civilians, all being associated together in the same body. It was through this body in war that we tried to make some contribution to the practical and obdurate problems of the difficulties between the producers and users of weapons. I think that we had some success, but undoubtedly the system requires to be expanded and matured in peacetime to a greater extent than was possible during the war.
There are three other matters to which I wish to refer. The first is in reference to what the White Paper calls "the apportionment of resources," which is to be one of the responsibilities of the Minister of Defence. This delightfully simple phrase conceals, in reality, one of the most complicated, detailed, and difficult administrative functions which any Minister could have on his plate. In the last war the apportionment of manpower between the Services, the production of munitions, and civilian production, were examined by a Manpower Committee under the chairmanship of the Lord President of the Council, who was assisted by the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Production, and Lord Cherwell. That Committee submitted their recommendants to the War Cabinet. When it came to the allocation of industrial raw materials and productive resources, so far as they were used in the production of munitions, that was handled by the Ministry of Production. The Minister thus had considerable influence on what was left over for production for civilian use. Apparently, all these functions, which are complex and baffling, are to be put on the shoulders of the Minister of Defence. He will need the Ministry which he is to get for this purpose, and I express anxiety lest he should be overburdened 638 with administrative detail, whereas what the House looks and hopes for is a Minister who will have time to look at broad strategic questions, and broad matters of defence, and not become a sort of uneasy clearing house for a great mass of Departmental detail. I think it is very dangerous to dismiss a thing like apportionment of resources in the way in which it is dismissed in the White Paper. The White Paper deals with it much too glibly, and I rather suspect that the right hon. Gentleman would agree with me in his heart of hearts.
Paragraph 32 of the White Paper deals with the organisation and formation of policy for research and development. It begins with the deliciously ingenuous phrase:The problem here is to secure the continued and complete integration of military and scientific thought at all levels …Well, as the Americans say, "You're telling me." Apart from the fact that such integration is manifestly impossible, I, nevertheless, welcome the attempt to tackle the problem. Again, however, I doubt whether the great extent of the task is really conveyed by that paragraph. In my opinion, when history comes to be written it will be found that by no means the least of the contributions made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to victory lies in this particular field. It is a contribution which is almost unknown to the public. My right hon. Friend succeeded in getting a hearing for any new idea. He brushed aside objections, and pulled down barriers, and encouraged the most improbable people to put forward more improbable ideas, out of which there emerged, very often, a contribution to victory. I think that the decisive result of this kind of action—and I do not use the word "decisive" loosely—will one day be recognised. So, I welcome very heartily the attempt to weld scientific and military thought together at the beginning. But, as this is going on to the shoulders of the Minister of Defence, he will have a very hard time.
Now, I wish to draw attention to a very remarkable omission from the White Paper. There is no mention of the arrangement to be set up between the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Transport. We are an island people, and availability of shipping is the limiting 639 factor of large-scale intervention in war in any part of the world. Therefore, we should have expected to see a committee or organisation maintained in peace, as well as in war, which would keep the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Transport in communication with one another from day to day. That should form an integral part of the central organisation for defence, and I hope that when the Minister comes to reply, he will deal with this point, and consider whether a committee or body is not necessary.
I conclude by saying that we on this side of the House hope that the right hon. Gentleman who is to be Minister of Defence will succeed in carrying out his heavy and hazardous tasks, although some of those tasks are, we think, too heavy. He carries our good wishes, and we hope most sincerely that if his burden becomes too detailed and too heavy, he will not hesitate to shed some of his responsibility on to others, or broaden the organisation which is outlined in the White Paper.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Group-Captain Wilcock (Derby)
I did not have the advantage of planning for war; I was merely one of the many who had to carry out the orders of the planners, and I know that we all hoped that there would, some day, be an authority to see that there would be equal and proper distribution of everything that the three Services needed in peace as well as in war. Therefore, like many other Members of this House, I am very glad to know that there is to be a Minister of Defence in future, and that the demands of the Services will be in the hands of an authority who, we know, will be quite unbiased towards any Service.
I would like to deal with something on a level lower than that which has so far been debated, namely, the manpower of the Services which, I imagine, may be a very big headache for the new Minister and will, I am sure, be one of the very first problems he will have to tackle. We know that every man in the Services requires a man in industry to keep him fed and supplied with munitions and materials. We know therefore that one man in every 10 in this country is being employed in the Services or on these duties in preparation for war. Any economy in manpower we can make will, 640 therefore, be in the best interests of the country in every possible way, and I would like to suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should give his attention to certain duplications, or triplications, that now exist in the Services. I would like him to look at the medical branches of the three Services, as well as the legal, dental, and chaplains branches of the Services. It is difficult to see why separate departments should be required for each of the Services. There could also be economy in the mechanical transport sphere, which forms a permanent part of all our fighting Services, and which is probably one of the most wasteful ways of utilising manpower. Some pooling between the Services should be possible.
There is also food and equipment. A loaf of bread is a loaf of bread, whether it is indented for by the equipment branch of the Royal Air Force, the commissariat department of the Army, or the victualling department of the Royal Navy. Why it should require three types of depot to handle the same bread I cannot imagine, unless it is that it has been so for several hundreds of years. There is no black magic in this question of rationing or the keeping of stores, and yet we find depots within a stone's throw of each other: Army and Air Force, and sometimes naval depots, all handling the same things, and all utilising men for this purpose. I was interested to see a reference in the White Paper to the future possible amalgamation of the Services. In my view, the time is rapidly approaching when this will be a feasible proposition. In the Royal Air Force, we have a Royal Air Force Regiment of foot soldiers; in the Army we have glider pilots and airborne troops; in the Navy we now have airmen, and the three Services are becoming very interrelated. I believe that if the Minister could set up a committee whose terms of reference might, I suggest, be the amalgamation of the Services, without loss of tradition or esprit de corps, on a long-term plan, it would be a very wise provision, because, here again, there is a great opportunity of economy of manpower. I make no apology for talking about economy of manpower, because we are a small nation, and the big battalions do not interest us. 641 May I say a word on the conditions of service in our various fighting Services? It is surely so unnecessary to have three different conditions of service with three pay codes; it is even curious to have three types of ranking, and I would again plead for consideration at an early date of a simplification of all these things which clutter up the three Services. There is no doubt that recruiting for the fighting Services is not a success, and it is hardly likely to be a success when there is no clear statement from any Minister as to the conditions of service in the future. No man entering the Services today knows where he is likely to serve, or how long he is likely to serve; he does not know how long he is going to be overseas, and he does not know whether he can take his wife and family. These matters may be quite small, besides the major question of defence, but they have a very great influence on recruiting.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
I am afraid that the hon. and gallant Member is talking about conditions of recruiting, which I think do not come within the purview of the White Paper. They are matters of administration.
§ Group-Captain Wilcock
May I turn to the question of accommodation for the Services? I would suggest to the Minister that the Army might possibly be accommodated with the Royal Air Force. I know that this may seem to be almost sacrilege, and, therefore, I have not gone so far as to suggest that the Royal Navy might also be accommodated with the R.A.F.; but I think that will come. There is a great possibility of economy in accommodation and feeding arrangements, if large air stations, which contain comparatively few men, also accommodated the regiments and depots of the Army.
In the Army, in particular, but also in the Royal Air Force, yes, and in the Royal Navy, there is the detachment habit. Detachments are set up at irregular intervals at extraordinary places. I know that from my experience of sending a man out on duty, and finding that, when I came back a week or ten days later, there were seven men there. One man could not do the job without being relieved, therefore, another man had to go out; then they had to have a telephone operator, and then someone to cook their rations, then a 642 driver to fetch the returns and finally an N.C.O. to look after them all.
§ Mr. C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)
I would suggest, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that this has very little to do with the central reorganisation of defence.
§ Group-Captain Wilcock
I think that this relates to paragraph 26—the duties of the Minister. When I made my notes I felt that the question of economy was one of the things to which I would be quite right to refer, with your permission, of course, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. It is these small matters to which I am referring and not the higher ones of central direction. Finally, perhaps I may be allowed to say a word with regard to the location of our Forces, which, I feel sure, I am within my rights to touch upon. Here again, concentration offers a great field for economy. At the present time, with our Forces spread throughout the Middle East, and the Far East—our Army, Air Force and Navy thinly spread, with apparently no conception of concentrating within strategic areas—there are waste and inefficiency. I feel that the Minister should regard this as important, because none of his three Services can possibly be considered as efficient when it is disposed in such a way that at no particular place has it the power to be fully effective.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Bury St. Edmunds)
I think that most of us on this side of the House welcome this White Paper as being a step in the right direction. But I personally feel that there are parts of it where we do not go nearly far enough. Before dealing with the points which do not go far enough, I would refer to the paragraph which deals with the Defence Committee. Here it seems that that Committee is going to be held back by having the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a permanent member. I personally know only the financial side from a great deal lower down, but in any sort of Service committee, when one finds that there is a financial member, he always damps the project down before a proposal can ever be really got straight. In defence the Services have to put forward their united plan at what they think will be the minimum requirement for carrying out the job. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is sitting on this Committee all the time, it will never be 643 possible to get the plan clearly laid out. This Committee is really almost the Cabinet. What is the point of the Defence Committee if the major Ministers of the Cabinet are sitting on it? According to the White Paper, the Defence Committee is to put forward its propositions to the Cabinet, but as the Defence Committee consists of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence, the Lord President of the Council, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is almost a question of their talking to themselves. I feel that the Defence Committee ought to be without the Foreign Secretary and the Lord President of the Council. Now to turn to paragraph 26 (a), which deals with the functions of the Minister of Defence, and which states:This will include the framing of a general policy to govern research and development and the correlation of production programmes.I know from my experience of these matters during the war that we went a long way towards getting a united effort from all the Services, but we did not go nearly far enough. I was for a time at the Army experimental station where tanks and vehicles were tested. We had a great deal of trouble in getting from the Navy, for instance, things that we wanted in the Army. There was never any real coordination in the collection of data and research work, and so forth. We tested vehicles for the Royal Air Force, but we were often given vehicles to test for the Royal Air Force which had been badly, reported on by the Army, three, four or six months previously. This would not have happened if there had been real integration of the Services at that station. In the case of the equipment of tanks, as another instance, some of the equipment was very much the same as that used for ships—such as compasses—but we never had the expert data produced by the Navy, and it used to be a long and slow job trying to get it. In the matter of amphibious vehicles, there was a great deal of delay in getting the Navy to have a joint trial with us. There were no officers of all three Services working together in the establishment. When tank testing was moved to Cobham the testing of all road vehicles was left behind at Farnborough, because they came under a different Ministry. The question that then arose was whether armoured cars, 644 armoured trucks, and so on, came under the heading of "vehicles" or "tanks"; they went on wheels, but they were armoured. I think that in such matters there is a great opportunity for more co-ordination under the Ministry of Defence.
I turn now to the paragraph which deals with the administration of inter-Service organisations. The White Paper talks about the possibility of a common medical service. I think that is rather a bad example of what might be done. If we work on those lines we shall find that, before we know where we are, there will be a fourth branch of the Services. We have now the sea, air and land Services, but it now seems as if we are talking about a fourth force of all war Services—I do not quite know what to call it—which would be separate and would come as a separate Service under the Ministry of Defence. A great many people have said, and still say, that the Royal Air Force and the Army should be one. I very much hope that we shall not see a fourth Service evolving out of these proposals. But there are plenty of directions in which there could be amalgamation; it should come through the joint loaning of staff and officers from each Service, and not by having a new formation. This amalgamation could work very well in regard to such things as education, particularly education for civilian life, and depots, since the stores —barrack tables, barrack chairs, and so on—can be the same for all the Services.
Also I would like to see a much greater mixture in many of the schools and colleges. There is the Imperial Defence College, but then there is a Military College of Science, which has all Army personnel, apart from one or two members from the Royal Air Force and the Navy. There is no point in this college being an Army college. It should be a Services College of Science, staffed by officers and instructors from all three Services, and should have pupils from all three Services in equal proportions. There should also be a very good chance of getting more coordination in the Cadet Services. Could there not be a central organisation for the three organisations, working under one head, and staffed by training officers brought together from all the Services? There could then be specialist training for each of the 645 branches. By these means there would be a chance of effecting a gradual integration and a great saving of material and manpower.
Finally, I hope there will be some alteration in the title of Part V of the White Paper—"Organisation for Collective Defence." I hope that it can be called "Empire Defence" or "Imperial Defence" and not just "Collective Defence." With regard to liaison officers, I hope that, whatever they are called— "consultative or liaison officers"—they will appear at all levels from the highest ranks down to the lowest ranks, and that they will both come to this country and go from it to the Dominions and other parts of the Empire.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. William Wells (Walsall)
Like other hon. Members on both sides of the House I wish to join in the general welcome that has been given to this White Paper. It appears to make changes which have been long overdue, most of which should have been made before the last war, and whose necessity was proved by the course of operations. I think that the Opposition, speaking through the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), had only three criticisms of substance—if I may use that expression when dealing with such a comprehensive Paper as this. The first line of criticism, as I understood the right hon. Gentleman, was in connection with the functions and operations of the Ministry of Supply. Although I confess I was not quite clear what his argument here was, he appeared to prefer the system that obtains in the Admiralty—which both decides what kind of ships it wants and then has them manufactured by direct contact with the contractors—to that which has been found suitable for the Army, and which is now, in fact, in operation not only for the Army but also for the Royal Air Force. The argument with which the right hon. Gentleman substantiated his point was that in the Navy a position might arise in which the Third Sea Lord would be fighting in ships he had himself built. To my mind, we might get precisely the same position—except that it would not be a ship—applying now in the Ministry of Supply where an Army officer is concerned, because in the Ministry of Supply there are Service officers who do not spend all their lives in that Department. They work 646 side by side with the technicians to see that the vehicle—or whatever it may be—is produced, and they can speak from their knowledge of what kind of tank or gun, for example, is actually required by the Service.
It is true, of course, that during the early part of the last war, that position did not obtain and that many officers in the Ministry of Supply tended to have a somewhat academic experience. Disasters did ensue in consequence but that was a fault which was remedied in the course of the war, and in my judgment this argument of the right hon. Gentleman has no real force at all in considering the Ministry of Supply and Aircraft Production as it exists today. The right hon. Gentleman had a further criticism to make about the Ministry of Supply in that he said that this Department's responsibilities are so vast in connection with war that it should not have any responsibilities in connection with peace. I confess that I regard that as a very specious argument. When one considers what the Ministry of Supply really does it seems to me that a large part of that argument, if not the whole of it, falls to the ground, because a large part of the essential functions of the Ministry of Supply are in connection with the engineering industry. If we say that the Minister of Supply is to be solely concerned with production for war, then the consequence is that in peace the Minister of Supply will be concerned only with producing a very limited range of articles. If, on the other hand, we have the present position that he is responsible in the Ministerial sense for the engineering industry as a whole, then he can know or ought to know, what the potentialities of that industry are and what is needed to switch it from a peace basis to a war basis. He is, in fact, in a very much better position to carry out his duties in relation to the Defence Committee than he would be without his present responsibilities in connection with the housing programme and so forth.
The right hon. Gentleman's second line of criticism appeared to be in connection with the part of the White Paper dealing with collective defence. I am not going to argue about words, but it seems to me that, in substance, and looking at the political situation as it now exists, the organisation outlined by the White Paper does meet precisely the need of the present time. The Committee of Imperial 647 Defence, as the Prime Minister pointed out, was never intended to be a policy-making body. It sometimes over-stepped, and rightly over-stepped, its functions allotted by the Treasury Minute of 1904, but its essential function was not that. What is needed now is, clearly, in the first place a coordination of policy at the highest level. We want an exchange of opinion, and the concerting of common plans. All those things are matters for the highest political level and can only be dealt with in that way by statesmen.
The second thing needed is the correlation of forces that are effective to carry out a common policy, when there is such a common policy. We have to standardise and coordinate organisation, training and equipment. For these purposes, it seems to me that liaison officers as prescribed by the White Paper are just the kind of officers who are needed. It is necessary to know what the other man is doing and whether one thinks he is doing the right thing. If he is training people on the wrong lines or manufacturing the wrong kind of tank, one can go ahead and make political representations in that sense. While the Empire is in its present flexible, fluid state, as it will probably continue to be, it seems at least premature to try to create a high sounding organisation which could not really function without people of the standing of the Prime Minister, or at least the Foreign Secretaries of each of the Dominions, constantly in contact.
The third point made by the right hon. Gentleman was in connection with the functions of the Ministry of Transport in relation to the Defence Committee. I feel that there he put his finger on what would seem a weak spot, and the only answer is that at the present time, which is the important consideration, what we are concerned with is not moving vast masses of troops and equipment to all parts of the world, which was, unfortunately, our concern a few years ago, but transferring the Merchant Fleet and the cargoes of ships to their peace time purposes. It would be an unnecessary imposition on the time of the Minister of Transport in these present circumstances to allocate to him any further duties. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was making a very important point when he urged that the functions of the Minister of Defence should not become too cluttered up with questions of administrative detail. Looking at the White Paper 648 here, it seems to me that the Minister of Defence is to have imposed upon him two distinct kinds of duties. Take his duties under paragraph 20, which deals mainly with his strategic and planning functions; then, paragraph 25, which deals with his functions as deputy to the Prime Minister and deputy chairman over the Defence Committee; and his functions under paragraph 26(a) and (b), relating tothe apportionment in broad outline of available resources between the three ServicesandThe settlement of questions of general administration on which a common policy for the three Services is desirable.All those kinds of duties fall under one general heading. They are questions of strategic planning and administration which are common in respect of these to the three Services. The Minister of Defence has not executive responsibility of any kind. Under paragraph 26 (c), on the other hand, he will deal withthe administration of inter-Service organisations, such as Combined Operations Headquarters and the Joint Intelligence Bureau.In paragraph 30, we read in more detail about those organisations, and the Imperial Defence College; and we finally come to the suggestion to which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Derby (Group-Captain Wilcock) has referred, the possibility of having joint medical and other services, for which there seems to be a perfectly good case in logic. That is a perfectly different kind of function. We have to consider whether what we want is to have four Service Departments, the Ministry of Defence being a fourth; or whether we want the Ministry of Defence to be a Service Department at all; or whether, if the joint control and administration of common organisations is to be the main characteristic of Service organisations in the years ahead, the present Service Departments, as separate Service Departments, ought to cease to exist.
I wish to make only two or three further points of detail. The first is that if the Minister of Defence is to perform his function of the apportionment of resources on a sound basis, he should constantly preside over the Chiefs of Staffs Committee, in order to know the mind and the intentions of the people on it, and to exert effective Ministerial control over defence policy. The second point is 649 that to perform effectively these functions in regard to the allocation of resources, he must watch not only the allocation among the Departments but the allocation within the Departments, in order to ensure that a sufficient amount of energy and expenditure is devoted to new developments, to research, to new methods of training, and so forth. He must ensure that the old, orthodox methods do not become the predominant ones, as is always the danger shortly after a victorious war. The third point of detail I wish to make is in connection with the paragraph relating to home security. I am sure we all welcome the re-establishment of the Home Defence Committee. I wonder whether paragraph 33 implies that the Home Defence Executive has been recreated under the Home Defence Committee. It would be valuable if we could be told something about the relationship between the home defence organisations and the committee of research into defence policy. Subject to elucidation on the points I have raised, I should like, with other hon. Members, unreservedly to welcome the White Paper.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
There is no doubt that the general principles of this White Paper will secure the support of hon. Members. One is glad to know that the Minister of Defence is to be a senior Minister of the Crown, a man of great experience and a strong man, who will back up to the full the decisions of the three Chiefs of Staff. We look forward with confidence to the manner in which the Minister of Defence will carry out his duties.
I would first express my great disappointment that the title of the old Imperial Defence Committee has been changed, and that the word "Imperial" has been left out. It is in future to be known as the Defence Committee. We cannot view our defence apart from the other units of the Empire. We stand or fall as an Empire. We are not merely concerned with the defence of this country but with the defence of the Empire as a whole in which all units of it must play their part. I, therefore, deeply regret that the word "Imperial" should have been left out.
I pass now to paragraph 27 of the White Paper, which relates to the apportionment 650 of resources. I presume that it includes the apportionment of financial resources. The paragraph is not clear, in that it does not make it clear that the old scheme of rationing for the three Services is dead and gone for ever. I refer to the practice whereby the Treasury said to the three Services, "Here is the money for the three Services. You must divide it among you, and do the best you can with it." That was a thoroughly bad system, because the Services all scrambled to get the lion's share of the money allotted. I certainly hope that that plan is gone for ever. The three Chiefs of Staff, who are the expert advisers of the Government, must be entirely free from, and unfettered by, financial considerations when they come to their decisions as to the strength of the Services and their cooperation with each other.
In no way must they be influenced by financial considerations. Their decisions must be come to purely on military grounds. In view of that fact, the appointment of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a permanent Member of the Defence Committee is a mistake. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a permanent member, there is not the slightest doubt that he will bring forward the financial issues when the Chiefs of the Staffs are formulating their proposals. That is neither the time nor the place for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to express his views. Of course he must do so but I submit that the time for him to do so is when the recommendations of the Defence Committee have been sent to the Cabinet. Then is the time for him to bring forward financial considerations, and not before. I, therefore, deplore that the Chancellor should be a permanent member of the Defence Committee.
The most important point of all to my mind is coordination with the Dominions. Imperial Defence must, obviously, be recognised as a combined operation, combining all units of the Empire, an Empire which is scattered all over the world, separated by thousands of miles of ocean, vulnerable to attack by every form of weapon and very difficult to defend in modern war. Therefore, although the main responsibility for the defence of the Empire has, up to the present, depended upon the Mother Country, it cannot continue to do so to the same extent in the future. If we had lost the last war—and 651 we were not so very far from it—and had been destroyed, every single unit in the Empire would in the course of time also have been destroyed. The whole Empire would have gone The Dominions are quite aware of that fact. We depend for our security as an Empire upon the combined forces of that Empire planning together in time of peace, evolving an agreed Imperial defence plan, and acting together, should we have to face the situation of a new war. The burden on the British taxpayer is immense. It is more than the British taxpayer can bear. If we continue to bear this immense cost there are only two alternatives—to reduce the standard of living of the people of this country, or to reduce the defence forces required for Empire security throughout the world, and this last alternative would be a disastrous one.
It is, therefore, only right, natural and reasonable that the Dominions should come in on this question now and bear their share of the cost and preparation in general for the defence of the Empire. War in the future will not be national war. It will be a world war. We shall all be in it, and that has changed the defence problem. It has increased its difficulties and immensely increased its cost. The Dominions will have to depend to a far greater extent upon their own contributions than they have done in the past. All the contributions and the arrangements that are come to must be agreed to and carried out in peacetime. When war breaks out it will be too late. It is quite true that in the last two wars the Dominions have poured out every conceivable resource to help the Mother Country, but they were by no means ready, any more than we were, when war broke out. That will not do in a future war. We must have complete plans and preparations for every part of the Empire agreed in peacetime, so that in the event of war breaking out, we shall all combine to meet the situation.
I realise that, under the Statute of Westminster, the Dominions have complete freedom of action as to whether they will or will not enter a war in which we are engaged. I submit that this complete freedom of action, as to whether they shall enter a war or not in the defence of the Empire, is entirely incompatible with Imperial defence. The two things cannot possibly go together. There must be 652 no question whatever that all units of the Empire come in on this question of a general Imperial plan for the defence of the Empire, taking part in it, in every stage and to the utmost of their ability. There cannot be compulsion, I know quite well, but the Empire must come into the consultations and must know all our points of view, just as we want to know their points of view. They must shoulder their burdens, and play their part in the provision of an Army, Navy, and Air Force, dockyards, munitions, airfields, and all the rest. That must all be laid down and agreed to in peacetime, so that should war, unfortunately, break out, we shall be ready as an Empire to meet it.
What would have been the position of this country and the Empire, supposing South Africa had been neutral in the last war, as she might have been under the Statute of Westminster? For the fact that she was not, we all owe an everlasting debt of gratitude to that great Imperialist, Field-Marshal Smuts. The Mediterranean was closed to us, and the Suez Canal was mined. What would have been the position of all our forces scattered over the continents of Europe and Africa, if South Africa had remained neutral? What would have been the position of India, Australia and New Zealand? The position would have been absolutely disastrous. I put this as an example of the absolute futility of thinking that the Empire must have freedom to say whether it will come into a war or not. If all the Empire units do not come in, the Imperial defence is weakened and an Imperial defence plan an impossibility.
In the last war there was another example, the weakness of our Imperial defence in the Pacific. It was a tremendous factor in urging the Japanese to take the decision to come into the war. Japan took full advantage of it. It is quite impossible to divide up into watertight compartments the three fighting Services in this country. They have all got to work as one unit. It is equally impossible to put into watertight compartments the different units of the Empire so far as the defence plan is concerned. Could we possibly have a watertight compartment for this country, another for the Dominions and another for U.N.O.? We must have one whole unit of the Empire working out an agreed plan, with all units playing their part and, for certain, if war is declared, the whole Empire coming in. 653 I regret very much that the Dominions Secretary is not to be a member of the Defence Committee. It was stated by the Prime Minister, I think, that he was not to be a permanent member because there would be questions of defence confined to this country. I do not agree with that at all. The defence is not confined to this country. The defence is the defence of the Empire. That is no reason whatever, therefore, why the Dominions Secretary should not be a permanent member of the Defence Committee. He has continuous contact with the High Commissioners.
Surely he should be absolutely au fait with every aspect of defence. It is tremendously important, in my opinion. In addition, there is a grave and extraordinary omission from the Committee of Imperial Defence. There is no provision in the White Paper for the continuous representation, at the highest level, of our Dominions. They had free access to our Defence Committee in the past; why not today? Why are they excluded? It is a most extraordinary and very retrograde omission and will have a very bad effect. It is quite true that there are to be liaison officers. I ventured to ask the Prime Minister about them, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) gave a very good definition of them. There is no comparison whatever between having liaison officers and having contact at all times with the Dominion representatives at the highest level when desired. Why are they not as in the past to have free access to the Defence Committee? The Dominions have access to the Service Departments and to the Imperial Defence College, and I would ask for reconsideration of this matter so that, as in the past, the Dominions should have free access to the Defence Committee at the highest level.
This omission will weaken, when we should do all we possibly can to strengthen it, the machinery for the unity of thought and action which is so essential throughout the Empire. Any weakening would be disastrous. Any units of the Empire which would not come into an agreed Imperial plan for defence, would weaken that defence and would be disastrous. Any question that any unit of the Empire, if war broke out, would not come in as one unit, for the defence of the Empire would be equally disastrous. I trust that whoever replies from the Government Bench, will be able to give some assurance 654 that there will be greater cooperation than is indicated in this White Paper, that the Dominions will play a great part in Imperial defence, and that we shall revert to the name "Imperial Defence Committee."
§ 5.43 p.m.
Mr. Richard Adams (Balham and Tooting)
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) right into the realm of Imperial defence, although I hope to say a few words on that subject before I sit down. I think all hon. Members will agree with the main conclusions of the White Paper, which is the subject of our discussion this afternoon, and I think the policy outlined there is a logical development. History explains why up till now the Services have developed separately. The Army and the Navy in the centuries gone by fought their battles abroad without interfering to any great degree with life at home, and when the Royal Air Force came along that was added on the same pattern. It required two great wars, and, in particular, this last war, to make us realise the need for the unified direction of a total war effort. In accepting the principle of this new Defence Ministry, I would like to say that, in my view, it requires two complementary Ministries to complete our war planning—one which is already in existence, and one which is not. Here I think I shall carry with me to some extent the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) because with much of what he said on this particular subject I agree.
The first Ministry to which I refer is, of course, the Ministry of National Service. This Ministry should be responsible, as it was during the war, for the planning and the allocation of manpower, and it should have the responsibility of allocating manpower as between the fighting Services and civilian needs at home. Therefore, I suggest that it needs to be separate from, and not subservient to, the proposed Ministry of Defence. The second Ministry, which I call, for the want of any better name, the Ministry of Material Resources, should be created to hold the balance between the Service and civilian needs as regards supplies. Again, it should be in a position to balance the need between the fighting Services and 655 the civilians at home. As part of its function—and, of course, in practice this Minister may be one of the existing Ministers without Portfolio—it would have, first of all, the task of controlling the Ministry of Service Supplies, which corresponds to the present Ministry of Supply. I would suggest that the opportunity should be taken of abolishing the anachronism mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, whereby the Admiralty orders its own supplies and the other two Services work through a Ministry. I am not suggesting here exactly what should be the relationship, but I think it is an opportunity for applying the same procedure to all three Services, and that the Minister of War Supplies should be responsible for all three. Side by side with that, the new Ministry would be responsible for overall supervision of our imports and exports and to supervise the work of the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Agriculture. I suggest that these three Ministries—the Defence Ministry, responsible for the fighting Services; the Ministry of National Service, responsible for manpower; and this proposed new Ministry, responsible for our economic resources—together will provide the nucleus of a small and compact War Cabinet.
Now I want to make a suggestion upon the organisation of the Army, since my experience has been in that Service, although the suggestion I have to make might equally apply to the other two Services. It is touched on in paragraph 15, and more particularly in paragraph 30 of the White Paper. Most hon. Members will agree that the ancillary services of the Army have grown up gradually and sporadically without any considered plan. If we go far enough back, we find that the soldier who presented himself fat service in the Army provided his own clothes and equipment, but gradually it became a service of the Army to provide these things for him. Education came in at a very late stage, and it was only during this last great war that we developed the welfare services to any extent. I suggest that the proposed reorganisation of the Defence Ministry presents an opportunity to reorganise the Army, and probably the other Services, on a fundamental conception which is this: that the soldier is, on the one hand, a fighting machine, an instrument of war, and has to be trained 656 to carry out that purpose; on the other hand—and this is a conception which has not been recognised sufficiently up to now —he is also a human being with all his civilian rights and all the entitlements to the provision of food, clothing, education and so on. I suggest, therefore, that these two conceptions should determine the organization.
If we look at the situation in the past, we find that the commanding officer of a unit has been responsible for everything. In practice, of course, he has delegated a good deal of what one might call the administrative aspect to his second-in-command. But in a period of war that, again, has presented difficulties because at one moment the second-in-command has been concerning himself with N.A.A.F.I., clothing, cigarettes and that sort of thing.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am sorry to interrupt, but the hon. Member seems to be getting away from the question at issue, which is, the Central Organisation for Defence.
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and must put aside the illustrations I had in mind. What I was trying to get to—and I think this brings me back to the White Paper—is that the Army, at any rate down to the battalion, should be organised in these two sides, the administrative and welfare side concerned with the care of the soldier as a human being, and the other concerned with training and instruction of the soldier as a fighting machine. That brings me into line with the suggestion made in paragraph 30 of the White Paper where it is stated that the Government have under consideration the possibility of providing certain services, such as the medical services, on a comprehensive basis for all three Services. I suggest that we would find that the operational side, the fighting side, must remain separate for all three Services. There is nothing in common in the tactical and strategical sphere in training the soldier to fight on land, the airman in the air, and the sailor on board ship. They are bound to remain separate. But, when we come to the provision of clothing, education, and welfare and so on, I suggest that all three Services are concerned with the man as a human being, and these services can be provided on a comprehensive basis for all three. The suggestion in paragraph 30 is capable of a good deal of development.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams (Croydon, South)
I do not know what all this has to do with the Central Organisation for Defence. My hon. Friend seems to be enunciating a very dangerous doctrine, for it is the duty of an officer to look after the welfare of his men.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That may be, and the hon. Member may have the opportunity of saying something about it later.
I join with you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in hoping that my hon. Friend will have an opportunity of developing his point. I am not disagreeing with him when it comes to the battalion level, but I suggest that above that level, when dealing with the staff, and with administration of the Army, the personal aspect is largely left out. Modern warfare has become so complex and complicated, that we should consider whether we should not create special training for those officers who are going to undertake the command of units above the battalion level. I will not take up time by giving instances which occurred in my experience during the war, and which showed the need for further training of commanders of all arms from the tactical and strategical angle. I suggest, however, that an officer should, at a fairly early stage in that career, either choose, or be selected to follow, a career in the Army either as a specialist in his own arm at all levels, or that he should be trained as a commander of groups from the battalion upwards. If this plan is followed logically I think we would find that by the time we get to general rank, a man would only hold a position of commander if he had had training in the technique and strategy of all three Services—the Army, Navy and Air Force.
On the question of Imperial defence, the communique mentioned in paragraph 37 sets out the view of the Government and, in my view, is extremely sound. I consider that within the loose and free association as definied in the Statute of Westminster a rigid centralisation is not possible. I can conceive that at some future time there may be political considerations, and that practical difficulties might occur which would prevent the operation of such a rigid system, and indeed, under the Statute of Westminster we cannot ask for any firm guarantee of common action. If each individual unit 658 within the Commonwealth group pursues a policy of efficiency, with the exchange of views and consultations at a high level —and I do not disagree with the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington when he calls for a consultation at a high level—we should find in circumstances such as this that correlation would be easy in the light of the exact situation of any war that developed.
Finally, I express the hope, with which I think all hon. Members who take part in the Debate will be in agreement, that, although we give cold and scientific consideration to this subject today, we hope our conclusions will never be tested in the stern reality of war.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)
Like all the other hon. Members who have addressed the House, I welcome this White Paper. I have been one of those who have advocated a Ministry of Defence for the last 25 years. Therefore, to see it actually coming to fruition is a matter of pleasure to me.
I think the new Ministry is based on the right lines. It is based on evolutionary rather than on revolutionary principles. That means, I take it, that the evolution is not complete. I remember what the Prime Minister said just now being said in the old days, that we could not have a Minister of Defence unless he were the Prime Minister, because, if he were not the Prime Minister, he would become far too big for his boots. I think there is some danger of that happening now if all the work that is set out somewhat casually in this White Paper is to be imposed on the shoulders of the Minister of Defence. I share the fears expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) under that head. I hope the policy of the Government will be to go as slow as possible in the working of this new machinery in order not to make mistakes, and to test it out very gradually. It seems to me extremely wise not to attempt to amalgamate the three Services, for the time being, at any rate. I congratulate the Government on having resisted that temptation to do so, which is strongly held among those who believe in a Ministry of Defence. It is wise, also, not to set up a Combined General Staff in view of the lessons of the war, although I 659 doubt whether the criticism that is made of the German General Staff in this White Paper is really justified. I do not know, and no one knows I should think at present, how far the German General Staff was hampered by the Fuehrer in the last war.
I approve the setting up of a permanent scientific committee to be part and parcel of the Ministry of Defence. It is quite obvious that war today demands more and more scientific study, and it is essential in peacetime to keep up to date. I, like so many others who have spoken, am rather surprised by some of the Ministers who are to be permanent members of the Defence Committee. I should have preferred to see, as one of its regular members, the Secretary of State for the Dominions rather than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because I share the view of a speaker on the other side of the House, I think, who suggested that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's chance should come later, and that it should be the task of the Chiefs of Staff and Defence Committee, with the approval of the Minister of Defence, to lay out the claims of defence needs and submit their whole programme to the Cabinet when the time comes.
Again, I am not quite happy with regard to the section of the White Paper which deals with Dominion defence. In another place, it was suggested that it would be better to entitle this section "Organisation for the Defence of the Dominions and the Colonies" rather than "Organisation for Collective Defence." and, in view of the unfortunate associations of the word "collective" in the past, it seems to me a pity to have revived its use for this purpose. I cannot for the life of me see why it should not be possible to carry on the practice which, I think, exists at present, of discussing defensive problems with the leading statesmen and soldiers of the Dominions in time of peace, and I doubt whether the employment of liaison officers will be satisfactory except on the highest level.
The point which I really wish to bring forward this evening has not already been alluded to. I think they are, from a constitutional point of view, of extreme importance. We learned during the interwar period that our foreign policy was weakened by lack of adequate armaments. 660 Unfortunately, in that period, we failed to provide the military resources necessary to fulfil our international obligations. As a result, we deprived ourselves of the only means by which aggression could have been prevented, and suffered imminent danger of defeat when at last we were forced into war against an enemy whose military strength was vastly superior to our own. I wish to try to consider what can be done to prevent this happening again. I do not think there is anything suggested in this White Paper to this effect. During the crucial period leading up to the outbreak of war, foreign policy in this country became acutely controversial. Indeed, political antagonism was pushed to such lengths that it made quite impossible any successful co-operation between the Government and the Opposition on vital issues of national security.
From that point of view, the situation was very different before this last war from what it was before the war of 1914–18. During the period of Liberal Government from 1906 to 1914, when the parties were deeply divided on many subjects, indeed on almost every other issue, including some aspects of foreign policy, it was none the less possible for the Government to consult the Opposition leaders at times on the international danger, and to rely upon their support in carrying into effect the necessary measures of defence. This consultation between the Government and the Opposition had become at that time almost a matter of constitutional practice. I am speaking here tonight entirely from my own personal viewpoint and not as a representative officially of the Opposition in this House at the present time. But I would like to point out that even in 1931, for instance, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, when he was Prime Minister, invited Opposition leaders to attend a subcommittee of the Committee of Imperial Defence to consider the policy the country should adopt at the Disarmament Conference at Geneva. Some years before that Mr. Asquith invited Mr. Balfour to attend the meeting of the Committee of Imperial Defence.
Our object, if we are to have a really strong system of defence, is to get rid, as far as possible, of party politics in matters of national defence and of oreign policy. This is why I should like to see a continuance 661 and extension of the Opposition leaders sharing in the work of the Committee of Imperial Defence. It should be possible for the Prime Minister to be able to call in to his counsels anybody he chooses to give advice in times of need. The Opposition parties in the Parliament before the last war were fully entitled to demand a strong policy of resistance to aggression, but they defeated their own purpose by resisting every proposal to provide armaments which were essential if the policy which they were advocating was to be carried out. At that time, those responsible for the provision of national defence, were, from a constitutional and political point of view, in a weak position to resist the demands for economy that were so prevalent, even though it meant disarmament "to the edge of risk"—and beyond it. This, of course, was nothing new, because in this country, as a rule, after a war, we have gone to sleep and returned to a policy of isolation. Public opinion in foreign policy is likely to increase rather than to diminish, and the pity is that public opinion is usually ill-informed. I suggest to the House that some means should be devised by which Parliament could be advised and informed for the needs of our foreign policy, and the requirements that arise in consequence in the way of defence. How can this be done?
Suggestions have frequently been made that we should set up a Select Committee of this House which would consider the Estimates of the Defence Ministries and the Foreign Office, and decide whether the sums demanded were sufficient for the purpose in question; whether, in other words, our foreign policy was sufficiently secured by our powers of defence. In France, they have such a Committee. I do not think it would work in this Parliament, because such a Committee would be on party lines. What I am suggesting is that we should try to put aside party, as far as policy in matters of defence and foreign affairs is concerned. There would be no reason, if the leaders of the Opposition were called in by the Government, in some sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence, why they should accept the policy of the Government. What they would know would be what advice was given to the Government by the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and whether, in their opinion, it was adequate for the defence of the nation.
662 In other words, I suggest that there should be some careful study of this matter. From what the Prime Minister said, I am sure that he is open to argument, and that he would give consideration to changes in this particular method of the Defence Ministry. I suggest it should become the regular practice for the leaders of the Opposition to attend a subcommittee of the Defence Committee in order to hear the views of the Chiefs of Staff and to be informed of the foreign policy pursued by the Government at the time and of our requirements for defence. In this way we should be able to get a better understanding in the House of what the needs were and whether or not the Government policy was the right one. I do not say that there should be agreement between the Government and the Opposition on matters of policy—but at any rate the Opposition would be able to judge the situation and appreciate the national dangers. In public Ministers cannot always state all the facts and they have to speak with reserve. How little Parliament or the public realised the precarious situation before the war. We cannot run such risks again. It is difficult to imagine the risks due to the complete ignorance that existed with regard to our own armaments and requirements, let alone those of other nations. It is, therefore, all the more desirable that something should be done to improve not only the knowledge of Parliament but of public opinion generally.
Foreign policy is wise or foolish in so far as it pursues ends which are not only desirable but also attainable. We have seen what danger can be done, even by such a well-intentioned body as the League of Nations Union, which in the pursuit of objects laudable in themselves, served to foster the illusion that we could preserve the peace and defeat the aggressor by strong speeches and by shaking our fists in the air without sufficient armed force behind us. The chance of establishing some wiser system of conducting our affairs seems to be very great today. If we can set up a Ministry of Defence, with wide powers to change its machinery to suit changing conditions and circumstances, I think we ought to be able to build up a better defensive policy than ever before. Remember this: We cannot possibly hold our own in the world unless we have a real defensive organisation embracing the Commonwealth as a whole and the Colonies. We 663 must in peacetime build up a system which will secure unity and a common purpose in defence if we are to survive as a great Empire and nation.
Finally, the real basis of any kind of policy of defence must be on the basis that we are supporting U.N.O. It has always been said, "Oh, you cannot expect the Dominions to share all your views or to accept all your proposals with regard to defence. It may not suit to fight your wars for you." In the past there was justification for this point of view, but if it is recognised throughout the Empire that we are supporting the principles of U.N.O., and therefore we cannot possibly make aggressive war and can only come into a war when it is a war of aggression which U.N.O. is contesting, then I cannot conceive why it should not be possible to make a policy of preparation and organisation between us and our Dominions and Colonies which should make us a powerful cohesive force should we, unfortunately, ever again be called upon to wage a great war.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
Those of us who are minnows darting about in the shallows of this subject must envy the ease with which the great leviathans like the Prime Minister, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), swim calmly and majestically through these deep waters. Unfortunately, most of us who speak from the back benches have never —if I may change the metaphor—dwelt in the rarified atmosphere of Chiefs of Staff Committees. What we have to say on this subject is, therefore, inductive rather than derivative. We cannot call upon our experience: we can only use our imagination, and to the best of our ability that is what we are trying to contribute against the great experience and wealth of information which Members of the Front Benches on both sides of the House have gathered during recent years. Everything that I say is subject to that qualification at the outset and I hope that I shall not make too many elementary errors.
I welcome generally the White Paper as it is published. I am sure that, in so far as it gives the authority of constitutional machinery to the experience that we found so useful during the last war, 664 it is good. One remembers that the Chiefs of Staff Committee itself was not set up until after our experience in the 1914–18 war, and it has taken another war to persuade us to set up a Defence Ministry. In connection with the functions of the Defence Minister, there are one or two doubts which I should like to utter. The first is related to a point which hon. Members on both sides of the House have mentioned, and that is how far the Minister is to be concerned with administrative matters of the common services. I can see the possibility of great difficulties arising in this connection. If we are to attach to his office common services such as medical and educational services, padres, and many other matters for which he will be responsible because they have been amalgamated, surely there is the prospect, which is inevitable with anybody who sits down to a desk, that he should do the work that appears on his desk day by day—the first work that comes. But that is not the first job of the Minister of Defence. His first job is to be thinking, planning, and making a wide review of the whole subject of strategy, and I think it would be a great misfortune if, in our current passion for amalgamation of common services, we loaded the Minister of Defence with a number of administrative duties which might very well impede the major task which we want him to perform, and for which we are setting up the Ministry.
I now come to more dangerous ground. I wonder whether in fact if we amalgamate these services it would not be a good idea—if I may dare utter the heresy—to amalgamate them in one of the existing Services. I know of the inter-Service jealousies that exist. We may as well face up to them. Probably many of us have seen the difficulties occasioned in trying to get even a commonsense arrangement such as the establishment of one small hospital in one base. Each Service comes along and wants to start up its own hospital. If someone suggests that the Royal Air Force should accept an Army hospital, there are always good reasons why they should not have an Army hospital. The thought of amalgamation perhaps is just an awful heresy to any senior officer in either Service, yet I wonder, if we are to amalgamate them, whether it would not be better to amalgamate under one of the Service Ministers 665 who is responsible for administration, rather than to put them under the Minister of Defence who is to be responsible for policy. I would like a great deal more thought to be given to that subject before a final answer is made.
The question of how far amalgamation is practicable is one which I think has not been wholly answered. I suppose our experience in the last war has brought most of us to feel that there is a great case for amalgamation, but the Weir Committee of 1926, which still holds the field on this subject, produced many cogent arguments against amalgamation which I think ought to be looked at again. I must confess that on balance the situation has so changed in the last 20 years that the case for more amalgamation of common services than we have at the moment is much stronger than it was in 1926. For example, the Weir Committee said it was quite impossible to amalgamate the Intelligence Services. Well, we have seen what 20 years has done to them. It was said that it was quite impossible to amalgamate the supply services, and we have, at least, seen the strides we have made in that field in the last 20 years. There are other services which occur automatically to one's mind which were reviewed by the Weir Committee in 1926, and some arguments for amalgamation, which, I think, might well be looked at again.
The next point with which I should like to deal is the question of liaison officers. I think there is a great deal in the point that has been made about the necessity for their being of sufficiently high rank. Now that most hon. Members of this House are demobilised, when we meet other people for the first time, we can look at their faces, instead of at the shoulders, and the fact does remain that, when you are in the Service, a great deal of your approach to the man you are talking to is determined by his rank. I imagine that, possibly, when one gets into the rarified atmosphere of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, they probably sit round a table and take off their coats, so that they do not see each other's shoulder straps and really get down to the job. At least, I hope that is so.
I do suggest that the liaison officers whom we appoint to the Dominions should be of high rank, and that those we get from the Dominions should have a sufficiently high rank to be taken into 666 the confidence of the Chiefs of Staff. I was very glad to hear the Prime Minister say that these liaison officers would get as much or more information than was given to members of the old Committee of Imperial Defence, and, in so far as that is true, it is welcome. I would say to hon. Members on the other side, who express doubts about this new aspect of the organisation, that there is really no need to be too much troubled about the shadow if we have got the substance. I never expect to see hon. Members opposite particularly keen on setting up more machinery, and more rigid machinery than we have got already, and, if the thing works well, it is a good empirical answer to say "Let it go on."
So far as one can make out, the Dominions are really playing their full share in the fields in which we want co-operation. Nevertheless, I think there is a great deal in the point that the Dominions must recognise, and I am certain they do recognise, that, if we are to fight a war side by side in the future, preparations must be, as far as possible, made in common, and that, to the people of all Dominions and of all countries, it must appear that the sacrifices are common and that the demands made upon the peoples of all countries are in common. The hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) seemed to be talking in the days of the old British North America act, and I am bound to remind him that the Statute of Westminster does refer to the "free association of peoples within the British Commonwealth," and that it is no use lecturing the Dominions about this sort of thing any more than one lectures any other of our Allies. The only basis upon which the Dominions are going to be on the side of this country, in the event of another war, is that they believe that it is a war that is worth fighting. That is the test—a test of policy —and, if our policy marches in step with that of the Dominions, and theirs marches in step with ours, if our common aspirations continue to be the same, then there will be no need to bother overmuch about the machinery for this purpose, because it is not the machinery that counts. In the whole of these matters, a good Minister can make a bad machine work, but a bad Minister makes bad machinery worse. I see that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) disagrees with me. If the 667 right hon. Gentleman really means to indicate dissent, how does he imagine that the Chancellor of the Exchequer runs the Board of Inland Revenue by means of an Income Tax Act 100 years old?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I defer to the right hon. Gentleman on this point, but I still claim that it is the man as much as the machinery which counts in this matter. When the right hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend, the present Leader of the Opposition, came to power in June, 1940, he got rid of the old Minister for Co-ordination of Defence, and I think we should be very grateful to him for having done that so swiftly and setting us on the right road.
Another point which I wish to comment on is in connection with a point made by the right hon. Member for Aldershot, and repeated by other hon. Members, about the bad effect of having the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Lord President of the Council on this Defence Committee. I am sure that they were not thinking of the present Chancellor or the present Lord President. I am sure that there could be no one whom they could more wish to see serving on this Committee than these right hon. Gentlemen, but, as a matter of principle, after all, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes in to a review of current strategy at a sufficiently early point in time, he may be convinced by the arguments put up so that he may well be an unexpected ally when it comes to the Cabinet and a decision has to be made. Why should we assume that, because we have the Chancellor of the Exchequer added to a committee of this sort, he is going to convince or override the chiefs of staff? Surely, the nearer we get to these defence problems, the more is it the case that the reverse is true? Fuller information given to everybody, and a fuller appreciation of the problems, often change our point of view, and to that extent, there may well be a very good case for including the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
668 As regards the Lord President of the Council, there is an overwhelming case, as this Socialist Government is developing, for leaving him there. I speak, not of the person, but of the office. Is it not increasingly clear that the Lord President is responsible for much of the economic machinery of the country, and that part of the duties of the Defence Committee is concerned, not only with strategy, but with mobilising the resources of the nation for war? I should have thought that, on that very ground, there was a good case for including the Lord President at an early stage. Hon. Members opposite may say "Leave him out until it goes to the Cabinet," but the Cabinet has many other problems to consider. Again this is a rarified atmosphere, and I shall want an astradome if I am going up there, but I can imagine that there are problems which are crowded out from a Cabinet agenda, and which are the sort of items which may be discussed at a Defence Committee charged with the defence of the country. I do not think the case has been proved on this point.
I am not very convinced by the argument that the Dominions Secretary ought to be a member of the Committee. I should have thought that with the increasing stature of the Dominions in world affairs, the voice of the Dominion Secretary was receding in importance. I should have thought that the liaison officers, if they are established, will be much more valuable on a committee of this sort than the Colonial Secretary, but I would say, and I put this to the Minister without Portfolio, is that we should have the Secretary of State for the Colonies brought to this committee fairly regularly. As the Colonies are growing in stature and coming nearer to the responsibilities of self-government, and as the Colonial Secretary has so much more responsibility for them than the Dominions Secretary can ever have for the Dominions, there is a very good case for calling him in fairly regularly, but I do not see his name mentioned anywhere in the White Paper.
§ The Minister without Portfolio. (Mr. A. V. Alexander)
He will certainly be called in whenever necessary.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Finally, may I say that I am sure we all welcome the appointment of the Minister without Portfolio to this office. We shall not expect very detailed 669 replies from him in respect of an office which he has occupied for only a fortnight. His thinking cannot be very advanced in this field yet, but I am certain we all wish him well. We put these points to him at the outset of his term of office in order that he may consider them. It is, perhaps, a rather striking commentary that, within 12 months after the end of a war, we should be considering how best we are going to face the onset of another war. I must say that I begrudge the time we have to spend on such matters because I feel that there are much worthier subjects on which we should devote two days of Government time. But do not misunderstand me. If we are going to have a defence policy, let us have a good one, the best possible. I earnestly trust that, as the number of our potential enemies gets fewer, the need for these discussions will get less. We must, as the right hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Sir C. Headlam) said, base our policy upon the United Nations organisation. Article 63 provides that the Armed Forces shall be placed under the authority of that organisation, and I hope that our representatives on it will take an active part in endeavouring to secure that these forces shall become international as soon as possible. As long as we go on with our individual strategic planning, as we are bound to do, so much further away is that day to which I look forward and which General Eisenhower summed up as being the one to which he looked forward, when all generals and admirals would be unemployed.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts (Merioneth)
I, like the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan), venture with some trepidation into this dangerous field. I welcome the reference in the White Paper to collective defence because I feel that the only real defence is that entailed by collective security. I look on the Armed Forces of this country as being necessary only during a transition period, the aim of which is the establishment of an international armed force. Nevertheless, while we are striving towards that object, we must devote our attention to the perfection of its machinery—collective defence, and Imperial defence within that system of collective defence. There is a strong case for the inclusion of the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs in the Defence Committee, but I feel that, if he is included, 670 an unanswerable case is made out for the inclusion of the Colonial Secretary as well. I do not see how one can be put in without the other, because one of the greatest tasks of the Defence Committee will be to arrange the dispersal of war potential. In the days of atomic war —and this is a lesson which we learned even during the last war—the dispersal of war potential all over the world will be a condition of our not being obliterated in the very first days of the struggle. On balance, I think that the Prime Minister's argument, that they can be called in as and when occasion requires, is a sound one.
I welcome the effect which this White Paper has on the Cabinet in that the three Service Ministers are now excluded from permanent membership of the Cabinet and one Minister of Defence is substituted. Now that we are in the period of reconstruction, it is inconsistent with the problems of that period that the three Service Ministers should be included. I think that it makes for a neater Cabinet arrangement that one Minister should speak to the Cabinet for all the defence Ministries and, in that respect, I think the White Paper is a valuable step forward. Another statement to be welcomed in the White Paper is that the Government have not entirely rejected the conception of the amalgamation of the three Services. It is, no doubt, premature to welcome that at the moment, but a greater integration, both administratively and otherwise, is, surely, a most desirable object. I suggest that that integration should not be merely at the highest levels, but at all levels. This was one of the lessons that took time and pain to learn during the war. Friction was involved when people of different Services had to work together. I remember that, during a certain combined exercise in 1941, the Army commander had one map on one wall and the Air Force commander worked on another map on the opposite wall because the one liked the Army map and the other the Air Force map. We do not want to have to learn those lessons all over again.
I suggest that much can be done by integration during training and, perhaps, at all levels. The hostility between airmen and soldiers suddenly thrown together into a new unit is quite as apparent as at higher levels, and we know that such hostility does exist at higher levels. It 671 can exist in respect to articles in common supply. During the war it was a common thing for an Army and an Air Force unit to have to draw supplies from different sources with different duplicated organisations. It would not be a bad thing if integration went even further still, and resulted in such things as the common numbering of Army, Air Force, and, perhaps, naval forms. There is much to be said for a review of military titles and ranks in all three Services. I think that administrative uniformity can best be secured, not as the hon. Member for South Cardiff suggested, but by an administrative committee working under the Minister of Defence. We are much more likely to pick out the best in each Service if the integration is done by an impartial Minister.
Another thing for which there is much to be said is a greater uniformity in the disciplinary code. At the moment, the Navy works under one court-martial system and the Army and the Air Force under another. In some important particulars, the Naval court-martial system is superior, such as in the pronouncing of the sentence at the conclusion of the trial. With due respect to the different units in which the men work, there is much to be said for having a common disciplinary code and a common court-martial system. I hope, now that the court-martial system is to be looked at, that this point will be borne in mind. It should be remembered that the men enter the Services as civilians, and it is important that their right before the law, whether it be civil, military, naval or air force, ought not to be affected by the kind of Service or tribunal which is to try them.
Finally, I want to touch on one matter which has not been mentioned so far during this Debate—the question of economic intelligence. It was perhaps one of our outstanding administrative achievements during the war that we had the Joint Planning Committee and the Joint Intelligence Committee both working under the Chiefs of Staff. In the Joint Intelligence Committee, of course, the Ministry of Economic Warfare played an important part. This was a lesson which we learned after much difficulty, just as we learned the lesson of cooperation between the Services. It was one of the 672 most vital lessons, namely, the gathering of economic intelligence and the application of economic power in negotiations with neutral countries, to make economic elements effective in warfare. Much valuable matter was amassed during the war and many valuable lessons learned. The Ministry of Economic Warfare has, of course, been disbanded and much of the wartime staff which formed that Ministry has melted away. I wonder if we are now studying the lessons of the Ministry of Economic Warfare—lessons which might be gathered from the work of the Contraband Committee, or from our negotiations with Sweden whereby we were able to prevent her contributing to the might of Germany even though she was surrounded by alien territory, or how we were able to deal with the problems of supply of coal from Germany across Switzerland to Italy. Will there be an economic intelligence section studying the lessons learned from the last war and applying them to any future emergency? Such an economic intelligence department, I think, is essential. Such activity materially affects the outcome of a war as effectively as bombing and other forms of military activity.
I do not suggest that this work should be done by the Service Departments—I do not think the soldiers, sailors and airmen always have the right kind of approach—and I do not think it can be done by the Foreign Office. I am not sure that the technique of the Foreign Office is the correct technique to apply. There is an overwhelming case for an economic intelligence department working under the Minister of Defence, and I would like the Minister in due course to say something about that.
§ 6.43 p.m.
Mr. Scott-Elliot (Accrington)
In view of the humble but semi-official position I held, I propose to confine myself entirely to questions of supply. Indeed, I have only two small points to make. My remarks are concerned with the work of the Production Committee which will be advised, as we understand from the White Paper, by the Joint War Planning Staff, or the J.W.P.S., as we used to call it during the war. I am glad to see that it is being kept in being, and that it will be staffed by serving officers and officials both of the Service departments and the appropriate civilian Ministries. 673 I speak as one who helped to put into administrative effect during the war some of the decisions which were made by the J.W.P.S. About the beginning of 1943 we had built up adequate supplies of certain types of munitions. That was the time for the J.W.P.S. to step in and, on a long-term plan, to decide that those supplies were adequate and that they had to be cut. They informed the Supply departments accordingly. The Supply department concerned then undertook what we called a programme review, in which we planned to cut contracts in different areas of the country. That was a matter in which we were guided very largely by questions of labour supply. We endeavoured to cut contracts in those areas where there was a labour stringency. in order that labour could be made available for other contracts which would otherwise have fallen into arrears. Equally in those areas where the supply of labour was sufficient to meet the demand, or where there was an excess of labour, we ensured that the capacity and the labour were diverted to some new form of production which was most urgently needed in the interests of the war efforts.
I come to the two points which I have to make. During the latter part of the war it was a question of cutting contracts. From now on it will be a question of forward planning to deal with shortages which may occur in the future. In other words, the J.W.P.S. will have to go completely into reverse. The second point arises out of that, and is a question with regard to the actual placing of contracts. In the old days, I think I am right in saying, at any rate before the war, Supply departments confined themselves to a comparatively small number of contractors. That state of affairs, no doubt, was economical. They got cheaper prices and probably got more efficient service. But there is another way of looking at it, and that is to spread the amount of contracts that are needed over a rather wider field. because this makes for a wider field of industrial "know how" to go into bigger production if that production is needed. Those who were connected during the war with questions of production will realise only too well the extraordinarily slow progress that was made at first in getting the tools, jigs and so on. It was all a technical matter, and for a short time we got no supplies at all. Then, of 674 course, the supplies began to come. That is the point I want to make. Production could be stepped up more quickly if there were a wider spread in the placing of munition contracts. I commend this policy to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply since, in the event of a national emergency which, please God, will never occur, it may prove to be in the national interest.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Colonel Ponsonby (Sevenoaks)
I rather agreed with the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) when he regretted that so much time had been allotted to this Debate. Certainly we had to have one day in which to approve the White Paper, but when many of us want to talk about agriculture, the Colonies, and other matters it is a pity that two days should be set aside for a Debate of this nature, especially as in another place this matter has been very fully discussed and, if I may say so, by people who probably contributed very much more than we can.
It is pleasant to return for a day or two to the old spirit of the Coalition where nearly everybody was out to do all he could to win the war, and matters in this House in connection with the war were, generally speaking, matters on which all parties were agreed. I know that this atmosphere is particularly pleasant to the Prime Minister, because I recollect about ten years ago a most interesting intervention that he made in a non-party Debate started, I think, by Sir Murray Sueter, who was then the Member for Hertford, on this subject of defence. This certainly ought not to be a party question. Of course, this House is supposed to represent a cross section of the people of this country, and there are many ways of looking at this matter by many different types of people. There are the military type who are always interested in these questions. There are a few strategists, and there are ordinary people who are merely interested in the welfare of their country without having any special knowledge. There are a few pacifists who are quite ready to lie down and let the invader run over them; and there are a few conscientious objectors—I do not know whether there are any in this House—who object to war on principle. When I speak about conscientious objectors, I would like to pay a tribute to the Quakers. I have heard so much in the war of the bravery shown by 675 the Quaker ambulance men, often in the front line, and always unarmed. If we eliminate the people with curious notions we come down to the fact that possibly 98 per cent. of hon. Members of this House are fully agreed on one matter, namely, that however much we may dislike the idea of war, it is better to be prepared. That is the object of this preparation, which has prompted this White Paper.
A wise man once said to me, "If you wish to find the facts about a particular subject see if it was debated in the House of Lords." I have looked up the Debates of another place, and there I can find everything that could be said on this subject, stated, as I mentioned before, by experts such as Lord Chatfield, Lord Trenchard, and, on the historical side, by Lord Hankey, who, after all, was in this business for 41 years. There are only one or two points on which I wish to lay emphasis. I agree entirely with what my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Sir C. Headlam) said on the subject of parties. If hon. Members care to look up the records they will find that in the past Lord Balfour, when he was Leader of the Opposition, used to attend the Committee of Imperial Defence, for the promotion of which he was largely responsible. I hope that in the future the question of party will not come into it at all. If by any chance the right hon. Gentleman who will be Minister of Defence thought it necessary, I hope he would invite the greatest authority on this subject to come and confer with him, namely, my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). It is absolutely essential that this organisation should not be what we are inclined to regard a Government Department, too hidebound. It must be flexible, and I think that is realised in the White Paper. Lastly, there must obviously be the frankest cooperation with the Dominions. I will say something about that in a minute. Generally speaking, of course, it does depend upon the Minister himself. He will be almost the most important Minister in the country. I would like to ask a question about finance. In the old days there was this terrible scramble between Departments when it came to the Service Estimates. I am perfectly convinced that if anyone cared to, or was 676 allowed to, see the details of Estimates in the Service Departments they would find, over the years, a number of lists cut through with a blue pencil, which represented the reductions in the Estimates of that Department. They would also know that those items which were cut through with the blue pencil probably represented many British lives, and terrible loss of time in the war, because if we had had those items we should have been much quicker off the mark, and much more efficient. I have looked at paragraph 27, and it is not clear from that whether, in the future, we are going to go through the paraphernalia of each Service Minister introducing his own Estimates. I hope not. If I understand paragraph 27 aright, I hope all these Estimates will be worked out beforehand, and that the Minister of Defence will produce the final result. I think that is borne out by the last sentence, which reads:With the help of this organisation, the Minister of Defence will be able to frame comprehensive defence proposals in the form of a consolidated estimate for presentation to the Defence Committee and the Cabinet.I hope that also means to Parliament.
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is a very old and respected Member of the House. I would like to know how he is going to provide the opportunity for hon. Members of the House to exercise their ancient privilege of a redress of grievance aright unless they can get time to discuss the administration of each detail of the Vote at the appropriate time.
§ Colonel Ponsonby
I am glad to hear that. I agree that it will obviously be necessary and salutary that hon. Members should exercise their old rights. I assume that when the Estimates are presented—though they may be presented separately—the Minister of Defence will have gone through them very carefully, and that they will really, in effect, be the consolidated Estimates, though presented in separate form. In connection with the Dominions, I refer to paragraph 35. It is an unsatisfactory paragraph. From it one would be inclined to gather that this organisation will be, first for our own defence, and then for collective defence, as it says:which may be organised under the aegis of the United Nations;677 and lastly:machinery for collaboration in the defence of the British Commonwealth and Empire.Perhaps it may not be drawn in a way that we can understand. Surely the way to look at this is that we, the British Empire, stand together, and the whole object of this new Defence Ministry is to so mobilise the British Empire as a unit that, as a unit, it can do anything—either help in the defence of this country or, if necessary, assist the United Nations. It is absolutely essential, as has been pointed out by many hon. Members, that the closest collaboration should take place first. I am perfectly certain we shall be linked together all through the Empire for defence; but it is essential that all the links should be well and truly forged in advance.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander Shackleton (Preston)
I have not very much to say on the subject of this White Paper, because I feel that in it we have merely a sketch plan of what the Minister without Portfolio is going to do. The time will come, perhaps in a few months, when we shall be able to see what is being done, and then we can get down to the job of either criticising the right hon. Gentleman or, as I hope, approving what he has done. Nevertheless, some rather important points have been brought out in this Debate; one, particularly, which was made in the most interesting and thoughtful speech of the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan). He suggested that the Services should be amalgamated under one. At that moment he met, I think, some angry looks from Army Members of the House and from some of the Royal Air Force Members of the House, and he refrained from saying which was to be the one Service. Well, that is a step which, I hope, will come in time, but I also hope that it will be a true marriage of all the three Services and not subordination under one. At the moment this marriage seems to have been delayed; and instead of the three Services being united together, there seems to have been a union with the new Minister of Defence as the bridegroom. I hope that, in this case, he will not maintain his fidelity only to the Service with which he was first associated, and that he will show quite clearly in the speech which he will be making at a later stage that 678 he does realise that there is great anxiety in the Services about their position under the new set-up. I am quite convinced that he is determined to ensure that each Service does get a fair crack of the whip, and I hope he will stress that point when he comes to reply.
Another point the hon. Member for South Cardiff made was that he hoped the Minister would not be distracted from his role of dealing with broad strategic problems or from the opportunity to think about national problems, and, above all, the Imperial problems. It is quite obvious that he will have to give a great deal of thought to these, and I hope he will be free to travel a great deal, if necessary, to pay those visits throughout the Empire which will be necessary for the coordination of our defence.
Nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman has got a second role. It is clear that this new Ministry of Defence has two functions. One is the coordination of the broad strategy, and the second is that of dealing with the certain specialised services held in common by, but above, all the three main military organisations. There is one thing which, I think, has been omitted from the functions of the Minister of Defence as set out in paragraph 26. It says there that among other things, he is responsible for the administration of inter-Service organisations, such as Combined Operations Headquarters and the Joint Intelligence Bureau. I think the most important contribution that the Minister can make to Service coordination is not only in running those bodies specially set up to serve all three Services, but in ensuring that there is real coordination right down to the lowest level. All of us in this war have had experience of cases in which there has been a failure in liaison between the Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force. Attempts were made, and successful attempts, too, to repair that in the course of the war, but I am told that the situation is getting worse now, and that Royal Air Force men are more out of touch with their naval comrades than they were during the war. I do hope the Minister of Defence will take steps to see that there is contact, that there is liaison, that there is understanding, and that not only in those matters which are obviously of common interest, but in the rest of the Services, which is of great importance, from the point of view of bringing 679 about effective cooperation and coordination in war time. One particular example lies in the Joint Intelligence Bureaux being transferred to the Ministry of Defence. That only covers a certain section of the intelligence role. There is a certain branch of naval intelligence which is of vital importance to the Air Force; and, again, there is Air Force intelligence which is of vital importance to the Army. It is essential that we should take decisive and definite steps to see that that information is transmitted. That is an important duty which, I hope, will come under the Minister.
We all agree that it is a very good thing that we are not following the German example and setting up a sort of O.K.W. Those of us concerned with German organisations during the war know what an unfortunate piece of organisation that was to the German Army and the German Services. Nevertheless, I do find it difficult to understand the constitutional position of the Chiefs of Staff. They appear to have two masters. They appear to serve their own Ministers, and they also appear to serve the Minister of Defence. It is perfectly right that they should do that, but I hope they will not be a cause of trouble or disagreement. I hope that the Minister, when he comes to reply, will, perhaps, give an explanation of how that is going to work.
I think we are all very glad that proper attention is being paid to operational research, and I, personally, welcome the appointment of Sir Henry Tizard who, I know, will be a most admirable head of the research department. I should like to suggest now to the Minister that there is one job that can be given straight away to the research department. That is, to start collecting information about the Ministry of Defence, with a view to producing a report and producing suggestions on how it should run, after it has been running a few months. We know well that organisations set up during the war became very static after only a short time, and I hope there will be special attention paid by those scientists who will research into administrative problems as well as into operational ones into the organisation the Minister has under his care. That is all I wish to say, except again to repeat, what has already been said on all sides of the House, a welcome to this White Paper as a definite step forward towards what we 680 hope, perhaps, one day will be a proper amalgamation of the three Services. I wish, as all hon. Members of the House wish, the right hon. Gentleman the best of luck in carrying out his new duties.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Preston (Wing-Commander Shackleton) has spoken with great authority and force about integration. I should like to add a few words on that subject. He seems to consider that the new Minister is, as it were, going to carry out a polygamous marriage with the three Services, and, sticking to strict orthodoxy, he would prefer, I gather, that it should be a monogamous one, and that the three Services should, in the end, be united together. I do not agree with that point of view. I think it is far better that the Services should stand by their separate traditions. But it seems to me that the way to attack the problem is not to amalgamate all the Services, not even to establish common services administered by the Minister of Defence. As my hon. Friend opposite said, that would clutter up the Ministry to a very great extent, and make it very much more difficult, if and when war time came along, for the Minister of Defence, whether he was at the same time Prime Minister or not, to carry out his duties with a clear head; or, even, in peace time to plan strategy satisfactorily in advance. I should like to suggest that the best way of dealing with this subject would be rather to adopt the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts), and set up some kind of administrative coordinating committee, under the Minister of Defence. I feel that if we can get the machinery—the mechanics of the various Services, the procedure adopted by them—as like as possible, a great many of the causes for the discords and differences that arise will be eliminated. Indeed, if the procedure is made as like as possible it would be very simple ultimately to amalgamate the Services were it thought necessary.
May I give one or two examples? One is the difficulty of admitting patients belonging to one Service into a hospital belonging to another. While I do not think one single medical service should be set up, I would suggest that a similar procedure should be adopted in medical matters 681 for all the Services. Again, from the point of view of communications, I have often been astonished at the disparity of signals procedure between the different Services. It seems to me that it would be a very good plan to make signals procedure the same. I remember very well. in the early days when the Americans first came over here, that I had occasion to ring up one of their headquarters, and after a long time I managed to get through to the person I wanted to speak to. I had just got the communication when an American voice came on the air and said, "Are you through?" I said, "Yes, thanks," and he cut me off. Coordination with the Americans improved in the course of the war, but curiously enough, as between the Services, we do not seem to have got so far. Then, with regard to accommodation standards, a great deal of dissatisfaction was caused in the Army, in particular in the early days of 1941, because the accommodation standards were so much lower than in the R.A.F. That is a subject on which the Defence Minister, as a coordinating Minister, could introduce similar standards for all the Services. I fully agree with what has been said regarding the necessity for cooperation between all the Services at all levels, and I think that the only way to get it, as was demonstrated, for example, in S.E.A.C., was to put one officer clearly in charge, so that even in peace time the different Services should become accustomed to taking orders from each other, because so far as I can see that was the only way in which, in the end, full cooperation was obtained.
A good deal has already been said about Imperial cooperation and the necessity for integrating Imperial defence. Obviously it is necessary to leave to the Dominions the very greatest freedom—in fact, they have it, there is no question of leaving it to them. It is quite conceivable that, should this country by any chance go to war, the Dominions might not all come in. On the other hand, it seems to me quite inconceivable that, if any Dominion were engaged in war, this country would not also be involved. The necessary corollary is that, basing ourselves on regional defence measures such as the United Nations Charter envisages, we should have regional defence committees in various parts of the world to cover Imperial defence. A good deal of discussion has aready taken place in this 682 House around the words "liaison officer," and I hope that the Minister without Portfolio, in his reply, will have quite a lot to say about them. It seems to me that the kernel of the thing is this: is each Dominion to be responsible in a certain region for defence, and is there simply to be liaison with the United Kingdom, or is the United Kingdom to take a definite share of responsibility in the regional defences, say, of Australasia or, again, of the Pacific Canadian-U.S.A. sphere? If the latter is the case, there surely must be more integration than is envisaged in the White Paper. The White Paper seems to pose two alternatives, first, that there should be complete centralisation—which is dismissed—and, second, that there should be complete freedom, while at the same time having common doctrine, common equipment to a large extent, and consultation as to regional plans. Surely there is a middle way of decentralised planning. The whole thing depends on the extent to which the United Kingdom is to share the responsibility for the defence of the Dominions on a regional basis. As at the present time Great Britain is the only representative on the inner military committee of the Security Council, I think it is quite necessary that we should take that responsibility, and I would ask the Minister to deal with that point in replying.
There is another point which has not yet been referred to on which I hope something will be said—the way in which the defence of India is to be dealt with. I know that it is a very delicate matter at this time; we are setting up a new Defence Ministry at a time when circumstances are changing. Here again is there not a strong case for the Secretary of State for the Dominions to be represented on the Defence Committee, on the supposition that in the early stages at any rate, and so long as our military responsibilities in India remain, India will be classed as a Dominion?
Then there is the question of the Colonies. The political aspect of defence seems to be quite as important in dealing with the Colonies as the military aspect, and for that reason alone it may be necessary for the Secretary of State for the Colonies to be represented permanently on the Defence Committee. After all, the Secretary of State for the Dominions is, in a sense, himself a liaison officer, whereas the Secretary of State for the 683 Colonies is an administrator, and it is his responsibility that is being engaged by the plans which the Chiefs of Staff put up for the consideration of the Defence Committee. For that reason I feel it is very necessary for the Secretary of State for the Colonies to be a member of the Defence Committee.
Lastly, I would join with all Members of the House in expressing a general welcome to the measures set out in the White Paper. Very special qualifications are required for the Defence Minister, and I think we are fortunate at the present time in having somebody who can hold that post. I wonder very much, however, whether that will always be so. It would in my view be much better for the Prime Minister to take over the responsibilities rather than entrust them to a second-rate Defence Minister. Then when war came, if ever war does come again, and I hope it will not, it would always be a question as to whether the Prime Minister should take over the duties of the Defence Minister, or the Defence Minister take over the duties of the Prime Minister, for in time of war at any rate this job must necessarily merge with that of the Prime Minister.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Colonel Wigg (Dudley)
Like all other hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate, I support the proposal in the White Paper. I think that the right hon. Gentleman should beware when he finds all men speak well, not only of the proposals but of himself. Speaking as one of the ordinary people referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby), I should like to caution him against some of the advice given him today by many of his ardent approvers. The hon. and gallant Member for Derby (Group-Captain Wilcock) spoke very wisely on the need for economy in our manpower resources, and made various suggestions whereby economies could be made, and that theme was continued by the hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Clifton-Brown). I want to warn the right hon. Gentleman against interfering with what may appear to be trivial matters, when he takes decisions on questions affecting the three Services. He may find his popularity easily lost, if, for instance, he makes a general rule about 684 the nature of socks for other ranks. Such matters are highly controversial subjects, which he may be tempted to interfere with by the logic of the case put up to him. I think he would be well advised to learn from experience and go slow.
It may well be that over the years a variety of reasons will lead the Government to push ahead in the direction of amalgamation of the Services, but I am quite sure that the time is not yet. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) spoke very wisely when he reminded us that the proposals were being produced on the morrow of victory, and that embraced in the White Paper was our experience of the war. It is perhaps a little doubtful, when that experience is seen after a few more years have elapsed, whether the Services would be quite as enthusiastic, or whether subsequent experience will be so universal as to give general acceptance to the proposals in quite the same spirit as now. I think that the Government would be well advised to go very slowly, and beware of the voice of logic in these matters. The right hon. Gentleman must bear in mind that behind each of the three Services are years of tradition and experience, and if he treads on toes, although this be absent from his mind, he may put back for very many years a number of things which Members of experience would like to see introduced.
I turn to Part V, which has been criticised, and particularly paragraph 40, and I also want to say a bit about the name of the Committee. I must express a little surprise that the Prime Minister did not mention Colonial defence. I feel that this is a vital matter. I am sure I should find myself at variance with the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) if I discussed this matter in any great detail. I feel that his heart is in the right place, but that his approach to the problem from the Imperial angle is a little out-of-date; he hampers his own cause by placing such great stress on it. I am glad to see that word "Imperial" dropped. After all, it was introduced immediately after the Boer War. The use of the word "Empire" has now become a little shabby. It has been used too much by the party opposite in other ways, and it has become out of place. I think it would be more useful if we called the Committee the "Commonwealth Defence Committee."
§ Colonel Wigg
Oh, yes. I think that "Commonwealth" has a meaning both in the Colonies and Dominions, and in this country, which would find general acceptance. I am one of those who believe that the future destiny of this country, and the part it has to play in the world, is tied up with the development of our Colonies. I was impressed with the argument of the right hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Sir C. Headlam), who stressed the importance of public opinion in these matters. That is very true, but I think public opinion is very ill-informed on Colonial matters. I think that the propaganda which the Colonies offered during the war has been very badly handled. There has been considerable over-emphasis in the Colonies, with disastrous results on political good will. Nevertheless, it is true that the Colonies and West Africa and East Africa in particular made a very great contribution to the war effort. Their strategic importance has been increased by the happenings during the war, and by what has happened since. I hope that the Minister of Defence will accept as part of his duties the need for coordination with the Colonial Office. When I say that, I have in mind that the Secretary of State should not be a member of the Defence Committee.
One of the best ways to provide for the defence of the Colonies is to raise the standard of life of the people. That brings me very near to being out of Order, and I do not propose to pursue the matter too far. But it is no good going back to the people of Nigeria and of the Gold Coast to help us if a crisis breaks out again, if meantime we have done nothing for them. During the war the Colonial Office machinery was not good enough for the job, and we had to appoint a Resident Minister to coordinate the war effort in West Africa. It seems to me that from the economic point of view, and from the point of view of manpower and the well-being of the Colonies, that we should be foolish if we did not recognise the part they have to play in the future of Commonwealth defence. The hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks talked about the proposals in the White Paper as being a preparation for war. With the greatest respect, I deplore that approach to defence problems. When you 686 have to provide a fire engine, or insure against fire, you do not think that a fire will break out the next day. You say. with conviction, that with reasonable care there will be no fire. Our approach to defence policy should be on similar lines
I believe our defence policy must make its contribution through the United Nations. I sometimes find myself at variance with some of my hon. Friends on this side who look on U.N.O. as an organisation from which to draw support, but not as an organisation into which it is necessary to put something. You cannot have an efficient international organisation unless you are prepared to back it, and the country and the Government must provide the resources with which to make U.N.O. effective. It also seems self-evident that we must base our defence policy on the well-being of the Dominions and the Colonies. Our relations with the Dominions are such that we can only act with them by their consent. The White Paper says that the Government have direct responsibility for the Colonies, and we have an opportunity now, while constitutions are being made, and the political and economic future of these great areas is in the melting pot, to bring them into our defence organisation so that, over the years, they will see by accepting our way of life they are making a contribution, not only to their own well-being, but to the wellbeing and peace of the world.
§ 7.33 P.m.
§ Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
Looking back on this Debate one realises how different it would have been, had it taken place 18 months ago. There would have been a stirring speech from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition; there would have been a packed House, and the tone of the Debate would have been high. Today, we have the curious position in which the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) gets up and says that he would rather be talking about something else. I think there is a grave danger that we might repeat the same mistake that our predecessors made after the first world war, of putting into the wrong perspective this question of defence preparations and Imperial defence.
May I deal, first, with what is called, in the White Paper, "collective defence"? I am sure that the Government 687 really mean to call it "Imperial defence," and I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg) will not want me to call it "Commonwealth defence."
§ Mr. Turton
If the hon. and gallant Member goes round the country talking about Commonwealth defence I do not think that people will entirely understand what he means. Those who fought in the war regard Imperial defence as defence of our Empire, and that is what I would far rather call it. Anyhow, let us not quarrel about these words. As I see it, the difficulty in which the Government are placed is this: They have changed over from an advisory committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence to an executive committee, which is this Defence Committee. For many reasons there is no doubt that that is a very wise change, but, by making that change, there is a danger of leaving out the Dominions and Colonies. The old Committee of Imperial Defence, after 1926, was, I understand, regularly attended by the High Commissioners, and the sub-committees were attended by liaison officers. I would like to ask the Minister without Portfolio to make it clear whether that practice will continue with the new Defence Committee? I am not interested as to whether the Dominions Secretary will attend this Committee or not, whether he will be a member of the Defence Committee, because his job is something different. We want to see the Committee attended by men actually representing the Dominions, rather than have a Member of His Majesty's Government who tries to coordinate the Dominions.
I would also like to know whether it will be possible for Ministers of Dominions who are visiting this country to attend the meetings of the Defence Committee. I believe that has been done in the past, and that that would be a very valuable development. I appreciate that there is a danger in having too rigid centralised machinery, but we must have some machinery. It cannot be a completely spineless organisation. It is all very well looking back on the war and saying, "This Empire coordination worked out beautifully in the end." There were times when it was very difficult. My 688 right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) will no doubt remember the time when I was a little further West of him when he was in Cairo, the difficulties which some of us found in coordination. We were then a fighting Army of men from the Empire. I use the word "Empire," although the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley is somewhat ashamed of it. The Eighth Army was an Empire Army, and there were difficulties of coordination. Before the war, plans had not been made to provide for it, and the only improvisation which the then High Command used was in the form of liaison officers attached to headquarters. That is the same principle that the Government have embodied in this White Paper.
It was not enough in the Eighth Army and the Middle East force. We had to get something different. I remember that just as I left Egypt, after two years of work, an Allied liaison headquarters was started. How far it was successful or not I do not think is so material to my argument as to show that at that time further coordination between Dominion Forces was required in the Middle East. I realise that following a Statute of Westminster we cannot dictate to the Dominions as to what form of Committee of Imperial Defence we should have, but I hope that we shall evolve some firmer system of coordination between Empire countries in the defence of our interests. If there is to be a regional association for defence there must be some coordination between the regions.
I entirely agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley about Colonial problems. The responsibility for the defence of the Colonies rests with His Majesty's Government, and I hope that it will be made clear, in the reply to this Debate, which Minister in the Defence Committee will particularly look after the interests of the Colonies and of Colonial troops. This is a matter of great importance. I do not quite take the same view as the hon. and gallant Member that the Colonial Secretary is unfitted by his office to be a member of the Defence Committee, because I cannot see who else you would have. I cannot think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the Lord President of the Council, or any of the Service Ministers—
§ Colonel Wigg
The Colonial Secretary is quite unfitted by virtue of his office, because once the Governor of a Colony is appointed he is not only the civil head but is nominally the military head as well, and the Colonial Secretary has absolutely no control over him at all. There needs to be someone quite apart from the Colonial Secretary.
§ Mr. Turton
I realise that technically and legally the Governor gets his power from the King, but he is appointed and dismissed on the advice of the Colonial Secretary, and the Colonial Secretary coordinates the work of the Colonies. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman's interruption is really valid, there is no need to have a Colonial Secretary in this House at all. But we must have someone responsible for the defence of the Colonies. That is of great importance from the point of view of defence. We made a great improvement during the war by welding together Colonial and British troops and making an Empire team. That went by the unhappy name of "dilution." It meant that certain jobs in an organisation or a force for which they were specially suitable certain Colonial troops took over. We found that men from Basutoland and Bechuanaland were the best men to shoot down Italian or German planes in the whole of our Empire team. We worked on that basis, and very little credit was given to these Colonial troops for the excellent work which they did in the command at that time. There were men from Mauritius who were very good as clerks, and they were welded into the team. I hope that we will have a continuation of that plan, because it was very valuable for British and Colonial troops to work side by side on jobs for which they were particularly fitted.
§ Colonel Wigg
Before the war, the Colonial troops were very small in numbers, and they were under the direct control of the Colonial Office. Officers entering those Forces left the Army and entered into Colonial Office contract. When the war came, that system broke down completely, and, during the war and up to now, the War Office had direct control of Colonial troops. Under paragraph 40, we proposed to revert to the prewar practice of reviving the Overseas Defence Committee. I disagree with the hon. Gentleman in thinking that this is a 690 matter for the Colonial Secretary. I think that the further he is away the better.
§ Mr. Turton
I am trying to evolve something new out of the lessons of the war, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to go back to the old reactionary days of before the war. There was during the war this form of dilution which made it possible for British and Colonial troops to work together in one organisation. I would ask the Government to consider embodying that as a permanent feature of the new organisation. It is, no doubt, very necessary to have, say, a West African Regiment working quite independently, but if there is an organisation in which British and Colonial troops can each play a part, they can be trained together in peacetime for those duties.
My final point deals with the question of joint inter-Service training. I saw a great deal of that during the war, and in my view the failure of our plan in peacetime is to provide for economy of manpower in the Services in wartime. Our job must be to secure an efficient fighting force in which the tail is kept as short as possible, and the teeth as long and as keen as possible. I know that it is very hard to disentangle the tail from the teeth of this animal. I remember a prominent young Minister going to Cairo with that object, and I read a confidential report which he prepared.
At the Battle of El Alamein there were 740,000 troops in the Middle East, and of that number, the actual troops in contact with the enemy were the men of the Eighth Army and the men in Malta, and numbered together 230,000. There were, at that time, seven British divisions in the Eighth Army area, either in contact or in reserve, so there were 115,000 out of 740,000 who were actually the teeth of the Army. That is one in six or seven. That is a very high and wasteful proportion, if we are going to fight with efficiency in war. I am not saying that that was unnecessary, but that tail was having to service an Army alone. I was not in the secrets of the Air Force, but I know that they had a tail and administrative service, servicing the Air Force, as also did the Navy. I became worried about this after El Alamein, and I went into the question of the camp staffs. One would think that the number of those who staff camps was an insignificant number. I found in the 691 Middle East 5,700 men on the staff of camps. Some were at prisoner-of-war camps, but most were at transit camps, reinforcement camps and leave camps. I came to the conclusion that that was very wasteful. There were camps, both transit and leave, for the R.A.F., and I was told by my senior officers that it was quite impossible to get a joint camp for the Services, but I did eventually summon up courage to go to the R.A.F. headquarters and do a deal with them. When we got to Tripolitania, we started joint transit camps for the Army and the R.A.F. I gather, from what people told me after I had left, that they were a success. That is the way, I believe, to tackle this matter. I hope that the Minister without Portfolio will look at the question of the administration of the three Services, and try to get one joint administration. I am sure that could be done.
We can train men for the Territorials, as we did in my part of the world, to make an efficient administrative side of the Territorial Army, but that was not done generally. I think that we could also do it with regard to court-martial work. I hope that there will be an exploration in this direction as to how we can cut down the tail of our fighting Forces to increase the teeth by coordination of the three Services. In general, we must congratulate the Government on this White Paper, which is a step in the right direction. I welcome the appointment of the Minister without Portfolio as Minister of Defence. I am sure that all hon. Members, on whatever side of the House they sit, recognise that he has a great knowledge, and although there may be a salty tang to his Service views, I am sure we shall be able to cure him of that in time, and that he will get an inter-Services gait as he goes about his duties.
§ Mr. Turton
The right hon. Gentleman must be given a few flights in the air to make him fully fitted. War and modern inventions have drawn us much closer together and brought the dangers closer together, and for those reasons I hope that the Government will have discussions with the Prime Ministers of the Dominions, and get a far closer network for coordinating defence than is outlined in the White Paper.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)
It is not my intention, nor is it within my competence, to subject the proposals before the House to that detailed and expert scrutiny which they have been given by other hon. Members who have spoken. Before I deal with one or two of the interesting points made by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), I wish to express some regret that the comments on the combined administration of the three Services which appear in the White Paper are not as acceptable as they might be. While it is true the Government do not wholly reject the idea, the proposal is, nevertheless, the subject of rather tepid and indecisive comment. I hope that before long the Government will perhaps be a little more forthcoming on that issue. The reason I say that is that now is the time when a courageous approach is vitally necessary, now is the time when experiment on bold lines is possible and desirable, if we are to synthesise the policies and aims of the three Services.
The Prime Minister remains, in theory, the Minister of Defence, notwithstanding the fact that the Minister without Portfolio is to be given the actual title. I do not wish to pose as a political tipster, but I cannot resist the temptation to draw attention to the fact that, when the statement relating to defence in Command Paper 6743 was before the House, I had an opportunity of making a few remarks on the subject, in the course of which I suggested that the Service Ministries should be coordinated under a Minister of Defence, who should not necessarily be the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister having already a very heavy burden. I went on to say that the job of the Minister of Defence of coordinating the three Service Departments was almost important enough to justify a separate Ministerial office for that purpose alone. To that extent I am more than satisfied with the progress which has been made in that direction, as shown in the White Paper. On page 6 of the White Paper, it is stated that the Prime Minister kept the Chiefs of Staff Committee in touch with political matters which had military implications. It is not quite clear from the White Paper whose job that is to be in future. Is it to be the job of the Prime Minister, or of the Minister of Defence, or is it to be the job of the Defence Committee? Perhaps 693 my right hon. Friend will deal with that point in his reply.
On the subject of manpower, which is fundamental to the whole problem we are trying to tackle, Cmd. Paper 6743 stated that the work was on a fully combined basis not only between the Services but also between military and civil staffs. The present White Paper is not very clear on that point. I know that paragraph 27 goes into some detail on the very important question of the apportionment of resources. It points out that the Chiefs of Staff will advise the Defence Committee on their strategic requirements from year to year, that the Service Departments will translate those requirements into terms of men, money, and supplies, and then the Minister of Defence will coordinate the results. Those of us who have had some experience of the devious methods which are applied to arrive at what should be the correct establishments for various branches of the Services know that, in the past, it has been the almost universal practice for the demands to be couched in the highest possible terms because it was known that whatever demands were put forward would be cut down. This was an inducement to the Service Ministries to ask for more than they really required in the hope that they would get perhaps 75 per cent. or 50 per cent. of what they had asked for.
That kind of process reduces the formation of correct establishments to the category of huckstering in an oriental bazaar. I hope that a new method of approach will be adopted in the new Ministry of Defence. It has struck me as being a very odd situation that, in order to arrive at what manpower resources are required, we begin at the wrong end. If we decide what our commitments are and then calculate the numbers required to implement them, we are putting the cart before the horse. It is hopeless to expect the Service Departments or the Ministry of Defence to carry out commitments for which the manpower does not exist. In connection with the apportionment of resources, some very substantial modification ought to be made in the procedure set out in paragraph 27 of the White Paper.
What I think should be done in the first instance is this. The Minister of Defence, or some other person deputed by him, should tell the Service Departments how much is available in the form of manpower 694 The Service Departments will then be able to decide to what extent and in what directions they can undertake the various commitments that they are expected to undertake. I hope, therefore, that serious consideration will be given to this particular aspect of the matter. It links up with the very interesting information given to the House by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton when he rightly stressed the necessity for a short tail and long teeth in our Armed Forces. The only way we can achieve the result desired by the hon. Member is to make sure that whatever we undertake, either in this country or abroad, shall be conditioned by the available manpower, and not to tackle the subject the other way round. It should be a great advantage that future Defence Estimates are to be considered as a whole. It has never been the case in the past that the Defence Estimates, as a whole, were subjected to expert scrutiny.
The Defence Committee will presumably formulate policy according to world events, and will prepare for the very speedy transition which will be necessary from peace to war in the unfortunate event of war breaking out. The task of the new organisation will be to create a machine which will have the capacity of virtually instantaneous action when the time for action comes. In future, there will be no opportunity whatsoever, as there has been in the past, of developing our war potential after war has broken out. Our ability to survive a devastating attack and to hit back will be very much affected by this capacity for instantaneous action which it will be the duty of the Defence Ministry to evolve. The White Paper mentions the continued and complete integration of military and scientific thought at all levels, but it is not enough to talk of integration in that particular sphere alone. The process of integration must be carried still further into other aspects of defence policy. It must be a source of satisfaction to the right hon. Gentleman who is embarking upon his very arduous tasks that the proposals have met with such a degree of unanimity from most of the hon. Members who have already spoken. I hope he will not regard that unanimity, and the good will that is being shown towards him from all sides, either as an object of suspicion in itself or as a source of discouragement in the very responsible tasks that lie before him.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)
An hon. Member opposite referred to this White Paper as a sort of sketch plan for the defence organisation. I am very glad that the Government have thought fit to publish this sketch plan while it is still only a sketch plan, and I hope that in the light of this Debate and the many useful and reasonable observations which have been made, they will be prepared to consider some modification.
To the lay mind, to the armchair critic and strategist, and even to the serving soldier, of whatever rank, I believe that one of the things which was really outstanding during wartime was the success of the Commander-in-Chief system. In those days we saw a Commander-in-Chief in the West in the person of General Eisenhower, and a Commander-in-Chief in the East in Lord Louis Mountbatten. Those two men had not only to command the troops fighting in or on the three elements, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, but they had the very much more difficult job of commanding Allied troops in addition. Today there is a Commander-in-Chief in the British zone in Germany. I feel that if, in peacetime, we extended that system of a Commander-in-Chief in the various theatres where it may be necessary to have British troops stationed, and a Commander-in-Chief of Home Forces, we should perhaps see that greater unification of the Services which all hon. Members who have spoken today have suggested is necessary.
What has been such a success in time of war might well be used for the greater coordination of the three Services in time of peace. There is no doubt that in prewar days the Regular Army and the Territorial Army rarely saw an aeroplane that was not in the air. In fact they rarely met an airman at all, and there was little coordination between the three Services. If we proceed to appoint a Commander in Chief of the Home Forces he would presumably be given authority to issue operation training instructions and strategical plans for combined operations, and he would, of course, still be subject to the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the political head in the Minister of Defence.
During the crucial period before the outbreak of war there were many differences of opinion on foreign policy and an unwillingness on the part of some 696 politicians to grant the funds required to provide the necessary armament in case of war. There was also the influence of bodies like the Peace Pledge Union, and in those days I think it would have been difficult, because of the great differences of opinion, to have had that successful cooperation between the Government and the Opposition parties which I believe is desirable on defence matters. The right hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle-on-Tyne (Sir C. Headlam) reminded the House that in 1931 Mr. Ramsay MacDonald invited leaders of the Opposition party to attend the sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence. Those conversations did not continue afterwards because the gulf between the Government and the Opposition widened on matters of foreign policy and defence.
I am going to suggest that it is desirable for the Government, whatever party is in power, to take responsible and acknowledged leaders of the Opposition parties in this House into their confidence, especially if an emergency arises. Well-informed opinion in the Opposition political parties might then resist any inclination to attack either the expenditure or the administration of the Armed Forces of the Crown unnecessarily. Of course, the ordinary Member of Parliament does not command sources of information which can give him a reliable picture of the state of world affairs. Neither could he have formed any reliable judgment before the war about the difference between the armed forces of Germany and of our own country. At that time it was difficult to judge whether our Air Force was anything like that of the Germans in size or quality. Presumably the Ministers responsible knew. Had the custom prevailed of taking leaders of other parties into their confidence we might have witnessed a more vigorous and united defence policy before the war.
The third point to which I would refer is the constitutional position of the Service chiefs. If a man becomes C.I.G.S., if he becomes head of the Army, Navy or Air Force, he may feel that it is desirable to have certain weapons or to take certain action for the safety of the country, but his advice may be neglected or ignored by his political chief. His only means of protest is resignation. He cannot afterwards enlighten the general public or Parliament on the true reasons for his 697 action, and he may hesitate to resign for fear that a more complacent and less competent successor might be appointed to succeed him. Carrying forward the idea of consultation among the political parties, I feel that if there were a Select Committee of this House which was acquainted with the diplomatic and strategic situation, that Committee would be competent to hear evidence from the Chiefs of Staff. It might well be a subcommittee of the main Defence Committee, and it would be able with knowledge of the facts to give an all-party approval of estimates which had been prepared for the three Services. As a Select Committee, it would have access to extremely secret documents and information. But would the Government say that they would not trust the acknowledged leaders of the Opposition parties at the present time with national secrets? Of course they would not.
I am not satisfied about the extent to which Imperial collaboration is envisaged in the Report. If a definite proposal were made to the Dominions that an Imperial Conference should take place on defence matters in London or elsewhere especially in times of emergency, I believe the suggestion would be welcomed by them. The Colonial problem is slightly different because His Majesty's Government have the direct responsibility for the defence of the Colonial Empire.
To sum up, these are the four specific points I have mentioned. First, we should see an extension in peacetime of the wartime practice of appointing commanders-in-chief overseas and at home, including the Home Forces; secondly, the holding of joint meetings of consultation between the Government and the leaders of the Opposition parties on questions of defence and foreign policy; thirdly, the constitutional position should be examined of the Chiefs of Staff and others in the Services who may perhaps feel so strongly about the requirements of their own particular arm of Service that their only course is resignation; and fourthly, more substantial consultations should take place between His Majesty's Government and the Governments of the Dominions with frequent Imperial conferences on defence.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Cobb (Elland)
While reading through this White Paper and finding it a very interesting and appropriate compromise 698 one finds in between the lines a number of questions that one is induced to ask. This is particularly so in paragraph 20 (c) which states:The Minister of Defence will be responsible to Parliament for certain subjects … affecting the three Services and their supply.It is in relation to the supply of the Services that I wish to direct my remarks, particularly so because that part of the White Paper has not been much mentioned in this Debate. We cannot keep men in the field without supplies. During the war I was at the industrial end of the war machine and had some experience of its defects and also of its method of operation. It has been said that war and waste go together inevitably, but I suggest that intelligent anticipation in peacetime can minimise wartime waste.
Perhaps one of the greatest examples of this is the Merchant Navy, which is one of our greatest engines for supply in peace and war. Where is there a better example of unprepared ness and lack of planning than in the Merchant Marine? In fact, as an old Merchant Navy sailor, I have often been tempted to take the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who used to sit on the Front Bench and put them in the fo'c'sle of a tramp ship armed with an old South African relic and sailing upon its own in time of war. I would have put a couple of admirals in for good weight. They would have found out what it is like sailing in an unprepared merchant ship in time of war in the circumstances which existed during the last few years. The Merchant Navy is a neglected fourth Arm. There was no preparation for these ships to put to sea under war conditions. What was the result? The losses of men, which could have been avoided, were as high as one in six, a higher proportion of men killed and wounded than in our fighting Services. Yet some foresight and planning before the war could have avoided it. We should pay tribute to those men who, after all, were civilians. Will the Defence Committee be responsible in future for seeing that the Merchant Navy is prepared for its wartime service?
The second point to which I want to call the attention of the Minister-designate is the question of the Ministry of Supply. During the war, and even up to the end of the war, the Ministry of Supply was not purchasing all the goods for all the fighting Services, and at the end of the war we had still had wicked examples 699 of waste of both labour and materials. At the end of the war I often saw goods which were absolutely identical in the three fighting Services and yet they insisted upon a separate type number and separate contract for each of them. That is quite indefensible and ought to be abolished. I would like to ask the Minister, What is the future of the Ministry of Supply in this new set up of the Ministry of Defence? Will separate buying for each of the fighting Services be continued, and what will they do about standardisation? As I see it, without a Ministry which can coordinate all the contracts for all the fighting Services, we cannot get that degree of standardisation which is so essential to the rapid growth of production once war breaks out. Paragraph 26 (c) indicates that to some extent direct contracting by all the three Ministries is to continue. It may be argued that this is a correct solution in order to give a degree of flexibility, but I question whether one agency is not necessary to ensure that this very vital point of standardisation can be cared for, because only standardisation can, I repeat, ensure rapid expansion of production in a war emergency.
Coming to paragraph 27, I welcome the setting up of a Ministerial Production Committee, and I would ask the Minister to give particular attention to this point: Will he use technical serving officers—that is, officers in the Services trained to have a proper comprehension of research, development and production? Their functions should be to explain to the military chiefs what is possible in the fields of research, development and production, and also, in turn, to explain to industry what the Services want. In the early years of the recent war it was almost impossible to get from the Service chiefs an adequate user specification for industry. I believe that by this method of having technically trained officers to perform this function, we could get a good user specification. Also, I would submit to the Minister that correct military advice through his military chiefs is dependent upon this kind of thing being done.
Coming to paragraph 32, which deals with the Committee on Defence Research Policy, the White Paper says that this Committee will be responsible for research and development. I suggest that this Committee should have on it an expert 700 production man, because committees talking about research and development cannot function properly unless they are integrated with production since their work, in the long run, flows into the production channel. Also, we cannot get these research people to do their work properly unless they have production advice, and unless the production people know what the research people are talking about. If the scientists sit down and discuss research and development—which is, after all, the gateway to production—without a real production expert there, I believe that many of their deliberations will be wasted and will go into the wrong channels.
When I ask for an expert, I mean a production expert. In this country, unfortunately, we do not produce as many production experts as we need. When I say a production expert, I do not mean an admiral, I do not mean a general, I do not mean a financier—[Laughter]. Hon. Gentlemen laugh, but I could take them now to a factory which was one of our vital war factories and was being run by an admiral. I know vital war factories which were being run by financiers, and those financiers are still there. I ask the Minister to see if he cannot put on this Committee a production expert in the best sense of the term. Another reason why I would ask for this is because, of all things, research scientists know least about production. They are very often the greatest enemies if standardisation. I hope that if my suggestion is followed these dangers may be avoided, and that this research and development Committee will be far more effective than it would otherwise be.
I want to apply to collective defence, which is dealt with in paragraph 35, the question of coordination of research, production, and development. Collective defence, surely, embraces not only national production questions, but the Commonwealth as a whole. I would like to query whether it does not involve U.N.O. The question of U.N.O. or the Commonwealth involves industrial as well as military potential, and the essential trinity underlying all defence is research, development and production. Considering the Commonwealth and U.N.O., we have to look at the question of shadow factories. In the last war it was necessary to have shadow factories in this country 701 and, to some extent, we had shadow factories in the Commonwealth, but they did not operate very effectively. Now we may have to have Commonwealth and, possibly, U.N.O. shadow organisations not only for production, but for development and research as well. If the answer to this is that it is advisable to do so, a number of questions immediately arise. If we must have national, or Commonwealth, or U.N.O. Armed Forces, they ought to have standardised equipment. Is it not essential for the economic supply of these Forces that they should have standardised equipment? Is it not necessary for their effective operation in the field that their equipment be standardised? If that is true, only coordination of research, development, and production on a Commonwealth or U.N.O. basis will ensure it.
Collective defence means the ability to continue a war whatever happens. It means we have to be able to continue the war if one or two countries have their industrial and research potential wiped out. Our ability to carry on in the event of another war means that we have to get this degree of coordination of research and development and standardised production. To all or any one of the U.N.O. countries this seems to me an absolutely prime necessity. In this connection there are three industrial truths. The shadow factory technique, applied to production potential, with which I include always research, and development, is a slow process, even in time of peace. Secondly, it is ineffective for standardised items to have a mere interchange of blue prints. If we want two factories, separated from one another, to produce standardised items, it is almost impossible to get them to do so merely by the interchange of blue prints. There has to be a closer liaison. The third truth is that the peacetime industrial layout of industry determines what industry can make quickly in time of war. I would like to give an example. Two car factories, one in England and one in Australia, can shadow one another more effectively if they are doing the same thing in peace and getting used to working with one another on a standardised peace product. I pose the question, will the U.N.O. fighting force, or the Commonwealth fighting force, be effective without standard equipment?
If the answer to this is "Yes," then not only have we got to have a shadow 702 factory arrangement for research, development and production, but we must have it at least on a Commonwealth basis, and probably on a U.N.O. basis as well. But a Commonwealth or U.N.O. shadow organisation of this description cannot start working at the click of a switch or the drop of the first atom bomb. It has to be running over a period of years, checked and kept up to date. We ought to start now on our peacetime products, so that factories that are working here, and in Australia, South Africa and Canada, say, on cars, which will make tanks in time of war, get used to working together on a peacetime basis in order that they can switch over to war production at a moment's notice.
This raises problems of industrial dispersal, not only on a Commonwealth basis, but it may be on a U.N.O. basis as well. This might also lead to the question of labour dispersal amongst these various countries, and whether the Commonwealth or U.N.O. can have a large part of its industrial war potential—plant, labour and material—concentrated in a few thousand square miles. Obviously, this leads to the question of the dispersal of these resources, possibly on a Commonwealth basis, possibly on a wider basis. I suggest that the military-industrial policy envisaged in the White Paper must be shaped during peace, while industry makes peacetime goods. Socialisation may be the only effective way of putting this into operation. Certainly it seems to me that the time for a military-industrial policy is near, the time for a Commonwealth or perhaps a U.N.O. industrial policy is near; also, that the time for decision on these basic problems is not far distant. I hope that the Minister will tell us something about it when he replies.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)
It is not the first time I have had the pleasure of following the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Cobb), with much of whose speech I could agree, though he went too far in proposing a U.N.O. supply system when it is impossible for us to reach standardisation in this country, let alone between Empire countries. However, his starry idealism will out in his speeches. I resent his thinking that an admiral cannot run a works. If an admiral can run a battleship, he can run a factory. We do not 703 want to have too exclusive a regard for the production engineer. We are all amateurs, more or less, in one sphere or another.
§ Mr. Erroll
The same doctrine might be applied to every walk of life, including that which we are pursuing here. I think we are better off for a healthy degree of amateurism.
I welcome this White Paper because I think the proposal to establish a Ministry of Defence has come about through the following of sound Conservative principles. The need for such a Minister became apparent during the evolution of the war, and thus we are now to have a Minister of Defence. That is a right and sensible empirical development, and I am glad to see that the concluding words of the White Paper say:The central machinery for defence may be progressively adapted to changing needsThat again is sound Conservative doctrine, and partly explains why we are so much in agreement on both sides of the House tonight. It is especially difficult to discuss the exact functions of the Minister of Defence, because we can all indulge in the luxury of being wise after the event. We can point to examples of things that did not go quite right during the war and say, "Well, now the Minister of Defence must ensure that these things do not happen again." It is extremely difficult for us to visualise the sort of organisation required for the future. We want to leave the Minister as free as possible to develop his organisation and plans as best he may, in view of all the ideas which may occur to him and to his staff. In turning to certain matters of detail, I wish to reinforce what was said by the hon. Member for Elland in regard to merchant shipping.
I was glad to see in paragraph 27 of the White Paper that on production questions there is to be a standing Ministerial Production Committee but I feel, in view of the great importance of transport in modern warfare, that there ought to be equally a Ministerial Transport Committee with the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Civil Aviation represented. Transport was as big a problem as production 704 throughout the war. We never realised, when we started in 1939, that our shipping would have to go round by the Cape, nor did we ever envisage the tremendously long overland supply lines which ultimately became a feature of the war. Not only was this true of the Western Desert. The supply route to Burma from Eastern India was probably one of the longest overland routes in the world. We never envisaged the tremendous drain on our transport resources which the changing needs of the war would make. I stress particularly the importance of including the Minister of Civil Aviation, because we had to rely during the whole of the war almost entirely on American transport aeroplanes. As civil aviation develops, so we should be able to draw increasingly, in time of need, upon the air transport and experience gained in civil work.
I turn to the problems of design and research, which were also touched upon by the hon. Member for Elland. There are four stages to be considered. The first is that of research; then the function of the design engineer; next, production; and finally, the user. I think it is wrong, as stated in paragraph 32, for the Chairman of the Committee on Defence Research Policy to be a scientist. I agree that the scientist is very important and that scientists are coming more and more into the public eye. But the man we want as a chairman is the man who can take the all-round view, and, therefore, we want him to be somewhere nearer the centre of the chain and not merely at one end of it. After all, the design engineer is in the central position. He has to understand research and production and also he has to design something that the user can use. I suggest for very serious consideration that the chairman should be not a scientist of high standing but a design engineer of high standing. Of course, there would be scientists on the Committee just as there will be research and production experts, but I think as chairman we should get a really first class design engineer.
If possible, I would like to see some of the more important industrialists and manufacturers included in the Research Committee in a consultative capacity or, alternatively, in the Production Committee. I know it is very difficult to have to give secrets away to industrialists and 705 people outside the immediate purview of Government control. However, we suffered a great deal at the beginning of the last war from not having taken industrialists and large engineering manufacturers sufficiently into our confidence earlier. I am sure the "top men" can be trusted just as much as politicians or civil servants can be trusted. We ought to try to benefit from their experience and advice in the central organisation. The precise manner in which they would be included is a matter which I must leave to the Government. However, I make that suggestion for what it is worth.
Another point also mentioned by the hon. Member for Elland was the question of waste and the coordination of design. We both seek, in our respective spheres, for an answer to that question. I know the difficulty which arises when interchangeability problems have to be solved in a hurry. We had, for example, in the last war, four or five apparently different types of ball-bearings supplied by the makers of different lorries, but, which, in actual fact, were identical ball-bearings though from different manufacturers. We thus had four different types which were, in fact, the same. That type of duplication went on over and over again in different stores. We want to look at some of our basic designs produced within our industrial structure to see if we cannot evolve more common items of military equipment and simplify standardised designs. We only want one 30 cwt. lorry or one three-ton lorry, not a dozen different types or a dozen different sets of spares. The Americans, under a private enterprise system, succeeded much better than we did, and their spares were, to a very large extent, interchangeable.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
I do not think we can go into a discussion of this kind. Both the hon. Member who has the attention of the House, and the hon. Member who spoke before him, were getting away from the White Paper.
§ Mr. Erroll
Thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for saving me from an embarrassing question. I do hope that design 706 will be considered very fully at the meetings of both the Production Committee and the Research Committee. Now I come on to the question of what are called the tidying-up jobs which the Minister of Defence is going to do. We have all been giving him ideas about these tidying-up jobs between the Services which he might have a look at, and, although I know that he has enough on his plate already, I would like to offer some of my own suggestions.
There is, for example, the whole question of A.A. defences and the balloon barrage and defence against attacking aeroplanes. This is partly divided between the Air Force and the Army, and I think there is a strong case for making it the one or the other, particularly as regards the ground services. We had, in the Army and Navy, the question of Commandos versus Marines. There was, undoubtedly, a good deal of overlapping at one stage of the war until we could see how the Commandos were going to develop. We also want to see taken into much fuller consideration in future the whole problem of air supply. In Burma, it was developed very much more than in the Western theatre, and there, with bad communications, we evolved a very satisfactory system in the end, but it is questionable now whether the Army should not be responsible for its own air supply and not have to leave it to the Royal Air Force. On the other hand, it might be better if the Air Force was responsible for all aeroplanes, including military. There is also the matter of the unification of Base workshops. At present, in our big Bases in the Middle East or Calcutta, we must have Army Base Workshops and Royal Air Force Base Workshops, and, in some cases, Naval Base Workshops, which leads to duplication of machines, skills, and stores. These are, however, matters of detail, to which I am sure the Minister will apply himself when tidying-up as rapidly as possible.
I now come to the question of the strategic location of industry, and I think that it is here that the Minister of Defence should give a good deal of his time at a fairly early stage, if it is in Order for me to say that. I think, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you will find that this subject occurs in paragraph 37 of the White Paper, where it is pointed out that common plans were 707 made for the coordination of munitions production. I was hoping to be able to touch upon that paragraph.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The coordination of munitions production does not necessarily involve the strategic location of munitions production, and the two things seem to me to be rather different.
§ Mr. Erroll
The whole problem arose many times during the war through production not being strategically located, and there was not nearly enough coordination. If I may, with your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, enlarge on one particular example, I am sure you would agree that it is very much an appropriate subject for the central organisation of defence to consider. It is the matter of armoured cars. We had a serious shortage of them at one stage of the war, and in the Middle East, in particular, the shortage was very acute. An urgent appeal was made to South Africa to try to make a home-made armoured car. They rallied extremely well to the cause, but it was not a very successful design. At the same time, owing to the sudden demands made by our Forces there, an attempt was made to produce another type of armoured car in railway workshops in India. This also was none too successful. I think that, if a little more coordination had been possible in London, and if an overall strategic plan for the location of industry and of designs in the principal manufacturing centres had been previously evolved, we could have avoided mistakes of that type.
Finally, I wish to take up one more remark made by the hon. Member for Elland. He referred to the question of waste, and to some of the appalling things we did. I would ask him to study, when they become available, some of the reports of German industrial organisation as arranged by the German High Command or by the German Minister of Defence. There was, obviously, very much more waste on their side than on ours, although there was room for improvement on our side during the war, as there is obviously room for improvement now.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Commander Noble (Chelsea)
I am sure we are all very glad that this White Paper has come so soon after the war. It was not a matter in which we could 708 afford to move slowly, and, in fact, I think that the United States have moved even quicker than we have. I believe I am right in saying that, while the war was still going on, the Americans were discussing what they called the "merger," and, despite the difference in our Constitutions, they have come to very much the same broad conclusions as those laid down in this White Paper. It was also a step to be taken quickly because I feel sure that the Dominions, and perhaps other countries, were watching to see what we were going to do as they had the same problems to settle. But, as the Prime Minister said when opening this Debate, this set-up has to be very flexible, and I think that we must accept it as an experiment which we all hope will be a great success.
The three main criticisms that have come out of this Debate, from all sides of the House, are, first, that the Defence Committee is cumbersome; secondly, that the Ministry of Defence may get congested, and, thirdly, the apparent lack of an Imperial defence policy. With reference to the proposed overloading of the Defence Committee may I first ask the Minister whether he could say tomorrow why the Chancellor of the Exchequer is on the Defence Committee? Is he there so that he can become acquainted earlier with the plans of the Chiefs of Staff, and appreciate them, or because he can become earlier acquainted with them and bring his influence to bear before they get to the Cabinet? That is rather an important point, on which we ought to be enlightened. While I am speaking about these Committees, perhaps I might refer to the Committee of Defence Research Policy. The appointment of Sir Henry Tizard to be its chairman has already been welcomed in this Debate. One might say that, in the past, science has been represented in tactics, but that this is the first time that it has really been brought into strategy. I also think it is perhaps for consideration that this chairman should be a permanent member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Perhaps the Minister could give us his advice on that point tomorrow.
With regard to the criticism that the Ministry of Defence may become congested, I think there is a very grave danger from that point of view. I can see it being a very easy way out for the Service Ministries, 709 when they get a docket which becomes a particular nuisance and which requires an answer, to say, "Let us send it to the Ministry of Defence," which would delay the matter for another month or two. From another point of view, I think it may become congested if too much scope is given in the administration of personnel of the three Services which may be combined under the Ministry of Defence. That may be an easy thing to suggest, but I think the strings will get very long in the event of operations, and all those strings will come back to the Ministry of Defence. I would like the Minister to give us some idea of what size this Ministry is going to be. It was run during the war by the Chief of Staff, to the Minister of Defence with a secretariat, and planners drawn from the three Service Ministries and from outside. We are now told that advantage will be taken of these joint committees of the various Ministries, but we have not been told what is visualised in regard to the size of the Ministry of Defence. I suggest there should be some sort of Service staff to provide the Minister with a means of bringing to light some of the more controversial Service subjects which, on the Chiefs of Staff level, I think are apt to become shelved. That staff would also enable a definite Service policy embracing all three Services to be produced on a great variety of subjects which, during the war, had to be settled by ad hoc methods in ad hoc committees. That, of course, is referred to in paragraph 26 of the White Paper.
Another duty of this staff would be the standardisation of material, which was so well described by the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Cobb). There is no doubt that much could be saved by standardisation of materials, and, of course, the combining of the personnel of the three different Services where a Service overlap occurred. During the war I had the privilege of serving for a time at the Admiralty in a job which entailed working on some of these inter-Service committees, and there is no doubt of their very great value. In passing, I would like to say that the directors of plans did a most wonderful job in the war, and I do not think people realise what they really did do. On no occasion was a paper produced which was not written quite impartially by a committee consisting of officers from all the three Services.
710 That brings me to my next point, which is that with the setting up of this new Ministry the opportunity should be taken by each Service Ministry to overhaul its own internal organisation. It does not seem logical to me if these inter-Service committees are to be developed and are to be the basis of the new Ministry, that the material which goes to them from each Service Ministry should go through entirely different channels and originate in an entirely different set up. During the war it was found that in the different Service Ministries there were great differerences. For example, there was nothing in the Admiralty to correspond to War Office "Movements." That has now been remedied.
I would also suggest that this opportunity should be taken to ensure that combined training and adequate liaison between the three Services starts lower down, and that it should be expanded to all ranks and ratings. I feel that much of the value which is gained at the top by these inter-Service committees will be lost if trouble is not taken to see that the same cooperation and understanding, which does exist with these committees, exists throughout the whole Services. There are definite overlaps in the three Services, both in the operational field and in the administrative field. In both those spheres I think the solving of these overlaps, and the saving of personnel and material, will be very much easier if there is real liaison and understanding right down to the bottom.
May I now say a few words on the subject of collective defence? We were very glad, I am sure, to get the assurance from the Prime Minister that increased facilities were being given to the Dominion Governments. It is stated in paragraph 36 that the basis of this at present is regional association. Now, I would be the last person to criticise that, because I feel sure this has been gone into very carefully in the last few years, and that everything possible has been done to achieve the maximum of Dominion co-operation. But I do feel that the moment is ripe, or is very soon going to be ripe, for something bigger. It has become unfashionable in this House for some reason, to discuss the atomic bomb and weapons of the future. However, I do think we have got to face the facts and realise the position of this country should we have 711 the misfortune to find ourselves in another war. It has been estimated, I think in the Government report on the atomic bombing of Japan, that about 10 well placed atomic bombs on this country would kill about a million people. Perhaps it is possible that our new Committee of Defence Research Policy may produce some method of defence which will give a high percentage of results. I very much hope that they will do so; but I do not think we should bank on it.
My point in saying I think the time is ripe for something bigger is that I think the Dominions realise the implications which arise when one considers the future defence of this country; and I think perhaps they realise it even more than we do. On my recent visit to the Pacific to see the atomic bomb tests I found that there was, of course, Dominion representation, and from discussions it struck one that they were thinking very much along those lines. An American general is reported to have said that the only defence against the atomic bomb is not to be there when it goes off. That, of course, is very true; but there is some protection against the atomic bomb, and we hope that that protection will grow. However, the words "not to be there when it goes off" imply, of course, dispersal in all its forms. I think it will be agreed by the whole House that there is not a great deal of room for dispersal in this country.
Before I sit down may I say a word or two about shipping? This has already been mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), who opened on this side of the House. I hope it will be realised by the House what a very great part the then Minister of Transport played in the recent war. There is no mention of him at all in this White Paper. Lord Leathers, who was Minister of Transport during the war, attended all or nearly all the big conferences. He was a very frequent attender at the meetings of the Chiefs of Staff, and on the planning level the Director of Sea Transport and others played a very prominent part. I hope that they will continue to do so, and will be brought into this new inter-Service set-up.
There is one other point on shipping which I should like to raise. At the beginning of this war, there was a great deal of valuable material, labour, and dock 712 yard space wasted, due to the fact that so many conversions had to be made, and so many specialised ships were required. These types of specialised ships grew, as our amphibious operations gained in scope. This is not, necessarily, a naval problem. It is a problem for all three Services, because all their weapons of war have to be carried about the world in ships. But I think it is a job for the Minister of Defence, and he should be able to coordinate the requirements in different types of ships for the three Services, so that these ships will actually be in existence in peacetime, and so there will be only very minor conversions in the event of war. This is also another point in favour of cooperation with the Dominions. We cannot compete in the shipping world on our own.
Finally, may I say a word about the Minister himself? It is a big job that is now being produced, and it needs a very big man to fill it. I feel sure we all agree that the Prime Minister could not have made a better choice. I wish the new Minister every success.
§ Ordered: "That the Debate be now adjourned."—[Captain Michael Stewart.]
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.