HC Deb 31 October 1946 vol 428 cc793-882

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [30th October]: That this House approves the proposals in Command Paper No. 6923 for the Central Organisation for Defence.

Question again proposed.

3.45 p.m.

Brigadier Head (Carshalton)

I think I am voicing the opinion of those who were here yesterday when I say that the House did not find this Debate particularly easy or enthralling, but I believe it would be most unwise to think that the cause of that lay in any lack of interest in the subject of defence. I believe that the cause lay in the fact that this White Paper which we are now discussing would very probably be exactly the same had we on this side of the House been in power. I think there is very little disagreement on the White Paper as a whole, and for that reason it has not been easy for hon. Members to find points which they particularly wish to stress or argue with the Government. Secondly, there are comparatively few hon. Members in this House who have had practical experience of what we are discussing, which is really a very technical organisation. I, therefore, hope that the House will be lenient with me on this the second day of a Debate which one might, perhaps, say is drawing peacefully to its close.

Most points have been touched on. It would need a better brain than mine to find in the White Paper a brand new subject which no one has mentioned, and I will trouble the House with only three points; first, about the section dealing with collective defence; secondly, about the Ministry of Defence itself; and lastly, on the question of the apportionment of resources. The first point I wish to mention, which is referred to in the White Paper as collective defence, and is usually referred to as Imperial defence, was discussed by many speakers yesterday. It struck me that many wise and constructive suggestions were made and, in addition, a great many arguments were adduced in support of the existing arrangements. But I did feel that, with the exception of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble), there was a tendency to miss what, in my opinion, is the really important point in this respect, which appears to me to be this: The Empire is now facing an entirely different nature of threat than it has ever faced before, and, therefore, it seems to me that our arrangements for collaboration and preparation for Imperial defence as a whole must be designed not on what we did before, not on precedent, not on any slavish interpretation of the exact letter of the Statute of Westminster, but designed to measure up to the nature of the threat with which we may be faced. It is for that reason, with this new danger before us, that I believe we should examine the proposals in the White Paper.

May I for a moment enlarge upon this matter? Today, modern weapons appear to me to have brought to this matter three new factors. First, they have a vastly increased range; secondly, there is the great speed with which they arrive; and, thirdly, there is the appalling extent of their destruction. That, in turn, seems to affect our Empire defence in so much as this country has become much more vulnerable to long-range attacks; and secondly, a sudden knock-out blow, the quick ending of the war in its early stages, appears to be more possible and likely.

That in turn surely demands of our defence two factors especially: firstly, a higher state of preparedness, and secondly, as far as we can achieve it, an increased degree of dispersion. The state of preparedness with which we went into the last war is surely no criterion for this new threat. Because of Adolf Hitler and other circumstances we had a year. For the next war the breathing space will not be measured in years or minutes, but possibly days; and it does seem to me that to gain the correct state of preparedness for any future war our plans and preparations with the Empire should develop, as the White Paper leaves them open to develop, bearing this particular and new threat in mind.

It is very easy, I think, to exaggerate the necessity for great dispersion. However, it is equally unwise to ignore it altogether. I noticed, on reading the "Economist," that the Russians, of all people, have so arranged their five years' industry plan as to ensure dispersal for their industry. If that is being done in a vast country like Russia, how much more necessary for this tiny little island. We, the British Empire, straggle across the world like a great wheel, and at the middle is this island, the hub, which contains the majority of our white man-power, the majority of our industry and the network of our communications. I am aware that this business of dispersion can be much exaggerated. I do not think there is any appalling threat, but I do feel that, gradually, we should try to get some of tin strength of the hub out into the spokes. I believe that Hiroshima took some of the future out of hubs, and we must he careful in this respect. I mention this, because it demands a very close degree of collaboration and preliminary planning with the Dominions. I hope that in this problem we shall take note of the practical realities of the situation and not of precedent, because if we are slaves to precedent it seems to me that we shall be partners. not in an act of collective defence but in an act of collective folly.

The next point I would like to mention concerns the Ministry of Defence itself. I have noticed that when matters of finance are concerned in which hon. Members have a particular concern they usually own up at the start of the Debate. As far as this Ministry is concerned, I think I should admit that I was in it for some three years in varying capacities, and for a year of that time within the Cabinet Secretariat. So I may be said to have vested interests to that extent. However, I hope hon. Gentlemen will take my remarks as they are meant, in a helpful spirit. I believe everybody welcomes the White Paper, regularising this organisation for defence in form of a Ministry of Defence. I think that that is in every way excellent, and that everyone will agree But there is one thing which worried me a little. It is perfectly logical that a Minister should have under him a Ministry. This organisation has been called many names; it was the C.I.D., the Offices of the War Cabinet, the Offices of the Minister of Defence, and once, for security reasons, it was called "care of Mr. Rance." I know it would be unseemly for the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry to be called "care of Mr. Rance." But the fact that it is called a Ministry is a little frightening, because of what we have learned to understand by that term. Today, it seems to me, we live in an age of bureaucratic boom; Ministries are, so to speak, booming. It would be a tragedy if this became what is truly understood as a Ministry. My fears were borne out yesterday when I opened "The Times"—which, I must say in passing, I think is always excellent on defence. My fears for this word "Ministry" were borne out by this sentence: The new organisation is based on a full-blown Ministry of Defence in place of a Minister of Defence assisted only by a Secretariat. "Full-blown" was the term which caught my eye. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not become full-blown, because if he does, he will be running a very grave risk.

I have studied the White Paper carefully about the structure which goes into this Ministry of Defence. As I see it there is nothing new. A part of the Cabinet Offices is being taken out, and it is being called the Ministry of Defence. It says in the White Paper that it has extra responsibilities, such as combined operations, with a Joint Intelligence Bureau. As far as I remember, they were looked after in the old days by Offices of the War Cabinet. There are certain extra chairmen and certain new committees, but the structure of the thing seems to me to be the same. It is for this reason that I think it is not, if I interpret it aright, a Ministry in the accepted sense of the word. May I go a little further? Suppose hon. Gentlemen were to come with me, and we were to go round the right hon. Gentleman's Department—his Ministry. Going in there hon. Members might think they had been misled, because inside they would find many soldiers, sailors and airmen, with ranks of field-marshal down to captain, commander and so forth; they would find many people from the Foreign Office, eminent civil servants, and probably some very expensive looking scientists. But they would not belong to the right hon. Gentleman. The whole object and purpose of the right hon. Gentleman's organisation, as I understand it—no doubt he will correct me if there is any change—is that all this body should meet under his roof so as to resolve the various conflicting differences, problems and counter-attractions which exist between the great Service Ministries and civil Departments. Where these great machines meet there is a small staff, presided over by the right hon. Gentleman, and assisted by certain permanent chairmen who are running round trying to ensure that the great wheels keep in gear, that there is no grating or grinding in the machine, that no grit gets into the works, and that they are kept properly oiled.

The reason why the secretariat are able to do such services as they can, is because there are few of them. Once they grew in size they would not know what each other was doing. I assure hon. Gentlemen—and I believe most, and probably all, of them would agree with me—that the great danger to that organisation is that it should get big. If it gets big it may somehow work in peacetime, but its true function is to stand the test of war, Now, it has already stood the test of war; that machine was hard driven, and I think anyone there would agree that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was very keen on the accelerator. However, it stood the test, and I hope and pray that the right hon. Gentleman will not allow it to grow. I believe it was said of his very eminent namesake, Alexander the Great, that when he had conquered half the world his astronomer said to him, "There are in the universe many worlds just as big as, or bigger than this one." When the great man heard that tears welled up in his eyes. I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman looks out of his window in Whitehall and sees the great bureaucratic edifices, which are being erected by his colleagues on the Front Bench, no tears will come into his eyes, but that he will keep his Ministry small. Believe me, the day when the right hon. Gentleman allows the appointment of as much as one surplus charlady he will be embarking on the road to ruin.

The last point I have to make to the House concerns the apportionment of resources, which is referred to in the White Paper in paragraph 27. I think that anybody who read this paragraph would feel soothed, because it is a beautifully drafted paragraph, and it is absolutely correct and true. At the risk of wearying the House I should like to read one short part of it. It says: The Chiefs of Staff will advise the Defence Committee on our strategic requirements from year to year. It will then be for the Service Departments to translate these requirements into terms of men, money and supplies, and for the Minister of Defence to cordinate the results, with the help of the Chiefs of Staff and the Committee of Service Ministers described in paragraph 29 below, and to present to the Defence Committee a coherent scheme of expenditure which will give the country forces and equipment in properly balanced proportions. That sounds fine, and it is perfectly true. But the right hon. Gentleman knows better than I do that it is not as simple as that. I have looked carefully at the White Paper to see whether any new organisation is being created as regards the combined estimates. The problem, it strikes me, is this. There is bound to be a conflicting shortage in men and money, and the three Chiefs of Staff and their Service Ministries will get together to try to reach agreed estimates. But I cannot believe that the gap between requirements and availability is going to be bridged by Services agreement alone. My experience of matters of this kind is that somebody has to give the cuts, and he has to judge whether he should give a big cut to one of the Services, or a small cut, or what. The real crux that arises here is: Who is to brief the right hon. Gentleman in making his decision? This is a very grave decision. He will be coming into competition against the Services. I have no doubt he will do everything needed himself, and I believe that that is the best way; but I am little uncertain whether he is expected to get a great deal of information, and so forth, out of this Committee referred to in paragraph 29 as the new Committee of Service Ministers. I feel there is danger in that, but I am not quite clear on that point, and, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to mention, when he replies, exactly how that works?

There was mentioned yesterday in the Debate that the right hon. Gentleman's one disadvantage in this respect was, that his impartial judgment on the question of Estimates was somewhat corroded by salt water. I do not believe that will hinder him at all, and if it does, may I remind him that Voltaire said that in England, now and again, it is necessary to shoot an admiral to encourage the others. The senior Service are never backward in coming forward on behalf of their great Service, and I think that in his case he may find it necessary to shoot an admiral now and again to discourage the others.

The Minister Without Portfolio (Mr. A. V. Alexander)

That example is not confined to the Navy. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will look at the Army's history.

Brigadier Head

I accept that rebuke and I think we agree, in general, that impartiality is what the Services desire I very much welcome this proposal of combined estimates for two particular reasons. First, I think it is the only measure in the White Paper which is really new, and I welcome it particularly because the old fashioned method of combining estimates before the war was really, as hon. Members may remember, a very poor one. What happened before the war when the three Services put in their estimates? They were shown to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer then gasped and stretched his eyes, and a percentage cut of uniform size throughout the three Services was put on. Of course, the clever ones started to add a little bit against that. I do feel that this is a great advance on that old system, and I believe that everyone will welcome it for that reason.

I have a second reason for welcoming this, and it is because we now have one man who is responsible for the whole of our defences in the country. Under the Prime Minister he is charged with responsibility for the safety of this country. It is for him to judge whether the resources of the country are being diverted in insufficient quantities for defence. It is unwise to recriminate in these Debates, but the White Paper says: In many respects, however, we were, in 1939, dangerously unprepared for war. I am inclined to think that if we had had a Minister of Defence in those prewar years, with the powers the Minister is to have now, we might have avoided some of this, because the warning was there from a military point of view. The warning was there, but, in the conflict between social measures and defence, the money was not given. If such an eventuality happened today it is the right hon. Gentleman's obvious duty—and I am sure he will do it—the moment he thinks that the country's safety is being endangered, whatever the risk may be, to remember he has always behind him his resignation, which will not be his resignation alone, but will suggest to the public that there is dissatisfaction among all those responsible for our military defence. I think that is a great asset. But I think, also, that I should apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for talking about resignation today, which is really his birthday. Or rather, I should, perhaps, say this is the day of the right hon. Gentleman's birth.

I think, from what I have seen of this Debate, that both the White Paper which gave birth to him, and the newborn Minister, are both doing very well. We shall know more when we hear his first cries tonight. If he will allow me, I should like to congratulate the Government on the choice of the right hon. Gentleman to fill this very responsible post. I believe that the majority of the House agree with me in this respect. Fifteen hundred years ago a very wise Roman, whose name I have forgotten, said "He who desires peace, should prepare for war." It is a melancholy fact that today, 1,50o years later, that is just as true as it was on the day it was uttered. For that reason I believe—although it is not for me to say so—that the majority of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House will support the right hon. Gentleman very loyally in his difficult task. There is one thing that is certain, and that is that the House is absolutely unanimous in that they hope for the day, in some distant future, when the right hon. Gentleman's Office will be a sinecure, and when mankind can devote all its time to the pursuits of peace.

4.10 p.m.

Brigadier Low (Blackpool, North)

To follow my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) in this most important Debate is not an easy task, because, as he has told us, he has had the matchless experience of having served in an equivalent Ministry to that which has just been created. I want to come straight to the last part of the White Paper, and I propose to confine my remarks to the problems of collective defence. I dare to intervene on this matter, not because I have technical knowledge, but because, as a result of having fought and served on staffs during the war with representatives of all the Dominions, in the Middle East and in Italy, and having discussed the importance of Imperial unity in defence matters with them, I have an intense desire to see the fullest practical cooperation between the Dominions and the United Kingdom, not only to win, but to prevent future wars. It is because of the intensity of that desire that I shall be driven in the few minutes during which I hope to address the House to make remarks that the right hon. Gentleman may think are rather beyond reality. Perhaps he and the House will forgive me, because the intensity of that desire is born, not of private considerations and speculations, but of genuine discussions with many serving men of my own age throughout the Empire.

During this Debate reference has been made from time to time to the problem of Imperial defence. I should like to make my own view clear at once about one matter which I think has bulked quite large in this House, and in another place, and that is the name of the committee of which the right hon. Gentleman will be deputy chairman. I agree with the Government that the committee should be called the Defence Committee. Its name is rightly that, and it would be quite wrongly named the Committee of Imperial Defence—quite wrongly, because it is a sub-committee of the Cabinet which deals primarily with the defence of the United Kingdom, and has planning and executive responsibilities. It would indeed be an affront to the Dominions if we took upon ourselves the right to call it the Committee of Imperial Defence. In passing, I would suggest that perhaps the time may come when the designation of the chief of the Army staff may have to be altered.

When I listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister yesterday I welcomed the line he took about Dominion cooperation. I welcomed it, particularly, because I think he was more definite in expressing the Government's desire to this end, than was the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Dominions in another place. I think I am right in saying that the right hon. Gentleman is suffering a little from the fear because of words which have appeared over my name, that I may be going to discuss this matter in the spirit of 1904. Let me reassure him about that at once. If I make any errors, I think it will be because I discuss it in the spirit of 1960, and that perhaps is an error which a young man is entitled to commit, even in this House.

I understand the difficulties in getting Dominion agreement to the setting up of a central organisation for defence. I appreciate them, but because I do I shall not necessarily be defeated by them, and I am quite certain that neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the Prime Minister will be defeated by them. I realise that the very mention of a central organisation in London has been in the past, and still remains, a bugbear in the minds of many Dominion experts in this matter. As it has been put to me by some people, there is a suspicion in the mind of an expert, say from Canada, that, when he talks to an expert from the United Kingdom about a paper prepared on defence, that that paper is really a paper to provide for the defence of the United Kingdom, and not that of Canada inside the whole Empire. I realise that difficulty, and I realise too, that the whole position of Commonwealth relations is based on the tradition of loose-knit bonds. Finally, there is the great difficulty that there cannot be, in detail, any really common foreign policy, for the very good reason that all members of the British Commonwealth of Nations are sovereign in that respect.

Let me make these points quite shortly on those difficulties. First, as to the respect we must all feel for Dominion sovereignty, in form and in spirit, I think that there could be consultation, not only on the Prime Minister and Ministry of Defence level, but also on the expert level, which would not necessarily commit the Governments. Consultations could be held without conflicting with our respect for their sovereignty. I put it to the House that if we are not very careful, in our anxiety to avoid causing offence to the Dominions, to avoid the appear- ance of disrespect to their sovereignty by going slow in urging them to set up a central organisation, we may in fact produce the exact evil which we try to avoid. As my hon. and gallant Friend has said, at the beginning of another war we must all be prepared, or else we shall go down. If another war looms up on the horizon some plan will have to be accepted. If the Dominion experts have not been in on the early formation of that plan, they will necessarily have to accept the plan that we have made ourselves. We must be careful, in our anxiety to avoid pressing upon them something which they do not like at this moment—and I would say at once that we can do no more than try to persuade them—that we do not, in the end, lead to the very evil which we and particularly they want to avoid.

My second point is this. The Statute of Westminster is often put forward, together with the discussions which took place about the time it was passed, as a reason for going slow in pressing for a central organisation. My hon. and gallant Friend has referred to the differences between now and 1939, but there are even more differences, surely, between now and 1932 or 1926, when it was accepted that now and for some time, the main responsibility for defence must rest on this country. My third point concerns a common foreign policy. I believe, and I am strengthened in that belief by looking at reports of international conferences, that there is a highest common factor on which we and the Dominions agree now and will always agree. That highest common factor is based upon the British way of life, which has spread out from this country all over the globe. History has shown that in great crises we always do agree in the end, but for the reasons which my hon. and gallant Friend has given we must not now be complacent about what history has shown. Surely we must push forward and try to take advantage of the lessons we have learnt.

As a result of the considerations which I have mentioned, I should like to urge once again that we in this country, and our friends and relations in the other parts of the Empire, cannot rightly talk about our own national defence in a watertight compartment. It is just as wrong to talk about the defence of this country in a watertight compartment as it would be to talk about the problems of the Army as separate from the problems of the Navy. Collective security, and I am not afraid to use those words, gives strength in modern times. Collective defence of the British Commonwealth has always been called "Imperial defence," and I am not frightened to use that term either. Because of the world nature of wars, and because of the advances of science about which we have heard, we must get real cohesion. The spirit that binds this Empire together is well known, and as has been said in other places, a spirit without a body is surely no good on earth.

I should like to add to these changed considerations one other point which has occurred to me as being important, and that is that since wars in the future are bound to be world conflicts, and since we now have a forum for world opinion in U.N.O., before a conflict comes into being there will have been time for all the nations of the world to express and form their opinions. Can the House really believe that those nations of the world whose whole outlook is based on the British way of life, can take a different line on a problem that is going to provoke a world conflict? U.N.O. will help us, and will not hinder us in getting the cohesion of those born to the British way of life.

Let me come to the problem of organisation. Reading, as I have done many times, the earlier parts of the White Paper, it seems to me that all the arguments for the organisation which has come into being, are equally good arguments for the same kind of organisation to obtain an Imperial defence policy. Planning, we are told, must be done by those responsible for its execution, or their representatives. Coordination in planning and execution must take place, not only at the top on high level, but also with staff officers—that is the way we very often get the germs of a new idea. Defence cannot be considered apart from the problems of manpower and production. I should like to add a further argument which the Prime Minister has given me in his speech of yesterday, and that is to stress— that action recommended on defence grounds in time of peace, may often involve some sacrifice of immediate civil advantage."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October 1946; Vol. 428, c. 622.] For that reason, it is vital to have co-ordination, co-operation and discussion not only at conferences, but from day to day between men who are experienced on the problems. In the White Paper, the main concentration is placed on the regional aspect of the problem. We know that during the war great attention was given to this matter and there have been proposals both by Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chifley, of Australia, towards that end. I think that we sometimes forget that if we are to have regional organisations, someone must control the priorities between these regions. It is worth remembering that Mr. Curtin, when he made the original proposal, said: It is fundamental to future arrangements for cooperation of defence that appropriate machinery should be created to provide for the effective voice by the Governments considered in policy and in the higher control of planning on the official level. I do not see how there can be a proper system of regional defence, whether it is in the British Commonwealth of Nations, or in the whole world under the Security Council, without some control of priorities. I do not see how priorities can be controlled, unless there is some staff to help in that control.

Let me deal now with manpower and the problem of industrial dispersal, about which it is necessary to have closer consultation between this country and the Dominions. I believe that defence manpower in the year, 1946, and later, must have some relation to the total manpower of the country or area which is being defended. It may be for that reason that some countries with far larger populations than ourselves, consider that they are entitled to have more men in their defence forces. I believe I am correct in saying, although I am unable adequately to check my figures, that the proportion of men in our fighting Forces doing jobs connected with defence is probably as high, if not higher, than anywhere. The reason for this is that we are providing defence not only for our country, but for a large proportion of the people of the Empire. That point is worth stressing the next time the right hon. Gentleman or any of his friends are hauled over the coals by other people for having a larger proportion of men under arms, or for having budgeted for a larger proportion of money to be spent on defence services than other countries. For instance, it is curious to note—and I think these figures can be checked-that Soviet Russia, in 1946–47, budgeted for a 23 per cent. expenditure on defence services, against 30 per cent. for this country.

The difference is easy to explain, when we realise that we are undertaking at the moment such a large proportion of the defence of the Commonwealth. 1 hope that the time will come quite soon when we shall be able to have close consultation with the Dominions, and at any rate agree on a policy for the manpower questions, so that we can publish to the world that we are reasonably blameless in the matter of over-expenditure of our manpower on the fighting Services. I do not think anyone would accuse me of being an apostle of any unnecessary disarmament, so I hope that I shall not be misunderstood. There are many problems to be faced in the Empire as a whole. One has only to look at the possibilities of India to realise that there may be a shortage of men for defence in time to come. There are men in other parts of the world, in East Africa, for example, where 500,000 men came forward during the war. I am certain that through coordination in the Empire we can fill in the gaps. It is not only quantity but quality which we require in manpower—this is related to the next problem. If we are to make full use for defence purposes of the manpower available inside the Empire, there must be further consultations about the contribution of skilled men. It is worth remembering that though we say so often we have the majority of white people of the Empire in this country, that for every three men of the white population of the Empire only two live in the United Kingdom.

Let me come to the question of dispersal of industrial potential. This may raise some embarrassment to some people, but I hope it is not going to embarrass the Government, because I have taken it from the mouth of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff. I am not suggesting that Liverpool should get on the march, and move off to some other part of the Empire. I am not suggesting that in the immediate future a large body of people, or large industries, should be moved from the country. What I mean by the dispersal of industrial potential is that all over the Empire we should try to duplicate and triplicate the industrial power that exists in this island. We must do it for reasons which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton indicated to the House, and also to expand our economy and war potential. As with industry, so with communications. The history of the Empire in this century shows that many countries have built ports, other large undertakings, and effective communications which materially assisted towards the success of the last war. The 1039 Defence White Paper referred to the dispersal of the aircraft manufacturing industry in Australia, and other parts of the Empire. That is not a new problem, but I suggest that it is becoming such a vast problem that we must have closer co-ordination, not only between the heads of Governments, but also between their expert staffs.

I can see your eye upon me, Mr. Speaker, and I am drawing to a close. I have taken the greatest interest in this matter, and I hope the House will bear with me for only a few more minutes while I put my concluding points. The hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Cobb) pointed out, in a most interesting speech, that collective defence means the ability to continue war whatever happens. I sometimes ask myself, and I now ask the House, this simple question: If the United Kingdom was destroyed, would the British Empire fall? Some would say, "No," and some would say, "Yes." There are men in the country who would say, "Yes," and it is wrong that there should be sensible men who would reach that conclusion.

I am pressing for the establishment of a series of liaison missions which would form an Imperial defence secretariat, a secretariat of a purely advisory nature, because the Governments of countries are responsible for their own problems. This secretariat would have an advantage over the present liaison officer system in this respect. How can a liaison officer, particularly one who has spent many years of his life in one or other of the Services, grasp and understand the problems involved, and contribute to the discussion of the many wide aspects of defence which are covered in the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence? The object is to achieve liaison between similar defence committees in the Dominions and the United Kingdom Defence Committee. How can one or two men do that? There must be a reasonable sized staff, although not a full-blown staff. That is my proposal, and I do not think it will alarm the right hon. Gentleman very much, especially as it is not foreign to the wishes of many people in the Dominions.

Many people, besides my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton and myself, earnestly hope that we shall achieve as quickly as possible real cooperation, on a practical level, between ourselves and the Dominions. The object of that cooperation is simple, and can be stated like this: The British Empire won two wars, and prevented neither. We should like to have something strong enough—not rigid, but flexible—to stand up before the world as an Imperial defence policy, strong enough to show the world, or any aggressor in it, that we shall be together and prepared, if ever called upon again, to resist evil. We cannot do that unless we achieve real coordination, and we can only achieve that coordination if we have the men to do it, to acquire the information, and to contribute towards the necessary discussions. Would it not help the Dominion peoples to understand the vastness of this great problem if they had representatives on such a body, who would keep them informed of the obligations and responsibilities that lie on all parts of the Commonwealth, so that in the end it would not be only the Governments of the Dominions who would understand the problem but their peoples would understand it, their peoples who contribute so nobly towards defence?

4.36 p.m.

Mr. Braddock (Mitcham)

The House may be glad to know, after the long speech we have just heard, that I do not intend to detain Members for very long. In that way, perhaps, I may be able to balance things up a bit for the benefit of later speakers. Frankly, I regret that it has been thought necessary to publish this White Paper and to hold this Debate at the present time, and I am appalled at the tone of the speeches we have heard. It seems that this House is of the opinion that we must face, in the not very distant future, another world war. That will send through the people of this country a shudder of horror. The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head), in a most interesting speech on the technicalities of this question, ended, as the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low) has just ended, with the suggestion that if we are to prevent war, it is necessary for nations to be fully armed, and well prepared. That seems to be a policy of sheer despair. What is more, it is a policy that is utterly impracticable, because it is a method which has been used by country after country, from generation to generation, and has never succeeded. It cannot succeed, because more than one nation can play that game.

Further, the suggestion implies that it is possible to he so heavily armed that you can frighten all other nations from attempting armed aggression. Well, the experience of mankind through the ages has proved the absolute impracticability and impossibility of that proposal. I regret this White Paper and this Debate because the United Nations are now commencing their deliberations in New York. I should have thought that the last thing any country would do would be to cast doubts on that organisation The speeches which have been made, and the general conception of this Debate, cast doubts on the possibility of the success of the efforts of that organisation. That organisation may not succeed, but the matter we are debating today is not so urgent that it could not have been put off for a few months, so that the meetings in America could be held under the best possible conditions.

We call this a "Central Defence Organisation," but surely that deceives nobody. Everybody in this country and certainly foreign Governments know that the best defence, if you are going to have war, is offence; and this is, in fact, a central attacking organisation and not a Central Defence Organisation. I contend that is not justified, immediately after six years of war, when the nations of the world appear to be making a real endeavour to agree. It suggests no method of defence in actual fact. Throughout the White Paper, there is no suggestion of how the people of this country can be defended under war conditions. In fact, it suggests just the opposite. It mentions, in one of its paragraphs, home security. If it is to be a real defence, the object of home security should be to secure the defence of the people of this island. In paragraph 33 we have this statement: In any future war the problems of home security will assume an importance even greater than that which they had in the last war. It is essential that in military prepara- tions full weight should be given to the probable demands of the home security services. That paragraph leaves the essential basic need of security in the hands of civil Ministries, which means, by implication, that we are only to have so far as the defence of this country is concerned an "ambulance service." There is, by this implication, no possible defence, and if we cannot defend our people, the whole proposal for a defence organisation is utterly meaningless. I suggest that, in the face of modern offensive weapons, it is a fact that the people of this country cannot be defended.

That brings us to the basic problem: Is it not necessary, this being the case, that we should put the whole of our effort into making the United Nations organisation a success? What has the report before us to say on this subject. I thought, at first, that it was not mentioned at all, but in paragraph 35 we find these words—and this is the only case in the whole document where this matter is mentioned: We must be ready to play our part in any measures of collective defence which may be organised under the aegis of the United Nations. That is all that is said on this all-important subject. Matters of Imperial defence and all sorts of technical details are enlarged upon, but no word is said, beyond the few words which I have read out, about this central matter—and the only method by which this country can be defended—the action of a great international organisation. I suggest that unless we organise a defence organisation in cooperation with other nations in the United Nations organisation, defence is impossible, and the present proposals put forward in the White Paper are a cruel and dangerous jest at the expense of the people of this country.

The party which I support in this House issued a paper at the General Election entitled "Let us Face the Future," and in that paper this statement was made: No domestic policy … can succeed in a world still frightened by war. … Political and military insecurity are enemies of peace. … We must join. … with all others in forming an International Organisation capable of keeping the peace in the years, to come I suggest that there is no alternative to that proposal. All these suggestions with regard to building up a military organisation in this country—committees of defence, association with our Dominions and Colonies—must fail in the face of modern conditions. I suggest that it is up to the Government of this country to push on with the only safe method, the only method that will achieve the safety of the people of this country in the face of all opposition, and throw on one side all those outworn suggestions that we can protect the people of this country and our native land by heavy armaments, and thereby frighten the peoples of other countries. That has failed in the past; it will fail more disastrously in the face of scientific armaments and death dealing instruments, such as the world is conscious of at the present time.

4.47 p.m.

Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

The hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock) is, I believe, an architect. It would seem to me that, at the present time, he would be of very great service to the Ministry of Health, because I think that he has successfully shown us how to build a roof without a house. I suggest to him that, if he is so anxious to make the United Nations organisation a success, it is important that we should first get the foundations right. I had hoped that it would have been possible to say this Debate has been marked by the great unanimity shown on both sides of the House in applauding the Government's decision and recommendations in this White Paper. That may be possible, but I am sorry that that unanimity has been marred by the speech which we have just heard. I was hoping that we would be able to forget that there are still six hon. Members of this House who on 17th March, 1927, voted for the total abolition of the Air Force. I thought that we had forgotten all that, and were going forward, realising that this White Paper is but a part of a far greater scheme. It is a part, I think, of the building of the United Nations organisation on sounder foundations than those of the old League of Nations. We hope that one day it will give to some world organisation the strength to carry out what it really wants to do. I believe that that is where the hon. Member for Mitcham has made his fundamental mistake.

What I particularly want to speak about is a matter already raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) and the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low). I am strongly in agreement with what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool, and I would like to support his suggestion for setting up a secretariat as a nucleus for a possible combined Empire defence programme. I think that, as we stand today, there is no need to worry unduly about the relationship that exists between the United Kingdom and each Dominion separately. I believe that we have further to strengthen the tie which binds one Dominion to another, and that, I think, is where we are prone to be found wanting at the time of testing. During the war, the hon. and gallant Member for Blackpool and I met, in similar circumstances, the Australians, and to a lesser extent the New Zealanders. I believe that what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Blackpool said about nomenclature was very true. I very well remember hearing a senior ranking Australian officer object to the use of the word "Imperial," and say that he would much prefer the word "British." I think it is very important to realise that there is no question of its being thought in any way, undignified or inferior to admit that one is proud to associate oneself with somebody who stands for the same principles. If we forget that for one moment, we shall do great harm to the cause of uniting the Empire and maintaining our Imperial strength. I hope we shall not worry too much about names; I feel sure that no hon. Member on this side of the House will worry too much about names. Far more important than the name is what one stands for. I am convinced that therein lies the whole weakness of Imperial defence at the present time. It is what we try to stand for, and how solid a front we present, to any threats we are likely to encounter.

I do not believe we are quite keeping pace with the times. We are living in a new age. At the moment it is called the atomic age, but it may change. It is moving very fast. The one real criticism I have of the White Paper is the comparative complacency of the quotation which is made on page II. It was well summed up by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Blackpool when he said that the British Empire has won two wars, but has failed to prevent either. I think there is a lack of realisation of that in the White Paper. Unless we realise that a future war will perhaps demand, if we know the righteousness of our cause, that we should take action first, I do not believe that our defence will be based on a sound organisation. The weapons of war today move far too fast, the distances which they cover are far too great, and their effect is far too great, for us to await the arrival of war before we do anything about it. We have to be prepared in two ways. The White Paper deals only with one of the ways. It coordinates, or tries to coordinate, our defence, but there is a further job to do, which I will simply mention, and not deal with in any detail. We have to keep our people and the peoples of the Empire convinced of the righteousness of our cause, and that is perhaps more difficult than the actual problem of defence itself.

I shall not say anything more about the Imperial side, because that was amply covered by my two hon. and gallant Friends, but I would like to say a few things about the constitution of the Defence Committee and the Ministry of Defence. I agree with the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) that we are as minnows in the pool, and are by no means big fishes. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton spoke as an expert on the subject, but I speak only with a slight knowledge. It seems to me, however, that the question of the membership of the Chancellor is enormously important. If the Chancellor—to use a gunnery term—is to be in a position to fire a financial "stonk" into the defences, then we must make sure that we shall have something more than a rather distant soft-toned sledge hammer or mechanical press from the Minister of Supply. What I am a little frightened of in the proposed set-up is as the Prime Minister said yesterday that so much depends upon the personalities concerned. I do not want to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer at any time, whether in peace or in war, having it all his own way.

I do not want the Chancellor's voice to drown the voice of the Minister of Supply, because both are equally important when it comes to defence, and if there were a preference in importance, it ought to be on the side of the Minister of Supply. Therefore, we must be very careful in making the Chancellor of the Exchequer a full member of the Defence Committee. I see no more reason for having the Chancellor a member of the Defence Committee than having all the Chiefs of Staff on it. Every hon. Member who has spoken has said that it would be fatal to have the Chiefs of Staff as full members of the Defence Committee; they must be kept completely free to give the true military view without consideration of politics. I would say that the same thing applies to finances; but I see what the difficulty is. The difficulty is that this country is always trying very quickly to turn back from war to peace. It has done so time and again, and very often it has done so too quickly. I am not at all sure that it is not doing it too quickly now. Throughout the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) there was emphasis on the phrase "at this time". Again and again, he asked whether something was wise "at this time." The danger today is that we are trying to things too quickly. Let us be quite sure that the emergency is over before we leave the war footing of the Defence Committee and our whole set-up for the coordination of defence.

There is one other important thing which has not been mentioned in this Debate so far. A few weeks ago the Secretary of State for the Colonies gave us the names of the members of the Economic Advisory Committee for the Colonies, and when I asked him a supplementary question as to whether or not they were to consider the matter of defence, his reply was in the negative. That seemed to me to be a most astonishing statement. I quite appreciate that the Council is composed of very able men, but, surely, they are men who are a great deal too busy in other walks of life to do all that the Council should do. I believe that we have in that Council the nucleus of what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Blackpool had in mind in regard to dispersal. I quite recognise that we cannot simply lift industries and take them somewhere else; but duplication, as far as possible, and the building up of certain stores which are absolutely vital in wartime in widely dispersed places, may be one way of going about the job. Even if that were done, we would not achieve everything that we would like to achieve to prepare us for another catastrophe, should it come.

Surely, these problems are absolutely vital. They are problems which demand the devoted and completely separate attention of experts in the matter of industrial production in wartime. I can but feel that an enormous opportunity is being wasted by this Economic Advisory Council not being given any terms of reference with regard to defence. If ever there was a time when there was some hope of attaining a concerted Imperial plan for industry in the event of another catastrophe, it is now. Surely the Economic Advisory Council is very well suited to carry out that job?

May I say a few words about liaison officers? Having been one myself during the war I have listened with interest to what has been said about them yesterday and this afternoon. The saying of our chief instructor when I was being trained has been ringing in my ears throughout yesterday and today. It is, "You will remember that a liaison officer is not a commissioned D.R." In case the right hon. Gentleman does not understand, a "D.R." is a despatch rider. There is a great deal of truth in that remark because I am quite sure that the efficacy of liaison officers depends upon two factors: one, the man himself, the other the way in which he is used. How well his job is carried out and how effective he may be depend entirely upon the instructions given to him originally and those he receives at his intermediate destination. I believe we want a great many liaison officers in the set-up mentioned in the White Paper, because the danger is that if we have only one who is a real expert, he will have to go back and report sometimes to the country of his origin, which means a hiatus unless we ensure continuity.

In conclusion, if we are to have regional organisation of defence, has it yet been visualised that this regional organisation, which will surely take in the Colonies, will in any way take from the shoulders of His Majesty's Government some of the responsibility of Colonial defence? Under the White Paper as it stands today His Majesty's Government have the first responsibility for Colonial defence. Is that still to apply in the event of a regional organisation being set up? Secondly, will there be in each regional organisation some link with the Ministry of Defence, whether by liaison officers, a sub-committee, or whatever it may be? I hope I shall have an answer to these questions from the Minister whan he replies because I believe it is important that we should set this idea of a regional defence organisation going very soon. The longer we wait, the less effective it will be, and in a time of re-orientation it is in any case so much better to have complete reorientation than to achieve it piecemeal and spread it over several years. I hope this White Paper will set our peace on a sound foundation. I believe it has the elements necessary for doing so, and I think the Government are fortunate in having found for the job the man who now holds it. I believe he will do it well, and I am sorry he is not here to hear me say so. He has done this country a great service in the war, and I wish him great luck in the future.

5.5 p.m.

Major Vernon (Dulwich)

I find myself in general agreement this afternoon with the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock) but I am not quite sure that I agree with him in deploring the fact that the subject of this Debate should have been brought forward at this time. Before giving my reasons for that I should like to make a few remarks about some of the speeches we have heard this afternoon.

The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) spoke earlier of the United Nations organisation being strengthened and its power increased by the growing efficiency of the British Services. When we think of it seriously, we have in the United Nations organisation all the big Powers, all the middle-sized Powers, and almost all the little Powers—in fact, there is hardly anyone left outside. To imagine all the big Powers having to attain their maximum efficiency for the sake of dealing with Chinese pirates or the warlike tribes on the North-West frontier of India, seems to me to be entirely absurd, and the idea of the United Nations needing vast forces completely erroneous. If we sent them a detachment of the Metropolitan Police that might well be sufficient for the situations with which they may have to deal. The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) concluded his speech by quoting the words of a famous Roman general who said about 1,500 years ago that to ensure peace you must prepare for war. Ever since then, people have been preparing for war, with greater or lesser efficiency, and always having the wars, so that it does not seem to be a very enlightening sort of quotation to use.

Commander Maitland (Horncastle)

Did Abyssinia prepare for war?

Major Vernon

She got one anyhow. But the Abyssinians are a traditionally warlike people, some of the fiercest and most efficient in North Africa, and they achieved great success against the Italians in the past. The general story throughout history has been one of intensive preparations for war leading up to the wars themselves. I think the other idea that with the absence of the weapons and the provocation which weapons give there is a greater chance of peace is much more reasonable. The hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low) emphasised the importance of the dispersal of industry and the allocation of manpower. Thinking of the British Empire, the manpower in it and its allocation, the biggest quantity is in India. Regarding Japan as being put out of action—and we should be very foolish if we ever allowed Japan to rise again to power—and considering that poor China has shown no signs of being a menace, what can be done in the direction of allocating the manpower of India for any useful warlike purpose? India has an enemy, which is famine, and if the manpower can be directed against that real enemy there would be some sense in it. As for allocating it far some other warlike purpose, that seems to me to be nonsense. Another controllable collection of manpower is to be found in the native workers in the mines of Africa. But if, instead of digging gold out of the ground, they were allocated for same other and warlike purpose, the whole economy of South Africa would be thrown into confusion. As to the allocation of white races, one has to get their agreement first. The Canadians have had an undefended frontier line with the United States for over 100 years, and if we were to tell them that they had to do something about allocating their manpower for a future war, we should not get very far.

Brigadier Low

I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman is being a little unfair. I agree with practically everything he has just said, but if he would remember that my premise was that wars are now world wide, he might perhaps understand a little more clearly what I have stated.

Major Vernon

I had no intention of being unfair to the hon. and gallant Mem- ber, and I apologise if I have read into his remarks more than he intended.

Another point which was referred to, was the dispersal of industry. That is a very serious problem. Air bases that are held by other Powers are scattered all over the world. Then we must think of the range of modern aircraft and modern weapons like the rocket, and so on. We find also that the British Empire is peppered all round with bases. How can we disperse our war industries to those bases? I once said in this House that it was no good building up the Commons Chamber where it was before, because in another war it would certainly be destroyed again. How can we disperse it? I suggested then that we might try the Arctic regions of Canada, or alternatively Central Africa, but those places are no longer safe. Dispersal of that kind is of no use. We may say, "Let us disperse Birmingham to the Welsh mountains," but even if we did so, we could not save it. You might put Sheffield into the Hebrides, but it would not be safe there. That kind of dispersal now has little meaning. On the other hand, if we go underground we are safe. That is the only sort of dispersal that will be of any use in the war that is to come.

I have been very distressed to hear so much talk based on the assumption that war is at all probable in the future and that we ought, therefore, to prepare for it. Our actions in the future must depend upon the balance of probability of war or of peace. No one can be absolutely certain. The wisest course would be to act in accordance with the balance of probabilities.

What is the balance of forces? In regard to great Powers, we have a treaty of 20 years with Russia. We have a story of 100 years of friendship, rather patchy friendship sometimes, with the United States. If we come down upon date side of expectation of war, it means that we have no faith in our Allies, and no confidence in our friends. I cannot take the time to balance all the forces or even to mention many of them, but I would like to mention two or three. What are the forces in favour of war? I think the biggest is the inertia of the military machine. Armies, navies and air forces have multiplied their strength, power and numbers in war time. They have grown in organisation. This vast machine runs on. Even now, when the need for the military machine has gone, the machine carries on by the weight of its own inertia. That is one of the big factors on the side of war.

Another factor on the side of war is the "back room boys" and their splendid toys. I know something about this subject. All my working life has been spent in engineering, and magnificent toys have been things with which I have dealt all the way through. I know the fascination of elaborate, delicate, beautiful and powerful machines. Now we have machines more wonderful than ever before, such as controlled missiles, which will behave almost as though they had a life and direction of their own. They can find their own way to the target. There are aeroplane engines of enormous power and of very small size which can drive aeroplanes with enormous speed. There are new fuels which will send rockets right out of the field of the earth's attraction, if we like. We can send missiles through space. All these wonderful things are developing.

The White Paper speaks of research being co-ordinated. The mere fact that all this brain power is concentrated upon those extraordinary interesting appliances is a force in itself. One country does it, then another country tries to outdo the first. Arms races in the past have been competitions in size and numbers. Armaments races are at present, and will be in the future, if they continue, races in quality. Another element on the side of war is the inherent conservatism of the human mind. People are so used to the idea of war and to having the fear of war in the background, that war may exist a long time beyond the period in which it served a useful purpose.

What have we on the side of peace? If we can get far enough away from the historical process to be able to see it as a single picture, we notice from the earliest stages the constant growth of the science of combat. I imagine that in the forests one hunter would meet another and fight him for the game he had caught. Later, family fought family, clan fought clan, nation fought nation and—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Young)

The hon. and gallant Member is wandering from the subject, in the remarks which he is now making. He must keep to the question of the organisation for defence.

Major Vernon

I was trying to point out that the preparations outlined in the White Paper depend upon the probabilities of war or of peace. In favour of peace there is the fact which has been mentioned by several hon. Members that war has become worldwide. Future wars will be worldwide. When that fact is generally recognised, the other fact will be recognised also, that such war will be suicidal. Recognition of the suicidal nature of war, will be the biggest factor in preventing wars occurring.

Now, as to the proposal to set up a Ministry of Defence, it has often happened in the past that an organism set up for a certain purpose has changed its function as the need to do so has arisen. I am hopeful of the Ministry of Defence ceasing to be an organisation for improving the efficiency of the Armed Forces, and coming to be an organism for contracting the Armed Forces, and gradually preparing for their entire disappearance. I prefer to think of the Minister of Defence rather as the undertaker for the Armed Forces, and just as a funeral is better if there is one undertaker than it would be if there were three, so it is better that the three fighting Services should be co-ordinated in this way. On the whole, the Motion is to be welcomed, but in the spirit that the Ministry of Defence as an oragnisation will find its usefulness ultimately in its own destruction.

5.19 p.m.

Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)

We have just listened to a speech which was obviously sincere, but I am sure that if I endeavoured to follow the line of argument taken by the hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich (Major Vernon) you, Sir, would be after me at once. We might have the United Nations Charter under debate this afternoon, and not plans for defence, to judge from the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member. I propose to come down to something more sordid and detailed. I shall deal with a point in the White Paper with which I am in complete disagreement and urge with the utmost strength, in the few minutes at my disposal, the addition of one Minister to the already large Defence Committee. The argument has been submitted once or twice that the Defence Committee is too large. That is a point upon which I am not qualified to decide but it is incredible that the Minister of Transport has been omitted from its present constitution. The right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) touched on that subject yesterday. The importance of shipping to this whole defence picture has been mentioned by a number of speakers and I make no apology for returning to the subject and concentrating on it. I am absolutely convinced that the transport problem is at the heart of every single thought which will go through the minds of the Defence Minister and the other Members of the Committee in their deliberations in the years to come.

Let us look at the present composition of the Defence Committee. The Chiefs of Staff and the Service Ministers can make the most perfect strategic and tactical plans, the Chancellor of the Exchequer can fork out the cash, the Minister of Labour can allocate man-power, the Minister of Supply can provide the most abundant flow of tanks, guns and modern equipment, and the Lord President of the Council can produce whatever Lords President of the Council do produce when they are not engaged in private warfare with the Press or ex-Prime Ministers. But neither individually nor collectively can any one of them produce the slightest impact on the enemy, without making use of the roads, the railways, the ports, the harbours and above all the merchant fleet, not only of the United Kingdom but of the Dominions—if they are with us, as they will be, in any future war—the merchant fleets of some of the neutrals, if we can get on to them quickly enough, and, I sincerely hope, the merchant fleets of some Allies.

The Prime Minister in his opening speech said that there were four headings under which a unified defence policy has to be considered—first, strategy and planning; second, correlation of production problems; third, research and development and the apportionment of resources; and fourth, inter-Service collaboration. As to the first of those headings, is it possible for anyone to make any effective long-term strategic plan if he fails to consider the road and rail movement of men and stores to the ports of this country? Must not constant consideration be given to the capacity of the ports to berth ships of every kind needed to move forces and stores abroad, and to the suitability of port equipment? All this must come before we leave home at all.

Once embarked, the problem becomes infinitely more complex. Such matters as these caused immense difficulties in the last war. These matters are remembered now but may be forgotten as the years go on. There are the problems of water and stores for ships. Ships have to use unusual ports in war. They may have to use ports and harbours which in peacetime handle only one or two ships a month. Such little used ports may suddenly find themselves the focal points of immense concentrations of shipping. The question of port capacity may have to be considered, not only in relation to British possessions or the Commonwealth, but in relation to other countries. It must be remembered, too, that port equipment abroad is even more important than port equipment at home. Anyone who had any contact during the war with the West African and the Red Sea problems will remember just how much delay was caused in West Africa by, among other things, shortage of water boats, and in the Red Sea of heavy lifts—a disastrous shortage. We could not get the heavy cranes which were required to lift from the ships the equipment sent from the United States. That was one of the most fruitful sources of serious loss of shipping time for about 12 months. I could go on giving details of this sort, but I must not do so because of the limited time at my disposal.

I come now to the most important consideration, which is the availability of tonnage. I am still on the theme that these are main considerations which must be in the minds of all planners at every stage, in peacetime as well as wartime. Passenger ships are relatively a simple problem. On the outbreak of war, normal civilian movement about the world ceases, and passenger ships belonging to this country and any Allied countries become available for war purposes. There are delays over conversion, but passenger ships are a relatively simple problem, compared with cargo ships, the problem in relation to which is immensely complex. The Admiralty, as the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, will be in hot pursuit of the Minister of Transport for fleet trains—and the ideas of admirals and First Lords of the Admiralty on the size of fleet trains are very big, particularly if the Fleet has to go a long way off. The War Office will be worrying to see how it can get its men and stores abroad, and the Air Ministry will have similar require- ments. The Minister of Food will be worrying about foodstuffs. The Minister of Supply will be worrying about raw materials. Every Ministry in the Government has some interest in shipping. At the outbreak of war, shipping must inevitably be a bottleneck, and that may continue for some time. Two wars should have taught us that lesson, if we did not know it from our own good common sense. Surely it must be realised at every stage of strategic planning that failure to understand the full implication of transport problems may absolutely wreck any plan. A mistake in shipping calculations may not only make the generals' plan useless, but may be positively dangerous. One might launch a couple of operations based on certain assumptions as to the availability of cargo shipping. If they are launched, and the Ministry of Transport has been brought into the picture too late, and gives an appreciation on inadequate knowledge and a mistake occurs, this country will be starved or, much more likely, the operations will have to be cut off half way through, in order to divert shipping to keep raw materials and food coming into this country.

I could go through the Prime Minister's four headings, but I content myself by touching on that of the correlation of production problems. Here, again, the Minister of Transport must be involved. What is the use of the War Office and the Minister of Supply working out a plan for a most beautiful large tank only to find, when they come to ship the tanks abroad, that the turrets are three inches too high to be loaded on the average cargo ship?. We know that happened. The Minister of Transport must be in constant touch with the Minister of Supply, the War Office and the Admiralty on the whole question of design of heavy equipment. Another point is that consideration must be given throughout the whole production scheme to the simplest, cheapest and most effective form of containers to convey war stores abroad. It took three years of war to get motor transport broken down—that is the technical term—to go into a Beta-pack, as a result of which three or four times as many vehicles could be loaded in a cargo ship. If the Minister of Transport were intimately connected with the workings of the Defence Committee on the production side from the very outset, such mistakes might be avoided.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot suggested that all this might be dealt with by the Minister of Transport coming on to some permanent committee. The hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) had something to say on this subject and though I agree with what he said as a whole, I think one has to go further than he went. The hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Cobb) brought up the question of unprepared merchant ships. His was a good speech and I could not agree more than I do with what he said, that we must never allow our merchant ships again to go into war so completely undefended against the enemy as they did in the early stages of the last war. He also said that was a matter for the Minister of Defence to consider. The hon. Member for Altrincham (Mr. Erroll) proposed a Ministerial transport committee, on which the Ministers of Transport and Civil Aviation should be represented. I suggest that none of these is adequate. Surely, the importance of all this is such that, if you are to have an organisation of the size of the present Defence Committee, the Minister of Transport must be on it?

It will be argued that it is not really necessary. I expect to be told that he will not always be interested in a lot of the subjects under consideration and that he will be consulted when required and his Department will be on the various sub-committees. I submit that is not good enough. If the Minister of Transport is any good at all, he will be a major nuisance. He will be for ever saying, "Steady on, boys, you are going too fast." The Minister of Transport will be the man who will ask, "Where are you getting your resources of merchant ships for all these plans?" The tendency will undoubtedly be for the Minister of Transport to become rather unpopular with his colleagues on the Defence Committee if he is doing his job. In the past I think the right hon. Gentleman himself had some fairly good tussles with the Minister of Transport—

Mr. A. V. Alexander

Very successful ones.

Mr. Maclay

I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that they were only successful because the Minister of Transport was a strong man. He was, at one and the same time, battling against all the other demanders of tonnage and holding up his end. Probably the right hon. Gentleman did not get it all his own way.

Mr. Alexander

I meant successful only from the point of view of what the country needed.

Mr. Maclay

I quite agree, but what the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Chiefs of Staff want is not always what the country can afford at any given moment. The importance of getting the Minister of Transport in at the heart of this business is that he must understand the problems of every Minister involved—the Supply Ministers as well as the Service Ministers—and if he does not he will be bullied, or taken out to lunch, and will then find that he has over-committed himself to one or other of them. I have been on the edge of enough of this to know the appalling dangers if the shipping authorities are not really in on planning from the earliest moment possible. Therefore, I hope that the Minister of Defence will ponder this, and that the Prime Minister will recall his opening speech when he said that this would be a flexible organisation. I hope that will not mean merely that we are to be comforted by the fact that the Minister of Transport will be on a sub-committee but that his Department will be represented on various other committees.

I am not frightened of the present. As long as directors of plans, as long as Service Ministers, as long as Chiefs of Staff are men who have had direct experience of the recent war, there is nothing of which to be afraid. Every one of them knows the vital importance of shipping representation on the Chiefs of Staff subcommittees, on the executive planning staff, and on the joint administration planning staff. They know they can do nothing really effective without the shipping representatives being there. That might be true for quite a few years, but one must visualise, in considering this White Paper, a period of prolonged peace at the end of which suddenly we might have to start the whole machine going again. It is at such a time that we might find the lessons of the recent war had been forgotten, and that the Minister of Transport was once more in the deplorable position in which the Sea Transport Division of the Board of Trade was in 1938 and 1939—really nothing much more than the trooping department of the Service Ministries.

May I finish by referring to a completely different subject, the question of Dominion collaboration in this whole defence question? I do so only because I have direct personal experience of the point I want to make. I sympathise with the Government in the difficulty they find in getting anything more satisfactory into this White Paper than what they have put into it on this very critical subject of collective defence. Moreover, I say this. Some of the representatives of the Dominions with whom I was connected during the war years were very critical indeed of London Ministries for their high handed attitude in dealing with the Dominions. It seems to me imperative that the Dominions themselves must come forward to this country asking for, and prepared to take a full share in this type of work, the preparation for war, both strategic and on the supply side. If my words can reach those representatives of the Dominions, I shall be most grateful, because it is no good waiting for war and then grumbling that London has taken the initiative and gone ahead. They turned out to be very great friends and allies, and we know what the Dominions did during the war bat, at certain stages, they resented the domination of London. I say, here and now, that I do not consider it was by any means all the fault of London. The Dominions should be ready by now to come and say, "We want to take our full share in the preparation for the defence of the Commonwealth" or, if one puts it a better way, "in making the Commonwealth fit to take its full share in the implementation of the United Nations Charter."

537 p.m.

Captain Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)

I do not want to follow the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) and I am sure he will excuse me, because no one else could have the detailed knowledge of transport and shipping which he has. I want to intervene for a few moments only to give a sense of proportion from this side to some of the remarks that have been made. I am afraid I cannot follow my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dulwich (Major Vernon) and my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock) in the general theme of their remarks. I cannot see any inconsistency whatever in any of our commitments under the United Nations organisation and the fact that we want a strong defence policy of our own. Also, I cannot agree that the mere holding of this Debate means that war is one day nearer or six months nearer or six years nearer. I should have thought that any sane person would realise that we have learned the lessons of the inter-war years and, to use a cliché, that the price of peace is eternal vigilance. I look upon the proposals in this White Paper as a sane and determined effort to give us that vigilance.

I would like to say a few words about the scope of the job of the Minister-designate of Defence. In my opinion he has to be a very strong person, and the tone of this Debate and the Debate in another place has been, how can we avoid either giving him too much power or too little power? I regard the proposals in the White Paper as a compromise between those two positions. As I see it, he has to consider this matter of defence in the light of an age of full employment, he has to battle with the other Ministries for the men he wants and for the money he wants, and it will take a very strong person to get his adequate share of those two commodities. He has also to plan his schemes in an age of the atomic bomb, and I do not think that has been sufficiently dealt with in this Debate. It means a tremendous knowledge, and cooperation with the Minister of Supply, who is in sole charge of atomic energy, to make sure that whatever benefit there is in the use of atomic energy can be applied in wartime, should that dire necessity arise. He has also to plan his defence, not in an isolated position but under our obligations to the United Nations.

I think there he has a field of endeavour that no other Minister has had before. It rests with him to plan our commitments to the United Nations in the most effective way. He will have time to experiment, and he will have time to make a sound contribution to the United Nations organisation. But also, in my opinion, there is a counter balancing factor here, because he will have to plan in an age of what, I believe, will be lessening commitments. As the years go by, I hope we shall have taken our troops from India, and that the Egyptian position, and, I hope, the Palestine position, will have been solved as a whole, and he will not be concerned with holding down those areas. He will be able to devote his attention to preparing an organisation for defence against possible aggressors. I conceive his most important function is to plan defence policy, to give a general supervision to strategy, and, above all, to be the kind of kingpin acting under the more remote responsibility of the Prime Minister in the Defence Committee. If we try to make him also the coordinator of the three Services, and push on to him the organisation of the medical branch in any Service, or the education branch, or whatever it is, we shall be cluttering up the prime function with these other functions.

I do not think the time has come to try to organise out of these three Services, with their different traditions and tasks, one closely amalgamated Service. I do not think we can even go so far as the United States, and have a combined Air Force and Army. I think the new Minister will be well advised to leave the matter where it is at the moment, and try to achieve coordination through the Chiefs of Staff, to try to get the responsible heads of the three Services together, and so let them coordinate the policy rather than try to make one Service out of three.

On first reading paragraph 33 of the White Paper, which deals with home security, I thought that it would be advisable if the home security service, air raid precautions, fire brigades, and ambulance services could be brought within the ambit of the Minister of Defence. I do not want to disparage the excellent work which was done by the home security organisation in the last war, but I thought that at times there was a conflict between the man in the Army and the man who the soldier thought was in "Civvy Street." I thought it would be desirable to put the organisation of all those people being used in the defence of the country in a total war—and, of course, the next war, if it should come, will be even more of a total war than the last, and in effect it would mean that there would be no civilians—under the Minister of Defence. But, on thinking it over, and after listening to the Prime Minister yesterday, saying that the whole question of civil defence was receiving attention. I think we should be putting an unnecessary burden on the new Minister of Defence if, at this stage, we handed over to him the whole of civil defence.

Another point on which I felt myself in some agreement with the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) was in feeling that the Ministry of Supply could not in effect serve two masters. It could not serve peace production—lavatory seats, I think, was an example—and war production, with tanks, and guns, and so on. I think his solution was to make the Minister of Supply the head of the war service organisation, and he skated over what was to happen to peacetime production. As I see it, the most important function of the Minister of Supply at present is to concern himself with peace production. That, of course, is going to increase in the future. Possibly the best solution would be to detach from the Ministry of Supply those organisations which were concerned primarily with war production. We could, possibly, put them under a separate head, take, for instance, the royal ordnance factories, and put them on the same level as the three Service Ministeries, over which the Minister of Defence would have complete supervision. I do not want to press that point, because it would probably be far too complicated to put into effect at the present stage.

I rather gathered from the Prime Minister's speech that the position in peacetime was that he should have a kind of remote responsibility over all affairs connected with defence, and that the Minister of Defence in peacetime should have the chief responsibility. Then, should war come along, it was quite possible, and indeed seemed most probable, that the Prime Minister would become, as well as Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence. That would probably have the effect of weakening the position of the Minister of Defence, and I see no valid objection to having the same kind of organisation in wartime as in peacetime, the Prime Minister having overriding responsibility, and, underneath him, still as Minister of Defence, the peacetime Minister. Having made those remarks, not from a very high level, or from any experienced views of Imperial defence—I have no qualifications for that—the only thing to do is to welcome the setting up of the Ministry, to welcome this White Paper, and to express the hope that it will never have to be used fully in any time of war.

5.49 p.m.

Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)

I rise to give the point of view of an ex-Air Force officer on matters relating to the air as far as the White Paper is concerned. We have discussed the three fighting Services, but the situation has changed considerably in the last 10 or 15 years. I realise that during the war it was necessary for the Prime Minister to be chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I agree that it is not necessary today, because Prime Ministers of all Governments are very busy men, particularly Prime Ministers of today. The Chief of Staffs Committee, which was formed early in the twenties, is stated in the White Paper as being necessary because of the advent of the air. I would go further, and say that this Committee was brought about through the tenacity of Lord Trenchard. If it were not for this great Air Force officer, there would not have been a separate Air Force at all. I well remember when the Army and Navy were trying to split the Air Force between them. The two parts may not have been of the same size. However, attempts were made to get control of the R.A.F. But, that great officer made it absolutely impossible for that to happen, and did all he could to consolidate his Service against heavy opposition.

The new Minister has big problems to face, and they are going to be connected with modern weapons of the air. As I see it, all we are doing in this White Paper, which I think is an excellent White Paper, is regularising the structure we had during the war, which functioned very satisfactorily. At the moment the Chiefs of Staff and the planners are functioning satisfactorily. The machinery, as it has gone on, has steadily improved. But what will be the position when Lord Montgomery and Lord Tedder retire from their present positions? Will the position be as good then as it is today? We shall have younger men coming along who have not got their prestige, or perhaps their wartime experience.

I am afraid that the Chiefs of Staff who are coming along will have difficulty in stating their case to the Minister, because between Lord Tedder and Lord Montgomery there is some measure of team work. They were together during the war, and they brought the machinery of coordination to be just about as perfect as it could be, though there is much room for improvement. I am sure that the Minister will do his utmost to make the fighting Forces into one Service even though the actual change will not be effected, because I do not think the time is quite right for that to take place. Will these officers be able to state their case effectively? I very much doubt it. Take the case of the late Air Minister, who was in office for 12 months. We know that for much of that time he was out of the country on service other than that of his own Ministry. We have a new under-Secretary, who, if I may say so, is doing his job well. The new Air Minister is now in America. That may be necessary, but I hope the Minister of Defence will keep his Ministers on their jobs and see that they are fully employed looking after their respective Services. If they have to go abroad, let them do so to see their troops and equipment overseas. Not sufficient of that is done at the moment.

A thing that is worrying me is naval aspirations. I know I am on dangerous ground when presenting this point of view to the right hon. Gentleman, but I have seen it happening over a number of years, and quite recently over the allocation of airfields, particularly in Malta, where the Navy could not operate aircraft during the war, and it had to be left to the Air Force. Nevertheless, the Navy have three or four out of the five aerodromes at Malta. These questions have to be decided on the basis of strategy and an allocation which sees that the Air Force and the Army get a square deal in this matter. What will be the right hon. Gentleman's reaction when the Navy ask for Coastal Command, because that has been an aspiration of the Navy for years, and even today they are thinking quite aloud on this subject? I have heard it suggested that the right hon. Gentleman is almost web-footed after his many years of excellent work at the Admiralty. I hope that he will be guided in these matters by people who know something about the air and its possibilities. During the war the Navy virtually had operational control of Coastal Command, and if the Navy wanted flying boats to go out to intercept submarines they went at the call of the Navy, whereas in the Middle East the Air Force itself ran the coastal Air Forces. I was not in that Command, but I am told that it was very effective under Air Force control.

Here we have two different types of command, one at home and one in the Mediterranean, and the matter requires much consideration and regularising. I quote that particular case only because, as I see it, in a war, if Bomber Command has to support Coastal Command in carrying out operations, it would not work so well with Coastal Command belonging to the Navy rather than where it does now, to the Royal Air Force. I agree with the White Paper that it would be quite wrong to amalgamate the three Services now. We are not ready for it, and in my experience I have seen great difficulties in the American Air Corps, which comes under Army control. Eventually we may one day see our three Services wearing the same uniform, working under one chief, but at the moment I think it is better to go on as we are, intermingling the personnel more than before, so that officers and men of one Service spend some time in the other Services, thus getting to understand their point of view.

I wish to refer to the question of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, which was touched upon yesterday. Here is a most important organisation. It is a young Ministry, and I have heard it suggested that it may fold up in a few months time, when the Minister of Transport will take it over. I hope that is not true, because if we are called upon in future to participate in a war it will be a great potential to help us out if we have these aircraft available, as Hitler had, transport aircraft available in the early stages of the war. I notice that Admiral Tovey made a statement the other day in South Africa about the closing down of the flying boat base at Durban. He said that it was a great pity, and that it has been, and would be, invaluable to us. I hope that the Minister will give the Ministry of Civil Aviation a fair hearing in matters which affect the strategy of the three Services.

The Minister of Supply has a difficult task. It is stated in paragraph 12 of the White Paper: In many respects, however, we were in 1939 dangerously unprepared for war. Qualitatively our Navy and Air Force were not badly equipped, but there were serious gaps. I well remember one gap which may not have been serious from the point of view of many people. It was at the beginning of the war when I was sitting at Croydon in a Gladiator with four guns and two wings. There was no paint to cover the silver, we could not camouflage it. The Minister of Supply must coordinate all the requirements of the Services. His task in seeing that the Services are properly equipped is enormous.

So far as the Dominions are concerned, I am told that we are willing at this end to play our part to the full, and that it is the Dominions who do not take advantage of that offer. I do not know whether that is true. I am told that it is the politicians at the other end. We should hold out an open hand to them and give them a welcome to come in as much as they wish to do so. Furthermore, we should widen their sphere of influence. For example, Australia should have a much bigger say in the affairs of the Pacific area, much more than she has ever had hitherto. Colonial defence is also concerned. I am glad to see from the White Paper that the full resources of the Colonies are to be utilised, as this Government are responsible for the defence of the Colonies. I wish to see more initiative taken in this matter, because, in places like Hong Kong, Singapore and Ceylon, millions want to help us in an emergency. We have never yet taken advantage of that. I remember, in Hong Kong, a local defence corps which numbered some 1,500 men. We did not allow the British-Chinese to wear our uniform and to help us. When war came we were in a very sad plight indeed. I beg the Minister to see that the local people in these Colonies are allowed to participate to the full in helping us out when the time comes. I trust the Government will be broadminded in all matters relating to the Colonies. I wish the new Minister and his Ministry well. I ask that he will become air minded and take that into full account when considering all his problems.

5.58 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Mackay (Hull, North West)

I am very glad to have an opportunity of intervening in this Debate. I wish to deal with the last part of the White Paper. The first four parts deal with the Ministry of Defence in this country, and so hang together. Those parts are welcomed. Some Members opposite have referred to passages in Part V as complacent, which to my mind is an understatement. It would have been much better if that part had been left out altogether. The reason is that it concerns a problem which should have been dealt with in much greater detail, and also with much greater knowledge and imagination. We have had speeches this afternoon from hon. Gentlemen opposite raising the question of the Dominions. The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) has said that the Dominions do not have full opportunity given to them to share in Imperial defence, or perhaps they do, but whatever the position is something should be done. Coming from one Dominion and having been in two others, I suggest that the real problem here is that hon. Gentlemen—and this applies to all parts of the House—are not facing the facts and the changes which have taken place in the development of the Commonwealth in the last 20 years.

We have had a Debate for two days on this White Paper, one section of which deals with Commonwealth defence without any reference to the agreement between America and Canada for the creation of a Joint Defence Board or that between New Zealand and Australia for the defence of the Pacific. Yesterday, the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) referred to this matter. He put it higher than most other hon. Members probably would put it. This sentence shows the complete lack of understanding of the problem and the failure of most people to think out this problem for themselves in the new circumstances. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said: 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 30th October. 1946; Vol. 428 C. 653.] If these two things are incompatible we have either to give up Imperial defence or the freedom of the Dominions—one or the other. Will any hon. Gentleman suggest that the Dominions will give up their freedom of action? They will not, and because they will not, there can be no Imperial defence. I am not arguing that their unwillingness to give up their freedom of action is a good or bad thing; I am trying to put the position as it is. This is the fundamental problem. There is no Imperial defence and, in fact, there never has been much. The White Paper says very clearly: While all are willing to consider and adopt practical proposals for developing the existing system, it is agreed that the methods now practised are preferable to any rigid centralised machinery. We can have one of two things. We can have a proper federation of the British Commonwealth, and then we could have centralised machinery for defence, or we can say that there are a number of independent nations who will come together and cooperate, but then we would not have any real machinery of any kind. The Dominions would never agree to federate and will never come to an Imperial Conference willing to limit their powers. I am not arguing whether that is right or wrong. I am trying to show that some of the stages in the growth of the British Commonwealth of Nations in the last 20 years make Part V of this document little better than utter rubbish. The official report of the agreement between Canada and America shows clearly the way in which Canada is thinking, and the way in which she is developing. The Agreement provides for a permanent joint Board of Defence. There is not such an arrangement between Canada and the United Kingdom or between the Dominions and the United Kingdom. It will be impossible to secure such an agreement between those bodies, because their problems are not the same. Canada thinks of her problems of defence in relation to America. She thinks of her problems in direct terms in relation to America, and she wants a centralised defence machinery not with Great Britain, but with the United States. The agreement provides: This permanent Joint Board shall commence immediate studies relating to sea, land and air problems including personnel and material The agreement was made on 18th August, 1940, and is now in operation.

In relation to Australia and New Zealand the same problem arises. I do not suggest for one moment that the Dominions have any complaint in regard to general Imperial defence. If one looks at the history of the matter before this war, one can see how little, in the main, the Dominions were willing to contribute to the defence of the Empire. The failure of Australia to contribute to the defence of Singapore is, of course, the best example of what I mean. But they are very conscious of their own defence problems and, while in a world war they will give help (a) to the Mother Country, and (b) to other countries on the same side, they are not a bit interested in the Mediterranean and Europe. They do not want to take part in any Imperial defence machinery. They have already entered into an agreement between themselves which has been ratified by both Parliaments. This agreement, which was made in 1944, provides in Article 13 that the two Governments agree within the framework of a general system of world security—not within the framework of any Imperial defence or upon some machinery acting upon the advice of an Imperial Conference for the defence of the Empire but within a framework of a general system of world security—that a regional zone of defence comprising the South-West and South-East Pacific areas shall be established.

I think an hon. Member suggested that in this matter we should have an Imperial secretariat. That is exactly what the agreement provides between those two Dominions for defence in the Pacific, and that is what they will create. They are not prepared to come into a similar organisation with this country, and for the Empire or the Commonwealth as a whole, because they realise, as it is about time hon. Gentlemen in this House and people in all parts of our Dominions should realise, that the British Commonwealth, if it is to be a world-wide organisation, is too big for its own defence and cannot defend itself. For this little island with 48 million people to have borne the brunt of this defence in the 19th century when sea power was all that mattered, may have been possible. It is completely ridiculous and out of line with the resources of the country to suggest that we can go on trying to think that either in the air, on the sea or on the land this island is sufficiently strong in manpower and materials to carry on the defence of a world-wide organisation such as the British Commonwealth. That is why I ask hon. Members to realise that the whole tendency in the Empire today is along different lines. The present attitude is not to look to Empire defence at all but to look to the United Nations organisation. As a realist, I certainly would not argue that we could sit down and say that we need not bother about our defence but that we will do just what the United Nations organisation tells us to do and that will be adequate. I do not put my case as high as that. All I say is that the British Commonwealth is a world wide organisation, and because it is a world wide organisation it is too big for the United Kingdom to defend it. It may be said that the Commonwealth could defend itself if all the members would agree to federate—which they will not—because then we would get the power necessary to provide for all the different defence matters which are raised in the White Paper and have been discussed during this Debate.

We have to face this problem. If we are to have five or six British nations all standing alone as independent Sovereign States in different parts of the world they have to build their own defences in relation to their individual problems with one another or with other countries. Australia and New Zealand are not interested in the defence of the Atlantic; even Canada will not be interested in the defence of Europe. Australia and New Zealand think in terms of the Pacific.

That is what they are doing at present and what they have done ever since the war with Japan. I would like to develop this subject further at great length if I had more time at my disposal, but I will put only one further consideration to hon. Members. Hon. Members will recall that some years ago the then British Ambassador in Washington made a speech in which he advocated for the Commonwealth—and I am taking his words: A common policy in foreign policy, defence economic affairs, Colonial questions and communications. In reply to this suggestion, Mr. Mackenzie King, for Canada, said: I maintain that apart from all questions as to how the common policy is to be reached and enforced, such a conception runs counter to the establishment of effective world security and, therefore, is opposed to the true interests of the Commonwealth itself. I would like to read the whole of the passage but that is sufficient to bear out the point. Mr. Mackenzie King put it in a polite way. He said if we were to have a common policy, that would conflict with their obligations to the United Nations as a whole. It is clear from the attitude adopted—which is a right one from their point of view—that he was telling the world that in Canada they look to the United States for their defence because their problems are associated with the United States and, therefore, they are not willing to enter into defence commitments of the Commonwealth as a whole. Australia and New Zealand are taking exactly the same line. They know perfectly well that the United Kingdom was unable to defend them in 1942 because she was otherwise engaged.

They do not blame the United Kingdom for that. They know they are to blame for not being prepared, as most members of the British Commonwealth were to blame for a similar reason. They also say that they are not interested any more in defence problems which involve them in other parts of the world, but they will build up around the United Nations, or will work up a defence system in their own area. I ask that, at some stage, the further consideration of the Government should be given to this matter.

We have to defend these islands, and the twentieth century is going to see the Government of Britain withdrawing from their commitments abroad, and, when they have withdrawn, we shall think of defence in terms of Great Britain only and of Great Britain's part as a member of U.N.O., and not as the centre of an Empire. I have not the time to touch on the Colonial aspect, but I ask hon. Members to face the implications of the things they have been saying. If they talk about Imperial defence, they must either bring the Dominions together into one political organisation, or realise that they cannot do so and allow each Dominion to go its own way in setting up its own system of defence. I wish that a great part of the White Paper could be brought up to date in this way, and that hon. Members would realise the significance in the history of the Commonwealth of the Canadian-American defence agreement and of the agreement between Australia and New Zealand for their own defence.

6.12 p.m.

Commander Maitland (Horncastle)

I hope the hon. Member for North-West Hull (Mr. R. Mackay) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his most interesting but rather provocative speech, because I want to deal with another part of the White Paper. Neither do I propose to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey), though there are some points raised by him which I feel I might go on to argue at some length. It is very difficult for anyone who has only served a year in this Parliament not to speak with a great sense of temerity on an occasion such as this. We only saw the pieces of the great jigsaw puzzle which made the war, and, in this House today, are many hon. Members on both sides who saw the whole and managed to succeed in putting it together. Therefore, my remarks are essentially tentative and meant to help.

I propose to speak on only two points. The first is a minor point, but sufficiently important, and I think, the second very important. Throughout the Debate, great interest has been shown in the suggestion in the White Paper, of amalgamation between the Services at some future date. I am not in a position to be able to say whether the time is ripe now or not. I only know that, in all the Services, the matter is being discussed with very great interest by the personnel of the Services themselves. I think that something should be done at once gradually to produce amalgamation and to make the duties which the Services perform more interchangeable. It should be started now because, during the war, the Services achieved a far greater measure of mutual understanding than we had ever had before and the reason for that was because we were driven into it by the force of circumstances. There is, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, a tendency to break away after a war, and for each Service to go on their own hooks. I remember only too well the rather sordid arguments that went on between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force about the question of the Fleet Air Arm after the last war, and, if hon. Members want another example from the field of foreign affairs, they have only to remember how the ties between great Allies, who were bound together by what Kipling called "the bond of common funk," are very quickly loosening. I think that, if we are going to have any amalgamation, we ought to do something now, so that we should not lose the good position we are in through the force majeure of the war, which has drawn the Services closer together.

I suggest that a good way of forwarding these principles would be to allow officers of the three Services to serve as executives in the other Services for a period of two years at some rather junior period of their service. I believe it would work. I am only speaking from the naval point of view, but I feel it would help in two ways. First, it would give the senior officers of the Services a far better understanding of the other Services than they can possibly achieve from staff courses, and, secondly, and this is not an unimportant point, these officers would pick up the best tricks of the trade from all the Services and amalgamate them into their own, which would largely assist the amalgamation. I leave that point there, because it strays rather away from the White Paper itself.

That brings me to the second point, which I regard as the most important problem with which we are faced today, and that is the correct distribution of manpower. I think that, if there was one lesson which we learned during the war, it was that of the vital importance of the distribution of manpower and of getting the correct balance. I fully understand that this matter is appreciated in the White Paper, and, in the Prime Minister's excellent expositon yesterday, he also underlined, in various ways, how much he realised its importance, but I am not sure whether the weight does not sometimes come in the wrong place. For example, in the White Paper, in paragraph 27, we are told: The new organisation must be such as to ensure that the resources available for defence are laid out to the best advantage in terms of manpower, weapons and equipment," etc and then we go a little further on to find: The Chiefs of Staff will advise the Defence Committee on our strategic requirements from year to year. It will then be for the Service Departments to translate these requirements into terms of men, money and supplies. I believe that that is putting the cart before the horse. I think that the problem of manpower is the basis of all strategy, and that on it depends the major strategy which we are going to employ, the type of weapons we are going to try to produce or the types of ships. These points were dealt with by the hon. Mem- ber for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) in a very important speech, in which he said that strategy was bound up basically with these questions. Anybody who has ever had to make a plan knows that it is most important to know the things one cannot do, and the weapons one cannot use. It is almost as important to know this as to see clearly the objectives which one must attain. That is why I think the discussion of manpower is really more important than even the White Paper or the speech of the Prime Minister indicates.

The Minister of Labour is a member of the Defence Committee. We talk of the right hon. Gentleman in this House as Minister of Labour, but we must not forget—and many of us have forgotten—that he is the Minister of Labour and National Service. I think that there is something in the name, and I would like to see him called Minister of National Service and Labour, because I think this business of national service transcends his other duties. In the minds of most of us, I think that the qualifications for a Minister of Labour—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

As the hon. and gallant Member knows, he has already deviated a good deal from the White Paper, and I do not think that he can now go into the qualifications for a Minister of Labour.

Commander Maitland

I apologise. I was trying to say that, during this Debate, there has been a general tendency to try to choose some member of the Defence Committee whose name is detailed on the White Paper, and to choose him as a leviathan, or a whale, or some other great beast. My fear is that it may be the Minister of Labour who really is that great animal, although I must point out that this is in no way an attack on the right hon. Gentleman who so gallantly held that post during the war.

This is really a very serious problem. We talk about the concept of total war. It is not just a matter for lip service; it is a very terrible fact. Total war needs total handling. I have a horrible thought that there is something about this White Paper that makes it look a magnificent organisation for the war of 1939. The key to total planning is manpower. In conclusion, I would like to quote Lord Montgomery, who made a very good speech the other day in which he stressed the development of mechanical and scientific warfare. He said that still, above all else, man counts. Of course, he was right. I would like to say to the Government today that I think their first duty is to count their men.

6.22 p.m.

Mr. Zilliacus (Gateshead)

I should like to comment a little on Part V of the White Paper in very much the same spirit as did my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hull (Mr. R. Mackay). As various speakers in the Debate have observed, the term "collective defence" in the White Paper is used as a coy term for Commonwealth or Empire defence. On the question of Commonwealth or Empire defence, I found myself yesterday, somewhat to my own surprise, in complete agreement with an observation that fell from the lips of the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor). Agreement with him on my part is such a rare phenomenon—perhaps a unique phenomenon; I hope not, but I fear it may be so—that it is worth quoting his words with which I fervently agree. He said, speaking of Imperial defence: The burden on the British taxpayer is immense. It is more than the British taxpayer can bear. It we continued 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 …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT Wednesday 30th October, 1946; Vol. 428, C. 653.] However, I thought that his remedy for this situation was illusory. It was a remedy that was echoed in various tones throughout the Debate, mostly by hon. Members opposite. My hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hull has already commented sufficiently on the proposal that the Dominions should, somehow, be obliged or compelled to play a full part in organising, jointly with us, the defence of the Empire. The thing is not practical politics; they just will not do it.

There are other strange illusions on this subject. I was astonished to hear the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), when opening the Debate for the Opposition yesterday, criticise the failure of the White Paper to provide sufficiently for Dominion cooperation on the ground that, as he said, … the great striking force of naval power is chiefly in the hands of the people of this country …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Wednesday, 30th October, 1946; Vol. 428, c. 636.] Surely, it cannot be a fact concealed from this House that, since this war, the United States have a Navy greater than all the other Navies of the world combined, including our own. Nor, surely, can the fact be unknown that air power has largely outclassed naval power. If we do not know these things, the Dominions do. Australia and New Zealand cannot forget the fact that they had to rely, primarily, on the United States to defend them in the last war, through no fault of our own, but because it was impossible for us to defend them singlehanded. The Prime Minister of Australia commented on this fact when he returned from the Empire Conference last spring, which is mentioned in the White Paper.

We have the very highest authority for the view that it is impossible for us to defend the Empire singlehanded. On 18th February, 1937, an important Member of this House said: … if you are really trying in this policy to arm this country on a unilateral defence basis, and suggesting that we can vote the money and organise to defend the British Empire, all that I say is that you are exceedingly foolish. You have never fought a major war yet without allies, and powerful allies, and you have no hope of defending the whole of the far-flung stretches of the British Commonwealth with unilateral defence. "[OFFICIAL REPORT, Thursday, 18th February, 1937; Vol. 320; C. 1411 and 1412.] The author of that statement was my right hon. Friend who is to be the Minister of National Defence. I think that what he said then was entirely true. The White Paper mentions further regional associations for common defence and seems to interpret that as meaning the association of the Dominions with the Mother Country. In their treaty, Australia and New Zealand contemplate a regional association embracing, not only the Mother Country and other Dominions, but also the United States and other Pacific countries, such as France and the Netherlands. The Canadian treaty of alliance with the United States has already been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hull.

After the Empire Conference, which is mentioned in paragraphs 37 and 38 of the White Paper, Mr. Mackenzie King made a declaration to the Press to the effect that Canada could not agree to terms of association between the members of the Commonwealth that were exclusive, but would only cooperate on terms that would permit other like-minded nations to participate. The Canadian Press put their own construction on that by saying that the whole conception of Empire and Commonwealth defence was out of date, and that it must be included in something larger, something centring on the United States. During his recent visit to the United States, Lord Montgomery talked about the possibility of standardising military equipment between this country and the United States. General Eisenhower's visit here must have some significance in that connection. The Anglo-American Joint Chief of Staffs Committee has not yet been dissolved.

In fact, what is happening is that while we are talking about Empire and Commonwealth defence, a series of de facto military arrangements are growing up between the Commonwealth and Empire, on the one hand, and the United States on the other. If history shows anything, it is that one cannot enter into military, naval or air agreements, however technical or limited their quality, without those agreements carrying with them political commitments and obligations. Whereas "collective defence" means "Empire defence," Empire defence is, in practice, coming to mean the formation of an Anglo-American bloc under American leadership, treating the U.N.O. as so much thin air and building up a balance of power against the U.S.S.R. That development is regarded by some of us with a great deal of apprehension for, as Henry Wallace has just said, the United States appear to be acting on the supposition of war with the U.S.S.R

Collective defence should be made really to mean the collective organisation and maintenance of international law and order on the basis of the Charter and in cooperation with other States, and should not be allowed to mean either a back-breaking attempt at single-handed Empire defence or a drifting into an unavowed Anglo-American power bloc run by Uncle Sam. In its first four chapters the White Paper outlines an admirable central organisation. That is a thing for which hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House have pressed for a great many years. I would like to join in the satisfaction which has been expressed on both sides of the House at having achieved this goal, and I would like humbly and sin- cerely to add my congratulations to those of other hon. Gentlemen at the appointment of my right hon. Friend. No better man could have been found for that responsible post. In paragraph 21 the White Paper relates its own specific proposals to what it calls questions of high policy in the sphere of defence. I would welcome some sign that this policy on the highest level in the sphere of defence and in the related sphere of foreign policy really exists, that we have a policy which looks to the organisation of peace on the basis of the United Nations, and is not content to let things drift as they are drifting now. Our defence organisation resembles a pithed frog. A pithed frog can hop about in the most lively fashion, but its brain does not function and, therefore, it cannot adjust itself to the changing environment and soon expires. I hope in our defence organisation that the questions of high defence policy, which are the collective responsibility of the Government, will really be dealt with in a modern 1946 international fashion, on the basis of the Charter, and will not simply be guided by the reflex actions of the "brass hats."

6.32 p.m.

Mr. Molson (The High Peak)

Perhaps the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) will pardon me if I do not follow his speech. I notice that the Treasury Bench are usually able to provide any reply which is necessary to the hon. Member for Gateshead, and, therefore, in the few moments in which I mean to speak, I will refer to one concrete and practical point to which I hope the right hon. Gentleman, whom I would like to congratulate upon his appointment, will direct his attention. I want to speak about what in the past has been anti-aircraft defence and what, perhaps, in the future might be called anti-aerial defence. In all the branches of warfare there is none where development has been more rapid and revolutionary than in that sphere. There was no anti-aircraft defence before 1911. It was developed very rapidly and to a high state of efficiency between 1914 and 1918, and then it was redeveloped between 1935 and 1945.

One of the pecularities of this kind of defence is that it is almost impossible for the defence to anticipate what the next form of aerial attack will be. It has been the difficulty of anti-aircraft defence always to have to try to overtake the initiative of the attacker. In the case of the last war, by the time we had developed a technique for dealing with piloted aircraft those attacks upon this country had ceased. They were then followed by unpiloted aircraft and it was, I think, the great achievement of Anti-Aircraft Command, and especially of Sir Frederick Pile, that that battle was, in fact, won. But hardly had it been won before the rocket attacks upon this country started, and down to the end of the war anti-aircraft defence had no reply to the rocket. Taking the case of searchlights first, we were always behind the attack. In the early stages, there were no effective means of guiding the searchlight on to the rapidly moving aircraft which were produced by the time the war started, and when "Elsie," as it was generally called, controlled by radar, was perfected—and it was, indeed, perfected—those attacks upon this country had come to an end.

What one is anxious to know—perhaps it is not necessary to know, but one is anxious that the Defence Ministry should apply their minds to this—is whether there will be scope for searchlights in anti-aerial defence in the next war. This is essentially a matter which falls between the Army and the Air Force, and I am coming on to the question of the special responsibility which the right hon. Gentleman must bear in dealing with this new form of attack. I will pass over the more technical points, and I will come to the question of organisation in the last war. There was a most unfortunate division of control of anti-aircraft defences between the Army and the Royal Air Force. Anti-Aircraft Command was trained and administered by the Army, and it was under the operational control of the Royal Air Force. That resulted in certain very unfortunate consequences. There was, in fact, a complete separation between Anti-Aircraft Command and the field force. It is generally known that in the Army, Anti-Aircraft Command was referred to as "Tim Pile's private Army". It is the case that in matters of training and technique, and "A" matters—that is, the transfer of personnel, and so on—there was very little difference between the two, and the field force were very unwilling to accept the cooperation, which, I think, was offered by Anti-Aircraft Command. As an example, the num- ber of searchlight units was being rapidly expanded by the Army at the time that Air-Vice Marshal Leigh Mallory had decided not to use searchlights against the enemy aircraft which were invading this country. This is the kind of problem with which I hope the right hon. Gentleman who is to be the Minister of Defence will concern himself for the future. It was, perhaps, to the great advantage of Sir Frederick Pile's "private Army" that he was the first soldier who fully appreciated the immense importance of scientific research. In Professor Blackett he had a scientific adviser for the development of anti-aircraft defences, who was afterwards, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, taken on by the Admiralty to advise them on similar matters.

Mr. A. V. Alexander

Navy trained.

Mr. Molson

He was Navy trained, and returned ultimately to the Army. It is a little disconcerting that the right hon. Gentleman is still so keen to prove how the Admiralty has always been the most progressive of the Services. Brigadier Schonland, who had organised the scientific research for Anti-Aircraft Command, was taken on by the War Office and was the head of the Army operational research. I hope that, when he comes to reply, the right hon. Gentleman will undertake to ensure that the scientific research which is needed now for the three Departments will be given very high priority by his new Department, that there will be the fullest cooperation in obtaining the best men, and also in making the results of their work available to all three Services.

This division that occurred was, of course, due in the first place to the fact that anti-aircraft defence is, to a large extent, military, and it would be most unfortunate if the artillery officer were not in future trained for anti-aircraft defence as well as for field work. It is also a fact that the actual defence must be closely integrated with the Royal Air Force. It is essential for anti-aircraft defence to be closely connected with the Army and closely connected with the Royal Air Force. Therefore, I hope this will be one of the subjects which will come especially under the control of the right hon. Gentleman. These anti-aircraft problems are not only those of war; they are problems of peace also. During the 100 years of peace, between 1814 and 1914, the coastal defences of this country were, to a greater or less extent, manned. In the 20th century it will be equally necessary for the anti-aircraft or anti-aerial defences of this country to be manned to a greater or less extent. It is an immensely difficult problem. The great moral difficulty of Anti-Aircraft Command was the monotony from which the men suffered, even in time of war when they were required to maintain vigilance. The problem will be even more difficult in time of peace. Something will have to be done to ensure that the anti-aerial defences are in some degree maintained in time of peace; and that is one of the most difficult responsibilities which the right hon. Gentleman will have to undertake.

6.41 p.m.

Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)

I was a little surprised that the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson), who spoke about anti-aircraft defences, did not mention the name of the man who deserves the greatest credit of all for the fact that our air defences of Great Britain reached such a high peak of efficiency, namely, Sir Henry Tizard, who is to be appointed, as we are informed by the Prime Minister, scientific adviser to the Defence Minister. I hope the Defence Minister will make it clear that he will call Sir Henry Tizard into his meetings on all possible occasions. Personally, I would desire Sir Henry Tizard to be just as much a normal member of the group which the Minister consults as the Chiefs of Staff concerned.

In the White Paper, lip service is paid to the closest integration of science and military planning. But one is conscious of the fact, as the Prime Minister underlined, that while it is very easy to have official phraseology it is a very different matter in practice to find the necessary personalities who will work smoothly together, so that what appears on paper becomes a reality. We heard a speech from the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) which was in unusually conciliatory language. It nevertheless contained a proposition which I would like to refute, namely, that we are, in some way, engaged in some kind of Commonwealth bloc with the United States of America directed against Russia. That is the purest nonsense. I do not believe there is anybody in this House who has the slightest desire, in any circumstances whatever, to get involved in a war with the Soviet Union.

Mr. Zilliacus

My hon. Friend must not put words or imputations into my mouth which were foreign to my thoughts. I never suggested that any one in this country—or for that matter the great mass of the people in the United States—wanted war with the Soviet Union. I said we were drifting into that position, owing to lack of a policy.

Mr. Blackburn

I listened very carefully to the words the hon. Member used, and the hon. Member did suggest that the bloc was directed against the Soviet Union.

Mr. Zilliacus

It is.

Mr. Blackburn

Those were his exact words. If the hon. Member desires to withdraw them, I will accept his withdrawal. The hon. Member has said far worse things than that on other occasions. I consider that this, if I may say so, with great respect, is due to his courage. However, I have dealt with him sufficiently in making that comment.

We had a number of suggestions earlier from hon. Members opposite to the effect that it is desirable that there should be the closest consultation between the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence. I find that a little astonishing; I find it a little peculiar that hon. Gentlemen opposite should, on the one hand, say that we on this side are the harbingers of the slave State, and on the other hand desire themselves to be brought into the closest possible consultation with my right hon. Friends. I only desire to add a few more sentences on this subject, because it has been raised by at least five hon. Members opposite. I put this point to my right hon. Friend. I think—and I speak with nothing but the greatest admiration for the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, for whom I have a very great and sincere personal admiration—it would be disastrous if the world had the impression that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was being taken into the councils of His Majesty's Government. Only last week, on Wednesday, he surmised that there were 200 Soviet divisions in certain quarters of Europe. On Friday he announced it, as a fact, that there were 200 divisions in this area. This week, once again it has become a surmise. If His Majesty's Government are to be in any way involved in vacillations of that kind, on a matter fundamentally important to the whole world, it seems to me it would be dangerous.

Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)

Surely the Government should know how many divisions the Russians have there? My right hon. Friend was asking for information, because it is a matter of the utmost importance.

Mr. Blackburn

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman reads "The Times" today he will find the statement there that we refuse to give the Soviet Union or to the world, the details of our military dispositions.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

It does not follow that they do not know what those dispositions are.

Mr. Blackburn

Can it therefore be suggested for one moment that His Majesty's Government are in a position to give accurate information about the military dispositions of foreign Powers? In any event, I leave that point where it is. I desired to come down to the fundamentals of the White Paper. I put it to my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio, that what matters here is not so much what we may think in the House of Commons—what the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite may think, or what I may think. That is not the issue in this case. The issue is what people in Western Europe will chink, and what people in the United States of America will think. There is an impression among certain people—perhaps ill-informed people-that there is some measure of collaboration between the Government Front Bench and the Opposition Front Bench on matters of foreign policy. I hope that will be denied and then the whole doctrine of continuity of foreign policy will be whittled.

I turn to the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) about the Ministry of Supply. I think there is some substance in the point he made, that it is not desirable that the Minister of Supply should have such an enormous range to deal with as the Minister of Supply now has. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned lavatory seats. The matter is not quite as simple as that. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot is not in his place, but he knows perfectly well that it is not so simple. The reason lavatory seats are supplied by the Minister of Supply is because lavatory seats are part of the aluminium house; the reason the aluminium house is supplied is because the aluminium house is a prefabricated house, and the machinery which produced bombers, was necessarily the same machinery which was most suitable to produce prefabricated houses. Therefore, I submit—and I hope the Minister without Portfolio will deal with the point—that the Minister of Supply ought not merely to deal with the production of warlike stores but also with all branches of peacetime production necessary to keep the war potential itself alive, bright and moving. It would be the grossest folly for the House to assume that a line could be drawn between military research and development on the one hand, and industrial research and development on the other.

The jet-propelled aircraft is an immediate illustration which probably will have greater importance industrially than militarily. It is perfectly obvious, putting it broadly, that the problem here is that of the nationalisation of scientific research and development in general. In fact, one can never be certain whether a particular invention will be useful solely for military purposes, or solely for civilian purposes. Therefore, this ought to be linked up with the proposals which I believe are now maturing for a national research development fund, which will also ensure the proper development of scientific discoveries in all fields. May I give one final test to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence on this matter? Air-Commodore Whittle was convinced in 1931 that he could produce jet-propelled aircraft; but it was not until 1936, five years afterwards, that he was able to get the great sum of money necessary to develop jet-propelled aircraft. It is quite undeniable that, but for the advent of the war, jet-propelled aircraft would not have been developed, though obviously they are equally useful for industrial and military purposes. I suggest to the Minister without Portfolio it would be a very good test to adopt in relation to these scientific matters to ask himself this question: "If a similar inventor were to arrive two years from now, and he came to my organisation, would I take the necessary steps to see that his invention was developed, or would there be the same failure to develop it as there was in the circumstances of the preceding case?"

I turn to another matter, the subject of Commonwealth defence. I think it a little unfortunate that more stress has not been laid upon the need for scientific liaison. There is, in fact, in Washington a remarkable development. There is a British Commonwealth scientific mission where Australian, New Zealand, British, Canadian and other scientists are working together in the closest cooperation and are doing all they can to get what information is available for the benefit of their Governments. I very much hope that, at some stage, it may be strengthened by the creation of a British Commonwealth Scientific Office, to be responsible not merely to the British Government, but to the British Commonwealth as a whole, and paid for by the British Commonwealth as a whole. I feel certain that if we see that development in the near future it will yield valuable results. I hope we shall have Commonwealth missions in other parts of the world. In Moscow, there is only one scientific liaison officer, and he represents Australia. I hope we shall have scientific liaison officers in many capitals.

I should like to make one further observation, in a spirit of some levity. When I listen to hon. Members opposite—the younger ones and those who sit on the Front Bench—I am sometimes tempted to wonder which are the younger in their ideas. We have heard a good deal of talk about Imperial defence. Surely, it must be perfectly plain to all that we cannot, on the one hand, be annoyed when Mr. Henry Wallace accuses us of Imperialism, and, on the other, talk of Imperial defence. On the contrary, we ought not to talk about the British Empire. It was the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, I think, who was responsible for coining a far better phrase, "British Commonwealth and Empire." We hope, on these benches, that in 10, 15, or 20 years from now the last two words, "and Empire," will be eliminated from that title. Let us speak in terms of Commonweath defence, and not in terms of Imperial defence.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Why does the hon. Member object to the term "British Empire"? It is something of which most of us are extremely proud.

Mr. Blackburn

I am not objecting to the term "British Empire." I am saying that the view is held on these Benches—and, I think, by many hon. Gentlemen opposite, and by the right hon. Gentleman-that we do not regard the British Empire as being in the same position today as in the past. We now believe in the concept of self-government; and, surely, it is perfectly plain that if we are prepared to allow self-government to India, and yet hope that India will remain within the security framework of the Commonwealth—which is the most important subject, as I see it, in the present Indian negotiations—we must be logical and go further, and talk about "Commonwealth and Empire," but look forward to the elimination later on of the words "and Empire." Having listened to many speeches in this Debate, I am bound to say that the impression any unprejudiced observer would have is that hon. Members opposite—even, perhaps, some of the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite—still have their minds centred on the kind of ideas that had currency a hundred years ago. We can no longer think in terms, and it would be stupid for us to think in terms, of Imperial defence based on the British Isles, for the simple reason, if there is no other, and as was pointed out by an hon. Member, that the British Isles themselves are going to become indefensible.

The hon. Member for The High Peak talked about searchlights, but I cannot understand how searchlights can have any relevance to the situation today. We only just succeeded in picking up rockets on radar at the end, and it is confirmed on the very highest authority, as the Minister of Supply knows, that aircraft are likely to be more used for defensive, as well as offensive, purposes in five to ten years' time. That is the situation we occupy today, and it is essential that we should now plan Commonwealth defence, so far as we are able. The whole future of the British way of life depends on that. It is essential that we should broaden our defence conceptions; and, above all, we must no longer put before the Americans and the people of Western Europe the idea that we regard this island as essen- tially the capital country of the British Commonwealth and Empire. I should like to see the capital not always located in London, but shifted periodically to Sydney or Ottawa and elsewhere. The hon. and gallant Member opposite laughs. But does he know the logical consequences of his laughter?

Brigadier Head

If the hon. Member will allow me to say so, I was laughing at the idea of trying to shift all the communications and all the establishments of Whitehall, which the Members of his party are making very much bigger, to Sydney. It struck me as being highly impracticable.

Mr. Blackburn

The hon. and gallant Member does not appreciate that London, in addition to being the capital of the British Isles, happens to be the residence of His Majesty. My suggestion would merely involve the transference of the official head of the British Commonwealth to another part of the Commonwealth, and it would involve having conferences in that other country itself. I am sorry however that I got into this altercation with the hon. and gallant Member.

A great deal has been said about the advance of science and of the effect of the advance of science on warfare. It was admitted by an hon. Member opposite that dispersion is necessary but difficult. The British Isles themselves could not be less vulnerable than either the Soviet Union or the United States of America. We must look forward to the creation of such a worldwide Commonwealth system, that nations will not think that, merely by destroying London or by destroying part of Britain, it will be possible to eradicate the influence of the British Commonwealth, or to reduce it from being anything but what it is—a great world power, which can and will, I hope, exercise a magnanimous influence on world events.

6.58 p.m.

Mr. Digby (Dorset, Western)

The hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the argument he has put forward. Nevertheless, I shall be interested to hear, when the right hon. Gentleman replies, whether he is to consider renaming the Defence Committee the Commonwealth Defence Committee or not. I should like to make it clear straight away that, in general, I am much in favour of the proposals of the White Paper. It has three very obvious advantages which have been fully dwelt upon already. It preserves the Chiefs of Staff system more or less intact; it gives a senior Minister overriding responsibility for defence, which has been lacking before; and, thirdly, it gives the right hon. Gentleman opposite a better job, which we all feel he deserves.

I should like to say a word or two about the disadvantages, not from the higher level from which they have tended to be looked at so far, but from a slightly lower level, the G2 or G3 level; because it is very easy to forget, when we talk about Service Ministries, that they are not composed entirely of generals, admirals and air-marshals.

First, I should like to say a word about the question of coordination, which, I understand, is going to be carried out by the Defence Minister. We want to know a little more about how the thing will work. It does not seem to be entirely a question of coordination at the top. I cannot believe that it is really as simple as that, because, after all, when matters have got to the high level of the Chiefs of Staff or Ministers, they have a great deal of work behind them. In each of the Service Ministries there are a number of staff officers, each of whom is charged with some particular aspect of policy, and it is the coordination of those views which forms the briefs given to the Chiefs of Staff. One of the things which has been most sadly lacking in the past and in the last war has been contact between the lower grade staff officers of the various Ministries. They have been in watertight compartments to a surprising degree. Each of the three Ministries has been organised on lines of its own, and the result has been that most officers have not known at all who were their opposite numbers in the other Ministries, or if they have known, they have seen very little of them. I hope that the Minister of Defence will remember that, if there is to be increased coordination between the three Services, it is absolutely essential that it should go a little lower down than it has done in the past. A way must be found of allowing the junior staff officers to work very much more closely together than they have done in the past.

We have also been told or led to believe that in addition to coordination the Defence Ministry will undertake a certain amount of originating. It is not very easy to see from the White Paper exactly what is meant by that, and I very much hope that we shall be given a little more on this subject when the right hon. Gentleman comes to reply. What kind of imitative will he take? Will he just ask for reports on specific subjects or will he go further than that? Will there be any form of general direction? I hope he will be able to tell us more about that when he comes to reply.

These proposals, which are very good as far as they go, fail, I think, to go far enough to remove some of the defects which many of us have thought we saw in the machine as it works at present. It is impossible to deny that in the last war there was a very great deal of duplication between one Service Department and another. For instance, in the field of intelligence, there is no doubt at all that the same piece of intelligence was being worked upon by a great number of people many of whom never met each other, and I hope some form of rationalisation will be introduced there. Again, turning to the sphere of supply, we find that the War Office and the Air Ministry had each its own supply department. On the other hand, I believe I am right in saying that the Admiralty placed its orders direct. That does not seem to me to be a logical set-up. In the last war, especially in the earlier stages, it resulted, as we know, in a number of competing priorities, so that when a factory was tooled up for the production of something for the War Office, a higher priority came along from the Admiralty, and a great deal of time was lost. I hope that some way will be found of making sure that that kind of thing does not happen again, and that the organisation in each of the three Service Departments will be made to resemble that in the others very much more closely than is the case at present.

Now I should like to say a word about the Defence Committee, which was described by Lord Esher, who was really its father, as "the coping stone of the whole edifice." He used these words in a letter to Lord Balfour in 1903, and he used them again on many occasions. Undoubtedly, in his mind it was the most important of all the reforms that were undertaken at that time. His view of it, however, was that it was a committee for "purposes of preparation and not action", and he went on to say that it had "no executive function." I take it from what the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister said that the present conception will be rather different, and I should like to know just how far that will be the case. How far is it to be an instrument of preparation, and to what extent has it become executive?

With regard to its size, I, like a number of other hon. Members, am very disappointed that it is to be so large. The Prime Minister told us that he believed that the Cabinet should be as small as possible, and I think that is right, but I cannot see why the same argument does not apply to the Defence Committee, because as I read the White Paper the intention is to enlarge it. Even without the enlargement there would be II people present, which is quite a lot, and with the addition of the Lord President, the Chancellor, and the Minister of Labour the number is brought up to 14. That seems to be an additional argument for leaving out the Chancellor and the Lord President, because I have a horrible feeling that if so many Ministers are put on the Defence Committee the civilian element will become unduly strong, with the result that there will be a tendency for arguments there to be repeated almost word for word in the Cabinet, because almost every Member of the Cabinet who is concerned with these questions will already have gone through them at the Defence Committee.

That brings me to another point I should like to make which I do not think has been made yet. Although I welcome the fact that the Services are to have one powerful spokesman in the Cabinet, I do not quite like the idea that the Service representation in the Cabinet has been cut down to one-third. It has been reduced very much, which is placing a very severe burden on the shoulders of the right hon. Gentleman. He alone will speak in the Cabinet for the Services, except when there are special occasions which call for one Service Minister or another to be present; and we must note in passing that the Minister of Supply will not be there either, so that as regards Service questions the right hon. Gentleman will be alone in the Cabinet and a very heavy responsibility will, therefore, fall upon him. I very much hope that he will be able to make his voice heard as loudly as if there were three people, as has previously been the case. I am all for a small Cabinet and for the kind of grouping system which was advocated by Haldane. This is a beginning in the direction of a smaller Cabinet on those lines, and I should like to make it clear again that I welcome that. I think, however, that it has begun at the wrong place, and that in a Cabinet of the size of the present one, which is still extremely large, it is insufficient to have only one Service representative. If he were indisposed there would be nobody there at all to represent the Services.

Finally, I should like to say that I welcome these proposals but I feel that we should remember that they are only a nibble at a very great problem. They have stuck to what has been proved in the war, and that is right, but it may be necessary to go further. I hope that in the course of his duties, in which we wish him all success, the right hon. Gentleman will remember that, and will remember that further reforms may be necessary to bring the three fighting Services closer together.

7.10 p.m.

Flight-Lieutenant Crawley (Buckingham)

I shall detain the House for only about five minutes. I had intended to say something on the well-flogged horse of collective or Imperial defence, but all I wanted to say was said so much better by my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hull (Mr. Mackay) that I will leave it to him. The only point which I want to take up was mentioned by the hon. Member for Western Dorset (Mr. Digby), that of the organisation of intelligence. It is a subject which is very difficult to speak about in this House, and one must speak of it only in general terms. Obviously, if the right hon. Gentleman who is to become Minister of Defence is to be responsible for general questions of strategy on the highest plane, much of his thinking will depend on the intelligence with which he is supplied. Intelligence comes from various sources which are responsible to different Departments, and I know that in peacetime they are responsible to many non-military Departments. I suggest for my right hon. Friend's consideration that what can rightly be called intelligence is a matter of defence, whether in peace or war. I think it is obvious if one looks at it. In peacetime, when we carry on good relations with a foreign country, information is easily obtained from numerous sources. It is in the areas of the world where our relations are not intimate that information of a factual kind is not easy to come by, and that is where the word "intelligence" has more meaning. The real responsibility for direction of intelligence at the highest level should be with the Minister of Defence. It is very difficult to argue this case without giving instances, but I suggest that at the beginning of the war there was a great deal of misinformation, a good deal of friction and great delay in the accumulation of information. Tremendous improvements were made during the war, and the Joint Intelligence Bureau and the Higher Intelligence Committee worked extremely smoothly; I know that they worked very well at the highest level at the end of the war. I suggest that there are still delays in coordination, which is the main business of intelligence work, both in coming up through the organisation and in going down. By "coming up," I mean delays because there is too little coordination at the various lower levels, and, therefore, it takes much longer to get facts coordinated and sifted than if it was done lower down. Secondly, the return of information from units in the field and other sources through the highest levels where it is coordinated is very often too slow. I am sure that hon. Members could give innumerable instances where valuable information was not used because it arrived too late. I press the Minister to consider this question seriously with a view to revising the whole of the chain of responsibility of our intelligence organisation, not in the administrative departmental fields, but at the highest levels.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)

The Government have been generous in their allocation of time for this Debate. They have given us two whole days, but I do not think they have been overgenerous, because it is a subject of immense significance, and it is important that Members in all parts of the House should have a full opportunity to express their views. The House will agree, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree, that we have had good speeches in this Debate from all parts of the House. It is perhaps invidious to single out any of them, but certainly among those I have heard to which I would make reference were the speeches made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head), my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble), the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay), and the hon. and gallant Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Captain Chetwynd).

There is, I think, broad agreement on the basis of the scheme. That is not in dispute. The Prime Minister, as he mentioned in his speech, was good enough to consult some of us about these proposals, and therefore any comments and suggestions which I shall make in the few minutes I propose to detain the House. are, I need hardly assure the right hon. Gentleman, intended in a constructive spirit. The right hon. Gentleman has had a great many good wishes during these two days. I do not think I ever recollect an occasion when, in so long a Debate, so many good wishes were extended to a Minister in His Majesty's present Government, and I doubt whether it is likely to happen again in the near future. We wish the right hon. Gentleman success. We know that he has his heart in this work, as he had his heart in the work he did at the Admiralty, and we are confident that his tenure of office will be as distinguished in this sphere as it was in the Admiralty. He is going to find it awfully difficult to forget his present sphere; I have watched him struggling at times during the Debate, but I hope his self-discipline will duly be imposed.

The right hon. Gentleman has an immensely responsible task. We live in a rapidly changing world. It is essential that we should keep abreast of these changes, both in thought and action, and that will be the right hon. Gentleman's main task. The rapid development of weapons during the recent war, and especially in its later phases, has already been referred to. It has already shifted to some extent the basis not only of tactics, but of strategy—in particular, the growing importance which weapons of long-range action have assumed, and I include under this heading the long-range bomber, whatever projectiles the long-range bomber may drop, the remote controlled projectiles, the V-1 and V-2, to say nothing of the later forms of these weapons which, for aught I know, have been developed since we ceased to be in office. The growing importance of these weapons must inevitably affect the respective functions of the three fighting Services, and in particular the role of the Air Force; their relation to naval and ground strategy would appear still to be changing and likely to increase yet further in importance.

The reflection I would leave on the House, in this connection, is that the new Minister will be confronted with conditions which may be expected to change at a rate greater than anything we have known hitherto, and it will be his task and the task of the Defence Committee, not only to keep us abreast of these changes and of all the consequent developments in research and equipment, but to ensure that the implications of these changes receive full weight in the apportionment of resources to the three Services, and the roles allotted to those Services. I think I have carried the right hon. Gentleman that far. I would add this warning to the House. In conditions of war, the changes and the consequence of changes are constantly visible to all our eyes. The dread process of war illuminates every development. On the other hand, in times of peace the significance of changes which may be every bit as far reaching as those that take place in war may, indeed, be over-looked, with fatal consequences. So, vigilance in this sphere is the special task of the right hon. Gentleman and the Defence Committee.

With these thoughts in mind—and I hope the Government agree with me thus far—I want to come to the question of the composition of the Defence Committee, about which a good deal has been said in this Debate. I do not want to be dogmatic about it, but I notice that the Prime Minister himself said that the scheme of membership was tentative. I must reiterate, however, the doubts which I have heard expressed from more than one quarter of the House as to whether it is really necessary or wise for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be a permanent member of a Defence Committee. I need hardly say that there is nothing personal in this; if you like I will say, "a Chancellor of the Exchequer," and not, "the Chancellor of the Exchequer." Briefly, I will say why. First, the tasks which are enumerated for defence, and the allocation of the available resources between the Services to give effect to that, is not properly, I suggest, the responsibility of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The conception of treating defence as a whole, which is implicit in this White Paper, means that the allocation of the available resources so that they may be used to the best purpose by the Services, should be arrived at on purely defence considerations, in which Treasury considerations have no part at all. That, as I see it, is the responsibility of the Defence Committee as advised by the Chiefs of Staff. I should, therefore, have thought that the Chancellor—whose importance I by no means seek to minimise—should have been brought in at a later stage.

I know that the right hon. Gentleman may say that it is important to carry the Treasury with him, that they should understand what the problems of defence are, and that they can only understand that if they are in the Defence Committee. I would beware of that argument. The right hon. Gentleman may not be the only little Red Riding Hood to be gobbled up by the Treasury wolf, and I think he would be wise if, at the stage where he is entirely concerned with the allocation of resources for defence, and not in relation to allocation of our general national income, he would confine himself to those who are directly concerned with the problem. The Chancellor's responsibility should come in where it should—in relation to all expenditure. Why the Chancellor should be included, and the Minister of Transport not included, I cannot understand. I ask the House to note that it has been proposed that the Minister of Transport should be a permanent member of the Defence Committee. I do not suggest that myself, because I think it is important to keep the Committee small, but he should be a Minister who can be summoned, as Lord Leathers was frequently summoned to our discussions during the war. I cannot conceive why the Chancellor should be more intimately connected with the work of the Defence Committee than the Minister of Transport.

As for the Dominions Secretary, what the Prime Minister said about his position should go far to meet some of the criticisms which were uttered in another place. It has to be remembered—and nobody knows this better than the Prime Minister who once held that office—that the Dominions Secretary has special contacts with the High Commissioners. During the war, these were daily contacts. It is essential that he should have sufficient knowledge of the work of the Defence Committee, in so far as it affects any of the Dominions, to enable him to make those contacts with the High Commissioners as useful as possible. That should suffice, and I myself would not urge that the Dominions Secretary should be a permanent member of the Defence Committee, again, because it is so essential to keep the number small. The number always has a tendency to swell, in any event.

This brings me to the arrangement for defence coordination with the Dominions, which are alluded to at the end of the White Paper, and about which a great deal has been said in the Debate. I do not think that any of us are really happy about a system which rests on liaison officers alone. We are all aware of the limitations of liaison officers. I hope my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) will not mind me saying that, in spite of his own distinguished war record in that capacity. They are the means of transmission of information, but they are not meant to be, and cannot be, a satisfactory channel for consultation. What is needed is something to bridge the gap between the work which these liaison officers can do and those consultations at the highest level, the Ministerial level, which inevitably must be rare in the circumstances of geography, and the many calls on Ministers in their own countries. I take the same encouragement as my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton)—I hope, not wrongly—from paragraph 39 of the White Paper, which I read to mean that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom hope it will be possible to find something to bridge this gap. The paragraph says: These proposals …. will pave the way for machinery which, while giving full play to the independence of the Member States of the Commonwealth, will be effected as a means of consultation and collaboration. I do not think that the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) need be apprehensive about anybody on this side of the House wanting in any way to take away the independence of the Dominions. There cannot be anybody in the House so foolish as to suggest anything of that kind. It is a question of what machinery you can create between States which are absolutely equal.

Mr. Blackburn

Then does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the use of the word "Imperial" is to be deprecated?

Mr. Eden

Perhaps I do not get worked up about these words as I should. I have heard the word "Empire" used in many parts of the British Commonwealth, by spokesmen of all parties. I rather favour the term which was coined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill)—"The British Commonwealth and Empire." That should satisfy everybody.

Now let me come back to the White Paper. In paragraph 31, which I welcome, it describes the relations of the Minister of Defence with the Chiefs of Staff. That is the most important part of the whole Paper. The value of the Chiefs of Staff organisation during the war was proved beyond challenge. What we have here—and some of my hon. Friends took part in that organisation at various levels—is only a reinforcement of what the right hon. Gentleman and my colleagues and I experienced at firsthand. I agree, in particular, with the words: On all technical questions of strategy and plans it is essential that the Cabinet and Defence Committee should be able to have presented to them directly and personally the advice of the Chiefs of Staff, as the professional military advisers of the Government. Their advice to the Defence Committee or the Cabinet will not, therefore, be presented only through the Minister of Defence. I am sure that is right, and that the right hon. Gentleman will insist upon it. I am glad, too, that the joint staffs for strategic planning, intelligence and administrative planning are to be retained. I do not think there is any doubt that the J.I.C., in war, was an invaluable means of pooling information which reached us from various sources, whether from the Service Departments or the Foreign Office, and which thus presented to the Defence Committee and Chiefs of Staff a planned appreciation, based on all the sources of information which were available to us. It is well known that that machinery was not available in the last war, and I think that it would have been very helpful to us if it had been. One point was raised about the Colonial Economic Advisory Committee. We understood the other day from the Colonial Secretary, that that Committee was not to be brought into the work of the defence organisation. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what are the facts? The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) raised the question of the functions performed by the Minister of Economic Warfare during the war. As I understand the position from this White Paper—and I shall be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would tell us if we are right—these functions, which I agree are very important, will become part of the responsibility of what is now to be called the Joint Intelligence Bureau, which was the Joint Intelligence Committee. I would like to know if that is so.

Paragraph 30 of the White Paper lays down the Minister's task in relation to the administration of inter-Service organisations. That is a very important issue to which I would call the attention of the House. I have no criticism myself to offer that the Minister will assume control of these various organisations; I think that he has to do so if they are to retain their inter-Service character, and that they should be on his Vote. But I think that I ought to utter a word of warning. Looking at this White Paper, I have tried to make a little calculation. Besides being the responsible Minister for the J.I.C. and inter-Service organisations which I have mentioned, he is also to be Deputy Chairman of the Defence Committee, Chairman of the Administrative Committee and Chairman of the Production Committee. He will have under him the joint staffs of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and be responsible for the Joint War Production staff, the Defence Research Policy Committee and the consultative committees of the principal personnel and supply officers. That has become a very alarming list. What I fear for the right hon. Gentleman is the danger that he will tend to be entangled in all sorts of administrative detail, and will not have the time to stand back and view the large issues of strategy and defence, which should be his chief responsibility. I would say to him that he should watch that tendency most closely. He must have time to think, and, if he is going to carry out all these duties, he will not have time to think. There will be a tendency, as those who know Government Departments are aware, when there is some difficulty to put it on the desk of the Minister of Defence. That is what he has to watch.

Several Members in this Debate have said how incongruous it is that, so soon after the end of a war which has resulted in the elimination of the military power of our particular enemies, and almost eliminated them from the list of nations for the time being, we should be discussing, in this way, the organisation of our defence. I do not think that it is really so strange. I found the speeches of the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock) and the hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich (Major Vernon) very strange indeed. They seemed to think that we should be upsetting the work of U.N.O. I cannot follow that reasoning at all. If it were known to the world that we had scrapped all our defence policies, I doubt whether, in present conditions, we should be making a very great contribution to peace. On the contrary, I should say that in this we were fulfilling the terms of the Charter by which we are instructed to work out arrangements for regional defence. Article 53 says: The Security Council shall, where appropriate, utilise such regional arrangements. Whether arrangements of this kind within the Commonwealth and British Empire can be termed regional or not may be arguable, but no one can dispute that what we are now doing is in close harmony with U.N.O.

One hon. Member went so far as to say that this was not a Central Defence Organisation, but a central attacking organisation. I do not think that anyone can really think that. There is a great safeguard against central attacking organisations in this country, and that is the complete liberty and freedom of the people to read the views of other nations and to express their own. That is a tremendous safeguard. One will not see a democracy which so conducts itself indulging in an aggressive war. That is impossible.

I wish the right hon. Gentleman good fortune. I happened on Sunday to find this passage in Gibbon, which I will leave with the right hon. Gentleman. Describing the consequences of the discovery of gunpowder, which is reminiscent of what the hon. Member for King's Norton was telling us about the atomic bomb, Gibbon wrote: If we contrast the rapid progress of this mischievous discovery with the slow and laborious advance of reason, science and the arts of peace, a philosopher, according to his temper, will laugh or weep at the folly of mankind. I fear that at the present moment, so far as atomic energy is concerned, the philosopher is more likely to weep than to laugh. My hope is that the right hon. Gentleman, through his organisation, will take a constructive step, so that we may succeed, where Gibbon records we failed in the case of gunpowder, in harnessing this energy for the benefit of mankind.

7.38 p.m.

The Minister Without Portfolio (Mr. A. V. Alexander)

I should like to thank hon. Members in all parts of the House for the very friendly reception given to the Command Paper on the Central Organisation for Defence. A certain amount of criticism, mostly constructive, like that of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), has been offered, with which I will try to deal.

The Prime Minister and I both appreciate that the thoughtful and almost unanimous welcome given to the main structure of the defence organisation which we propose indicates that the House has not forgotten all the lessons which it has learned in the last ten years and will support the Government in seeking to secure the greatest efficiency in the Defence and Supply Services. While we continue to labour unceasingly to establish the effectiveness of the United Nations Organisation in the settling of disputes and in maintaining the peace of the world, we must not in any case return to that condition of unpreparedness which is described in Paragraphs 12 and 13 of the White Paper.

In view of the nature of the Debate, I felt, last night, thinking it all over, that a would be best, in the first place, to deal with some of the detailed comments and criticisms.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), who opened for the Opposition yesterday, made, I think, a helpful speech, and I am very grateful for his kindly personal references. He referred to the proposed composition of the Defence Committee and questioned, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington has done, the inclusion of a number of Ministers proposed by the Prime Minister—the Lord President of the Council, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Labour. I would remind the House, as well as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot, that when the present Prime Minister was Lord President of the Council in the War Cabinet, he was also a member of the Defence Committee, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the Coalition Government, I think, and certainly in the later years of the war, almost invariably attended the Defence Committee.— [Interruption. ] —That is my very sincere recollection, but I will check it again. I prepared my notes late last night out of my head, but that is my recollection. In face of the growing problems of manpower as the war lengthened, the Minister of Labour—now the Foreign Secretary—was a regular member of the Committee. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot will further study our postwar position, I think he may agree that the inclusion of these three Ministers is justified.

We have to organise our defences now in the light of the overwhelming necessity of restoring our national economy, and failure to restore our national economy would make much of our defence organisation completely nugatory. The first essential to national defence is to get back to something like a healthy national economy. The Lord President of the Council is in general charge of our economic activities. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is equally concerned not only with financial policy, but with all the various branches of industry, which he has to help by all means possible, and which will all be part of the war potential in the kind of preparation we have to make for war of a kind that we might have to anticipate if we are not able to maintain peace. The Minister of Labour is also the Minister of National Service, and, in view of the very great difficulties about manpower, has also to be included. It has been suggested that all these Ministers could be consulted at a later stage, but it is, in our view, fundamental that they should be in at the consideration by the Defence Committee of the Service Departments' proposals at an early stage, a procedure which will not only save time and also much waste of labour, but will make it easier for the Defence Committee to take definite decisions within the sphere of responsibility entrusted to it by the Cabinet.

While, of course, because of the helpful way in which the Debate has been con- ducted, we shall carefully look at the suggestions which have been made, I do not at present see that there is any great necessity to make any change. With regard to the suggestions that have been made about other Ministers, the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) referred to the experience of the Minister of Transport during the recent war, and the struggles I used to have at the Admiralty with Lord Leathers. They were always very friendly struggles, and, believe me, the Minister of Transport was not always in the right, although anyone with the hon. Gentleman's family name would certainly think he would be; but we shall endeavour, in all these matters, to see that there is proper consultation on all occasions with the Minister of Transport. But what is fundamental is that we should continue to have that interlocking of the problems at the staff level, such as we had during the war. I think it was a member of the hon. Gentleman's own family who was constantly rendering me, as well as the Minister of Transport, such very great services. I shall certainly seek that kind of cooperative spirit in trying to facilitate the planning of the future.

Mr. Maclay

I said in my speech that I had no fears of any kind about the immediate future. Can we be certain that 20 or 25 years from now, if we are still threatened with war, there will be a Minister of Defence who will even remember the existence of the Minister of Transport, who will presumably be looking after roads, and one or two other odd things?

Mr. Alexander

I cannot answer as to who will be the personnel at Ministerial level in the future, but from what I have got to know during the last 20 years, I am certain that the Staffs of the Services will see, through more efficient Staff College work, that their descendants in the profession will not forget to remind the people concerned of the lessons of the recent war. I was very glad to hear the remark of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington with regard to the Chiefs of Staff. In view of what he said and of his quotation from the White Paper, all I need do is to assure the House, without any qualification whatsoever, that there is nothing in these arrangements that we propose which will hamper the Chiefs of Staff in their work or in the fullest and freest expression of their views on strategic requirements. I should regard it, especially in view of my experience during the war, as grossly improper if the Minister of Defence, while holding the right to ask questions and check up in every possible way on the plans suggested, were to withhold, or to seek to check, the flow of information from the Chiefs of Staff, or their personal opinions, directly to the Cabinet.

Yesterday, the right hon. Member for Aldershot queried the absence of any reference in the White Paper to the part to be played in the new organisation by the Ministry of Transport. It is, of course, true, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells) that peace conditions are not the same in this respect as they were in time of war. It goes without saying, however, that on any matters which do raise transport issues, especially in relation to the preparations to be brought into effect in the event of war, there will be the closest contact with the Ministry of Transport.

The hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lieut.-Colonel Clifton-Brown) criticised the lack of cooperation between the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force, in certain specific services. His points will be considered, but I could, on the other hand, give him a large number of instances of most helpful and cordial assistance rendered by the Services to each other. I think it is true to say that the Services in this last war were almost compelled by the very circumstances to get more closely together than they ever had been before, and I am certain it will be a part of my function, if I am appointed to be Minister of Defence, in conjunction with the Staffs, to promote that in every possible degree. The need can, I think, be met by good will being shown upon all sides. We shall do what we can to improve it, but in regard to a number of points that have been raised—for instance, in the speech of the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Digby)—I can say that, in regard to getting down to the lower levels, we hope that the setting up of the Joint Services Staff College for officers of all three Services of more junior rank than those attending the Imperial Defence College will be a very big step in that direction.

I was greatly interested yesterday in the thoughtful and analytical speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall. With a great deal of what he said in the earlier part of his remarks, when he was referring to the speech of the right hon. Member for Aldershot, I am in general agreement. On the points of detail which he made, I entirely share his view that there must be always the closest contact between the Minister of Defence and the Chiefs of Staff. As regards the actual arrangements to be made, either in connection with the allocation of available resources between the Services, or in connection with our Civil Defence organisation, I do not think he will expect me to commit myself today. We will see how things work out, and all that he has said will be considered. My hon. Friend the Member for Balham and Tooting (Mr. R. Adams) made a valuable contribution to the Debate, especially on meeting the needs of the Services, and also the training of officers. His points also will be examined.

The right hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Sir C. Headlam) made a speech in the Debate yesterday and I should like to thank him very warmly for his general support. He gave his reasons for resisting any amalgamation of the Services. I hope he will appreciate that in the White Paper we are making no revolutionary proposals in this respect beyond the administrative questions of common interest to the three Services, and in view of what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington has said on this question of the administration of common services, I think I could say to him, and to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who raised the point last night, that they may be sure that we shall consider every proposal with due regard to the maintenance of professional efficiency and the avoidance of duplication of overheads. Very often one may get some suggestion for amalgamation which will still leave an administrative department to be run in each field of the three Services; the whole of the facts must be very carefully examined and weighed up in each case.

The suggestion of the right hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle-upon-Tyne with regard to the Dominions Secretary has been better answered by his right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington than it could be by me perhaps, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman opposite will direct the attention of his right hon. and gallant Friend to what he has had to say in that respect. I might assure hon. Members opposite generally who have raised the question of the Colonial position in this matter of the central organisation of defence, first of all, that the Colonial Secretary will be brought into the Defence Committee whenever Colonial questions are under consideration. On the other point, mentioned I think in the course of the Debate this afternoon, with regard to the Colonial economic body which is now operating, I feel certain that I can promise that its operations will never be left out of account by the staff set up which will be considering the different questions, where it is in respect of production, planning, or anything of the kind. I will make a special note to have a word with the people concerned about it to see that it is taken into account.

Major Legge-Bourke

While I thank the Minister for that information, may I ask whether there will be any direct liaison between joint war production staffs and that body?

Mr. Alexander

The hon. and gallant Gentleman raised this point tonight only and I have not had an opportunity of doing anything about it, but perhaps my promise that I will look into it will meet him. The right hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle-upon-Tyne suggested yesterday that not only should Members of the Opposition be consulted on foreign and defence policies, but that there should be a defence sub-committee which Opposition leaders could attend. There may be times in the business of the House and in the general responsibility of the country when it would be a very good thing to have consultations upon high matters of foreign policy and defence. Consultation—yes. But when I come to consider the request about the defence sub-committee I must point out that the whole set-up of this defence organisation means that the Defence Committee will be an instrument of Government, and an instrument of Government, I submit to the House, must be the entire responsibility of His Majesty's Government.

I did not hear the whole of the speech made last night by my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) but I agree with him that there is need for great care not to get overloaded with detailed administration, and this argument received strong support tonight from the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington. No one is more anxious than I not to be overburdened in that direction. The Minister of Defence has always been so close to the Foreign Office, and the right hon. Gentleman was in the Foreign Office for so long, that perhaps he knows how nice it is for the various departments of the Foreign Office just to deposit something on the Defence tables and let them deal with it, although I do not suppose that that was what he had in mind when he was using the illustration. It will be my constant concern to keep my eye on things to see that my Ministry does not get, as was suggested elsewhere, cluttered up by unnecessary detail. I would say to the hon. Member for South Cardiff that I can understand his yearning to direct his attention to other than defence matters, but I was glad to note that he retained a realistic view of the situation. I am sure he recognises that in present circumstances the need for efficient maintenance of the minimum forces required to meet our commitments, first to the Commonwealth, but also to the United Nations organisation cannot be gainsaid.

The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) made special reference last night to economic intelligence and this point has been taken up again by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington tonight. I can assure them from my personal experience in the war—and I am looking at it again now—that every possible use is being made of our economic information both for general purposes as well as for defence Service purposes. It is essential that we should do so, and we shall also do our best to maintain the very high level that we reached through the M.E.W. and to use that generally, both for our economic recovery purposes as well as making it available to the Defence organisation. The hon. and gallant Member for Seven-oaks (Colonel Ponsonby) made a number of points last night which I have covered, but I cannot help just saying to him that whilst there are experts sitting in another place—and we always study their reports and speeches with very great care—I do not think that he should forget that we also have experts available to us who, in some cases, might be regarded as a little more up to date in their active contact with present day conditions.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman the junior Member for Preston (Wing-Commander Shackleton) and the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Macpherson), together with other hon. Members who spoke in the course of the Debate yesterday, stressed the need to carry coordination between the Services right down to the lowest level. With the objects they had in mind I have the greatest sympathy, and I can assure them that it would be the aim of the new Minister to press for coordination of effort wherever that is both practicable and desirable. I would, however, remind them that there are already in existence many examples of effective collaboration between the three Services, and further, that it is highly desirable that the new Ministry should concentrate its attention, at least in the first instance, on matters of major importance and not allow its time and energy to be dissipated over too wide or too detailed a field of activity.

To the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) I would return the same general reply, but I can tell him that I appreciate very much, as I feel sure do my Service colleagues, the force of his contention that our aim in relation to the fighting Services should be to provide them, in the event of need, with—and I cannot do better than quote his own words— an efficient fighting force in which the tail is kept as short as possible and the teeth as long and as keen as possible. If he had lived through the long nights of the war with his right hon. Colleague on the Front Bench opposite and the present Prime Minister, and had heard the arguments with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) about the tails of the forces he would be quite sure that I needed no reminder.

Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

I did ask the right hon. Gentleman two specific questions dealing with earlier points about the Dominions: (1) Would the High Commissioner for the Dominions be invited to attend the meetings of the Dominions Committee; (2) would the same invitation be extended to visiting Ministers from the Empire?

Mr. Alexander

I am going to say something towards the end of my speech about Dominion and Commonwealth Defence questions, so perhaps I may be allowed to deal with that matter then. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) suggested that in dealing with the overall requirements of the Armed Forces and the apportionment of available resources, we should approach the matter first of all by determining how much was available for them, before we decided to what extent and in what direction the Services could undertake the various commitments which they were expected to undertake. I am afraid that he is advancing a point of view which has been the subject of a very great deal of criticism. For myself, I prefer the plan contemplated in the White Paper, under which the Defence Committee will first consider the strategic requirements, as represented to them by the Chiefs of Staff and those requirements will then be translated into terms of men, money and materials, and presented by the Defence Minister to his colleagues as a comprehensive plan, and if necessary to the Cabinet, before the Defence Committee decides what share of our national resources can be made available for the purpose of defence. In my view, this is not only a more realist approach but one more balanced, and more calculated to give us the kind of effective defence scheme required at any given moment.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) in the course of his remarks asked to be given some idea of the size of the new Ministry. As I am not yet appointed Minister I do not see how I can be expected to do that. At the moment, I cannot, therefore, give him a precise answer, but I would remind him of paragraph 34 of the White Paper, which indicates that although the functions now to be assigned to the Minister of Defence are such that it will not be possible for him to operate only through a small Secretariat, there is no expectation that he will need a large staff. Moreover, if it will reassure the hon. Member for West Dorset the Minister of Defence will have, in addition to his principal advisers, a relatively small staff in his own Department, partly civil and partly military, which, in addition to dealing with the day-to-day business of the Ministry, will provide the secretariat for the Committees and the joint staffs through which the Minister will mainly work.

I should like to turn for a few moments to the question which has been raised by more than one hon. Member concerning the relation between the new Central Organisation for Defence and the work of the Admiralty and the Ministry of Supply in the sphere of production for the requirements of the Armed Forces. As the right hon. Member for Aldershot pointed out yesterday, there is a distinction between the provision of supply for the Navy and the provision of supply for the Army and the Air Force. For the particular needs of the Navy the Admiralty itself were responsible during the war, and will continue to be responsible under the present proposals of the Government. Although there are a number of things, like clothing, which used to be provided for separately, and which are being gathered up into the general service provision by the Ministry of Supply, I do not think that Ministry want to be asked to undertake the care of the Government's dockyards or to supply certain types of naval equipment.

On the other hand, responsibility for furnishing a considerable range of stores and equipment for the Army and the Air Force is vested in the Minister of Supply. It was emphasised yesterday that, in the case of the Admiralty, there was the closest possible connection between the function of research, development and production on the one hand, and the function of the user on the other. That is true, but it must not be thought that because similar responsibility for the Army and the Air Force rests with the Ministry of Supply there is not the closest contact between the Air Force or the Army and the Ministry of Supply. All those who use the equipment when produced are brought into consultation. This point is constantly borne in mind. I was asking the Minister of Supply about it again today. He tells me that there are technical Service officers working in the Ministry of Supply at all levels, who maintain constant contact with both Army and Royal Air Force. If there is at any time doubt about that, and hon. Members are not satisfied with the position, I am sure that my right hon. Friend and myself will be glad to look into the matter.

The. right hon. Gentleman yesterday thought it inappropriate that the Ministry of Supply, in addition to its responsibili- ties for the Armed Forces, should be charged with other functions apparently of a wholly civilian character. I want to remind him that even in the list of articles to which he made a somewhat humorous reference, there are several items which would clearly be required by the Armed Forces in the event of war. Moreover, and much more important, we must not forget the need to maintain the production machinery of this country on a footing which has due regard to the needs of our war potential. Even current orders and current production programmes must be placed with that consideration in view. We must, indeed, foster all possible technical advances in peace production which will have a vital effect upon our later war preparations, if such a course should have to be followed.

If the Ministry of Supply is to perform its functions quickly and effectively in time of war, it must always maintain with industry the kind of contact represented not only by current production requirements of the Armed Forces but also also by civilian requirements, more especially in the engineering field. One of the greatest points that we must keep in mind is that we must keep always available for our war potential the production of skilled workers who will then be required. I can assure hon. Members like the hon. Members for Accrington (Mr. Scott-Elliot) and Elland (Mr. Cobb), who referred to various aspects of the production problem, that both I and my colleagues have taken due note of what has been said. We shall endeavour to secure the greatest possible liaison between the two Departments in working out our plan in the field of research and development, and in the field of production we must constantly bear in mind the need of securing in peace the most effective preparedness for a smooth and rapid reorientation of the national resources to the needs of our defence, should occasion arise.

I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that in the changing world that kind of policy has to be followed, no matter how costly and expensive our research and development programme may be. In consequence of all that, we must take the utmost care to pool our resources and, as far as we can, to correlate scientific research for defence Services with the constant expansion of scientific research for civilian purposes. After all, we have not got such an enormous pool of scientists on the highest plane that we can afford to be prodigal in their use upon this, that, or the other project. We shall do our best to keep them all together.

A new field of vital concern for defence purposes has been recently opened up with the General Staff. I want the House to note that the Minister of Supply has already said to me, in regard to his side of the matter, that he is anxious to get the greatest amount of cooperation. From the appointment as Chairman of the Committee on Defence Research Policy of Sir Henry Tizard, who rendered us such great services in the war and who had been constantly in touch with all branches of the Services, I feel that we shall make a very good beginning of our task in that direction.

I shall leave some of the rest of the notes because I do not want to keep the House too long, but the House would not forgive me if I sat down without saying a word or two about the many speeches which have been delivered on those paragraphs of the White Paper which are headed "Collective Defence." That is in Part V of the White Paper. Let me, first of all, deal with the comments which have been made on the choice of the words of the heading. The term "collective defence" was not used in any attempt either to hark back to ideas prevalent before 1939 or to find some particularly innocuous expression in substitution for "Empire" or "Commonwealth." It was used simply and solely because this section of the White Paper deals not only with Colonial defence and with contacts on defence matters with the Dominions, but it must deal with any measure of collective defence which may be organised under the aegis of the United Nations. There has been no disposition on the part of any hon. Member to quarrel with the idea that all our defence measures at home and overseas must be looked at against the background of our obligations to the United Nations organisation. That, and that alone, provides the explanation of the form of wording used in the White Paper.

There is, I think, general acceptance of what is said in paragraph 40 on the subject of Colonial defence, more especially of the proposal to revive the Overseas Defence Committee as a sub-Committee of the Defence Committee in London, charged as it was before the war with surveying the whole field of defence preparations in the Colonies and their correlation with the general picture of Imperial defence. I was greatly interested in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg). In the first place, I would say to him that His Majesty's Government entirely endorse the tribute he paid to the great contribution made by the Colonies to the war effort, and that the Government are fully alive to the importance of raising the standard of life in the Colonies and to the relationship of this aspect to that of Colonial defence. As he will be aware from his own experience in the House—he was in the House when we passed it—we have a long-term plan for the financial and economic development of the Colonies which is of the greatest relevance in this context. As regards the postwar control and administration of Colonial Forces, this is a matter which the Government have under review at the present time. The advantages of War Office control of Colonial land Forces where this is practicable is fully realised both here and in the Colonies, and full account will be taken of this point in working out the arrangements for postwar Colonial defence.

I now turn to the crux of the matter, that is to say, the arrangements to be made for contacts with the Dominions on matters of defence. In my view the starting point for any consideration of this question should be a remembrance by us of all the amazing contributions by the Dominions to the common war effort during the second world war on top of what they did in the first world war. This is not the occasion, nor is there time, to particularise those contributions with a detailed recital, but their nature will, I am sure, be present to the minds of every hon. Member in this House. Their efforts generally went far beyond anything required in relation to their own domestic location on the face of the globe. Never in my personal experience have I encountered a more apposite illustration of the truth of a very short verse in the old book of Proverbs: A friend loveth at all times, but a brother is born for adversity They were our brothers in adversity in 1939 and 1940. Sometimes we are still inclined to talk about the Dominions as our sons and our daughters, and this is very important though it sounds very trivial. I wish we would think of them more as brothers who have grown up and are independent, and are contributing to the whole business in a really magnificent way. We shall want them to contribute more. As their population grows and goes on growing their resources are expanding, and they take, as they are entitled to take, their independent action in connection with their membership of the United Nations organisation. If we approach the general consideration of this matter from a recognition of their complete freedom and of the way they have helped us in the past, we shall make better progress.

I would stress once more what was said yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in opening the present Debate. The intention of the Government is to increase and not to diminish any opportunities which were previously available for the exchange of information and views with the Dominion Governments on matters of defence. What is required is not some rigid form of arrangement which would bring them within our own defence organisation as explained in the White Paper, but rather the closest practicable contact not only in the sphere of the Services themselves, but also at the highest possible level; that is to say, whenever possible, contact between responsible Ministers. It is the aim of His Majesty's Government to do everything that is practicable under both of those heads. If the proposals outlined in the White Paper are, in fact accepted by the Dominions, the House can rest assured that it will be the aim of His Majesty's Government to make those arrangements fully effective. I do not myself share the view that under those proposals we shall, as has been suggested, be restricted to a sort of contact of a Post Office character at a comparatively low level, but I feel convinced that the proposals made by the Government are capable of ensuring the maximum cooperation in defence matters with the Dominion Governments.

I look at the time and I see how quickly it has gone. I feel tempted to go over all my notes on the various Members who have spoken so well today, but I think they will find from what I have already said that I have covered a great many of the points they have made. However, I would like to say a word to the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) who spoke about his anti-aircraft experience. I think he will find that we shall not fail to give proper attention to this matter and get the best scientific advice we can. My hon. and gallant Friend who sits below the Gangway, and also the hon. Gentleman's own Front Bench leader, pointed out the extraordinary rapidity with which the world is changing. I am quite sure that in the requests the hon. Gentleman made to me tonight about this matter, he will appreciate that that has to be very firmly in our minds—the very idea of anti-aircraft protection will be changing in its form and in its matter day by day. We shall do our best to see that it changes quickly enough to be effective until such time as it ceases to be effective altogether.

May I say, speaking generally to the House once more, that I am grateful to all who have been so kind in giving me a "send off" in this matter which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington said is unusual. Perhaps it is all the more necessary for me to recall what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dudley said, "Beware when all men speak well of you." I know perfectly well from my long experience in the House of Commons that it will not be words which will be asked for in the end—even though this is such a wordy place; hon. Members will be asking for results. We shall do our best to provide the results that they want in the light of the constant need for restoring the country's general economy and also, in that direction, saving expense as far as we can. However, we shall not give up either our persistent attempts to make the United Nations organisation function effectively in preventing disputes from leading to a break in peace but, at the same time, we shall feel that we must make our forces such, first, that we can fulfil our commitments under the Charter of the United Nations organisation, secondly, however difficult it may seem to my hon. Friends on these benches from time to time, that we must have such forces within the British Commonwealth in addition as might enable us to hold a situation until such time as the general forces of U.N.O. could come to the assistance of that part of our Dominions or Colonies which perhaps might be attacked. We shall take all those matters into full consideration, at all times, but that is our general objective. I beg the House, therefore, not to let us return to a position in this postwar world in which the Services shall be gradually regarded as something highly undesirable, the Cinderellas of the disbursement of the nation's resources, but let us do our best to see that what actually is required is kept in a state of efficiency and up-to-dateness in technical development.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: 'That this House approves the proposals in Command Paper No. 6923 for the Central Organisation for Defence.