§ 3.45 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. A. V. Alexander)
I beg to move,That this House approves the Statement relating to Defence (Command Paper No. 7327)A little more than a year has passed since the Ministry of Defence was set up. In a great organisational development of this character, some years must elapse before wide results can be expected to mature, but the House will expect a progress report. I have no illusions about the character or difficulty of the intricate problems in the defence field which await solution in the months and years ahead; but I hope to convince the House that, in most difficult circumstances, we have grappled with our tasks in a spirit of realism in an endeavour to lay straight and true the foundations of this country's defensive strength in the years to come. That is the Government's purpose, and I feel sure it is the purpose of us all.
To give a detailed catalogue of the work of the Ministry of Defence, in association with the Service Departments, would presume unduly on the forbearance of the House, and I must to some extent shed the load in order to deal with the main questions in the defence field. There is an inevitable temptation in initiating a Debate of this kind to trench upon the general problems of the foreign situation, which form the necessary background against which our defence policy must be shaped. I hope I shall not incur your displeasure. Mr. Speaker, if I make a slight excursion into this field. Defence is essentially allied to foreign policy, and I am constantly encouraged in my daily work by knowing that it can be of assistance to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in his patient efforts to bring order out of chaos and to secure for the peoples of the world those simple blessings which, while we were still at war, we assumed, perhaps too easily, would be the natural and happy issue out of all their afflictions. The House has shown on many occasions its general support of my right hon. Friend.
We shall delude ourselves if we think that the closer integration of Western Europe which we all desire can be effected if Britain shows herself infirm of purpose. Nowhere is this of more significance than 41 in the defence field. Our policy has been, and is, to support the United Nations organisation, which has not, however, developed as we hoped it would. Until things are much clearer, we must keep up our defences. We cannot hope, or expect, to achieve our objects if we repeat the mistakes of the inter-war years and allow our Armed Forces to dwindle to the point where our word no longer commands respect. Britain must display the will to be strong. We should do scant service to ourselves and, dare I say, to humanity?—for the troubles of Western Europe may again engulf the world—if we fail to accept this simple and fundamental truth.
I make no apology for presenting this issue in stark and unequivocal terms. The fight of the peoples of Western Europe to re-establish their democratic freedom and recover their economic well-being is our fight, no less than theirs. We, too, believe that it is better to count heads than to break them; we know that disruptive and noisy minorities are at work to undo the painful efforts of men of good will to build up their shattered societies, and if a strong Britain can exercise a helpful stabilising influence, we should not begrudge the cost. No one can doubt that, in the difficult situation in the world today, we must have adequate defence Forces.
The House will observe the relation between the policy outlined in the White Paper and our economic situation. Modern warfare, as our recent experience has shown, engages the whole industrial and economic resources of the combatants. I shall not be challenged, therefore, if I say that the first element in any coherent defence policy is the establishment of a healthy national economy. The strongest forces would be immobilised in a short time unless nourished and sustained not only by an organised war potential but by a balanced national economy. In present circumstances, therefore, it is a necessary aim, and one not inconsistent with what I have said concerning foreign policy, to lighten as much as possible the burden on the nation for the maintenance of the Armed Forces. We have to relate the claims of those Forces in the matter of men and materials to the overall position as regards national income and expenditure. It is the responsibility of the Cabinet to reconcile and adjust the balance of claims on our national resources. We have to decide 42 not merely what is desirable but what is practicable.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer carries a very heavy burden in these difficult times, and he has the right to task that those responsible for the Armed Forces should be alive to the balance of payments situation and to the need for taking those steps which will best ensure the country's economic recovery. I can assure the House that my colleagues the Service Ministers and I, therefore, accept the level of expenditure forecast for defence in 1948–49. Our balance of payments situation requires that the resources of the nation must to the greatest possible extent be bent to the tasks of production and of the earning of foreign currency. It is in the light of our economic situation that we have to decide what can be allocated to defence. The Government have already given proof that they accept this principle in relation to the Services. I would remind the House that this was demonstrated in the special manpower review which took place last autumn. As a result, the numbers in the Forces at 31st March will not be 1,087,000 as originally proposed, but 940,000. The same point is demonstrated by the marked reduction which has taken place in the total of our overseas military expenditure and by the steps which have been taken to economise in dollar imports of food and oil for the Services.
Let me outline to the House the cardinal issue which dominates our present position in the field of defence. Since the war ended, our mobilised strength of some 5,000,000 United Kingdom mea and women in uniform in the three Services has been reduced by an ordered process to under 1,000,000, and will by 31st March be down to 940,000. It will decline, by a further 224,000 in the next 12 months. Of the 700,000 men who will be in the Forces in March, 1949, only some 400,000 will be trained Regulars. Upon them will fall the brunt of the task of maintaining our essential commitments and of training the intakes of men called up under the National Service Act. It is inevitable at the end of a war, and one of long duration, that we cannot yet have available the same number of trained, long-service men as in more normal times. The essential difficulty is to find enough highly trained men to deal with recruits and National Service men. 43 That is the state of unbalance which we face today. The House will see that this is a most difficult situation. The rundown of the Forces is not a simple business of mathematical calculations. The day to day maintenance of our Forces requires a high proportion of skilled and experienced technicians.
If that were the whole story the task, perhaps, would not be too difficult. But it is not. While striving to correct the state of unbalance in the Forces I am confronted with problems affecting the whole future structure of our Armed Forces. The tendency to which we, no less than some others, have in the past been prone—to plan for future defence in terms of the last war—is fraught with great dangers, especially for this island. I do not propose today to speculate on the wide range of interesting and vital problems which exist in this field—the future of the battleship, the new types of sub-marine, the development of guided missiles, advances in the field of chemical warfare, or that mesmeric innovation of physical science, the atom bomb. All these are factors, however, which I must have in mind, and which are engaging the close attention of the professional staffs.
On top of these problems we have to face our current responsibilities. Inevitably it is on the Army that the chief burden of these present commitments overseas must fall. The provision of Forces for our zone of occupation in Germany is the heaviest, but there are also requirements elsewhere. In addition, there are the garrisons for the vital links in our world wide communications system, especially our Forces in the Middle East. We shall secure the withdrawal of our Forces from Palestine by 1st August next, but the need to maintain adequate Forces in the Middle East will remain. It is a commonplace, which, after the lesson of two world wars, needs no further emphasis, that the general security of the Middle East is a vital British interest. All these commitments represent a substantial element in our defence budget and plans.
We cannot tell what the future is going to bring forth; and at present—as nobody knows, particularly in the technical arms of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, exactly what technical developments will emerge—plans, how- 44 ever well we may lay them, cannot come to rapid completion. In the present position we have to have minimum Forces to meet emergencies, and these, for the time being, must be more or less of the conventional type. The only prudent course is to defer committing ourselves to definite lines of development until we can see the future with greater certainty, and, whilst retaining such Forces as are necessary, press on with research and development. The House will, I am sure, not expect me to enter into detail as to the research work now in progress; which will form the basis of decisions in the future. A large part of it is, of course, devoted to aeronautical, radar, and marine engineering research.
Great as have been the advances in the performance of aircraft during the war years, there are still greater developments to come, and we are sparing no effort to maintain the lead which was of such vital importance to us during the war. The House knows that British jet propulsion engines are admitted to be the best in the world. We owe this to the professional zeal and ability of Air-Commodore Whittle and his collaborators, to the high skill of British manufacturing firms, and to the steady Government policy of providing the money for research and development work when new and practical ideas emerge. Only last week the excellence of British aircraft construction and engine design was demonstrated by the performance of the Vickers Supermarine Attacker piloted by Mr. Lithgow which, at a speed of 564 miles per hour, handsomely beat the 100 kilometre close-circuit record already held in this country by the Gloster Meteor piloted by Squadron - Leader Waterton. I am sure the House noted this achievement with satisfaction. In passing, I must point out that much of the cost of development work for defence purposes yields results of immense value to industry and, therefore, to the peacetime economy of the country. It is a superficial and dangerous doctrine to pretend that the cost of defence research and development is too high. There is no field of defence expenditure likely to yield a better return for money spent. The Government regard it as a first charge on the defence budget.
The Government have drawn up the defence budget, which is presented in the 45 White Paper, after careful weighing of the main elements upon which I have touched: the international situation, our economic position, and the requirements of the Services themselves. We plan to spend about £200 million less on defence than last year, and that, through the continued run-down of uniformed manpower in the Services, will make available for productive employment a net gain of more than 200,000 men and women during the coming year. This must be a considerable help towards economic recovery. I must further remind the House of the substantial element included in the total budget of £692 million, which represents terminal charges. This is a full £60 million, which covers items such as release benefits and the charges due to the termination of war contracts which will not recur.
So I may fairly claim, in the light of these figures, that the Services are striving to help in our recovery. These planned reductions of our Armed Forces, the curtailment of expenditure on production and works for the Services, and the addition of over 650,000 men to the labour force available for productive work between mid-1947 and the end of 1948 without any fully corresponding addition to incomes and expenditure, are all steps of a definitely anti-inflationary nature.
During the year the Armed Forces will run down to a total of 716,000 on 31st March, 1949; the estimated cost will be £692 million. Those are large figures; but it is, of course, idle to make direct comparison between 1948–49 and pre-war years. The general increase in costs affects every item of the defence budget. If I were to take only one example, the annual cost of maintaining a Serviceman has risen by more than 6o per cent. since 1938. As I am dealing with the strength of the Armed Forces may I say here that I notice that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has put clown on the Order Paper an Amendment, to leave out from "House" to the end, and to add:deeply concerned at the serious economic crisis facing this country, and the need to utilise the Nation's manpower in useful production, rejects the White Paper (Command Paper No. 7327), as the huge Defence commitments are crippling the Nation's recovery, and calls for the immediate cutting of the Armed Forces to 500,000.That suggested reduction of the Armed Forces to 500,00o is on the ostensible 46 ground of assisting economic recovery. I think it is fairly clear why this Amendment has been put down. It seems; to us that the reason is the same as that which prompted the Russian proposals on disarmament in the United Nations' Assembly. What they want is that Britain and the other freedom-loving countries should, on some Such specious ground, deprive themselves of the means of defence against foes without and within, while the Soviet Union maintains large forces with which to work its will throughout the world.
§ Mr. Piratin (Mile End)
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) will be able to speak in the Debate later, but I should here like to ask the Minister whether he is aware that in the recent budget passed in the Soviet Union the total spending on education is 50 per cent. more than the total spending on defence?
§ Mr. Alexander
I am sure that any comparison of the details of Russian budgets with ours would take a considerable time. But I can say that the total military budget for the U.S.S.R. was in 1946 72 billion roubles, in 1947 66.4 billion roubles, and has been reduced to 66.1 billion roubles for 1948—which does not seem to me to be a very rapid reduction. We are not told what happening in the U.S.S.R.; no one publishes a Defence White Paper in Moscow. They do not allow anyone to debate defence or to know what is happening, as we in this country are doing in this Debate today.
In passing, I should perhaps direct the attention of the House to the detailed information which has been given in he Annexes to the White Paper. I trust that these statements of the manpower and expenditure of the Services will be of both interest and value. I would issue a warning, however, with regard to these manpower figures. The Government have accepted the view that this House and the country may reasonably expect to have as accurate information as possible of the total demands of the Services on our general manpower resources. In addition to the current total of 940,000 personnel in uniform, it will be seen that there are 242,000 directly employed civilians, and it is estimated that an average of 350,000 civilians in industry are engaged on production for the Services. Thus, there are nearly two civilians engaged on work 47 directly for the Forces to every three who are in uniform. I would stress that this is no new departure; it has always been so. What is new is the method of presenting the figures, which will enable a more realistic picture to be gained of the calls of the Services on manpower.
Let me refer to one fact which will, I know, give satisfaction to my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing). The Vote of my Department is now included as a charge against the Defence Budget. For the next year an overall expenditure of £692.6 million is estimated; the odd £600,000 represents the Ministry of Defence element. My hon. Friend was concerned that, due to the vagaries of accounting, my Department, in the first year of its life, ranked for Estimate purposes as a Civil Department. This year's provision represents a substantial increase on last year; but it will be seen from paragraph 21 of the White Paper that it is due almost entirely to the transfer to the Vote of my Department of expenditure in respect of inter-Service establishments hitherto carried on Service Votes.
I turn to current production and works. In production for the Forces, we shall be obliged this year to continue to concentrate on the current maintenance needs of the Services. The amount which can be done in the way of re-equipment and modernisation must, unfortunately, be extremely modest. This must add to the burden of defence expenditure in later years, as it may not be possible to spread the production load as evenly over a period of years as we should desire in the best interests of efficiency and economy. Our principal anxiety in these circumstances must be to maintain a healthy war potential. The great basic industries of the country, upon which our strength ultimately depends, are fully occupied, and in some cases—for example the steel industry—are being constantly expanded and their equipment modernised. Conversion from peace to war use is, however, always a lengthy process for industry, and the production of munitions and warlike stores cannot be allowed to fall below a certain minimum level without serious risk. The problem of harmonising this need with the general planning of industrial output, which is now principally dictated by the needs of the export trade, is being most carefully watched.
48 As regards works services, the House will not need to be reminded that the Government have had to make a considerable reduction in the level of capital investment, and to this the Services must make their contribution. The labour force employed on works services will be kept at the present extremely low level; the considerable expansion on which the Services had been counting in 1948–49 has had to be postponed. The Service Departments will do what they can with the resources at their disposal, but there will be much leeway to make up when times are more favourable.
I must next deal with one matter of great importance to the Services. On 1st January, 1949, the National Service Act, which was placed on the Statute Book last year, comes into operation. I see that it has been urged by some that we should abandon the principle embodied in the Act and revert to our traditional policy of reliance on volunteer professional forces. In the world situation to which I have referred no responsible Minister could contemplate abandoning the principle of National Service. It would dismay our friends and serve to encourage those who think it to their advantage to leave a vacuum in Western Europe. The existence of the National Service scheme is evidence to the world that Great Britain is alive to her responsibilities. Moreover, in present circumstances it would be foolish to think that we could meet our needs by relying solely on men on long-service engagements.
The Government accordingly take the view that the reasons which commended the Measure to the House last spring are as cogent as they were then. National Service has special relevance not only to the manpower required for our commitments, but for the future for the reserves which will be required for mobilisation in the event of a sudden emergency. And let me here remind the House that, for some few years to come, we shall have in this country a general reserve of manpower which could be called back to the Colours in the event of a crisis. Having regard to the reduced size of the Forces and the need for securing a proper degree of balance between Regular and National Service men, it is unnecessary to enter more than 150,000 National Service men 49 per annum. We propose, without departing from the principle of universal service, to effect the necessary adjustment by the omission of one registration in each year; this will result in raising the age of call-up, by 1950, to 18 years and nine months.
The suggestion has been made that the period of whole-time service should be reduced to, say, six months. Such an arrangement would not, however, meet our present needs. Whilst the creation of a trained reserve was and is the primary justification for the National Service scheme, it is necessary, especially for the Army, to have for the time being a substantial flow of National Service men for the carrying out of our current obligations. Thus, while in the less technical arms of the Army, the National Service men could be trained to reasonable standards in a shorter period, it is essential for the time being that we should also have an effective period of Colour service from these National Service men.
When we come to the Navy and Air Force, even the period of one year is not enough for the national Service men to become fully skilled in the more technical branches, and in those Services the ratio of National Service men to Regulars must be kept lower than in the case of the Army. In the next year, the R.A.F. will be taking 48,000 National Service men, but when improved recruiting makes it possible, they hope to have a larger proportion of Regulars. The Navy, on the other hand, will at present take only a token number of 2,000 National Service men, owing to the special situation created by the rapid rundown to the figure of 145,000 men and women; but, in future years when the Regular content of the Navy has been built up to the necessary balanced force, a larger intake of National Service men is likely to be required for the purpose of building the reserves necessary to supplement the Regular content on mobilisation. My experience during the war, when large numbers of men were sent to sea after a very short period of training, convinces me that the existence of a substantial reserve of men, each of whom has had a full year's service, and has had two or more periods of refresher training, amounting to 6o days during his reserve, would greatly improve the situation on mobilisation.
50 In general, having carefully studied all possible alternatives, the Government came to the conclusion that the plan they have adopted is the only practicable one which will avoid so substantial a breach in the principle of universal service as to destroy the essential basis of the Act itself, which would not be acceptable.
May I now say a word about the Services individually? I start with the Royal Navy. Since it became known that, in order to carry through the manpower adjustments, the sea-going strength of the Home Fleet would be drastically curtailed for a limited period, there has been great public interest in our Naval policy. I welcome this. I say at once that it is no part of the Government's policy to reduce the Royal Navy to a point where it is unable to discharge its proper functions. As the White Paper makes clear, we intend during the coming year to stabilise the strength of the Navy at 145,000 men. That does not look like a policy of weakness.
Just before the outbreak of war in June, 1939, the Navy numbered 127,000; in 1932, its numbers were as low as 89,000. The problem which faced the Admiralty in the autumn was to decide, in the light of the fact that they must come down to a figure of about 145,000 in a relatively short time, whether it was better to achieve the necessary adjustments gradually, or to make the cut "all in one piece," and subsequently to build up and re-organise on a realistic basis. The Board of Admiralty decided on the second of these two courses. The Government accepted their proposals and take full responsibility.
There have been many foolish statements about the strength of the Home Fleet, which have sought to imply that its operational strength during the short period of re-organisation was to be the measure of its future strength as a whole. Such statements have quite unnecessarily damaged our credit and reputation among our friends abroad. Let me make it plain, that in addition to the Home Fleet, there are in the training and experimental squadrons in home waters battleships and fleet carriers, as well as cruisers, destroyers and submarines which could,—and I say this advisedly—if necessary, at comparatively short notice be manned and made ready for action.
51 The immobilised ships of the Home Fleet will not long be out of full commission. It was a deliberate decision to face a short period of reduced strength for the long-term advantage of the Fleet. I am quite sure that everybody will realise the difficulties of the task of the Services in such a period of transition. May I say generally that it is ridiculous to expect that the Navy or either of the other Services could be kept in the same state of readiness as was achieved only after five years of war?
I am aware that there is considerable speculation about the actual strength of the Navy in terms of ships in commission with the various fleets. The question of how much information should be made public about our Armed Forces is one of great difficulty, and merits some comment. I tell the House, in all honesty, that the Government are satisfied, on the advice and evidence received, that our practice in this matter in the years before the war led to the presentation of a great deal of useful intelligence to a vigilant enemy. The Government have no desire to deny the House access to the material facts necessary for it to form a judgment on important questions affecting the Services. The Government even now are one of the most forthcoming in the world as regards the amount of information given. We have studied carefully the question of how to reconcile our duty to the House with our overriding responsibility to the country for its defence. This year's Estimates contain a good deal more information than those of last year, but there are certain details which, until the nations can agree upon some system for full interchange of information, could only be disclosed to our detriment.
The main role of the Royal Navy will continue to be the protection of our sea communications. Any future threat to these will come not so much from surface craft—though this cannot be entirely discounted—as from under-water craft and aircraft. The equipment of the Navy to provide the required protection may mean an alteration to the traditional composition of the Fleet by types of ships as we have known them in the past. The capital ship of the future may be the aircraft carrier, but even though this may be so, it would be most imprudent to con- 52 clude that all threat of surface attack had disappeared.
Because of this fact, and because there does not exist today a surface force likely to threaten the security of our sea communications, it seems to me right and sound that only the most modern of our ships should be retained, and the maintenance of the older vessels which have served their purpose prevented from becoming a charge on our limited resources. The decision to scrap the old battleships could not have been otherwise. Some of them could never have been modernised to the standards required, the others not without spending far more money than was warranted.
The Navy today is concentrating on training designed to meet the likely form of future threats. The protective weapons and training to meet those threats do not, however, strike the public eye so forcibly as the scrapping of out-of-date ships which have given gallant service and whose names are household words. The results of the present re-organisation will begin to be seen in the current year, when the strength of commissioned ships, particularly in the Home Fleet, will increase.
A great contrast exists between the problems of the Navy and those of the Army. The coming year will see a further decline in strength of 189,000—over one-third of its present number. Substantial numbers of troops will still be required to meet the commitments of the Army overseas, especially in Germany. In a few months, however, the Army will see the end of its long and thankless task in Palestine. With the outrage of yesterday fresh in mind, and with the foul slander upon our Forces of a week ago not yet faded, the House will join me at this moment in a tribute to the coolness and steadiness which our men have displayed in the performance of their duties in that country. The discipline and forbearance of the troops deserves the highest praise.
As the British régime in Palestine draws to its close, the world is coming to realise what a debt is owing to the staunchness of the British Tommy over long years past under every kind of provocation by both sides. I hope the House will set on record its admiration for the men who have so worthily maintained our high traditions, and its abomination of the 53 contemptible ruffians responsible for outrages——
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
In view of the outrages to which the right hon. Gentleman has just referred and the conduct of British troops, should not the Government now invite the American Government to join in a mutual denunciation of these outrages? I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it would have a profound effect, and not only in Palestine.
§ Mr. Alexander
I will take the point into consideration, but it is much more one for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary than for me.
The Army at home will in the main be concerned with adapting its organisation to receive the intake of National Service men under the new Act, and to strengthening the organisation of the Territorial Army for the reservists who will begin to be available from 1950 onwards. For this purpose it will be of the greatest consequence to build up the volunteer nucleus of the Territorial Army, and this applies equally to the auxiliary Forces of the other Services. The numbers coming forward for these Services recently have not been as great as we could wish, and I hope we shall see a marked improvement during the coming year. It will be vital to get the organisation throughout the country on to a sound footing in the next 18 months. We do not overlook the fact that there are many difficulties to be overcome, especially in view of the cuts in capital expenditure.
I should like at this stage to refer briefly to Civil Defence. This does not fall within my direct sphere of responsibility, but I should remind the House of the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 19th November last—and I regret that this date was wrongly given in paragraph 4 of the White Paper as 19th December. The effect of the policy then announced is to add to the responsibilities of the Army that of providing mobile military columns to reinforce the local Civil Defence services. This is another indication of the importance of building up the Army reserve organisation to a point where it can effectively discharge its duties and responsibilities.
Now I turn to the Royal Air Force. During the coming year, the R.A.F. will continue the process of reorganisation. 54 The Government regard this as important since the existence of a highly trained and well-equipped air striking force in these islands will provide a formidable deterrent to aggression and reassure our friends. Inevitably, as a result of the run-down from a war footing, there is a shortage of skilled men in the R.A.F., but I must pay tribute to the standards of efficiency which the Air Force have contrived to maintain in spite of these difficulties. For example, in the month of December, 1947, scheduled services of Transport Command covered no less than 11 million passenger miles with only one serious accident. Such results speak well for the high standard achieved in both training and administration.
The suspension of Regular enlistment during the war has resulted in the Royal Air Force losing since the end of the war a large majority of its trained technicians. As a result, it has had to devote a great part of its efforts to training in highly technical trades men who are able to give only short periods of productive service. The Regular content of the Royal Air Force is under 40 per cent. of the whole, and a great many of these Regular personnel have only recently been enlisted. We hope for improvements in the Regular recruitment for the R.A.F. and the proportion of National Service men will, we anticipate, be reduced as this takes place.
Overseas, the principal task of the Royal Air Force is to complete the redeployment resulting from the withdrawal of our Forces from India, Pakistan and Palestine and, in particular, to provide and maintain the minimum base organisation at key points in the Middle East and Far East, without which we should be unable to operate air Forces in vital areas overseas in time of emergency.
Now I turn to our relations with the other self-governing members of the Commonwealth in matters of defence. Here, the growth of co-operation cannot simply be measured in terms of formal machinery. It has been made clear before that a rigid centralised machinery is not favoured by the independent members of the Commonwealth which now, of course, include; the new Dominions of India, Pakistan and Ceylon, and such machinery would, in fact, be entirely foreign to the conception on which the structure of the Commonwealth rests. Our link with them must be by free exchange of views and by visits 55 whenever possible for comparing notes and examining problems of mutual concern.
During this year the Chief of the Imperial General Staff has paid valuable visits to Australia, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa, and the Chiefs of Staff of the Dominions, or their representatives, have visited this country for important conferences. The meeting of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Defence Science, which took place in London in November provided the occasion for a most useful exchange of views and comparison of progress on many extremely important projects.
Last autumn, the Chairman of the Defence Research Policy Committee, Sir Henry Tizard, accompanied by representatives of the Admiralty and Ministry of Supply, visited Canada to discuss matters of mutual concern in the scientific field; he is hoping to pay a similar visit to other Dominions later this year. The Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Supply, Sir Ben Lockspeiser, will also be visiting Australia in March for the first meeting of the Commonwealth Advisory Aeronautical Research Council and, at the invitation of the Australian Government, he will take the opportunity of making full consultation and exchanging views on questions of defence research. He will also visit New Zealand at the invitation of the New Zealand Government.
Of equal significance are the developments that have taken place in the appointment of liaison officers on the staffs of the High Commissioners both of the United Kingdom in the Dominions and of the Dominions in London; these appointments, which are referred to in paragraph 49 of the White Paper, provide the means for a constant and informal co-operation in matters of defence. Though we may not have a massive and elaborate official structure, I can assure the House that there are effective means of keeping the members of the Commonwealth in touch with one another on questions of defence, and that it is our constant endeavour to make them still more effective.
The Government are fully seized of the important role which our overseas territories can play in the defence of the Commonwealth and, in particular, of the value of their resources of manpower and materials. The House will be interested to hear that plans are going ahead for 56 maintaining locally raised forces in East and West Africa which will be adequate for internal security, and suitable as a general nucleus for expansion in emergency. The contribution which these forces made to the winning of the last war is perhaps insufficiently known; but it was considerable. The country should know that it can count upon them for service of equal or even greater value, should we at any time in the future be faced with a further conflict.
It is my earnest hope that, as a part of the general development of our overseas territories and their institutions, which is now taking place, there will develop a feeling on their part of wider responsibility for defence and a broadening of their horizon beyond purely local affairs. I particularly hope that they will encourage and give general support to the growth of adequate and efficient local volunteer forces, similar to those which did such great service during the war.
I come now to the subject of unification and co-ordination of our Defence Forces. The Amendment standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, is especially concerned with this aspect of our policy. We shall listen closely to any constructive proposals that may be put forward, which we shall he ready to examine with great care. It may help the Debate if, at this stage, I indicate the Government's present attitude in this matter, which has, of course, been ventilated in the Press in recent weeks.
The amalgamation of the three Services was one of the systems considered when the Government was preparing its proposals on the Central Organisation for Defence in 1946. The ultimate unification of the Services was not deemed inherently unsound or impossible of achievement. To introduce a major revolution in the difficult and delicate postwar years would not, however, in the Government's view, have aided the task of providing economically efficient, balanced and contented forces.
It is said that with the present arrangements, the study of major problems of strategy develops into an inter-Service squabble, with each Service more concerned to obtain the largest share of the men and money available than to find the correct solution of the fundamental problems underlying the defence of the country. It is also urged that the members of a unified force could be trained on 57 a common basis, so that throughout their service they would be interchangeable. Both these arguments greatly over-simplify the issue. On the operational level the training of technicians may take many years for a higher grade skilled man. The proportion of technicians, particularly in the Navy and R.A.F. is extremely high. Moreover, the conditions under which members of the Services operate do and must differ, and interchangeability would be of very limited scope.
No system of unification of the Armed Forces would eliminate the need for careful examination of the problems involved in settling the relative proportions of expenditure of money, manpower and productive effort for air, sea and land defence. It is the function of the professional staffs, as now constituted, to advise Ministers on these issues, and responsibility for the decisions then taken rests with Ministers. The organisation which has been established secures that Ministers are made aware by those most qualified to advise them of all the arguments relative to these important issues, and, in particular, the Joint Planning Staff system operating under the Chiefs of Staff ensures that the consequences in respect of the other two Services of a proposal put forward by any one of them are made plain. It falls to Ministers to resolve differences. We are, of course, doing a very great deal to ensure' that the higher staffs of all three Services develop a proper understanding of each other's viewpoint and problems. In this sphere the Joint Services Staff College has made very good progress indeed, as well as the Imperial Defence College, and both are doing work of the highest importance.
All this does not mean that His Majesty's Government have closed the door to all forms of unification or amalgamation of common services within the Forces, but it is clear that the practical difficulties which the tasks of unification would bring with them would outweigh the advantages which would be gained, and the immediate effect of such a step would be complete dislocation. In the circumstances of today, it would be the height of folly to embark on any such scheme. But, if amalgamation of the Services is not in the immediate picture, a great deal can be achieved in the field of administrative co-ordination.
58 The developments under the aegis of the Ministry of Defence referred to in paragraph 47 of the White Paper are of considerable importance. This is a field in which a great deal of solid work can be done short of actual amalgamation of these common services. It is, of course, in line with the original conception which was endorsed by all quarters of the House when the Ministry of Defence was set up, that my Department should not become directly responsible for administration, but should act as a stimulating influence in the direction of policy. It is not part of our object to destroy the individual characteristics of the Services or the direct responsibility of the Service Ministers to Parliament for their respective Services, but this sis in no way inconsistent with a pooling of knowledge and experience and the introduction of common practices where this may either effect economies or improve operational collaboration.
There is the further question of man- power economy in which the House has displayed great interest. The Service Ministers will each, I have no doubt, be prepared when the Service Estimates are taken, to report to the House the progress achieved by the manpower economy committees which have been set up under their respective responsibilities. The work of these committees is co-ordinated through the Service Ministers Committee over which I preside. The rapid rate of run-down in recent months and the continuance of that process in the next year is, of itself, a powerful incentive to manpower economy.
The Army, with its current heavy commitments, cannot afford to have pockets of men tucked away who are underemployed, and the same is true of the Air Force. It is the Navy's constant endeavour to maintain the maximum number of ships in full commission and to restore to operational efficiency those temporarily immobilised. The heads of all three Services are earnest in the search to get the fullest effective use out of every man on the strength. Their work in this field does not, of course, get the same publicity as do the comments of some of the critics.
In the survey I have made to the House of the main aspects of our defence problems and plans, I have attempted to put the various components in their 59 proper perspective. We face a further year of transition, a year during which the three Services will be reshaping and reorganising themselves—building up their regular strengths, adapting their organisation to get the maximum effective benefit out of the National Service men called up under the new Act, and preparing their reserve organisations for the expansion of the years ahead. At the same time, intensive research and development work will be going forward, and the Service staffs will be pressing ahead with their examination of the implications of scientific and technical developments on the structure of our future defence forces.
It is well known that the intricate apparatus of modern war demands many months—even years—to get production in quantity of an accepted prototype. But before we can contemplate quantity production, we must first solve our economic problems. That is the key to it all. It is on the soundness of the work done now that the permanence and stability of the eventual defence structure will depend. It will only be possible to appreciate the significance of much of the work now being done many years hence. I shall be content if, at that time, someone makes a friendly reference to those who laid the foundations which will support the edifice.
This generation looks out upon a world sorely troubled. It seems incredible that mankind as a whole is not impelled, by a realisation of the terrible prospects implicit in any future attempt to settle international difficulties by an appeal to arms, to devise adequate means to safeguard human rights and freedom and to protect against self-destruction the civilisation so painfully built up through the ages. The British Government at least are firmly convinced of the need to do all in their power to strengthen the international organs created for that purpose. It has been, and is, our policy to support the United Nations organisation to the full. But we must recognise that that organisation has not developed as we had hoped.
We hope that means will yet be found to banish war as an instrument of policy, but he would be a cloudy idealist who would call the present omens encouraging. In default of this and until things are much clearer, we must keep up our defences, We must develop arrangements which will allow the peace-loving nations of the 60 world—the nations for whom democracy is something more than a convenient catchword and a mask for practices utterly alien to it—to combine effectively against aggression. The broadening understanding between the free countries of the British Commonwealth and the other free countries of Western Europe and of the world—is, from this point of view, the most happy augury for the future.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add:expresses its concern at the apparent absence of comprehensive measures for a co-ordinated and up-to-date system of National and Imperial Defence.I listened with attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, which covered a very wide field. I make no complaint about that, but I cannot follow him over all of it. He began with an eloquent tribute to his colleagues the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which is a slightly unusual procedure within a Government, but in present circumstances we will not complain about it, at any rate so far as the Foreign Secretary is concerned, because with the foreign policy the right hon. Gentleman has just enunciated I am in full agreement, as I was with the interesting stooge development which took place at the weekend. I am, of course, referring to the speech of the Secretary of State for War.
Unless it is thought that I am in too much agreement with the Government, let me come straight away to where I disagree. The right hon. Gentleman produced a very formidable array of well worn clichés. I wrote down one or two of them. He said in different forms and at different times that we must have an adequate Defence Force. No one will dispute that, at least none of us on this side of the House. I beg the pardon of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). He went on to say that we must relate expenditure on the Services to the overall expenditure of the nation. Of course, we must. There is not any dispute about that, nor is there any dispute about the fact that that relation is the responsibility of His Majesty's Ministers; but where there is very great anxiety, which has not been relieved by a single thing the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon, is whether 61 or not we are getting real value for the expenditure, value not only in expenditure of money but more important in expenditure of manpower.
When. I read this White Paper through, which I did twice, I did so hoping that every paragraph I read was going to give the real substance of the matter, but there is nothing here but agreeably phrased fluff. There is hardly any substance in the document at all, nor any of the things which we really want to know. I must make an exception in the case of the Admiralty, which now in a later statement in the Navy Estimates has produced some information incidental to our naval strength, or perhaps I ought to say to our naval weakness. The Admiralty is to be congratulated on having given to the House of Commons the kind of information we want to have and without which these defence Debates are of very little value.
I want to tell the right hon. Gentleman, I hope not unfairly, the impression that this White Paper created on my mind. It did not seem to me to be a document based on a central theme at all. Rather it seemed to me to come from a series of discordant contributions. It did not seem that a dominant mind was planing over the whole scene of Colonial and Imperial defence. Rather did it seem that the Minister of Defence said to each of his three colleagues, "I have to produce a defence White Paper. Will each of you give me a contribution to put into the White Paper?" These contributions have been put there side by side to produce this unconvincing and, in some respects, as I shall show in a moment, a completely discordant document. Admittedly reductions have been made in the number of those in the Services, and it would seem that one could assume from the interesting article in the "Financial Times" this morning by an hon. Member opposite that there have been important reductions in the money spent.
The House must bear in mind, however, that the money which is now being spent and, more important, the manpower which is being employed are very much larger than those employed at any time between the two wars right up to and including 1939. I am not saying that under present world conditions, with the analysis of which I agree, these figures are necessarily too large, but I say that when, 62 under our present economic circumstances we are concerned with those figures, it is the duty of the House to probe and to insist on information which enables us to judge whether these vast figures are justified or not. I must tell the right bon. Gentleman, that despite his very full attempt to talk about the White Paper, he did not carry us any further.
I want to come to the question we have got to face. We have a White Paper from the Admiralty, which gives the details about battleships, cruisers, destroyers and so on. If it is possible to give this information why cannot we have similar information—I do not say any more, but similar information—about the Air Force and the Army?
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) must address himself to the Minister of Defence. At the moment I am asking whether we cannot be given the same information in respect of the Air Force and the Army as we now have about the Navy. The right hon. Gentleman said that when we did that before the war we gave our potential enemies a good deal of valuable information. Is that really so? When I was a member of the Government I cannot remember evidence ever having been brought to me that the published figures had really been of value to the enemy. Is the Prime Minister sure about that? For instance, we always used to publish the first line strength of our Air Force. Is there any evidence that we did ourselves any harm by publishing it, and if there is no such evidence ought we not to publish the figures now? We ought to know. [Interruption.] I only want to be convinced on this matter.
The Government must realise it is impossible for the House to assess whether this vast expenditure for the Air Force is justified or not unless we know what kind of an Air Force we have got. We have not the 63 slightest conception of how many bomber squadrons or how many fighter squadrons today constitute our first line strength. Between the two wars we used to have that information at all times. I know these things have got to be balanced, but is the right hon. Gentleman going to publish that kind of information about the Air Force and the Army which we have in relation to the Navy?
Take another example. In the "New Statesman" this week-end there was a description of the present strength of the Army. I have got it here. It refers to the Army consisting of two Infantry Divisions, one Armoured Brigade, one Parachute Brigade, and one Armoured Regiment. Again, I ask, is that true? I do not know. If that is true, Parliament ought to be told. Parliament ought to be told equally if it is not true. What is the reason for keeping that information secret? If it is published in the "New Statesman," it is not unlikely—it is conceivable—that it has been read by somebody in another country.
I ask the Government for a little more examination of this secrecy aspect. On this side of the House we would not feel justified in asking for information which we thought ought not to be given in the national interest, but we are still very far from being convinced that to give us information about the Army and the Royal Air Force on the same lines as the information that we have already about the Navy would do any damage to the national interests at all. I am bound to add that we have a little suspicion that some of this reticence may be due to the very unsatisfactory state of those figures. If that is so, we may be sure that anybody who does not like us very much is already very fully aware of them indeed.
Now I come to a point or two on the subject of manpower and the effective strengths of the Services. Here again, it is extremely difficult to be definite. Apart from the naval figures which have now been given to the House, there is virtually no information as to the effective strength of the other two Services. The House remains, therefore, a prey to rumour and to miscellaneous newspaper reports in respect of the first-line strength of the Air Force and in respect of the numbers in all the Services. I would, therefore, ask that we be given the same 64 information about the other Services as we have now in regard to the Royal Navy.
Now I come to the Army figures. If the Army figures which I gave just now from the "New Statesman" are anything like correct—about the two divisions and the one armoured brigade—I want the House to realise what they mean. They mean that the 534,000 men we see as our armed strength at the end of next month, the overall figure, costing us more than £300 million to maintain, represent nearly all "tail," and that "teeth" are almost non-existent. I have no doubt that we shall be told by the Prime Minister, who is to wind up the Debate that we have always to recognise that after a war the Armed Forces have to go through a major reorganisation. That is, of course, true. We shall be told that while the transition is going on, strengths have to be exceptionally low. We are really asked to accept the suggestion that we are going through a sort of chrysalis stage from which the Services, under the direction of the right hon. Gentleman will shortly emerge as a new and glittering butterfly.
I hope it will happen that way, but there is very little in the White Paper to make us feel that that is the way in which it will work out. Nothing that has been disclosed hitherto suggests that the evolution of the Armed Forces over the coming year has been envisaged with any clarity in relation to the new arrangements. On the contrary, there are alarming examples of the lack of a coordinated plan. The first of them was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman himself, the call-up under the National Service Act. What is the position? What has happened? Within a year of the House passing that Measure, the Government have discovered that the Act results in considerably more conscripted manpower than they can hope to handle and the Services can cope with. The result is that the Government themselves are obliged to come to the House and ask for as much as 25 per cent, off the figure that they asked for a year ago. What sort of budgeting is that? What would the Government say to any free enterprise industry which was as much out with its calculations as 25 per cent. in a single year? Not one factor which operates in relation to that figure now, was not available to the Government a year ago when they asked for their figure.
65 Let us see where this position is taking us. It is bound to create confusion in the plans of a very large number of these young men whose age of call-up is being deferred stage by stage. It is bound also to cause a good deal of inconvenience to industries and other establishments who are hoping to get these young men at certain definite ages. I ask the Government whether these deferments are likely to continue after the three years. The sooner the young men have the answer to that question, and have a chance to make their plans, the better. From the Government's figure which we have here, it seems virtually impossible for us to return to the call-up age of 18, which is the figure that this House put into the Measure when it became law a year ago. I would like to know from the Prime Minister whether he thinks it possible to pick up the background, as it were, and to get back to the call-up age of 18 for a great many years to come. If that is so, we had best all know it. It is not convincing that the Government, in a major difficulty of this kind, should come to the House with the National Service Bill and then, within a year, ask to change the figure by reducing the number they can take by 25 per cent.
What is happening about the way in which these young men are taken? The right hon. Gentleman referred to the decision of the Royal Navy, set out in paragraph 14 of the White Paper, that only 2,000 National Service men are expected to be absorbed by the Royal Navy this year. Was it contemplated a year ago that the Royal Navy would take only 2,000? Did the Admiralty then have the view that they wanted only 2,000? Does the right hon. Gentleman himself think that the Admiralty is right in that view? If he does think that they are right in the view that only 2,000 are all that they can ever want, what is the meaning of paragraph 61 of the same White Paper? Let me give an example of how this Paper contradicts itself when the different Departments speak in it. The paragraph says that these young men are to be called up and to do this service:in order to provide a trained reserve for all three Services, capable of immediate mobilisation.Is anybody suggesting that those 2,000 who are going into the Royal Navy will form a trained reserve for the Royal Navy? Obviously it is absurd.
§ Mr. Austin (Stretford)
May I point cut that the reason for the low intake of 2,000 into the Royal Navy is that the Navy is the most popular Service? Therefore, that Service does not rely on conscripts, because young men want to join it as Regulars.
§ Mr. Eden
We know all about that. I do not think that that interruption added very much to our knowledge. The point I am making is that the Government, in their White Paper, say that they need these conscripts, these National Service young men, for all three Services when, in fact, the Navy does not virtually need them at all. That is the point I am making, and I am asking whether the Government had in mind a year ago the point which the hon. Member opposite has just put, that the Navy, through its popularity with our people, has not the sane need.
§ Mr. Alexander
I would like to make this point plain. At the time when the draft of the 1947 Act was first approved, we had not the figure of 2,000 for the National Service intake into the Royal Navy. In the course of the year, it became clear, because of the economic position and of what we could afford to carry, that we should be reduced in a short period to 145,000 men. Our naval advisers—we accepted their advice and we take the responsibility—advised us that it would be better to come down to that figure in one cut rather than to hold out over a longer period. In that period, because of the run-down, we can only take 2,000 National Service men into the Navy. I indicated in my speech that afterwards we shall require a larger number in the Royal Navy to provide a suitable reserve.
§ Mr. Eden
I accept all that, but the right hon. Gentleman will see from what he has said that paragraph 61 ought to be recast. We cannot pretend that these 2,000 men will be a serious contribution to the trained reserves of the Royal Navy. Of course, they are not.
Now I come to a situation which also needs some explanation, and that is in relation to the Royal Air Force. I listened to what the right hon. Gentleman said. I may have misunderstood him, but I think that I got it right. According to the White Paper, the Royal 67 Air Force will absorb 48, 000 of these National Service men in the coming year. I want to know whether this is a fixed and minimum figure below which what the Royal Air Force takes will not fall?
§ Mr. Alexander indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Eden
I thought it was not. I thought the right hon. Gentleman said that as the regular Air Force grew larger, the requirements for National Service men would fall. That is very important. Let us look at what we get. That means that even this year the Royal Air Force want only 48,000 of these young men, and with the passage of the years they will want fewer and fewer. Almost the whole of this call-up will now be directed to the Army. That is what it really means. So far from this being built up as a reserve for the three Services—I am not criticising; I only want to see where we are going—it is really a National Service contribution for the Army, with an infinitesimal figure for the Royal Navy and a very small one for the Royal Air Force. That is not at all what was presented to us when the Bill was before the House last year and it is still not what is in the White Paper.
It may be that as far as the Royal Air Force are concerned—another point on which I hope the Prime Minister will say something—they hope to rely to a very large extent on the efficient Auxiliary Air Force. I am not at all opposed to that, but the recruiting position there is far from satisfactory. There is no difficulty about the air crew, but ground crews are very difficult to get. I ask the Prime Minister or the Minister of Defence to look into this matter further. I suppose that the Auxiliary Air Force would be about the cheapest Air Force one could hope to create in this country. We cannot hope to get it unless we give the ground crews reasonable conditions. I was told today that when these young men do their temporary service for an hour or two on the aerodromes, they do not get the rate of pay of the regular Air Force. They cannot get their meals at the Service messes and have to buy them at the N.A.A.F.I. with their very small allowance. That costs as much as or more than the little money they are paid. I do not say that that is the whole cause, but if the Government want to build 68 up to full strength an Auxiliary Air Force which will be able to play its full part, they should look at the conditions offered to these young men, because they are at present far below what they should be.
Even with the deferred call-up which the Government propose, at least 100,000 conscripts will pass through the Army in the coming year and probably more in later years. Are the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence really satisfied that the Regular Army as it is—obviously we have now to deal with the Army in relation to National Service over the next two or three years—can properly train these men during their year with the Colours, and at the same time assist to build up the voluntary cadre of the Territorial Army for part-time training, besides discharging all the duties, rather vaguely referred to in paragraph 14, which the Regular Army alone can perform? These are tasks which cannot be discharged perfunctorily. The Regular Army has to be at concert pitch. It is the material of which any expeditionary force has to be built and it is the cadre on which a wartime intake would have to be trained and organised.
The House should also remember this. The standard of training and treatment generally which these young National Service men will get when they go into the Regular Army every year will not only determine the value of the service they themselves can render, but will largely determine the attitude of public opinion towards the Army and the Armed Forces as a whole. It is essential that it should be made a success. I ask again: are the Government convinced that those numbers can be handled by the Army at its present size?
I would like to draw attention to a statement in paragraph 61. It is a very strange statement. It says that the National Service scheme was designed to give a trained reserve:… capable of immediate mobilisation in emergency.Does the Prime Minister really feel that a Territorial Army composed of National Service men who do 6o days' training in six years can really be called, in conditions of modern war,a trained reserve capable of immediate mobilisation in emergency"?69 It seems to me clear that they cannot possibly be anything of the kind. In the meanwhile we are completely in the dark about the planned size of the Regular Army. The White Paper says that:It is essential that the Regular Services should be built up as rapidly as possible to the size needed "—but no information at all is given us as to what the size needed is considered to be, and without that information that phrase is completely meaningless. Are we to infer that the Government have a target in respect of the Army, that is, the size to which they are building, which they wish to keep secret, or that they have not yet decided what the target is?
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
I think a statement has been made on more than one occasion in this House as to the target which the War Office has set for the Regular Army. I believe that I gave it when I was Secretary of State for War. It was round about the 200,000 mark.
§ Mr. Eden
That is not the point I was making. That is the immediate numerical target. I am a little beyond that. I want the Government to explain the kind of Army they wish to create and the kind of task it is supposed to discharge. It is something very different from trying to recruit 200,000 men. I am not even sure that that is right, as things are now. The right hon. Gentleman knows that a little time has elapsed since he left the War Office. If that figure is correct, perhaps we may be told so. Without knowing what the Government's objectives are, it is impossible for us to judge how far recruitment is satisfactory or unsatisfactory, or to form an opinion of the balance between National Service and Regular elements in each of the three Services now or in the next few years.
I have another matter to refer to which will no doubt please the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). Before I do that, I want to give one more example of what I mean by the lack of planning in this White Paper. In paragraph 57 there is an extraordinary sentence. It refers to:… a general but flexible policy on the shape and size of the Forces.What in the world is that? Can anybody tell me what a general but flexible policy is? If it is general, it must presumably he flexible. If I might use the elegant 70 language of the Minister of Health, I would describe that as a bromide. Perhaps the Prime Minister will explain what was in the mind of the Government when they wrote that down. I must ask the House to look at paragraph 6o and must tell the Minister of Defence that that paragraph might well have been written in 1900, or even a little earlier, for all its relevance to modern conditions. Look what it says. We are told that the Air Force is to be maintained:… at a level sufficient to preserve its essential structure and its initial striking power.Quite separately from that remarkable doctrine, we are told that the Royal Navy with the Naval Air Arm is to be:… enabled to perform its vital role in the control of sea communications.Surely, everybody has learnt that the command of the sea, upon which successful defence and offence alike depend, is now a joint and inseparable function of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force considered as a single whole? Those sentences are an example of two Departments putting in their separate little stories and heir being not very competently welded to gether in this White Paper. We are also told that the Army:… must be in a position to meet its overseas commitments and to provide the organisation needed for training its National Service intake.As I said, we do not know what the role of the Army is, though the right hon. Gentleman knows the numbers which are required. We do not know what its tasks are supposed to be. We do not know how those tasks fit into Imperial Defence as a whole. We have not been told; we should like to know. Nor is thee a syllable in the whole of this White Paper about the tasks of the Army and the Air Force in defending this homeland against air attack, surely not an altogether unimportant factor in their duties and, of course, separate from Civil Defence, about which the right hon. Gentleman spoke.
Then I come to the heading of "Production." There we have a collection of unconnected scraps. There is a gross sum of £188 million under the heading of; "Production and Research." Can the Prime Minister tell us whether the distribution of this sum between the Services is based on some conception of the needs of National Defence as a single whole? How 71 is it allotted? The impression this White Paper gives one, again, is that a number of separate documents have been put in by each one of the Services, and reduced by a process of bargaining until they have been made to fit into a pre-determined total, agreed by the present or previous Chancellor of the Exchequer.
There also seems to be a considerable contradiction in paragraph 38. There, quite rightly, the importance of research and development is stressed, and I agree with other hon. Members that there is no part of Government expenditure at the present time which is more important than this. Will the House look at paragrap 38? There, the right hon. Gentleman starts off, boldly and correctly, by saying that research and development continue to receive the "highest priority" in the defence field. That is obviously right. There are few things of higher priority in our national life. However, he goes on to say in the next sentence that difficulties are being met about qualified scientific staff. I know that is so, and I make no quarrel with it, but he goes on to say that there are troubles about the supply of labour and materials. If this is the "highest priority" as he says, how can the work be held up for lack of material, or even for lack of labour?
§ Mr. Alexander indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Alexander
The right hon. Gentleman has had great experience in wartime of what that really means. We are giving priority to defence research but, of course, the proportion of labour and materials which we undertake to give has to be in relation to other high priorities in the civil field.
§ Mr. Eden
With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, what he ought to have said was that this would be given a high priority—not the "highest priority." I would like to know what it is that is to have even higher priority than this at the present time. That we ought to know, because I 72 can conceive of no subject which should have an earlier call upon the necessary raw materials and labour than this. If there are, outside the defence field, some spheres which require higher priority, we ought to know what they are.
I apologise for keeping the House longer than I had intended but, before I sum up, there is one more question I must ask. I am a little puzzled by the sudden arrival among "Works" in paragraph 43 of the mention of a new storeholding area for the Army in Kenya——
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes rose——
§ Mr. Eden
I am asking for expenditure on research to deal with it; I am not asking how to drop it, because I do not know anything about that. I am asking the Prime Minister to say something to us about the Kenya position. It seems odd that the only reference to what is an apparently important new project is under "Works." It looks, again, as if some Department had sent in their bit of the White Paper, got it included, and everyone forgot to mention it in the general field. We would like to know what has been done, how the work is getting on, if it is, and what it is intended to do when it is completed, if ever it is completed.
Finally, I ask the Government whether the Service Ministries have been given an assumption to work on of a number of years or peace, or not. If they have been given that assumption, how many years have they been given to work on? Of course, the Government will understand, and I hope the House also, that there is a great distinction between giving Service Departments a number of years to work on and the time that they can allow themselves to bring their units to operational efficiency. Those are two quite distinct things. A Government can say that war is not expected for five years, but the warning period must always be a much shorter one than the period of expected peace which a Government lays down. I am sure the Prime Minister would agree about that. In modern conditions, with modern weapons, that warning period 73 must inevitably be infinitely shorter than it used to be. Are the Government observing this principle? Have they given the Service Chiefs a clear indication, not only of the expectation of peace, but of the mobilisation period upon which it is considered appropriate that plans ought to be based? I am not asking what it is; I would only like to know whether it has been done.
The right hon. Gentleman will realise that these are tasks not for separate Service Departments but for the Minister of Defence himself. Nothing that we have yet learnt today has given us any confidence that the permanent form of our Defence Forces has been the object of any real foresight or deliberate calculation. It may be that the reason for this failure lies in personalities; it may be that there are other reasons, to be sought deeper. In any case, it seems to us that the Government have a real duty. We think they ought to review afresh the whole structure of the Armed Forces, including the present working of the National Service scheme. I know that the Prime Minister himself must feel how much out is that calculation of only a year ago. The Government must plan so that this immense current outlay of manpower and money, unprecedented in time of so-called peace, not only provides a sound basis for subsequent evolution, but affords the maximum strength at the present time.
We agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon about foreign policy, the need for defence, and the immediate needs of the present time. We moved this Amendment because we were not satisfied by the White Paper, or by the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that the proper steps are being taken, and we hope that the Prime Minister will be able to give us some further information before this Debate concludes tonight.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May I ask you whether the Amendment standing in my name and the name of the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin), namely—leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add:deeply concerned at the serious economic crisis facing this country, and the need to utilise the Nation's manpower in useful production, rejects the White Paper (Command Paper No. 7327), as the huge defence commitments are crippling the Nation's recovery, and 74 calls for the immediate cutting of the Armed Forces to 500,000"—will be called later on in the Debate?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
No, that has not been selected and therefore will not be called.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Swingler (Stafford)
The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) has made a large number of complaints and criticisms of the White Paper which the House is considering this afternoon. His complaints fall roughly under two headings: first, lack of information and, secondly, inconsistency. Regarding lack of information, many of us will welcome the recruitment of the right hon. Gentleman amongst those who will, perhaps, this year, as they did last year, try to keep the Secretary of State for War up all right on the Estimates in order to try to extract some more information as to how all this money is spent. A year ago many of us were complaining in precisely the same way about the fact that we are not provided, in this House, for so-called reasons of security, with the information to enable us to judge realistically about the composition of the Armed Forces or the way in which the money is spent. I, too, cannot accept the argument, which is still brought forward by my right hon. Friend, that this information should be denied. It has not been proved to us in any way that, for example, an analysis of the Army, by percentages, by arms and branches of the Service, would give to the intelligence services of foreign powers anything they do not already know. But it would give to those who wished to scrutinise the Estimates the ability to judge how the Forces are really balanced.
On the second set of criticisms made by the right hon. Gentleman, it seemed to me that he had seen a lot of the trees, but not much of the wood. He has brought out a number of compromises disclosed in the defence policy of the Government in the White Paper, but not dwelt very much on the crucial question as to why those compromises have been made. The Government have to my mind fallen between the two stools of the fulfilment of overseas commitments which they cannot really afford to fulfil, and of responding to the economic requirements of the country and its industrial recovery. 75 It would be ungracious of me, having criticised him on this point, not to recognise that the Minister of Defence has produced a little more information than last year, and I wish to thank him for it. Now, in addition to looking at the uniformed personnel in the Armed Forces, we can make some analysis, from the end of the White Paper, of the civilian staffs which go with it, and can get a better idea of what the manpower for defence really is.
In the White Paper we have a bill for £630,000 for the Ministry of Defence. The first thing we have to ask this afternoon is whether we are getting value for money by this organisation. We require to know more about it from the Prime Minister in order to answer that question. When the Ministry of Defence was created, people supposed that we were doing more than establishing a post office between the Foreign Secretary and the Service Departments and that there was going to be, at the earliest possible date—whether we were in a period of transition or not—a positive policy, an overall strategic plan, a unified policy for the Services, and also protection as far as the rank and file of the troops was concerned from impossible commitments, and the imposition of impossible tasks upon them.
When we look at the White Paper I do not feel we can say that we have in it the explanation of the overall strategic plan or of a unifying policy for the Services. We are told in paragraph 47 that examination has been given to the question of a complete amalgamation of the administrative services of the Armed Forces and that it does not lead the Government to the conclusion that it would be in the real interests of economy and efficiency. But no reasons have been adduced why such an amalgamation, which has been proposed many times before, would not be in the interests of economy and efficiency.
What form of examination has really been given to the question of the amalgamation, for example, of the medical service and the chaplaincy service, and the most simple questions which have been previously discussed? There is a great danger that in the Ministry of Defence we have an organisation which is coordinating the co-ordinators. That is 76 something we most of all desire to avoid, because it means a multiplication of staffs. The talk in the White Paper about continuing co-ordination and the establishment of co-ordination committees is very dangerous, because it may simply mean the wastage of manpower and the wastage of money.
The question of the call-up age is a most serious issue. The disclosure made in paragraph 61 of the White Paper that during the next two or three years we are to pursue a policy of progressive raising of the age of call-up is a most serious step and it should be carefully discussed in this House. It amounts to amending the 1947 Act. That is, in fact, what the Government are doing. In the discussions in this House last year on the Bill to continue the scheme of National Service to 1954 it was again and again said that there had been a great deal of discussion about this age of call-up, which was the best age, and how it was to pan out. Again and again, it was emphasised by the Government that for various reasons the age of 18 had been selected as the best, and Amendments to make it 19 or 21 were resisted.
I will give a few examples of that to the Minister of Defence whom, I must say, I cannot find personally guilty in this matter. On 6th May, when the National Service Bill was being dealt with, the Minister of Labour went into the whole question and emphasised at the end of his speech:We must adhere to our decision to call them up at 18.The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) followed him in that Debate, and said this, which has some interest today:It seems to me that 18 is a very valuable age from the social point of view. From the military point of of view, 19, perhaps, would have been better … but from the social point of view, … there is no doubt to my mind that to begin at 18 is a less severe form of National Service than to begin at a later date.As one turns over the pages of the Committee Debate, as I have been doing during the week-end, one finds that the Parliamentary Secretary, for instance, said on 6th May:We have had a great deal of discussion and have consulted both sides of industry about this matter. The general feeling was that 18 was right."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th May, 1947; Vol. 437, c. 240, 241 and 257.]77 That was said over and over again in resisting Amendments designed to make it a different age. But here the Government are saying that for various reasons we should raise the age of call-up to 18¼ by 1950, and I suppose that it will go on and will become 19. In fact, we are amending the scheme, and operating it in an entirely different way than was supposed by the majority of hon. Members who entered the discussions on the National Service Bill last year.
If this was being done for economic reasons, I would have more sympathy with it. If we were reducing the number of men being called up because of economic requirements at home and the need for manpower, in the sense of giving greater deferments or exemptions, a very powerful case could be produced. But, in fact, we see from the White Paper that it is being done because of the state of unbalance which has come about in our Armed Forces, because in fact, owing to the commitments which our Armed Forces have, and owing to the fact that there are too few Regulars to garrison the commitments and train the National Service intake, the size of the National Service intake is being adapted according to the number of Regulars available to do training and according to the number of commitments there are. It is simply a compromise, as we go along, of calling up the numbers we can absorb, according to the state of commitments we have to meet, and according to the voluntary recruitment of people to the Army, Navy and Air Force.
At the same time, so far as I can see, there is nothing in this White Paper to suggest any alteration in policy in regard to recruiting Regular Forces. If the substantial reason had been there are not enough Regulars, not enough long-service men, to undertake the training of the full National Service intake, I could have understood the Government coming forward to suggest a new policy to recruit more men into the Regular Forces in order that there should be a bigger response by the end of 1948 or the beginning of 1949, so as to provide a Force which could cope with the whole National Service intake. There is no suggestion in the defence policy that is reflected in the White Paper of any altered policy in regard to pay and conditions for the Regular Forces, for example.
78 Therefore, the people who will bear the brunt of any errors or mistaken calculations that may be made are the boys who do not know exactly when they are to be called up, and their parents. It is a very serious matter. There is the unsettlement so far as the flow of manpower into industry and normal employment is concerned, and so far as the calculations of the boys and parents are concerned, because the age of 18, and in fact any particular age to which we adhered had the simple advantage that people knew when they would be called up, and how long it would be. This variation of the age of call-up and the postponement of the date of call-up will cause a state of uncertainty. Nevertheless, I welcome the fact that fewer men are to be called up.
Finally, I would say, in regard to what is in this White Paper and the Estimates that are linked with it, that we must recognise that the continuing cost of defence for this country is appalling. Consider from a commonsense point of view the situation last year, when we had over a million men still under arms two years after the war, and another 600,000 citizens supplying or servicing them. We had a million acres of this country be rig used by them. To take another example, four million metric tons of motor spirit were consumed by them. All this was being maintained by a nation living on an overdraft of £675 million during the year. This policy has been based up to now, and is based in the future, on the presumption of American financial aid. We have to recognise the fact that the continuance of this policy is based upon something which is not put into the White Paper and is not analysed; it is certainly based on receiving some aid under Mr. Marshall's programme.
Again, when we look at the Budget for the calendar year, 1947, there was a gross military expenditure overseas of £211 million. That total happened to be reduced by the sale of surplus stores, etc., and the net military expenditure shown in the balance of payments White Pa3er was £75 million, but the gross military expenditure overseas was £211 million. That is a most grave situation for our country. Therefore, I make the plea to the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister to look again at this question of giving information to the House and the question of security, so that we can 79 really consider the Estimates in detail and so that, without giving away matters of location etc., we can have a real analysis of the composition of these Forces, and particularly of the administrative people behind them.
In 1939 we had 50,000 civil servants in the Defence Services and supply, that is non-industrial civil servants. Now we have 120,000 for those Forces as against 50,000. We want more information as to the composition of this manpower budget and the way in which the money is spent. We also want a more realistic consideration in relation to the economic strength of the country, its shortage of manpower, the dollar shortage, the whole situation with which we are to be faced in production and trade during the next 12 months, and of the heavy burdens put upon the people, the taxpayers, the citizens of the country, the boys who are to be called up, and, not least, the inadequate numbers of troops who have to maintain the burdens of commitments overseas.
§ 5.35 P.m.
§ Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)
As the Minister of Defence pointed out, there are some brief references in the White Paper, in paragraphs 4 and 54, to Civil Defence. I should like to say a few words on that topic. Last year, the White Paper emphasised that our first defence commitment was the security of the United Kingdom. One might add that a secure base in the United Kingdom is very important in war to the United States also. Obviously the security of 'the United Kingdom must mainly depend upon active defence by the Fighting Services including the Royal Air Force, but as no defence can give complete immunity from air attack it is obvious also that a parallel organisation of Civil Defence is imperative, to reduce the effects of air attack and to maintain our war potential and morale.
I submit that the matter is urgent. It is certainly regarded as urgent in the United States, in spite of their remoteness from any possible enemy. The Government there are alive to the matter, especially since the Air Policy Commission appointed by the President reported only a few weeks ago that atomic air attack on a large scale is possible, within five years, from 5,000 miles away. Five thousand miles happens to be just about 80 the distance to New York from the nearest point in Russia. Some countries west of Russia have in the last two or three years also become available to her. If America is preparing Civil Defence, as she is, can we who are so much nearer to the Continent of Europe afford to be idle?
What are the Government's plans? The Minister of Defence devoted only two or three sentences to them. As he mentioned, on 19th November, wrongly given in the White Paper as 19th December, the Prime Minister made a brief statement. Unfortunately that was the day before the Royal Wedding, and the statement attracted little attention. Three weeks later the Civil Defence Department of the Home Office issued a memorandum which went to all local authorities and also to the Press, although they did not take much notice of it, amplifying the statement of the Prime Minister. The Home Office said that a joint planning staff was being set up for Civil Defence. My first question is whether that has yet been constituted, and who is the head of it?
It seems to me that here a fundamental issue arises. Is the Minister of Defence satisfied that the Home Office is the best Department to plan Civil Defence? That seems to me to be very doubtful indeed. I understand that in the United States it is intended to place Civil Defence under the new Secretary for Defence, who is also in charge of the fighting Services under the scheme of unification. Is it right for Civil Defence here to be under the Home Office, especially as it is a feature of the new scheme that troops will be used? If the Home Secretary is the best Minister to control Civil Defence, I wish to ask if he is a member of the Defence Committee, or is he merely called in occasionally for consultation? In the next war Civil Defence will be so important that either it ought to be part of the Defence Ministry, or the Minister in charge of it ought to be a regular member of the Defence Committee.
The Home Office memorandum says that Civil Defence is of two kinds, preventive and remedial. On the preventive side it refers to the need for dispersal. Is there a policy for dispersal? Have the Government grappled with this matter? If they have, how is it that enormous new power stations are being put up in thickly populated areas? What is being done 81 about structural protection? Is anything being done? If anything is being done, why is it that, so far as I can make out, there is no attempt to make the basements in new blocks of flats and new schools the best possible for shelter purposes? Are all the deep shelters, provided for the last war, being properly maintained? Of course, there is a big difference between the past and the future. In the last war no atom bomb was launched against this country. I am afraid we must assume that in the next war atom bombs will be used. I wish to ask whether the Government can give, any opinion as to whether Civil Defence can cope in any way with the atom bomb? Will deep underground shelters be any use against the atom bomb? If so, are they being planned, and when will they be started? Can any protection be given at all against radioactivity? In the last war there was a long interval before we had heavy air attacks. In the next war the atom bomb may come as the very first signal that war has broken out. Therefore, anything that can be done to protect the civil population against the atom bomb should be begun immediately. There is no time to be lost.
The Home Office memorandum says that the new Civil Defence Forces will consist of three elements. First of all, there will be a military whole-time Force in mobile columns. If I understood the right hon. Gentleman aright, he said that those columns would be found by the Territorial Army. If they are to be found by the Territorial Army, I find it very difficult to understand how the Territorial Army is going to be able to find, first, the bulk of the Anti-Aircraft defences; secondly, reinforcements for the Regular Army, and thirdly, mobile military columns for Civil Defence. The second kind of Civil Defence Service, according to the Home Office, will be what they call Local Mobile Services, which will include the police, the fire service, the ambulances and the rescue service. It is stated that in peace-time these will be administered either by the local authority or by the police, and that in war-time they will be operated by the Government. That switch-over may be inevitable, but in time of crisis is not not likely to cause confusion, and I wish to know whether there are any plans for a smooth transfer from the local authority or the police to the Government.
82 Thirdly, the civil defence forces are to comprise what are called local static forces, who will operate under the police. This seems to be a glorified name for wardens and fireguards. It is suggested that these local static forces will include all citizens who are not tied to other duties. I think it is quite right to make use of the spirit of public duty and sacrifice which was so abundantly evident in the last war. The programme also includes emergency medical services and Civil Defence units at factories etc., and a special restoration organisation. All this is very well on paper, but I want to know what is being done about it. Is anything at all being done to bring these forces into being, and to train them? The Home Office Memorandum says that the old system of control based on local government areas is to be abandoned and that instead operational areas are to be set up, each under a Government commander. It does not say how many areas the country will be divided into. Has that been decided? When will the areas be designated, and when will the commanders be appointed?
There is also the very important question of finance. The Home Office Menlo-random says that the Government will pay all capital expenditure, which will, I suppose, be chiefly on shelters. But local authorities are invited to pay half the cost of the local Static Forces, even though in war time they will not be under the control of the local authorities. This seems to me likely to arouse the old controversy which held up Civil Defence before the last war. It is quite true fiat the new proposal is more generous to local authorities than the old system, as it existed before the last war, but it still seems to me to be wrong. I suggest that the whole scheme for Civil Defence should be a national charge, and if local authorities are used in peace-time for administrative purposes, they should be used only as agents of the central Government. It is absolutely vital to settle the question of finance quickly, because until it is settled men cannot be recruited, or their training commenced, or a staff college set up.
The subject of bacteriological and biological warfare has very much exercised the minds of the Air Policy Corn-mission of America to which I have referred. This Commission says that biological weapons are being studied all over the world, and that it appears to be quite possible to deliver by air bacilli 83 and viruses which will do an immense amount of damage to human and animal life and crops, even before we are in a state of war. The Home Office Memorandum just mentions this matter in half a sentence, but it does not say what is being done about it. I wish to know whether anything is being done about it.
The White Paper refers to the work of the Defence Research Policy Committee under the distinguished chairmanship of Sir Henry Tizard. It states that this Committee controls the order in which research is carried out. It is obvious that if any protection at all is to be obtained against the new weapons, it can only be obtained through much research. I ask whether Civil Defence is represented on this Research Committee.
A great deal of work has been done on Civil Defence in the United States. Are the two countries in close touch on this matter? In Washington there are a large number of British Service attachés and in London there are a very large number of American Service attachés. Would it not be a good idea if we exchanged also civil defence attachés? I also read that this matter has been studied in Switzerland. Could we not get some ideas from Switzerland, if they have any information to give? Finally, the Home Office Memorandum says that legislation is required. Will the Government let us know today when that legislation will be introduced?
Five weeks ago the Prime Minister said that it was no good shutting our eyes to the possibility of war. Can anybody say that, in the five weeks since that remark was uttered, the possibility of war has become any more remote? If not, it is surely better to face the facts squarely. It is better to prepare now, with courage and foresight, to meet an attack, than to wait until attack is imminent or even until it is delivered. If we are to have any chance of survival in the next war, I submit that strenuous efforts ought to be made not only to provide adequate Fighting Forces but also to protect the civil population against air attack.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I hope the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) will excuse me if I do not follow him in discussing Civil Defence, 84 but turn to the major problems raised by the White Paper and the speech of my right hon. Friend. I would like to start with two reflections on figures in the White Paper. It is unfortunate, to use a very mild expression, that in the year of our acutest economic crisis we should have reached the stage, in the run-down of our Armed Forces, of maximum cost for minimum result. I think that it is agreed on all sides of the House that that is the stage we are in this year in our Armed Forces. As the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) rightly said, this year the tail is larger than ever and the teeth are fewer. I was gratified to observe that he quoted the "New Statesman and Nation." That was the information available to the journalists. I hope that this evening we will obtain from the Prime Minister more reliable information so that we can judge the actual strength of the Army.
There is one point which I do not think any hon. Member has made. It is that this stage is unavoidable. We must have it at some time or other. I think that those on this side of the House who last year criticised the White Paper and demanded cuts then, were in a far stronger position with regard to this stage than anybody on the other side. The real criticism is that we should have reached this stage 18 months ago. We might well have studied the Americans in this respect. They suffered a period of chaos in their Armed Forces immediately after the war which, after all, is the safest period in which to suffer it. We, by postponing the stage, have increased the risk to this country in terms of strategy, and we are suffering it at a period when we are even weaker economically than we were in 1945. I must add that at this time last year when we were discussing the same subject, we were then urging cuts in the Armed Forces and we were told that they were totally impossible. In July concessions were made which were not made in March, with the result that there was a far greater disturbance of the Armed Forces, owing to the cuts being made suddenly in response to an economic emergency and not in response to the necessities of a scientifically graded run-down of the Armed Forces themselves.
When the size of our Armed Forces starts being determined by economic necessity and economic crisis, then the country is in a very dangerous situation. 85 That could have been avoided if we had started the run-down earlier and avoided these sudden breaks in the curve which make dislocation inevitable. For instance, we see the old battleships being scrapped. If they are unnecessary now, what use have they been for the last two years? Why were not these decisions about battleships made in time instead of waiting month after month and postponing the matter until this year, which is the most crucial year from the economic point of view which this country has ever experienced?
The second reflection I want to make is on the subject of conscription. I agree wholly with my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Swingler) in pointing out the lamentable result of postponing the age of call-up from 18 years to 18 years nine months. This postponement has only confirmed what many of us who sat through the all-night sitting in the Committee stage of the National Service Act feared at the time. I remember listening to that Committee stage Debate and saying to hon. Members around me, "I wonder whether he has any idea what he is going to do when this Bill is through." It appears now as though the decision had been, "First pass the Bill and then work out the plan." It might be slightly wiser next time first to have the plan and then to pass the Bill. That is really not an unfair comment on this postponement of the call-up. This postponement is a clear proof that no one knew when they passed that Act what the plan was and how it would work. Therefore, we have this dislocation of the education of our young people.
That brings me to my third main theme. That mistake about conscription, that lack of planning, is only a part of a wider lack of planning to which I think the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington called attention. What is really wrong with this White Paper is that when one reads it one cannot find a central theme in it. One cannot find in it a governing principle, or a policy on which strategy is to depend. What is the policy? That, by the way, as the Minister of Defence rightly pointed out, is not his responsibility. It is the responsibility of the Cabinet or the Foreign Secretary. It is clear that unless the Government have decided on a foreign policy they cannot blame the generals or the Minister of 86 Defence it the strategy does not make sense. Strategy must never dictate policy; policy must dictate strategy.
Having read through this White Piper, I must say that I am still in the dark whether we have any clear, decided policy. We were told quite openly that with regard to the Armed Forces we had made no final decision; that it was impossible, in terms of new weapons, to make any decision, and that we were now in the transition period. I heard this famous phrase, "This is a year of transition." It is the transition from 1948 to 1949 and next year will be the transition from 1949 to 1950. Every year will be a year of transition. Every year will be a year of, "We cannot make up our mind on what our policy is to be." If we say that we cannot make up our policy until the transition is over, it will mean that we do not make up our policy until the war has been won by the other side. Although we may say that we have to wait until the new weapons have reached a stage of development when we shall know definitely a bout certain things, the other side may not wait. Everybody does not wait. Some people make up their minds before a science has reached a definitive stage when even Britain can decide that this or that weapon should be made.
I must point out to the House that there are certain other awkward conclusions to be drawn from the statement of the Minister of Defence. He says, "We have not made up our minds." We must assume therefore that our Forces are now disposed according to the strategy of the last war. That is not an unreasonable assumption. It is legitimate tog us, in criticising this White Paper, to criticise it not in the terms of the next war strategy but in terms of the last war, because that is the strategy on which we are at present, organised. I would' illustrate my problem from Europe. If we assume that the Forces are to use the same sort of weapons as those of the last war, we know one or two things about what would happen if a war started in Europe. We know that, in the event of a war in Europe, there will not be a period of 1939–40. We shall start next time in August, 1940, after Europe has been lost. There will not be a British Expeditionary Force this time. There will merely be the withdrawal of the British Occupation Forces in Germany, and this 87 will be a beleagured island at the beginning of the war.
I am confirmed in this by the reference in the White Paper to the fact that it has been decided to make our major striking force the strategic bomber force. That is a realistic assumption. But a strategic bomber force is a most wasteful force in terms of economic and industrial work, and is also a most expensive and an inefficient force for doing damage to the enemy. We would never centre our strategy on a strategic bomber force if we had any other force for use in Western Europe. If all that is true, then what exactly are our troops doing in Greece and Germany? Are they there for defence in the event of war? Or are they there to impress someone? Let us be candid about it. They are there for the purpose of bluff.
I was reading in "The Times" of Friday the report of Lieut.-General Percival's official statements on the Malayan campaign. In reference to Singapore General Percival made some remarks which have relevance today, and I would like to quote from a message from the Singapore correspondent of "The Times" which appeared on the same day:The myth of an 'impregnable fortress' gained currency during that uneasy period after the outbreak of the war in the west and before the outbreak of war in the east, when we were, in fact, playing a game of bluff.The important point is in this last sentence:The mischief was that in trying to deceive the Japanese we had effectively deceived our own people and the outside world.I commend that comment on the Malaya-Singapore Campaign to the attention of the Minister of Defence. It is very much more difficult to bluff the Russians than it is to deceive the Americans. Nothing is easier in the world than to build a strategy based on bluff which does not deceive the potential enemy, but only deceives ourselves and our potential ally who is unwilling to assume his responsibilities.
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)
Does the hon. Gentleman then suggest that, if Greece were now attacked quite openly by strong forces, the United States would not take action, because I do not think he has any warrant for that?
§ Mr. Crossman
I was only pointing out that, if Greece were attacked by these countries, there are no forces available at the present moment anywhere near Greece which could resist that attack, apart from 6,000 British troops who are a token force. The forces available are not serious forces; they are token forces.
I do not believe that this is the fault of the Minister of Defence, or, least of all, of the Chiefs of Staffs. I have made a list of the commitments which the Chiefs of Staffs are ordered to cover by the Government, and they include the whole of Western Europe, the whole of the Mediterranean, the whole of the Middle East Africa, as well as Singapore and, of course, Australia and New Zealand. If we look at these commitments, it appears at once that the forces allocated in the White Paper are ludicrously inadequate to cover that territory. Western Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Singapore—for all that area we have forces which are totally inadequate. We are fantastically over-committed in terms of our economic strength. We are trying to cover infinitely more than this country can conceivably cover. It is no blame to the Chiefs of Staffs that we have to have a strategy of bluff. They have to have it because the policy directive demands that they should defend areas without the forces necessary to defend them. In this transition period, we have not got a new strategy and, in our old strategic terms, we are relying on bluff.
But we are told that there will not be a war, and that these forces are provided in order not to defeat an enemy, but to deter him. This is reasonable only if we are not deceiving ourselves and if this force can really be backed up by forces somewhere else which really can do the job. Are we certain that they are backed up by forces capable of doing the job? I would like to know from the Minister of Defence whether these forces, dispersed all over the world, have any real backing that, if the bluff were called, something would really happen.
We must recognise one thing today; the only real military deterrent against Communist aggression is American military force. What really holds off the Russian military attack is their fear that it would provoke war with the U.S.A. That is the fundamental military sanction which holds back the Russians from beginning a war. Our forces are 89 scattered over the world as token forces, but the reality is somewhere else. I wonder therefore whether the 6,000 men in Greece are really necessary to indicate American intentions. What do we gain by having them there? What do the Americans gain? It might be better if the Americans expressed their intentions in terms of American G.I.s instead of in terms of British troops.
I suggest, in all seriousness, that we should tackle this problem of Communist expansion with two lines of defence. One is political and social, and the other is armed force. In my opinion, the responsibility for armed forces is overwhelmingly American, for reasons which I will give later. In my view, the responsibility for political and social defence is overwhelmingly British. That is the division of responsibility against Communist expansion. Stalin is not as crude as Goering who achieved expansion by threat of a Blitzkrieg; he says something quite different. He says, "I know by dialectical demonstration that if I stay here waiting, you will, by your internal disintegration, fall apart and permit me to take you over one by one, without any other use of Russian strength." Unlike the Nazis, who believed in the military strength of weapons, Stalin believes that history forecasts the disintegration of the capitalist world, and he just waits for its disintegration to take place. That means, therefore, that any appeal to bluff with military forces is insufficient to defeat the Communist danger.
We see, therefore, from what I have said, that in Western Europe we have no strictly military defence against Russia. If war came, in a matter of weeks, the Red Army would be in Norway and through France, and there is nothing which could resist its 300 divisions. What can resist Communism? Not merely military force. The real thing to resist it is the political and social reconstruction of Europe as a "Communist-proof" social system—something which defies the Communist dialectic and exposes its claim that we shall collapse under our inner contradictions. I suggest that when we are planning our defence force, this political and social weapon is part of our defence, the most important part of it. In fact, it is the only defence we have of Europe for, if it comes to war, 90 we have to give up Europe. Therefore, we must defend Europe without a war. That must be our aim; that means that we must make the Marshall Plan work and make Western union a reality. Those things are part of our defence plan, and our narrow "defence Plan" must be strictly subordinated to them. These are our defence priorities, and they are infinitely more important than armed forces.
Let me give a graphic illustration. If I want to defend Germany, I do not send an extra battalion to Berlin so that there are three instead of two. That is nonsense. What do I do? I send the French five million tons of coal and ask them not to take any coal out of Germany at all, so that the Ruhr can revive. That is the real defence of Germany and infinitely more valuable to her than three armoured divisions. That produces the industrial recovery of Germany ant the beginnings of a social system which could be Communist-proof. I hope the House will agree that the same applies is the Middle East. It is no good talking of the defence of the Middle East in purely strategic terms. If the Middle East disintegrates socially and politically, no number of soldiers will avail. The main defence of the Middle East is to stop the present social and political disintegration which has been going on there for the last three years.
I beg the Foreign Secretary to read his first directive—he said our main job was to look after the fellaheen—and to ask himself whether it would not have been better had he stood by that directive instead of being over-persuaded that strategy must take precedence over policy. Once strategy does that, you are done, because you lose the confidence of the people there; you treat them as puppets, and you get thrown out. We see the same principle in the Middle East as in Western Europe. The strict military defence plan must be rigorously subordinated to the social and political defence plans.
§ Mr. Austin
Does the political and social role which Britain has to play exclude the theory of trading with the Soviet Union and its satellites?
§ Mr. Crossman
Obviously not. If we want to have a sound and healthy economy in Western Europe, we need to trade with Eastern Europe. What it 91 excludes is letting ideology dominate strategy and policy. I ask the House to judge this White Paper in terms of those principles. Are those principles clear in the White Paper? No, it does not say so at all; it does not say that the most important thing today is to get the Marshall Plan working, to get Western union, and to subordinate our defence policy to those things.
§ Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)
We are very grateful to the hon. Member for his argument. He says that social democracy is a defence against the Communist threat, but is he really convinced that there is yet time to put forward that defence, or is it too late?
§ Mr. Crossman
If it is too late, what are we talking about in this House? I did not say "social democracy"; I said "democracy." I happen to think it should he Socialist, but the main thing is that it has to be democratic. There has to be a plan, and that plan has to be agreed.
I see that £700 million is to be spent on this narrow out-of-date bluff defence. I also notice that 1,200,000 English men and women are to be taken out of productive industry for the sake of this narrow bluff defence. That means that a vast segment of our manpower and resources is to be taken out of the economic defence line this year. Each person put into the Army, and each person put on munition work is taken out of the economic front line this year, and reserved for the military front line, if ever we should lose Europe. It is rank defeatism to take 1,200,000 people out of the job of working for the Marshall Plan, and to make them work on the supposition that if there is a war we shall lose the whole of Europe. That is the supposition of the White Paper; it is bad strategy and bad policy.
I suggest to the Government that their greatest fault has been trying to do too much simultaneously: I suggest that our real priorities in defence are the following four things: (a) economic stability in this country—that is the prime need of defence against Communism; (b) the successful integration of Western Europe and the solution of the German problem; (c) dealing, somehow, with the social problem in the Middle East; (d) Colonial 92 development. The fifth priority is defence in the narrow meaning of the word. I wonder whether it was regarded by the Cabinet as a fifth priority, and whether, if it had been so regarded, we would have had the £700 million and the 1,200,000 men and women allocated to this narrow sector of the battle?
The most important thing which the White Paper shows is that, despite Mr. Marshall, America has not accepted the responsibilities of her own foreign policy; she has not accepted the military consequences of the Truman doctrine. America wants the Marshall Plan to work and she wants Britain to take the lead in Western Union, yet the Marshall aid she gives to Britain is only a fraction of the total cost of our Armed Forces. What we are getting by way of Marshall Aid is only a fraction of the costs of the Armed Forces which we are discussing today. America is demanding the impossible of this country.
§ Mr. Crossman
I agree. What she is saying is, "Lead the economic revival of Western Europe," and, at the same time, she is leaving a series of Anglo-American military commitments exclusively to us. I need only refer to the Middle East in which American interests are at least as great as ours, but where the American commitment is nil in defence of those interests.
§ Mr. Crossman
We are discussing it now. What is happening to it is that it is being squeezed out in this way.
§ Mr. Crossman
I suggest that we might well remember our own situation 20 years ago. It is an ironical thing to think that what I have just said could have been said 20 years ago by Frenchmen; everything I said could have been said by France about England. We left France the overwhelming burden of the military commitment for maintaining the security of Europe. What did we get? France neither deterred Germany nor defeated her, but, being defeated herself, she very nearly brought about our defeat. There is a moral there for America; there is 93 also a moral for ourselves. We must not go the way that France went; we must not take on military commitments beyond our economic strength, however much it satisfies somebody's prestige. We must have a foreign policy commensurate with our strength. Is it more important to have the economic strength to make Western Europe work, or to have the prestige of a great power, and £700 million spent on defence? That is the issue, and that is the issue which I believe the Debate on this White Paper should settle.
§ Mr. Zilliacus (Gateshead)
Why does my hon. Friend believe that if we are totally dependent on the United States from a military and economic point of view, we can still retain our political and social independence? It seems paradoxical to me.
I suppose one believes it because one believes in one's country. Countries have got into tight corners before now. I have known countries which, economically and politically, were totally dependent on us, and which managed to achieve a revival against us. If an Indian can free himself from the British, a Briton can free himself from the Americans.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Medlicott (Norfolk, Eastern)
I shall not attempt to follow the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Cross-man) in his interesting and wide-ranging analysis of the problem of defence. I know that he will forgive me if I endeavour to bring the discussion back to a rather more limited approach to the White Paper which is before us tonight. Before doing so, however, I wish to join with those speakers who have deplored the fact that in this present year we are once again having to consider the possibility of conflict. Surely, another war will be the final lunacy of mankind—the culminating point in the tendency to race suicide which some observers have already professed to see. Nevertheless, we have to be realistic and face certain situations around us which are already only too plain and threatening.
As I said just now, I wish to make a limited approach to this Paper. In the Army a document of this character would be described as an "appreciation of the situation." I agree that it does not follow that kind of military document in its exact form; nevertheless it is something 94 in the nature of an appreciation. I suggest that in military circles a Paper of this description would be classed in one of the confidential categories—not necessarily top secret or even secret, but certainly confidential or restricted. When a military commander is dealing with the problem of how to mount an attack or to meet an attack upon him, there is one thing which it is vital for him to keep secret, and that is the strength of the force which he has under his command. I am not posing as an expert; I merely state what I think is elementary knowledge, that in warfare the element of surprise is of vital importance. If the enemy can be surprised by the number of men, ships or aircraft we possess, that indeed is worth a great deal in any campaign which may he forced upon us.
In all approaches to warfare I have always imagined that secrecy as to the strength of one's forces is of vital importance. Do not tell the enemy anything, and certainly not the whereabouts of some of one's bases. British Governments, and in particular the present Government, seem to have no inhibitions of that nature. Take for example, first, the Navy, which is still in some ways our first line of defence. The White Paper on the Navy Estimates says:The policy … of deliberately accelerating reductions in the Royal Navy to approximately the manpower level contemplated for the next few years has necessarily involved some temporary dislocation and lack of balance, and for a time the immobilisation of certain units of the FleetsWhat a present to make to any potential enemy—to broadcast to the world in a White Paper, which is available to be seen by all, the fact that certain units of our Fleets are immobilised. The White Paper even goes on into more detail. It points out that at the moment we do rot possess a single battleship which is ready for sea. There is not a single Fleet aircraft carrier. There are just two light Fleet carriers and no escort carriers. I wonder what the Russian High Comma id must think about this kind of disclosure, made so plainly, and what is being thought about it by the hundreds of Nazis who have escaped into South America and other parts of the world. Admittedly, this kind of information can often be obtained by means of the intelligence services of the various nations, but surely it cannot be to our advantage that we make so plain the paucity of our resources.
95 In my view, it is this disclosure of our ineffectiveness which has probably contributed directly to these South American States adopting towards us and our territories an attitude which would have been inconceivable in earlier days under more resolute administrations. The attitude of these small countries towards us is no longer a matter of diplomacy. It is largely a matter of arithmetic. They can see the commitments to which we are already impelled in various parts of the world, and we tell them plainly in these White Papers exactly how difficult—indeed, impossible—it is for us to meet those commitments adequately. Can we be surprised, when we ourselves are so open in this disclosure of the state of our defences, that not only the territory of our friends but that of our own Commonwealth is being endangered?
To turn to an example from the Army, I said just now that normally it is not customary to disclose the whereabouts of one's bases. There is no such restraint in the White Paper about that. In taking the line which I am taking I admit that I am not altogether following the course which was adopted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) who asked for more information. However, what I am saying is not inconsistent with that. His point is that if there is to be a disclosure of information, it should be a full and balanced disclosure covering all the arms and not merely one or two of them. We are told in paragraph 43 of the White Paper on Defence that we are actually constructing a storeholding or base area in Kenya. That must be very interesting to those who are not so well disposed towards us as we would like them to be.
In the realm of supply, here again we are apparently quite prepared to reveal information of use to our potential enemies. I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say in reply to this point. It may be that I have something to learn, but at least it seems to me to be curious that we are so open about our weaknesses—a thing which in business life and military matters one always treats with the utmost reserve. Yet, because of the traditional control of this House over finance, which obviously is of vital importance, we have got into this habit of disclosing in Government publications information which I should have 96 thought must be of some help and comfort to our enemies, and which, in no circumstances, would have been disclosed in time of war. I cannot see that the necessity for reserve is any degree less now than in time of actual conflict.
On the question of supply, paragraph 29 of the White Paper says:The fuel crisis of February, 1947, and difficulties experienced throughout the year in supply of labour and materials for the production of equipment for the Services, have caused severe dislocation of the 1947–48 production programmes … It has been possible to provide for little more than the minimum requirements of maintenance … In order to free the industry for manufacture for export, it has been decided to continue the policy of placing no orders for new vehicles with certain minor exceptions.Those who were with the British Expeditionary Force in 1939 came back unanimous upon one point—that transport was the life-blood of an army, and it was the point on which the Germans were at that time overwhelmingly superior to us. Yet, at this moment, in this year when the international scene is darker than it has ever been before, we were able to announce to the world that we are placing no orders for new military vehicles, with certain minor exceptions.
Since the end of the war, or, to be more correct, a period some weeks after that, the prestige of Great Britain has deteriorated very, very seriously indeed, and I venture to suggest that is partly due to this knowledge which we seem so happy to give to other nations that we are weak in many vital respects. It may well be said by hon. Members opposite, that this reduction, or this frequent reference to the reduction, in the size of our Forces is necessary as some proof of our peaceful intentions. I do not believe we have any necessity to add any further proof to that which we have given over the last 25 or 30 years. If other nations have not learned by now that we are a peace-loving nation, it is no part of our duty now to try to teach them by reducing our defences below the limit of safety.
We are faced in Europe by the spectacle of one nation after another being drawn into the sphere of Russian influence and yet, at the same time, at this particular moment, we advertise the fact that it is extremely difficult for us to help anybody anywhere. I am not suggesting for one moment that these matters should not be discussed, but I venture to inquire 97 whether we cannot devise some better method than laying bare our anxieties, our weaknesses and our problems. I know that the method adopted during the war of holding secret sessions was by no means completely satisfactory, but at least it is worthy of thought whether that method of discussion is not worth reviving, or whether some other means could be devised whereby we can examine these problems without the disclosure to all and sundry as to where we stand.
I would say one further word on the same point. It may be suggested that our situation is not as bad as the White Paper makes out. It may be that in matters of defence there are certain undisclosed assets. I do not believe that that is so; I believe this White Paper is at least honest, because if it were not, if there were items of defence and reserves of manpower, of aircraft, and of ships, which were not disclosed to us, then obviously the discussion on this White Paper would be a farce and a waste of time. We have to assume, then, that this White Paper does given an actual picture of our defences at the moment and, if that is so, I suggest that it represents a very serious condemnation of the Government which is charged with the defence of this nation.
I want to make one point very relevant to this White Paper. The White Paper refers largely to matters of material, and of manpower in the wider sense, and to problems of supply and research, but in the last analyses a great deal depends on the use to which these weapons and resources are put, and the way in which they are used if conflict should unhappily come upon us; and that depends on the type of leader we have. In case Members opposite think I am trying to make a party point, I would add that I am not referring to political leaders, but to Service leaders. In the war we have just come through, we were fortunate in having leaders in every Service of outstanding brilliance and competence, and the greatest of them is happily still with us in the post of Chief of the Imperial General Staff.
Many others, however—some of whom I was privileged to know personally—are scattered far and wide. Some have accepted posts in the Dominions, others are in business and many are in industry. I hope the Government are not forgetting 98 that the possession of men of that calibre is one of the most vital factors in any effective scheme of defence. The question of leadership and the ability to command are important, and I hope measures are being taken to keep in touch with these men and to keep them informed on development and research, and to ensure that if a real emergency should arise they will be available on the shortest notice.
Finally, I want to make a reference to, the concluding words of the corresponding White Paper issued by the Government last year. In the very last paragraph of that White Paper, these words are contained:The supreme object of British policy must be to prevent war"—an expression which commends itself to the support of all sides of the House—The role of our Forces must therefore be to deter aggression while at the same time safeguarding British interests against attack.These are the two objectives laid down by this Government as recently as a year ago—"To deter aggression while safeguarding British interests against attack." If the White Paper which we are now discussing is put forward as an answer in regard to these objectives—if these are the means which the Government lay before the nation as being suitable and adequate to the repelling of aggression and the safeguarding of British interests, then this White Paper must surely mark the most lamentable failure which this Government have vet produced.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
I think the House would like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence on his patient attention to Ell the speeches which have been made from both sides of the House, very few of which have been devastating in their comments. It is true that the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Cross man) a little while ago disturbed the peaceful atmosphere which had hitherto reigned in the House by attempting to prove that we required neither a Minister of Defence nor any armed forces at all because——
§ Mr. Bellenger
That was how it appeared to me. The argument was that, whatever we did, we could not withstand the 30o divisions which were awaiting, perhaps, to sweep across Europe. 99 What could we do against them? Hitler thought exactly the same thing, and the Kaiser thought the same thing in the face of the contemptible British Army of 1914. It is not so easy as that; indeed, I beg leave to doubt the hon. 'Member's figures—he attempted to prove too much, I thought, and I would like to know—and I expect the Minister of Defence would like to know—where he gets these figures of 300 mythical divisions, presumably fully armed and equipped, that are awaiting for some emergency which may occur in the not too far distant future.
Just like the divisions we had to defeat Germany, so, many of the Russian divisions have disappeared in demobilisation. Without attempting to underestimate the military forces of Russia, I would say that my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry does not do his argument any good, or support it in any way which can be accepted in this House, by using figures which, I think, on investigation can be shown to bear no relation to reality.
I agree with my hon. Friend in some respects. It is quite obvious that military force alone is not sufficient to deter an aggressor. We have always to assume that there is an aggressor about. I think my hon. Friend is quite right in saying that Russia is an aggressor in the realm of thought. Communism is bound to be that. It believes in world revolution. Believing in that, it is bound to attempt to undermine all settled forms of government, so that it can attain what it is setting out to achieve—whatever that may be.
I am not, however, one of those who supposes that we shall stop any creed or doctrine like that merely by setting up what my hon. Friend calls social and economic plans—which are all very good in their way, of course—and by ignoring our military defence. It may be that the old doctrine of turning the other cheek can be effective; it may have been 2,000 years ago. I do not know. However, with the experience of two world wars behind me, I am quite certain that we in this country cannot afford to do anything else but to back up our diplomacy and economic policy with armed force. Twice we have been caught with insufficient armed 100 forces. Who knows now, considering the evidence coming out in the Nuremberg trials, whether Hitler might not have been stopped with far less forces than we could mobilise against him, but forces—had they been there—for which he must have had respect?
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will not resent this attempt on the part of the House to probe very deeply into his White Paper and what lies behind it. I regret, however, that the Opposition have found it necessary to place on the Order Paper an Amendment to the Motion, an Amendment which, I presume, they will take to a Division tonight. I do not think that the time is opportune for us to have a complete picture of what my right hon. Friend's Ministry is doing, because his Department is a new Department, very much in the state of trial and error. However, 'we are bound to ask that the period of trial does not last too long, and that the errors are not too many. I myself should have deferred taking the step which the Opposition are apparently going to take tonight, because on this matter, as, indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) would be the first to admit, there ought to be no divisions on party lines.
Too often before the last war—and I was a Member of this House then—there were deep divisions, not only on the foreign policy of the Government, but on the Government's defence measures. Looking back to those days, we can see that we had reasons then to doubt the Government's policy, and to doubt the adequacy of the Armed Forces. The information in the White Paper, supplemented by the information which we shall have when the Service Ministers present their Estimates, is enough to convince the House that, although we have not completely balanced the Forces to fight the next war, if that should occur, with modern weapons—I think that no nation in the world has such Forces today—nevertheless, we have got a good many teeth, as well as that tail about which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) talks so often and sometimes so glibly.
There has been a tendency since the end of the last war to reduce the burden of the Defence Services. I think that is right, and I think there would be no division of opinion about the way it has 101 been done. It has not been a helter-skelter policy: it has been a carefully planned policy, which has transferred our men back to civilian life with very little industrial upheaval, and also without too much upheaval in the Armed Forces. We are bound to assume certain things. We are hound to assume that there will be a period during which there will be no major conflict. Although the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington wanted to know whether an instruction to that effect had been given by my right hon. Friend to the Service Ministers, and although he disclaimed any desire to ascertain what that period is, I think he can take it that the Chiefs of Staff have their views on that matter and that they have communicated them to my right hon. Friend and also to the Cabinet.
The present times are not peaceful ones. There are shadows drawing over Europe—ever-lengthening shadows—and we are bound to take note of them. If the whole armed might of Russia and her satellites were thrown into action tomorrow, of course England would not be in a position to meet it. Indeed, I should say that in the minds of the Chiefs of Staff there must always be present the hypothesis that Britain cannot enter a major war without powerful allies. All that my right hon. Friend is doing today is to say what Britain is prepared to do, in concert with other peace-loving nations, to deter aggression, and, if that is not successful, to resist it with the might of those combined allies.
In reviewing the Estimates of the Ministry of Defence we are entitled to ask whether we are getting full value for money. I do not for a moment dispute—I do not think Members of the Government would either—that hon. Members opposite when they ask for more information than that which is contained in the White Paper, have a right to do so. That has been the tactics of Oppositions throughout the ages. That is what the Opposition are there for. They cannot sit silent, as they have on so many occasions, and not say anything; for it might be alleged against them that they had no interest in the defence of this country. I am bound to say that, although I do not for one moment doubt their interest, their accomplishments before the war did not equal their interest. However I think it is a little too early to have a complete 102 picture of the modernisation of the weapons and equipment of the Services.
But I am a little disturbed by what I read in the White Paper about the effect of the economic crisis—as I suppose: it must be called—on what my right hon. Friend called the "highest priority." Of course, when cuts have to be made in the civil economy, the Services cannot hope to avoid whatever austerity is going, but I would ask my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to say a little more than did my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence about methods of defence against possible attack on this country. The progress which has been made in the methods of attack, particularly from the air, is not equalled by progress in the methods of defelce. Methods of defence against air attack are bound to lag behind to a certain extent, I think. The high-speed bomber, which can drop its bombs from a high elevation, is a very formidable weapon of offence, and although radar and other equipment like that can give us notice of its coming, nevertheless, the weapons with which to bring the bomber down before it reaches this country are not so adequate as I had hoped they might Lave been.
In that respect, I think that perhaps the technical personnel, even to service the highly scientific and intricate equipment which we had left over from the war, are not there, and I hope that the Secretary of State for War—who, incidentally, has been threatened by the ton. Member for Stafford (Mr. Swingler) with an all-night Sitting, which I trust will not mature—will be able to say something about that when he presents his Estimates. Today we can look at only the broad outlines, and we must hope that the Service Ministers will fill in the details when they speak.
One question I wish to ask is: How far are the Minister of Defence and his Ministry able to ensure the working out of an integrated defence plan? The Ministry has not been long in existence. It has been recruited, to a large extent, from the Service Departments, and we know that the Service and other Departments do not like parting too easily with their best men. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Defence has been able to recruit a body of able civil servants, but 103 I believe—and I have had an opportunity of watching this from the inside—the Ministry of Defence is not yet able to cope with some of those vested interests which have grown up in Service Departments during past decades. The Minister of Defence will need to bring his very powerful guns to bear on some of those interests—and, indeed, to overrule them on occasion—if he is ever to achieve an integrated form of defence.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am asking that we shall have a true Ministry of Defence; something more than a mere Ministry of co-ordination of defence. During the war we had an example of very closely integrated defence methods, both at a high level and far lower down, amongst the units. I am glad to note that the 'Minister of Defence is now fully responsible for the Joint Services Staff College, the Imperial Defence College, and the Combined Operations Headquarters. However, I would ask, as I think I am entitled to, whether the Combined Operations Headquarters is anything much more than a headquarters. Are there many large-scale exercises in combined operations taking place today, with the three Services co-operating? Too often I have myself gone round and asked whether, for example, ground defences have been able to have co-operation from the Royal Air Force, only to discover that it had been asked for on a unit level. In the realm of combined operations we ought to have much better training, and in order to obtain it my right hon. Friend might have to overcome certain peacetime opposition mentalities in high quarters.
There are two other items in connection with the figures in the White Paper to which I wish to refer briefly. This afternoon very little has been said about the human side of the Services. Unless we can create humane and human conditions for those who are to be recruited to the Services, I believe we cannot hope to get a Regular Army, even if we can get a Regular Navy. Perhaps the Secretary of State for War will tell us the recruitment figures reached for the Regular Army, because that is the largest Service. I regret to note that, according to the White Paper, it has been necessary to reduce the plan for the Services 104 to bring their living conditions up to a quality comparable with normal civilian living standards. I ask nothing more than that for their requirements the Service Departments shall rank pari passu with civilian Ministries. I fear, however, that in the Cabinet itself there are very powerful civilian Ministers who are. still able to get their plans accepted, even though they may have to be cut down, whereas, the Services are put at the bottom of the list because this is supposed to be peacetime. Yet when we come to think of it, those in the Services are merely civilians in uniform, and if they are provided for pari passu with civilians it will help to relieve the civilian pressure. I know very few local authorities who would be willing to place at the disposal of Service families some of the houses which the Ministry of Health permit them to build. The Services have to build their own houses, and to rely on their own resources for their own personnel.
I turn to conscription, which has been mentioned by other hon. Members. It is well known in this House and outside that I have never been enamoured of the principle of conscription. I have never attempted to disguise that. But it is an expedient which has to be adopted in abnormal times, and, dating from the Military Service Act, 1938, I have never by my vote opposed the principle of compulsory military service. I believe that in these days, when we 'have not got peace, we are inevitably committed to conscription, if we are to do anything more than make a pretence of our Defence Forces, and whatever the consequences may be in our constituencies, the only honest thing is to say so. When I was a Member of the Government I supported that principle, but I say to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that, in view of the reduction which the Government are now making in the call-up figures—and a very considerable reduction is being made—the Government ought, before 1st January, 1949, when the new Act comes info force, to look at the method of operating conscription.
I will attempt to indicate the manner in which I think the Government should look at that problem. The Army, whether it likes it or not, has to accept the bulk of the intake. Now, of what does that intake consist? During the war the Navy and the Royal Air Force creamed off the 105 best of the intake. I shall not say anything about that. Perhaps it was desirable. But in peace time the Army is compelled to take pretty well what the other two Services leave—certainly as far as the Navy is concerned, because we have been told that the Navy is prepared to take only a token number of 2,000. I would suggest that the Navy really do not want that number, because they can manage on their regular recruitment, and their system of long-service entry. The Army is compelled to devote too large a proportion of the very limited time of 12 months to training many of this intake—the so-called illiterates and semiliterates—to read and write or to pass general knowledge examinations. At the other end of the scale they have to devote a certain period to vocational training before the men are finally decanted into civil life. In certain aspects the 12 months' period which National Service men have to serve, particularly in the Air Force, certainly in the Navy, and in certain parts of the Army—is all too short to produce that trained reserve which, so the White Paper tells us, is the raison d'être of conscription.
This afternoon the Minister of Defence said that he was prepared to receive any suggestions, and I have a suggestion to make which I hope my right hon. Friends will not think is in any way critical. It might be preferable to try to work two kinds of compulsory service: first, a short period of six months for basic training, which is all that a certain class of National Service men can hope to gain in 12 months at present; secondly, a longer period than 12 months for technicians. We are, of course, precluded by the National Service Act from increasing the period of 12 months. Therefore, I suggest that we should make it worth the while of these technicians to do more than their compulsory period of 12 months with the Services. We could do that by offering certain inducements, not only money inducements, but by giving them an opportunity to serve a civilian period with a firm working either for the Ministry of Supply or for the Services. There would be, as it were, a shuttling backwards and forwards.
Unlike the trained reserves waiting behind me to enter the fray, perhaps to cause a little more concern to my right hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench than this Debate has hitherto pro- 106 vided, I hope that my right hon. Friend will take these remarks of mine in good part. It is only six months ago that I was a colleague of my right hon. and hon. Friends sitting on the Government Front Bench when I was in charge of a Service Department. It is not possble to expect even the Secretary of State for War to have changed all the difficulties which he has undoubtedly met with, as he tells us in his week-end speeches, since he came to the War Office. I feel sure that he and his colleagues will take my remarks in good part, because I am concerned only with one thing, and that is the success of this Government in this field as well as in other realms. I believe that events which have recently been taking place are a warning, and as my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry has said, the warning will not be too long before even the act of war might occur. If we did not have these "little forces," as he said, dotted at out the world, in Greece and other countries, who knows what might happen? [Interruption.] I hope that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) who interrupts me will get up and tell us what will happen.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I prefer to stick to my own opinions and to form my own conclusions, and my conclusions are quite different from his. In these circumstances, the House is, I think, entitled to ask the Government to convince us that we have, in spite of the difficulties at the present moment—and they are many, and we know them—military forces well worthy of the sums of money we are spending on them.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Commander Noble (Chelsea)
I was very glad to hear the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) advocate at the beginning of his speech that we should back up our economic and foreign policy by force. I also agree with what he said about this not being the time to give a complete picture. I am sure the House will have realised that my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) was not asking for the complete picture. What he was asking for was that enough information should be given so that we on this side of the House and the country could be quite sure that we have the forces with 107 which to back up our economic and foreign policy. I want to keep my remarks as general as possible, because I do not wish to cover anything which might be dealt' with later on the Service Estimates. However, I feel it is my duty to say that I regard it as a great tragedy that the Royal Navy has been allowed to run down to the extent it has since the end of the war. We are told in paragraph 12 of the White Paper:It was found preferable to bring the Navy down as rapidly as possible during the current financial year, and to accept a temporary measure of disorganisation and immobility.I was going to ask "Preferable to what, and to whom"? but the Minister of Defence answered that question in his speech. Of course, it was administratively preferable to the Admiralty, with all the difficulties facing them, and especially in regard to the manpower and the money available to them—as far as we can make out, the limiting factor has changed rather suddenly from money to manpower. During the last year, there has been a growing number of incidents all over the world, from China to the Antarctic; incidents which, I maintain, cannot but have had an adverse effect upon our position in the world. The present First Lord of the Admiralty stated last September:It is a common error to think that the Royal Navy exists merely to engage in war. Indeed, the cause of freedom throughout the world to a large extent has been promoted and maintained by the presence of ships of the Royal Navy in every sea.I wonder, when he said that to those sea cadets, whether he thought it preferable to cut the Navy down to the size it is today. I wish to dwell on the Navy for a little longer, because the Admiralty "iron curtain" has now been raised. I consider that it has been raised for two reasons. It has been raised because it was being penetrated both from within and without. It was being penetrated from without by the most intelligent and accurate estimates of our forces—it was perfectly open to other countries to make these estimates as well—which have turned out to be very accurate. The "iron curtain" was being penetrated from within by what we consider to be the most ill-timed statement about the scrapping of the old battleships. The raising of the Admiralty "iron curtain" has not allayed our fears in any way, and 108 it shows that our estimates were dangerously correct, and that there is still a considerable time to go before more of the major units of the Fleet are to be operational. Paragraph 31 of the White Paper does not give us much encouragement for the future, especially as it starts off by saying:The basis of the Naval production programmes for 1948–49 is the maintenance and repair of the active Fleet expected to be in commission during the yearWe have scrapped our old ships, but we have made very little progress, as far as I can see, towards replacing them with new ships, whatever ships they may be. On the other hand, we have lost a most valuable period of training at sea for men in the Royal Navy. It is a platitude, to say that ships, like Rome, are not built in a day, and that similarly it takes a fair amount of time to train men in the Royal Navy at sea.
It is in this connection that I should like to say a few words on the future, and on new weapons in particular. The Minister of Defence said that he was not going to talk about atomic weapons. I shall say a few words about them tonight, and I know it will give great pleasure to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). It is a most difficult and rather delicate subject, but when this House sent the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) and myself to witness the atomic bomb tests in the Pacific, it no doubt expected us to keep in touch with these matters, and to bring them up from time to time in the House when we thought it was desirable.
This is not a party matter. I was rather sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw mention the National Government between the wars. It seemed a pity that he did not go on and tell us the difficulties the Government had with the L.C.C. in obtaining drill halls in London. As I have said before in this House, when my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and I were in the Pacific we used to be asked how it was that we were able to share a cabin for two months without any apparent disagreement. We said, rather aptly we thought, that the atomic bomb was above party. Similarly, the Minister of Defence and I cheered the same team to victory on Saturday. If, in connection with atomic weapons, we do not cheer 109 the same team to victory, I fear that it will suffer something far worse than relegation to the Second Division.
I believe the general public to be a bit ostrich-minded on the subject of atomic warfare, and I am not at all sure—and I say this with respect—that the Government are not a little bit ostrich-minded, too. For that reason this is a moment when we should examine the position. Lord Pakenham, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said in another place, about a fortnight ago, that from his inside knowledge the prospect of reducing the differences on the Atomic Energy Corn-mission of the United Nations seemed definitely worse than a year ago. That was a serious statement. The noble Lord went on to say that there must be a time limit to such a state of affairs, and that if we found advance was still held up, we might have to reconsider our whole attitude towards the problem. I am sure that such a statement needs no amplification from me, but I feel the time has come, or is coming, when the Prime Minister, or perhaps the Foreign Secretary, should tell us exactly how we stand.
I have said before that whatever atomic control is adopted or prescribed by the United Nations, if there is another war, atomic bombs and other weapons of mass destruction will be used during that war. It is only a question of time. If no control is imposed by the United Nations I think it is obvious that atomic bombs will be used early in the war, if not at its start. For that and other reasons, which are only too apparent in Europe today, I hope that the Government are not embarking too firmly on a "no war for a number of years" policy. That was emphasised today by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington who said that it was dangerous to confuse this period of no war with the period of warning that must be given to our Forces and to our whole defence system.
We are told in the Memorandum to the Navy Estimates that there is to be no new naval construction this year. It may be that we do not know what to build, or what the ship of the future may be, as the Minister of Defence hinted in his speech. But I think it is about time that we began to make up our minds in that and similar directions. 110 The Minister laid great emphasis—and I agree with him—on research, and said that we must defer decisions before committing ourselves. We must not, however, defer those decisions until it is too late. We must make sure that when the time comes to build the money will be available. It is easy for the Minister to say that because we are not building now we can save, and that more money will have to be devoted in years to come. We shall have to hold him and the Government to that promise. We are scrapping old battleships, but what are we putting in their place?
In July last, President Truman set up an Air Policy Commission in the United States, and no doubt many Members of this House have read the extremely interesting report which they published en 1st January. That Commission, which no doubt went into the problem very thoroughly, as we can imagine, estimated that other nations could have atomic weapons by the end of 1952. So, in the words I used just now, any war after that date would probably involve atomic weapons and, indeed, might well start with them. Paragraph 56 of the White Paper says:If war should ever be forced upon us, besides defending these islands, we should have to play our part in defending the resources on which the Commonwealth must rely.I wonder how many of us, on reading that paragraph, asked ourselves how we should defend these islands and the Commonwealth in the event of atomic war. That is a question which every man and woman in this country and the Commonwealth should ask himself or herself. It would not be right or proper for me to ask and expect to get an answer to that question tonight, but it is a question which should be very much in the forefront of our minds. There are many problems which come to our minds when we are thinking of that subject, including those of dispersal both in this country and the British Commonwealth. We cannot but wonder whether our power stations and our satellite towns are being sited with any strategic implication. Those are points which we should consider.
People may say—and I am surprised that nobody has said it during my speech—that atomic bombs and other weapons may not be used in the next war, in the same way that gas was not used in the last war. But we did take the precaution, 111 in the last war, of making certain that everybody had a gasmask. I am surprised that so little has been said both in the White Paper, by the Minister of Defence, and through day-to-day administration, about civil defence. That subject was dealt with in great detail by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling), and I will say no more except that I hope he will be given an answer to the many questions he asked and that we shall be told that there is a plan. At least one Member has referred to Singapore in this Debate. Only a few days ago, we read a despatch on the fall of Singapore in which General Percival said that we lacked naval coastal craft, modern aircraft and tanks. Let us make quite sure that in the future there will be no occasion when another Commander will have occasion to write, should he be alive to tell the tale, that we lacked atomic weapons and atomic defence, supersonic bombers and sufficient naval forces. May I close with some words which were used by General Eisenhower, when addressing his American Legion Convention in New York last year:There is no way, except through genuine preparedness, by which we can convince a possible aggressor that he can choose war only at the cost of his own exhaustion or destruction.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Commander Pursey (Hull, East)
The hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) talked about backing up our policy with force, and complained about a lack of information. I shall deal with that later in my speech, and also with the question of incidents which have taken place in various parts of the world and their adverse effect on the world. The hon. and gallant Member said that little progress had been made with new construction, but is it not a fact that in 1946 two flotillas of destroyers were completed? We have, therefore, in addition to the other completely new ships which did not take part in the war, 16 additional destroyers and two carriers and several other craft. On the question that nothing has been done about new construction, the fact is that there has been new construction completed, and there is new construction in existence which could be completed' if the situation should require it.
112 An hon. Member raised the question of the temporary dislocation of the Fleet, and the effect on the Russian High Command. As Russia has no effective fleet at all, this question of the position of the British Fleet is largely immaterial to the Russians. If they have any concern with the Fighting Forces of this country, it must be with the other two Forces and not with the Navy. The hon. Member also referred to incidents in the South American States, and said that the disclosure of information had a detrimental effect on us—that this was purely a matter of arithmetic. We get from the other side some hon. Members requesting more information and other hon. Members arguing that the information given is detrimental to this country. The hon. Member said that this was a matter of arithmetic. I hope to prove that his arithmetic and the series of assertions made by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea are inaccurate and give an entirely false impression to the country.
Concerning the Falkland Islands, it has been argued that if there was a more forceful policy, these incidents would be dealt with differently. One hon. Member has argued that we ought to show our claws and take more forceful action. The argument is: "If there were more ships, something more would be done." Let us consider the South African station first. For several years between the wars, only one cruiser was there. The other ships were sloops to operate up and down the coast. Anyhow during that period the same position could have existed, and only one cruiser could have been sent. Therefore, there could 'be no question of criticism of the number of ships on the South African station at present, because that was the position on several occasions when far more ships were in full commission in the Navy. The South American squadron was withdrawn in 1921 and was absent for several years. Therefore, at no time during that period were there any ships of the South American squadron there. It meant taking ships from the American and West Indies Squadron and that is what is being done now.
On this occasion, the sloop "Snipe" had been in Antarctic waters for some time. The hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea laughs. I suppose that he is laughing at the size of the ship, but a sloop is just as capable of flying the 113 British flag and maintaining British prestige as a cruiser, until the time comes to fire the guns; and no one suggests doing that yet. So for several years between the wars, both on the African station and the South American station the position was precisely what it is today. Therefore, in regard to occurrences similar to those which are happening in the Falkland Islands, precisely similar action would have been taken.
§ Commander Noble
As the hon. and gallant Gentleman seems to have been attacking me for some time, would he say how many cruisers used to be on the West Indies station before the war, how many were stationed in South American waters during that time, and what duty has the "Devonshire" been carrying out in the West Indies during the last few weeks?
§ Commander Pursey
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to develop my speech in my own way, he will be told. I am building up my speech to that, point. Admittedly, on the America and West Indies station there were four cruisers?
§ Commander Pursey
I will not argue whether it is four or five. Do not let us split hairs over petty details. I am talking of the facts as I know them to exist. There were years when there were only four cruisers on the America and West Indies stations.
§ Commander Pursey
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman had not been having a sub rosa conversation with hon. Members near him, he would have heard me say that the ships of the South Atlantic Station were withdrawn in 1921 and were away for several years.
§ Commander Pursey
I am informed by the Minister of Defence that they were away until 1937. Thus, for 15 years there were no ships on the South Atlantic Station.
§ Commander Noble
That is quite untrue. I was serving in the America and West Indies Station myself. There were four or 'Live cruisers in North America and 114 the West Indies and two cruisers in South America one flying the broad pendant of a Commodore.
§ Commander Pursey
The hon. and gallant Member is talking about 1930–32 which are not years comparable wits the position now and just after the first war.
§ Commander Pursey
I am giving the House the facts. I am not going to be laughed down by hon. Members opposite who do not know. I am dealing with the facts, and I quote them from the records. In the year 1921, the South Atlantic Squadron was withdrawn and was absent for several years. I also say that—no matter what was the position several years later—for the period I have given, four ships were on the American West Indies Station. That is confirmed by the Minister of Defence. To sum up my point about the Falkland Islands incidents, there was a number of years when the number of ships available was precisely the same as it is today, and the Government, and Admiralty, at that time, would have taken precisely the same action, and no more. Moreover, any question of sending battleships there, which has been referred to in certain sections of the irresponsible Press, would never have been considered; and for the purposes of putting it on record I say that since 1904, when the Russo-Japanese War ended, we never had any battleships in full commission on any foreign station except the Mediterranean.
In Guatemala, there have been incidents, and a cruiser has been sent there—the "Sheffield." The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked questions about the second cruiser, the "Devonshire." The "Devonshire" is a training cruiser, admittedly, which by coincidence happened to be on the West Indies Station. The Admiralty took this fact into consideration, naturally, and it may well be that—I am not in their confidence—if the "Devonshire" had not been on the West Indies Station, another cruiser would have been kept there, instead of being withdrawn 115 for the purpose of demobilisation. Moreover, we have today ships in Canadian waters which we never had there previously, and so, roughly speaking, the number of ships on the other side of the Western Ocean is comparable with the number of ships on the West Indies Station at numerous periods between the wars. Hon. Members who raised these two points have not dealt with them from a purely naval or strategic point of view, but simply for the purpose of party political propaganda against the Government.
I now turn to the question of the source of the hon. Gentleman's information. "The Navy" is a publication of the Navy League. I say frankly to the Admiralty, to the Government and this House that the Navy League is being used not as a non-political organisation., as it claims to be; nor is the paper the organ which they claim it to be; it is being used as a purely party organisation and the paper is being used to preach alarm and despondency throughout the country. Speakers from the Navy League are also going to Women's Institute meetings and to other organisations up and down the country, and stating that we have no Navy, no men, no ships and so on. The Navy League Council has the father of the hon. and gallant Member as one of its officials. I have great respect for his capability, but I should have thought that he would have been one of the first to dissociate himself from the policy of that organisation. I will not go on with this, because I hope to have another opportunity on future occasions of raising it.
My main purpose is to relate the defence policy with the financial policy, and to show that the Government are carrying out the same policy as other Governments did on previous occasions. I had prepared a speech in the hope that the Leader of the Opposition would have been here, if not to take part in the Debate at any rate to listen to it.
§ Commander Pursey
This I suggest is a Debate of major importance to the country, and it should warrant the presence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill).
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
I am sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the 116 Member for East Hull (Commander Pursey) would not wish to make an attack on one who is absent from the House through illness.
§ Commander Pursey
I am grateful to the noble Lord, because I was not aware of the fact. If I had been, I would not have said it. On the other hand, seeing that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford is largely responsible for the policy of the Opposition, I hope no one on that side will question me when I quote from his speeches and from others, too, reserving my fire against him for another occasion, when I hope, like the ships of the Navy, the right hon. Gentleman will be fully operational. Let us go back to the year 1909. I was connected with the Navy before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford. In 1909 he and Mr. Lloyd George were "little Navyites." Because of demands for social reforms and armaments, and insufficient finances to meet both claims, they were responsible for a reduction in the Naval Estimates. At that time he argued that the Admiralty reasons were mere figments of an alarmist brain. I will skip some other references and come to the position between the wars. In 1928, and thereabouts, the right hon. Gentleman was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and responsible for continuing the ten years' war policy, during which we were supposed not to have a war. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer he was very firm in keeping down the Service Estimates in order to use the money thus saved for other purposes, not necessarily social reform.
§ Commander Pursey
I passed 1914, but I will refer to it again for the benefit of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey). I come now to 1936 and to the Debate on defence which took place in that year. The Minister replying to the second day's Debate was Sir John Simon, now Lord Simon, and still with us. He dealt with the ten years' rule, and said that in 1931,It was then considered that the country's gravest peril lay within its own gates and not without. The risk of national bankruptcy Baas greater and more immediate than any external risk."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1936; Vol. 309, c. 1991–2.]117 Today we have a similar position. We have a financial crisis, and the Government are taking the steps which any Liberal or Tory Government would have taken under the same conditions. Therefore, any argument that sufficient money is not being devoted to the Services is entirely beside the point.
We come to the question of the strength of the Navy in ships and men. The general opinion in the country is that we have practically no Navy. Less than three years ago on VE Day we had more naval ships than ever in the history of this country. They have not vanished into thin air. Moreover, only last July there was a Royal Review in the Clyde, and on view were 108 vessels from battleships down, and in addition there were the ships in the Mediterranean station which were fully operational. It is fantastic nonsense to say today we have not got the ships. Then there was an argument advanced by the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor), during his speech on the King's Speech, who said that a ship could not fire all her armament at once. That is nothing new. No ship in the training squadron would have a sufficient complement of men to man all her armaments. I was in a training squadron and I ought to know. The "Hood" from 1929 to 1933 could not man all her armaments at the same time. So much for the ships.
Taking the question of manpower, the Minister of Defence quoted the number of men given under Vote A, namely, 145,000. In 1914, as a result of the efforts of the First Lord, the right hon. Member for Woodford and also of other Members of the Liberal Party, the number was 146,000. Today we have got practically the same number of men under Vote A as we had in 1914 at the outbreak of war.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey
Surely the hon. and gallant Gentleman realises that in 1914 there was no such thing as radar, and we did not require the same number of men to man the ships.
§ Commander Pursey
I am well aware of that. That is elementary. At that time we had a far larger number of ships in commission than today, which is what the colleagues of the hon. and gallant Gentleman are arguing about, so that there is really nothing in that debating point. When we take the figures for 118 1921, we see that they were 127,000. In other words, three years after the last war we had reduced the Navy by a further 20,000 men. In 1932—I believe this was the figure given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence—we were down to 89,000, to which is only two-thirds of today's total. Even in 1938, at the time of Munich, when the Fleet was mobilised, the number only went up to 146,000. In 1939 the number was 133,000. To give an example of the strength of the Navy, on D Day, at the landings in Normandy, there was a larger number of naval personnel employed than there was in the whole of the Navy at the outbreak of the war.
Questions have been raised about the reserves, and the same fact arises. Today we have a larger number of fully trained reserves available to be called up in case of emergency than we have ever had in the long history of this country. It will, therefore, be seen that there is no question but that this argument about no ships, no men and no reserves is purely political propaganda. In relation to the rest of the world, we are in a stronger position than ever we were in before. The complaint has been made in the Debate that the men are not in the ships. Again, that is wrong information. Here I blame the Admiralty for not making the first announcement about the reduction of the crews, and for thing terms, such as "operational," which are open to misconstruction. From the point of view of being operational, the Minister of Defence said in a previous statement in the House that the ships were in commission, and if the ships are in commission they have got the key men on board as well as the stores, ammunition and everything which would enable them to go to sea at short notice.
The position is that the ships are at their manning ports, and the men are at the local depots and are available. They could be put on board the ships in a short space of time. In the event of an emergency which required the ships to be sent to sea they could, as the Minister of Defence said this afternoon, be sent at short notice. To clinch this argument, let me say that I would be prepared to take a commander's command with key men on board, commission her today, and go to sea tomorrow. So would every other executive naval officer on the Opposition benches.
119 Now I come to the question of the scrapping a battleships. In 1936 it was advocated that both the "Queen Elizabeth" and the "Royal Sovereign" classes should be scrapped. In the Navy Estimates Debate for 1939 the Admiralty actually announced a decision to scrap the "Royal Sovereign" class, and they gave dates for the first two. Admittedly, that decision was tied up with the German naval agreement. On that occasion the present Minister of Defence advocated their retention. Now, 12 years older, he advocates their scrapping, as was advocated at that time.
To give credit to the Leader of the Opposition where credit is due, I would point out that he also advocated at that time the retention of those ships. Previously he had said that the retention of the battleship was an academic question and he advocated an inquiry. If the Opposition would take that point of view that this is an academic question and one for inquiry as regards the importance of the battleship against the aircraft carrier, I would be with them all the time. To argue about not scrapping them because those ships have not been replaced overlooks the fact that they have been replaced by the new battleships that we have today. There is no question about the replacement of the "Royal Sovereign" class.
What other opinions can be expressed from the Tory benches today? On the previous occasion they were all arguing different things. The hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington was arguing for smaller battleships. The hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Captain Mardsen) was advocating small craft instead of battleships. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) was arguing that the German naval agreement was a good thing and even asked why we did not trust Mr. Hitler. He advocated that to keep battleships for convoy work would be stupid, and he quoted the case of the battleship "Canopus" during the first world war, which was sent to prevent the loss of cruisers in the Coronel battle. Yet recently he was advocating the retention of battleships in order to be used in convoys.
This is another case of Mr. Facing Both Ways. That applies to several hon. and gallant Gentlemen who took part in those Debates before the war. Today, instead 120 of saying what is really in their minds from the naval point of view, as they did before the war, they are simply lining up "to follow father," the Leader of the Opposition, and all saying exactly the same thing, not because of the naval situation or of the facts about the ships, but purely for party propaganda purposes.
Another statement made by the Leader of the Opposition was this:We have had several Debates in recent weeks about defence, and I agree that, as has already been said, the gloomy feeling which was natural in many bosoms has not been particularly relieved by the course of those Debates; but here tonight on the Navy, at any rate, we have a right to feel a sense of good cheer and courage, because the Navy is far stronger relatively to Europe than it ever was in those days before the war"—that meant the war of 1914—although then we had a far larger fleet"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1938; Vol. 333, c. 663.]We then had Japan, with the third fleet to consider. Now there is no fleet in Europe or in the Far East. So tonight, the right hon. Gentleman, or whoever is operational in lieu of him, can well say again, as I say with full emphasis and conviction. "On the Navy, at any rate, we have a right to feel a sense of good cheer and courage, because the Navy is far stronger relatively to the whole world, except America, than it ever was in the long history of this island nation." There is not, therefore, any cause for the alarm and despondency which is being preached by the Navy League and their publication "The Navy," and by other reactionary papers. With demobilisation complete in the manner advocated by the Admiralty—and all the officers responsible wanted to get it done as early as possible—we shall see the fruits this year with the early entry into full commission of several ships of the Navy. There will then be no question about the claws of the British Navy.
§ 7.47 P.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
It was interesting to notice that the hon. and gallant Member for East Hull (Commander Pursey) occupied the whole of his speech with very interesting remarks about only one of the Services. I am not at all sure that it is not necessary for us to realise that modern weapons have rather changed strategy and tactics. We must not ignore the Air Arm. Nor must we assume that ships of any size in 121 narrow waters are safe from attack. Therefore, this country must rely upon the attitude which we hope will be adopted by the Minister of Defence that all three Services must make their proper contribution to the safety of these islands and our communications overseas.
§ Commander Pursey
As the hon. Member has referred to me, perhaps he will allow me to say that I perfectly appreciate that point of view. I wanted to limit my remarks to the Navy, but I did take in the air. I have served in aircraft carriers. I was saying that the position of the battleship in relation to aircraft carriers is one that should be inquired into.
§ Sir R. Glyn
I do not want to pursue the matter. It is necessary for me to put forward my own feelings about this Debate. I very much regret that it may be interpreted as a party Debate. I have always felt that defence ought to be outside and beyond party. I hope that it will not be misrepresented in the country, if the Opposition divide tonight. It would have been interesting to see how many hon. and gallant Gentlemen would have gone into the Lobby in support of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). Unfortunately we shall not be able to test it.
In the previous paper that we discussed, on the Central Organisation for Defence, No. 6923, there were laid down the general lines for the defence of the British Commonwealth. That paper is now followed up by No. 7372, that we are now considering. I realise that any idea of having a formal organisation to link the Dominions with the United Kingdom is not popular in some of the Dominions and that the loose organisation that now exists of liaison officers and a clearing house for scientific information seems to be ideal, always provided that full, opportunity is given for students at the Imperial College of Defence and for the joint staff organisations to be able to go by ship to the Dominions and really study on the spot what the problems of Colonial and Dominion defence are. It is probably far better for those bodies to be able to move around and to meet their opposite numbers in the Dominions and some of the Colonies. The more Dominion officers can be accommodated for these courses the better.
122 There is a matter which engaged the attention of the Estimates Committee with which the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) did not deal. Two reports in these matters have been made to Parliament by the Estimates Committee. One of them dealt with the very vexed question of secrecy. Hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House have been asking for more information. That difficulty had to be solved somehow, and the Estimates Committee went into it and some very interesting evidence was submitted. It was there laid down, by those most competent to judge, that the archives of our late enemies disclosed that they had been able to get very valuable information indeed as the result of the publication of the Estimates in the then existing form, and that by means of the subsequent discussions in this House they were able to dot the "i's" and cross the "t's." The present position is so critical and so dangerous that it does not seem right for hon. Members to go against the official warnings which have been given and reported to Parliament. At this moment it would be very dangerous to press for more information than has been given.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the Supply Council of the Ministry of Supply. It is unfortunate in a way tat the Supply Services for the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, in so far as they are the responsibility of the Ministry of Supply, cannot be brought into the scope of these matters more fully than they are when we are considering the Defence White Paper. These days when we ire expending something like £70; million on research and development for the Services alone—the detail is given in the Second Report of the Estimates Committee—the link between the Supply Council, the Ministry of Defence and the three Service Departments needs strengthening a little. It would be helpful if the arrangements laid down for co-ordination for supplies could be rather more emphasised.
Another very serious matter to wh.ch attention should be drawn is that in these days of economic difficulty and need to encourage exports, it is a matter of fact that we are putting the potential manufacture and production of essential weapons and the allocation of steel and other materials for them in a secondary position. That matter should have top 123 priority. It is important as research and development progress that sufficient jigs and tools should be distributed to selected works and factories so that they can get ahead very quickly with the latest models and have the opportunity of building pilot models and prototypes without which we shall be left in the lurch. The money spent on research and development ought to be supported by further funds to see that the results of such work can, if necessary, be put quickly into production at selected places.
There is another matter in regard to the defence responsibility of the Dominions for definite areas of the world. The Dominions have their ships, their land forces and their aircraft, and I understand that it has now been laid 'down that they will also be responsible for the manufacture in those Dominions of certain articles which they are now perfecting from the point of view of research. The White Paper mentions that the Commonwealth of Australia is, in conjunction with the United Kingdom, developing controlled missiles. It is obviously necessary for dispersal that there should he factories in that Dominion capable not only of carrying out repairs but of manufacturing what is necessary. I assume that the Chiefs of Staff here are able to make arrangements through the Ministry of Supply and, I suppose, these days, through the Chancellor of the Exchequer, so that the demands for the export trade do not get in the way of what are really essential requirements if we are to develop the necessary weapons for the defence of this country.
Another subject about which I wish to speak is transport. We are in a very difficult position now. The British Army is especially in a difficult position because very few new transport vehicles have been issued and they are using old vehicles which are frequently breaking down. It is almost impossible to believe that if an emergency arose the Army would be in a position to carry out its functions satisfactorily. It was fairly obvious during the last war that we had far too many types of transport and too many different models, which complicated supplies and added very largely to the difficulties of all three Services. The Navy Fad one type of four-wheeled four-ton lorry, the Air Force had another and the 124 Army had another. It was recommended during the war that never again should there be so many different types and, within a particular category, so many different kinds, that efforts should be made to have transport in more common form, and that the production of transport should aim at the elimination of unnecessary types and concentration on the minimum number of different kinds.
If that is so, this country is not in a position to produce those types. Just as Australia is doing work in connection with Imperial defence, could we not look to the Canadian motor manufacturers for the design and perfection of vehicles for the Services? This country is not suitable. The manufacturer here has not got the type of market which the Services require for transport. It is much better to obtain vehicles made in a country like Canada where there are wide open spaces and where the type of vehicle constructed for their use is very suitable for military purposes.
§ Mr. Alexander
I appreciate the point which the hon. Gentleman is making. We are not taking any steps which would leave us without sufficient transport. It is true that at the moment because of the needs of the export trade we are not producing many new vehicles, but we have a very heavy charge in the Army Estimates this year—about £16 million I believe—a great part of which will be spent on the reconstruction and rebuilding of lorries to keep them serviceable at all times. We shall look into the other point which the hon. Gentleman mentioned.
§ Sir R. Glyn
I thank the right hon. Gentleman. I think it is generally admitted that the field transport of the Canadian Army at the end of the last war was second to none. They have the plant and everything, and it might pay us to make arrangements for the acquisition of such transport as we want from that Dominion. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman knows full well that the British Army of Occupation in Germany today is in a very vulnerable position as regards supplies because the vehicles are continually breaking down and are very difficult to maintain owing to the shortage of spare parts. It is a matter of great importance that that should be looked at.
125 There is also the question of mobilisation stores. I want the right hon. Gentleman to believe that I fully recognise how very great this problem is. However, as science and research go forward there is no doubt that a great many of the stores in mobilisation stock will become out of date. They absorb a large number of men in maintenance, and it is useless having out of date material. Therefore, if stocks are to be kept up, we should eliminate from our stores all the obsolescent and out-of-date stock and utilise the space to greater advantage.
Right through the Debate today a great deal has been said about manpower. I do not believe that manpower is any measure of the efficiency of a service. I think it is a false and dangerous doctrine. The next war will not be won by the number of bayonets we have; indeed, there will be no use for bayonets. What matters is so to use science and research that, if there is war, you eliminate as much manpower as possible and concentrate on mechanical defence against attack. In regard to that, surely it is extraordinary that we are not putting Civil Defence under the right hon. Gentleman's Department? It seems to me that this country is in the most vulnerable position geographically, and it seems to be in a still more vulnerable position because we are not really tackling the problem of Civil Defence. It is easy to paint horrible pictures about the new form of warfare, and I think every hon. Member sincerely and honestly hopes that we can get round our difficulties.
I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman). I believe the thing is quite simply expressed: here we are, not halfway through this century, having fought two major wars. The first nearly exhausted us, the last one completely exhausted us, and we still have another half century to go. Does anybody tell me that with the two enormous countries, the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., rival ideologies with us in the middle, we are not in a very dangerous position? My belief is that if only we can try to do something to allay the fears of the Russians that their security is in danger, we are far more likely to avoid war than by anything else. Many hon. Members have been in Russia. I was there in the 1914–18 war. I know that the Russian soldier is a gallant fighting man, 126 but he was extraordinarily ignorant about world affairs. I dare say he is today. I am quite convinced that the Russians do not want to go to war, but they are frightened and who on earth are they frightened of? Certainly not us. They could not be, for we have no intention of aggression.
§ Sir R. Glyn
However, one of the most outstanding things today is that, since this last coup, they are within 130 miles of Vienna, where we have our joint Allied organisation. They are within 150 miles of Frankfurt, where we are setting up our new joint bi-zonal organisation. We have forces in Germany, and so have the Americans, but the thing that is preventing the onrush is the very thing that changed the aspect of the last war—like the sword of Damocles suspended—the fear of the atom bomb. That is the hard fact which is preventing a Russian sweep across Europe, if they want to extend heir frontiers. If we look at these things—and surely it is high time we did—is it not right to see how we can remove from Russia this fear? We cannot penetrate the iron curtain but, somehow or other, by culture, by trade, we can hope gradually to break down this fear.
However, at the moment, I think the situation is desperately dangerous, dangerous because we see the Communist police State being established and, as the hon. Member for East Coventry said, established within each country by Fifth Column working. I am not altogether happy about this country——
§ Mr. Gallacher rose——
§ Sir R. Glyn
I believe there are too many people in this country who think from an international point of view, rather than a national point of view. I am all for international peace, but I do not believe it is right to ruin your D w a country in the hope of an international objective. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and I have been in this House many years, and I am quite convinced that he can do a great deal more good by persuading Russia that we will not attack her, than he ever will do here by trying to preach Communism—[AN HON. MEMBER: "He is only a stooge."]—because I do not think people 127 here will accept Communism for one single moment.
Lastly, we have in this country, as a result of the last war, much technical skill, which it is necessary to use. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether we cannot have some form of "technical militia." I do not mind about a uniform, but I am convinced there are men of high technical ability who served in the Army, Navy or Air Force in the last war who, for a small monetary consideration, would be willing to help to train the young entrant or to come forward and help with territorial training. It could be arranged on the lines of the old militia, principally through the counties, and the Lords Lieutenant of the counties could perfectly well organise something on those lines. We are in danger of failing because the Services are becoming so technical that the ordinary training period means nothing unless we have first-class men who know their work backwards, who are themselves brought up to date in new methods. Serving in factories, they are highly technical, and they are perfectly able to assist in the evenings in the technical training of the Territorials and so on.
It is no use being under any delusion. It is wicked and wrong for any Government to call up men as conscripts and, if there is war, to pit them against men better trained than themselves. Therefore, having inaugurated conscription and National Service, the responsibility of any Government is to see that those boys are fully trained. They cannot be trained unless there are the cadres to train them, and we have not got those cadres now. However, we should be able to bring in these people who have the knowledge and experience attained in the last war. It is useless to talk about the folly of scrapping old battleships, which I believe ought to have been scrapped long ago because they absorb the strength of many destroyers. I would like to see far more thought being given to the question of whether the battleship itself is not obsolete, whether the carrier is not obsolete, whether we must not have some form of submerged vessel. For instance, from what platform at sea are rockets and controlled missiles to be projected? Therefore, we must not make the mistake of considering how we shall meet any aggression in terms 128 of the last war, but concentrate for the future on how we shall harness science and, I hope, by international common sense, prevent war.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)
The hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) is always heard with great respect because he rises above party and often disagrees with his own party, as he has done today both on the matter of the disclosures which should be made by the Minister of Defence, and on the matter of battleships——
§ Mr. Blackburn
—and I may say that many Members on this side of the House agree with him that the most important aspect of all is research and development. First, I wish to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the fact that most of the scientists we know consider that this Government have done more than any previous Government to concentrate on research and development. Secondly, my right hon. Friend said that it is important for us to realise that research and development for defence purposes may also be utilised for purposes of peace. I hope my right hon. Friend is doing everything he can to ensure that information which would be valuable in our factories and which is obtained in the course of secret processes, such as the production of atomic energy, is distributed to industry as quickly as possible, and that adequate steps have been taken to that end. May I give an illustration? In America there are no fewer than six corporations now in existence for the purpose of distributing radio-active isotopes, which are a byproduct of atomic power, yet we have not one in this country. I hope my right hon. Friend will give close attention to making sure that the discoveries of science are distributed widely and used for constructive purposes.
I am afraid that I must quarrel with the hon. Member for Abingdon in his remarks about Russia. If he really thinks that Communists can be convinced by talks about trade and culture he must be more ingenuous than I thought him. The Communist is an individual who only understands one thing, and that is force. I do not believe, and here I agree with the hon. Member, that the Russians want 129 war, at any rate so long as they remain so vastly inferior in armaments to the Western Powers, because of the possession by America of large quantities of atomic bombs. I have a friend who had the good fortune to be present at the last dinner given by Molotov and Vyshinsky in this country two months ago. He was present as the representative of a satellite country and Molotov forecast one by one the very things which have taken place, the Roumanian coup, and the Czech coup, and said that war was inevitable, but not for four or five years. No doubt the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), who is so popular on personal grounds in his own constituency——
§ Mr. Blackburn
No doubt the hon. Gentleman tries to convince those gentleman that they are really popular in this country. They should be under no delusion about that. They are just about as popular in this country as Hitler and Goebbels were before the last war.
§ Mr. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
As popular as the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) is with the Birmingham Trades Council.
§ Mr. Blackburn
Exactly, its executive is dominated by Communists and crypto-Communists. I do not believe for one moment that war is inevitable, but it is essential that the doctrine that war is not inevitable should be preached here. Nothing does more harm than such a speech as that by the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) who specifically approved the Czech coup d'etat, and spoke of the Foreign Secretary's bellicose speech, and of the campaign of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) for a preventive war against Russia. If we are to have lies of that kind—that the Foreign Secretary is bellicose, and the right hon. Member for Woodford advocates a war against Russia——
§ Mr. Blackburn
The hon. Gentleman and his crypto-Communist friends do not care for facts. The bigger the lie, the better it suits them.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Would the hon. Gentleman deny that the right hon.
130 Member for Woodford waged war against Russia?
§ Mr. Blackburn
It is most important for me to deal with present conditions. I am perfectly willing to go back into the Fast, which is very different from what has been suggested. Let us tell the facts about the bogus October Revolution of 1917. The fact of the matter is that Lenin was introduced into Russia by Ludendorff——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I cannot allow the lion. Member to continue on those lines.
§ Mr. Blackburn
I was asked a question and wish to deal with it. It is not true that any person in this country, or any authority in this country, ever wager an aggressive war against Russia.
In a Debate on Defence we must ask ourselves what is the main danger from which we are to defend ourselves. Let us be clear what the main danger is. The recent events in Hungary, Bulgaria, Roumania, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Finland can leave no doubt that our freedom and independence are in grave danger from the Communists in all lands, under whatever guise they present themselves, whether from Gateshead or Finsbury.
§ Mr. Blackburn
They have dedicated themselves to the task of enslaving first Europe and then the rest of the world. Russia, before the annexations, comprised one-sixth of the territory and population of the world, and possessed every element except four. It wishes to spread itself all over the world, when it is naturally the most self-sufficient country in the world. It has now subdued more than half Europe, and the skill and ingenuity of Germans, Poles, Czechs and o her ancient and civilised races are being bent to the Communist ideology——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I really think the hon. Gentleman should return to the Motion under discussion. He is very wide of the mark.
§ Mr. Blackburn
I submit that the answer to all this is in terms which are not very different from those used by my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), a twin policy of military containment of Russia, together with the economic reconstruction of Western Europe, including Greece, Italy and the Scandinavian Powers. Those two aspects, the negative and the positive, the defensive and the constructive are both needed. Without security, which can only be given by military guarantees and preparedness the will of the free peoples to rebuild will be partially paralysed. Without the European recovery programme and the efforts of the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues, the negative policy would prove futile. There must be a crusade against Communism, backed by military strength to resist it. There must also be a crusade for democracy and freedom to produce prosperity among the free nations, which alone can provide a secure basis for military defence.
From now on we must recognise that our frontier is in the mountains of Northern Greece and wherever throughout Europe the Communists are pursuing their infiltration and intimidation. Greece is in fact a most instructive and important illustration of our problem of defence. I will say a few words about it, as I have recently spent three weeks there. More than half the Greek countryside today is controlled by Communist-led bandits who live in the mountains and raid the defenceless villages.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member must come back to the Motion. He is dealing with matters outside the scope of the Motion.
§ Mr. Blackburn
With great respect, it has already been suggested by the hon. Member for East Coventry that perhaps our troops should be withdrawn from Greece. I say the most important matter of all in relation to defence is that we should not abandon Greece to Communist aggression. I wish to give reasons for making certain specific proposals to the 132 Government as to our defence policy in Greece.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That would be perfectly in Order, but to turn it into a Debate on foreign policy is quite wrong.
§ Mr. Blackburn
I will deal entirely with defence in Greece. I am not trying to deal with the political issue in Greece. These bandits raid defenceless villages. They do not fight. It is important to understand the fact that this war is not like previous wars, fought by one army against another, and I very much doubt whether we will see war like that again. They run away if by chance they encounter regular Greek troops. If the worst comes to the worst they can always retire beyond the frontiers of Albania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria to secure positions where they can neither be attacked nor observed. This war is being waged in reliance on terror and not on persuasion. The death of a British soldier in Salonika is complete evidence of that fact. Could we imagine, if we had a civil war in this country, that people would bring up guns and attack London regardless of whether they killed men, women or children? That is precisely what happened, as the right hon. Gentleman said, and has not been denied. In the case of Salonika, guns were brought up at 4 a.m.——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member must deal with the Motion or resume his seat. The matters he is raising might be quite in Order in a Debate on foreign affairs, but are out of place at the present time.
§ Mr. Blackburn
May I, with great respect, make a submission? I am describing the circumstances in which a British soldier in Greece—[Interruption.] May I have your protection, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am making my submission that it must be in Order, in a Debate on defence policy, to describe the circumstances in which a British soldier was killed.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member may be certain that he has the protection of the Chair, but he has not the approval of the Chair when he departs from the Motion under discussion.
§ Mr. Blackburn
May I submit that I am entitled to deal with the presence of British troops in Greece?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Provided that it is in relation to the White Paper on Defence which we are now discussing.
§ Mr. Blackburn
May I suggest that in these circumstances Greece is a front line for this purpose, and that we should provide the necessary protection for Greece? The way to do that is to send rifles for the protection of the people in the villages. They have nothing with which to protect themselves, and in a village there are perhaps two gendarmes with rifles. A quarter of a million rifles sent to Greece to enable the villagers to protect themselves might make all the difference.
Secondly, I would suggest that it should be part of our defence policy, and a specific principle of it, that we will now combine with the freedom-loving Powers—my right hon. Friend made a statement which I felt led towards it—including America, to halt the advance of the police State across Europe before it is too late. When we turn to the case of Greece, a report was submitted to the General Assembly, and the General Assembly recommended that intervention from Albania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria in Greek affairs should come to an end. That intervention continues. I myself saw captured soldiers wearing Yugoslav uniforms. I have in my possession many captured documents which clearly came from Yugoslavia. The direction of the British Government's policy should be the adoption of the principle of collective security at the earliest possible moment, before it is too late. We have learned in the past that the freedom-loving Powers invite aggression by being weak. This technique of attacking one nation after another, with the nations that are taken looking in vain for support, must come to an end.
I suggest that the Government must now adopt the principle of collective security against Communist aggression before it is too late. I am not in any way criticising my right hon. Friend. I am conscious of the fact that I erred in this matter myself two or three years ago. I have found out my own mistake, and I have come to admit it. Time is short. Every day the instances of this aggression multiply, and there are millions of people throughout Europe who are looking to us and to the United States to help them.
134 May I deal once again with a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry? The tenor of his argument seemed to be that this aggression is taking place in Europe but that we should not provide British troops because troops ought to be provided by the United States of America. We ought to be profoundly grateful to the Foreign Secretary for the fact that he has so conducted our foreign policy that he has helped to persuade America to intervene in European affairs instead of adopting the isolationist point of view which she adopted after the first world war, and so led to the European recovery programme on which we in the Labour Party are depending for the food of our own constituents this year.
I entirely support the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of Defence in the remarks they have made. Let there be a twin policy comprising economic reconstruction and at the same time the containment of Communist aggression. These must go hand in hand. Do not let us be ashamed of the fact that we have 5,000 troops in Greece. We should be proud of that fact. If it is possible for us to withdraw them no one will be more delighted than I shall be. The moment that this intervention comes to an end, the Minister of Defence and the Foreign Secretary will withdraw them.
Do not let us abandon our ancient heritage of the protection of freedom; aye, even when all over Europe the lights of freedom had been extinguished. Are we now to allow a miserable band of crypto-Communists to sully our name, to blot our escutcheon? No, Sir. The voice of the British people which will be heard increasingly, will support the Government in seeing that the foul technique of the totalitarian terror, of the concentration camp and the police State is prevented from further aggression. Then, maybe, in due course, when history comes to be told, it will be discovered that thereby we have helped the people in those lards to a new hope of freedom, and that in due course where men today groan under the terror, within our lifetime we shall see them once again free, happy 2nd prosperous, and counting the name of this Parliament and this country blessed
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)
With the note on which the hon. Member 135 for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) ended his speech I am sure that we on this side of the House, and the vast majority of Members on the other side of the House, must heartily agree. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), who is laughing, will not be expected to agree with this sort of thing. I think the hon. Member for King's Norton was slightly misleading the House in addressing his argument with such fervour to that point, because that is not the point which we are debating today. We all agree with the aim of the right hon. Gentleman. What we are in some doubt about, and perhaps we can have our doubts set at rest later, is as to the method which the right hon. Gentleman has chosen, if in fact he has chosen a method at all. We are, in fact, in some doubt whether he has reached decisions which he should have reached. Before I pass from the hon. Member's speech, I would say that I was glad to hear him stress the importance of the frontiers of Greece to the preservation of democracy in the world. He knows, from a speech which I made recently on foreign affairs, that I entirely agree with that view.
If I may turn to the point of difference which seems to divide some Members of the House from the right hon. Gentleman, I have listened to every speech that has been made, and so far I have not heard one hon. Member get up and defend the right hon. Gentleman on the point that really matters, namely, whether he has in this White Paper initiated a policy for our national and Imperial defence upon which we in this country can rely. I know that on the last occasion we debated this matter—I think it was just after I had spoken—the right hon. Gentleman chided the House for putting forward so many arguments when they really had not the knowledge upon which to argue this subject in detail. I am fully conscious of the fact, as I know many other hon. Members are, that we are without knowledge, technical and scientific knowledge and knowledge of certain secret factors which must remain secret, and I know that we have to use our imaginations. I hope he will not chide me again if I try to use my imagination, because when one is short of facts that is the only thing one can do.
I would refer to a remark about information made by the hon. Member for 136 Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). We all realise the importance of keeping secrets secret. We realise the damage that can be done by publishing to potential enemies orders of battle in detail, details of secret weapons, movement plans and so on. The difficulty that we on this side of the House, as well as many of the right hon. Gentleman's own friends are up against, is how can we do our job of seeing, on behalf of our constituents that this country is properly defended and that the money and manpower we spend on defence are properly spent, unless we have, at least, the minimum of information? One of the things upon which I wish to be better informed than I am at the moment is the relationship of the tooth to the tail of this defence animal over which the right hon. Gentleman at the moment has charge. He may say that he does not want to give this information because it will be valuable to others. I would answer, first of all, that he has given information about the Navy, and that therefore there seems to be no reason why he should not give information about operational strength of the Army, or the Air Force.
I would remind him that any of the hon. Members in this House, if they had the time or the money to spend, could send agents round the country and find the operational strength of the Army. They could send agents to Germany, or out East, or all over the world, and could quite easily find out that information. One has only to ask the men, or look at the notice boards. Really the right hon. Gentleman would appear to be very simple-minded—and I know he is not—if he thinks that the agents of other countries have not acquired that information already. He rightly takes notice—and so do we all—of evidence that we have that the Germans in the last war did make use of information which they obtained from the way in which Estimates were published and Debates were conducted in this House. Are we quite certain that we have evaluated the amount of gain which accrued to them from this information? Are we quite certain that we understand how much they obtained from the Estimates and Debates which they would not have obtained in any case? I think that argument can be overplayed——
§ Mr. Alexander
I have said continually that we have had this matter very carefully examined by people professionally able to advise us. While, of course, the Government must take the political decision on such matters, and do our highest duty to the House, we have taken our decision deliberately on that advice.
§ Mr. Low
I quite understand. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, he has to take what he calls a political decision, because there is, on the other side of the balance, the advantage of people in this country knowing the true position. At any rate, now he has given information about the Navy, he may consider giving the same form of information about the Army and the Air Force.
There are four things which I personally am disquieted about at the present time. The first one concerns the duty of the right hon. Gentleman in the allocation of resources between the three Services. We are all clear now that though there are three distinct Services, for Defence purposes they amount to just one and have to be treated as just one. To try to detail their roles and tasks separately, as is done in paragraph 60 of the White Paper, seems to me to be an entire misconception, not only of the military and strategic problems of today, but even of the problems as we knew them in the last war. The right hon. Gentleman must deal with the Defence Forces of this country as one, and think of them as one. I am sure that it was wrong—and I hope he realises that now—when at the end of last year, in reply to an Amendment moved to the Address on the King's Speech, he gave a list of four priorities. I cannot imagine how he proposed to get a balanced whole if he considered the Services in order of priority; research first, Air Force, Navy and then the Army last of all—the poor old Army—the devil take the hindmost.
There cannot be a proper Defence Service for this country on that basis. I do not think he meant that. I think it was a simplification of words, but it has misled a lot of people who think that in the Chiefs of Staff Committee and under his Ministry, there is still a fight for money going on between the heads of these three Service Departments made all the more difficult and bitter because of the cuts which were necessarily or unnecessarily imposed. There is a feeling abroad that 138 in the Chiefs of Staff Committee there is not that co-operation and feeling of good will without which a real combined defence plan can never be made.
The second point is the relation of manpower and equipment. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Abingdon stress the importance of equipment. General Fuller, in a book entitled "Armaments and History," which I hope the lion. Gentleman has read, stressed that tools or weapons, if only the right ones can be discovered, form 99 per cent. of victory. We may think that is an over-emphasis but the over-emphasis is not very great. At the end of last year, when we were considering the National Service Scheme, we paid too little attention to the problem that will confront the right hon. Gentleman in equipping any reserves that Lave to be called up in the event of another war. It never seems to me realistic to plan for this enormous number of men and hope they will be immediately available at the outbreak of a war, unless we have made an equally good plan to provide them not just with equipment, but with the most up to date equipment.
It is on the relationship between man-power and equipment that I still have my doubts. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has had to cut down the intake for other reasons, but mostly because the Army was finding the stress of looking after new recruits too great for its Regular components. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that in a friendly debate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) warned him of that before Christmas. It still seems to me to affect the National Service and that a further modification may have to be made. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the National Service Scheme was rushed through too quickly, before a real plan had been made, and before all the factors that affect the composition of reserves for the Army, Navy and Air Force had really been evaluated. As a result, I will welcome any changes that have to be made, and the sooner they have to be made the better.
That does not mean that I am attacking the National Service scheme in principle. I am not. I am quite convinced that with the spread of warfare into the homes of everyone—and that is what it has come to—it is right and proper, at the present at any rate, that everyone as he comes to a 139 certain age, should be called up and trained. Even if he is only trained so that he has a basic understanding of Civil Defence work and of the methods of the three Services, I consider that the country will have full value from the six to 12 months for which it may be necessary to call him up for service. But for those men on whom the right hon. Gentleman is going to rely for the expansion of his Forces immediately upon mobilisation, there must be something much greater than a year's whole-time service and 6o days' part-time service in the next six years. In this scientific age, that will not keep anyone in touch with the latest weapons and vehicles. That is the problem which faces the right hon. Gentleman. His scheme really does not face up to the necessity of a reserve which may be called up tomorrow and which must be in touch with the latest vehicles or weapons.
There are two other points I wish to raise. The first concerns our present position. There have been a number of references to the Navy's weakness which have been countered by one hon. Gentleman opposite who said that the Navy was as strong as it was before the war. I do not propose to go into detail on any of the Services, but it is apparent from paragraph 6o of the White Paper that it is not the intention of the Government to provide, from any of the three Services, a striking reserve, however small. It is the intention of the Government only to provide sufficient forces for existing commitments. In my view, that will lead the Government and, in particular, the Foreign Secretary, into great difficulty. There must be some foam of reserve: we have always had a reserve in the past. That may not necessarily be an argument which appeals to hon. Gentlemen opposite. The advantage of a reserve is that when we get unexpected occurrences, like the Falkland Islands incident or the Guatemala episode, we do not then denude our other commitments of the forces which are necessary. The Government may have reasons which appear very good to them, but in my view they are wrong. It is wrong not to have a reserve striking force, and I should like to hear more about that from the Prime Minister.
Lastly, I refer to the plan for Imperial defence. I do not believe that we can plan to defend this island by itself. Its 140 defence must be considered in conjunction with the defence of the British Commonwealth and, I believe now, in conjunction with the defence of Western Europe and the United States of America. We have now reached this great decision in our foreign policy and I hope that we are applying that decision to our defensive policy.
There are certain things which strike one immediately when one considers the question of defence. There is the question of the vulnerability of this island and the importance of dispersal. What has been done about that? For instance, we still have Empire training schools in this island. Is this the right place for them? What about production? This island was the arsenal for the Commonwealth Forces during the last war. Are we still relying upon this country for production? If we are not, have we standardised, or arranged to standardise, our weapons and equipment with the United States and with Western Europe? Are we making any plans for that? I believe that the real difficulty about standardisation lies not so much in the standardisation of bullets as in the standardisation of the very smallest thing concerned in the make-up of our equipment. Are we going ahead with that kind of thing? I appreciate the difficulties and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is doing all that he can to surmount them.
Having put those four points as briefly as I can, I close on this note. Too often we are told, not so much by right hon. Gentlemen opposite as by the hon. Gentlemen who sit behind them, that there is a choice which we must face in this country, and the choice which is posed for us on this occasion is one between guns and butter. I do not believe that that is the choice. The choice is quite simple. It is between guns, butter, harder work and more production, on the one hand, and no guns and no butter at all, on the other hand.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I listened to the long statement by the Minister of Defence but heard in it no indication of any standard on which defence had to be based. There was a time between the wars when there was a standard to which the Defence Ministers worked. There was the Indian Army, there was the Egyptian Army, there were commitments in various 141 parts of the globe, there was the home Army and then there were estimates made for a minimum Force which would be available as an Expeditionary Force in Europe. Associated with that there was the two-Power standard for the Fleet. Always the question of defence was discussed on that basis. But here no standard of any kind is given to us.
Instead, we get the Minister making the cheapest of all kinds of sneers at the Amendment which I and my colleague placed on the Order Paper. The Minister wants to give a lead to the other Tories and crypto-Tories on the assumption that when we put down that Amendment we are, somehow or other, acting as emissaries on behalf of the Soviet Union. The Minister should not forget that many Members on this side of the House, some of them on the Government Front Bench, were charged during the first world war by the Tories and the Tory Press with being agents of Germany and, in many cases, with having German gold lining their pockets. It is an old and pretty trashy argument for the Minister to use. I would suggest to the Minister that defence and efficiency are not determined by quantity. In certain circumstances, quantity may be necessary, but defence is not necessarily determined by quantity.
I would remind the Minister that in 1937 he was kind enough to give me a lift in his car and to take me to the Soviet Embassy to see a film of the Kiev manoeuvres. That was the first film shown, the first demonstration, of the new and very important developments in the Air Force, showing tank-carrying aeroplanes, parachutists and all the rest of it. Many military experts were present. Our military men, after seeing the film of the manoeuvres at Kiev, said, "Very interesting, but of no practical value in war." Is that correct? Will the Minister deny it? Not one solitary thing was done by any of the military experts in any of the Departments to take the slightest advantage of that demonstration. It was not because the Labour Opposition had put down an Amendment demanding cuts in the Defence Forces that we were left unprepared. Were they serious when they put down these Amendments when they were in Opposition? Was the Minister of Defence serious when he argued for such Amendments, or was he representing some Power outside this country? What have we got now? Right hon. Gentle- 142 men on the Front Bench here, and ethers on this side of the House, have got up and repeated ad nauseam all the foul, vicious dirty lies hitherto peddled by the Tories. Why is it, when Socialists who used to sing:Then raise the scarlet standard high,Within its shade we'll live and die;Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,We'll keep the Red Flag flying here"—why is it, when the Red Flag is advancing in Europe, there is such a panic? [HON. MEMBERS: "Sing it."] I would not mind singing it. What a panic to get into. What sort of Socialists are they? One of the old workers on these premises, when I came here today, said to me, "The rich men in here are in an awful panic about what has happened in Czechoslovakia." The rich men in here? "They do not like to see the workers getting on the top." No, of course, it is democracy as long as the Tories are at the top, but when the workers get to the top it is not democracy. Well, consider. Look at France. In France, when action was taken her the French Government——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am ton to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I fail to see that what he is now saying has any relation to the Motion.
§ Mr. Gallacher
There is so much that was raised here this afternoon, but what I am saying is that defence is not necessarily determined by quantity. The trouble before the Second World War was the fact that the military and naval leaders in this country had the mentality of the Boer War or even of a war before that—the Zulu War. They never gave the slightest attention to technical developments or made any preparation of any kind in that respect, and that was no the only thing.
I want to remind the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence that what brought about the serious situation that confronted this country was the fact that the Government, prior to the war, were pursuing an illusion. They refuse 3 to make friendship, or to make a pact, with the Soviet Union. They kept a civil servant over in Moscow to keep the pot boiling as long as possible while they were pursuing that illusion. Right hon. Gentlemen on the other side will remember that the Prime Minister of the day, when questioned about what was happening in 143 Moscow, always said that we had had a report from Moscow and we were sending fresh instructions. Week after week we kept sending fresh instructions.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I do remember, but what I cannot make out is what relation what the hon. Gentleman is saying has to the Motion before the House.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to deal with a very important point in connection with that, and which has been dealt with by nearly every other speaker here. The Government refused to make a friendship pact with the Soviet Union. The same thing applies today. They were pursuing an illusion—and what was the illusion? It was the Four-Power Pact. That was the illusion which almost brought about the destruction of this country. What is the situation today? It is an even worse attitude towards the Soviet Union, and it is the illusion of the Western bloc. Hon. Members of this House seem as though they will never learn. They had a two days' Foreign Affairs Debate in which the Western bloc was discussed and planned, and the next day the Chancellor of the Exchequer flew over to France to persuade France not to knock away the props from under it. You can never-get unity unless there is agreement as to the economic basis on which unity is to be built. As we shall never get that agreement, there will never be a Western bloc. It is an illusion.
It is also an illusion that the American capitalists—the most ruthless capitalists imaginable—are concerned with a system whereby Great Britain shall become greater. The American capitalists are not coming to Europe in the interests of freeing the peoples of Europe; they are not concerned about freeing the millions in America who are not allowed to vote, and about the millions who are living there under worse conditions than we in this country under our ration system. True, there are millions in America living better than the workers in this country, but there are also many other millions so oppressed and so beaten down that it is almost impossible to describe the conditions under which they have to live.
I want to ask the Prime Minister who, I understand, is going to reply, to tell us what his attitude is towards the Monroe doctrine which is now being worked out 144 in the Western hemisphere, in the Falkland Islands and British Honduras. The Monroe doctrine says that no European nation can have any territories or any say of any kind in the Western hemisphere. What is the Government's attitude to that? America, on the other hand, can, if it so desires, take over the control of Europe. I would like to know how it is possible for this country to defend itself against that sort of thing. I would also like the Prime Minister to say something about the position in which this country is going to be placed in the event of war. I am absolutely opposed to any further war; we have had enough of them. The working classes in this and all other countries are opposed to war. If we can unite the working classes of the different nations, we can prevent war, but we cannot prevent it by uniting the working class movement here with the Tories. How are we going to save this country if there should be an atomic war?
I will give a warning to the Tories opposite as well as to hon. Members on this side of the House. I can remember when King Edward VII was proudly heralded as "King of Great Britain and Ireland and Emperor of India." That was his title. After the first world war, Ireland went; after the second world war, India went; after the third world war, Britain goes. I say to the Members of this House and to the people of this country that everything must be done to bring about an understanding and friendship with the Soviet Union. Nothing whatever should be done or said that could possibly encourage another holocaust which would bring the destruction of civilisation upon this torn and battered world.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
I am afraid there is not very much in common between the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and myself in regard to defence. However, we share one thing in common—the abhorrence of war. I can assure him that, although I was for long a soldier, I have a very pronounced hatred of war. Nor do I know how much his speech has served the Communist cause. If I felt that Russia was directed by people who were, in certain ways, as harmless as the hon. Gentleman, I would sleep much more soundly in my bed tonight.
145 This Debate has to a very considerable extent reflected the disquiet which is felt among a large section of the public regarding the present state of our defences. Before going into that matter, I would say that nothing has been done to dispel that disquiet which has, if anything, been increased by the policy of the Minister of Defence in holding a rather thick veil of secrecy and security between the public and defence preparations. There is a school of thought which argues that defence is a highly technical, specialised and secret subject, that it should be left to those whose profession it is and the Ministers concerned to work it out; and that Parliament and the public should be told the very minimum. That theory has, it seems to me, been disproved by our entry into two major wars disastrously unprepared. In a democracy I believe the people must be told something of these matters.
I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) who, I observe is not here at the moment, on this question of security. Although I appreciate that there are certain measures which should never be revealed, there is no way of divining from enemy documents how much value they actually obtained from our Estimates of the Forces. When one's defences are not in a very healthy state, undue secrecy, like any other form of concealment, often causes the imagination to run riot. Therefore, I believe the right hon. Gentleman's policy of withholding the maximum amount of information from this House is wrong.
Any defence policy must, to some extent, reflect the views of the party supporting the Government. In this respect, the support which the right hon. Gentleman has received from his own party leaves very much to be desired in days like these. I fully understand the preoccupation of hon. Members opposite with the recovery of our economy; indeed, we all share that preoccupation. I fully understand why they grudge every pound and every man allocated to defence. I quite understand how they feel that money spent on defence is going down the drain away from the productivity and wealth of the country. On the other hand, they should bear in mind that every country which is adopting a forward or 146 aggressive foreign policy keeps an up-to-date military appreciation of the defences of its possible foes. Inasmuch as those defences become weak, so is the aggressive and forward policy of such a country likely to increase in intensity. As those Forces are strong, so more likely is it that that particular policy will be more considerate. Thus, not only is the retention of adequately strong Forces by the countries which wish to resist a Power adopting such a policy the best guarantee of peace, but it has an immense influence on the freedom of countless people in Europe today.
Listening to many Debates, I have thought that the preoccupation of some hon. Members opposite—many of them are not here tonight—with purely domestic affairs in days like these is so intense as to be almost ridiculous. They put me in mind of a character who was written of by Belloc in the lines:I was playing golf today,When the Germans landed.All our soldiers ran away,All our ships were stranded,And the thought of England's shame,Almost put me off my game.I would ask hon. Members to lift their eyes for once in a year from the purely domestic scene to these questions of defence. My plea to them is, just for today: "Forget Utopia—remember Czechoslovakia."
There have been countless points covered in this Debate today, and I do not propose to follow hon. Members into all of them; it is my intention to confine myself to what I consider to be the two most important questions regarding defence. They are: Why are our defences in such a very weak state today, and what are our prospects in the future of having strong and well-balanced Forces? To deal with the first point, I would say, after listening to the speech of the Minister of Defence, that I was uncertain whether our present weakness was planned or unplanned. If the right hon. Gentleman tells me it was planned, my reply to him would be: not only is our weakness humiliating, but it is extremely dangerous. If, on the other hand—and I believe it to be so—it is unplanned, it seems to me that it reflects one of the troubles at the back of our defence difficulties today.
The House will recall not so very long ago—just over a year—the right hon. 147 Gentleman laid down a rate of run-down for the Forces and a minimum financial allotment for the year. Once that is laid down, the Forces set out to plan their run-down and their allocation of finance for the year. Not so very long after that was laid down, the speed of run-down was increased and the financial allocation was cut. That sort of thing plays havoc with the planned run-down for the Forces.
Take, first, the case of the run-down. If the speed of run-down is accelerated it means that the whole structure, the coherence, of the various military forces is bent and distorted, and the change is carried out without any relation whatever to the efficiency of the Forces. It is as though some plant or tree, instead of being pruned in accordance with its natural growth, had, two feet chopped from the top; thus it would be likely to de distorted both at once and in its future growth. Secondly, if the financial allocation is cut, that again has quick repercussion on planned policy, and although I realise very fully the absolute importance of financial stringency within the three Services at this time, I would feel more reassured concerning the extent of these cuts in the Forces were they in any way reflected in cuts on the civilian side of our financial expenditure. But when one sees such organisations as the Central Office of Information flourishing, without even a chip from the Chancellor's axe, one wonders whether the Minister of Defence has not acceded too readily to this axe, which is only too ready, as two wars have proved, to cut our Defence Services in time of peace.
I believe those two gradual reductions are not only part of the cause of our weakness today, but may have a serious effect in the future because, with the National Service plan, it seems to me that the Minister of Defence is entering the future with too many men and not enough money. That state of unbalance is not only wasteful, but terribly unfortunate, if all these men, owing to financial stringency, have a real cut in training efficiency and standards when they join their respective Forces and units.
I do not believe our present weakness is entirely and solely due to the matters I have mentioned. In addition, I think, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said, considering the large sum of money 148 and the large number of men involved, it is really a very poor show that that we have in the shop window today. This is often referred to as due to transition, and I for one am beginning to think that the only thread of continuity in the Defence White Papers is this very state of transition. Part of our present weakness is, I believe, due to the existence of a number of very swollen, unpruned administrative units and headquarters, which have endured from the war without being thoroughly deflated and cleaned up. The cleaning up of such units is an extremely difficult thing to do, and in that I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman. But I cannot believe—even though there has been this run-down and financial cut—that such small Fighting Forces can be justified at the present time.
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the most drastic and far-reaching measures are now required to achieve this cut in the administrative and supply services, because it is those services and headquarters who have to carry out these cuts, and they are the people who need the strongest and most direct attack. I would recall to the right hon. Gentleman's remembrance how my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) during the war showed a quality of tenacity and persuasion in that respect that was almost superhuman. I think it was Odysseus who found almost irresistible the melodious voices of the sirens, as they sat on their island stronghold combing their luxuriant hair; but there was many a Chief of Staff who found the melodious voice of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford quite irresistible as he, in his siren suit, sat his Cabinet stronghold combing an overgrown tail. It seems to me that the Minister of Defence has not adopted that policy; and, indeed, recent tendencies seem to show that he has cut down the teeth and grown the tail. The Minister of Defence is often referred to in this House as an old sea dog, but I must warn him that this habit that he has recently shown, of cutting his teeth and growing his tail, is more to be expected in a thoughtless young puppy than an old sea dog.
I have spoken at some length on the question of our weakness in the Forces today. It is, I think, due to a combination of circumstances, which may be 149 transitional; and furthermore I feel it is only fair to say that, although at the present time we are apparently extremely weak, we have potentially very large reserves in the shape of Reservists on the Reserve from the last war. Not only that. We have, fortunately for us, a great wealth of industrial "know how" that can rapidly build up war potential if it is needed.
I would offer a few remarks regarding the shape and efficiency of the Defence Forces in the future. The Government have invited us to welcome the Defence White Paper which we have before us today; to which hon. and right hon. Friends of mine and I have put down an Amendment which says:That this House expresses its concern at the apparent absence of comprehensive measures for a co-ordinated and up-to-date system of National and Imperial Defence.I should like to say at the outset that no one on this side of the House expects a long-term, detailed plan regarding our defences. What we expect, and what we have missed so much, is any sign of a general policy which appears to govern the various actions and orders which have issued from the right hon. Gentleman's Department. It seems to us that not only has there been no evidence of such a policy but that most of the actions, most of the measures which have been taken, have been dictated, not by considerations of military efficiency, but more by considerations of political pressure. That, I think, is behind our general disquiet at the lack of any plan. The right hon. Gentleman may demand—and, indeed, he is entitled to demand—more specific accusations and instances than this very wide generalisation which I have made.
I should now like to devote a few remarks to that effect, first mentioning briefly a subject which has been referred to by many hon. Members, and which, in my opinion, has a very great bearing on the future efficiency and shape of our Armed Forces: namely, the National Service scheme. I do not wish to rake up the past, but I would say that there were many hon. Members on this side of the House, including myself, who, when the right hon. Gentleman lopped six months off this plan, abstained from voting for it because we felt that if 18 months was the minimum it could not be right to reduce it to one year. It is my belief that our fears then, which were 150 rather vague, have been fully substantiated by the situation today. Let us consider, very briefly, the plan as it operates at the present moment
As far as the Navy is concerned, they will have none of it. As far as the Air Force is concerned, it has undoubtedly been shown that their quota from the National Service scheme is the gap between voluntary recruiting and their ceiling, and therefore it is an unfixed and an uncertain quantity. One thing that is certain is that the National Service man in the Air Force is unwanted. So we come to the Army. The right hon. Gentleman who, through his change in the period of service, has been faced with something of a dilemma, has said to the Army: "You must have as many as you can take, because the rest will be charged up against deferment." That is how this plan has operated. In my opinion, is not a plan at all. It seems to me to be a misshapen, bent edition of the original scheme; and its misshapenness is due not to military considerations but to sudden capitulation to political pressure.
I will not say that of necessity National Service is unnecessary or wrong, but the question I put to the Minister is this: If he collected the very best brains within the Services and, say, the Ministry of Labour and the Treasury, and got them together to think out a scheme which would meet the Services' requirements and the requirements of our civil side, does he think that they would come hick to him with a scheme like the present one? My answer, unequivocally, is, "No." I do not pretend to know what scheme they would come with, but I do not believe that the present scheme is the one best designed to fit economy of manpower and Service needs. Therefore, I say to the Minister—and there is still time—why does not he re-examine it? If after re-examination this is proved to be the best scheme, nobody will express his apologies quicker than myself.
§ Mr. Alexander
I do not think the hon. and gallant Member could have listened to me, because in referring to this in my speech I did explain that we had examined every one of the possible alternatives. The hon. and gallant Member should not think as a matter of course, because we come back with this same scheme, recommending it as a whole today, that we have not consulted all the best brains we can get on the matter.
§ Brigadier Head
My point was whether or not this scheme had been re-examined de novo to find one which would fit the situation best. If that has been done, it would be very gratifying if the Prime Minister could reassure us to that effect.
The second point which is made in our Amendment is that, as far as the future of our Defence Forces are concerned, the plan and general measures lack co-ordination. Again, I say to the Minister that I appreciate very fully the difficulties of maintaining co-ordination and close cooperation between the three Services during peace. But although there is a natural tendency towards separatism in peace, and although there is a natural tendency for the head of each Service to push the interests of his own Service at the expense of defence as a whole, unless the Minister can preserve co-ordination and team-work between the three Services, the result will be, not only a loss of efficiency to defence as a whole, but an increase in extravagance and a lessening of value for money and men. The right hon. Gentleman might well ask how that can be done, but one of the main reasons why the Ministry of Defence was constituted was to preserve the co-operation between the three Services which was gained during the war.
I commend to his notice and recollection the astonishing results which were achieved by General Eisenhower when he took up his command in North Africa, with all the elements of international separation, rows, difficulties and splits. General Eisenhower welded that Force into a homogeneous whole which worked together smoothly throughout the war. For one reason, he was absolutely and utterly ruthless whenever he found anybody resolving to separatism or taking sides. In his difficulties in this respect, the right hon. Gentleman would, I believe, have the support of the entire House if he were absolutely ruthless and insisted that we did not lose the team work and solidarity between the Services which we achieved during the war.
The next point we mention in the Amendment is a complaint that the measures taken so far are not up-to-date. Ever since the end of the last war, we have known of these new weapons. There has been full knowledge of the powers of the atom bomb and of bacteriological warfare, and their application from a military point of view has been much studied, 152 I have no doubt. However, I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that there is no indication in this White Paper or any of the measures so far taken—and I include the measure referred to in the statement of the Prime Minister—to show that the revolutionary effect of these weapons on Civil Defence have been fully taken into account.
Let me briefly instance one or two cases. Supposing there were saboteurs in this country during the war. There is no reason why there should not be; in fact, rather the reverse is the case. Think of the immense increase in the need for guards at vulnerable points. Think of the reservoirs and the fact that bacilli or viruses might be tipped into them. Think of the suit-cases containing some appalling atomic engine of war which might be dumped near the docks. An immense burden is placed on our Civil Defence forces in that respect.
Secondly, was not the main lesson in the last war that the item of first priority for attack is the productive industry of your enemy or enemies? Would it not be certain that the whole of our productive works and war potentials would be subjected to intensive attack. There again, an immense burden would be placed on our Civil Defence forces. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) referred at some length to this. Our complaint regarding up-to-dateness is this. We have this immense Civil Defence undertaking and responsibility to be considered in conjunction with, and with almost equal importance to, the three Services. Should it not be considered as of parallel importance in the National Service Scheme? Should it not have a representative of very considerably greater status within the right hon. Gentleman's organisation? Is it not in very great danger of falling between two stools, namely, its joint responsibility between the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office? I and many of my hon. Friends are most disturbed regarding this aspect of defence. In view of the fact that there are only very brief references to it in the White Paper, we have, in my opinion, perectly good ground for complaint.
In addition to this question of being up-to-date, we have also complained that the right hon. Gentleman has not laid down a scheme for Imperial Defence. We have heard from the Minister of Defence of visits by committees of liaison officers 153 and of other rather patched up affairs between the Dominions and ourselves. I would invite the right hon. Gentleman to contemplate for a while one of the new American maps which show the centre of the world as the North Pole, and which shows the distances between different places as Great Circle tracks. Taking into consideration the present and future powers of modern aircraft, this shows that the war of tomorrow will be quite different from our old conception as far as the Empire is concerned. Tomorrow it will not be a question of the Mother Country entering the war and then getting into touch with the Dominions about their contribution and contingents. It seems to me that tomorrow the war will be a war of bases, and that the day this country goes into war, the whole Empire will not only be in the war on that day, but will be in the front line on that day.
For that reason I say that the present arrangements existing as far as defence is concerned between the Empire and this country are inadequate for the speed at which events will move. I say that there is no excuse whatever which I can think of, with war at its present-day speed, and as a war of bases, for not inviting immediately an Imperial Defence conference. I believe that such a conference would not only do immense good to this country from the point of view of efficiency and economy, but it would be an excellent sign to the rest of the world and to Central Europe. I commend that suggestion most strongly to the right hon. Gentleman.
My remarks have been made with one purpose, to show why my right hon. and hon. Friends have put down this Amendment. I have no doubt that there are many hon. Members opposite who will say to themselves, as they often do say in these Debates, what would you do yourself? Well, I will answer that question, for myself, now, at the conclusion of my speech because I believe it to be the right thing to do. First, I would re-examine the National Service plan from the start and satisfy myself that it was the very best that could be done under the circumstances, and I believe one might find a different answer. Secondly, I would lay down a broad policy for expense, manpower and the general direction of defence and, having done so, I would stick to it so that the Services knew where they were. Thirdly, I would institute a far more 154 searching inquiry into the rear ward establishments and headquarters through the Forces. Fourthly, I would be quite ruthless in demanding and ensuring the closest co-operation and co-ordination between all three Services. Fifthly, I would in the near future summon an Imperial Defence conference. It is my fervent belief that, if these steps were taken, they would have an immediate and beneficial effect not only on the strength and efficiency of our Forces, but on the value for money and manpower expended upon them.
I would say, in conclusion, that I have put these suggestions forward, and my hon. and right hon. Friends have tabled this Amendment, not as Tories, but in the spirit in which we believe defence should be approached; that is to say, not in a party spirit but in a national spirit. I would say to hon. Members that they have this duty before them before they go into the Lobby and vote for this Government Motion: they have to ask themselves, are they satisfied with the general policy and conduct of our Defence Forces today? Are they satisfied regarding the value they are getting for their money and men? Are they satisfied regarding the probable shape, up-to-dateness, and efficiency of our Imperial Defence in the future? If they look into their consciences and find they are satisfied, then they have a perfect right to vote for the Government, but I say to them that on this day those of us who do not believe that is so should go into the Lobby against the Government, not as Tories or as Socialists, but as members of the British Commonwealth who wish to do all in their power to bring peace to the world and security and freedom to their native land.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
I listened with interest to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) and of the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head), but I confess I could not find from them any real reason, apart from the need for registering disagreement with the Government, why this Amendment was put down. The hon. and gallant Member said that there was disquiet respecting our defences. Then he made some quite extraordinary statements. One would think that right through those two and a half years the 155 Opposition had been pressing for numbers of men to be kept in the Forces. Instead, they were the people who took up the cry to run-down the Forces as quickly as we could. Now they turn round and sing quite a different tune.
§ Brigadier Head
I think that all on this side of the House felt that the way to do it was either to run down the Forces very rapidly after the war, or to taper them off. Our complaint is that neither was done.
§ The Prime Minister
I have no doubt that there are some who wanted the kind of run-down we had after the end of the 1914–18 war, when the whole thing melted away, but that was certainly not the view of responsible Members on the benches opposite, because, as a matter of fact, plans for running down the Forces had been very carefully worked out before we came into Office. I do not really know who those Members were. We had to have changes in accordance with changing circumstances.
The hon. and gallant Member made a great case about unpruned administrative services. The right hon. Gentleman also talked about the large amounts of "tail" as compared with the amount of "teeth." It is quite obvious when we are having big changes over of men in the Forces that inevitably we have large training establishments and a large number of men being trained. My right hon. Friend gave some figures in regard to the turnover. The second point made by the hon. and gallant Member was that we should comb the "tail" vigorously, as he said the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) did. I can remember a great many attempts to comb that tail, and I know just how hard it was. I remember going round with one of my Conservative colleagues to one of the armies to see if we could comb a tail. I can remember the efforts and the right hon. Gentleman remembers the efforts to try to comb the tail in Egypt. It is extremely difficult to do it from outside.
I think anyone who has ever tried it has come to the conclusion that the only way to do it is to ration the Services in regard to money, cut down the money, and say, "You must make do with that," and then get pressure on them to get the results. I have talked with a great many people who have tried to do this. The 156 hon. and gallant Member can go round the commands, and I gather he knows that any officer in any of the Services will produce officers and men and say that every single one is doing a vitally important job and that we cannot get rid of him. The only way to do it is to ration them. Yet when we try to do it and actually do it, the right hon. Gentleman says, "I am afraid you are starving us of money, and we will not have money for the men." These things are not just in the air.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about the shape of our Forces in the future. He very fairly said that it is difficult to tell what the shape of our Forces will be in the future. Let me explain a phrase which seemed to puzzle hon. Members opposite. We must have something which is general and flexible. We must have a general scheme but we must have flexibility, looking ahead to the balance of the Forces. The right hon. Gentleman was right when he said we did not want something which was absolutely rigid. It is quite right that we went into a close examination of this. The difficulty was that we have to get a balance in the National Service scheme of having sufficient trained men for training and keeping cadres going and the intake. The number of National Service men required in any of the Forces in any given year will, to a large extent, depend on the number of the volunteers who have been obtained, and we cannot prophesy as to that. Therefore, there has to be a certain amount of flexibility.
I agree with the hon. and gallant Member that we want the utmost co-operation between the three Services. We have gone a good long way in that. Certainly a great deal more is done in that way than was ever done before the war, because we have learned a great deal from the lessons of what was done during the war—the work of the Chiefs of Staff, the Joint Planning Staff and the rest. There are, however, certain points which must be borne in mind. For instance, when one is trying to co-ordinate three great organisations at home it is not exactly the same thing as the co-ordination of a staff by a general in the field. There is one other vital point which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman knows quite well. It is one thing to get the Services working together when they can get practically all they want, 157 and when the whole country is organised to supply them with everything. It is quite a different matter when there comes a point when there have to be limitations. It is perfectly true that there is then a certain tendency to push for one's own Service. We are doing all we can to overcome that, and so are the heads of the Services, but it is a thing which is difficult to eradicate.
I was not quite sure what the hon. and gallant Member meant when he was talking about the dangers that come of people with suitcases, and of the big reservoirs and dispersal. I suppose that he was referring to our war potential. Whatever can be done in that way certainly cannot all be done just at once. There cannot be a sudden dispersal. I was not quite sure what the hon. and gallant Member meant with regard to the danger from fifth columnists, etc. I recognise that danger, and I recognise that we have to look ahead in that respect, but I did not quite see how that applied to the hon. and gallant Member's immediate remarks.
He gave us finally five points, some of which have been met already. The reexamining of the National Service plan has been done and the question of a broad policy has also been dealt with. There was the question of co-operation, with which I entirely agree, and there was the point about an examination into staffs and "tail" which is constantly going on, and which must be reinforced by saying, "You must make the best of this amount of money." We shall never get them down if they have as much money as they want to play with.
I refer to the hon. and gallant Member's final point about co-operation between the Dominions and ourselves. We all wish for that, but that cannot be done by this country thinking that it can force all the others to do just what it wants them to do and come into conference. I have heard it said so often from the benches opposite, "Why do you not summon a conference?" etc. Anyone who has had experience knows that this is a matter in which we are dealing with our equal partners, that we talk with them, work with them, and are glad to get them together, but that is not the same thing as getting up and saying, "Why do you not do this at once?" It is looking far into the past to envisage the position in which this country gave an order and summoned people. The matter has to be 158 carefully worked out. We have a closer co-operation in defence than ever before. I agree that we want more, but these are matters in which we have to work very carefully with equal partners.
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman was quite fair in suggesting that there was not a clear theme running through this Defence Paper. It has to be recognised that we are engaged in dealing with a dual problem. There is the problem of keeping our Forces at a standard sufficient for our actual needs. At the present time, we are planning the future of these Forces in a change-over from abnormal conditions of war to those of peace time. At the same time we have to plan, as the hon. and gallant Member has said, with an eye to the future, and to changing conditions of warfare of which we can know very little at the present time. These difficult conditions affect the three Services in different degrees. By far the heaviest strain of every day things today falls on the Army. We had hoped that we should have got rid of some of these burdens that fall upon us, but I do not need to go over the events of the past year, which show how difficult it is to get rid of these responsibilities. We cannot just walk out of those responsibilities. We have to meet them.
There are, on the other hand, the particular difficulties of the highly technical services, such as the Air Force and the Navy. The production of their fighting instruments takes a very long time. Therefore, their length of planning is longer than in the case of the Army and it is not possible to have the three Services walking precisely in step, because of the variety of tasks and the different factors of those Services. We did explain pretty fully what was the basis of the National Service scheme. The National Service is partly to keep up our actual Forces and partly for building up a reserve. It is impossible to say off-hand that in some future years the entire reserve will be for the Army. Some will certainly be for the Air Force, and some may be for the Navy. It is necessary to have a certain flexibility. One of the things that made this country accept this Service was its universality. If it is attempted to introduce a scheme with all kinds of special arrangements it will soon be found that its acceptability is killed, because people want to know it 159 is fair. I think that the way in which we have adapted this scheme to our particular circumstances is an example of the wisdom of the scheme and the degree of flexibility which it contains.
It is said that certain facts are given about the Navy, and parallel facts about the Air Force are not given. In this matter of secrecy we take counsel with our advisers. The hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) explained that the disclosure of ships in commission does not give anything much away because it is generally known. There are a great many other things that are not so known. While we desire to give the House the greatest possible amount of information that we can with safety, we do have to pay regard to safety considerations. I notice that the Select Committee on Estimates did agree that we gave away too much in pre-war days and in too much detail. I think that we gave too much even perhaps for those days which, at any rate for the earlier part of the war, were a great deal more settled and peaceful than today.
We have looked at this matter with an earnest desire to give to the House all possible information, but there are things which we are not prepared to give. While they can be discussed, and we have made arrangements for a Select Committee to know a great deal of these matters, I do not think, on the advice I have from our advisers, that we should be wise to go further than we do in regard to the other Services. I may say that other countries are not very forthcoming in this matter. I should like to see a general disclosure all the way round. I never quite see why in all these matters we should always have to make a start without any reciprocity. I should like some from the other side of the "iron curtain." In this connection, I call attention to the very helpful speech of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). I was sorry I could not hear it. The hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) raised the question of atomic warfare.
§ The Prime Minister
I will look into that. I am willing to give the utmost we can, but we must take very great care. I will consult with our advisers to see whether there is any more information which I can give.
§ The Prime Minister
I was dealing with the question of atomic warfare. The hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea seemed to think that the Government had been remiss in this matter and that they were not really attending to it. I would remind him that within less than two months of taking office, I took up this matter with President Truman. I went and saw President Truman and Mr. Mackenzie King, and it was our talks that resulted eventually in the setting up of the United Nations Atomic Commission. We have been working as hard as we possibly can to get agreement there, but, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, we have the general trouble, the obstacle of Russia.
§ The Prime Minister
I understood that the Russians had already got it, but perhaps the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) can tell us. Whoever has it, and whoever has not, we were planning for the control of atomic energy for the whole world. Therefore, whether a country had it or not, did not affect the fact that when we tried to set up a system in which there would be full inspection, full knowledge and full control, we were obstructed all the time by Russia.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Why should the right hon. Gentleman interject, quite unnecessarily, "Maybe the hon. Member for West Fife can tell us"?
§ The Prime Minister
Because of the hon. Member's general attitude in this House. He always seem to know a great deal more about the doings of that country than anybody else.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I think the right hon. Gentleman completely missed the point of my interruption about atomic warfare. I asked the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) what relevance all these defence plans had to atomic warfare, and what proper defence there was against atomic bombs.
§ The Prime Minister
That was not the point to which I was replying. That was not put to me but, I gather, to the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ The Prime Minister
I was proceeding to say, if I had not been interrupted, that we know the destructiveness of the atomic bomb We are studying all these matters of atomic and bacteriological warfare. We have been doing our utmost to try to get these matters under international control. In the meanwhile, we have to deal with defence against what are now called conventional methods, while planning for the future against unconventional methods, and that brings me to the point raised by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) who referred to progress in our plans for a new Civil Defence organisation. A Home Office Memorandum has been sent out to all local government associations and to the London County Councils——
§ The Prime Minister
Yes, and we are now awaiting their reply. There is a joint planning staff which is being constituted to work out the details, and I would point out that we are already in contact with the United States. A copy of that Memorandum was sent to the United States, and we are keeping in as close touch as possible. The hon. Member also asked with regard to legislation. It would be premature for me to make any statement with regard to legislation, but I can assure him that the matter is not being overlooked, though, in the meanwhile, there is a good deal of planning which can go ahead without any additional legislation. The point is being kept under review.
Now I come to the point raised by the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman). I gathered that his suggestion was that conditions were such that we ought to withdraw from all commitments and concentrate as if there was a war now on. I cannot really accept that position. It is the suggestion that, granted that we have these heavy responsibilities, we should shuffle out of them and let our friends down. I do not think that would be at all a good policy. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw 162 (Mr. Bellenger), in an interesting speech, pointed out that it never has been the view that this country, singlehanded, should take on a great major Power. We have always worked with allies, and we on this side of the House, and many hon. Members opposite, including the right hon. Gentleman opposite, have believed that, if we are to get security, we must get a world security and what we used to call in the old days collective security. The right hon. Gentleman will realise that conditions in the world since the last White Paper on Defence was presented have, to say the least of it, not improved. There is still a chaotic state of affairs in Europe, and there is widespread fear in Europe, and it is due mainly to the spread of dictatorships, intensified by the events of the last few days.
§ The Prime Minister
Probably, to the hon. Member, and, possibly to one or two people who agree with him, because, in this House, we stand for democracy——
§ The Prime Minister
—and when the hon. Member talks about the working classes, I do not agree that the Communist Party represents the working classes, nor that the rulers of Soviet Russia are representatives of the working classes. Certainly, the hon. Member does not represent the working people of this country. The fact remains that there is this danger and this chaotic state in Europe, and in the Far East, too, there are still grave disturbances. Civil war continues in China, and there is a difficult position in Korea. It is our policy to seek for a solution to all these problems by peaceful methods. I am quite sure that al the peoples of the world desire peace, but they feel this lack of security.
I would like to draw attention to some points that are sometimes overlooked. In Europe, there are countries that have been overrun twice in the space of less than 30 years. There is a great fear of a resurgence of a militarist Germany. If we carry our minds back to 1918, it will be remembered that we thought we had then got over the difficulty of a militarist Germany, but we had to meet the same thing later on. Therefore, it can hardly 163 be wondered that there should be nervousness in France and other countries. Our policy is to prevent the possibility of further German aggression and to bring Germany into, a united Europe on equal terms and in co-operation with our friends and Allies. We believe that the right way to exorcise the military spirit from Germany is for her to make her contribution to a peaceful and prosperous Europe. But that is going to take time, and we have to work to satisfy the nations on the point of security. We are trying to build up a good neighbourly policy, especially with France and the Benelux countries.
§ The Prime Minister
And with all other countries. I am dealing, at the moment, with France and the Benelux countries.
While it is not directly concerned with this particular Debate—although, after all, a defence Debate does deal with the policy of preventing war—I think the House will be interested to know that we and the French made certain proposals to the Benelux Governments just over a week ago on all the aspects of Western Union. I am glad to inform the House that I have just heard from Brussels that the Belgian Government are arranging for conversations to open at the official level in Brussels next Thursday.
§ conversations cover—are they political, military or economic, or what are they?
§ The Prime Minister
They will be preliminary discussions covering the general question of economic, social, political, and defence co-operation.
I have said that we are working for a positive policy of peace. At the same time, we have to make our own contributions to defence. We believe in building up that defence, both with our Allies and our friends in Europe, and, of course, in the Dominions, the Colonies, and across the Atlantic. We are endeavouring to carry out the policy laid down at San Francisco by the United Nations, and to try to build up security and to do our best in this part of the field. I say to hon. Members that I am sorry that we should have a Division on this matter because I believe there is general agreement that the way to build up security for this country is by a collective defence and by collaborating with others, and that we have got to have a long-term plan. We have also to be prepared to do our duty in the immediate affairs at the present time. As I say, I am sorry that there should be a Division on this matter because, with one or two exceptions, I think we are really united.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 243; Noes, 122.167
|Division No. 91.]||AYES||[9.59 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Daggar, G.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.||Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Daines, P.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Bramall, E. A.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Brook, D. (Halifax)||Davies, Edward (Burslem)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)|
|Attewell, H. C.||Brown, George (Belper)||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon, C. R.||Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Deer, G.|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Buchanan, Rt. Hon. G.||de Freitas, Geoffrey|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Burden, T W.||Diamond, J.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Burke, W. A.||Dodds, N. N.|
|Baird, J.||Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Donovan, T.|
|Balfour, A||Callaghan, James||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Chamberlain, R. A.||Dumpleton, C. W|
|Batlley, J. R.||Chater, D.||Durbin, E. F. M.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Chetwynd, G. R.||Dye, S.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Cluse, W. S.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Benson, G.||Cobb, F. A.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)|
|Berry, H.||Coldrick, W.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)|
|Beswick, F.||Collick, P.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)|
|Bevan, Rt Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Collindridge, F.||Evans, Albert (Islington, W.)|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Collins, V. J.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)|
|Binns, J.||Colman, Miss G. M.||Ewart, R.|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Comyns, Dr. L.||Fairhurst, F.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.)||Farthing, W. J.|
|Boardman, H.||Corlett, Dr. J.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Cove, W. G.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W||Crossman, R. H. S.||Follick, M.|
|Foot, M. M.||McEntee, V. La T||Silkin, Rt. Hon. L|
|Frasor, T. (Hamilton)||McGhee, H. G.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Mack, J. D.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Gibbins, J.||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C|
|Gibson, C. W.||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Gilzean, A.||Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Gooch, E G.||Mann, Mrs. J.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Granville, E. (Eye)||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Saskice, Sir Frank|
|Grey, C. F||Messer, F.||Sparks, J. A|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Middleton, Mrs. L.||Stamford, W.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Gunter, R. J.||Monslow, W||Stokes, R. R.|
|Guy, W. H.||Moody, A. S.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Haire, John E (Wycombe)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Hall, Rt Hon. Glenvil||Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)||Swingler, S.|
|Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Hardman, D. R||Mort, D. L||Symonds, A. L.|
|Hardy, E. A.||Moyle, A.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Harrison, J.||Murray, J. D||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Hastings Dr. Somerville)||Naylor, T. E.||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford)||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Thomas, I. O (Wrekin)|
|Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Hewitson, Capt. M||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)||Titterington, M. F.|
|Hobson, C. R||Oliver, G. H.||Tolley, L.|
|Holman, P.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G|
|House, G.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Hoy, J.||Parkin, B. T.||Usborne, Henry|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Vernon, Maj. W. F|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Viant, S. P|
|Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Pearson, A.||Walkden, E|
|Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Perrins, W||Walker, G. H.|
|Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool)||Platts-Mills, J. F. F||Warbey, W. N.|
|Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)||Popplewell, E.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Janner, B.||Pritt, D. N.||Wells, W. T (Walsall)|
|Jay, D. P. T,||Proctor, W T.||Wheatley, John (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Pursey, Cmdr. H||White, C. F (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Randall, H. E.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon W|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)||Ranger, J.||Wigg, George|
|Jones, J. H. (Bolton)||Reeves, J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Keenan, W.||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|King, E. M.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Kinley, J.||Roberts, A.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Leslie, J. R.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Willis, E.|
|Levy, B. W.||Rogers, G. H. R.||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Sargood, R.||Wyatt, W.|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Sharp, Granville||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Longden, F.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)|
|Lyne, A. W.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|McAdam, W||Shurmer, P||Mr. Snow and Mr. George Wallace|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Donner, P. W.||Jeffreys, General Sir G|
|Baldwin, A, E.||Drayson, G. B.||Keeling, E. H.|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Drewe, C.||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Elliot, Lieut.-Col., Rt. Hon. W.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.|
|Birch, Nigel||Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)|
|Bower, N.||Fox, Sir G.||Linstead, H. N.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J, A.||Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)||Low, A. R. W.|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Gage, C.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Grant, Lady||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.|
|Carson, E||Grimston, R. V.||Maedonald, Sir P (I. of Wight)|
|Challen, C.||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.|
|Clarke, Col R. S.||Harvey, Air-Comdre, A. V.||Maclean, F. H. R.|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Head, Brig. A. H.||MacLeod, J.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Herbert, Sir A. P.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.|
|Crowder, Capt. John E.||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Darling, Sir W. Y.||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Marples, A. E.|
|De la Bare, R.||Hope, Lord J||Marsden, Capt, A.|
|Digby, S. W.||Howard, Hon. A.||Maude, J. C.|
|Medlicott, F.||Ramsay, Maj. S.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hilthead)||Touche, G. C.|
|Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Roberts, H. (Handsworth)||Turton, R. H.|
|Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Ropner, Col. L.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Neill, W. F. (Belfast, N.)||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Sanderson, Sir F.||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)||Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)|
|Nutting, Anthony||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Odey, G. W.||Smithers, Sir W.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Spearman, A. C. M.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Peto, Brig. C H. M.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Winterton, Rt. Hon Earl|
|Pickthorn, K.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|Poole, O. B. S, (Oswestry)||Teeling, William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Prescott, Stanley||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)||Mr. Studholme and|
Resolution agreed to.
That this House approves the Statement relating to Defence (Command Paper No. 7327).