§ 3.44 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. A. V. Alexander)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the statement made by the Lord President of the Council on 14th September relating to Defence.The statement made by the Lord President on 14th September was made necessary by circumstances which the House well knows, and on which I need not dwell at length. It is the fact—the sad fact which we cannot, even if we would. deny—that our hopes for the early return of peace and orderly conduct in the world have not been realised. Our goal has been and is now peace with justice and freedom. His Majesty's Government have devoted and will continue to devote, their best efforts in the support of the United Nations and the work of the Security Council. It has always been our policy that our defence must be based on the principle of collective security, and we had always hoped to be able to build such collective security through the United Nations' Organisation.
However, without going into details of the operations of the Security Council, the plain fact is that collective security has not been achieved. There has been no agreement in the Military Staff Committee on principles which must be adopted before collective forces can be established to support the decisions of the United Nations' organisation. Inability to reach agreement in the Atomic Energy Commission and in the Commission for Conventional Armaments has also contributed to the lowering of international confidence. The hopes that we built on the United Nations will evidently not see an early fulfilment.
We observe in many quarters of the globe conditions of unrest, riot and strife. I do not propose to weary the House with any long recital of these numerous trouble spots. Let me say only that in many of them, vital interests of this country are concerned, and that from none of them can we or other nations, for whom the four freedoms represent a practical object of statesmanship and policy, disclaim interest and a measure of responsibility such as falls on any country sincerely devoted to the cause of peace.
In the situation I have described—and I say this with particular reference to the 1097 speech last night of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler)—the attainment of our purpose may have to be sought by other, and perhaps less ambitious, means, by attempting to build collective security through regional security, which is expressly contemplated under the Charter of the United Nations. Therefore, the House, in looking at our defences, should do so from the point of view that our defence is bound up with others in the security circle. We have to consider the contribution which, in the light of our economic position, we can make to collective security. The House may rest assured that we shall at all times make the greatest contribution to collective security that we can possibly afford.
The Western Union Five-Power Military Committee set up under the Brussels Treaty, which was concluded within the conditions of Article 51 of the United Nations' Charter, is from this point of view a development of first importance. The Committee, consisting of representatives of the Chiefs of Staff of each country, have met regularly in London since 5th May, and a great deal of work has been done in organising the military resources of the Five Powers for our common defence. The American and the Canadian Chiefs of Staff have appointed representatives to participate in its work as non-members; these representatives attend all meetings of the Military Committee, and in many cases of its subcommittees.
The Chiefs of Staffs of the Five Powers met in London on 25th August to review the work of the Military Committee, and their joint recommendations now await consideration by the five Ministers of Defence. As has already been announced to the House, we shall meet for this purpose in Paris on Monday next, 27th September. His Majesty's Government are supporting the work of this Military Committee to the fullest extent possible, and we hope that it will contribute powerfully to building up throughout the Western European countries that confidence and faith in themselves which is so essential for both the total economic recovery of these countries and organising to met any dangers which may threaten us.
While putting our whole strength behind the development of Western Union, 1098 however, we do not forget that Great Britain has a great part to play as the heart and centre of the British Commonwealth, and we must continue to strengthen and improve the effective machinery by which common ideals are translated into common policy. The whole question of the defence of the Commonwealth will be further explored at the forthcoming meeting of Common wealth Prime Ministers.
This is the broad background against which His Majesty's Government have, in the present situation, to take decisions on our domestic defence policy. Inevitably that policy is related to—indeed forms part of—the wider policy of our hopes and aspirations in a troubled world. Our obligations to our friends and our responsibilities to ourselves have to be matched with our capacity— reduced as it must be after the sacrifices of a bitter struggle—to meet them.
In 1945, we decided upon a planned and orderly run-down of our Armed Forces. We hoped, and at the time it did not seem an unreasonable hope, that by the end of 1948 many of the problems which arose out of the war would have been resolved. We expected that peace treaties would have been signed, and we looked for a world in which conditions were at least becoming stable. It was the view of all, irrespective of party, that a primary objective, if this country was to play its proper part in world affairs, was a strong national economy, and we directed every effort to this end.
Our plan, therefore, was to have defence forces which would be sufficient to meet our anticipated commitments and at the same time would be so organised as to be capable, in due course, of rapid expansion should the need arise. This was the conception which underlay the promise that men called up for service before 1st January, 1947, would be out of the Forces by 31st December, 1948, that those called up between 1st January, 1947, and 31st December, 1948, would be released by 31st December, 1949; this was the basis on which we sought the approval of the House to the provision by which men called up from 1st January, 1949, under the National Service Act passed in 1947, would serve for 12 months with the Colours and then undertake part-time training during the subsequent six years.
1099 Nevertheless, even in May, 1946, the White Paper on Call-Up to the Forces made it clear that unforeseen developments might lead to a revision of the estimates on which the release programmes were based. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour in December, 1947, also made it clear that unforeseen developments might lead to a revision of the announcement he then made as regards the release of men called up in 1947 and 1948.
We have, of course, commitments which we must fulfil. We have the obligation to maintain our Armed Forces in a condition in which should a major emergency arise they can be expanded in order to make a full contribution to collective security. We have, however, at all times to weigh very carefully the proportion of our resources which can be devoted to the Defence Services without endangering the economic stability of the country by which alone they can be sustained. I would urge all those who are taking part in the Debate to be realists and to recognise that an over-extension of our defences might destroy our economy while inadequate defences might jeopardise the safety of that economy. This is no easy problem to solve.
The military problem really divides itself into two parts: the steps necessary to meet the immediate situation, and those which may be necessary on a longer-term view. Let me deal with the former first. The difficulties have been stressed in previous White Papers of the present transitional period in which, while we have to plan for future organisation of the Forces, we have at the same time to maintain forces to meet minimum obligations. However good the planning may be, the assumptions on which the plans are made may be falsified by events. There has, therefore, to be a constant review. The suspension of demobilisation, which was reported to the House on 14th September, is an example of what has to be done owing to the trend of events. Our commitments, as the Foreign Secretary has explained in many speeches, have unfortunately not been reduced as we had hoped would be the case had it been possible to settle the good number of outstanding questions.
1100 The particular danger was that for a period there would be a lack of balance owing to the operations of the release programme including experienced N.C.O.'s and men. We therefore came to the conclusion that in present circumstances the only immediate solution lay in a deferment of the release programme. We considered whether this deferment should be general or selective. As hon. Members are aware, men have for some time been retained individually on account of military necessities, and this scheme has worked reasonably well on the scale on which it was operated.
There have been, however, from time to time some criticisms of the fact that the release programmes of the three Services were not entirely in step, and that within a particular Service some groups or categories were retained longer than others. Any extension of the selective system of retention would have been very difficult to administer and would, we are satisfied, have given rise to grave discontent. It would, I suggest, have been a most unfair arrangement if we had adopted on a large scale a policy of keeping only the more valuable men or the men who had shown themselves the best sailors, soldiers or airmen, and at the same time of releasing those of lesser skill or ability.
Accordingly, we decided that the right course would be for the deferment to be general, and that men already deferred should not be held to serve longer than three months from the date on which they were originally due for release. As hon. Members are aware, releases in Class B and on compassionate grounds will not be affected. The Government deeply regret the inconvenience, even hardship, to which this decision may give rise in individual cases, but the circumstances admitted of no other solution of the immediate problem.
As a result of the steps we have taken, the total strength of United Kingdom personnel in the Armed Forces on 1st January, 1949, will be about 825,000 and the corresponding figure for 1st April, 1949, will, on the basis of present plans, be nearly 790,000, as against the 716,000 on which the plans presented in the White Paper on Defence, 1948, were based. The cost of deferring releases for a period of three months will be about £8 million in the present financial year.
1101 The longer-term problem raises great difficulties. We must endeavour to find the right balance. It is, I hope, unnecessary for me to stress that a sound national economy is the essential basis of our defence. There is a tendency for some people who have influence, but ire happily not burdened with responsibility, to talk glibly about increasing the manpower of the Forces and turning over large sections of industry to the manufacture of warlike equipment irrespective of the consequences. No less dangerous are those who, in a world where the sanctity of treaties and the rule of international law are often mocked, would have us divest ourselves of the means by which we can make our influence felt and respected. If we are to continue to play our right part in world affairs, our Armed Forces must be strong. We must give them the best equipment we can. But at the same time we must ensure that they are backed by a national economy capable of supporting them. We must determine the kind of Forces we shall have, and the size of the Forces which our economic resources can sustain. We are reviewing the whole of these problems of manpower and equipment of the Services in the light of the changing circumstances, and we shall report further to the House as soon as possible.
The National Service Act was designed to build up a large reserve of trained men who would stand ready to take their part in our defence in an emergency without requiring lengthy training, since, under modern conditions, we can no longer count on the breathing space we had in 1939. But the plan depended upon an adequate Regular recruitment which, unfortunately, has not been up to needs. It was always realised that trained National Service men would to some extent be needed during their period of full-time service to make a contribution to the fulfilment of our current defence commitments. But they can never be a substitution for the Regular personnel, on whom must fall the main burden of providing both the immediate operation forces and the necessary training organisation for National Service men. It is on technical skill and experience that the efficiency and, indeed, the very existence of the technical branches of the Armed Forces 1102 depend. This skill and experience can best be provided by the voluntarily enlisted man who, in his Regular service, requires the experience which is needed to handle and maintain the complex equipment essential for modern defence.
I think the following recruiting figures for other ranks will be of interest to Members of the House. During the period from 1st April, 1946, to the end of June, 1948, the average quarterly intake of recruits for Regular engagements, including those under the bounty scheme, was 22,600.
§ Mr. Alexander
Taking the three Services together. This compares very favourably with the average for the years immediately following the war of 1914–18, which was 15,800 in 1920 and 13,800 in 1921. The intake which I have quoted for 1946–48 in a time of comparatively full employment is, I think, a tribute to the soundness of heart of our people. It might be questioned, therefore, why I lay such a stress on the need for Regular recruits.
§ Mr. Alexander
I shall be dealing with it. The fact is, of course, that the complete cessation of Regular recruiting to the Army and the Royal Air Force for a period of more than six years entailed such a reduction of Regulars as to leave a very large gap. Moreover, about 29 per cent. of the recruitment since 1946 has been for short-term bounty reengagements for periods of three, four and five years service.
This means that unless a substantial number of these men re-engage we should begin to face a new decline in Regular strengths in one or two years' time. The position in the Royal Air Force may be particularly serious since already their rate of recruitment has declined in the last few months much more sharply, for some reason or other, than those of the Army or Navy. Taking all these facts together it is vital that there should be a stepping up of our recruitment for the Regular Forces, especially during the next 12 months.
§ Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)
What is the strength, or is it inadvisable to give that now?
§ Mr. Alexander
I do not think that I ought, at this stage, to give what is the particular target of each Service in present world circumstances.
I would stress again that this recruitment is especially required for the technical branches of the Services. With the complications of modern equipment, whether it be on ship, in plane or on land, more and more technical personnel are needed. When they are trained, these Regular skilled men are called upon to exercise the full knowledge of their trades, and they need have no fear in these days that they will find themselves at a disadvantage when they return to civil life.
Just before the Recess we had a Debate on the pay of the Armed Forces, in which the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and others took part, during which the current pay scales were criticised as being inadequate to attract recruits and even, in some cases, as giving rise to hardship. In reply, I tried to give the House an indication of some of the reasons why, in my view, hasty decisions in this field were to be deprecated. I pointed out that the new pay code, published in 1945, was generally well received at the time, and that we had hoped it would provide a long-term settlement. I mentioned the need to consider pay increases in relation to total expenditure on defence, which cannot be unlimited, and in the light of competing needs such as the equipment.
I spoke of the general economic situation and the White Paper on Personal Incomes, Costs and Prices. I also drew attention to the very real advantages of Service life—paid leave, pensions, opportunities for promotion, and so on. I did, however, promise to review the whole matter with my colleagues in the light of the Debate and to consider the case sympathetically. This I have been doing, and I can promise an announcement of what we may find it possible to do as soon as this necessarily complex subject has been properly and fully examined.
Pay is not, however, the only factor which influences recruiting; there are other considerations. Some of them—for 1104 example, war weariness—must operate in present circumstances to the disadvantage of the Services, and nothing we can do or say will overcome handicaps of this kind. We are necessarily limited, too, in present economic conditions, in the provision of married quarters, and in improvements to barrack and other accommodation and amenities generally. We are, however, pressing on with all these matters, and I can assure hon. Members that the Services will get a fair share of the present housing developments of the country. The House no doubt saw the statement in another place yesterday by the First Lord that a good deal of progress has been made in married quarters in the current financial year.
Among the other possible handicaps to an improvement in recruiting is uncertainty about resettlement in civil life after discharge. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has been considering this problem with the Service Ministers, and the House will be glad to know that plans have been made which should go far, certainly further than at any time in the past, to alleviate this problem. For example, a comprehensive scheme for providing openings for ex-Regulars is being worked out with industry, with the support of the Minister of Labour's National Joint Advisory Council. In the Government service a proportion of vacancies for the clerical and executive classes will, in future, be reserved for competition among ex-Regulars, and in the entrance examination for the administrative class, also, ex-Service men will have an age allowance equivalent to their period of service with the Forces.
The trade unions have already agreed that men trained in a wide range of Service trades should be recognised as qualified for membership as skilled men, and discussions are going on with a view to recognising the status of other Service tradesmen. Special training for civil employment both within industry and in establishments set up by the Ministry of Labour will be available. There will also be schemes of training to assist selected candidates who wish to enter business or a profession. These comprehensive arrangements will, I believe, greatly enhance the attractiveness of the Services to the right type of Regular recruit that we need at the present time.
1105 From the point of view of our general preparedness, the building up of the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces is one of the most necessary and urgent measures that we are undertaking. An intensive recruiting campaign for the Territorial Army and for the Auxiliary and Reserve Forces of the Navy and the Royal Air Force is about to commence. The Territorial Army is not only required as a Reserve for the Army in an emergency—to man the Anti-Aircraft defences, to help in Civil Defence and to provide a field Force ready and equipped for service—but also to be ready to receive and train the National Service reservists who will be finishing their full-time service from 1950 onwards. If this training organisation is to be ready in time, it must be recruited, so that it can itself be fully trained and organised in the near future. It is, therefore, vital over the next few months, that the strength of the Territorial Army should be increased by not less than 100,000 men and women. I am most grateful to the tens of thousands who have come forward and are in the Territorial Army and other Services already, and I hope very much that those Services will continue to expand. I am encouraged to hope for success by the spirit I already see abroad.
I had the great good fortune of being invited to go to the Tattoo of the Liverpool Territorial Association last Saturday. What struck me was the enormous interest by the ordinary population. It was the fourth performance of the Tattoo in the course of three days, and I am told that between 60,000 and 70,000 attended there. The Territorials whom I saw demonstrating were indeed to be congratulated. Whether they were manning and handling tanks or bridging equipment or partaking in the demonstration of the parachute corps their performance constituted a very great tribute not only to the men themselves but to those engaged in instructing them. Certainly that Service should be an attraction to any lively spirited young man to join the Territorial Army. I hope many will follow their example.
The Royal Auxilliary Air Force and the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve between them want 60,000 additional volunteers. They are required to man air defence units, which form part of the early warning system, to build 1106 up the Auxiliary Flying Squadrons which now form part of the Royal Air Force Front Line, for the Auxiliary Squadrons of the Royal Air Force Regiment, and, in the case of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve to form a general reserve of qualified men to serve in the Royal Air Force in emergency. In addition, recruits are needed for the Royal Observer Corps, a vital component of the air-raid warning system and one for which scientific developments do not offer a substitute. The Royal Observer Corps showed its metal and demonstrated its indispensability in the recent exercise "Dagger" Its ranks must be augmented. The Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, which provides a general trained reserve for the Navy, also requiries more men and is seeking to increase its strength to 7,500 ratings in the next six months, mostly from those who have already served.
I appeal to all young men who are able to do so, and women too if they are eligible, to join one of the Reserve or Auxiliary Forces. I ask employers to give their employees all possible facilities. I ask hon. Members to use their very great influence in the constituencies to back this campaign. The requirements are large; they are imposed by the obvious necessities of the present situation and to these necessities, I am confident the country will respond.
During these immediate post-war years and before our plans for building up substantial trained Reserves have matured, we have at hand, should any extreme emergency be forced upon us, the trained and battle-proved men, and women too, who carried us to victory in 1945. These represent our present real Reserve since, as the House is aware, they are still liable to recall in the event of an emergency. Plans to this end have been prepared. As a matter of common prudence, the mobilisation machinery has been overhauled and I have no doubt that if, unhappily, such machinery had to be used, it would be found to work satisfactorily. Many of these men and women are, however, prevented by circumstances from coming forward to volunteer for the Auxiliary Forces because they cannot undertake to perform Reserve training and it is our duty to ensure that effective use can be made of such persons if we should be obliged to do so.
1107 It will be appreciated that any general recall of Reservists must inevitably take time to put into operation. The sorting out of Class "Z" Reservists and allotting them to units could not be done overnight. The Armed Forces, however, would require immediately on or even before an outbreak of hostilities, the services of a considerable number of men and women, with special qualifications or previous experience. Schemes have therefore been worked out by the Service Departments to meet this need. The Army would have to bring up to strength in an emergency the Territorial Army units of Anti-Aircraft Command, and it is essential that they should he able to do this without any delay. They have accordingly prepared a registered Reservist scheme which, confined as it will be in the case of the Army for example to men and women with previous experience of anti-aircraft work, is expected to give them the reserve of manpower that they want.
Though the requirements of the Navy and Air Force will differ somewhat from those of the Army, they, too, will need men and women with previous Service experience immediately available on an emergency. Details of these various registration schemes in the three Services will be announced by my Service colleagues. The essential object of all will be to secure the registration of those who would be willing, and by reason of the work which they are now doing would be available, to come forward in advance of any more general recall if that should be necessary.
The Government attach the very greatest importance to the success of these schemes and I trust that hon. Members will do all that they can to help. I must, at the same time, emphasise that these schemes in no way diminish the need for the maximum voluntary recruitment to the Auxiliary Forces. They will, however, serve to supplement such voluntary recruitment and will provide a most valuable augmentation of our Reserve strength.
I come now to the important subject of Civil Defence. It has already been accepted that, to the extent that any military offensive operations will permit, the Army will provide, as a reserve to the Civil Defence Services, mobile columns 1108 drawn from field formations stationed in the country. In the performance of this role, as with any other military role, no distinction will be made between the employment of Regular or Territorial personnel. In war there will be one national Army. Officers and men of the Army are therefore now being trained in Civil Defence duties except fire fighting.
Exercises have been, and are being, carried out at Army training schools and colleges, to arrive at the best means of constituting and employing such military mobile columns. In these exercises officers from the Civil Defence Department of the Home Office have cooperated. Such exercises will lead up to the Civil Defence exercise already arranged by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff for high ranking Army officers next year. The problems of Civil Defence do not, however, differ in principle from the problems of the Fighting Services and they are being tackled in the same spirit and with the same regard for maintaining a balance between conflicting considerations. The Home Secretary and I are working in close association, and are proceeding in accordance with a common policy.
Like the Fighting Services, Civil Defence would, in the first instance, rely largely on the help of the thousands of men and women whose experience of blitz conditions would still be of very great value. We should also draw on the experience which local authorities had during the recent war. It is recognised on both sides that in any new conflict they will again have to discharge responsibilities in civil defence and the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff is engaged in consultation with their representatives in working out the organisation which will enable appropriate preparatory measures to be taken. I would say that legislation for this purpose is in an advanced stage of preparation. In the meantime the Home Office is overhauling its arrangements for the training of instructors, revising the Civil Defence training manuals and taking other necessary administrative measures.
I should like to say a word on the use which is being made both by the Army and by the R.A.F. of their National Service recruits. This is a very big subject and I cannot enter into detail, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary 1109 of State for War in replying to the Debate tonight will, if necessary, give some indication of investigations which have been carried out in the Army.
I need only say here that we recognise the importance, both in the interests of the Services themselves and in the interests of the men concerned, of making the fullest possible use of their time and abilities to ensure that they get the maximum of training to fit them for service, of making them feel during their service that they are performing not only a useful but an essential and constructive task of attracting as many of them as possible to enlist for Regular Service and, for the rest, of sending them out not only as trained but as keen and enthusiastic Reservists. It is of course a difficult problem. Some of the tasks to be performed are, of necessity, rather monotonous and routine. Nevertheless we are profiting in this matter both by experience and by research.
Manpower is, however, only one aspect of our current problem. It is no use building up the manpower of the Forces if we neglect their equipment. We have not, so far, had to undertake large scale production of existing types of equipment since the war, because of the large stocks which were left over at the end of hostilities. Following our policy of building up a strong national economy behind the Armed Forces, we have been using these stocks to meet the current needs of the Forces, concentrating our resources on the development and small scale production of new types of armaments intended for the gradual re-equipment of the post-war Forces.
We have given research and development a first priority and we shall continue to do so. We must look ahead, and we shall not allow our present problems to deflect us from the vital task of ensuring that, in the many new fields, we shall be abreast with, if not ahead of, development elsewhere. Much of our stocks remaining at the end of the last war have been dispersed, some to other nations, some to industry and some to the relief of the home market. They are gradually running out. This course was right during the continued progressive reduction in the size of the Forces, but we are now faced with a new situation. What we have is becom- 1110 ing depleted and our stocks are not properly balanced.
The measures we have now taken provide partly for the increased production of certain equipment of the latest types, and partly for the reconditioning of such existing war-time equipment as is still suitable for use under modern conditions. For example, in the case of aircraft, we are stepping up the production of the latest types of jet intercepter fighters to nearly double the former planned rate. At the same time, we are accelerating the inspection and reconditioning of war-time types of other aircraft at present in store. It is hoped to achieve the extra production of new aircraft in the existing factories by overtime and additional shifts.
Other steps which are being taken to improve the air defences include the increased production of new technical equipment and apparatus, and the overhaul of the stocks of war-time apparatus which will still be required for use with the later types of aircraft and equipment.
As regards vehicles, the rate of production of new armoured fighting vehicles is being increased, while the repair of loadcarrying and other vehicles—of which large stocks are held—is being accelerated. The planned rate of production of small arms ammunition is being doubled, and the production of anti-aircraft ammunition of certain types greatly accelerated. The Navy programme for re-fitting ships in reserve is being speeded up, partly in the Royal dockyards and partly by contract.
All three Services are taking steps to improve the position in regard to essential spare parts. The clothing and general stores position in each of the three Services, which is directly affected by the increased numbers in the Forces, has been reviewed, and deficiencies are being corrected by increased production. Finally, we have reviewed the instructions about disposal of surplus stores and are retaining stores likely to be of value in the light of present requirements.
The measures which I have described will, inevitably, involve some diversion of labour and materials from other work, but we have at all times had fully in mind the importance of maintaining and developing to the greatest extent possible our economic recovery. We hope to secure what is needed without serious 1111 interference with civilian production and. in particular, without affecting the export drive. In many cases, the repair and overhaul of war-time equipments will be undertaken by the Services themselves, with the assistance of additional civilian employees.
Hon. Members will, I expect, wish to know the cost of the steps we have taken. This is a difficult question to answer, and it is really too early to make reliable estimates or to translate into terms of money what we shall actually succeed in doing in the next few months. We shall, however, in due course present such Supplementary Estimates as may be necessary to cover the additional expenditure which we are incurring under all heads.
In the Defence Debate of March last it will be recalled that the Prime Minister, as a result of representations from certain sections of the House, undertook to consider whether it would be possible to give to the House rather greater information about our defence arrangements than is at present made public, especially as regards the number of divisions in the Army and the number of squadrons in the Royal Air Force; he indicated that we would review the whole policy on the disclosure of information about the Forces.
I appreciate the very natural interest of hon. Members in all parts of the House in the question. From my own personal experience for a pretty long time now as a Parliamentarian, I can say most emphatically that my own desire, as well as the desire of the Government, would be to satisfy the interests of hon. Members, to the fullest extent compatible with national security. We have been studying this matter carefully. As soon as possible a statement will be made, but I am bound to say that the trend of recent events has not been such as to encourage us to make public more information to any very great extent than we have hitherto been able to do.
Let me emphasise, in conclusion, that the measures we are taking to meet the immediate situation and any that may result from our current review of defence policy are, and will be, undertaken in no sense of panic. Our first aim is, as I said at the beginning, to secure peace—peace with justice and freedom, but if this is not to be obtained on a basis of 1112 collective security, then we must seek the best security we can find in regional arrangements, and for that purpose we must take the most effective steps we can within our resources. This country will take now, as she has done before, whatever steps are needful to give a good account of herself in maintaining our security and our way of life.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
I have listened, as we all did, with close attention to the right hon. Gentleman's account. I must confess that it was sometimes rather difficult to follow. He went with very great rapidity through that typescript. I must also add that, so far as I was able to judge, except in one or two particulars to which I shall refer, there was very little in what he had to tell us either of new information or of a kind which could reassure us as to the state of our national defences at this time
Towards the conclusion of his speech the right hon. Gentleman made some references to secrecy and to the difficulty of disclosing figures and he said that he thought he might later on tell us a little more. Nought plus nought is still nought, and so far, we have been told absolutely nothing at all. I think that I understand as well as the Minister of Defence can understand, the difficulties of disclosing information, but I must point out to him that we seem to be carrying this matter of secrecy far beyond, as I believe, any necessary bounds. At any rate, we are behaving in an entirely different way from the United States of America, and I presume there must be some consultation between the Staffs on this matter.
I hold here in my hands the Finletter Report to the President of the United States dated 30th December last year, in which the present Air Force of the United States was stated to consist of 337,000 uniformed men, with a total of 10,800 aircraft in active status, which included 580 heavy bombers and 2,300 fighters. It gives the figures which are backing up those forces, the number of men employed and how many it hopes to add to that during the year.
We have nothing remotely resembling that information. I hope the Government will give further examination to this problem. I feel that if the United States 1113 of America can tell us this—I dare say that it may be considered by the Government to be too much—there must be some degree of relationship between that and the total lack of information we have today. I do not know whether the Government realise how completely ill-informed we are, not through any demerits of our own but simply because we have not been told. We were very glad to hear the fighter squadrons flying overhead the other day. But for the exigencies of this Session, forced on us by the Lord President, we might have gone out to have a look at them ourselves. At least we should have seen that there were some fighter squadrons—that would be a comforting sight—but that is the sum total of the information which most of us possess about the Royal Air Force.
I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman had to say about pay and conditions of service. I want to say a word or two about that in a minute. I also welcome what he had to say about the new scheme for calling up the Reserves. As far as it goes it seems good, but of course it has limitations, very evident limitations. First of all, as I understand it, these men are not to undergo any kind of refresher course before they are called up. That really means that when they are called up they will not be immediately ready for service, certainly not as regards anti-aircraft, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, with the continually changing technical information which becomes available. Therefore, unless the right hon. Gentleman has got these men classified and the units arranged to which they are to go, I foresee a very considerable amount of confusion when this call-up takes place.
I should like to know whether we are to understand from what he said that the Z Reservists are now in their categories; for instance, that the vast numbers of them who are in reserved occupations and could not be called up are known and that the rest are listed and available so that they can fulfil those tasks to which they are now allotted. I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to reassure us about that. If he cannot, I am bound to say that this Reserve scheme looks much better on paper than I fear it will prove to be in practice.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the international situation. It is true that 1114 this Debate is in considerable measure the continuation of the Debate we had yesterday. Whatever our reflections about yesterday's Debate and the Foreign Secretary's very grave statement, I am afraid it emerges all too clearly that the international situation continues to deteriorate, and it is against that background that we have to set these proposals. I fully agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it requires a nice judgment to decide what is to be allotted to defence and what is to be allotted to maintain the economic life of the nation. The criticisms which I shall have to offer in a moment or two are not so much directed to the amount of manpower made available, but in many cases to the use that is made of the manpower available.
I confess that, like the right hon. Gentleman, I had hopes in the closing years of the war that these immediate post-war years would be a period of reasonably assured peace, a period when the war-scarred nations—and Soviet Russia ranks in that category—would seek to work together to restore their own and also their collective prosperities. I thought that there would be difficulties and I thought there would even be sharp disagreements at times, but I did not anticipate that our relations would have deteriorated so far and so fast. That is a melancholy fact, but it is one of which we have to take account.
I should have thought that there was another matter about which we were agreed, and that is that in existing world conditions, in the stress and strain in which we live, it is no advantage to the world that the British Commonwealth and Empire should be thought to be weak in its defences. As I said the other day, I am convinced that we can make our most constructive contribution to peace today in close collaboration with the other nations of the British Commonwealth and Empire and with Western Europe together. The third group of Powers, as I should like to call them in that sense, must make its weight felt. Today authority is too much exclusively in the hands of two great Powers. If the House agrees with that, I would like to examine these defence proposals in that context. I must say that I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to say very much more about what is being done by the Five Powers in their meetings and with their General Staffs.
1115 I am convinced that this House ought not, even on account of the very gloomy statement which the Foreign Secretary gave us yesterday, to despair of reaching an understanding at a later date between West and East, but of this I am convinced, that if we are to place our relations with the East on an enduring and satisfactory footing that can only be if we are in a position to negotiate from strength, and we can only do that if our defence plans are not merely our island defence plans but the Empire defence plans and the plans of Western Europe also.
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
I appreciate the point put by the right hon. Gentleman that he would have liked even more about what has happened so far, in the preparation of the plan, but I am sure that he appreciates that owing to the changes that took place one after another in Paris, the Conference of Defence Ministers, which would have been meeting in August to consider the recommendations of the Chiefs of Staffs, had to be delayed until next Monday. putting us back about a month.
§ Mr. Eden
All right. I will come to one or two questions about which I should like some information. For example, what is going on about equipment? Is it not true that in their army, the French have more formations by far than we have but are very short of equipment? Is there a plan for enabling the French to have that equipment from our wartime reserves or whatever it may be so that their army can be equipped, or what is happening to that wartime equipment? There are no secrets in that, surely. It would be good to know what kind of a plan, if any, exists and whether the result of that plan is to raise the existing forces to their maximum strength. I would only say that the more close one can make that integration, and the more completely one can raise that level. the better will it be for peace. However, I shall have something more to say about the Five Powers in a moment.
I must also tell the right hon. Gentleman that for quite a while past a number of us on this side of the House have felt a growing concern about our Defence position. We have asked for information from time to time but we have had very little. Our anxiety, I must also tell him. 1116 would be a good deal less if the proposals of the Government had at any time since the surrender of the right hon. Gentleman in April last year, been based on anything which could be judged to be a definite plan. I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that it is an understatement to say that his sharp about-turn in April of last year has shaken our confidence in him and in any proposals which he may bring forward.
The right hon. Gentleman remembers what happened. He remembers the emphasis with which he and his colleagues told us that the period of 18 months had been fixed after the most careful examination, discussion with responsible authorities, and the best military advice. And he remembers that 48 hours afterwards he came and told us that the period was to be reduced to 12 months. Now, quite apart from the merits or demerits of that change, there is nobody, I suppose, in this House who would pretend that it could have been based on any clear or comprehensive plan.
Now what happens? Eighteen months later the Government come out with a further declaration, a further decision. This time they are going to keep the existing men in the Services an extra three months, however long they may have served already. Whatever the Government or the House may think of that, it is clearly only a stop-gap proposal because the Government have not really the slightest idea of what to do in the present position. So I say there is an increasing conviction, on these Benches at any rate, that the whole question of the organisation of manpower for our Services, and the question of the best use to which it can be put, is becoming increasingly confused, and that at a time when the international situation becomes more serious every month.
I must deal in passing with the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford, to which the Foreign Secretary referred in the last Foreign Affairs Debate. I have spoken about this to the Foreign Secretary, who is in Paris, and he knows I am making this reference to him. The Foreign Secretary said:… who was more insistent for rapid demobilisation and for the destruction of the Army at the end of the war than the right 1117 hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill)?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 15th September, 1948; Vol. 456, c. 93.]The Foreign Secretary would not accept the statement I made then, that what my right hon. Friend had suggested was a more rapid demobilisation to figures considerably above those to which we have now fallen. I have since looked up the figures and I find that I was right. I ought to give those figures which my right hon. Friend used—the only figures, as far as I know, which he has ever used in this connection. They were 150,000 for the Navy, very much what the figure is now; 400,000 for the Air Force, a great deal more than the figure is now; a million for the Army, more than twice what the figure is now. The total was 1,550,000. I do not know how anybody could describe a figure such as a million for the Army as involving the destruction of the Army. I thought it was only fair that I should bring those figures before the House.
§ Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether or not his right hon. Friend and his party still stand by that estimate?
§ Mr. Eden
At that time, exactly, and my right hon. Friend also entered a precise caveat on the international situation, as anybody would, of course, who had had his experience on these matters.
Now may I come to what concerns me most, which is the question of recruiting for the Regular Forces, to which the right hon. Gentleman rightly referred in his speech. As he said, the Royal Navy position is much the best—it generally is. The right hon. Gentleman, having been at the Admiralty, and I, having been at the War Office, know that to be true. However, those figures are still, I think, a little below the figure of 145,000 given in the White Paper. We were glad to hear of the progress made with the 1118 rebuilding of the Fleet in accordance with the programme which accompanied the Naval Estimates but, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, the demobilisation—immobilisation is perhaps the right word—of the Home Fleet during the last 12 months has entailed a loss of sea training for officers and men. Therefore it is welcome news that the Home Fleet is once more in being, and that there will be an increase in the amount of time spent at sea in the months to come, so that the training lost last year can be made good. We have also heard with satisfaction of the refitting of the ships for the Reserve Fleet.
However, we would like to be told something more about the reserves of manpower for the Royal Navy. We have heard about the new class of Naval Reserve but that, as I say, seems merely to be making use of the Class Z register. What about the Royal Naval Reserve, composed of officers and men serving in the Merchant Service? That has not yet been reconstituted, as far as I know. The Civil Lord was asked a question about this yesterday, and he told us quite frankly that unfortunately no decision had yet been reached. I think "unfortunately" is the right word, because it is the Royal Naval Reserve that contains the most highly-trained officers and men of all the Reserves. I hope we can be told, before this Debate closes, that a decision has been reached, or when it will be reached. I am not suggesting that these men should be taken off their present work, but should they not, at least, be registered, and should they not be allotted their tasks?
And what is the position with regard to the R.N.V.R.? I understand there is no shortage of officers there, but the number of ratings coming forward is very far from satisfactory. If my figures are right, there seems to have been an increase of only 200 between April and July, and the total figure today for officers and men is only 2,500. I hope the announcements of the Minister of Defence today will result in some improvement, for those figures are certainly far from comforting to this House at this time.
It is recruiting for the other two Services, which is in a really serious position, to which I have to invite the attention of the House for a few 1119 moments. The Government have never yet defined their policy in respect of our Air Force. They have not given us the target towards which they are working with regard to recruitment for the Royal Air Force. I do not know what it is. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford suggested 150–200 squadrons as a possible figure, and to that must be added the Auxiliary Reserves. He suggested that with the necessary maintenance, making generous allowance for ground staffs, that would mean about 400,000 men. If the Government cannot tell us the number of squadrons they have in the air, or are attempting to have in the air, cannot they at least give us some indication of what their manpower intentions are? All we have is the existing figure.
In the Defence Debate earlier this year the Minister told us that his object was a highly trained, well-equipped air striking force which would provide a formidable deterrent to aggression and reassure our friends. We all agree that is just the sort of Air Force at which we should aim, but that Air Force is now an immediate requirement. How near are we to realising it? How many of those aeroplanes have we got? How near is he to having a force which meets his own description? Where are the high speed, high altitude bombers which are necessary to compose such a force? Are there any jet propelled bombers in service yet, or are there any flying in the prototype stage? In the Debate last March, the right hon. Gentleman will remember that many searching questions were put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan). No answers were given.
Since then everybody will agree that the need for air defence plans co-ordinated with the overseas Dominions, America and the Western Powers has become more pressing. What is the position? Is there any such plan today? Does it exist, and is there any means to give effect to it? How far have we made progress towards integrating the Empire Air Force, even in the Staffs? To what extent are the Chiefs of Staff of the Dominions in contact on the subject? Can the Government give any reassurance before the Debate ends that we are in a position to play a part—a leading part— 1120 in the defence of the Empire or the defence of Europe in the air? The right hon. Gentleman has told us the kind of Air Force he thinks we should have; we are entitled to know, if he will not give the figures, how near we are to the realisation of such an Air Force. That seems a singularly small demand to make when we consider the information given in years gone by about squadrons in the Air Force.
The situation in regard to manpower in the Royal Air Force seems serious—indeed the right hon. Gentleman mentioned that it was so. The figure given in the White Paper is 226,000, which is barely half that which my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford thought necessary for the kind of Air Force he had in mind. But that target figure, so far as I can see, is in great danger for the latter part of next year. The latest figures for the present strength in manpower of the Royal Air Force seem to me to reveal a very grave situation. I think the figures are 231,000. That is the total manpower strength of the Royal Air Force, more than half of which, I ask the House to observe—131,000—are National Service men and women.
What is going to happen? The total annual allotment—the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—for the Royal Air Force is only 48,000, and that is the figure to which the National Service element will come down by the end of next year. On 1st July this year we had only 105,000 Regulars, so that, on my calculation, the Royal Air Force if it is to maintain even its present figure, will need more than 50,000 recruits for Regular engagements during next year, principally in the skilled trades. If that figure is anything like right—and I hope we may be told before the Debate ends—it is a very formidable figure indeed, and it does not include the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, which we presume is maintained at present strength. If the Minister gets these men in the year, they will be untrained and it will be some considerable time before they can fulfil their rôle.
All this is very disturbing indeed, especially if we remember that between April and July this year only 2,500 men were recruited for Regular engagements in the Air Force. If my calculations are right, 50,000 at least are required by the end of next year if we are to maintain 1121 the present figure. I must be fair to the right hon. Gentleman. I think he drew attention to this himself, although he did not give the figures, which can be corrected if they are wrong.
He drew attention to the gravity of the position, and said he was not sure why these figures were worse than the Army figures. I think it is because the rates of pay and conditions of service in the Royal Air Force are far below those which can be obtained by skilled craftsmen in civilian occupations, and unless and until the Royal Air Force are prepared to pay as much as men can get in civilian life, we cannot expect them to undertake this service. I think that is essential and I hope Ministers will give some information about that before the Debate closes. For the attention of the House I underline that, as we are proceeding now, this coming year we shall not have the minimum necessary Royal Air Force men needed to maintain our Forces in the air, even on present standards.
I now turn to the recruiting situation in the Army. The Regular Army target, as far as I know, largely culling from the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) in an earlier Debate, is 200,000 men and 20,000 women Regulars. If the Government are able to maintain the present rate of recruiting, we should reach that figure in about 18 months time; but I draw the attention of the Minister, for reasons which I will give in a moment, to the fact that even that figure is a very low one for,the task which the Regular Army will be called upon to fulfil. We must remember what the right hon. Gentleman himself mentioned that in any future outbreak of hostilities, if such an event ever occurred, we should not have the advantage of the time lag we have, always hitherto enjoyed. That applies to all Services, but perhaps most of all to the Army and the Anti-Aircraft Defence, and no one has been more emphatic about that than Field-Marshal Montgomery himself.
As I see it, there are at least five heads under which the Army can be called upon to give service and under all these five the Regular Army have to play a part. There are, first, the distant overseas commitments. It is impossible, or at any rate ludicrous, to send shortservice men to such places as Malaya; 1122 that is purely a Regular Army commitment. Then there are the troops in garrison nearer home, as in Germany, which is a commitment in which, although it can be met in part by National Service men, requires some Regulars. Then there is the need, which I presume is accepted, for some Regulars to be available at home to provide either for reinforcements overseas, or for immediate use in emergency. In the days of the Cardwell system we could reckon what the size of that force was. We should like to know whether the Government believe that there might be such a force and what kind of conception they have of its strength. Fourthly and fifthly, the Army have to ensure Anti-Aircraft Defence and to train the Territorials and National Service men.
In all those tasks I ask the House to note that these 200,000 Regulars have to play a predominant part and that applies particularly to Anti-Aircraft at the present time, which must be the responsibility of the Regular Army until such time as the Territorials can take over that commitment. If all these commitments are accepted—and I do not think what I have said can be denied—I am driven to the conclusion that the Government should reconsider the figure of 220,000 all ranks, including 20,000 women, for the Regular Army. I much fear that the figure must be raised.
I say very seriously to the Minister that it would be quite disastrous to allot a wide variety of tasks to a Regular Army and then to allot to that Regular Army a figure not large enough to enable it to fulfil those tasks. The danger is that we are laying an increasing number of burdens which were not foreseen—I am not blaming anyone—such as Malaya, on the Regular Army and it is being asked to carry through more tasks than it can do on existing numbers. Should that be the position, it would be the most fateful position of all in National Defence. My forecast is that before very long, the Government will have to come to the House and tell us that they want an increase in the size of the Regular Army. However that may be, there is no dispute today that neither the Army nor the Air Force are up to strength and if the Government want to reach these limits at the earliest possible date, they will have to improve—and considerably improve—pay 1123 and conditions of service. That is the only way in which we can increase the Army and Air Force strength in the next six months.
I have to repeat that in our view the Government made a great mistake in fixing the period of service at 12 months instead of 18 months. All the experience of everyone who has had contact with men in the Army is that 12 months will not meet the case from whatever angle or aspect it is considered.
Then there is the rôle of the Territorial Army. The Government have allotted a task of supreme importance to the Territorial Army. Once the Territorials are trained, they have to bear a large measure of responsibility for maintaining and training National Service men in their ranks. Clearly they cannot hope to do that when their strength is at its present low level. Therefore, we join with the Government in wishing all success to their campaign to recruit the Territorial Army, and we will do what we can to assist them in this. But the Government must also be continually watchful to give all the help they can to the Territorial Army in respect of conditions of service. This also applies to the Auxiliary Air Force, where conditions for the ground staff could be considerably improved.
The right hon. Gentleman has given us some information about Civil Defence, and I wish to ask only one question on that subject. As my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), who has had as much experience of this subject as anybody said in an earlier Debate, we should like to know how far the principles laid down in connection with the organisation of Civil Defence before and in the early stages of the last war are still being adhered to. If they are being departed from why is such a departure being made, and to what extent? We do not say that there may not be good reasons, but we have no information on that and we should like to know.
We should also like to have any information that can be given to us about the division of responsibility between the Home Office and the Services. While speaking about Anti-Aircraft Defence, I would like to ask whether the Government have anything to tell us about the 1124 Home Guard, which rendered such splendid service during the war, and which was the cheapest army the world has ever seen? A Minister in another place referred to the Home Guard and said that the Government were considering the position. We should be glad to know whether consideration has brought any result, or when it may be expected to do so?
I conclude with what to me is the most important consideration of this Defence discussion. How do our Defence plans, if they exist—and we have really been told little about them—fit in with the arrangements we are making with the Commonwealth and Empire overseas and our Allies on the continent of Europe? What are we doing, I repeat, to help re-equip our Allies in Western Union? Is any action being taken about that? Are the difficulties financial? If so, what attempts are being made to get over these difficulties. Surely, we cannot be short of equipment which was used in the last war. Has any examination been made, or is it being made, of the sales of war equipment still pending, and are the Government satisfied that nothing is now being sold which will be very useful in about six months time? I have a sort of feeling as the Minister of Supply goes merrily on—we read notices of his sales—that our French Allies would like to have some of the equipment which is being sold. Is that matter being looked into and co-ordinated?
I should like to see an integrated plan of defence between us, the Commonwealth and our Western Allies, and I should like that plan to cover the supply of equipment as well as the organisation of units. I confess that, still more than that, I should like to see, so far as the organisation of the forces is concerned, consideration given to the appointment of one man to bring these diverse aspects into a co-ordinated plan, much as General Eisenhower was able to do during the war years. If the Government can convince the world that there is vitality in the British Commonwealth and Western Union together, political vitality, economic vitality and also vitality which is defended by military plans, I believe that they will have made the greatest contribution to peace that is in their power.
All that each one of us in this House wants is to gain an enduring peace. I 1125 am convinced that the way to do that, as things now are, is to build up, in every sphere, the strength of the British Commonwealth and the Western European nations. Let us then seek to increase our authority and influence in the world. That means close integration between us, and more and more close contact with the United States. There we shall find the only basis upon which to win respect and improve our relations with the Soviet Union, so that East and West can live side by side in lasting peace.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Byers (Dorset, Northern)
I am following the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) with a feeling of satisfaction in that we have, at last, got some form of agreement in this House on what sort of a defence policy this country should pursue. I ventured in the last Debate on foreign affairs at the end of last Session to put forward this idea of integrated defence arrangements between the Commonwealth, the United States and Western Union. I am glad to see that we have recognised the necessity not merely for arguing about conscription and military service, but for a real defence policy covering the whole field. Two things occur to one at once about such a policy. First, it will cost a lot of money, and we have to face that. Secondly, it has to be based upon a realistic assumption that we can no longer for planning purposes assume that there will be no war for five years. That does not mean to say that within five years a war is inevitable; of course it does not, but it means that for planning purposes, we must put our defences into a state of readiness so that they can be ready if hostilities should, unfortunately, break out.
In all this I believe it to be essential to recognise the grand design of the Cominform. I do not wish to appear to be a "Blimp," but the grand design of the Cominform is undoubtedly a well-recognised military manoeuvre being carried out in peace-time. It is to wear down individually all the non-Communist States. We have to recognise that, because their object is to impoverish all their opponents. Hence Malaya, Burma, and the situation in Berlin. Every nation is being attacked in order that it shall react in a way which will impoverish it.
1126 The dilemma of each individual nation is that if they react as Russia wishes and embark upon rearmament, they will impoverish themselves at the expense of industrial recovery, but if they do not do so, they will not be in a position to resist aggression. That is the dilemma, and in the circumstances it is vitally necessary for all the peace-loving nations to stand together not merely to get standardisation, specialisation and integration of military effort, but to spread the financial burden of the re-armament programme of each one of them, because unless we are careful, we shall find nations crippled individually because they are not standing together financially. So far as re-organisation is concerned, I believe that we should give serious thought to some sort of mutual insurance policy or, if this phrase is preferred, a type of Marshall Aid for military effort.
After all, it is a matter of grave concern to this country that the French should be considering reducing their rearmament expenditure. It may be that industrially that is forced upon them individually, but we can no longer afford to look at these things individually. We must have a co-operative combined effort over the whole field, and I believe that we should put that proposal forward at once. In the event of hostilities our contribution will of course be very largely on the sea and in the air. We shall require a highly-efficient well-trained Air Force and Navy. I am no expert on the Air Force, but I should like an assurance that we have proper plans for providing a powerful striking force and that it will be provided with the latest up-to-date equipment.
I know that that is an expensive policy. It means scrapping equipment every year. But they have got to be kept up to date. It is expensive, I agree, but I am very worried that the Air Force should consist of 131,000 National Service men. I believe that is highly dangerous. What I have to say about the Army also applies to the Air Force. The sooner we can get an adequate Air Force on to the basis of complete voluntary service on long-term commitments, the happier I shall be. I do not propose to deal in any detail with the Navy. The same thing applies there.
It is of the Army I wish to speak in some detail. Two years ago, I opposed conscription, very largely on technical grounds. I still do. I am not going to 1127 hark back to the past, because we have to face the position as we find it today. I believe that it would have been easier to sort out the basis of long-term volunteers two years ago than it is today, but, nevertheless, the position, as I understand it, is this, and the Secretary of State will correct me if I am wrong. We have given the Army certain commitments. To carry out those commitments they require about 400,000 men; slightly more than in the estimate. Unless those commitments are reduced it will not be possible to reduce that number. It could be got down a little but not much.
Of those 400,000, as I understand it following on from the Debates, there must be about half as Regulars and about half as National Service men. It is time now to consider the sort of Army we want and how we are going to raise it. If we retain conscription as a permanent method of recruiting and we still keep the Regular Army target at 200,000 to 220,000, we have to have two years' conscription. We cannot get away from that; it is mathematics. The intake is 100,000 a year, and if we keep the Regular Army at 200,000 and 200,000 National Service men it is two years' intake.
I suggest that we have to make a very serious decision about that. It is a very long period, which means inevitable waste of manpower. It means that we are going to train men for the Army and that a substantial number of them are going to be wasted, not just the normal wastage. Do we realise how many of them come straight out of the Army into reserved occupations? I believe the figure is as high as 20 to 25 per cent. It is a tremendous waste in training these men and putting them through. Then there is also the high velocity of circulation of conscripts coming through, and the tremendous administrative overheads in wear and tear if we have a period of 12 months, 18 months or two years as compared with five years or 12 years. I believe that we could save 40,000 men if we could get the whole of the Regular Army on a voluntary basis.
I am going to suggest, purely from the point of view of efficiency and strength, that the sooner we can get away from the National Service principle the safer we shall be, so far as the Regular Army is concerned. The Government ought 1128 now to take the decision to abandon conscription as soon as possible, always with this safeguard, that the Army does not fall below 400,000. There is the target. Can we, in fact, replace National Service men with Regulars quickly in order to get a Regular Army which provides a career and which will be efficient, concentrating on its operational tasks instead of being turned into a sort of qualified training unit for conscription? I believe it could be done. It is a bold decision but it is the alternative to two years' conscription for the young people of this country, and it will give us far greater strength and far greater safety.
The point is how to do it. If we are going to take that decision and run the Regular Army upwards from 200,000 to 400,000, and save 40,000, making it 360,000, we have got to pay for it, and this is where we want a really bold outlook. It is no use talking about pennies a day. I believe we want nothing less than a 25 per cent. increase in pay in the Army all round. In the case of the United Kingdom troops that would be about £23 million a year. It is a lot of money, but it is better in the long run to think in those terms rather than to have an Army which is not in a proper state of readiness, as ours is today.
I do not believe that we shall get anywhere by talking in terms of expenditure of £3 million, £4 million or £5 million. I know it is a lot of money, but I think economies can be made elsewhere. Some economies will arise by virtue of reducing the number of military service people coming in. The cost is going to be high and that is one reason why, as I said in the beginning, we have to get a proper constructive system of financing our rearmament programme. I should like to see consideration given to a differential pay system, leaving the National Service man where he is at present, but giving a tremendous increase to the Regular who is going to take on a long-term commitment. As an alternative, consideration might be given to a tax free bonus to all ranks—something to make it worth while. I am tired of hearing of junior officers in debt, of people in all ranks who cannot afford to have their families living with them while they are on service in this country and yet they are going abroad in six months' time.
§ Mr. Byers
And to the other Armed Services too. There are the scandals that we hear about in Fayid where officers cannot afford to pay the bills presented to them by the Army because their pay is so small. I have heard of many officers in the last three years who have taken the decision to serve out their time and then the quicker they can get out the better. That is no good whatever for an efficient Force and the situation will not be saved except by a really bold approach, and the expenditure of money at a time when we ought to be thinking about economy. But it is an insurance and I believe we have to tackle it on those lines.
I have been shocked by the situation concerning the Territorial Army even in my own constituency. The recruiting campaign has been a failure. I agree with a lot of things that have already been said, and I believe it is vitally important to give priority for accommodation, particularly for equipment, so that they can put their guns and carriers and other things somewhere. It is vitally important that we should provide the necessary instructors and plenty of them. That can be done. But, above all, I do not think that we shall get results unless we give a cash incentive. There, again, that means expenditure of money. If we want 100,000 men I believe we shall have to put down something like an annual sum of £50 a head to get them. That is £5 million. I may be wrong, but I think that we shall have to think in those terms. Even 10s. a week would make a difference to the recruiting campaign, and 15s. a week would make more.
I am not suggesting that that is the only thing wrong. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said about war weariness and the difficulty of other commitments and so on. But I do believe that we shall have to pay for our recruits into the Territorial Army. Our job of going round recruiting would be a lot easier if we had something more tangible to offer the people—not 9d. for two hours put in at the drill hall, for that is what they get, apart from their camp pay. Therefore, my belief is that we have to have a defence policy based on a realistic asumption. We have to admit that the cost is 1130 going to be tremendous and we must make economies elsewhere to enable us to meet it.
We shall not be able to meet the whole cost. Therefore, we must put forward the suggestion of a common financial pool of the peace-loving nations of the world so that no nation is crippled industrially or financially by the burden of arms. I do not believe that anything less than a really substantial increase in the reward to the Regular Army will bring forward the numbers required. We ought to consider now taking a decision to work away from conscription towards a really first-class Regular Army of long-term volunteers, well paid, highly equipped, mobile and in a state of readiness. Along those lines, I believe that we can secure the Defence Forces which we are compelled to have owing to the increasing international tension.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
It is very appropriate that this Debate on defence should follow immediately after the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs yesterday. We cannot discuss defence matters in a vacuum. Indeed, military defence is only a logical consequence of the diplomatic policy followed by His Majesty's Government and other governments. Therefore, listening as I did yesterday to the Foreign Secretary's review—or his partial review, because he did not touch on the most vital matter of Berlin—I came to the conclusion that it was obvious to anybody who could read between the lines and gather from what he did not say rather than from what he did say, that we are in a very grave situation. In view of that, and bearing in mind the events leading up to the outbreak of the last war, we ought to survey not only defence in relation to this country but defence in relation to the other countries with whom we must be associated if we are to prosecute our own defence and the defence of the western hemisphere successfully.
Nothing has been said so far—perhaps it might have been out of Order if it had been said—about what Britain intends to do in relation to the United States of America. Something has been said by my right hon. Friend of the Five-Power Treaty between the western nations. However, I am bound to make 1131 a suggestion to my right hon. Friend. I do not think that he would deny it: at any rate, he asked us to be realists and I ask him to be a realist also. I do not think that he would deny that the five nations to which he referred are very weak indeed. While I was in office I had an opportunity to see some of the work being carried out by General de Lattre, the chief of the Armed Forces in France. There is not the slightest doubt that he is putting his men through an intensive military training. I am inclined to think that the training is much more intensive than that which is given to our own Forces. But it is no secret that the military Forces of France, which used to be the most powerful on the Continent of Europe, are today something upon which we could not rely to anything near the same extent as we did in the last war, to say nothing about the first world war.
When we discuss our own defences today, what are we talking about? The hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers), who spoke from the Liberal Benches, talked about recruiting 360,000 men for the Regular Army. I do not believe that that is possible. Indeed, I am not at all sure that it is desirable. It was not so in the first world war, and it was not so in the second world war. What we should concentrate on is not so much large numbers, but on those who are in the military Forces being exceptionally well trained so that their numbers can be expanded rapidly in the unfortunate event of the outbreak of war.
We all agree—the Minister of Defence, of course, not the least of us—that the Regular Army and Air Force are well under their target figures. I believe it is possible to recruit the Army up to its target strength. I should say that 220,000 or 250,000 Regulars would be the maximum that we could afford and the maximum that we could properly train. It should not be impossible to recruit those men in a comparatively short space of time—by that I mean perhaps a year. If the conditions are right so that we can appeal to the young men to come forward, I believe that they will respond. There is a vast reserve of individuals in this country who, through their fathers and, in many cases, their forefathers, have been connected 1132 with the military Services. They only need some slight persuasion to come forward.
I regret to say—and I ask the hon. Member who spoke from the Liberal Benches to note this—that no great encouragement has been given in speeches made in this House, particularly from his benches, when we have discussed these matters in the past.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I will certainly make clear what I mean. When we were discussing at a very serious time—not serious in relation to international events such as those through which we are now passing—the run down of the Armed Forces from five million or whatever it was, in an orderly fashion, and when only conscription could have achieved that, the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues did all they possibly could when the National Service Bill was before this House to impede and obstruct us. Therefore I beg leave to doubt the bona fides of the hon. Gentleman when, in criticising my right hon. Friend, he says that he and his hon. Friends are behind the Government in a desire to recruit Forces which will enable us to stand up against our enemies.
§ Mr. Bellenger
That is certainly very useful invective, but it is no argument whatever to disprove what I am now paying. How is it possible today, in the circumstances in which we are now living, with the glare of publicity focused upon our Debates, for us to examine as we ought to do the question whether the defence Forces of this country are in a proper and fit state? I do not think that they are if they should be faced with the unhappy event of an early war. I do not say that I think they could have been in a fit state, considering that we have had practically three years now of running down instead of building 1133 up. Hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House have made their contributions insisting that the Government should speed up demobilisation more than they have done. I sympathise with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence who has had to face attacks coming from behind as well as in front of him urging that we should disperse our Forces much more quickly. If hon. Members did not ask that we should disperse our Forces as quickly as the American nation dispersed theirs, at any rate they asked the Government to dissolve our Forces in a manner which would have left them in a much more inefficient state than they are in today if we should be faced with trouble abroad.
Is it possible for us to go into the vital questions, some of which have been touched upon by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), as to our anti-aircraft defences in this country? Let any hon. Gentleman who has any knowledge of anti-aircraft defences in the last war relate it to the rapid advance which has taken place in the Air Force—the attack—since the war, and let him consider whether our antiaircraft defences would be anywhere near being able to cope with an attack from the air such as we are likely to get from modern machines. We cannot possibly discuss such matters in a public Session, and I am going to suggest to the Government that it might be necessary, at no distant date, to have a Secret Session of this House, so that we can bring prominently before them some of the things of which we have knowledge. Having taken part in quite a few Secret Sessions during the war, I know that quite often they did not serve the purpose for which they were inaurgurated. Nevertheless, it is impossible under present circumstances for those of us with knowledge to say what we should like to say in public Session.
For example, there is the question of radar, and I will touch on it quite briefly. I can say that much of the radar equipment in connection with the anti-aircraft defences of this country is immobile today because there is not the trained and skilled labour to put the radar equipment even of the last war into order; and, when we consider that radar equipment has vastly improved on what it was in 1134 the last war, we can see that the anti-aircraft defences are only a facade at the present moment. Can we say anything about aeroplanes in a public Session? I could not, anyway, because I can speak with no technical knowledge, but there are hon. Gentlemen in this House who could say quite a lot on the question of attack from the air.
I was very much struck by one or two remarks which my right hon. Friend made in his speech. I thought he gave the game away, if I might use a colloquial expression, when he told us that deferment had to be general rather than specific in relation to the trades and services which the Army, and I presume also the Air Force, so badly needs. It is, indeed, true, although in a different context from that in which hon. Gentlemen sometimes use it, that there is a great wastage of manpower in the Services. When I have stood at that Box, I have attempted to argue that the wastage would be tackled, but, in a time of demobilisation, when units are all over the place and it is impossible to sort them out, it is difficult to get down to basic training such as the Regular Army needs, and I have tried to show that there has not been the wastage in the same context as that with which our critics faced us.
I will tell the House of one particular kind of wastage in the Army which I think should be remedied. I do not believe, although I can see the difficulties, that it is necessary to defer generally for three months the whole of the National Service men now in the Services. What are required are skilled tradesmen. When the Government have had to make deferments in certain branches of the Services, they have singled out certain trades, and, today, in one part of the Army alone, in R.E.M.E., there is an extraordinary shortage of skilled and trained men.
Therefore, I would suggest to the Government that, instead of relying on getting another 80,000 bodies—that is what it means, because General Staffs always like to talk of numbers—presumably, to replace some of the Guards who have had to go overseas, in order to fill the spaces left by their removal—they should concentrate more on filling the trained ranks of the Regular Army, and that, of course, applies to the Royal Air Force as well. They are not doing it, and they will not be able to do it until they 1135 change the system of recruiting completely.
I do not believe that extra pay is the only inducement. I am quite convinced, and I was convinced of this when I was in office—and I attempted to get acceptance of my views and succeeded, to a certain extent—that better housing could produce quite a number of recruits for the Army. My right hon. Friend said today that the Services will now get a fair share of the houses being built. What a commentary on the past. We put figures in our Estimates which were never met and which have never been met to this day by the Ministry of Works, who are the providers of houses for the Army. I will not attempt to apportion the blame for that, but it does not lie completely with the Ministry of Works. What I do say is that perhaps more stress has been laid on the civilian side of our life in the last three years than on those people who need consideration just as much—the married people in the Services. What are the arguments which I put forward then, and which still have considerable substance today? They are that, if we house the Services in this country—and a lot more has to be done overseas—we shall, at the same time, be housing civilians, because the people in the Services are only civilians in uniform.
When we come to the question whether 12 or 18 months is sufficient for the National Service recruits, I would say quite frankly that I do not believe that 12 months is sufficient. Certainly, 18 months would be better. Looking back, I think that the Government were right in their plans, taken in relation to the Territorial Force being the main training instrument of the National Service reservists, and I think the Government were quite right in making the period 12 months.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Yes, and for the R.A.F., too. I would not say that it will give any more than the groundwork for the further training during the years of the reserve period, and, in reply to the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, the Navy has always said that it did not want National Service conscripts. My right hon. Friend, when asked whether the Navy wanted conscripts after the war, 1136 answered "No," and he has said so today. The Navy can get all the Regular recruits it needs even under the present system.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way to me. The point is not whether the Navy is to have voluntary recruits, and I am glad to see that the intake into the Navy is more satisfactory, but is that one year's training for a naval conscript is not enough. He must have at least 18 months.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I agree, but the Navy is only taking a token number of National Service men today, about 2,000, while the majority of these men go into the Army. The quality of these National Service men is of varying degree, and I was going to point out one of the directions in which I think wastage is occurring in the Army. A considerable number of the National Service recruits who go in at 18 years of age today, in many cases, have to be taught to read and write. Their education in the Army has to be brought up to a standard whereby they are able to understand the training they are getting. I suggest that is not the duty of the Army; it should be done before these young men come into the Forces. I regret to say there is something wrong with an educational system which permits this task being imposed on the military Forces, thereby necessitating a substantial part of the period of training, at any rate in the Army, being spent in teaching these recruits the three R's.
I am very glad to hear from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence that, at long last, His Majesty's Government have recognised the duty which this country owes to those who will serve for a period of their lifetime in the Armed Forces, and that arrangements are now being made—very substantial arrangements, I am inclined to believe—for the after service career of many of these officers and men. When one considers that a large proportion of the men in the Army—and the same applies to the Air Force—will be retired at the age of 40 or thereabouts—with a pension, it is true, but with a long life of activity before them, and with the disadvantages they will have in getting jobs when they leave the Services—it is good to hear that the 1137 Government are now going to arrange for a certain number of clerical and executive posts in the Civil Service to be reserved for competition among ex-Regulars. That is something which I in my back bencher days, and even since, have urged upon the Government, and I am very glad that they are now going to put it into operation. I believe it will help recruiting considerably.
I should like to say much more about our arrangements, not only with the Commonwealth nations, but with the United States of America. However, that subject might be considered more appropriate for a Foreign Affairs Debate. I did, however, ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, when we debated this matter in the House on the last occasion, what arrangements had been made with the United States of America for them to contribute their share of manpower. I was given no answer, or, at least, only a perfunctory one. It is not sufficient that America should merely provide the dollars; she must provide some of the manpower also. But she is not doing that today. I suggest that, if that great nation were to provide a more substantial proportion of the manpower necessary for the defence of Western Europe, it would have a great effect on Moscow and those who reside in the Kremlin. They know exactly what the American Forces consist of in Europe at the present time. It is true that our own Armed Forces are not sufficiently organised on an operational basis, but the American Forces are nothing more than a gendarmerie in Europe at the present time, and if trouble comes it is likely to come in Europe to begin with.
Therefore, I would urge my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, in the absence of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Defence, to take up that point, and not only on a General Staff level, because it is not sufficient that the General Staffs should get together in a back room and formulate plans on paper. What we want to see is greater evidence that that great nation is really with us, because we alone cannot defend ourselves and the other part of the Western Hemisphere. In all the battles that we have fought in the past we had to have allies somewhere. I venture to suggest—although there will be differences of opinion as to whether America agrees with us on 1138 all points—that the United States are the most powerful allies that can help us in this battle for freedom.
We on this side of the House, and, I believe, hon. Members opposite also, very much regret the necessity for Debates like this and the expansion of our Armed Forces, and all that stands behind them. We who lived through those evil days preceding the last war are determined, in the words of the old song which are often forgotten, that "Britons never shall be slaves."
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
I am sure that the House has listened with interest and respect to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) because, with his experience of office, he speaks with authority on these matters. I should like to follow him on two of the points he mentioned. He said, as has been said before, that hon. Members on this side of the House were unhelpful with regard to demobilisation and the run-down of the Forces. I have studied this matter carefully. What has constantly been proposed from this side is that a safe figure should be decided on and that the run-down should then take place as rapidly as possible. What we complain about is, firstly, that the rundown has been too slow, and, secondly, that the figure fixed upon has never remained constant. This has made it impossible for the Services to plan on a fixed assumption. This constant whittling away and paring has usually occurred in accordance with the pressure exercised from behind. Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman said that had he been in the War Office this three-months reduction would not have been imposed on an overall but on a selective basis.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I hope I was a little more modest than that; I did not say, "If I had been in the War Office." I said that I did not quite know how it could have been done, but that I thought it the proper policy.
§ Brigadier Head
I must say, in defence of the War Office, that to try to do it quite suddenly on a selective basis seems to be quite impossible.
I think that we all listened with interest to the remarks of the Minister of Defence, and were all hoping for something which 1139 would put heart and confidence into us. To generalise, I would say that the indication was that the Minister of Defence has suddenly become aware of some of his more glaring omissions in the past. That was my interpretation of most of the action he proposed. Surely, no one in this House can consider that the foreign situation, serious though it is today, was really very rosy 18 months ago. How very much better off we should be today if adequate arrangement had then been made for calling up Reserves; and how much better the recruiting for the Regular Forces would now be had this inquiry about pay been carried out at an earlier date. It is a story of too little action too late, and it is my opinion that the present state of our Forces is a reflection of the right hon. Gentleman's failure.
I conceive it to be our duty in this Debate, not to restrict our comments to the right hon. Gentleman's statement, but to consider the present state of our Forces, and our future expectation of the state of our Forces, in the light, not only of the foreign situation, but of the paramount necessity for industrial recovery. Therefore, I propose in the remarks I shall now make to consider, firstly, the present state of our Forces; secondly, to examine our expectations under existing arrangements; and, thirdly, to put forward, inadequate though it may be, my opinion of what action should now be taken.
Before I deal with the present state of our Forces I should like to say a word or two on the subject of security and secrecy. I agree that many things cannot be said, but it seems to me that if the use of security and secrecy is abused and unduly restricted, it can be used as a screen behind which failure and maladministration can shelter. Does the Minister of Defence really believe that Russia—with the number of fellow travellers they have, with the very elaborate spy organisation, as revealed in the Canadian trials, and present throughout Germany where the majority of our troops are—knows as little about our armed strength as we do in this House? This secrecy has been overdone, and in my view for a fairly obvious reason. Nor should hon. Members take assurance that the state of our Forces is all right because the Chiefs of Staff have 1140 not resigned. I can assure hon. Members that in peace-time it is the duty of the Chiefs of Staff to give military advice, and then if it is overruled for political reasons they may see it as their duty to make the best of things under the conditions allowed them.
The state of our defences today, from all that I have heard, gives cause in my view for the very gravest concern. I do not think that we should, as the Lord President said, panic because we have two great assets, a large number of trained reservists and the possession of a very large start as regards atomic warfare. Nevertheless, it is my contention that the rundown in the Forces and their present state of organisation has gone far below the safety limit. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) made a very careful survey of the three Forces, and I do not wish to repeat what he has already said. As he indicated the Navy being a long service arm now embarked on a programme of re-equipment, lies to a large extent outside the matters being discussed in this Debate. It seems to me that in the paramount necessity for a high degree of preparation usually associated with the Navy has to some extent devolved on the Royal Air Force.
There has never been a time when a high state of preparedness in the Royal Air Force has been more important. Yet when we look at the Royal Air Force today we find that 53 per cent. of its strength consists of short-service National Service men, and that in the future it is to have an annual intake of 48,000 of such men. We find also serious shortages among the technical staff. That is a condition which does not in any way reflect a consciousness of the paramount necessity for retaining that Force in a high state of preparedness.
When we turn to the Army we find much the same situation. The Army has been suffering from a continually increasing number of cuts in money and man power. The present condition of the Army is not by any means inevitable, but is due to political decisions which seem to me to have entirely overstepped the safety limits. The really critical situation lies with the Regular Army. It is now spread in a way which is causing considerable strain to that Force. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and 1141 Leamington said, it has the overseas garrisons, home defence, strategic reserves, air defence, policing commitments in the whole of Europe plus the training of the National Service man to look after. That commitment is not only causing strain, but it makes it impossible for the Regular Army to train itself and thus remain in a state of adequate preparedness. Therefore, at the moment that Force is strained and not adequately prepared.
One word about the state of our Civil Defence. Last March the international situation was surely not one to give cause for complacancy. Yet when we had a Debate on this subject, at which I do not think the Minister of Defence was present, I have never heard a more alarming summing up to a Debate than that of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office. It contained indications of dilatoriness and half measures which clearly indicated that up to March this year nothing realistic had been done on the subject of Civil Defence. So much for the present situation.
What are our expectations of getting the kind of Forces we require in the future? I will admit the difficulties that lie before the right hon. Gentleman in devising the future shape of our Armed Forces, but I suggest that there are certain characteristics which to an ever increasing extent will be required. Perhaps the first and most generally recognised of these is that of a high state of preparedness. Is there any indication in present or recent policies or plans that we are going to get Forces which will be in a high state of readiness? The indications are otherwise.
There has been no effort to stimulate Regular recruiting, an essential component of any well prepared force. There has been no effort to prevent the most disturbing run-down of technicians in the Regular Forces who are so essential if we are to remain at a high state of preparedness. As a resuIt reliance has had to be placed on the call-up in the future of men who will have undergone only 12 months' training. I would ask anyone with experience of the Forces if they honestly believe that we shall have an Army or an Air Force at a high state of readiness when it is dependent on calling up Reservists with only one year's training and a period of 10 days a year on the Reserve. I fail to see that we shall achieve this important 1142 quality of preparedness by existing arrangements. It is also agreed that in any future organisation of the Army we in this country, owing to its very acute manpower situation and the great importance of industrial recovery, must use the utmost economy in the allocation of manpower.
Under the existing National Service scheme is there evidence of an economic use of manpower? Hon. Members may have forgotten that in the annual call-up of 200,000 men, 50,000 a year are being deferred. Why?—because they are not wanted by the Forces. Is that a plan which economises in manpower? Those men are being deferred and gradually the rate of deferment will increase. The truth is that under the existing scheme the Forces are calling up more men than they need, and the men are being forced into deferment. That is not a scheme which provides the essential quality of economy.
Nobody who has studied the foreign situation in the last two years could do other than think that any scheme or plan drawn up for the future organisation of our Forces must provide Forces which will be ready and at an adequate state of strength within the near future. Yet at present we have a long-term plan and it will not come to maturity for many years to come. Are all these arrangements fitting our requirements in the future? I suggest they do not. This is not a plan at all. On the contrary, I think all the evidence of the past goes to show that what the right hon. Gentleman has done is to give birth to an unwanted, distorted, ill-conceived creation which resulted from his shameless surrender to the irresponsible and improper proposals of his own back bench. If as a result of his political misconduct he is left holding the baby, I think he has no ground for complaint.
Let me now turn to the expectations we all had when the Ministry of Defence was set up. I do not wish to dwell on this subject for long, but I would like to recall the high hopes which we all had when the Ministry of Defence was set up. It was hoped that here anyway the eternal peace-time conflict between the requirements of industry and economic recovery on the one hand, and the requirement for adequate military preparedness on the other, would be watched and that there would be someone available to turn on the red light when our Forces 1143 got too low for safety. But, Sir, in effect what happened was that the right hon. Gentleman turned on the green light for further cuts when it should have been fixed red.
I think we had a right to expect that there would be some kind of plan, but all recent evidence has gone to show that the policy and action taken by the right hon. Gentleman was not based on any plan but on the contrary was based almost entirely on political expediency. I think we also had a right to expect, in order that the Service Ministries could make their plans, in order that the Ministry of Labour could make their plans and the young men who were to be called up could make their plans, that the right hon. Gentleman would think the matter out, make up his mind and stick to it. On the contrary, the reverse has almost always been the case and the House soon learned what to expect when the right hon. Gentleman came to the House full of fire and fight, to sound a series of prolonged blasts on his martial trumpet, in effect these sounds could always be interpreted, as I understand is the custom with ships at sea, as being a preliminary warning of an alteration of course or even of his intention of going full speed astern.
I do not wish to detain the House much longer, but in my concluding remarks I should like to mention what I believe could best be done now to get us out of our existing mess regarding defence. If I may, I should like to underline the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington concerning the paramount importance of this country giving a realistic lead to the organisation set up for defence within the Brussels Treaty. It seems to me that if we really set about it, work hard, give a lead and indicate we mean business, not only will the countries of Western Europe be encouraged and start to make progress, but we shall receive a far greater amount of American assistance than we could possibly hope to receive if we revealed that we are half-hearted and dilatory in this respect. Furthermore, I believe that close co-operation with Western Europe and the United States is the only means whereby we can fill the power vacuum which now exists in Western Europe itself.
1144 Every time, I think, in these Debates we have risen and pressed hon. Gentlemen opposite to do something about consultation with the Dominions on defence matters. Now, at last, after an undue delay, such consultations are to take place. I can only hope that as a result of them there will be a further sharing of the burdens and responsibilities which fall so heavily on the shoulders of this country. I believe and hope that that will be so, but let no one forget that if war comes to the Empire in the future there will be no time for consultations afterwards on plans and arrangements. If war comes it will come to the world like a flash; we shall have to have those plans ready, for the whole of the Empire will find itself in the front line on the first day of the war.
Let me now turn to the domestic steps which I believe should be taken with energy and as rapidly as possible. First, as has already been said by several hon. Members, I think we should do everything possible to stimulate recruiting into all the Regular Forces. The question of the revision of the Pay Code, with special reference to technicians, junior officers and marriage allowance, is a question which has already been mentioned. In addition, I should like to see it made easier for men to take on for a long period of service in the Army so that those who wish to do so can make it a career instead of an intermediate stage. I should like to see the ceiling for Regular recruiting raised. Until the experiment has been tried we do not know to what extent it will succeed. I personally believe that if conditions were improved and the ceiling raised Regular recruiting would slowly go up. I do not believe, as apparently does the hon. Member for Northern Dorset (Mr. Byers), that it would go up rapidly enough for us to do away with National Service for the present.
Furthermore, I believe National Service should now be put back to a position where it is in effect the National Service so eloquently described to us by the Minister of Defence, that is to say, a minimum period of 18 months. I think that period should be reinstated because I do not believe the present system is anything but an embarrassment to the Services and a waste of time. Having put it back, I should watch Regular recruiting very carefully and when there 1145 is any indication of sufficient improvement and any possibility of reduction in National Service I should reduce it.
Let me say a word about the call-up. I have mentioned, previously, that there is an annual deferment of 50,000 out of 200,000—which is quite a high proportion. Supposing Regular recruiting improved and supposing the Royal Air Force wanted far fewer National Service men—as they would do if Regular recruiting improved sufficiently—and supposing more went into the Army. After a few years we might find that our requirements out of the 200,000 a year had gone down to, say, 125,000 or even 100,000. If that came about we should have a very different picture before us.
It seems to me wasteful to call up all these unwanted men just for a principle. One way I suggest should be looked into would be either that reserved occupations should be widened with a view to helping the undermanned industries, thus giving an incentive by the avoidance of National Service, or alternatively, what I believe works perfectly satisfactorily in America, that we should adopt the ballot system. It seems to me highly unsatisfactory for us to call up more men than the Services really want. I believe if what I suggest were done we might find over a period of years that National Service was disappearing and that we were getting a far higher proportion of Regular men in the Forces. It is my belief that that should be the aim, for without a higher percentage of Regular men in the Forces I do not believe we shall ever attain an adequate state of preparedness.
I should like also to mention one point about the Territorial Army. It is my belief, from what I have been told by all the people to whom I have talked, that the present scheme—and I can guarantee that all of us will do our best to stimulate and help recruiting—is not going to work. The reason is, I believe, that the burden being placed on the Territorial Army is too heavy. Of course, for the time being the scheme has to work. But it is asking a great deal for the Territorials, with the exception of a very small Regular cadre, to be responsible for all the full-time training of the National Service men, who are not going to be too keen—the Secretary of State for War shakes his head, but the responsibility lies almost entirely on 1146 the Territorial Army, and that is a fact. I say, therefore, that it is asking a great deal of the Territorial Army. I believe the plan should be gradually to increase the proportion of the Regular Army carrying out that task and, if and when that is possible, I should like to see the Territorials back on their old basis of being entirely volunteers, all together, with their customary pride in unit and training.
Finally, I would have the whole of this defence matter re-examined—all over again, from the start—and I would have that done by the best brains in the Services, and probably the younger ones. I do not think you can achieve up-to-date solutions if your conception and your ideas are fixed by having reached the top during the Great War. The trouble so often is that air marshals and generals, like experts with some special kind of tennis rackets, when they consider the shape of a new racket, naturally consider it in terms of the old one they used to such good effect. I should like to see all this re-examined, and re-examined without prejudice as to what sort of answer the Secretary of State for Air or the Secretary of State for War wants. But let none of the staffs find out the answer required and write the appreciation around it. I should like this reexamined again—I believe it has never been done—and I believe if we did that we would get a very different answer from the hotch-potch arrangements at present obtaining in our Forces.
Frankly, I believe if we are going to get out of this mess and if we are going to take these steps we must have a new Minister of Defence. I have said some hard things about the present Minister of Defence, not on personal grounds but because I feel he has failed in his task. Hard though the decision will be for him to take, I believe he has to take it and that he should make way for someone else. I believe that will be best for the country in the long run, for his task is one of supreme responsibility. Such a decision may well, in the long run, make the difference between peace and war, national survival and disaster.
As many hon. Members have already said, it is with a feeling of dismay and almost despair that we find ourselves talking in this way only three years after a great war. Nevertheless, think how you 1147 will, I can see no alternative course before us. It seems to me, although it is a saying of 1,500 years ago, that:Let him who desires peace prepare for war,is still dismally true.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
We all listen with pleasure to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) when he speaks in our defence Debates. I cannot hope to answer him, or to make suggestions on all the points he made, but I should like to take up one or two of them. It was a great pleasure to me, and I am sure to many others over here, to hear the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell us that the fundamental difficulty was that the overseas commitments of our foreign policy were beyond the strength of the Regular Army. That is the case that has been put for two years from these benches. I have not noticed before that it has been welcomed and supported by the brigadiers on the other side. Indeed, I have noticed that they would have increased the number of commitments for the Foreign Secretary to undertake. I am relieved to find that at last they agree with us. This comes no doubt from the education of Debate after Debate on defence.
§ Brigadier Head
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I do not know whether he misunderstood me intentionally or not. What I said—I thought, quite clearly—was that the present state of the Regular Army regarding recruitment, and its present size and training commitments, meant that in carrying out its commitments it was strained. I was speaking of the size of the Forces. I was not saying we should reduce our foreign commitments.
§ Mr. Crossman
That brings me to the second point in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech, that of the size of the Regular Army. I am glad we are in agreement. Time after time from this side of the House the argument has been made that the Minister of Defence cannot rely on conscripts for overseas service. That was our case for saying time and again that the Regular Army was small for the job of the overseas commitments and for the job of training conscripts. That is 1148 why I am somewhat surprised to find the hon. and gallant Gentleman saying that the decision to have one year's conscribed service was a surrender to political expediency. For if we agree that the main difficulty of the Minister of Defence was the enlarging of the Regular Army, and if we agree it was not doing that side of the job, why on earth are we making such a fuss about the length of service—except in terms of training?
I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman is not suggesting that an extra six months' service would do more than increase the training facilities and possibly produce a few half-trained people for Germany. It is not going to help in Malaya or Cyrenaica. We are not going to send those conscripts over there. So I would suggest to him, on the whole, that curiously enough, the decision to have the service at the length of one year happens to have been a realistic decision, and due to a tardy understanding by the Minister of Defence of the fact that what we need is a larger Regular Army, not a larger conscript army.
I want to turn from that to a major point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). I entirely agree with him. I thought his definition as to what one may call the grand strategy, or grand foreign policy under which defence must work, a great deal better than the negative definition given yesterday by the Foreign Secretary. His definition was that it was our aim to keep Communism "to its present area." I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington put the more positive side, and—I believe we have here reached fundamental agreement between the two sides of the House—that the fundamental aim is to create Western Union, and secondly, to create throughout the world, and based on the Commonwealth, what we might call a "third force," or middle group, or sterling area—they are all words for the same thing—the power which stands between the two ideological alternatives; the power that can hold the balance between peace and war, guarding us from war, holding us to peaceful ways.
I believe we have fundamental understanding on that; and I believe we can say to the Minister of Defence, "You have no excuse any more for saying that 1149 the grand strategy is uncertain, for we all really know what your defence policy has to do." What it has to do is to assist that grand aim. I agree with Members opposite that it was a disappointment today that we had a defence policy outlined in purely insular terms. We did not hear enough of defence plans in relation to Western Europe and the Commonwealth. And yet our own defence must be in relation to Western Europe and the Commonwealth. And furthermore, speaking bluntly, it has to be related to the strategy of America.
I am glad to find another point of agreement in the House. The Minister of Defence, completely rightly, stressed the dilemma of military rearmament, which is, after all, only our insurance in the eventuality of a "hot" war. The problem is how to undertake military rearmament without militating against the provision of weapons for winning the "cold" war. The weapons for winning the cold war are the things required for social reconstruction in Europe. There is no other way of defeating Communism, as I have argued often enough in this House.
I feel that the Minister skated over this dilemma very easily. He said that our rearmament was not going to upset our national economy, and nothing in it was going to upset the economy of Western Union. I can tell him that if it does not, then that rearmament is of no use. It has got to hurt if it is worth having as a diplomatic weapon, and if it hurts it militates against our success in the cold war. Unless we have faced that dilemma we have not faced the real difficulty.
The real difficulty is that we cannot have the weapons both for the hot and for the cold war. The appalling difficulty of the British Government especially is that we cannot balance the Budget, we cannot bridge the gap, we cannot do any of the things we have set ourselves to do if we rearm out of our resources. It means a further unbearable burden is laid upon us. I believe that the House and everybody in the country has got to face this dilemma, a problem which is insoluble in terms of a national economy—completely insoluble.
What is the way out of the dilemma? One would be to take a line which, I admit, I advocated last March in the last defence Debate, and say, "Let the Americans rearm. We will take their 1150 dollars and spend them on peaceful things—on the cold war." But, in fact, we cannot responsibly do that, and I want to say bluntly that I believe it is necessary for some of us here to change our views. Without armaments Western Union is a social, economic unity without real diplomatic strength. In order to have the diplomatic strength we require, we must have military strength. That, at least, we have learned after three years of negotiations with the Russians. We cannot live in neutrality today, leaving all the decisions to the Americans.
We have to realise that our job in Western Europe, of fighting Communism by improving the social conditions is complicated and aggravated by the need for spending our strength on rearmament. On that I feel the Minister has not told us as straightly as he should what is the extent of the effects which rearmament will have on the recovery of this country. What we have started to do is not felt yet, and it will not be felt until rearmament gets under way. The effects will be felt in 12 months' or 18 months' time, and I believe the people of this country ought to be told that perfectly plainly. For those effects will come—unless we do one thing; or, perhaps, two things.
The first one we have already done. I think we have learned the lesson of the 1930's. We have learned the lesson of Chamberlain, who said, "I always put business interests before the defence of the League of Nations." The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) has given a masterly description in his book of how business interests were deferred to national security year after year. I believe that we have learned that we cannot possibly carry on our social aims disregarding rearmament, because that is the way to war. What was wrong with Baldwin and Chamberlain was not that they failed to provide arms for the "inevitable" war, but that they made it inevitable by not rearming. They made Hitler believe that he could take the risk. We must not make that mistake again. We need not despair, because that is the thing which we have all learned. Many of us, in fact most of us, did not know it before, but I think that we are united on that now.
The second thing which we have to learn is that in the two years ahead war is certainly not inevitable; on the contrary, 1151 I would say that war is unlikely. In the two years ahead, there is going to be a colossal struggle between the two sides, both profoundly reluctant to turn a cold war into a shooting war, two sides which are going to measure up against each other and either fight it out or settle down, respecting each other's power, strength and policy. Our rearmament' policy must be designed to aid our diplomatic policy in achieving in those two years a new relationship with Russia in which there is no misunderstanding, and to ensure that they are aware of what we stand for and what we are going to do. That must be the overall aim of this defence policy—not to prepare for war but to make war not inevitable by creating sufficient strength in Western Union to prevent the Russians from drawing false conclusions about us.
Here we have the real problem. If we rearm out of our own resources then we will allow the Communists to grow in strength in France and Italy as we drive the standard of living down. If we British rearm in this way we shall have Communists in this country. The people will not take it. How do we get out of that difficulty? I will give one suggestion to the House. We have only to look at what is happening in Western Europe under the E.R.P. We found that Europe could not recover out of its own resources. We and America said to ourselves that economic recovery was impossible, and the Communists would flood over Western Europe, if we were left to our own resources. So the U.S.A. said, "Right. For the economic revival of Western Europe we will give so many dollars," though they did not give as much as the minimum which we thought necessary. Now there is the danger that these dollars, given to prevent Communism spreading in Western Europe, will be used for rearmament and not for the job for which they were given.
There is really a very simple solution. If the Americans agreed that it was necessary for the social and economic reconstruction of Europe, when they did not think that war was likely, to give dollars, they have to realise that in their own self-interest the rearmament of Western Europe, although undertaken by Western Europe with their own soldiers, must have 1152 a dollar backing. We should put it to them perfectly bluntly, that for each unit of production potential we have to allocate to rearmament and which results in losses in our export drive, we should be given as many dollars as we lose in export. That is the sole way of making any sense of the E.R.P. combined with rearmament. If we do not do that the E.R.P. will not be doing its job.
What we have learned from Chamberlain's fiasco in the '30's, the Americans have to learn from the '30's too. If they had given Lend-Lease from 1937 to 1939 there would not have been a war. If they had come in to the extent of saying, "We will assist them to look after themselves" that would have stopped Hitler. I think that we can say with perfect honesty to the Americans, "If you do not want to waste your dollars in European Recovery and see the Communists flooding Western Europe, you have to remove the financial responsibility for the existing extra armament commitments of the Western Union Governments." I would like to see, alongside O.E.E.C., a block grant allocated to the Brussels signatories as the block grant for the E.R.P. is allocated in Paris. That seems the only sane thing to do. I say solemnly to the Government that if we drift into rearmament on any other condition, we are doing no service to ourselves or to America. It would be far better to have it out 'with them now and to put the responsibility squarely there, than to drift into a rearmament programme which is going to make hay of our social recovery.
As a means of defence against Communism, it has been rightly said that we cannot have military rearmament without a sound economic basis. But we have not got a sound economic basis. We need hundreds of millions to bridge the gap. On top of that, came the extra burden. We cannot pull through with a further rearmament plan unless that plan is financed by the Americans separately from E.R.P. out of a new form of Lend-Lease. But if we have to ask the Americans to do that, we have to make sure that the money is well spent. We cannot go on having 800,000 men in the Forces and the fewest fighting soldiers on record. Unless we can have as good a report on achievement in 1153 defence as we had recently on achievement in production from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we have no chance of getting the Americans to finance us. I say that bluntly and briefly, because I think that someone from this side of the House should say it. We cannot go on squandering money on men out of indecision. But I will not go into the details of that
We come then to the still more awkward problem which I have raised before. What is the point of rearming Western Union if there is nothing to prevent the Red Army from reaching the Channel? That is a feeling very prevalent not only in this country but in Germany, France and Italy. There there is a deep feeling of disillusion and frustration, and they are saying that it is all a pretence, because if the last resort came in the next month or two, it would be all up with them. I have said that myself, and I think that one has to give a reply to it.
Reply No. 1 is "Would Stalin do it after Hitler's example?" If Stalin wished to conquer countries without causing himself trouble, would he not go to the Middle East? But that is not a satisfactory reply for Europeans. We do not know what Stalin thinks. We may be wrong. The second reply is that our aim in this defence policy is not to defeat the Russians but to deter them. That is the aim. That is what we are spending money on. The object of the policy is not to defend Europe in war but prevent war by taking the necessary steps and building up the necessary strength in Europe so that the Russians will not feel inclined to begin it. That is the answer which must be given to the people of those countries, who feel that the overwhelming strength of the Russian Army is something against which they cannot do anything at all. I believe that this rearmament, which, in a sense, is a token rearmament which we are supporting now, will in fact contribute to that diplomatic end, although I am fairly certain that it will have to go a good deal further before it is finished.
Finally, I believe that there is only one real danger today. It is a danger which I find coming out of the mouths of hon. Members on both sides of the House—the doctrine that "war is inevitable; therefore let us have it quickly." the "ultima- 1154 turn doctrine" and the loose talk of "calling their bluff." Those who say that are insane—maniacs. Time is on our side. If we hold off war for ten years we have won.
The thing which will destroy all our plans in Western Europe is war, and those who talk of the inevitability of war, or even those who talk of bluffing the Russians, or calling their bluff, as though we were not bluffing, too, are the most dangerous armchair strategists—I regret to say that they sit on this side of the House as well as on the other side. They say, "Let us have no more talk. Let us give an ultimatum." Yet the only way one can possibly get the Russians to fight is to give an ultimatum. Anybody who cares to read the secret documents about the relations between the Nazis and Stalin, in that unhappy year when they were in alliance, would be interested to see how much the Russians will concede in order to avoid a war. If they are not actually forced into it they will not fight; and certainly not when the forces arrayed against them are strong. They are realistic men who measure politics in terms of power, and when the power alignment is not in their favour they withdraw. Therefore, make it in our favour and they will withdraw; they will not fight. Why should they? They will withdraw because they believe the time will come when things will be in their favour. But I do not mind what their motives are as long as they do it.
So I come to this conclusion. We cannot achieve our Socialist objectives, as some of us hoped we could, by any policy of neutrality. That is simply shifting the responsibility on to somebody else. Perhaps the greatest danger of war today is that there are Americans who say it is inevitable, and that we may as well have it soon. If they think that—and it is perfectly legitimate for them to think so—then to prevent these irresponsible Americans from carrying it out we must have sufficient power so that we can say, "You cannot do it without us." That is the power Britain has today. We are not strong enough to start a war—thank heavens—but we are strong enough to prevent one. We are strong enough to prevent one day by day, week by week and month by month, because no one can win a war without us. But that is only so if we are strong—strong economically and strong militarily—and our job in the 1155 next five years is to retain our military strength, while keeping our military commitments to a minimum, and making the Americans pay for them. And that is possible. A year ago nobody believed the Marshall Plan was possible. Why should not this be possible, too? Why should we believe we cannot get it? If we cannot get that, there is no way out of our dilemma.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Astor (Surrey, Eastern)
I will not follow in very great detail the interesting speech of the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), but I would challenge one statement he made when he declared that we must stand firm against Russia and surrender nothing. In my opinion we have already surrendered a good deal, in the heavy costs to the taxpayer of the air lift to Berlin, and in surrendering the cause of allies in Eastern Europe, if we care to cast our minds back. I denote a certain change of tone in the hon. Member for East Coventry when he appears to be willing for us to hinge ourselves to the American economy. That is a change of heart, but I believe that he is fundamentally wrong in his appreciation of the United States when he starts the theory that we have to enter into power politics with the United States of America. He did not expand on that, but he implied that in order to command the power of diplomatic and strategic decisions we should possess some strong armament weapons on which to stake our claim to argument. I believe this conception of diplomacy comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of the way in which the United States regard us.
It has already been pointed out that for security reasons any Defence Debate at the moment must be veiled in a good deal of obscurity; and it has already been pointed out that the Minister of Defence went a bit too far in that direction when he told the House very little more than they have already read in the newspapers. I do not ask that we should be given information vital to the enemy at this moment, or anything of a secret nature at all. That would be quite wrong. But the present state of affairs does demand that Members of this House should have a high degree of confidence in the Ministers responsible for defence matters. As 1156 far as the War Office is concerned, I believe it will be shown that the Secretary of State for War has done a good deal to redeem the reputation which he made at the Ministry of Fuel and Power, and that as far as preparation of the Army goes, within the limits of conscription and our financial predicament, the professional qualities of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff have certainly left their mark.
Unfortunately, Members in this House have no reason to repose equal confidence in either the Minister of Defence or the Prime Minister. I would just make one suggestion, to which possibly the Secretary of State for War could reply this evening. In all fairness to the Minister of Defence—although we do not think he is adequate for the job—I would ask whether his Ministry is more than a Ministry in name. It seems to me that in personnel, size and strength it is inadequate for the function it has to carry out. The reason, I suppose, is that during the war the Minister of Defence was also the Prime Minister, and was also the present right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), who could obviously tap any Ministry at will, and the success of his office depended to a large extent on his own ability and personality. That is no longer the case, and one wonders whether that Ministry is adequate.
If war comes we shall find ourselves the junior partner in a military alliance with the United States against an aggressor. Well, the only possible aggressor today for as far ahead as we can see, is the Soviet Government. I say particularly the Soviet Government and not the Soviet people, because this is germane to what I have to say about political warfare. I am certain that 30 years of oppressive Communist control, with the screw being turned tighter and tighter in the Soviet Union, although it will have hardened the hearts and the sensibilities of the Russian people, will also have bred deep resentment against that régime.
Our rôle on land and sea and in the air will necessarily be a limited one, and a primary rôle will certainly be the defence of these Islands as a firm base from which to launch heavy attacks. Now, there are two weapons which we could wield equally effectively, and I think more effectively than our allies: one is that of underground 1157 warfare, and the other is that of political or psychological warfare. I do not want to expand too much on the question of underground warfare, because I should not expect a comprehensive reply from a Minister on this point. However, I would say that now is the time to see that the tentacles which give us information are set up, not only in Europe but as far afield as we can visualise war extending. I wonder whether, for instance, escape routes have been organised and set up in Europe for recovering our own prisoners of war and other friendly personnel whom we would wish to bring to this country.
I would point out that this particular branch is not like the Royal Armoured Corps or the Infantry, where one can say there are a lot of men who were trained in the war, and who can be called up sooner or later to resume their old job. A great many people who were doing this escape work in the war cannot be used again, because they are what is technically known as "blown," in that where it is known they were employed in that kind of work once, they can never, for that reason, be employed in that kind of work again. On the other hand, they can be used for training other men. I mention this because it is an essential aspect of defence. It is something we can do very well; we can contribute a great deal; and now is the time to make these preparations.
In speaking of political warfare, I mean the kind of propaganda and information which influences men's minds both at home and abroad. I do not call it psychological warfare, because it is not technically psychological warfare, as that was understood in the last war. War and defence have never in the history of war been merely a matter of arms, with trained men to wield those arms and staffs to control those men; the matter of morale has always been of paramount importance. The study of how to influence men's minds is a science which is more or less in its infancy, but we certainly know more about it than did earlier generations. Its potentialities have been very much increased as a result of the many means of communication which have come into being during the last 20 years, and also as a result of the considerable experience we gained during the war years.
1158 At home, we are not doing half enough from the point of view of morale. For instance, among perfectly patriotic people of good faith in this country there are many illusions as to what, in fact, Communism really means. It is one thing to purge the Civil Service of undesirable political characters—this may be a wise move—but far more important is to have a completely informed public both as to what domination by a potential enemy really means and in this case what his ideology looks like when carried into practice and also what our own political aims consist of. I am perfectly certain that if people knew what the Soviet experiment means to the people in Russia, in the event of war 99 per cent. would take up arms or fulfil any other rôle in the spirit of a crusade. There will always he the one per cent. who are either pacifist, or in another category, twisted or perverted people who can only give expression to their character by betraying their own country, or those few charlatans who gamble on the other side winning.
Conversely, if the people now under Communist domination knew something about life in the West and knew our intentions towards them in the event of a war, I am perfectly certain it would add greatly to the resistance that already exists to the Communist regime in the countries concerned. During the German invasion of Russia, in certain southern parts of the advance the German army were welcomed almost as liberators. It was only later, when Hitler took command of these areas away from the Army and handed it over to the Gestapo, that the people found out the true nature of the Fascist animal. That is a point which we must bear in mind. In all these respects, what we have to do is to counter the political warfare in which the Kremlin are indulging all the time and in which they are making us appear as the aggressors at every turn.
§ Mr. Daines (East Ham, North)
Does the hon. Member think that statements from national leaders of this country, that never has the name of this country sunk so low as now, is conducive to the type of mentality he is putting forward?
§ Mr. Astor
I said nothing about the country never having sunk so low. If what I have said were carried out, it would be appreciated that in a political 1159 democracy there is, and there is bound to be, public expression of violent dissensions of opinion. This is a healthy sign, and these remarks are put in their true perspective.
I believe that at home we are not doing enough to keep public opinion informed. For home propaganda there are three main channels of communication—the Press, the radio and the films. So far as the Press is concerned, certain sections of the Press, together with a great many Members of the Labour Party, have a good deal of leeway to make up, remembering that unduly sentimental view they took about the Soviet Union at the end of the war. So far as the radio is concerned, the public are in great doubt, not so much about what we are trying to defend, but what our foreign policy is in Europe today. By that I mean that no Minister ever comes to the microphone and urges the case for Western Union, which is an important factor. They do not do it, I suppose, because the Foreign Secretary is so lukewarm on that point. The United States have already used the medium of the films to inform public opinion as to the modus vivendi of a possible enemy. We have not done this and should do so.
With regard to propaganda and political warfare abroad, there are at the moment three organisations responsible for sending out information of one kind or another. There is the Central Office of Information, the B.B.C. and the British Council. Some Members are under the impression that the Central Office of Information is a policy-making body. It is nothing of the kind, but is merely a factory turning out certain material to blueprints given to them by a variety of Ministers. As far as I can determine, Ministerial responsibility for co-ordinating these three voices abroad resides in the Lord President of the Council. At the moment there are people in these organisations with ability and experience, well qualified to carry out their functions, but there is no co-ordination and no directives are going to them in regard to these matters. There is a good deal of wasted effort and a good deal of unnecessary friction. If we are to treat the matter of political warfare at all seriously, we should immediately set up once again the Ministry of Information.
§ Mr. Astor
The Lord President of the Council could then continue with his political gymnastics while one Minister concentrated on co-ordinating the various methods for propagating information. I would caution hon. Members who believe that political warfare could further be exploited not to urge that it should be built up to the same degree and tempo to occupied countries of Eastern Europe as it was to the countries occupied by Hitler in 1944. All we have to do—and it is very ably done in the case of European broadcasts under the direction of General Jacob—is to give the impression that we speak the truth and give factual information.
In case hon. Members should think that I am being hostile to Russia, I would say that there is no question of arousing people to take any hostile action against anyone at the moment. I seriously urge the Government to exploit this weapon as far as possible. Incidentally, it is the least expensive arm we wield, and as the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) pointed out in another Debate, unlike other weapons, it immediately shows results and thereby pays dividends from the moment of its inception. We can when we try use this weapon very astutely. As a nation, we are not given to propaganda. It has in the past never been a part of our daily life. This is an attractive national characteristic. It is a tribute to ourselves. It is a mark of the degree of civilisation which we have reached, but I would remind the House that it is necessary to give up many of the more attractive facets of our civilisation in order to defend that civilisation.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Cobb (Elland)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Astor) who has such a vast fund of expertise in the art of propaganda. He has probably said all that ought to be said on it. Only he and my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) have spoken on matters relating to defence other than what one might call the provision of manpower for the Fighting Services. That has persuaded me that this House may be in danger of having a very short memory, because surely we cannot expect these men to be of any effective use unless they are provided with equipment. 1161 Have we forgotten that it took us seven years from 1937 onwards to reach our peak production in the last war?
I listened carefully to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence. I listened just as carefully to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). Not once, except very slightly, did they touch upon this subject. Neither did they mention the Commonwealth in that relation, and it is to that aspect that I propose to direct my remarks, namely, the organisation of industry for the equipment of the Forces both from a national and Commonwealth point of view, because I feel that both of them are inseparable. If the precautions which we are taking are necessary, one is bound to ask whether the provision of trained men for the Services is our greatest problem. I believe that the organisation of the Commonwealth's industrial potential is more urgent and more difficult.
I do not believe that we have to produce large amounts of goods for the Fighting Services immediately but we have to undertake preliminary organisation to make that possible because, as the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) said, if we are involved in a war it will come in a flash. We cannot afford seven years in which to organise industry in this country and in the Commonwealth. We have to do it more quickly than we mobilise the men. No one knows this better than the people in industry. We ought to pay more attention to this matter. When I speak of the Commonwealth, I mean this country together with all the Commonwealth countries. I have two propositions to put to my right hon. Friend. The first concerns British industrial war potential. I would like to ask whether our methods are adequate and effective and whether they are economical in manpower and material, that is for the provision of our preliminary plans to make sure that industry is mobilised as well as manpower.
Here I would particularly ask my right hon. Friend to look at what is going on in the mass production industries at the present time. I have not time this evening to list all the things that one could mention, but I should like to give my right hon. Friend a few examples. Let me take, for example, the tendering 1162 system as between the Ministry of Supply, the Admiralty and industry. This system is wasteful. Only the other day I had to fill in a tender from the Ministry of Supply. It was due to be sent in on 22nd September and it called for delivery to begin in October. It is quite impossible for industry, which up and down the country is handling these tenders at the moment, to do this without a great waste of our resources. To meet these conditions the tendering firm need spare labour, space, machines and materials standing by in case its tender is accepted. Alternatively, it must have these things locked up in the form of complete material ready to be delivered in case the tender is accepted. So we have firms up and down the country, a lot of industrial Micawbers, waiting for the acceptance of a tender possibly to turn up.
This is wasteful. Was not the wartime arrangement better? During the war we found from experience that in order to get our industry properly organised we had to throw overboard the tendering system and adopt a different system. Why was this system, which was built up during the war, scrapped? I believe it was due to a Treasury instruction. Did the Treasury know, were they properly informed on this matter? Do they know how industry forecasts, plans and produces? If they do not know—and I do not think they do—they ought to go and learn. After all, the Treasury consists of some of the best brains of the country. Industry would be more efficient if some of those brains had gone into industry. Instead those brains have goine into the Treasury. Let them go and see this system and devise a better one, one which is effective and economical on the one hand and which safeguards the public purse on the other.
Another point which I should like to draw to the attention of my right hon. Friend concerns the manufacture of equipment and components for the Fighting Services. What is happening in regard to inter-Service standardisation both in regard to complete equipment and in regard to components which go into that equipment? This question was raised by myself and a number of other hon. Members in the Debate on the Navy Estimates last March. There is a further matter I should like to raise. When we look at the White Paper setting up the 1163 Ministry of Defence, it mentions a top organisation for research and production. A Committee on Defence Research Policy was set up and also a Ministerial Production Committee. It is a British habit to keep research and production separate when they are really twins. I should like to know whether the coordination between the research people, on the one hand, and the production people, on the other, is good?
I should like to recommend once more, with all the force at my command, that the research organisation ought to have at least one good production man upon it because there are very few research people—physicists—who really understand the art of production. Research people are liable to get too far away from the realities of production if they have not at least one man of first-class calibre to remind them at least of what is to happen in the long run to the result of their research. Further points on this matter were made by myself and other hon. Members in the Debate on the Ministry of Defence Act in November, 1946. I cannot see any sign yet that those have been acted upon. I believe it would be worth while for my right hon. Friend to turn them up.
Turning to my second proposition, I should first ask the question, What is our basic defence policy? Have we an agreed Commonwealth policy or is it an American defence policy, from the point of view of equipment? I am not now speaking about the organisation of manpower for the Services, but entirely about equipment. Is it an American defence policy or a Commonwealth defence policy? Until that is decided, I do not believe that the rest of what we have to do can possibly flow with any great degree of smoothness.
This raises a clear question. Is the Commonwealth today to have its own research, design and production of Service equipment? Is the Commonwealth in this to rely upon its own efforts, because there is a growing Commonwealth opinion that the U.S.A. decides the basic policy of the equipment our Armed Forces are going to use, and that America shall be the arsenal for equipping our Fighting Forces, with Britain and Japan acting as floating aerodromes and Australia acting as an advance store 1164 depot. Is it a self-contained Commonwealth policy standing on its own feet, or is it some other policy?
Until this is known and decided, Commonwealth industry cannot fit into whatever scheme we have got to adopt so that when the equipment is wanted it can he produced overnight, because if it cannot be produced overnight it will be of no use. Commonwealth and British industry cannot play its full part on research, design or production until this policy is decided and known, for from that decision flows Commonwealth military industrial policy, and that policy must react on our peacetime industrial plans. It cannot be otherwise. Do we design and produce our own equipment in the British Commonwealth, or do we copy America? This is the vital question, and if it is not decided correctly many thousand's of men's lives will be thrown away in the unhappy event of war occurring. If Commonwealth industry is to do this job, how do we set about it, because I do not believe that this decision has been taken? I can find no signs of it.
In the last war Russia survived because Russian industry was recognised as part of the military defence policy. I have the impression that we do not sufficiently recognise the fact that productive industry is essentially an integral part of our military policy, whatever it might be. Too large a part of the Russian industry was in the European part of Russia at the beginning of the last war and we all know that it was moved further away. From a defence point of view, a too large part of the British Commonwealth industry is in Great Britain and the ideal peacetime planning of Commonwealth industry may have to give way to military necessity.
Here I particularly want to talk about shadow factories. I mentioned this in the previous defence Debate. The point I made then, which I believe to be an important one, seems to me to have been ignored. Shadow factory technique, which was started in this country during the war, as a matter of necessity, took years to perfect, and if these shadow factories have got to be scattered over the British Colonial Empire and the Commonwealth it may take many more years to perfect. We cannot wait until these factories have turned over to war production to effect co-ordination. The technique must be perfected in peace time 1165 when the factories are producing peacetime goods.
Let me give an example. There may be a factory in this country producing motor cars, and it may be agreed that in war that factory has got to make tanks. We cannot afford to have all that production in this country. If it is decided that this industry should be spread abroad, branches should be established in South Africa and New Zealand. That ought to be decided and started now so that we can go on making motor cars in this country and in South Africa and New Zealand. I believe that if the production people get used to working together on a standardised basis while making peacetime goods, should war make it necessary overnight they could stop the production of motor cars and start on war production. If this is not done and if we wait until necessity is upon us, this shadow factory technique cannot be started, and I believe that in any war in which we might be involved in the foreseeable future this is going to be a vital necessity. We cannot see any signs that any steps have been taken to start it, but such co-ordination is absolutely necessary.
What is perhaps as important is that a sensible emigration policy waits on this decision, because until the overall organisation has been created we cannot decide what technical people and what organisations have to be sent overseas. We may be sending the wrong people overseas right at this moment. So we have to agree on a basic Commonwealth industrial defence policy now, so that if the need arises the Commonwealth industry can instantly mobilise to support the Services, each group of shadow factories throughout the Commonwealth knowing what its war-time job is. They ought to be capable of mobilising ahead of manpower mobilisation. The last war largely taught us this.
This is the best way to follow out the basic conditions laid down in Command Paper 6923, the Defence White Paper, which stated that for the time being we will give preference to research, keeping military stocks down to a minimum with the least interference to peace-time production. It seems to me if these basic plans were laid down, not necessarily to produce but to be ready to produce, that would be the best way to follow out 1166 what was laid down in Command Paper 6923. Thus organised, I believe the Commonwealth could reach, if necessary, peak military production perhaps in 12 months. I think that is too long, but I doubt if it could be done quicker. It would not take seven years, as happened last time.
If European factories are disabled in the system I am advocating, the sister factories in the Commonwealth could take over research and production right away. I appeal to my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for War and the Minister for Defence to get such a policy started now before it is too late. Once a war starts, our essential skills may be destroyed before they can be exported. As a Socialist, I deplore the necessity to discuss this. However, I believe it is necessary to discuss it and to plan on these lines, because by so doing we may save many thousands of lives. ButIf it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well It were done quickly.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Maude (Exeter)
I hope the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Cobb) will forgive me for not following the lines on which he spoke, because I want to make a very short reference to the Territorial Army campaign. In common with almost every Member of this House, with the possible exception of two from whom we heard yesterday, we are going to try to help the Secretary of State for War in his campaign for the Territorial Army. However, the time has now come when something should be said on the Floor of the House by way of criticism, in order that better efforts should be made than I fear are going to be made. When I opened the letter from the Secretary of State for War I felt considerable dismay at having to take part in such a campaign, and I believe for a very good reason.
It is about two years since we all helped in a campaign for Army recruiting, not the Territorial Army. In my constituency it was hideous. What happened was that the mayor, sheriff and high Army officers all mounted a platform in the open air. A band marched past and it all looked very good. There was an officer from the War Office, and I forbore from complaining at that time because I felt it was not in the national 1167 interest, but now the time has come to say what happened. At that time, the Press kept it out of the papers.
This officer was speaking and he explained all about the Army, but the appalling part of it was that he literally had not the slightest idea where he was. When he made his speech he was very complimentary about our city, saying it had done such honourable things, that the Marines and the Brigade of Guards were largely recruited from it, and then we were horrified when he suddenly said, "It is a great pleasure to be here speaking in Gloucester." There was absolute panic. There was a low moan from some of the aldermen sitting around. Everybody thought that the mistake was one of those slips of the tongue, but not at all. After a minute or two he again expatiated on the glories of Gloucester. He had literally forgotten that he was not in Gloucester. He had been in Gloucester. I can hardly tell the House how miserable that meeting was, and if anything like that should happen again all I can say is that somebody should be punished, because, as on this occasion, it is a very serious thing indeed.
We have promised to help, and we shall do so in the happiest spirit, but I cannot help feeling that in a few months' time it will be thought that to go ahead asking for ex-officers and N.C.O.s to come back and start training people in 1950 is really leaving matters too late. It is a ghastly misunderstanding of the urgency of the problem. I can foresee that it is going to be extremely difficult for the right hon. Gentleman to do away with the apathy which he asks us to break down. I should like to give him an example, so that he will fully understand what the difficulties are. I will tell him straight out now that one of the difficulties is the right hon. Gentleman himself. I will tell him why.
I went to a cinema the other day, and there I happened to be thinking about what we were going to do in connection with this campaign. I had been writing a long letter trying to describe the very long pamphlet which he sent us, "Notes for Speakers." I wrote the letter. Before I left the cinema I had the extremely distasteful experience of seeing the right hon. Gentleman trying to spread disunity at the Trades Union Conference. There was a lot in his speech about 30 years of 1168 Tory misrule. I cannot see why the right hon. Gentleman, instead of chuckling in a fatuous sort of way, does not realise that in a time of peril it would be better if he tried to encourage real respect by standing out of all that sort of thing, so that people—
§ Mr. Maude
If the hon. Gentleman who interrupts me kept quiet about this sort of thing and did not try to annoy us it would make matters a great deal easier. I will say something about my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). I noticed yesterday that a comparatively young Member opposite was criticising my right hon. Friend because he was not here. I noticed also that the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) was today again criticising the right hon. Member for Woodford. What I say to hon. Members about that is, and I say it passionately, that when the cat—in this case a very large and important one—is away, the mice will play. Hon. Members do not do themselves justice by making comments which they know perfectly well to be the last things they should say about my right hon. Friend.
The Minister of Defence will find very great difficulties in his campaign if he believes he is going to get people into the Territorial Army in large numbers simply and solely by improving conditions and so on. That will not be possible. I dread to think that the right hon. Gentleman may believe that. Nor do I believe that he is going to have a great success with what is set out in the pamphlet, suggesting that the National Service men's time in the Army is going to be so lovely—I think that is a reasonable word, in all the circumstances—that they are simply itching to come into the Territorial Army. That is not the way to do it.
He must understand that the ordinary fellow will want to serve, if and when 1169 the situation is explained to him in a way that he can understand, and he realises that there really is an emergency. It is going to be very difficult for the right hon. Gentleman to do that, or for the other less inspiring figure who is concerned in this campaign, and who could not possibly have been cast for the part of inspiring the people in such a campaign. Neither of the right hon. Gentlemen is an inspiring or romantic figure. They know that. Do they not think that it is going to be extremely difficult to get that realisation into the heads of the kind of people whom you can get at on these matters only by being very forthright about the real reasons why there is an emergency? I have an idea—
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
I have appealed tonight for the help of all sections of the House in this campaign, and I am rather waiting for the hon. and learned Gentleman to come to a point where he intends to be helpful. He really ought not to take the line, in my judgment, that he is taking at the present time, forgetting that some of the people whom he is now attacking, including myself, did a good many things for the country when we were all together. Why should the hon. and learned Member try to destroy anything of that kind now?
§ Mr. Maude
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I will tell him quite clearly. Of course, nothing can destroy—certainly not myself, although I feel very flattered that the right hon. Gentleman should be nettled by what I said—the achievements of the right hon. Gentleman in the past, but it would be absolutely wrong not to explain to him that persons with whom I come into contact are, in my honest opinion, going to find it extremely difficult to be inspired by the sort of speech made by the right hon. Gentleman.
I do not hesitate also to say something else. I was waiting for it, and of course it came from a Member of the Communist Party. I knew it would happen sooner or later. There was the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) at last complaining that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was making a miserable effort. That was the word he used, "an entirely miserable effort." The awful part about it was that everybody had felt the miserable tone of the 1170 right hon. Gentleman while he was making his speech. We all know him. very well. We know that he does not, in fact, make a dashing impression. He knew that sooner or later somebody would try to make capital out of that fact. There is no doubt that in order to arouse enthusiasm, one has to have the right people. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman getting up now and saying that one is trying to harm him—
§ Mr. Maude
Or to harm the campaign—by pointing out something which is absolutely essential before this campaign starts. It is absolutely essential that the right hon. Gentleman should not think, as I am inclined to believe he does think from what he has been saying, that he is going to have a tremendous effect. That is a mistake, if I may say so. It may well be that the Prime Minister will do so or the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I am not going to find it easy to work up great enthusiasm for either of the Ministers who are most intimately connected with this campaign. It is no good burking the fact. It is actually the truth.
I should have thought it would have been very much better, instead of fiddling about with it, to get busy. There has been drift in the Territorial Army in the last few years, doing absolutely nothing. Recruiting, as we know, is not satisfactory. The moment will come between October and March when right hon. Gentlemen will have to tell the people quite bluntly what the real trouble is. They do not understand it now. Right hon. Gentlemen will find that people say: "I'm not interested in Berlin, and I don't understand it." Right hon. Gentlemen will have to explain about Russia and tell people that since 1939 there has been an accretion to the 200 million people there of 24 million people, and an accretion of a quarter of a million square miles to their land. Right hon. Gentlemen will have to tell the people what the danger is. I can assure them that I am filled with the greatest anxieties. We shall find that this campaign will not be launched unless things are said in such a way as to irritate both right hon. Gentlemen. I have managed at least to annoy one of 1171 them successfully. If I manage to annoy both, we shall have a good show put up. If I do not do that, what we may get is a miserable show, and that will not do. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said that he welcomed the campaign, and he was trying to stress the fact that the Territorial Army is vitally important. We understand the attempt of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to enlist our sympathies and help.
Having tried to condense—I think that was reasonable—the arguments in the pamphlet with which the right hon. Gentleman supplied us—it is a good pamphlet but a very long one—I was met with the observation from the biggest newspaper in the West Country—hon. Members opposite may make whatever capital they like out of it against me—that owing to the shortage of paper it was not possible to print it. The refusal was by the "Western Morning News." I do not blame them; they know their own business best. However, that is the fact. If right hon. Gentlemen want us to break down the apathy, will they please do something as quickly as possible to give us the ammunition from their own mouths, showing what in their view is causing this emergency and the necessity for the people to go into the Territorial Army. It is a first-rate thing that they should go before the public, not as people who divide us but as people who for a few months or a year are bound only to the job at their Departments. In that way we will serve them.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge)
I have sat throughout this Debate with a feeling that life is not real and that I have been dreaming. I sometimes feel like pinching myself to try to make myself believe that I am really here. When I came here in 1945 I had read "Let us Face the Future" and I had written an election address and made various promises, but there was one promise I did not make, that in September, 1948, I should be taking part in a rearmament programme for this country. I could not envisage it. I have been surprised at the calm acceptance of the position which has been shown by those taking part in this Debate. They do not seem to think that there might be an alternative. I do not 1172 think there has been any attempt to explore alternatives—just re-arm, one nation after another racing down the steep hill, like the Gadarene swine, to the destruction of all civilisation. That is what it means if it cannot be stopped.
I wondered if there would be a petition signed by all the conscientious objectors and by those opposed to conscription, and there is none. I doubt whether those opposed to conscription on the last occasion would sign today. I would not. I was opposed to conscription. I have never felt as a mother that I had any pleasure in the making of laws or decrees that sent other mothers' sons into a fight, and I can only take part in this tonight because two of my own sons are affected by this Motion. They are by no means in easy positions. One in the Navy is at the moment in the Red Sea anticipating a great deal of work because when his ship is in the Red Sea he has a great many patients among the men. The other is in a malarial swamp jungle as far away as possible in East Africa. Both were very group happy and both were counting the days when they could come home to dear old Scotland. They said, "Even when it is raining, even when it is in storm, I love it;" and they will not come. They will be affected by the three months' deferment, and I have nothing to say.
I am not going to join with the other women in organising women throughout this country to shout for peace when there is no peace. I think it is a mistake to organise women or men in this country, shouting to them to call for peace when there is no peace. I notice that those who have been taking part in that kind of campaign are the organisers of similar "no more war" campaigns of 1940, and therefore I suspect that kind of organisation. I do not think we have exhausted the possibilities for peace. I think we could explore these possibilities still further.
The hon. Member for Eastern Surrey (Mr. Astor) very properly mentioned the psychological aspect of warfare. All around us in this campaign for volunteers we shall have a campaign going on showing the British people what a horrible country they are living in and how they are in the grasp of the landlords. They will try to feed our people on their own miseries and will try to make them flag. 1173 They will be joined—I am sorry to say they are almost joined now—by people like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) who drew down this country in derision in the eyes of people abroad for a mess of election pottage.
All hon. Members will require to be very careful about what they say. The psychological warfare is even more important than this, and I say to those friends of Generalissimo Stalin in the House—they are not all here tonight—that I think they have a contribution to make to peace. I think that they might make approaches and that the first gesture for ending this great armaments race must come from the Kremlin.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Will the hon. Lady excuse me? Is it not the case that the hon. Lady got on to the Glasgow Council and into this House, by pointing out to the workers that the Tories and the capitalists were their enemies? Why has she nothing to say about her new allies the monopoly capitalists of America?
§ Mrs. Mann
The allies that I have witnessed last week have been those of the capitalist newspapers, who are pointing out that members of the Coal Board get £7,000 a year, without pointing out. at the same time how much we take from that £7,000 in Income Tax, and they are allied on the same propaganda as my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), who would lose his seat next week if he liked to come out and fight it on this issue. Those who are so friendly I say, with Generalissimo Stalin ought to tell him the truth about the people of this country, that we await a gesture. And of all people, the people in the Labour movement deserve that gesture from the Kremlin.
Much has been said about how hard Britain has been to Russia in times past. I think it is never remembered that when Lenin signed the treaty of Brest-Litovsk he himself pledged to Germany on behalf of Russia, £300 million. Not a penny of it did he need to pay, because this little island of Britain kept on to the last and won that particular war.
§ Mrs. Mann
I shall tell the Americans that they also owe a great debt, as does the hon. Member's country, to this country for having stood with its back to the wall, having sold all its foreign assets long before we got Lend-Lease. It is time some of us started being proud of Great Britain instead of joining in the general melee to call it down for all we are worth.
The hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) "had something" when he said the people were not informed. Are we now to go round inviting people to join Civil Defence, inviting them to join up in the Volunteers, to take their places to gear up the war machine? They will ask us why. They will say, "Tell us what has occurred." Do any of us really know? I hear statements made at large meetings of women and I hear the women shouting that they want peace, but the failure of the Atomic Energy Commission, the reason why it had failed, is never pointed out to these women. It ought to be pointed out. I have heard criticisms of the amount we have spent on P.R.O., and I wonder how much we have spent in this connection. Do we really know the situation in regard to Berlin? We certainly know that someone is holding up supplies of food to certain people in Berlin, making as difficult as possible a humane act like delivering food to people, so that because we cannot get access in the ordinary way, we have to use the air.
I say that these things ought to be pointed out, hammered home, because we shall get a lot of propaganda. We shall be told that we are still under the landlords. Dear me, how differently we do things in this country from the Kremlin. We have no difficulties with the landlords. There is no landlord in Great Britain who can add a hen's shed to his estate without putting at least £30 into the Central Land Development Fund for the privilege. We do not use a steam hammer or a steam roller when a pair of tweezers will do. In this campaign about the wicked landlords there will be nothing said about the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act which nullifies all the powers of the landlord. We shall be told of the rent campaign—I know the party line—yet not a landlord in 1175 this country has been able to raise any of the rents of £90 and under. People will be whipped up into a frenzy against the proposals of the Minister on grounds like that, yet the people of this country had a Chartist movement before they had a movement against landlords. They had a movement for liberty—
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
On a point of Order. Is there anything in the statement of the Lord President of the Council of 14th September relating to rents, landlords and the Chartist movement?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Lady was making a point. She was referring to the conditions under which our recruiting campaign would be conducted.
§ Mrs. Mann
I think the noble Lord will find quickly that I have been correct when he goes to his constituency. Before there was a Labour movement there was a Chartist movement, there was a movement for freedom of speech, for freedom to vote, for the right of assembly. These things to the people of Britain matter much more than mere political parties. There are some in this House, I know, who would like us to lie down and let anyone ride roughshod over us, but the people of Britain regard some of their dearest privileges as worth more than life itself, and if we can get that fact home to the Kremlin, we shall reinforce our demand for peace.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Commander Noble (Chelsea)
I am sure that the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann) will have the sympathy of the House that her two sons have been affected by this recent decision of the Government, and we all hope that she will soon have them returned to her. The hon. Lady asked at the beginning of her speech whether there were no alternatives to preparing for war. She mentioned some of the alternatives, and I would like to point out to her some others—what has been happening in Berlin, what has been happening in Moscow, what has been happening on the United Nations and, incidentally, what happened in Czechoslovakia. I very much want to know whether the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) will accept the invitation she gave him to take a message to Russia. 1176 Perhaps after the recent medal he received, he may think that worth while.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I had a decoration from Czechoslovakia and one from Hungary, both from representatives of the working classes, and I am very proud of them
Mr. Vane (Westmorland)
Where are they?
§ Commander Noble
I am very interested to have that information because I did not, of course, make any reference to the place from which the medal came. I am sure hon. Members will agree that we had a rather disappointing statement from the Minister of Defence today. We had many of the old clichés with which we are so familiar both in recent defence Debates from him and in the periodic defence White Papers which we have debated. One was very aptly described on another occasion by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) as "ably phrased fluff." We had old clichés such as collective security, stable conditions, no easy problem to solve, and healthy economic situation.
But we did detect a most welcome sign and that was that on this occasion there was a little more sense of urgency, although we feel that is because the steps the Government are now taking are too late. I emphasise that we on this side of the House in the last defence Debate, and on previous occasions, have warned His Majesty's Government of the danger of getting involved in a "No war for a number of years" policy. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington made a great point of that in the defence Debate early in the year. I am not sure that His Majesty's Government are not falling into that trap, if they have not already fallen into it.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) also said he thought the steps we are taking now should have been taken before and are now too late. It seems quite clear from the personnel point of view that the Government have fallen into that trap. The build-up of our Forces, the Army in particular, is based on 1952 when the great majority of National Service men 1177 come out and go into the Special Reserves. The result is that sudden measures have to be taken and they do not in any way help the long-term position. The question of material presents a much more difficult problem. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) said in the Debate on the King's Speech, for the last three years the Defence Ministers have not given any figures, or very few figures, to this House in the Annual Estimates, with the result that their responsibility is correspondingly increased.
In regard to information about the Army and the Air Force, we find ourselves in the same position as we did in regard to the Royal Navy earlier this year when it seemed that His Majesty's Government attempted to pretend we had not a Navy when we really had one all the time. It was left to my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) to tell the world on the Naval Estimates that we had a Navy. I think that if hon. Members opposite look up the facts they will see that the policy of keeping the facts of the Navy hidden caused more harm in the world than if they had told the truth.
In that connection we welcome the statements on production by the Lord President of the Council and the Minister of Defence and the rather grudging admission of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty yesterday that the refits of destroyers and escort vessels were being expedited. I was glad that the Minister of Defence quite openly confirmed that today. I am sure the people of this country are very relieved that the Royal Dockyards are not making any more dustbins or letter boxes. I hope we shall have a reassurance that progress is being made with conversion to higher speeds of some of the older escort vessels so that they can compete with the modern submarine.
I hope we shall not hear any more about selling small ships to other countries. I read in the papers this morning that two more destroyers are being sold, yet we know how short we are of destroyers. I wish to quote the words of the Minister of Defence in the last defence Debate, when he made a very true statement:It is well known that the intricate apparatus of modern war demands many months— 1178 even years—to get production in quantity of an accepted prototype."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1948, Vol. 448, c. 59.]I wish to say a few words about the Naval Reserves, and in particular the new Emergency Reserve, and I hope there will be a great response in recruiting for each Service. I noticed one newspaper this morning mentioned a statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty in another place as having referred to these Reservists as "Minute men." In view of the Government policy, I think they might be called "Last minute men." I do not think this new Emergency Reserve answers the long-term problem. It serves to emphasise what we have been saying ever since the first Naval Estimates of this Parliament. What is being done to attract that large body of officers and men who formed the main proportion of the Navy at the end of the war into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve? Many months ago, when men were being released, I inquired if they were asked by an officer whether they would join the R.N.V.R. I do not think they were. Was a record kept of their addresses, and were they asked whether they would join later when they were perhaps more susceptible? I do not think anything like that was done, but I feel it would have been a better method of contacting these men. I do not think there is any other way, except by a call-up by age groups, as in the war.
The right hon. Gentleman has said that the R.N.V.R. are short of men. He could not have spoken a truer word. It has been pointed out that three years after the end of the war, in spite of the enormous number released, the R.N.V.R. consists of about 1,300 officers and 1,400 men. Speaking of ratings alone, that is out of an establishment of nearly 13,000 and it was expected to have reached more than 3,000 this year. Yesterday we were told, although it seemed almost unbelievable, that nothing has yet been done to reorganise the Royal Naval Reserve. The First Lord hinted at differences between the Ministry of Transport and the Admiralty. I think these differences have existed for many years and they could be solved now as in the past.
If the R.N.V.R. is not increased, where are the trained Reserves to come from for the Royal Navy? I have asked this question on many occasions. We know 1179 that the Navy is only to have a token of the National Service men, and even by 1952 very few will be coming out to form this trained Reserve and the Emergency Reserve will be getting less trained every year they are out of the Service, especially in these days of modern equipment. I think it is the greatest pity that we have not taken every step in the last few years to increase the Auxiliary Services.
I have been worried about pay and Service conditions for some time, and I have asked a number of Questions on the subject. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, earlier this year, merely produced some rather irrelevant and cheap remarks about Invergordon, but I was glad the Minister of Defence in the Debate a few months ago, before we rose for the Summer Recess, and again today really applied himself to the problem. He said the Government would go into cases of hardship, and he repeated that again today. I think hon. Members on this side will support me in saying that there are many cases of hardship today in all three Services. It is well known that the Pay Code of 1945 was designed on the assumption that Income Tax would be reduced. In fact, I was told so categorically by Ministers, in letters. But it has not gone down and, at the same time, the cost of living and civilian wages have risen. To take one example, does not the Chairman of the National Coal Board draw very much more than the First Sea Lord. These things must be looked at in their proper proportion.
I would particularly ask the Minister to consider what others have already referred to, namely, the case of young married officers and other ranks. I have had some correspondence with officers and men of the lower deck, and I know that many are scraping along and would leave the Service tomorrow if they could. The Minister of Labour made a great point of this in the Debate on the National Service Bill last year, when he said that the Regular element was likely to be insufficient to meet even a fraction of our minimum defence requirements. It would be a great pity if we did not take every step we could to get Regulars into the Fighting Forces. There are questions of Purchase Tax on uniform, married quarters, the wearing of plain clothes and 1180 what the Minister himself called "a disturbance allowance." Settlement of these points would greatly assist towards recruitment.
I am very glad to hear that a Bill will be laid before the House in the near future dealing with Civil Defence. A great many Questions have been asked from this side in the last year or two about Civil Defence, and the sort of answer we have had is that considerable experience has been gained and that research is going on. The time has now come when we should be told what will happen, and on what assumption this is based. No doubt we shall hear a great deal more about this matter next Session.
I am somewhat diffident for fear of being classed as an atomic bore, but I want to refer to the Atomic Energy Commission of the United Nations. Lord Pakenham, in another place, last February, said that the prospect of reducing the differences on the Commission seemed definitely worse, that there must be some time limit to such a state of affairs, and that if we found that advance was held up we might have to reconsider our whole attitude to the problem. What has happened since then? Something far more serious, and that is that the Atomic Energy Commission, in their report to the Security Council, dated 17th May, recommended that in view of the deadlock—note the word "deadlock"—negotiations in the Commission should be suspended until such time as the sponsors of the General Assembly find, through prior consultation, that there exists a basis for agreement.
That is very depressing, and a most serious state of affairs, and I am surprised that no reference has been made to that report either by the Foreign Secretary or the Minister of Defence, although the right hon. Gentleman did refer for a moment or two today to the Commission. Six months have passed since Lord Pakenham's statement, and we have heard no more following what he said then—that we should have to reconsider our whole attitude to the problem. I hope this final point will be considered, especially after what Mr. Marshall said today about atomic warfare. It is most important and most relevant to our discussions.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I am very glad to be able to follow the hon. and gallant Member the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) because I think he was wrong in saying what he did say about the Minister of Defence, who did refer to the Atomic Energy Commission, to collective security—which the hon. and gallant Member rather "pooh-poohed"—and to certain other matters, the Military Staff Committee among them. So far, this Debate has been marked by great pessimism, quite merited by the appalling conditions which have led us even to hold the Debate at all, but I hope more emphasis will be laid, in the rest of the Debate, on ways of avoiding war rather than discussing details about immediate preparations for war.
There are many people in this country who, in a way, enjoy the prospect of war preparations, because they are dealing with a familiar mechanism and modes of thought. The whole thing appears to be merely a Service job which men of a certain kind do because it is the right thing to do. and do jolly well because they are jolly good fellows. I abominate that kind of thing entirely, and I say to the Minister of Defence—I hope he will not misunderstand me—that while I shall certainly support any measures which are necessary for the real defence of this country, I shall do my utmost to make peace by proposing alternative methods of preventing the outbreak of war. I am sure that Members on the Government Front Bench will associate themselves with that. We must avoid foolish talk, some of which was indulged in by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude), who spoke of whipping up enthusiasm for the Territorial Forces. If there is a real emergency, men will not be found unwilling to come forward in defence of their country, but they will not be led into it by statements of the kind made by the hon. and learned Member today.
On the more constructive side of this problem, I should like to ask whether it is not possible to explore further the working of the Military Staff Committee of the Security Council? If Members consult the copy of the report of that Committee which is in the Library, they will see that the differences between the two sides—largely between the Soviet 1182 Union and the other nations—about the constitution of an international police force are not very great. I believe that these differences could be bridged if we could come to a better understanding with the Soviet authorities at a higher level, and I think we should bend our efforts in that direction.
There is also the question of our relations with the British Commonwealth of Nations and our Colonies in any defence plan. My right hon. Friend, when speaking of the Five Powers today, referred to our common defence, and said that representatives of Canada and the United States attended the Committee regularly and that the next meeting was on 27th September. He showed clearly that there is most intimate co-operation between ourselves and members of the Western Union. He then went on to deal with the question of consultation with the Dominions, and pointed out that Britain was the heart and strength of the British Commonwealth and said that at the forthcoming meetings of representatives of the Commonwealth, which begin next week, defence questions would be explored. I emphasise that "explore." Did the Minister of Defence really mean that the association between ourselves and the Commonwealth is at an early stage, whereas the arrangements, with the Five Powers and arrangements in Europe have got to an advanced stage of intimate, close collaboration and the working out of an exact plan? If that is so—
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
I think that my hon. Friend will find, when he reads the actual text, that I said that what we want to do is to improve the effective means we have, and we are exploring that.
I am very glad to accept that. I only hope that it will be possible to get an integrated defence plan for the whole of the Commonwealth and our Colonies. That should be the foundation on which we build, and not the foundation of Western Europe and this country with the co-operation of the United States. That from a military view point is a very unsafe foundation. The world-wide British Commonwealth is a very great foundation for anything which may be required in the way of defence, and, what is even more important, for anything that is required in the way of future constructive action to bring about peace.
1183 I believe that in the circumstances which now confront this country, we should turn to the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations and to our own Colonies to discuss and to hammer out some alternative to the war which I regret to find so many hon. Members of this House apparently think is inevitable. I do not agree that it is inevitable. It can be and it must be avoided, although there is a tendency on the part of some people to regard a war as inevitable. We must hammer out an alternative, and the best place to hammer out that alternative is in the meeting of the representatives of the Commonwealth which is to be held. I believe, next week.
I am told that the preliminary meeting is next week, but I accept the correction. I believe that the British Commonwealth of Nations whose representatives meet shortly—and this is one of those apparent chances which have often played a great and important part in our history—will afford an opportunity of making a decision of the very greatest importance in world history and of the very greatest importance in avoiding war. I appeal to the Government to look at the Motion which I have placed in my name on the Order Paper dealing with the international situation.
[That, in view of the dangerous international situation, this House calls on His Majesty's Government to take immediate action to prevent "the outbreak of largescale war by bringing the following proposals before the Conference of the representatives of the British Commonwealth of Nations which is to meet in London very shortly:—
1184 It contains revolutionary proposals in the name of myself and certain of my hon. Friends. I hope they will be studied by the Commonwealth representatives. It is asking them to work out the strategic implications of a policy of world wide British Commonwealth and Colonial neutrality in the case of war. May I say in passing that in the last war the United States remained neutral for quite a time—
- (1)The formulation of a policy, ready for implementation when necessary, for the creation of a neutral block of Nations of the Commonwealth and its Colonies.
- (2) For the issue of invitations to other Nations to join this neutral block.
- (3) For the making of an all-Commonwealth representation to the United Nations emphasising the urgency of the constitution of an International Police Force, under the control of the United Notions.]
Until attacked. The U.S.S.R. remained neutral for quite a long time and there is, I think, nothing dishonourable or defeatist in a policy of neutrality, and everything to be said for such a policy if it can, as I hold it can, if properly applied, defeat the menace of war itself. I realise that the change proposed is revolutionary and to anticipate criticism I would say that I know that this proposal would change the relations of our member-States of the British Commonwealth to the United Nations and that it would change the defence arrangements made with Western Union countries and our position vis-à-vis, the United States.
It would have one effect, for instance, that the United States would no longer have the use of some of our territory for bombing stations. The United States would no longer have the opportunity of using this country as an aircraft carrier stationed off the coast of Europe—a change which would be welcomed very heartily indeed by a very large number of people in this country. In these ways I believe that a policy of neutrality would give greater union to the British Commonwealth and greater power. If we could get an agreement on major influences and major issues and all political, economic and defence matters, I believe we should find ourselves in a position of greater power, authority and influence in the world than we have been. Above all, there would be the power not to make war but to make peace in the world.
There are objections, which I have mentioned. I do not propose to deal with those objections, nor do I propose to indicate, or attempt to indicate, in detail how a strategic plan of world neutrality of the British Commonwealth should be 1185 brought into effect. We have in our service, I suppose, some of the greatest brains in the world—members of the General Staff, men in the Navy, Army and Air Force and the Departments of Supply. If we give them the policy that General Staff could certainly work out the strategy necessary to make it a reality. Give them the policy and they will deliver the plan.
Let me say a few words on what would be the effect of the neutrality of the Commonwealth and the Colonies. Part of the Motion which I have put down on the Order Paper refers to an invitation to be issued by the British Commonwealth of Nations to other nations to join this world neutrality bloc. The first nations to be invited to join would obviously be the nations of Western Europe, not only those with whom we are at present associated in defence arrangements, but all the nations of Western Europe, and I have in mind particularly those nations with whom we must most closely integrate. A neutral bloc in Western Europe would carry with it not only the neutrality of those States themselves, but the neutrality of their Colonies. That is to say the whole of Africa, or most of it, from North to South and from East to West would become a neutral area. In the Pacific Australia and New Zealand and many islands would be neutral. India, Pakistan and Ceylon would be neutral. So would Singapore and Malaya. It is to be hoped that Canada would join, with its new province of Newfoundland, and this vast Dominion in the North, with Mexico in the South, would make a great neutral reserve in the North American Continent, to which must be added the West Indies and other islands and territories in the Atlantic Ocean.
I believe that the problems of such a vast area of neutrality joined by sea and air communications over all the seas of the world are problems which have never risen before. There are special problems in the Mediterranean, in the Near East and in the Far East. There are problems of supply, of commerce and of trade—a multitude of problems. But they are, for the first time, problems of how to keep the world at peace, and not problems of how to supply it in time of war. I believe that those problems, being problems in time of peace, would be easier to solve than problems of supply and the integration of 1186 areas and services in times of war. Above all, I believe that this policy provides the bridge from a world at present threatened by war to one which will be firmly established in peace, ready and able to restrain aggression.
One part of the Motion which I have put down is a proposal that, as part of the defence arrangements, the British Commonwealth of Nations and its Colonies should offer to place large military Forces, Naval, Army and Air Force, at the disposal of the United Nations as the foundation of an international police force if that were arranged. It would then be possible for the first time for the United Nations to proceed with a plan for making an international police force a reality, a force strong enough to restrain aggression in any part of the world. I believe that that is a practical and a possibly policy.
I have not said very much so far either of the United States or of the Soviet Union. I would just point out that if this bloc of world neutrality was formed, both those countries would be separated by immense distances. They would have very great physical difficulty in making war one against another. That would be a very great advantage to the peace of the world. But I do not believe that the peoples of the Soviet Union or the peoples of the United States want war. I think that both sides are rather terrified one of the other.
I deprecate very much the kind of anti-Communist campaign which goes on when Communism becomes not a word of description of a man's beliefs but a piece of vituperation. I do not believe that all the Communist people in the world have suddenly turned in the last three years into vipers and hyenas, to use some of the unfortunate words which the Communists themselves use. That is just not true. Neither is it true that the people of the U.S.A. are warmongering scoundrels whose only desire is to destroy the Soviet Union. I do not believe for a moment that the vast majority of the people want to destroy the Soviet Union.
Can we not look at these matters from the point of view of the young men and women in this country who we know do not want to have war? I venture to say that there is no hon. Member opposite or on this side of the House who has not been approached within the last few days by humble people who have said. "Tell me, sir, is there going to be a war?" 1187 The whole country is being made afraid by the sudden blowing up of this situation. It is abominable that this should have been allowed to happen. I appeal to our Government, I appeal to the Prime Minister, I appeal to the nation that we should turn away from the idea that war is inevitable and that we should set the whole of our efforts to finding how we can achieve peace.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Max Aitken (Holborn)
The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) says that this is a pessimistic Debate and that he is an optimist. I consider that we live in pessimistic times at the moment and I do not see a great deal of optimism about, though I think that it can be brought about if we tackle our problems in the right way. The hon. Member suggested that the right way is for the British Commonwealth to declare neutrality, then he qualified that by the words "with the power to make peace." Surely, if the British Commonwealth has the power to make peace—and that is what we want on this side of the House—then there is no need to declare neutrality. Let us just have the power to make peace and then there will be no war. Surely, that is the right way.
It is precisely that declaration of neutrality, and the position strategically and geographically of the British Commonwealth of Nations in the world, that would give us the power to make peace.
§ Mr. Aitken
I understand that point of view, but I am afraid I disagree. In my opinion, the power to make peace is the power militarily to prevent war.
§ Mr. Aitken
I thoroughly enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman). I thought that it was a fine speech in which there was a great deal of common sense. I was delighted to hear him prophesy that there would be no war for two years. That means no war this year, and no war next year. I read a prophecy like that in 1939. I hope that the hon. Member is a better prophet. The hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann) followed very closely a fine speech which was 1188 made some time ago by the hon. Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) stressing that it is a dreadful thing for Members of this House so soon after the war to be discussing how we can best rearm this country, how best it can be done and how quickly. It is true it is a terrible thing and I feel it strongly, as I suppose does every hon. Member who actively took part in the last war.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) said that he could not see why in this Debate we should not talk quite freely. I agree with him. If we are to discuss defence. we must do it openly. There are certain matters that obviously cannot be discussed, but I do not know about those things and neither, I suppose, do many other hon. Members. If we are to discuss defence we must do it openly and freely. We must tell the Minister of Defence and other responsible Ministers what we think should be done to make the country stronger.
I was delighted to hear the Minister of Defence discuss closer collaboration between Empire Air Forces. Thai is a theme which my hon. Friends have advocated in every recent Air Estimates Debate. We have asked that the Secretary of State for Air should examine the Empire Air Force which existed during the war. I repeat that it was really a magnificent Air Force which, in my opinion, was invincible. I hope that the Minister will apply his mind to this question most seriously. We have had several lip-service statements on the Empire from the opposite side of the House. I hope that this is not another example. I hope also that the Dominions will be rearmed with our latest aircraft before the countries of Western Europe. It is much better that the Dominions, who will, if necessary, come to our help again, should have the latest aircraft and should be able to use them, rather than that the aircraft should be pushed out to the Western European countries about whom we do not know quite so much.
A serious position has arisen in the Royal Air Force with regard to recruiting. I think that one of the reasons for this is that the R.A.F. want to recruit people who are also badly needed in industry. I refer, to young technicians, instrument makers, and other people who 1189 are mechanically minded. Industry wants those men and the R.A.F. wants them as well. Who pays the best price?—industry. Where do the men go?—industry. The R.A.F. must be treated now as an under-manned industry. It must be given the priority which will attract those men into the industry of the R.A.F. The Air Force should not necessarily be called a Service. It should be called an industry—the industry of the Royal Air Force.
At the moment I do not think that appeals to patriotism are sufficient. We must go beyond that and offer men the same amount of wages which they can get in industry. Pay in the Service at present is insufficient, absenteeism is not permitted—it is punished at once—and there is no overtime. The officers in the Service are really hard pressed. There are many officers who by the middle of the month are hard put to know how they are to pay their mess bills at the end of the month. I appreciate that the Secretary of State for Air knows the facts. It is a serious position. If he can make the Service one of the best paid industries of the country, he will get exactly the type of men he wants.
We must really consider whether we are ready if a crisis should come upon us, because the R.A.F. is considered the first line of defence. As other hon. Members have said tonight, we will not get another nine months' respite this time. During the Air Estimates Debates we have. always said that the urgency is here and now, and we believe that. The Air Force should be built up immediately. It is not a question of a long-term policy, but of building up right away. Some people think we are ready in the Royal Air Force today to deal with heavy raids with fast-flying bombers, but the recent air exercises showed that to be quite untrue. Our fighters are inadequate, and I believe that our first-line strength at the moment of jet aircraft is not half the first-line strength we had at the time of the Battle of Britain.
§ Mr. Platts-Mills (Finsbury)
May I ask the hon. Gentleman how many first-line jet fighters he suggests would be necessary to shoot down a single rocket bomb?
§ Mr. Aitken
If I gave that explanation to the hon. Gentleman, he might pass it on, so I think I had better not. As 1190 for our bomber force, I do not think that is adequate, either, and I would like to ask the Secretary of State for Air where all our aircraft have gone, because we have not many bombers. Our bomber force is not increasing, and our fighter force is inadequate, and we have to buy American aircraft to run our civil airlines. What has happened to the great British aircraft industry? Where are our aircraft going? Is our great industry gradually shutting up shop?
There is another point which is most important in the R.A.F., and it concerns the senior personnel. It is bad luck that a senior R.A.F. officer at the age of 50 cannot fly any more, so that he cannot go on operations. I think that the ratio of senior R.A.F. officers now in the Service who have not been on operations has been carried far enough. At the moment, there are approximately 138 officers of Air rank in the R.A.F., and, of that number, only approximately 20 saw operations in the last war. I do not think that is enough, and I think the Secretary of State for Air should advance the younger men who saw the last war to Air rank. I think that is absolutely essential.
Again, no member of the Air Council was on operations in the last war. I think there ought to be at least one member of that body who was in the last war. Then we come to the Commands throughout Britain and the world and to the Commanders-in-Chief in these Commands—Bomber Command, Fighter Command, Coastal Command, Flying Training Command, Technical Training Command, Maintenance Command, Transport Command, Reserve Command, Mediterranean and Middle East Command and Headquarters, Air Command, Far East. Not one of these Commanders-in-Chief saw operations in the last war, and I suggest that many of them should be removed. I think the younger men in the Service should be brought forward and quickly.
Lastly, I would like to quote a piece of history lately written:This was one of those awful periods which recur in our history, when the noble British nation seems to fall from its high estate, loses all trace of sense or purpose. It appears to cower from the foreign peril frothing pious platitudes while foemen forge their arms.I agree that, in 1938, there were a great many platitudes, but it seems to me that there has been a great deal of frothing 1191 in today's Debate and the Minister of Defence should eliminate it and get on with the job.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Group-Captain Wilcock (Derby)
I am following a very practical speech by the hon. Member for Holborn (Mr. Aitken), who has considerable experience in these matters, and, in particular, I should like to endorse what he says about the shortage of aircraft, which I hope the Secretary of State for Air has noted. What has happened to our aeroplanes is a matter that puzzles everyone concerned with air matters. It is, after all, only three years since we had a very large and powerful fleet in the air. One would certainly not think so nowadays by looking at R.A.F. stations or even at maintenance units. However, I have but a short time at my disposal, and I do not propose therefore to question further this shortage of aircraft.
I feel that the Minister of Defence and the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) obviously had to avoid saying what they desired to say, but I believe that we shall get nowhere unless we get to the root of this matter and decide, when we are talking of war, who it is that we are to fight and what type of war it is to be. Well, of course, we are talking about possible war with Russia, but are we talking about a long war or a short war? If we are talking about a long war, we might just as well not go to war at all, because in the end it would be just as bad if we won as if we were defeated. We must assume then that the people who are responsible for the planning of these things must be talking, not of a long war, but of a short one.
In that case, if I am right, it is a war for the Royal Air Force. It is only a few years ago since bombs and rockets were dropping in this country and on this capital, and we were under the greatest duress in this country. It was through the medium of the air, whether by winged aircraft or unwinged aircraft. Therefore, we should not be very far wrong if we were to put the major resources of our defence into the Air arm. We have a very large reserve. It is only just over three years since the end of the war, when we had a million men in the R.A.F. as pilots, navigators, air crews and 1192 mechanics, and there has not been in that time, such a great technical advance except in the case of jets. I regard this nation and this Air Force of ours as having a good enough Reserve behind it.
The hon. Member who said that we should have done something about this 18 months ago was forgetting the fact that, 18 months ago was only 18 months after the end of the war, and that that was not the time to raise large Reserves. They were already there, and they are there now. On the question of Reserves, we already have 1,000 pilots in the Volunteer Reserve, but I should like the Secretary of State to note that these 1,000 pilots, who, three years ago, were flying operationally, are today flying tiny training machines—the same sort of thing which the boys and girls in the aero clubs are flying. The better machines seem to have disappeared. We sell Oxfords to Burma and Hurricanes and Spitfires to Portugal, and I believe that, on the ground, there are today Tempests, first-class aircraft in the absence of jets, waiting to be flown to India. What they will do there I cannot imagine, unless someone is going to use them for fighting Pakistan. I say that this situation is scandalous, and that these aircraft should be made available for our Volunteer Reserve pilots.
I should also like to suggest that this air lift which is now going on provides most useful training in control and direction. We might have some of our Reserve pilots taking part in it, or, at least, watching it. That would he one way in which we could bring them a little up to date in air operations. I would go further and ask the Minister of Defence to make a suggestion to the Foreign Secretary, and I am perfectly serious about this. The Minister of Defence is not here, but perhaps the Secretary of State for Air will convey it to him. It is that he should invite the Russians to help with the air lift. It would greatly assist us and give them some experience in co-operation too.
§ The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Arthur Henderson)
The Russians can make the air lift unnecessary by removing the blockade.
§ Group-Captain Wilcock
I should like to take this opportunity to pay my tribute to the Reserves. We have rather 1193 ignored these Reserves; we always do when wars are over. We owe a very heavy debt of gratitude to the Reserves of the last war—those of the R.A.F., the Army, the Territorials, and the Navy—a debt which has never been adequately expressed either in this House or anywhere else. As far as the Air Force Reserves are concerned, before the war there were in my own unit 550 aircrew, and of that number, most of whom fought in the Battle of Britain, only 204 survived. These Reserves are regarded as though they were something quite apart from the Regular troops. If they are well treated, they are no different. It is about time that the Minister of Defence paid a tribute to these men, because if we now publicly acknowledge their value, as we never recognised the Territorials after the 1914 war, or the Auxiliaries after this last war, then I think we should get more and more recruits.
With regard to the Army, I wish to put a suggestion to the Secretary of State for War. I think I have the right to do this as I was myself a Territorial at one time. The suggestion is that private firms can often do a lot, as far as recruiting is concerned, if the matter is left to them, to form their own units. I recollect that certain concerns in this country who used to man their own aircraft batteries while others used to run a troop in the Yeomanry, and so on. It was successful and it fostered a fine esprit de corps. I do not know whether that sort of thing still exists, but I think it is well worth considering. As far as our Eastern defence is concerned, I really cannot see why our Army units have to go to the Far East at all. I should have thought that our Dominions could have provided the troops for such work, and that we, at this time of stress and anxiety, could have had our own troops in this country.
One word about the Navy. I am a great friend of the Navy when it comes to small ships, but I hope we are not going to have any more of this nonsense of putting large ships into commission, be they aircraft carriers, battleships or battle cruisers. I do not think we can afford the luxury of these mighty organs of war which, when war comes, must be tied up and camouflaged along shore. The steel used in these vessels, I feel, should be used for a better purpose, and the 1194 thousands of men who man them can ill be afforded at the present time.
Finally, I wish to refer to Civil Defence. A lot has already been said on this subject, but, while one does not want to panic about this matter, I regard the question of the guided missile, or rocket, as a very serious one, and one which must now be regarded by the Minister of Defence and his officers as a first-class issue. We are 450 miles from the nearest Russian zone in Germany and 550 miles from Czechoslovakia. I do not want to speak of atom heads or atom bombs, but simply of the ordinary rocket which, three years ago, had a considerable range, which has now, no doubt, been considerably increased. This mass production article, the V.2 rocket, is something which warrants very close study.
There is a population of eight million in this Metropolis and of 16 million in the Southern area of the country. I would like arrangements made and published now, and not when there is a real crisis, for the dispersal of those people whom it is not necessary to retain in these closely populated areas. I would like to see it done on a voluntary organisation basis and for people to be advised that it is a wise provision to make arrangements for women and children who are not required, to be ready to move out of these thickly populated areas.
I suggest to the Minister of Fuel and Power that in the next allocation of petrol coupons he should arrange for a reserve of coupons available in an emergency. If that were done now, and not when an emergency arose, it would avoid panic. I do not like talking like this any more than do other hon. Members. Everybody agrees that we do not like war and do not want it. However, I think I have a right to say this because I, like other hon. Members present, have actively experienced war and in consequence I hate war. Let us support the Foreign Secretary and His Majesty's Government right up to the hilt; let us give every consideration and sympathy to Soviet aims, but, at the same time, let us say to the Minister of Defence, "Take no chance, take no chance."
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
We have certainly had some very extraordinary suggestions from hon. Members 1195 opposite in the course of this Debate. The hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) proposed that we should abandon any thought of our own defence and leave that to the Americans. Another hon. Member said that all would be well if we declared ourselves neutral.
§ Mr. Crossman
I would point out to the hon. Member that I said exactly the opposite. I said that we should, in fact, defend ourselves, but that it was necessary to realise that we could not do so out of our own economic resources without endangering Marshall Aid.
§ Mr. Stewart
If I remember rightly, the hon. Member was going to pass over to America the responsibility for either our economic recovery or our armaments, one or the other. But the hon. and gallant Member for Derby (Group-Captain Wilcock) capped all the suggestions by proposing that the Russians might lend a hand in the air lift.
I wonder whether I might recall to the House the terms of the Motion before us. We are considering tonight the statement made by the Lord President of the Council relating to defence. That was an immensely serious statement. It was described by "The Times" as a grave and considered statement. The "Manchester Guardian" said it was a statement which was a reminder of the grave worsening of the international situation. That was how the country looked upon it. It is in the light of that statement. with all its gravity, that we are now debating the issue. The fact that in the course of that statement an announcement of this Debate on armaments was made seemed to emphasise the solemnity of the occasion, and, as the days passed and the news poured in from abroad, that view which the country had taken gained further strength, until yesterday we had that exceedingly disturbing speech from the Foreign Secretary.
In those circumstances, I think the whole nation expected from the Minister of Defence a pronouncement on policy equal to the perils which beset our country, and one in consonance with the spirit and resolution of the people. I am afraid that, again, we were greatly disappointed by the right hon. Gentleman. There were the usual "before-the-mast" tones to which we have become accustomed from 1196 the right hon. Gentleman, and the usual pompous platitudes. He told us that the hopes of an orderly return to peace had not been realised—I gathered that before—that collective security had not been achieved—a shattering piece of news, I am sure—and that, therefore, the Government would have to take a decision. That made us all sit up. I thought something was going to happen. But apart from a few relatively minor developments, any one of which could have been suggested and carried through last year without upsetting anybody's nerves or upsetting British industry, we heard no word of decision at all upon a major issue from the Minister of Defence.
We in this House begin to understand the machinations of the party opposite. It may well be that the right hon. Gentleman did not want to upset his touchy supporters whose peremptory orders he so humbly and immediately accepted last year on the issue of conscription. The fact is that the foundations of a policy in this urgent matter were evaded throughout the whole course of his speech. He deliberately avoided a decision upon the most important of all the factors affecting rearmament. Instead, on the vital question of the effect of rearmament upon industry and industrial revival, we had a demonstration of fence sitting such as the House has rarely observed. Not only did he mount the fence at the beginning, but we saw his stately progress along the fence during the whole of the Debate.
What did the right hon. Gentleman tell us? He explained the dilemma that we cannot have too big a rearmament programme because it upsets our economic revival, and that on the other hand, if we do not have some rearmament and enough national defence, we shall have no economic revival because it will all be destroyed. Of course, we knew about that; that was nothing very shattering. We had expected from the Minister some decision upon that dilemma and, whether the Government like it or not and whether it is difficult or not, the Government must decide where they stand on that dilemma. It is because they failed to indicate to us any ability to decide, that we are so greatly distressed.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that there will be some diversion, but he said there would be no serious interference 1197 with economic recovery, especially with the export drive. I think I speak for the great majority of thinking people in the country when I say that if it is true that the measures now proposed for the rearmament and defence of our nation can cause no serious interference with our recovery, those proposals are wholly and dangerously inadequate. It represents what I can only describe as a grossly inadequate appreciation of the issues involved. The right hon. Gentleman finished by saying that the situation should not be taken in any panic spirit. I wonder whether he realises the spirit of the nation. The criticism which he will find in the Press tomorrow is that there is no spirit of urgency about the approach to this problem. That is really what concerns us.
There is only one other issue that I want to raise. I do not wish to speak about manpower or the Army or the Navy. I want to speak of something about which I happen to know a little, and that is the production and supply side of this rearmament programme. I think the House is well enough versed in the history of rearmament to know that a rearmament programme does not go on a dead level; it either rises or it falls. There is no doubt that that—[Interruption.]—I am glad hon. Members appreciate the point. I think every circumstance indicates that it is going to rise, and if it is going to rise, a profound effect will be felt in all the industrial areas of the country. The figures of the men and women now employed in large factories making munitions are available. That number will be doubled and even trebled before the end of this year. How then can the right hon. Gentleman say that it will have no effect upon our economic recovery?
Had there been time, I would have read to the House extracts from last year's defence White Paper in which the right hon. Gentleman indicated in paragraph after paragraph that nothing but the most minute maintenance work was being carried on in any branch of the Service. If that work alone were recommenced, a vast programme would have to be undertaken, and we have heard some more items of it today. The truth is, to everybody's regret—and it would be far better if we were frank and admitted it to the people—that we 1198 have started a rearmament programme which will seriously and dangerously upset our whole economic revival. This policy will run quite contrary to the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as outlined riot many days ago. I give that as my considered view, and I shall be very surprised if it is not proved to be true in a matter of six months' time.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us in his speech that one condition of the revival which he was so happy to tell us about was that no unusual circumstances came along. They have come along. Here I agree to some extent with the views of the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman). If the curve of our economic recovery is going down—and I am afraid that is going to be so—somehow or other we have to get aid. We ourselves cannot undertake a great rearmament programme, which indeed we cannot escape, and at the same time increase our economic recovery. It cannot be done. While, therefore, it is necessary to make the fullest arrangements with Western Europe, the truth is that without a full arrangement with America, nothing effective can be done. The hon. Member for East Coventry is quite right in that respect.
Why was nothing said about that by the Minister of Defence? That is the crux of the whole matter. I hope the Minister who is to reply will admit that fact. Unless we have the fullest measure of understanding with America upon economic revival and upon rearmament, no success will be attained and nothing but disaster will face us and the whole of Western Europe. It is not for me to suggest what steps should be taken; one does not know the facts, one has not the figures, but the picture is clear enough for anyone to see.
A long time ago the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) spoke of the inevitability of the mixing of the economies of the American and the British peoples. I shall not be surprised if this Debate tonight marks a further stage in that mixing of fates and economies and, it may well be, constitutions. This is a great historic moment, and the Government must rise to it.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Lyttelton (Aldershot)
I think those who have listened to the Debate all through, would feel that it has 1199 been conducted with a proper sense of the very great and tense issues which are involved in the matters under discussion. This very year the right hon. Gentleman, in a Debate on defence, used these words:It is in the light of our economic situation that we have to decide what can be allocated to defence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1948; Vol. 448, c. 42.]I think today, if those words were construed literally or perhaps too literally, they would show a dangerous frame of mind, because when the clouds begin to gather, as they are now gathering, it is, I fear, the economic life of the country—and this is a point to which the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) addressed the last part of his very interesting remarks—which has to be adjusted to the needs of defence and not the needs of defence which have to be adjusted to the economic life. The fire cannot be adjusted to the fire escape; you have to adjust the fire escape to the fire, or there will not be any escape at all.
I have listened to the Debate with great attention and I think I can perhaps summarise the more detailed parts of the subject best by addressing myself to three questions. I do not propose to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) on the broadest aspects of the subject, which I think he dealt with in a very comprehensive manner—namely, those aspects of defence which are related to Western Union and to the unity of the, perhaps, six or more Powers of Western Europe from a military point of view. The hon. Member for East Coventry also regarded this subject as a most important part of any Debate conducted about defence. I think it has been fully covered, however, and I want to get down to slightly more detailed matters and to take some of the points which have been raised by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
Those three questions are, I think, something like this: first, is the plan or system of defence adequate; equally—and this is even more important—is it imaginative; secondly, have the necessary measures been taken to bring any plan to life by seeing that the necessary manpower and the necessary material and weapons are allotted to it; and, thirdly, whatever the plan or allocation, are the men now in the Armed Forces being properly trained 1200 or are they in a sense wasting their time? The answer to those three questions, I am sorry to say, I believe to be "No," except that I would make, and I will make later on, some large qualifications with regard to the third of those subjects—namely, whether the men are wasting their time.
My right hon. Friend laid down in much better, broader and more precise terms than any official document what are the tasks which we expect the Armed Forces to fill. The same applies to Civil Defence. When I ask whether the plan is adequate, it is the same as asking, are those tasks which my right hon. Friend described being met under the present system? I think not.
Let me turn first to the Army in this matter, because there the problem is seen at its most difficult. The reason the Army cannot carry out the task which we expect it to carry out is not very far to seek. In fact, I need go no further than an official document which has already been referred to in the Debate and which has been widely circulated, especially to hon. Members of this House. It is called "The National Army of Britain." It is issued by the War Office. On page 4 of that document we read these words:The new concept, therefore, is to merge whole-time, part-time and volunteer soldiers into a good, balanced, National Army of Britain.So far so good. It goes on:This is planned to be in operation as from January, 1950.This paragraph alone would suffice to show, I think, the deep error into which His Majesty's Government have fallen. They have planned an Army on the assumption that peace will be unbroken until January, 1951. I will explain the difference between that date and the date in the document. Although the formations of the Territorial Army begin to take life and vigour in January, 1950, it is not until January, 1951, that we can expect the scheme to reach its full maturity. Whether it is a right judgment or not, that peace will be unbroken until 1951, we do not know. It is beside the point I am trying to make.
I say two things are certain. First—and it is a point which has been stressed on many sides of the House—if we are strong, our diplomacy will be more successful than it has been—and certainly that is not saying much. I should find 1201 it hard to point to any successes, except in a very limited field, which our diplomacy has had since the present Government came into power. Secondly, I doubt very much if it is ever wise to plan armies or armed forces on the assumption that they will not be needed for a long time to come, but if to plan on the long-term on the assumption of unbroken peace were ever excusable, in such circumstances as those in which the Government find themselves now it is entirely inexcusable. It is not as though this storm had blown up suddenly out of a blue sky. If it had, allowances could be made. But the storm has been gathering since the early part of 1946, and everyone has seen it coming, except, perhaps. Ministers. The barometer has been there, but it is the men on the bridge who have not read it, but have continued to keep the fine weather sunshine awnings over the promenade decks.
There are about 800,000 men and women in the Armed Forces, and the cost of our Defence Services is no less than £692 million a year. I am ignoring the £600,000 voted for the Ministry of Defence, because I am not at all sure that that sum is devoted to the causes of defence. Now this sum of £692 million will have to go up. I should like to be more precise, but I am not being more precise for the reason that I do not think it would be responsible to be so, but if in terms of the Army or the Air Force the nation knew how many operational units and formations were available west of Berlin at this time, they would confirm what I said at another time, that the Ministry of Defence is a monument of incompetence and extravagance.
I will give one small example. Would the country be surprised to know that a large number—and, I think, by far the greater number—of the men in the Guards Brigade that recently was sent to Malaya had had only a few weeks' training? I think it would be true to say that a large number of them had not even completed their weapon training.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Shinwell)
Could the right hon. Gentleman produce any evidence in support of that allegation?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I am asking the question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Making a 1202 statement."] I said, I think it would be true to say. Let me be perfectly frank. I should be only too glad to have the report which I have derived from serving officers in that brigade—[Interruption.] I should be only too glad to have it denied. If it is contradicted I want to know how many of the men, what percentage, are of what the right hon. Gentleman would call trained troops, half-trained troops, and of those who have not even completed their weapon training. I should be only too delighted to have from the most authoritative sources on this subject a denial of the report that serving officers in the Brigade have told me. Whilst the right hon. Gentleman is starting on his good work, perhaps he would like to add today what is the number of operational squadrons, particularly bombing squadrons, of the Royal Air Force which are available at this moment in this country.
There is always a tendency—and this has been referred to by the hon. Member for East Coventry—for democratic countries to try to keep themselves in preparation for war on a scale which does not interfere with their economic life.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
That was an unfortunate reference of the hon. Member, because he did not mention that the Labour Party voted against conscription in 1939. They are on record again and again before the war as having voted against all measures of rearmament. But I am not quarreling with the hon. Member. When he gets to his feet I always assume a pose of being willing to learn; and he always assumes a pose of being willing to teach. My difficulty is that he never teaches the same thing on two days running, but this is the first time, I think, that he has altered his doctrine between 7.30 and 9; it generally takes him a day or two. He may not believe me, but on this occasion I am rather agreeing with much that he said, which is no doubt a shock to his system.
I feel pretty certain that His Majesty's Government's present advisers are in the state of mind when they think that rearmament can take place without any interference with our economic life. The hon. Gentleman ought to get busy with his own Front Bench, because it was not 1203 later than this morning that the Minister of Supply, according to the Press, gave out words, something like this: "At present the increased manufacture of supplies for the services is having no significant effect on civilian industry,"—they are having no significant effect on rearmament— and later on: "The increased output was not being achieved by interrupting work on civilian orders." and so forth.
What other explanation can be offered of this state of mind when the Chancellor of the Exchequer ignored altogether the possible effects of rearmament upon his economic programme? This is where the hon. Member for East Coventry is now beginning to nod his head because he sees that I am on the same side of the fence as he is on. So far as I can remember, the Chancellor of the Exchequer made only one oblique reference to rearmament in the whole of his not unlengthy speech upon the subject of our economic position. It is, in fact, impossible to make any serious contribution to rearmament without affecting the economic recovery of the country.
The other part of my question is: Is the plan imaginative? By that, I mean has the ratio between the three Armed Forces taken proper account of our geographical position as an island, and does the ratio show any imagination or even any sensible speculation about the nature of future wars in which we may become involved? I do not think that we can from this side of the House pronounce judgment upon this without very much more information, and the policy of the Ministry of Defence is the defence of Government information from any intrusion by the Opposition or by anyone else. It is very noticable that the Royal Air Force is now far below the size which my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), with all his experience of these matters, thought desirable when he gave the figures which have been quoted this afternoon to the House. I still think—and I have said it before in these Debates on many occasions—that the R.A.F. should be comparatively—I do not mean absolutely, but comparatively—the strongest of the three Forces.
When we turn to the Army, I should have expected to see a plan, the core of which would have been a numerically 1204 small but highly armoured and mechanised field force. If I may remind hon. Members of a remarkable book by General Von Seckt, he wrote in 1928:The whole future of warfare appears to me to lie in the employment of mobile armies. relatively small, of high quality.I still think this is the general trend of military thought today. It has a particular significance for us in these islands—
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
I only wish that the right hon. Gentleman and his party had read that statement and understood it in 1928 instead of 1948.
I do not wish to have to go back on this occasion, but perhaps the Labour Party should have understood that war was imminent when they voted against conscription in 1939. That was a time when they repeated again and again their unwillingness that the country should rearm. It comes ill from the hon. Gentleman to raise his objection.
Let me get back to what I think should be a clear conception of how our military forces should be run in this respect. We are an island with very large responsibilities and a small population, but we are the most highly industrialised country in the world. Therefore, we would expect to see military thought based on the idea of the highest possible fire power being developed per man, raised to that point by the use of the country's industries.
My last point may seem too obvious, but surely a defence plan must begin by deciding what numbers of divisions, formations, operational squadrons or ships in the Fleet we are going to maintain. I may be doing the right hon. Gentleman an injustice, although I think it would be difficult to do so, but from what we know, at any rate so far as the Army is concerned, just the other method has been pursued. Some arbitrary figures have apparently been taken, and then studies made afterwards of what formations will fit into them. If the Secretary of State wants to controvert this, perhaps he will tell us how many divisions there are on a war footing now available in this country to be sent to any part of the world. If he is so explosive and anxious to correct me, I put that question to him now, and then we will hear what he has to say.
1205 The only other question is in regard to the rôle of the Regular Army. It is largely relegated at this moment to training other troops. For example, the Second Battalion of the Grenadier Guards, in which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) and, for that matter, myself have a particular interest, is now a mere school for N.C.Os., and they are, I think, throwing themselves very heartily into that work. I do not think it will be possible to maintain a very high technical and professional standard among our Regular officers, N.C.Os. or men if they are to be relegated largely to a life of training other troops, which is more or less inherent in the right hon. Gentleman's plans. I am not a rowing man, but I understand that you cannot make a good eight unless you allow people to row in the eight—the right hon. Gentleman puts them on the bank with a megaphone and they are expected to tell other people how to do it.
I want to turn now to the question whether adequate measures have been taken to give substance to any plan by call-up of men to the Forces and by the supply of weapons. I am afraid that the answer to that question is "no." The result of having made a fundamentally unsound plan—the long-term plan which presumes unbroken peace—is that the three Services are more or less far short of what they should be in immediate value. This applies much less to the Navy than to the other two Services. In the Navy the principal shortage is in specialists, as has been described in this Debate, and no doubt some measures will have to be taken to improve their conditions of service if this is to be put right.
The Royal Air Force is an entirely distorted force. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) has said, 53 per cent. of the Royal Air Force are now short-service National Service men. The whole basis of the Royal Air Force is now distorted because no proper regard has been had to its position as a striking force, and all this on balance—[Interruption.] I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, if he does not know the figure, that I am quoting the correct one. This is all the more important because from 1st January, 1949, the Royal Air Force will have to absorb National Service men with one year's engagement. Up till now National Ser- 1206 vice men have been on a longer engagement than that. One of the reasons why I think the striking power of the Royal Air Force is so very inadequate is that they have been asked to absorb too many short-service men in relation to the task they are expected to fulfil.
It is when we come particularly to the Army that we see how difficult it is to escape from the primary and fundamental error into which the Government have fallen. At the present rate of intake the Regular Army will not be up to strength for more than 18 months. Perhaps the Secretary of State for War would like to confirm that. The Territorial Army is relying on the success of the recruiting campaign, in which we on this side of the House will give every assistance in our power. The Army will not reach its required strength until 1st January, 1950, and not until 1st January, 1951, will the Territorial Army have enough fully trained men in its ranks to be an effective force.
I can only touch on the industrial or material side of preparations for defence. Like other Members on this side of the House, I saw an article in the "Evening Standard" of 6th September which was headed, "America's war plants get phantom orders." That is not quite the same plant as shadow factories. The sub-heading was, "The U.S.A. gears up its industrial machine in a bid to 'save a year' if there is World War III." The plan which is being carried out in the United States is one by which phantom orders are placed with industries. They are expected to notify the Government of their requirements of machine tools, manpower and steel if those orders became substantive. I can say from my own experience that industry in this country has received no mobilisation plans whatever, and that no discussions have taken place whatever in the event of an emergency. There is no shadow plan. I cannot see any harm in getting on with this job as quickly as possible. Many months can be saved if industry is told what it is expected to do if war breaks out. Measures of great value can be adopted which would not interrupt the present peace-time production of our industries.
My last point—and I am particularly glad to mention it, because it will give some satisfaction to the Secretary of State for War—is whether the men being called 1207 up now are being properly trained. About a year ago, or a little more, if we had asked this question we should have been given a more gloomy answer than the one which can be given today. I expect Members read with great interest and satisfaction the two articles by General Martin in the "Daily Telegraph" recently, in which he gave a very encouraging account of present-day training. He described how the men are called up for training in the A.B.T.U. for 10 weeks, and said that accommodation was first-class, amenities well planned and training lively and well organised. The War Office arc given a great many kicks, but I think that on this point we can at least congratulate them on their achievement. General Martin also gave a further account of the next period of service with the Army of Occupation in Germany. I have been at some pains to check up on what General Martin says, and I get information from my old connections in the Army.
At the same time, I must tell the Secretary of State for War that the soldier who does not go to Germany after his 10 weeks in A.B.T.U.—about which I find very little criticism—but is drafted to a unit in England has a very different experience. I am told that, having got a good impression of the Army when drafted to another unit in England, a soldier finds that his time is largely wasted in menial duties like peeling potatoes and things of that kind. So I think that on the third of these questions the answer as far as one can see from an unofficial position in the House is that being in the Army is first rate except in this one respect.
In conclusion, I do not think that anyone on this side of the House is at all likely to under-rate the essential difficulties of the task which the Minister of Defence undertook when he assumed the office he now holds with the good wishes of the whole House. The fact is he has made very little impression upon the problems with which he was presented. It is a fundamental mistake to plan Armed Forces so that they can make little or no contribution to our present needs, to plan Armed Forces at such long term that immediate striking or field forces are allowed to run down for the benefit of organisation in the far future. 1208 The Regular Army officer cannot be expected to retain his lively interest in his profession if he is going to be relegated all his life to the role of training troops. The right hon. Gentleman will have to do something about training so that Regular Army officers will be more in command and control of their own troops. If their effort is going into training other troops than their own we shall end up with having an army of pedagogues and not soldiers. Certainly they have not got tired of it yet.
The impression left upon the House by the statement to which we listened this afternoon is that we are not getting value for the interruption of the lives of our young men—a very serious thing in a country like this which is short of labour—caused by conscription and the call-up and we are receiving very little value for the £692,600,000 per annum which this country is spending apparently on an ineffective, ill-designed and badly coordinated plan of defence.
§ 9.19 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Shinwell)
Apart from some caustic comments about my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, which were thoroughly undeserved, this Debate has been conducted in a spirit of realism. I did detect in some of the speeches to which I listened some attempt to denigrate the efforts of the Government in the sphere of national defence. As I shall be able to show the House, this country has not sunk as low as some people appear to imagine. Relative to the size of the country, to the number of people in it and to our resources, we are much stronger than we are often represented to be.
There is, undoubtedly, concern about the present international situation, and inevitably some concern about the state of our national defences. At the same time, among hon. Members there is a large measure of agreement on specific issues. For example, we agree without question in the desire to pursue a peaceful policy and to be on terms of amity with our neighbours and with the world at large. We can claim that, in that desirable direction, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, if he has met with disappointment and it may be with failure, has not done so for the want of trying. 1209 At any rate, on that matter at least there is general agreement. I suggest that there is agreement also on the need for maintaining adequate defence in the present state of international tension. Whatever our views may be on this side of the House or on that, we have no intention of being intimidated or blackmailed. It is our purpose, relative to our strength, to take whatever means are available to us, and, it may be, in concert with other peaceloving nations in order to resist aggression. On these matters there is agreement, but there we part company.
The gravamen of the charge against the Government, as I understood from the speeches made on the other side of the House, was that we had no plan and that, even if we had a plan, we refused to divulge the contents of that plan to the Opposition and to the world at large. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Further, whether we had a plan or not, the Opposition knew that it was inadequate.
§ Mr. Shinwell
It is much too early for that kind of interruption. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] I have only just risen to my feet, Mr. Speaker, and I have only uttered a few preliminary sentences. [HON. MEMBERS: "Quite enough."] The right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), who expressed himself in censorious tones about the Government—[Interruption.] Let me state the substance of my case and then perhaps I will give way, if the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) has anything to say.
In addition to the charge presented by the generality of hon. Members opposite, the right hon. Member for Aldershot made a most astonishing, and, if I may say so, unfounded allegation. It is no use the right hon. Gentleman saying in that naive way he can assume on odd occasions, that he was merely posing a question. He made a specific allegation which was that the Guardsmen who were recently sent to Malaya, had among them a very large proportion who had had only a few weeks' basic training. We had better get the facts, and it would not do the right hon. Gentleman any harm if 1210 he tried to ascertain the facts before he delivered himself of accusations of that kind. I say that advisedly, because it must be obvious to all who have listened to hon. and gallant Members on that side that they have queer and devious ways of getting at what they believe are the facts, although it appears to me that sometimes they are misled.
At any rate, what are the facts? First of all I should like to say this—because the matter has been mentioned on this side of the House as well as that—that although I have the highest respect for the Guards Regiments, there is nothing sacrosanct about the Guards in comparison with other units in the Army, and why there should be such a hullabaloo about Guards Regiments being sent to Malaya I really cannot understand. At any rate, let me assure hon. Members on all sides of the House that it was done on expert military advice.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Of the Brigade of Guards sent to Malaya, only 400 men were conscripts. I mean they were National Service men. Although the National Service Act has not come into operation as yet, that is a piece of information that hon. Members opposite might take note of, because they have been speaking about National Service men throughout this Debate. At any rate, the majority of the men in the Brigade of Guards despatched to Malaya were Regular members of the Forces and not a single man was sent to Malaya without having at least six months' basic training.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I am sorry to obtain official confirmation of what I have said from the right hon. Gentleman. If it is thought that a trained soldier can be made in six months, perhaps he will explain why the Government originally proposed to have 18 months' training for conscripts.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman—I say this with the best will in the world—must understand that some of us are also accustomed to Parliamentary dialectics. It is a feeble attempt on his part to indulge in this manoeuvre, and it deceives nobody at all. The fact of the matter is that he made a definite 1211 accusation and it happened to be slightly inaccurate, and there it is.
Let us try to see the background to this national defence position. Without looking at the background, it is quite impossible to appreciate the position in which we find ourselves today. First, it was the purpose of the Government at the end of the war, quite rightly, to restore the national economy. Who would object to that? Do hon. Members opposite object to that course being undertaken by the Government? Was it not essential in the circumstances to make every effort to avail ourselves of all our resources in manpower and material in order to restore the national economy? We had to consider immediately thereafter, the conflict between civil and defence requirements, and that conflict has been maintained ever since the close of the war. That it assumes a more intense form at the present time is not due to any act on the part of this Government; it is due to international circumstances over which this Government has no control whatsoever, for the reason that we do not happen to be the Government of the United States of America or the Government of Soviet Russia, but just the Government of the United Kingdom.
We have been told by hon. Members opposite that not only do we fail to disclose a plan, but that we are not giving value for the money now being expended on the Defence Forces. I repudiate those suggestions entirely. Let us consider the position. What has been overlooked in the course of these Debates is the range of our overseas commitments. We have commitments in the Middle East. Surely it is not suggested that we should abandon those commitments? We have commitments in Malaya. Certainly nobody on the opposite side of the House would dare to suggest that we should set aside our commitments in that field. We have commitments in Trieste, we have commitments in Western Germany, and we have commitments in other parts of the world.
Those overseas commitments denote the presence of a large body of trained, and some not so well trained, troops in those theatres. It is completely beside the point to suggest that this country possesses no Army when, in face of those commitments, we are able to send our 1212 troops there and, what is more, we are able to maintain them in a self-sustained fashion such as never existed before the last war. Before the last war when two or three battalions were sent abroad, they lived on the country itself. They were able to use the civilian population, and then there was no long administrative tail to which hon. Members now object. But now troops that are sent to the Middle East, troops that are sent to Malaya, those that are sent to Trieste, Austria and B.A.O.R. are self-contained. We have not only got the teeth but the tail as well. That is the position. That is a very vital factor in the background relating to the defence position.
Moreover, account has not been taken of the rate and efficiency of our demobilisation arrangements. At the end of the war we had more than five million men in the Forces. At the beginning of this year we had round about one million men. At the beginning of this month we had round about 800,000 men. When hon. Members opposite complain that we have no plan, I would remind them that there has been a plan, a coherent plan that can be understood, a plan that can be explained and has been explained in this House, but a plan related to the rundown of the Army in relation to the then international situation. But, of course, a change has come about in the international situation—[Laughter.]—
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is that a subject for ribaldry? Are we to understand that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite become derisive when the subject of international tension is mentioned? Are we to understand that they find a little pleasure in the fact that there should be international tension as a result of which—
§ Mr. Shinwell
—we may have to impair our national economy and interfere with our export drive? Would that satisfy right hon. Gentlemen opposite?
§ Mr. Eden
We have done our utmost on this side of the House to support the Government in their Foreign policy—[Interruption]—We have. I have done my utmost today to make constructive 1213 suggestions, and I am entitled to say that the people on this side of the House have suffered a loss in war as serious as hon. Gentlemen on that side. We have suffered as much as the right hon. Gentleman suffered, and I resent deeply the tone of his remarks.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
On a point of Order. Is it in Order for an hon. Gentleman to call the Secretary of State for War a rat?
§ Mr. Shinwell
If the right hon. Gentleman opposite resents the tone of my remarks, I would remind him that there has been a constant effort to denigrate not only the Government but the defences of this country in the eyes of the world, and I can imagine nothing more unhelpful in the present situation.
§ Mr. Shinwell
We have been told that this country has never sunk so low. That is the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition. Therefore, they must be prepared for a reply. The right hon. Gentleman himself said that he had put a constructive case, and I am going to come to that right away. What is the constructive case which the right hon. Gentleman put? He asked for detailed information about the state of our defences, and he referred me to the Finletter Report in the United States. The Finletter Report contains certain information about the state of the air defences of the United States. We are not yet in a position to furnish information of a detailed character, and, if I am asked to reply why we cannot furnish such information, my answer is that at the present moment we prefer to say as little as possible about it. Nevertheless, the Government agree that both hon. Members and the public in this country are entitled to as much information as we can furnish consistent with security, and that information will be given at the earliest possible moment.
The next point the right hon. Gentleman raised was the question of the use of manpower, particularly in the Army, which was also mentioned by the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttel- 1214 ton). I want to make a confession to the House. It is just as well to be frank about it. I am far from satisfied with the use of manpower in the Army. We have recently conducted an investigation, and, although the report submitted to us contains some exaggerations, I am satisfied—and I believe my military advisers are satisfied—that much requires to be done before the men we take into the Army—and I am speaking in particular of the men under compulsion to serve in the Army—receive a high proportion of military training. That matter is being dealt with at the present time.
We had to conduct the investigation to find out how matters stood. It is perfectly true that a large number of men are employed on non-military tasks—fatigues, guard duties and work that ordinarily could be undertaken by civilian employees. But we cannot afford to employ a large body of civilian employees in the Army at the present time. We are employing a number of them, but we cannot raise that ceiling to too high a level. The country cannot afford it, and therefore many men in the Services are working on administrative and nonmilitary tasks which obviously affect their training. However, the matter is in hand and instructions have been issued to the various Commands, and I venture the opinion that, before long, we shall have this matter put right.
As regards the sale of surplus material, it is perfectly true that, after the war, we sought to dispose of a great mass of surplus material thrown up from the aftermath of war; but recently we reached the conclusion that it would be unwise to send abroad, except to the Commonwealth countries and certain other countries, material which might be better used in this country in the event of an emergency. That is the situation.
The question has been raised of the position of the Reserves. That brings me to the general question of manpower in the Defence Services. What is the actual position? A lot has been said about recruitment, and our failure to recruit an adequate body of men in the last 18 months or two years. What are the facts? As regards the Army itself, we have actually been recruiting to the Regular Army, on long and short-service engagements, at the rate of 32,000 a year That is far in excess of the figure of Regular 1215 recruitment before the war, and, on the whole, it must be regarded as satisfactory, particularly in view of full employment in this country.
As regards the Royal Navy, the position is, on the whole, satisfactory—certainly as satisfactory as it is in the Army—but I am ready to concede that in the Royal Air Force the position is very unsatisfactory indeed. Let me make the position quite clear. Something has been said about the numbers of Regulars employed in the Royal Air Force. The fact of the matter is that, at the beginning of the last war, the Royal Air Force had only 100,000 Regulars, and during the war—taking the war as a whole, the period of the war's duration—90 per cent. of the men in the Royal Air Force were under compulsion to serve during the emergency. During the war, moreover, there was practically no regular recruitment. That applies to the Army, and, to a large extent, to the Royal Navy as well. The result is that because men in the Regular Forces had served their engagements—many of them had even served their Reserve Service, had undertaken completely their Reserve liability—and because we were not recruiting to the extent we were before the war, and as we have done recently, we have not the same number of Regulars available in the Royal Air Force that we would desire.
It has been suggested that in order to step up recruitment, we should offer more desirable monetary incentives. I fully agree with those who want for the men in the Forces—I refer to the men in he three Services—the highest possible rates of remuneration and the best possible conditions. If I may say so, we have done something to reach that objective. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has done something in the Pay Code, and has recently given a promise that the whole matter will be reviewed, and that an announcement will be made next Session. In the case of the Army, at any rate, we have made a real attempt to improve the accommodation for the men. The same applies to the other Services.
I do not believe that monetary incentives alone will bring all the Regular recruits into the Army and the Royal Air Force that we desire. For example, is it 1216 suggested that, if we increased the pay of the men in the Royal Air Force in the next month or so by 1s. or 2s. a day, there would be a great rush of recruits? We do not believe anything of the sort. What we do believe, however, is that if we can improve the conditions in the Forces, many of the men who are serving under compulsion—the conscripts—and, next year, many of the National Service men, if they are satisfied that the conditions in the Forces are satisfactory, may be induced to remain in the Forces. Therefore, it will have a certain advantage. It is because of the difficulty of obtaining an adequate supply of regular recruits that we have had to turn to National Service and examine the Reserve position.
As regards National Service, it has not yet come into operation. It will commence at the beginning of next year, and all that I can say about it is that in the general review which the Government are about to undertake—indeed, they have already begun it—of the position relating to manpower in the Forces, the question of the length of National Service will not be overlooked. I cannot say any more than that; I cannot anticipate legislation before the legislation is actually prepared, but nevertheless my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, the Service Ministers and the Government as a whole are bound to take note of the submissions made by hon. Members in relation to the inadequacy of National Service. [An HON. MEMBER; "Why?"] Well, at any rate we take note of them. Whether we agree with them or not is a matter to be considered in future.
§ Mr. Bellenger
What does my right hon. Friend mean by that statement? This has come as a surprise to a good many of us. Does he mean that the Government are now considering the possible amendment of the National Service Act?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I have not said that the Government are considering a possible amendment of the National Service Act. The Government are considering the state of manpower in the Forces, and in that review obviously the National Service Act liability is bound to be considered—no more than that.
What is the position in relation to the Reserves? Every person who served in 1217 the late war until the end of the emergency, is in Class Z Reserve, and in the event of an emergency and a Proclamation, can be called up. That is the position. We have already in train the machinery for call-up. That is in the hands of the Ministry of Labour and National Service. If an emergency did arise the men would be called up by groups and, having responded, would be transferred to their units, sorted out, and transferred to particular units in which they must actually serve.
There is another Reserve to which I wish to make reference, and that is Class B Reserve. That consists of a fairly substantial body of men, particularly in the Army, who have completed their Regular service and are in receipt of a retaining fee. They can be called up under Proclamation, and it may well be that we can call them up without Proclamation in certain circumstances. That matter is now being looked at, but I do not care to make a definite pronouncement upon it. Out of that Class B Reserve, men can be transferred to Class A Reserve where they can be called up without Proclamation, but I am bound to admit that the number of men who have transferred to Class A Reserve, where they can be called up without Proclamation, is very few indeed.
In face of these facts—and some of these facts are somewhat unpleasant—we have to consider what further steps can be undertaken. First of all, what about the Territorial Army? There has been some criticism by hon. and gallant Members opposite about our Territorial Army campaign. What I say about the Territorial Army campaign applies equally to the campaign for the other auxiliary Forces. It is suggested that we shall not get the men unless we are more inspiring in our methods. All I can say is that the President of the Territorial Army campaign is Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery, and if Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery is uninspiring, I do not know of anybody in the country who is likely to be proved more suitable. In our opinion, Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery is the appropriate person who should make the appeal to the men in the country who served in the Army during the war to join the Territorial Forces of the country.
What have we done to the Territorial Army? A campaign began last year. 1218 It is true we have not been as successful as we would have liked to have been, but we have actually recruited 61,000 men and women in the Territorial Army itself. A number have gone out because of natural wastage and at the present time the numbers in the Territorial Army are 55,000 men and women. We want 150,000. Hon. Members opposite and hon. Members on this side of the House, with many influential people in the country, have responded favourably to our request to participate in the forthcoming campaign—because the campaign has not yet been started—and as a result we hope to prove successful.
We do not want the men in the Territorial Army exclusively for the purpose of training the National Service men. Much of the training of the National Service men will be undertaken by men in the Regular Services; we want the men in the Territorial Army not only to assist in the training of National Service men, but also for the purpose of being the leaders in the Territorial Army when the National Service men have to undertake their Territorial Reserve liability at the end of 1949. That is the position, and on the whole, we are not dissatisfied with the rate of progress that has already been made. I can add that only in the last few weeks we have made further progress in particular areas in connection with the Territorial campaign—that is to say, the local campaign, not the national campaign, because the local campaign has been proceeding all along.
As regards an additional Reserve, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence indicated, we have promoted a scheme which is called the Registered Reservist Scheme and the intention is to invite men to register in particular areas where they are known to local commanders, and when they have done so to call them up if and when difficulties arise, particularly in relation to the Anti-Aircraft Command. We require that this scheme should be effective because, if we have the power to call up such men—these men being willing; the fact that they have volunteered to join this Registered Reserve indicating their willingness—we save a great deal of time in the call-up. Otherwise, if we rely upon ordinary reservists, even the Class Z Reserve, we shall occupy a great deal of 1219 time in making the necessary arrangements, and that will lead to considerable delay. These steps have already been taken.
I come now to the general plan for the future. The first thing I have to say is this—and this is a reply to my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) and to others who have suggested that we must engage in conversations and, indeed, to come to arrangements with countries in Western Europe. the Commonwealth countries and the United States of America. Hon. Members may take it from me that these matters—these very important and vital matters in relation to the defence of this country and, indeed, defence against aggression as a whole—have not been overlooked. Conversations have already taken place. Conversations are proceeding at the present time. Conversations are proceeding not only in relation to strategy, but also—and this is a reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Elland (Mr. Cobb)—on the subject of equipment, particularly in relation to research and design and modernised weapons. All these matters are now being considered and, therefore, it is not for hon. Members opposite to complain that there is no plan of campaign at all. There is a plan of campaign, but that plan of campaign is being related to the situation that has developed in the last few months.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry in the course of a very interesting speech, when he presented a very interesting point of view which I will pass on to the Foreign Secretary, namely, that the United States of America should make itself financially responsible for Western European rearmament, also stated that at the present time we have the fewest fighting units on record. That is quite wrong. I am sorry he made such a statement, because it simply is not true. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is."] At no time during peace have we ever had more men available—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah"]—more men in mechanised units, more men highly trained, more men technically qualified than we have at the present time. But those men, as I have already indicated, are scattered all over the world. That was not the position that obtained before the war.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Simply because I have not time, and because hon. Members opposite created quite a lot of noise in their interruptions and took up a great deal of my time. I must say a word about Civil Defence in reply to the acting Leader of the Opposition, and I have obtained from the Home Secretary a considered statement in reply to his question. The question put to me was, How far are the principles laid down for the organisation of Civil Defence in the last war being adhered to? The reply is this.
There will have to be some kind of Civil Defence organisation on a local basis and the detailed organisation is being considered in consultation with representatives of local authorities. [Interruption.] I cannot understand that that is a matter for laughter, because, obviously, we must consult the local authorities. These local services will require to be supplemented by nationally organised mobile columns, and the working out of this organisation is being undertaken by the Civil Defence Joint Planning Staff. So far as the use of materials for Civil Defence purposes is concerned, the general economic consideration mentioned by the Minister of Defence will have to be taken into account.
When I am asked what is to be the division of responsibility between the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence, I reply; the Home Secretary is generally responsible for Civil Defence and for the co-ordination of the various services, but a number of other Ministers have some responsibility for particular measures. The Minister of Defence has no direct responsibility for the organisation of Civil Defence, but is closely associated with the other Ministers concerned in the formulation of policy and in the preparation of plans.
Many hon. and right hon. Members have asked many questions to which I am unable to reply simply because there is not time. This is a very big subject, and so many questions have been addressed to me that it would take several hours to reply to all of them in debate. I will do my very best, in association with my Service colleagues, to reply to these questions subsequently, particularly on the specific points of detail, and hon. 1221 Members can rest assured they will hear more about them.
I conclude by reminding the House of what I said at the outset. We pursue a policy of peace. At the same time we are determined, with all the power at our command, to resist aggression.
§ Mr. Shinwell
On that subject we are completely united. Consistent with our national security we are not prepared to take steps to impair the national economy. We seek to close the gap in the balance of payments. According to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his heartening statement the other day, we are within reach of closing that gap. That is the first purpose of this Government. Nevertheless, we shall not overlook the needs of the country in maintaining an adequate national defence.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the statement made by the Lord President of the Council on 14th September relating to Defence.