§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. A. V. Alexander)
I beg to move,That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1949 (Command 7631).It is a sign of the seriousness of the times through which we are passing, that any pronouncement on defence by the Government at the present time is subjected by informed opinion of every shade to the most careful scrutiny and comment. That has already been the case since the White Paper was laid on 15th February. I would invite attention to the first paragraph of the White Paper, which states the three basic elements of the problems which face us in taking decisions on defence policy today. These are: long-term reconstruction; readiness for action in any sudden emergency; and meeting current world-wide commitments. None can be neglected and the Government's response has to have regard to them all. If it were otherwise, it would be quite unrealistic. It is a response based on the compelling necessities of the world today, and one which must command the support of all hon. Members who are concerned to safeguard the vital interests of our country.
In making any general survey of defence policy, there is inevitably a problem of selection in the time that is available. I hope, therefore, to receive the indulgence of the House if I concentrate only on some of the main issues before us, leaving other points, in which I know hon. Members are interested, to be taken up as may be convenient in one or other of the Service Estimates Debates which will be taking place shortly.
Since March, 1948, there have been several developments of the highest importance. In the field of collective defence there has been the signature of the Brussels Treaty and the creation of the defence organisation which is required under it. There has also been the initiation of the discussions now proceeding in Washington in regard to the North Atlantic area. With regard to our own Defence Services, the main developments have been the measures of re-equipment involving new production that we have put in hand following the emergency decisions announced in September last and the decision of Parliament embodied in the Bill passed in December last to 542 restore, from now onwards, the period of service of those recruited for whole-time National Service to 18 months. All of these matters are of high consequence to our plans, and I must deal with each in turn.
I start with developments in the field of collective defence. As everybody knows, we have done our very best, not only as a Government but in the general attitude of our whole nation, to make the United Nations organisation effective, and it is certainly not the fault of the Government or of this country that we have been disappointed. But within the general scope of the principles of the United Nations, there is still room for organising collective security, which is contemplated by, for example, the provisions of Article 51 of the Charter. It is abundantly clear in the present world situation that we have to go on on this basis. It has always been our belief that we have to act collectively, because it is quite impossible to think in the world as it is today that we can plan effectively to secure the defence of one country alone. We have given practical expression to this view in the arrangements entered into with France and the Benelux countries.
The political significance of the signature of the Treaty of Brussels a year ago was recognised throughout the world. The signature of that Treaty—significant as it was—was but the first step in the process of building a strong and effective combination with our near neighbours to defend in common our Western heritage of law and liberty, while setting ourselves, also under the provisions of the Treaty, to develop those cultural and social bonds that form the basis of our common conceptions of the dignities of civilised life. It has been the work of the past year to take the necessary practical steps to give force and content to that association by the systematic building up of, the Western Union Defence Organisation. A great deal has been achieved in less than 12 months in that direction.
Some account of the organisation which has been set up will be found in paragraphs 14–22 of the White Paper, but I wish to describe more fully the work that we have done and are trying to do. The five Ministers of Defence have met on three occasions in the last nine months and we shall be meeting again shortly 543 at The Hague. We have had the assistance of a very able international secretariat and staffs, and we have made considerable progress. At the first meeting in London last May, we established our Committee and approved the framework of the organisation by which the Western Union Chiefs of Staff would assist us in the field of strategic planning. This Western Union Chiefs of Staff Committee, which has been well served by the Military Committee, has dealt with a wide range of problems of common interest. In particular it evolved the plans for the creation of a nucleus Command Organisation which would be able in time of peace to plan effectively for the full co-operation under unified command of the Defence Forces of the Five Powers in Europe at the very outset of an emergency.
In Paris in September we set up this Western Union Command Organisation. The officers appointed to the posts then created are known to the House through the White Paper, and I should like to say how glad we were that Field-Marshal Montgomery was chosen for the position he occupies there after his already distinguished service. It should be made clear that the staff working for the Commanders-in-Chief Committee includes also senior Belgian, Dutch and Luxembourg officers. That the revolutionary nature of the new defence development in Europe should not have excited more comment is perhaps a sign of the times. It is now commonly recognised that the conditions of modern warfare do not permit us to think in terms of the strategy of individual countries. Accordingly, there must be a free association between like-minded powers and a readiness to pool their resources for common defence.
The organisation under Field-Marshal Montgomery has been established for some months and is studying the tactical problems of the defence of Western Europe and preparing plans for action in any sudden emergency. Its work is a clear indication of our will and purpose to stand four-square to the difficulties of the present international situation, and there is no doubt that its significance is fully recognised by our friends throughout the world. In his recent report on the National Military Establishment, Mr. Forrestal, the United States Secretary of 544 Defense, indicated the importance which the United States attach to these developments, and has also indicated something which was repeated in very good terms by the Leader of the Opposition in his appeal to the country the other night that it was not only organisation that is required, but that it is the will and spirit of peoples determined to defend their liberties that is required.
At the same meeting in Paris, we also created the Western Union Military Supply Board to work in parallel with the Western Union Chiefs of Staff and to advise us on the supply problem which is the critical element in the defence preparedness of all the Powers concerned. Supply holds the key to the present situation and it is the duty of the Supply Board to advise on ways and means of providing weapons and equipment including the co-ordination of plans for the development of a balanced war potential. Assisted by their Supply Executive Committee, they have already made a comprehensive review of the defence production capacity of each of the five countries, of the possibilities of expansion and of the conditions which will have to be satisfied to fulfil those possibilities. This work will, among other things, show the extent to which Western Union production, after taking full account of all means of mutual self-help, can go towards providing the necessary equipment. This is of the utmost consequence in relation to any discussions which may take place with representatives of the United States on the method of putting into force any plans required for military aid to Western Europe. I should add that in the Supply Board, as in the Chiefs of Staff Committee, we have been glad to welcome Canadian and the United States officers who participate in the meetings as nonmembers. I am sure that their close association with the early growth of the organisation will be of great value when we come to further discussions as to what we need beyond our own capacity to supply.
But the Supply Board is not merely a planning organisation. Already it is arranging for the equipment of the air defence forces of Western Union. The co-ordinated plans for the air defence of Western Union evolved by the Western Union Chiefs of Staff organisation require the provision of fighter squadrons equipped with British jet fighters. 545 Meteors or Vampires are already being supplied to France, Belgium and Holland. Further supplies will be made in 1949 and arrangements are well advanced for the manufacture of these types of aircraft under licence in France, Belgium and Holland. It is plain, however, that the exchange of military equipment in any quantity between the Five Powers is bound to raise financial problems of considerable magnitude and on this aspect of the matter the Committee of Defence Ministers is working in close consultation with the Finance Ministers of the Five Powers. It will be our aim as quickly as we can to work out a comprehensive scheme to cover all transactions that may be made in accordance with the plans submitted by the Supply Board and approved. In the present economic situation with each country having to face its special problems and its own different productive capacity, it is obvious that the solution of the problem before us will require the utmost understanding and goodwill.
Also on collective defence, the second matter to which I referred is the discussion now proceeding in Washington with the object of reaching a collective arrangement in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and to cover the North Atlantic area. I am quite certain that the House in the present stage of negotiations will not expect me to say a great deal now. Nevertheless, I think it will be agreed that the potential significance of the pact is so great that no general review of defence policy would be complete without some reference to it.
There are accordingly two aspects which I should like to mention briefly. The nations now taking part in the Washington discussions hold between them a very large proportion of the industrial resources of the world and cover more than 250 millions of population. The detailed wording of the draft Pact has been the subject of much recent comment, but I think the most significant aspect of the matter is the clear unity of aim of the nations concerned and the fact that such an agreement should be under negotiation at all. I think the importance of this development can best be illustrated by reflecting how different our thoughts would have been in 1939 had such a North Atlantic Pact as we now contemplate been in existence at that time. After 546 the Pact is signed there are bound to be discussions between the countries concerned with reference to the distribution of responsibilities. These discussions must affect the long-term pattern of our own Defence Services and, until they are concluded, this factor in our forward planning must remain undetermined.
I turn now to the topic of equipment and production. Last September the Government decided in face of the deteriorating international situation to arrest the downward trend which had continued since the end of the war, and to arrange to accelerate the overhaul of stocks of war-time equipment and to step up new production in certain vital sectors. We finished the war with very large stocks of stores and equipment for all three Services, but since that time the Services have been living very largely on those accumulated stocks. A substantial proportion of these stocks have, of course, also been disposed of by sales, loans or gifts to Commonwealth or other friendly countries or by sales either for use or scrap through the appropriate disposals department, chiefly the Ministry of Supply and the process which has been followed has been inescapable. Vast quantities of accumulated stores, scattered as they were in many areas, could not, with any proper regard to economy, be preserved for future use by the Services. Much was stored in requisitioned or hired accommodation and a good part of it in the open. A large number of Service personnel was required to maintain it.
In settling the disposals policy it was clearly recognised that those items of equipment which took a long time to make and which might therefore, in the event of war present a bottleneck if production had to be restarted, should be retained in adequate quantity for reserve purposes. Moreover, it was clear that technical and scientific progress under the impetus of the war itself had been so rapid that much of the war-time equipment would become obsolescent and the possibility of its having further serviceable use was very much reduced. Stocks which were not of British manufacture and whose maintenance or replacement would involve hard currency expenditure for spares had also to be released. At the same time the Services very properly released to the civilian market goods which were in short supply and which 547 could and did make a useful contribution towards economic recovery.
The charge has been made that the disposals policy of the Government was administered in a profligate and irresponsible manner. I deny that completely. I cannot enter into details of the levels at which we have determined Services reserve holdings, but I can say that in a very large number of items we hold today large reserves and we have already put in hand such measures as are required for their overhaul and reconditioning. I should like to give the House more information on this important subject in order to allay doubts and anxieties, but considerations of security prevent me. In general I can assure the House that we have adequate quantities of most important items of equipment which would have taken a long time to manufacture and shortage of which in the last war was the main brake on the speed with which we were able to deploy our fighting power. Nevertheless, there are deficiencies and, owing to the passage of time, some equipments in reserve, as I have indicated, now require overhaul and repair to make them fully serviceable. We are meeting some of the more essential of the deficiencies from new production and are undertaking a general overhaul where needed. This work constitutes a very fair proportion of our current production programme.
Then there is the question of reequipment—the replacement of existing types by newly developed designs. Designs are being constantly improved upon and it would be false policy to commit ourselves now to the production of weapons or vehicles in cases where types of markedly improved performance may perhaps be developed in the near future. Accordingly it is our policy to ensure a sufficient flow of new equipment to keep an adequate war potential for expansion in a sound and healthy condition. Existing types will be superseded gradually by newly developed designs, but that process is a continuous one and it is impossible to expect that new or improved equipments and weapons will be brought into full use immediately. The major re-equipment measures in the year ahead of us will relate to aircraft and associated equipment like radar. Some hundreds of additional jet fighter aircraft will be delivered during the year.
548 I should like to indicate to the House the extent to which production, development and research bulks in the Defence budget. We shall be spending this year considerably more than £200 million on production. This sum represents an increase of more than £50 million over the Budget prepared last year and, bearing in mind our continuing economic difficulties, to attempt to demand a higher allocation in resources of men and money at the present time for arms production would not have been justified. Economic recovery and defence go hand in hand and the Services recognise this in determining the extent of the call which they feel they can make upon the nation.
Let me now turn to manpower policy. The review of our defence situation last summer led to the decision to arrest the rate of run-down of the Forces personnel. This was carried to its logical conclusion in December when the House agreed to the restoration of the 18 months Service period of the National Service man. This was generally recognised as necessary to enable the country to meet its commitments throughout the world. It is necessary to remember how heavy and widespread those commitments are. Let us think of the Far East and the greater disturbances going on there. We have to cover risks including Malaya and Hong Kong, by land, sea and air. We have to think of the difficult position in the Middle East and the Mediterranean and the Forces we have had to maintain there, and we have had to watch developments, as the House will have observed, in the last 12 months in East and West Africa and in places as far apart as Honduras and the extreme South.
Nearer home the tasks have become even heavier. There are the Forces of Occupation to be maintained in Germany, Austria and Trieste in international circumstances which have by no means improved in the last 12 months. Our commitments in Greece have to be shouldered. The Home Fleet and the Home Commands of the Army and Royal Air Force must be maintained. Men must be trained. The Service establishments for experimental and development work must be manned in order to keep the Forces abreast of modern progress in science and technology—progress which has never been more rapid than it is today.
549 While dealing with the question of manpower I would like to pay a very special tribute to the troops who are operating at present in Malaya. This is an exceedingly difficult job. Their courage, skill and their determination, all of which they have displayed in their task of the gradual restoration of conditions of ordered government in that important territory, have been worthy of the highest traditions of the Services. The arrest of the spread of Communism in that area is of vital significance in the cold war, and our troops have adapted themselves to unusual circumstances with all that resource and good humour which are characteristic of the British Army.
The size and variety of the commitments to which I have referred have, I know, been mentioned many times before, but that does not make them any smaller to me. We have been part of a worldwide Commonwealth so long that we are often inclined to take certain things for granted. When British interests are threatened we take it for granted that they will be defended. I personally am very glad to think that this is so, because it would be a bad day for this country and the world at large if we ever felt less willing and ready to defend vital interests connected with our free way of life. The price of that readiness must ever be recognised as being heavy, but let me add that the price of not facing our commitments would be far heavier.
I should now like to say a word about this important question of National Service.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the point about manpower, I want to ask him whether this is the only country in the North Atlantic Pact which will have conscription, or whether conscription is going to be part of the North Atlantic Pact for all countries.
§ Mr. Alexander
There is compulsory National Service already in the countries associated with us in Western Union and even the United States of America have, at any rate, a very strong selective type of compulsory service. That is the situation.
It is the aim of His Majesty's Government that to the largest extent practicable the world-wide commitments which I have just described should be met by 550 Regular Forces. We hope that as time goes on we shall get nearer to achieving that aim. At present, it is quite unavoidable to use numbers of National Service men to fill the gaps in the ranks of the Regular Forces. There is, however, a separate and equally vital reason for National Service. I refer to the provision of trained reserves. This remains, what it has been ever since National Service was introduced, a basic and vital requirement of national defence.
I should now like to turn to a matter which is perhaps more for the Minister of Labour and National Service than for me, but is of such interest to the country in this connection, that I ought to refer to it namely, the figures in connection with National Service. Hon. Members will have noticed that this year we are calling up 174,000 National Service men. The comment is often made that with an intake at this level the Services are absorbing only a proportion of the annual age group. The facts are interesting and important, and are worth mentioning, though I should make it clear that most of the figures I am about to give can only be somewhat approximate, on an estimated basis; but they have been revised as carefully as the Ministry can revise them at present.
We are at present calling up mainly men born in the year 1931. In that year there were 371,000 live male births. From 20 per cent. to 25 per cent. of this number are, in fact, not available on account of death since 1931, emigration, volunteering for the Forces and statutory exemptions. This brings the number available down to about 300,000. In addition there are deferments for apprentices and students, agriculture, coalmining and the mercantile marine. These amount in all to 110,000 and bring the number available down to 190,000. Medical rejects, volunteers to the Services after registration, and wastage after registration bring the number down to 145,000 in the present year. To this total we must add the expiring deferments of 21,000 and so we are able to count, after every provision has been made in the current year, on 166,000.
This is rather less than the requirements for the year for call-up, but I am assured by the Minister of Labour that he does not expect to have any difficulty 551 in arranging for the balance amounting to 8,000 men who will have become registered already during 1949, but some of whom in different circumstances might have been called up a few weeks later, perhaps even next year to be called up in 1949–50.
§ Mr. Frank Byers (Dorset, Northern)
How does the right hon. Gentleman account for the fact that 110,000 people are to be deferred in this one year when he has only accounted for 21,000 people whose deferments have expired? That seems to me to be a very big gap.
§ Mr. Alexander
I think that the hon. Member ought to address a detailed Question on that to the Minister of Labour. I have obtained these figures specially. Obviously, the rate at which deferments fall in will vary a great deal from year to year, and some of the deferments are likely to be for a long period, or even permanent, in such industries as mining or agriculture, compared with other industries. I have given the collective figures for the lot. Next year the number of expired deferments is bigger, and the annual total of men available will come to about 190,000. However, taking 1949 and 1950 together, and assuming that in the latter year the Service intake will be maintained at about the present level, it is doubtful whether any increase in the age of call-up will be necessary in 1950. In 1951 the number coming forward is slightly larger and the present expectation is that the age of call-up will rise to 18 years 6 months in that year.
It may be suggested—it has been to me from time to time—that the Government ought to be able to decide here and now what is to be the ultimate annual intake under National Service, and so to finalise the question of the age of call-up. It is, in fact, not practicable to do so. The ultimate size of the intake is inevitably linked with decisions on the ultimate pattern of the Defence Services—decisions which, as I have explained earlier, are bound to be affected by the regional security arrangements now being developed.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the problem of the conscripts, may I ask him a question? America is, of course, in- 552 volved in the whole problem of military service. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the American Government have decided not to call up any conscripts in February and March this year?
§ Mr. Alexander
I do not think that makes any difference to what I have been saying. They retain the basis of selective compulsory service, and will go on calling up those whom they find they actually need.
I should like to say a few words on the question of the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces. We place very great value on them. Indeed, they are very vital to our defence. I should like to say a word of great thanks to those who have already come forward in the Territorials, the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, and to pay special tribute to them for what they are doing. However, there is special need for these Forces to be increased, and I make a special appeal to all who feel they could now, at this period of time after the war—especially those who have had training in the Services, who could by their spirit and willingness serve their country—to come forward to help us to build up these Auxiliary Forces in the manner that we desire.
I now come to the question of recruitment for the Regular Forces—a matter which is vital to all our future plans. This has been the subject of much public comment. In so far as this comment arises from anxiety to see the rate of recruiting improve, I welcome it; but it seems to me that sometimes, perhaps, insufficient credit is given for what has been achieved since the war. I am quite sure those who have been Ministers in the past will know something of the difficulties. The fact that, although there has been such a high standard reached in plans for full employment and that we have not had the large pool of unemployed there usually is after a war, we have recruited for the three Services 250,000 Regulars since the war as compared with about 210,000 in the similar period after the First Great War, is an indication that there has been a great deal of fine voluntary loyal spirit in the nation. In spite of the economic circumstances, we have made very good progress indeed.
The series of broadcasts given by the Prime Minister and leading Members of 553 the Government and Opposition gives some indication of the importance the Government attach to increasing the numbers in the Regular Forces, and I should like to say a special word of thanks to the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Party for the manner in which they have appealed for recruits in their recent broadcasts. It shows that, differ as we may upon many matters, including matters in connection with defence, on the vital question of recruitment to build up our Forces, at least we speak to the nation with one voice.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Would my right hon. Friend give us the figures of the results of those broadcasts?
§ Mr. Alexander
Not at this moment—certainly not. My hon. Friend ought to know that it is imposible to measure all the increase immediately as a result of a broadcast of a few days before. The whole campaign must be judged upon general results. Inseparable from the problem of Regular recruitment, is the consideration of the adequacy of the present conditions of service. On that there has been a great deal of criticism. Had there been time, I could have said a great deal more on that subject.
I feel that the efforts which have been made by the Government since the war to improve conditions of pay have not been sufficiently recognised or properly valued. May I give one or two simple illustrations? Take, for example, the three-star married private. The amount of increase in general emoluments made by the present Government in two instalments has been as much as 17s. 3d. a week. A Group "A" R.A.F. sergeant has had increases in a similar period of as much as 38s. 6d. a week. When we turn to the officer ranks I know that there has been a great deal of complaint and that there have been considerable hardships in a period of rapid change and of repostings, especially to married officers. I must say that it does not help when, having obtained from the Treasury on behalf of the Services a special addition of £12 million last November for pay conditions, these are described, at the very time when we want to improve recruiting, as being derisory increases. I cannot accept that an average increase of £110 per annum in one increment to the marriage allowances of officers of 25 years 554 of age and over can be regarded as a derisory improvement in their standards. [HON. MEMBERS: "Taxed."] So was every other increase given to every other person in the State. Every other person in the State of whatever class is liable to his proper share of taxation on his overall emoluments.
I do not regard it as helpful when these special improvements which the Government have made in the last two years are regarded as derisory; and when they could be used on every opportunity as showing how greatly conditions have been improved in the Services. Never in my lifetime—and I have taken an interest in the Services for many years—have the general conditions been so good with regard to pay and allowances for other ranks or for officers as it is under the general conditions of living today. They are certainly not to be compared with the old-time tradition of the Services, when it was hardly possible for anyone to become an officer and live in peace time and fulfil his official commitments, unless he had a considerable private income. That is no longer the position.
I would beg of hon. Members in all parts of the House to consider, in dealing with this overall problem, the advances that we have made and the very heavy and vital expenditure which we have to meet on improving equipment. It is no use to think that the problem of recruitment will be covered simply by "bidding up," all the time, pay and allowances. That is not the main reason for our not getting as large a number of recruits as we would desire.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead the House or himself regarding the conditions and what the men really think of them? If they really think conditions of pay are bad, it is better for the Government to face up to it if we are to get recruits.
§ Mr. Alexander
All this agitation could be much better devoted to supporting the recruiting campaigns going on in the country during the last two years. I think that must not be overlooked. I would especially desire hon. and gallant Members opposite who have themselves served in the Forces overseas, to remember what the difficulties will be in commitments should ever their Government 555 be returned again and should they have to meet the kind of conditions and commitments that we have to meet now and will still have to meet in connection with defence. They are making very extraordinary suggestions as to what can ultimately be borne in this respect.
There are other reasons which, I recognise, exist today and which interfere a good deal with the measure of recruitment that we should like to get; factors which bear hardly on the Service man and Service officer, and the Government are taking very vigorous steps to ensure their correction. I think that the most important of them all is the question of improving the married quarters. In paragraph 61 of the White Paper, some figures are given which will indicate the present programme of construction. In other connections, I have already stressed the limitations within which we must work, and I would remind the House that housing costs today are formidable. The Government are providing and are determined to provide accommodation of a better type than was provided before the war. For this reason and because of the general increase in the cost of building houses, the cost both of quarters and of barracks is bound to be high.
The demand for housing is, of course, a national problem and the provision of housing for the Services is as much a part of the national housing programme as for any other section of the community. The House must remember that there are many long-standing deficiencies in both barrack and housing accommodation which have been built up over the years for reasons of economy, and in view of the importance to the nation of building up the Regular Forces the Government regard the remedying of these deficiencies as a matter of urgent necessity. The Government are giving urgent consideration to any practical possibilities of expanding the present programme of housing and are making every effort to ensure the most rapid progress in these areas where the need is particularly acute. I ask the House to note the financial figures given in the White Paper on the programme as at present proposed; we shall require an expenditure of something like £16¾ million on barrack and housing accommodation combined.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
As a temporary expedient over a period of years, have the Government considered the provision of prefabricated married quarters?
§ Mr. Alexander
Yes, consideration has been given to that, but there are three things to understand. First, the Service Departments were certainly late in the years 1945–46 in getting in with a prepared programme. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That was the position when the party of the hon. Gentlemen opposite left office, and those of us who were in the Government at that period were pretty busy with a good many other plans, including the problem of demobilisation. We were late in starting, and the prefabricated houses were largely taken up for other purposes. Secondly, there is the problem now of how much aluminium and similar scarce materials from dollar countries can be supplied for that kind of construction. The third point is that the better and more permanent the houses which can be provided for the Forces, the greater the saving in the long-run.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say anything with regard to the employment of the men when they have left the Services? That is certainly a very big factor?
§ Mr. Alexander
I must apologise to the House if I constantly give way and thereby prolong the time of my speech. It is only because I am most anxious to meet the wishes of the House, but it will take time if the Debate is conducted in that way.
I was about to refer to the question of resettlement. We are doing our best to remove some of the difficulties which often come to men in middle-life because they have missed opportunities of getting ready for a new calling. We describe in paragraph 43 of the White Paper the progress which has been made in that direction by the Government in arranging for more and more opportunities to be provided. They have been worked out not only in the Government Departments but with the joint associations of employers and employees and in complete understanding with the trade union representatives. The Minister of Labour has set up a Departmental Committee of his own to work out details 557 as a result of these joint consultations. The Civil Service is providing additional opportunities for vacancies for ex-Service men which will be in operation in the course of 1949.
We have already had approval in principle from the boards of the new nationalised industries supporting the case for giving further opportunities to Regulars who are suitable for the types of work carried out under those boards. Generally speaking, we are most anxious that the opportunities provided for men coming out of the Services should be as wide as possible. It has been suggested in some quarters that we should guarantee a Government job to every man who comes out of the Armed Forces. I think that at this stage that would be going too far, and would be a promise very difficult to keep.
Let me now say something about research and development. While attaching high importance to the improvement of conditions in the Forces in order that they may be fully efficient to use their weapons and equipment, the Government are fully alive to the vital importance of research. It was superior technical ability combined with the overwhelming industrial resources of ourselves and our Allies that helped us to victory in 1945. The need to maintain that technical superiority which was then built up is recognised on all sides, and in present circumstances it is the first priority in defence policy. There will this year be some increase in the financial provision for research and development, which reflects an improvement in the scientific manpower position and the bringing into use of new facilities.
The evolution of new weapons is a long-term project. When, three or four years ago, our defence scientists were able to take stock of the position, they had to choose between going all out for really big advances and a piecemeal improvement of existing equipment. I am quite sure that we chose right in setting on foot a long-term programme in research. If there were to be a war in the immediate future—which God forbid—the first campaign would no doubt be fought with the weapons that were in use during the last war; but we must also look further ahead, and the equipment we hope to have when our present projects begin to bear fruit will, in most fields, represent an outstanding advance 558 on what we have now. We could not make this advance, however, if we devoted our main efforts to ensuring that the Services each year had something just a little bit better in equipment than a year ago. But it would be wrong to draw the deduction that there is nothing to show for the expenditure of the last three years, and in paragraph 58 of the White Paper I give some indication of the progress which has been made in a number of important fields.
I wish I were free to give the House more detailed information. Expenditure on research and development is now higher than it has ever been, and it is understandable that Members would like to have the evidence that it is being well spent. But there are grave dangers in giving too much information under these heads. The question of security has, I observe, been specially touched on by the Select Committee on Estimates in their Second Report, which appeared earlier this week. I should like here to pay tribute to the work of the Committee in this respect, and to assure them that their report will receive close study.
Although I cannot enter into detail with regard to this research progress, I can give the House some general idea of the policy. In the first place, the larger part of the expenditure was on development. In other words, most of the money is spent in translating results of research into experimental equipment, and in this way we support and greatly encourage engineering development of the highest type in industry. The results have not only been of benefit to the Fighting Services, but also indirectly of great value to industry as a whole. The success of much development work, for example, depends upon progress in metallurgy, and progress in that sphere is of enormous benefit to the engineering industry. We can be legitimately proud of the fact that we continue to lead the world in the development and production of aircraft turbine engines, and generally in the use of jet propulsion for the production of high speed aircraft. The production of such engines in this country is already making a considerable contribution to our export drive and to the solution of our balance of payment difficulties.
The larger part of our expenditure on research and development is devoted to the production of new types of aircraft 559 for the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. The House must not expect to see spectacular results from this development yet, but I feel confident that we are on the right lines, and that in scientific and engineering talent we have little to fear from competition with other nations. As for the research underlying all major developments in equipment for the Fighting Services, I can say that work of a very high order is being done.
I want to see the research staffs enlarged, but I would say that in the last two or three years we deliberately refrained from expanding the scientific services too much because of what we felt at that time were the prior claims of the universities, the teaching professions, and the scientific claims of industry itself. This year I hope to make a long-needed increase, and I am glad to tell the House that in the opinion of my technical advisers the recruits coming forward are of a high quality, and that there is no indication that the great expansion of the schools of science at universities has brought about any lowering of average quality.
I think we can claim confidently that we have a closer integration of military and scientific thought in this country than exists in any other. This in itself is an asset of great importance. The general programme of research and development is based on military strategy adopted on the advice of the Chiefs of Staff, who in giving their advice have the advantage of the scientific advice available within each of their own Departments. I would add that what we developed, especially in the last two years of the war—as the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) may well know; the direct operational research as we call it—has gone on apace and is yielding most valuable results.
I think the House would not wish me to leave this Debate today without saying a word or two about the defence situation in relation to the Commonwealth and Commonwealth defence. At the opening I dealt with the developments in connection with Western Union and the proposed North Atlantic Pact. I indicated what our plans are for the United Kingdom Forces in relation to those developments and our world commitments. But we must not forget that 560 our influence in the world is, in large measure, due to our position as a member of our own world-wide Commonwealth of Nations. The meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in London in October last afforded opportunity for discussion of the present arrangements, and for consultation between the countries of the Commonwealth on defence matters
As will be seen from paragraph 11 of the White Paper, progress was made by the Prime Ministers in working out recommendations for • improving defence consultations and planning between the different Commonwealth nations. Work is continuing on this subject; improvements are being based on the existing machinery and developed from the interchange of service liaison staffs, which has been generally approved by the other Commonwealth countries. Developments will vary according to the differing needs of the Commonwealth countries and the differing circumstances which face them. I have been very pleased indeed with the amount of co-operation we have been getting, which is steadily developing on the basis of very good feeling indeed
In regard to Colonial defence, recent events have shown how important it is to press on with the economic development of the territories under the Crown. It is not easy for the Governments concerned in the Colonies to put in hand at the same time any substantial schemes of development for the defence forces supported by the Colonial territories. None the less, the need for adequate forces to maintain internal security is fully recognised, and Colonial Governments and Service Commands abroad have been made aware of the dangers now threatening. Every effort is made by the Colonial Governments within their means to strengthen their police forces to meet the dangers which confront them
Permanent arrangements have been made by which Colonial Governments receive guidance, either from the Defence Co-ordination Committees now sitting in the Middle East and Far East, or from Service Commands, or direct from the Colonial Office. The scale on which local forces should be maintained in East and West Africa in particular, both for purposes of internal security and in general for possible expansion in war, are under examination by the Chiefs of Staff, and 561 financial means of maintaining those Forces in adequate strength are being considered by the Government in consultation with the Colonial Governments concerned.
§ Mr. Ronald Chamberlain (Norwood)
My right hon. Friend has told us about co-ordination in the Commonwealth countries and something about Atlantic policy. Would he say a word about our defence policy in the Pacific, which is of enormous importance, and in regard to which we are very much in the dark?
§ Mr. Alexander
I am already behind my schedule and I am occupying too much of the House's time. As I have pointed out, within the Commonwealth there is very good co-operation indeed, and we have a joint planning committee with regard to the Pacific area. Of course, we have very close consultation and understanding with the United States of America
I turn, in conclusion, to the financial proposals in the White Paper which the House is invited to approve today We envisage an expenditure of just under £760 million on defence in 1949–50 as compared with £692 million a year ago. The real increase is, however, greater than would appear from these figures because of the large element for war terminal expenditure amounting to £60 million included in last year's estimate. In fact, approximately £107.5 million is the real measure of the amount of increase in defence expenditure. Approximately one-third is accounted for by increased pay and insurance charges for both Service and civilian personnel and the higher cost of supplies, £5 million by increased expenditure on the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces and most of the balance of about £67 million on equipment
The uniformed personnel of the Services will fall during the year to 750,000, although I would say that that is some 34,000 higher than the comparable figure in last year's White Paper. The demands made by the Services on civilian labour will be steady throughout the year at about 700,000, details of which will be found in Annex I to the White Paper. This is a very heavy burden on our economic resources at the present time. Thus the broad picture is of increased production making this large call on the productive resources of the nation accompanied by a decline of rather less 562 than 6 per cent. in uniformed manpower. I have seen it suggested that this means we shall in 1949–50 be getting less defence and paying more for it. That is a false picture. The fact is that each item of equipment is itself more complex, and, therefore, more costly, but the scale of equipment of modern units is much greater than ever before. Recently the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) made a comparison with 1914, but for purposes of illustration I would take a more recent year, 1938, which gives a fairer comparison. In 1938 the number of vehicles allocated to an army infantry division was about 1,500; now it is 3,000, which are reckoned to be essential in every respect
Let me confine myself to assuring the House that the proposals now before it in this White Paper represent the result of anxious study first by myself with my Service colleagues, then by the Government as a whole, of the relevant factors in a difficult situation. We are certain—and we invite the House to endorse our judgment—that the present situation requires of us a demonstration of our preparedness to play whatever part may be demanded of us by the circumstances and chances of a troubled world. That is why defence expenditure must go up.
I observe two Amendments on the Order Paper today. There is the Opposition Amendment put down today for the first time, and the Communist Amendment. The first complains of what is calledso little result in effective fighting power in return for the very large resources of manpower and money already voted by Parliament.It seems to me that the Opposition Amendment overlooks some of the main facts of the situation. In the present situation in the world more than 30 per cent. of our personnel have of necessity been maintained entirely overseas. They are spread over very wide dispersal commitments, and comprise a great deal of effective fighting strength. Behind this we have constantly to maintain the training of personnel to replace wastage and demobilisation which involve a very large amount of movement.
In addition, we have the operational strength of the Home Fleet and the home-based Royal Air Force squadrons. In 563 the circumstances of the heavy post-war demobilisation it was inevitable, with the consequent unbalance in the Forces and the constant re-postings necessary to maintain our overseas commitments, that there should be a delay in the completion of the training of units and the building up of more formations. Now that stabilisation is being reached in the numbers of our personnel, efforts are being made to remedy that position, and I believe with good prospects of success.
I now come to the other Amendment on the Paper, which urges the reduction of the numbers in the provision for the Forces. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Communist Members are not here."] Then all I need say is this—I will not say what I was going to say, but I had prepared something pretty straight about it—
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
Go on. It will do for the "cryptos."
§ Mr. Alexander
For the purposes of the record I will say what I was going to say and it might be of help to other Members of the House as well. The House will not be deceived by such an Amendment put forward over the names of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin). These are they whose comrades in France and Italy, clearly acting under the same alien inspiration, have recently declared that they would welcome the armies of Russia on their territories. Their object is to foster the legend that the peace-loving democratic nations of the West have been transformed almost overnight into imperialist aggressors—to sow doubt, and dissension and thus to undermine the country's will to resist the insidious attacks of Communism. But facts speak louder than their curious arguments. It is not we, nor our friends, who have delayed the preparation of plans for an effective international force under the United Nations; it is not we, nor our friends, who have blocked agreement on the general principles of a disarmament scheme; it is not we, nor our friends, who have prevented the creation of an international authority to control the production of nuclear material; it is not we, nor our friends, who have 28 times vetoed proposals in the Security Council of the United Nations.
564 Before ourselves and before the rest of the free world, we can be clear that our defence measures have no aggressive purpose. We regret their necessity. We should like to see our overtures for peace and friendship received in a better way, but as long as Russia maintains her veto on peace and security, so long have we to be prepared to carry whatever burden is needful and within our resources to enable us to play our full and proper part in the defence of liberty and of the free peoples of the world.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
I beg to move to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add:while willing to call upon the nation for whatever sacrifice of money or personal service is shown to be necessary to secure the national safety, cannot approve a statement which reveals so little result in effective fighting power in return for the very large resources of manpower and money already voted by Parliament.The House has listened with great attention to the Minister of Defence in his careful review of the problem, and certainly we on this side of the House listened with marked approval to the concluding passages of his speech. We only regretted that those at whom it was so carefully aimed were not present in their places to receive the benefit of that advice.
I hope that the Minister of Defence will excuse me if I say that on the things which really matter, or at least on the things which really matter to me, he has done little else during his speech but paraphrase the White Paper, though I freely admit that he has done it in terms as felicitous as they were familiar. However, I have to say that I know very little more after hearing the speech of the right hon. Gentleman than I did after I had read the White Paper, just as I knew practically nothing more after I had read the White Paper than I did before I ever looked at it.
Quite independent of party, the House has a serious cause of complaint, expressed last year and renewed this year, as to the form and content of the White Paper. It tells us nothing of the really important matters. To use the words of Macaulay, every schoolboy knows of the case during the time of the South Sea Bubble when individuals were asked to subscribe their money for a purpose which would be disclosed hereafter. They were 565 comparatively lucky because it is becoming clear from this series of White Papers that the purpose for which our money is now being asked is never going to be disclosed to us. I defy anyone with the ordinary knowledge that most of us in the House have acquired about these matters to find on reading the White Paper any indication whatsoever as to what is the real state today of the defences for which we are paying so highly.
Look at the White Paper. It starts with quite a harmless introduction setting out three perfectly respectable objectives for our Forces. My only complaint would be that they seem to be put in the wrong order. It seems remarkable to put down as one's first objective the building up of a long-term force and only afterwards to fit oneself to meet present aggression or to deal with incidents in the cold war. We then go on to a passage which is rather euphemistically labelled:Developments in the past year.If we study that, we find that it is a summary which could have been prepared by anyone who had been a fairly constant reader of the popular Press during the last 12 months. As for the rest, there are, it is true, overall figures of men and money which are split into Services but which are not broken down any further and which do not, as far as any of the Services are concerned, allow one even to make an estimate of the formations which are resulting from the men and the money which we are voting. As to the equally important subject of equipment, the only definite figure which we are given is a large figure which we are going to spend on the overhaul of already obsolescent soft vehicles, and it is self-evident and not very encouraging that for the present, if the Army has to fight and if it has not got the weapons it wants, it will have to fight with the weapons it has got.
Is this really fair to the House? We recognise the needs of security and, like all other hon. Members, we are prepared to subordinate our interests, our natural curiosity and, indeed, our anxiety, to the legitimate claims of security, but the phrase, "the interests of security" is a very wide and very elastic one. The interests of security can easily be compounded with the convenience of departments, and what begins as a defence 566 against a potential enemy may quite well end as a defence against a potential critic. Hon. Members will realise that the position was quite different before the war when the Estimates gave detailed figures of units and formations, details sufficient to enable hon. Members to decide whether value was being got for money and to have at any rate a rough idea of the potential strength of the Services for which we were paying. There was no completely full disclosure, but there was a general idea of our state of defence.
Was that situation really very dangerous then, and would a resumption of that practice be really very dangerous now? I am very doubtful if it would be, but even if we were told that a resumption of the pre-war practice was impossible, surely that should not preclude some further information beyond what we are being given today? I cannot believe that any hostile Power would have any difficulty at all in getting—if they have not already got it—not complete and accurate figures but at least a general idea of the strength and preparedness of the various Services for which we are going to be asked to vote the money. Yet even that general idea is being denied all of us who have to bear the ultimate responsibility for the burdens which are to be placed on the country.
I recommend the Government—perhaps in replying the Prime Minister will refer to it—to look at the statement of Lord Portal in another place yesterday. This was a statement not by a civilian who may be supposed to be indifferent to the needs of security and not by a politician who may be supposed to put party objects above those interests, but a statement by a man who knows the need for security. Yet he is prepared to say that, weighing the dangers of telling too much against the equally great dangers of telling too little, he believes that the balance would lie in favour of telling more than is being vouchsafed to us today. After all, we in the House of Commons are not without our special interest in this matter. We have a general interest, the general interest that all citizens have in the bulwarks between us and war and, still worse, defeat, but we have a special interest because it is we who will be asked to vote the money. we who will be asked to vote the men 567 and we who will have ultimately to bear the responsibility. Does the Prime Minister really consider that he is leaving all of us who have no inside information, nothing but what we can cull from these official speeches and this official document, in a position to decide.
§ Mr. Scollan
§ Mr. Stanley
I have a lot to say. After all, we are being met today with very formidable demands, roughly speaking, £750 million of money and 750,000 men.
§ Mr. Scollan
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that he has as much knowledge as to the efficiency of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force as the Cabinet, because they are in the hands of the experts?
§ Mr. Stanley
I would not presume to argue with the hon. Member as to the extent of the ignorance of the Cabinet, but surely even if the Cabinet remain ignorant, it is better that the hon. Member and I should become well-informed?
This is, as all sides of the House will agree, no small sacrifice that is being asked of the people. Yet, it is a sacrifice that I believe the vast majority are willing to bear. But they are willing to bear it only if they are convinced that nothing less than this will give security, and that with this, security is being won. I should like once again to emphasise the point I have made in other connections. It is not enough with regard to great items of national expenditure today just to be assured that the purpose is a good one, whether it is Colonial Development, or the social services, or this provision for national security. It is not enough for us just to be told: "Well, surely you agree with the objectives? "This House is not here just for the purpose of approving objectives. It has an equal responsibility to inquire into and to be satisfied with their efficient execution.
And so there is nothing at all contradictory in the position my hon. Friends and I take up today on this matter, the position that while we wholly approve the purpose of the Government—and, if I may say so, we have some little admiration for the politcal courage they have shown in making these great demands—we are profoundly disturbed whether these vast resources that should be sufficient 568 to ensure our security, are not in fact being largely frittered away without purpose and without planning. I do not want this afternoon to go into much detail. This is an opportunity, and it is in fact the only opportunity we have, to deal with the wider issues; we can leave to the Service Estimates the more detailed questions which Members will no doubt wish to raise.
I wish to put to the Government two questions. They are not the sort of questions that would be asked by a military expert, but they are the sort of questions which pretty well any one of us in this House interested in this matter should ask himself. The first question is this. Is there really a plan behind all this? The second question is: if there is such a plan how are we getting on with executing it? First of all, in regard to a plan, it seems to me that this year, in view of events, we are entitled, even more than before, to ask that question, because the three major factors upon which any plan must depend have certainly become clearer within the last 12 months; the first is the direction from which any possible aggression might be expected, the second is the grouping of those Powers that are likely to join in to resist it, and the third is the further experience of the scope and effect of the new weapons.
In regard to the first, the Government statements alone, particularly that very serious statement made by the Lord President of the Council during the short Session in September, indicate quite clearly that if, today, we are to expect aggression from any quarter, the only quarter from which we are to expect it is from behind the iron curtain. In regard to the second, the remarkable progress with the formation of Western Union, the approaching completion, as we hope, of the Atlantic Pact and even the first stirrings of what surely must follow these two, some similar arrangement for the Pacific, are all putting in clearer perspective the obligations we are likely to have to bear to others, and the obligations that others are likely to have to bear towards us.
In regard to the third, the years that have elapsed since the war must have given the experts time to make some appreciation of the effect the new weapons have on the calls of defence. 569 Incidentally, I differ profoundly from some people outside who think that the advent of a new weapon, however powerful, means that everything we are discussing here has now become quite out of date, and that everything we are now doing in any of the three Services has become useless. Not only is that not my experience, but after every war we have to choose between the extremes; on the one side the Blimps who want to conduct the new war with the weapons of the last, and on the other the Boffins who say that new inventions have made everything else out of date. My experience from the beginning of the last War is that the true course lies between the two, and that there is just as much danger in listening too much to the one as in listening too much to the other.
It seems, therefore, that three of the major factors upon which any plan has to be based have been clarified during the past 12 months, and that the time has arrived when we are entitled to ask whether there really exists some overall strategic plan. I do not mean by that the rather dreary list of commitments which are occasionally supplied to us in speeches or White Papers—the importance of the Middle East, the necessity of defending our shores and keeping open the trade routes of the Empire. All of us know the things that have to be done, but what we want the experts to say now is how these things are to be done.
We ask with all seriousness whether there is now in existence such a plan, a plan which takes into account our obligations to others as well as the obligations of others to us. A plan has to be subject to the limit of economic possibilities. No one suggests that we should have a plan purely on strategic considerations ignoring the economic factors, and no one believes that we can retain military strength in company with internal industrial collapse, but we do say that there should be a plan of this kind, which in effect is the ideal disposal of available resources, so that anything which does not conform with that plan can be regarded as a waste of men or money.
Is there such a plan in existence? We do not, of course, ask for the plan. We are not asking the Government to publish a White Paper setting out the 570 deployment of our divisions or the objectives of our squadrons, but we do want to know whether there is some clearly defined purpose to which all these things which we are told are being done, are being subjected. I must admit that nothing I have heard so far gives me any confidence that such a plan is in existence. We have had a history of advance and retreat, of long vacillations and sudden decisions, and the impression given to me by the defence measures of the last two years has been just the contrary.
My impression is that the Government have set out to get all the men they could in what appeared to be the easiest way; that they have then taken what equipment they already had or could make serviceable, or could make most easily, and having put together the men and the equipment acquired in that way, they have proceeded to make a plan of how to use them. I want to see the opposite. I want to see the plan made first, and the men we get and the equipment we use, fitted into that plan. Certainly nothing in the White Paper leads one to suppose that such a plan exists—and certainly nothing in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I do hope—and when I say "hope" I mean it sincerely—that the Prime Minister when he replies can give us that confidence, because this is not just a partisan criticism. It is on the part of many people—and many people not confined to the ranks of my party—a deep and sincere anxiety.
If there is a plan, how are we getting on with its implementation? Of course, this is the most difficult part of all for anybody who does not sit on the Front Bench opposite to argue, because this is a matter on which we have absolutely no information whatsoever; there is nothing from official sources which can give us any clue as to the progress we are making. Therefore, if we are to deal with the matter at all, we are forced to rely on information which, frankly, is unsatisfactory. We have to rely on Press reports, on rumour and on the letters from individual serving men about conditions in individual units. That is all we can have. I know it is not very good; I know it may give a wholly distorted picture, but, in view of the fact that the Government withhold everything from us, we have to make use of whatever information we have.
571 Certainly all that I—and I think this applies to my hon. Friends—hear from such sources leaves us with a profound sense of disquiet as to what progress we are making or whether, in fact, we are making any progress at all—not only towards what is selected as the first of the objectives—the building up of the long-range force—but what to me seems at the moment a much more urgent necessity, the meeting of the second and third of the objectives—the ability to meet sudden aggression now and to carry out our current commitments in this period of cold war. No doubt, we shall have further opportunities, and my hon. Friends will take them, for developing these points, but I should like to indicate to the Prime Minister the sort of things which come to our ears and which lead us to this disquiet.
We start with the Navy. The Navy is in an exceptional position because in the Memorandum attached to the Estimates they have actually given us certain figures. I do hope that the First Lord of the Admiralty has been suitably rebuked for this irresponsible breach of security, and I hope that potential aggressors have not had their intelligence services strengthened by the disclosure of this information. The figures which are published are certainly better than last year. At any rate, we are not in the deplorable position which was pointed out last Spring. However, there are two points on which little has been said and on which, I confess, I feel anxiety. There are battleships and aircraft carriers available, but I cannot see that if we were suddenly called upon to meet the second of these objectives—sudden aggression—we should be likely to start with a large-scale Fleet action.
It seems to me that by far the greatest danger, and a danger which, from all one hears today, has been largely increased, would be the danger to our sea communications. There is nothing in the White Paper and nothing indeed in Naval Estimates which gives one ground for confidence that what we are doing in the way of anti-submarine protection is adequate for a sudden danger which, under the terms of the White Paper, we have to be prepared to meet.
The second matter which worries me is the question of cruiser strength because, whatever the necessities of 572 actual warfare might be, it seems to me that that plays a most essential part in the sort of commitments which might arise during the cold war. We must all face the fact that at almost any time and in almost any part of our Colonial Empire, Communism may succeed in playing on ignorance and impetuosity and provoking riots, disturbance and, indeed civil war. It will have nothing to do with the Secretary of State for the Colonies; it will have nothing to do with good or bad administration by his Department. It will be just part of the campaign being carried on all over the world, and we have got to be prepared to meet it. All experience shows that that kind of thing is best met if it is met quickly, and that a commotion or a riot, which adequate force can easily stop to begin with, if allowed to develop, may in the end become a large commitment. It is surely for that kind of thing that an adequate cruiser strength is so very essential.
With regard to the Royal Air Force, there was yesterday an extremely interesting Debate in another place, the report of which I am sure all hon. Members have read. There are others on these benches who have far more experience than I in this matter, and who will want to raise this question in much greater detail. I will confess to the Prime Minister that what has made me most anxious of all about the present state of our Air Force is the fact that in this White Paper the word "bomber" is never used once. We are told something about the other branches of the Air Force, but it is not very informative or very encouraging.
We are told that the fighter squadrons are being re-equipped with jet planes, but we are not told at what rate that is being carried on. We are even told that Transport Command will get some attention, but nowhere in the whole of this Paper, which is supposed to deal with the general plan of Defence over the next 12 months, could one even gather the fact that the present Royal Air Force has any bomber strength whatsoever. Perhaps it has not. Perhaps that is the reason for this remarkable omission from the White Paper. But when we take that in conjunction with the sort of reports which were current after that large-scale air exercise before Christmas, to which reference is made in this White Paper, the 573 Prime Minister will, I think, understand the real anxiety that people feel whether in the bomber squadrons of the Royal Air Force we have an adequate striking force—the sort of striking force which is so often the best and the quickest means of defence.
Finally I come to the Army. Let us from what we know of the Army, look to see how it is facing up to the objectives set out in the White Paper, and first of all at its ability immediately to meet aggression,if suddenly and unexpectedly called upon to do so.The ability to meet aggression does not mean a number of individuals. It does not even mean a number of units. It must entail a number of formations, up to strength, fully trained and fully equipped. That surely is the greatest and most immediate purpose, and is what the Army needs. What is the ultimate result, the real value for all the men and all the money we pour in at the other end? In terms of that sort, in terms of formations, fully armed, fully equipped and up to strength, what have we for what we are spending? My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) gave an estimate before Christmas of two divisions. A recent newspaper summary gave an estimate even lower than that. Surely the Prime Minister cannot be surprised if we, with no information whatsoever to the contrary and with no figures to contradict those statements, and I think, all hon. Members in all parts of the House, feel the deepest anxiety.
Are we even prepared to meet a threat to our commitments, the sort of case that I referred to with regard to an aggressor, and that arose in Malaya last Autumn? We did not find it very easy to meet that commitment. Any hon. Member who knew, as many did from correspondents, of the difficulties of sending a Guards Brigade and the length of time which was necessary for that Guards Brigade to train after it got there, must realise that even meeting that commitment was not easy. Are we in a position to meet any other such commitment if it should arise today?
I think what is giving us more anxiety than anything is the state today of our anti-aircraft defences. A Question was asked by my hon. and gallant Friend the 574 Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) the other day of the Secretary of State for War, a Question which disclosed deep anxiety. The only answer from the Secretary of State was that he could give no information at all. Of course, that is an answer which he was entitled to return but it is not the sort of answer that removes anxieties while they exist, nor is it the sort of answer which gives assurances which may be adequate. We, too, want to hear, even if it is impossible to give detailed figures of guns and men, what is the state of our anti-aircraft today. Was not a very great deal of its preparedness to depend upon the scheme of "Z" registration? May we know how many men have registered? If not, how many other steps are to be taken to bring to a higher state of security what must be almost the most vital of all the defensive services of this country?
Before I sit down I want to refer to one or two general points. The first is that which was raised by the Minister of Defence himself, the question of regular recruits. It is clear from a study of the White Paper and from phrases which occur in many of its paragraphs, that this increase of regular recruitment is indeed the dominant need, if not of all three Services certainly of two of them. I am not going to follow the right hon. Gentleman in his comparisons between what is being done now and what had been done after the last war, and as to the difficulties of recruiting under full employment, compared with the difficulties of recruiting when there was a considerable amount of unemployment. The only fact that matters to us today is that we are not getting the recruitment that we need. We are not getting the necessary regular recruitment by, I should imagine, a very substantial figure indeed. The effect of that is felt all through certainly two of the three Services. It is not only the direct loss of trained and efficient men but it is the indirect loss of the efficiency of National Service men, coming from over-dilution of the units into which they are put.
So it seems to me that the efficiency of the Army and of the Air Force depend on the solution of this problem which really is the crux of the whole matter. I am not going to discuss the details of pay and allowances, or of all the other conditions. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that 575 it is the other conditions, just as much as pay and allowances which may prove the attraction to the various Forces. I am not going to wrangle with him about it. All I am going to say is that whether those conditions are good or bad and however one describes them, they do not seem at the moment to be doing the job that they have to do, which is to get the recruits which the right hon. Gentleman wants. It does not seem that they are doing it. If this is the crux of the problem, as I believe it to be, there is only one thing to do and that is to give terms of pay and conditions which will get the recruits that we must have. I know it may be costly. I recognise that possibility, but without it, it is clear from the White Paper that a great deal of the money we are spending already is being wasted. I think it is clear to all of us that if we succeed, and if we bring our Regular recruitment up to the sort of figure which all of us have in mind—and although it has never been disclosed I imagine it is the standard in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite—then there will be great possibilities of saving in other directions.
I should like to say a word upon Commonwealth co-operation, again a matter to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. I have read with very great interest paragraphs 10 and 13 of the White Paper, which deal with this point. I say frankly to the right hon. Gentleman that I was disappointed. It seemed to me that in these four paragraphs we have the sort of thing which would have been all right before 1914. I feel that since the war, there has been a profound change in our strategic relations with the Commonwealth countries. Before 1914, we, the United Kingdom, were, broadly speaking, wholly responsible for the immediate defence of the Empire. It was our Navy, our Army, our Air Force—which in those days was negligible—which guaranteed the Commonwealth as a whole at the outbreak of hostilities. To some extent the position changed between 1914 and 1939, but it was still broadly the same. Broadly speaking, in 1939 it was still the United Kingdom Navy, the United Kingdom Air Force and the United Kingdom Army which had to meet the immediate brunt of any hostilities. Of course, we relied upon the Dominions enormously for the 576 subsequent conduct of the war. Without the gigantic help they gave us, we probably should have lost the war of 1914 and we certainly would have lost the war of 1939, but so far as the outbreak of war was concerned, up to 1939 it was largely our responsibility.
That is no longer the case. In its aftermath, the war has changed irrecoverably and dramatically the balance of financial and industrial power between the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth countries. No longer can we expect, no longer are we in a position ourselves to have the responsibility for Commonwealth defence even at the outbreak of hostilities. So the sort of consultation which was all right so long as any help the Dominions were giving was a kind of bonus on top of the responsibility we had already assumed, seems no longer adequate in the situation in which we find ourselves today.
I know this is a very delicate matter. All of us in this House realise not only the fact of the complete independence of the Dominions, but the importance that the Dominions attach to that fact being fully recognised. To my mind, however, definite obligations willingly undertaken, are not inconsistent with independence. There are many cases in history, there are many cases now, there will be cases under Western Union, of sovereign Powers entering into solemn commitments one to the other. I hope that a time will come, perhaps not too long ahead, when in these matters of Empire defence, we shall be able to proceed from the vague regions of consultation into the more definite spheres of concerted planning.
§ Mr. Alexander
I thought I said specifically that, apart from improvement of the consultation and of the basis of liaison which is going on, there was also joint planning.
§ Mr. Stanley
Then, if I may amplify what I said, by "plans" I meant not just staff studies, but plans so definite in their implication that we ourselves can make our military arrangements secure in the knowledge that other portions of our defence plans are being looked after by others.
One word with regard to the Minister of Defence himself. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think it in any way 577 impertinent of me to have kept him to the last. There is nothing personal in this, but I want to consider how the Minister of Defence is carrying out the responsibilities placed on him. The position he occupies is most difficult. All of us realised, when we read the original White Paper, that in some ways, the position of Minister of Defence in peacetime would be more difficult, although of course the issues were less momentous, the responsibilities not so pressing, as compared with the position of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford as Minister of Defence in war. Not only would the Minister have to operate without the added prestige of being Prime Minister, but he would have to meet the inevitable centrifugal tendencies of a post-war period.
Therefore we naturally expected that the Prime Minister, in choosing a man for this post, would choose from among his colleagues the man whom he thought most resembled in the essential qualities my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford. Intellectual grasp, power of decision, great moral courage—those are the qualities needed for this post, and those naturally, were the qualities for which the Prime Minister selected the Minister of Defence.
Enough time has gone now to ask how it is working. We have had some instances, not wholly happy ones, in the past. I shall try to take a more objective test. One small test is the preparation of this paper. If I thought the Ministry of Defence was really working as I really hoped it would, I should have expected this paper to have a much greater appearance of having sprung from one source, of having been the product of one brain and one hand, instead of having the appearance—as it certainly has to me—of being three separate statements sent in by three different Ministries, put together with a covering note from the man who could not get away in time.
The real test, I think, lies in the preparation of the Service Estimates. That is, as we were given to understand, the real way in which the Minister of Defence and his Ministry would affect vitally the whole of Service planning. In the days when I first went into the Government, there was no question of a Ministry of Defence. Each Service put up its Estimates independently to the 578 Treasury. The Chancellor of the Exchequer usually had in his mind some level of Service expenditure which he was prepared to admit, and if the total sums asked for by the three Services exceeded his estimated sum, a cut was applied, and that cut was usually applied in the same proportion to all the Service Estimates. That was a thoroughly bad way of doing it. It meant that the economies to be effected were effected on a wholly automatic basis with no relation to the strategic necessities of the case.
The new way was to be through the Minister of Defence, with a co-ordinated, coherent plan put up for the Services as a whole, the argument with the Treasury to be on the basis of the Services as a whole, and any reductions to be made by the Minister of Defence, not automatically equal through all the Services, but bearing in mind the strategic claims of one as against the other. Has that been the result? Is that what is happening today? The presentation of the Estimates, not only in this year but in previous years, would give the appearance that it was still the old way that was being followed, and that little progress had been made, if not towards the fusion of Services—no one ever promised that through the Minister of Defence for that is not his function—towards the fusion of their policies and the fusion of their plans.
If I may sum up: the line we take upon these benches is that we support wholeheartedly in its main essentials the foreign policy of the Government; we agree that the Government is entitled to have, must have, the military strength adequate to the foreign policy which it is pursuing; and we could join with the Government in asking the country to accept the resulting sacrifices, heavy as they might be. However, though we agree with the purpose of the Government, we are profoundly disturbed at the way it is executed. We have no inside information, no knowledge except those sources open to all hon. Members of the House but, from what we know, we believe that this Administration in Service matters lacks consistent and coherent planning, and lacks the sustained drive to achieve it. In other words, we have no confidence whatsoever that with regard to these vast demands for men and money the country is getting in terms of security full value 579 for the demands that have been made upon it, and it is for that reason and in that spirit that I have moved the Amendment which stands in my name.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)
The right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) said that we should keep the Debate on the broad aspects of defence and with that I, at any rate, am in full agreement. It is a great pity, therefore, that he did not tell the House something of the general policy on defence of the party opposite. When they were in power they had an opportunity of working out a scheme for the co-ordination of defence. Indeed, it came to a fine flower in 1939. Is that the scheme which they would like to substitute for the present one or have they abandoned it? I ask this because the hon. Gentleman himself was one of its principal authors. He was in the Cabinet or, at any rate, was a member of the Government from 1931 onwards. But the scheme itself came in for some criticism from the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill).
Therefore, when the names of both those right hon. Gentlemen appear on the Amendment, I think the House should be told whether the party opposite still adheres to that scheme, which, hon. Members may recall, the right hon Member for Woodford described in these words.I have always had sympathy for my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. On public grounds, at considerable personal sacrifice, he accepted nearly three years ago an office for which his high gifts and life-long specialist training had in no way fitted him. …That was said by the present Leader of the party of which the right hon. Member for West Bristol is a member. He went on to say:… but as the House seemed to realise at the time, although it could not shake off its inertia, the office itself was framed in a manner so curious that he really never had a chance of discharging it successfully. It was a compromise which bore in every paragraph the imprint of inter-departmental interests and rivalries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1938; Vol. 341, c. 1132.]Is that the scheme to which we are to return? The right hon. Gentleman himself was a Member of the Government which collected, over a period of four years, a sum of £2,000 million of the purpose of re-armament. We know where that went to and what was its 580 final result, because the despatches of Lord Gort are available to us. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that towards the end of those despatches was a passage entitled "Lessons." No doubt the right hon. Gentleman looked at those lessons, for he was, of course, Secretary of State for War during the period when the facts from which those lessons were learnt were taking place. It was said in Lord Gort's despatches that the enemywas able to place in the field and to concentrate no less than ten armoured divisions in the area which he selected, and later, to employ at least five of these against the British rearward defences. On the other hand, the British armoured forces in the theatre of war amounted to seven divisional cavalry regiments equipped with light tanks, one regiment of armoured cars of an obsolete pattern, and two battalions of infantry tanks, the latter, except for 23 Mark II tanks, being armed each with one machine-gun only.That was the result of the right hon. Gentleman's policy. Two thousand million pounds were spent in order to produce at the right place and moment 23 tanks.
The House may well ask itself whether the defence policy we should adopt is not exactly the opposite of the defence policy previously pursued by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. There may be criticisms about our own defence policy, but is the best way to go about it to vote in favour of an Amendment moved by the party opposite, when it is agreed, I think, on both sides of the House that our first task should be to repudiate their policy?
The right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to say that this Debate evidenced serious complaints which should be looked at quite independently of party. There is something in that point of view, but if he is inviting Members of this party to vote against their own Government, he ought at least to have said something about the action of his own party when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford made the same request and said this:I am going to address myself particularly to hon. Friends of mine above the Gangway who sit behind the Ministers. … I say they have a grave responsibility for our present plight. The history of England is still to be written and unfolded. History will disentagle individual responsibility and will lay the blame on the shoulders where blame should be, but hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway—pledged, loyal, faithful supporters on all occasions of His Majesty's Government—must not imagine that they can throw their burden wholly on the Ministers of the Crown.581 The right hon. Gentleman will see, therefore, that his right hon. Friend did exempt him to some degree. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford went on to say exactly what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol, in these words:This is no party question. It has nothing to do with party. It is entirely an issue affecting the broad safety of the nation.He then went on to make his appeal, and said:I put it as bluntly as I possibly can. If only 50 Members of the Conservative Party went into the Lobby tonight to vote for this Amendment, it would not affect the life of the Government, but it would make them act"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1938; Vol. 341, c. 1128–9.]I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman chose 50 Members of the Conservative Party, because we have heard from the benches opposite how wrong it is to calculate a number in such a way as not to endanger the life of the Government but, nevertheless, to produce an effect. I wonder whether it was perhaps a little fanciful, and whether the right hon. Gentleman had in mind the warning of the moral in the Bible in the tale of the fate of the wicked Cities of the Plain. It will be remembered that the Almighty offered to exempt them from vengeance—If I find … fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
§ Mr. Stanley
I should never dream of applying that to the party opposite. I should know that 50 was quite out of the question.
§ Mr. Bing
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman misunderstands me, but I will go part of the way with him. The right hon. Gentleman was a little firmer than the Almighty, because the Almighty, on being approached by a local inhabitant who knew the spirit and temper of the place, modified his view to ten.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is not the course upon which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) has embarked gross sacrilege?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Bowles)
The hon. Gentleman is exaggerating a little. I think the whole speech has been in rather good humour and I had not noticed any spirit of sacrilege at all.
§ Mr. Bing
I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite will be satisfied to know that the result in both cases was almost identical. It will be remembered that there were five just persons found from Sodom and Gomorrah, and that the right hon. Gentleman found three Conservatives to go into the Lobby with him. Of course, his right hon. Friend voted on the other side. He may say that he was tied, that he was a Member of the Government, but not so the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden); he was not tied—he was no longer a Member of the Government—yet he voted on the other side. Therefore, on this side, at any rate, we ought to be a little careful in accepting these invitations to look at the thing in an all-party spirit when one sees how contemptuously a similar all-party appeal by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford was rejected by his own party.
The right hon. Member for West Bristol will remember that once when I was speaking on the Conservative Party, in dealing with something from the 19th century, he interrupted me by saying, "Wake me up, somebody, when we reach the 20th century." I must confess that I thought at the time that the right hon. Gentleman really considered it prudent, in order to continue to support his party with a good conscience, to close his ears to the lessons of history. But looking at it again, I see that I misjudged him and that what he was really doing was making an appeal to his own party. He had hit upon the trouble; we have reached the 20th century but it is impossible to wake up right hon. and hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite to it. When one looks at their arguments in regard to the Forces one sees this. Look how they are based on numerical questions. "Where," says the right hon. Member for Woodford, "are the divisions; why have we not so many men?" But defence, modern defence, is not a question of numbers of effective fighting men in that sense at all. It is a question of the economic organisation of the whole country, and to produce a large number of effectives standing under arms now merely heightens the international tension when we should do our best to lessen it and, if adopted by my right hon. Friend, would lead to a grave economic crisis here.
583 There are, of course, strong arguments on this side of the House for looking again at our commitments and considering in all sorts of ways whether we can revise the organisation of our Forces, but I do not think any of us needs the support of hon. Members opposite in that task. I do not think anything would be gained by passing confidential information to hon. Members opposite. Why should they have it? I think it is an impudent request. Before we trust them with information, we should look at their record in regard to defence—[An HON. MEMBER: "And yours."]—All the records, but let us start with the record of the party opposite.
After all, defence was our first nationalised enterprise and if one looks at it one sees that hon. Members opposite practise, in regard to defence, as a virtue, all the things which they now allege—I think quite wrongly—are evils in regard to the nationalised industries. I take one example from a Debate two days ago. The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. G. Ward), one of the backers of this Amendment, complained, rightly or wrongly, that we had uneconomic and makeshift aircraft. He wanted to bring the industry up to date, but what was the principal policy which occupied Question Time in the dark days of 1939 before the outbreak of hostilities? The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) wanted the Scots Greys to retain their horses. This was their method of making the Army up to date. Of course, that was a virtue; this was how it could be made a picturesque Service. Such was the view. Two days ago the appointment of Lord Douglas to a civil aviation post was criticised as a party appointment, but before the war where could one find a general who would not have been condemned by all his associates and friends if he had not pulled every string he possibly could to get his son into his own unit? It would have been said: "Here is a monstrous departure from regimental tradition."
The whole attitude of hon. Members opposite in this House is a thing which in itself, hinders recruiting because they insist on a sort of bias in the Services which we on this side of the House must do our utmost to get rid of. I suggest to hon. Members on all sides of the 584 House that they might purchase a book, which is being "remaindered" now on the bookstalls. It is entitled, "Some talk of Alexander." I recommend it very strongly to hon. Members opposite. It deals in great detail with the life of an N.C.O. in the Guards during the late war. Even at that late date the test of a man's efficiency was judged by the shine on his boots and the mechanical precision of his movements. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) is not here to interrupt me, because he always interrupts any reference, however oblique, to the Brigade of Guards. It is the passing of this kind of tradition which is necessary if we are to have a type of officer who is not technically indifferent. There is still a kind of military lingua franca used to judge the efficiency of a unit merely by looking at its boots. One looks at the men's boots and says, "A fine turnout," or otherwise. It is that sort of tradition which hon. Members opposite stand for and which, in the Navy, for example, makes the question of the retention of the battleship a social problem rather than a question of naval efficiency.
It is these questions with which we have to deal as a party, and we are equipped in this party, whatever views we may have on defence, to deal with these questions, and without any help from hon. Members opposite. I would say to hon. Members on this side of the House that, whatever doubts we may have and whatever reservations we may have, in regard to particular aspects of defence, I hope we are all united in the belief that the party opposite, which so mismanaged defence when they had the opportunity not to criticise but to do something about it, should have no part whatever in planning now, and we on this side of the House will vote against their Amendment.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Byers (Dorset, Northern)
I am sure the House has enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing). I certainly have, but, if the House will forgive me, I shall return to defence. I say in passing that it will probably be my view tonight that it is right to vote against the Motion, although that will not in any way commit me to the support of past or future Conservative defence policy. I suggest that 50 Members opposite, if they voted 585 against the Government tonight, would not endanger the life of the Government, but they might get the Government to act. They have the majority and it lies with them to take the initiative.
I do not think that any hon. Member who takes defence seriously can be satisfied with this Defence White Paper. I am sure that hon. Members opposite could not approve in their own hearts, if they were free of the Whips, the sort of thing which has been given to us in this White Paper. It does not tell us very much, but what it does tell us causes me alarm, and even despondency, and I do not think that the situation was improved, if I may say so with respect, by the Minister merely repeating the White Paper two or three times in his speech this afternoon, for the House learned nothing new.
Is it not possible now to give us more information? I realise the interests of security, but in the White Papers and Estimates we have been given far less information than potential enemies of this country must have in their possession today. Even in the war, we used regularly to go through lists and take things off the secret list. We used to give information, not information which would be of value to the enemy, but information which would assist the people of the country to make up their minds that things were going right, instead of going wrong. The Minister of Defence is up against this problem: he will have to give more information if he wishes to create confidence in the country. I agree with the criticisms which have been made that this White Paper does not show an adequate plan. It does not show what are the real intentions of the Ministry of Defence or of the Departments themselves.
I and my colleagues have regularly called for this defence plan for the last 2½ years. The House will recall that I have said that we have spent far too much time discussing matters like conscription, important as they are, instead of getting down to a basic plan for national and collective defence. There is this vast expenditure, which I am not criticising. The Government will have to spend money on our defence today. Inevitably large numbers of men are being tied up, but unless the Government have a proper plan they will not marry up the various factors and ensure real value for money. 586 The real effort today seems to be on training the individual soldier instead of putting into the field operationally efficient formations. There was not one reference by the Minister of Defence today, nor was there in the White Paper so far as I could see, to the numbers of the formations which we have at our command, or any suggestion as to their operational efficiency.
How many formations have we got, how many divisions? The time has come when we should be given some indication, because indications are, as the right hon. Gentleman said, being given in the Press. Is the figure two divisions? Is it three divisions? If it is three divisions does the number include Colonial divisions? Does it include parachute divisions? Is there an armoured division? There was no inkling of this in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. What was the point of his standing at that Box for an hour without giving us some information. We knew in 1939 how many divisions we had. We are to have 391,000 men in the Army on 31st March, 1950. If the planning figure for a division is 30,000 to 40,000, how many divisions are we to have by March, 1950? Can we be given some answer by the Prime Minister?
Apart from the number of divisions or brigades, what is the state of their operational efficiency? One never hears now of divisional exercises being carried out. Are they being carried out? Are corps exercises being carried out? Perhaps that is kept secret. If so, can we be told that it is to be kept secret, because from reading the Press and going around the country the indication I get is that no formation exercises are taking place.
I do not intend to criticise the total numbers of men in the Armed Forces. The number of men required is governed by the commitments which have to he met. But I suggest that there are certain savings which could be made in the Army, and possibly, in certain cases, in the Royal Air Force, not only without affecting the efficiency of the Armed Forces but with advantage to their efficiency. I shall refer first to the suggestion which has been made on occasion of having a civilian administrative corps to do the fatigue routine administration duties of the Armed Forces. I believe 587 a corps of that kind of about 20,000 could be provided which would enable the soldiers to get on with their proper task. Such a corps might cost £6,000,000 or £7,000,000. Has this proposal been seriously considered by the Ministry of Defence? If so, do they approve of it? I cannot see how they can disapprove of it, because it would help the efficiency of the Armed Forces. If they approve, what has the Treasury to say about the proposal? Is the Minister tackling the Treasury about it?
I should like to go further than the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley). The time has now come when we should ask the sister nations of the British Commonwealth to undertake some of the overseas garrisoning and routine duties which now fall upon this country. I do not believe that that is too much to ask. After all, we in this country cannot go on making ourselves responsible for all these garrisons without receiving some help and assistance from other members of the British Commonwealth, who are desperately interested in the preservation of peace in parts of the Empire and in other parts of the world. I can see no reason why we should not have Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and South African troops in Trieste, in Austria—
§ Mr. Alexander
I hope that the hon. Member will not be ungenerous to the Dominions or forget the great help which they have already given by their share of the garrison in Japan, their responsibility for the defence of Fiji and other places in the Pacific, and for certain other commitments undertaken by them. They are being exceedingly helpful, and I hope that the hon. Member will not underrate that help.
§ Mr. Byers
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has interrupted me on that point. I do not seek to underestimate the contribution which the Dominions have made, but I think there is a case for asking them whether there are other commitments of which they can relieve us now and in the future. I believe that they would be willing to do so. I believe that it would help our Commonwealth relationship and liaison to have these troops assisting us and even taking over commitments for us in 588 different parts of the world. Is it possible to say that another 30,000 men could be saved in that way? I believe that some saving of manpower could be made which would enable our people to concentrate upon attaining the operational efficiency which is required.
I wish to refer briefly to the general manpower figures. This matter seems to me to be fundamental to the whole question of Defence. I do not think that the Minister of Defence has deliberately misled us, but he has misled the "Economist" and a number of people by the way in which the figures are presented in the Defence White Paper. We are told in the Defence White Paper that the total manpower in the Services in March, 1950, will be 146,000 in the Navy, 391,000 in the Army and 213,000 in the Air Force. In December last the Minister of Defence gave us an estimate of the Regular content of the Armed Forces in March, 1950. It was an estimate and I am not tying him down to the exact figures. He gave an estimate of 195,000 Regulars, including 18,000 A.T.S. in the Army, 127,000 in the Royal Air Force and 150,000 in the Navy. That will mean that we shall have 177,000 Regulars and 196,000 National Servicemen in the Army in March, 1950.
Can we have confirmation of that figure? It is a figure which has always been avoided by the Ministry of Defence. In the case of the Air Force we shall have 127,000 Regulars and 86,000 National Servicemen. That is the difference between the National Service element and the National Service intake which I think is where the "Economist" went wrong. The National Service element shows that our Forces are and still will be unbalanced. That is what worries me. These Forces cannot be operationally effective if those figures are anything like correct. Over 50 per cent. of our Army in March, 1950, will consist of youths under 20. I do not see how we are ever to get operational efficiency if that is the position. Again, in the R.A.F., 35 per cent. or more will be youths under 20. This is the direct result of conscription and of relying upon the National Service principle.
I cannot relieve the party above the Gangway of their responsibility for the conspiracy they entered into with this Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] 589 They supported this Government in their National Service policy at the beginning, when we stated, "You have two years in which to re-orientate the whole of your policy and get a balace." All the party above the Gangway could do—so typical of Conservatism—was to say, "We think it is a very good idea to have National Service." It is no use for the party above the Gangway now to blame the Government. They are just as much responsible. We have a clean record.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
How can the hon. Gentleman talk to us about his clean record? Does he honestly believe that during this interim period from 1945 up to now, we could have fulfilled our overseas commitments without conscription? If he does he is stupid; if he does not, he is a hypocrite.
§ Mr. Byers
I did not say that in the least. What we said two years ago was that by the end of 1949, we should be able to get rid of conscription. That was the original arrangement—that conscription was going to run until 1949. Nobody suggested it should be taken away immediately. But in the meantime, when we voted, it was for a Bill to bring in permanent conscription from 1st January, 1949. That was made clear to hon. Members who were here. What we were voting on was the Bill coming into force on 1st January, 1949, and it was because the period of service was altered, that another Bill had to be brought in. We voted against that, because we said there were still 15 months in which to get moving. There have been two and a half years in which to find the volunteers who have been lost. What I say is that the Conservative Party have a very big responsibility. They could have brought down the Government on this in December, but they had not the courage to do so.
§ Brigadier Head
At the expense of the safety of the country.
§ Brigadier Head
§ Mr. Byers
Then he thinks the Government are right in their defence policy; so he must support them tonight.
§ Brigadier Head
§ Mr. Byers
The only reference made in the White Paper to more volunteers is that the Government will aim at meeting the highest possible proportion of its commitments by Regular volunteers, and so on. It gives no indication whatever of what the Government are going to do. What are they going to do? This is not a matter which can be dealt with on the Estimates. We have to bring this question of the volunteer element up to the level of the Defence Debates because it is fundamental to the operational efficiency of our formations. I believe that the problem today is not merely how to get more volunteers, but how to keep the Regulars that we have got in the Armed Forces.
I consider that the claim made by the right hon. Gentleman that we should refrain from criticising the Government when they make increases in pay, is a dishonest claim. It is not a claim or an appeal to which I propose to respond. It is our duty to criticise. I told the right hon. Gentleman when he brought in that £12 million increase in November, that all he was trying to do was to remedy certain hardships. I have been pleading for a realistic policy of pay and decent conditions for the Armed Forces in order to keep volunteers in and to get more. We shall not get volunteers until we have the present Regulars saying that they are fully satisfied with the conditions in the Services and that they would not change their job with anyone in civilian life.
§ Mr. Alexander
I know what is being said about officers and the marriage allowance, but with regard to other ranks who took the bulk of the provision made last November, there was not only an increased marriage allowance but there was a definite rise in pay and an increase in the trade rates which afforded some future for the men in the Services. There was a definite inducement to keep Regulars of skill and experience in the Services, and I do not think that anyone has denied that.
§ Mr. Byers
But is it not also true that there are several hundred Regulars, other ranks as well as officers, leaving the Forces every month? There is a drift away, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot ride off on that. Is it not true that we are short of signallers? If we are we have plenty of signallers in the country—telegraphists and people working in the 591 Post Office and so on—how is it that the right hon. Gentleman cannot get them into the Army?
§ Mr. Mellish (Rotherhithe)
Because of full employment.
§ Mr. Byers
The hon. Member says it is because of full employment. But in full employment, if the rate is paid for the job, one obtains the willing man. But if it is not, one does not get him. This is the dilemma that we are in. Neither the Conservative Party nor the Government will face up to paying the Armed Forces the rate for the job.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
§ Mr. Byers
The Conservative Party used unemployment and the Government uses conscription, and the fact that the Conservative Party use unemployment, is no excuse for the Government refusing to pay the rate for the job now.
§ Commander Pursey (Hull, East)
Would the hon. Gentleman answer this; is it not a fact that from 1901 until 1914 the Liberal Party consistently paid the soldier a shilling a day?
§ Mr. Byers
I am very sorry about that, but I cannot accept full responsibility for it because I only entered this world in 1915.
I do not wish to detain the House, but this always seems to happen when we have these discussions. I suggest to the Minister that three things have to be done to raise the status of the Armed Forces. A good deal could be done by giving proper pay and conditions, and guaranteeing that the men have qualifications when they leave the Services. Something is being done in that way and we welcome it. The second thing which we have to accept is that the true comparison is not between 1949 and 1939. The true comparison is between what these people in the Armed Forces can earn today in the Armed Forces, compared with what they could earn in industry. The Minister will never accept that. He always says, "Look at the improvements we have made." Will the Minister give me the figure of the percentage increase in the pay and allowances in the Armed Forces compared with the percentage increase in industrial wage rates over the 592 last two and a half years? He knows that he dare not, because it would be to the detriment of the Armed Forces.
§ Mr. Alexander
On the contrary, the whole reorganisation of the pay code in 1945 was on the basis of relating it to comparable employment in civil life. The whole revision for other ranks last November was also to catch up on the intervening period. We maintained that in November we brought the rates up on a footing with increases outside.
§ Mr. Byers
Does not the right hon. Gentleman see that he is giving the game away? Every three years we try to catch up with industry. How can we expect to attract more people into the Army in that way? We have to be ahead of industry—[Interruption]—I am sorry, but do hon. Members want volunteers or not? If they do not want volunteers, then let us go on with conscription. If they want volunteers, I claim that the rate for the job must be paid. I also claim that we shall not have operational efficiency until we have volunteer Regular Forces. I want to see all the Armed Forces entirely voluntary. I believe it is right from the point of view of equity and operational efficiency.
I know that the Minister of Defence differs, but we have to face up to these things. There is, as the Minister has said, the defence of this country and the contribution we must make to the collective defence of Western Union and the Atlantic Union. These things are vital and I believe that the Minister would be well supported by this House if he told the Treasury that we have to pay out more money. I am sorry to say so, but we need more money for pay and allowances and for better barrack accommodation. We have to accept the responsibility for relieving thousands of officers and men of the financial obligation which they have now, the financial loss which they have to meet in keeping two homes going, or in renting a house because no married quarters are available. We want a really visionary attitude by the man in charge of the job. I see no indication in the White Paper or in the speech of the Minister that there is a man who has a real grip of the problem.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Northern Dorset (Mr. Byers) had to spoil 593 his speech by beating around and trying to invent some reason to attack my hon. and right hon. Friends upon our attitude towards defence matters in general since the war. I should like to support what he has said about the great importance of Regular recruiting. At a later stage I shall have something to say about conditions of service and rates of pay.
I have no doubt that other hon. and gallant Friends of mine will reply in detail to his remarks about our attitude towards conscription. The hon. Gentleman has never really been able to understand that attitude. I doubt whether he has ever tried, but certainly he has never been able to appreciate that conscription for the active Forces is one thing and conscription for the Reserve Forces is another. To condemn conscription outright just because one does not like it for the active Forces is a view which one can hold. One can also hold the view, which I understand the hon. Gentleman holds, that conscription is wrong in any event, even though it may be the only way in which the Government can have a trained Reserve large enough to persuade their Allies that they mean what they say in their pacts. That is one of the most important considerations which must be in the mind of any Minister of Defence today.
I was sorry to see that the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) could not even last out for half of the hon. Gentleman's speech. I am sorry that he left because I have something to say, as I think I must, about the general line of his speech. I noticed that in criticising defence policy before the war the only criticisms he read out were made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). He never read out any criticisms made by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Moreover, he never mentioned that both my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—though he was not in the Government—and I understand other right hon. Gentlemen also were given information by the Government at the time on which they could make their informative contributions to Debate. That situation is denied to my right hon. Friends today. It is worth reminding the House of the great difference to be seen between Debates on defence which take place now and Debates which took place before the war when right hon. Gentlemen other than 594 those in the Government were properly informed.
I should also like to add, in reply to what the hon. Gentleman said, that he seems to have forgotten altogether that as a result of the policy of the pre-war Government there were Spitfires and Hurricanes with which our grand pilots were able to win the battle of Britain. I do not wish to add any further comment on those parts of his speech except to remind him of the record of his own party and to ask him whether he did what I know a great many members of my own party now in the House did, and that was to make a voluntary contribution to defence before the war by joining up in the volunteer Forces. Perhaps he should look at his own record before he begins inventing attacks on the records of others on points that he does not fully understand.
§ Mr. Bing
First, I ought to apologise for any discourtesy to the hon. Gentleman because I was not here at the start of his speech. I was merely calling the attention of the Official Reporters to the passages in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) which I had quoted. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman said what he said just now. I think that I took some part in the defence of democracy in a really practical way. I was in Spain at a time when hon. Gentlemen on the opposite benches were saying, if I can quote from Mr. Duff Cooper, that the cause was not worth a single British life.
§ Mr. Low
After that intervention, I will pass to the defence problem of today, with which it is our duty to deal. The White Paper starts with a paragraph in which three main features of the problem are set out. Curiously enough, as it seems when one first reads the White Paper, the first feature set out is a long-term-problem. It is only when one comes to the second feature that one realises that the defence problem has a short-term and an immediate side to it. It may strike one that it is rather odd that the long-term feature should be expressed first, but it is not odd when one reads the whole of the document. Having read the White Paper carefully again and again, and having also read last year's White Paper repeatedly, I believe that His Majesty's Government have decided, not just last year but also this year, that the 595 long-term features of defence still have priority over the short-term features.
I consider that the differences that arise in this House in the way in which we look at defence problems arise largely because my hon. and right hon. Friends do not agree with the Government that the long-term feature, important though it may be, should have such priority over the short-term feature. I believe that the last time we discussed this matter a number of the Government's supporters felt the same way about this. So it is that with the complete lack of information of our actual strength today, and with the open admission at the start of the White Paper that long-term needs still come first, many of us in the House must be extremely disquieted about our defence situation. Many hon. Members also must be disquieted not only that £750 million is being wasted and that 1,500,000 men may not be being used properly, but that at a time when we are trying to organise factual and collective resistance to Russian aggression we should not be doing it in the right way.
If the right hon. Gentleman had been able to come to the House and give some details, either in the White Paper or in his speech, of a satisfactory operational strength of our Forces, I might have been inclined to back him up in his policy for this year. He has stated that he cannot give us that information for reasons of secrecy. This is a question that has arisen in every Debate on defence since the war. The first reason given by the Government in support of their policy of denying information to the House is that, as a result of a study of captured German documents, it is thought that the pre-war practice gave a great deal of valuable information to the enemy. That may be so, but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that in fact the form of the Estimates was changed in 1939. The 1939 Estimates gave a great deal of operational information which in those days it was thought safe to give. It seems likely that the information, if there was any, which fell into the hands of the enemy was information given in the much bulkier form of pre-1939 Estimates. That is a point on which I have never heard any right hon. Gentleman give a satisfactory answer.
§ Mr. Alexander
I should think the most satisfactory answer is that, as I 596 think is fairly generally known now, captured German documents in our possession and in possession of the Allies, show quite clearly the information which accrued to the enemy and which was secured by them on the basis of the publicity at that time.
§ Mr. Low
But not, I understand, on the basis of the publicity before 1939, when the Estimates were different, and that is the point, if the hon. Gentleman would listen to me. The right hon. Gentleman is really taking the stand on exactly what he has always said on these matters—that he is not prepared to reconsider the matter or listen to points made, not only by amateurs in this House, but by men who have spent their whole life in these matters and who give him advice in another place.
§ Mr. Shackleton (Preston)
Will the hon. Gentleman elucidate what type of information it is which he thinks it is safe to give? Will he be a little more specific on that point?
§ Mr. Low
I will be quite specific and say that I think it is perfectly safe that the right hon. Gentleman should tell us how many divisions the British Army has, and how many it is aimed to have by the end of the year; how many squadrons or groups the Royal Air Force has; and a good deal of the information which is already given to us in the Memorandum to the Navy Estimates, which is quite satisfactory to me.
I would remind the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Shackleton) that it is exactly that information which the United States is prepared to give to their public and to Congress. They have stated how many divisions they are aiming to have, and when; they have stated how many groups in their Air Force they are aiming to have, and when; they have stated how many men they are aiming to have in the mobile reserve, and a great many other things have been given to their public by way of so-called confidential information which enables Congress to understand the defence situation in the United States. I would emphasise to the right hon. Gentleman that, in the long run, he is bound to be doing harm rather than good to the defence services of this country by depriving the people of this country of the proper amount of information. As was pointed out yesterday, 597 it probably does harm to recruiting, and thus secrecy in peace-time becomes a luxury which we cannot afford.
I would like to refer to the point made last year by the Prime Minister when he indicated that arrangements had been made to give confidential information to the Select Committee. I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman meant the Select Committee on Estimates. I am a member of that Committee, and an inquiry is going on, so I shall not refer to anything which has not been reported to the House. I want to put my own view to the Government. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman's attitude creates the great difficulties in which this House finds itself when debating defence.
Because of the present security precautions, too often we have to think of defence in terms of thousands of men and millions of pounds, of boots and shoes and of education. All these things are important. But the strength of this country lies, not in the number of men who can be put into the Forces, but in the skill and quality of its trained men, organised in formations, groups or squadrons and equipped with the equipment which we in this country are able to produce. If we are confined to debating defence against the background of numbers of men and millions of pounds, we are bound to say things which appear to suggest that we are completely misinformed. The Minister of Defence said that we appear to have overlooked important facts. Of course, we do, because we are not told about those important facts. The right hon. Gentleman may think that some of us are very ill-informed on these subjects, or that we are too young, but it is entirely because—
§ Wing-Commander Millington (Chelmsford)
It is not the fault of my right hon. Friend that the hon. Gentleman is too young.
§ Mr. Low
When the criticism is made that some of us are taking a rather curious view about these things, it should be remembered that we are only doing our best to contribute to the discussion on the defence of this country, and that we are only fulfilling what is our first responsibility to the people who elected us to see that this country is safe and secure.
598 May I now pass from the security point to the main point which I want to stress today, which is that the Government are making a grave mistake in putting the needs of the long-term planning of the Forces on a higher priority than the need of short-term readiness to meet a war. I have already referred to paragraph 1 of the White Paper, and I now want to refer particularly to the paragraphs dealing with manpower and, secondly, to the paragraphs on equipment. In the paragraphs on manpower, the right hon. Gentleman recognises the importance of Regular Forces, but he seems to be remarkably over-satisfied with the state of affairs at the moment. Does he realise that the rate of recruiting has dropped—I am assured that he must—and also that the rate of wastage through the retirement and resignation of officers and from the ordinary ending of the engagements of other ranks is increasing? If the figures for resignations of Army officers given the other day for January are examined, they work out to an annual rate of about 820.
If these figures are a true example of what is happening, the right hon. Gentleman should be very concerned indeed about the matter, but instead, what do we find? In paragraph 38 of the White Paper, there are these Micawberish remarks:In pursuance of this aim it is their intention to do everything in their power to stimulate recruitment for the Regular Forces and the re-entry of time-expired men. It is their earnest hope that as time proceeds a combination of improved recruitment and engagement with diminished defence commitments will enable their aim to be realised.We hope that will happen, but that is really catering only for the short-term deficiency in the number of Regulars in the Forces. The right hon. Gentleman knows that we have nothing like enough Regular soldiers either in the Army or the R.A.F. He knows that, but is he prepared to tell us that it is his hope that something better will happen?
I draw his attention to the words "diminished defence commitments." From where does he intend to get this diminution in defence commitments, when he is about to enter into a North Atlantic Pact, or we hope he is, and has already entered into a Western Union Pact, both of which may affect our ability to hold Western Union with the troops of other 599 nations. If we are to have an Army and an Air Force of a fair size, in relation to the total requirements and the contributions from other countries, we must have these Forces at a pitch of immediate readiness, and only regular troops, both in the Air Force and the Army, can produce the divisions or groups at the high state of readiness which must be demanded.
§ Commander Pursey
They are in Germany now.
§ Mr. Low
An hon. Gentleman opposite says that the troops are on the Continent now. Of course, they are, but I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can say that there are two divisions in Germany which are immediately ready to fight. Indeed, I am quite sure he cannot.
As to reserves, I suppose the right hon. Gentleman will be looking to the Class Z men. I raised this question the other day with the Secretary of State for War concerning volunteers for the Registered Reserve in the Army. There are very few volunteers; I am told that the number is about 200 out of a target of 20,000. If he wants to make use of these Class Z men at an early time after mobilisation, he has to give them at least some knowledge of what unit they are going to, and has probably got to give them some kind of refresher training.
I now pass from manpower to equipment. We are told, with regard to equipment, that there is to be a "modest instalment of modernisation." It is certainly about time, at least from the Army's point of view, that there was some modernisation of equipment. The policy of the Government has been that the Army should live on its fat from the end of the war. Living on its fat has been a very expensive pastime. I think it cost £13 million last year and £14,500,000 this year. There is no sign that this living on the fat and this modest instalment of modernisation are going to produce sufficient equipment so that we may have sufficient fully equipped divisions in the Army to cater for our obligations under Western Union or the North Atlantic Pact at an early moment. All these plans for the use of our war potential and for the change-over from peace to war, if ever that has to happen again, are very important, but those plans 600 do not produce equipment on the date of mobilisation. I should like to be assured that there is up-to-date equipment ready for the small Force which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind to use in any sudden emergency.
From those two examples, it is clear to me that the right hon. Gentleman is still wedded, as I have said, to his priority for the long-term feature of defence. Of course, that long-term feature is important, and he is quite right to place great importance every year on research and development. At the same time, I do not think he should overemphasise how good it is that the money spent on research and development each year goes up. Of course it goes up, because, as one takes on new projects, one still has to pay for the old development projects. I am not suggesting that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong to consider the long-term feature, but I am suggesting that it is now his duty to give priority to short-term requirements, and to produce an Army and an Air Force that are immediately efficient and immediately ready for an emergency. I do not think that can be done unless he gets more Regular soldiers and unless he alters his equipment plan.
Exactly how he should get more Regulars into the Forces is a matter for others, but clearly he must increase the pay by 25 per cent, until it is in line with the average civilian earnings. At present, it has only been increased by 10 per cent. I have worked out these figures, as I expect the right hon. Gentleman or his staff have done, and it is obvious that there will have to be a substantially greater increase in pay and a substantial improvement in conditions before he is going to get the Regulars he requires.
§ Mr. Alexander
§ Mr. Low
The right hon. Gentleman still shakes his head. It is clear from what he has told us today that he remains wedded to this priority of the long-term feature, but I ask him—and I shall end my speech on this note—how the Atlantic Pact, Western Union, the British Commonwealth defence arrangements, and world defence against Communism can successfully be carried out, unless we have an Air Force, an Army and a Navy which are ready for an emergency—not just 601 ready with any old weapons and untrained, but ready, skilled, trained and fully equipped.
§ Mr. Alexander
If the hon. Gentleman will do me the honour of studying my speech in more detail in the morning than he was able to do as I was delivering it today, he will see that his estimation of my preference is not correct. I did not say that I was banking on the long-term policy at all; I said that the aspect of some of these matters could not be determined until we had finished our consultations about the Pact, and saw how they could be fitted in.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Shackleton (Preston)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. Low) would welcome an early opportunity to correct a very unfortunate impression which he gave at the beginning of his speech. When my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) was attacking the record of the party opposite, he was attacking their political record and not their personal record. I must confess that, knowing the hon. Member for Blackpool as I do, I am extremely surprised that he should have chosen to make the remarks he did with reference to the personal record of my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch. I realise it was a deliberate attack, because I saw the hon. Member scanning Dod before making his speech. Just because my hon. Friend, like the hon. Member for Blackpool, is modest and does not give his war record in Dod, there was no reason for the hon. Member to make such a mistake as he did. I think I should point out that my hon. Friend saw a great deal of active service. He was wounded, and his friends know he has suffered a great deal from those wounds. I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Blackpool would wish to withdraw his implications straightaway.
§ Mr. Low
So far as I am aware, I made no remarks whatsoever about the conduct of the hon. Member for Horn-church during the war; I was fully aware of his service, during the war. Indeed, I think that, on other occasions, I have said not just polite, but most sincere things in approval of what he did.
§ Mr. Shackleton
I can only say that the hon. Member certainly gave that unfortunate impression, but I am very glad 602 that he has cleared it up because it is the sort of thing which is not fitting in a Debate of this kind.
The hon. Member, like hon. Members on the Liberal benches—who, I am sorry to say, have disappeared, leaving us in some difficulty when we come to deal with Liberal defence policy—attacked the Government on the subject of secrecy. It is, of course, difficult to judge the Liberal Party defence record since it took place long before most of the hon. Members in this House were in a position to judge. One of their more notable achievements was, of course, the sacking of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) from the Admiralty at a time when he had given some rather signal service to this country at the beginning of the First World War. On this subject of secrecy, I wish to take up straightaway the point made by the hon. Member for Blackpool. He has suggested that it would be possible to give details of the number of divisions and squadrons. I am not competent to discuss the value of that information from the point of view of the Army, but I can say that to give the number of squadrons, or even to give the establishment of squadrons, in the Air Force would be of no value to this House in assessing the efficiency of our defences, and I am sure that any hon. Member must agree that the same thing would naturally apply in relation to the Army. At any rate, with regard to the Air Force, I can only say that the establishment of the number of squadrons aimed at has very little significance. Availability, serviceability and other matters are the real test.
Before the war, one could look up in many books the first line strength of various nations in the air. But that was absolutely without any significance when it came to the actual battlefield. Therefore, unless the Government are in a position to give a great deal more information than just a list of divisions, or a list of squadrons, I do not see that it can be of any use except, possibly, to a would-be enemy who will be able to use it as a basis for subsequent intelligence work. There is no need for me to go into the methods employed in that direction, but certain types of information which, by themselves. convey very little, are essential in the build-up of that work.
603 Nonetheless, it is obviously a very real difficulty which this House is facing today in discussing Defence Estimates. It is a problem to which I, for one, cannot see the solution. I am prepared to accept from the Government that they consider their decision wiser and I do not doubt for one moment that they have been advised by the Service chiefs in the matter. At the same time, I would ask them at least to argue a little with the Service chiefs before accepting the request for secrecy. It is, however, a thing which I feel is of no great significance to this Debate because even if a little more information were given I do not believe it would add very much to the Debate.
The Conservative Party have moved an Amendment which is designed to attack the Government's handling of defence matters. It is clear from the type of broadside which has been delivered in support of that Amendment that they are quite unable to sustain their case. They may argue that they are firing their broadsides blindfolded or without the aid of radar. It is obvious to every hon. Member in the House that they are not in a position to make a really effective attack on the Government's policy. I suggest it is perhaps unfortunate that they have not brought the right hon. Member for Woodford to sustain them in this attack. We do not wish again to draw attention too strongly to his absence on other notable occasions, such as the Debate on the Estimates for the Health Service a short time ago, but I do suggest that if he is their great expert, it would have been a wise thing for him to come and make the case, because it is quite obvious that with the artillery which the Opposition are using today the case will fail lamentably.
There are points of criticism which could be made on the detail of the Government's policy. I feel, as many hon. Members feel, that the Ministry of Defence must play a more positive role than it has been playing. I realise that there are the greatest difficulties in front of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence; nevertheless I believe that one obvious job the Ministry should perform is not only co-ordination at the higher levels of the Services, not only co-ordination of staffs and so on, but co-ordination at the lower level. There are 604 certain arms of the Services which will be continually engaged in association with other Services, and it was one of our greatest weaknesses during the war that too often those branches of the Services, which time and again have to co-operate—I do not mean just on the beachheads and in particular types of operation but in a continuous series of operations—were abysmally ignorant of what their opposite numbers in the other Services were about and of their outlook.
I suggest that the Minister might well ask some of his advisers, preferably even some of his scientists, to look into that problem. I suggest, as I have suggested previously, that there is a need for the Ministry of Defence to turn active research on to the whole subject of coordination and not just employ the staff officers who meet to reach the lowest common denominator of agreement. The Ministry should turn people on to the problem and regard it as a special problem. They should use methods of operational research which my right hon. Friend mentioned as being introduced in the last two years of the war. That, however, is a point on which I can correct him; they were used for several years, long before 1944, with great success.
I have another anxiety, and this is an anxiety which I am sure is shared by hon. Members on this side of the House, although I do not know whether hon. Mmebers opposite will share it. It is the vast, and I may say growing, size of the Royal Navy. We realise that at present it is necessary to maintain certain forces which could be used in the near future, but why should we want 12 capital ships, of which eight are in commission, with the number increasing, even though many of them are in the nature of fleet carriers. I find it very difficult to understand that, in the light of the strategic appreciation of the position with regard to a possible enemy, which appreciation I am sure my right hon. Friend has made. This is a point which, I feel, calls for an extraordinary amount of strength of character on the part of my right hon. Friend. Indeed, I feel it is almost too much to ask of any man to face up to the entrenched power of the Admiralty. Nevertheless, it has to be done. I suggest it is a job which my right hon. Friend, with all his experience of Admirals, must now have learned how to do.
605 I do not want to labour the point too much, but it is a fact that we are spending a very large sum on the Navy and it is my belief that a larger part of that sum might go to the long-term development which hon. Members on this side of the House, I am sure, are convinced is the right approach to the problems of defence. I realise, and we all must realise, that it is esential to try to achieve some form of operational readiness. Nevertheless, I have sufficient hope, and perhaps too much optimism, that these forces are not likely to be required in the near future and that the really important energy should go into long-term development. There is the added advantage in placing that money, say, to atomic energy development or guided missile development that one day, if, God willing, it is not required for war purposes, it can have very great significance for peaceful purposes. I hope, therefore, that the Government will continue to persevere in their devotion to the long-term approach, not only from the point of view of our defensive needs but from the point of view of the community.
It will be clear that unless the Conservative Party can produce more effective arguments against the policy of the Government, then moving their Amendment is as valueless from the point of view of contributing to our defence as was their performance in a previous Debate to the Health Estimates.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Commander Maitland (Horncastle)
I am most grateful to you, Sir, for having given me an opportunity to follow the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Shackleton). I will do my best to comply with my promise to you to be as short as possible. I am afraid I cannot answer the hon. Member in the way he would probably expect, because I want to draw the attention of the House to what constitutes a very grave menace to this country.
There are many ways of killing people—by dropping atom bombs on them, by gassing them, by using those guided weapons of the far-distant, or not-so-fardistant, future about which the hon. Member for Preston was talking. There is one certain way to defeat this country, however, and that is by starvation. We know to our cost in the 1914–18 war, and again in the war which recently 606 ended, how dangerously near we came to the point of starvation. In this connection I want to follow up a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) when he was discussing our lack of efficient escort vessels. I do not think the House realises that when the war ended the submarine was in the ascendancy—not of course in numbers, but certainly in efficacy. It had once more got the better of the surface craft. Since that time a great deal of progress has been made and fewer submarines are now required to do the work of many.
Any nation which sees the possibility of having this country as an enemy must take note of these facts. Today, Russia presumably conceives that she may one day be at war with this country. I am told—and I believe the information which I have received—that Russia today has between 250 and 300 submarines. The fact that there has been a considerable increase in the capabilities and speed of submarines means that large numbers of the escort vessels which we had in the war, and which protected us so gallantly, have become useless. However, there is not one word in the White Paper about any effort to replace the escort vessels with faster vessels. I realise that it is a very difficult task at the moment to undertake a rebuilding programme of that nature, but the fact that a thing is difficult, does not mean that the best way to tackle it is to do nothing about it at all.
§ Mr. Shackleton
Equally it is not the best way to have a large number of capital ships.
§ Commander Maitland
That seems to me a very good point. I think that our needs at the moment are so desperate in regard to these escort vessels that, as we have but a certain amount of money to spend, it would be far better to direct it to the building of escort vessels than to use it in some other directions which the hon. Gentleman has in mind. Then there is the question of the speed of our merchant ships. Just as the submarine has become faster, just as it has made the existing merchant ships easier targets, so if we can increase the speed of our merchant ships so we in effect diminish the efficacy of submarines. I know only too well that it is economically very difficult to try to in- 607 crease the speed of merchant ships, but I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should call a conference of the shipbuilders and shipowners, and perhaps Lloyd's as well, and ask them whether they can think of any way in which the speed of merchant ships can be increased. Possibly a few extra knots would be of great advantage to us in time of need.
Now I turn to what I think is, perhaps, the most important matter of all, the question of the distribution of manpower. First, there is the Territorial Army. In paragraph 4 the White Paper says:In particular, measures have been put in hand to ensure that the Territorial Army organisation is developed to allow it to handle the National Service Reservists who will begin to enter in 1950.Of course. But it is common knowledge that recruitment for the Territorial Army has not been a success. It would be quite contrary to good policy to attempt to disguise that. That is the sort of thing we mean when we talk about the secretive nature of this document. One of the things militating against recruitment for the Territorial Army, particularly in the country, is the lack of certainty among people in those occupations which are under the Control of Engagement Order. For example. what happens to a man who joins the Territorial Army under the existing arrangements? If war breaks out, he will go back to agriculture. But what happens to him if the Control of Engagement Order is lifted? Or is it never to be lifted? It is this uncertainty which is delaying recruiting. I think it is essential that a register of people who can be called up should be compiled. We have heard no mention of that yet.
Recruiting for the Regular Forces is of the very greatest importance. I agree very much with the spokesman of the Liberal Party today, the hon. Member for Northern Dorset (Mr. Byers), who is not present now, that we must raise the standard. Why, therefore, is there in the White Paper this curious remark that it is intended that the conditions of service should make a wide appeal to compete with other careers on "reasonably good terms"? Why should there be that qualification? Why should not the terms be equal? It seems ridiculous 608 that the word "reasonable"—which has come to mean something, perhaps, not strictly correct by the old definition—should be inserted.
It is quite clear that after any great war these difficulties must exist. There is nothing abnormal about them. This is the normal situation after any great war, after times of great danger and difficulty. However, there is surely one shield we ought always to have over us at this time, and that consists in the knowledge and proficiency of the men who fought in the preceding war, the Class Z Reserve. That is a great asset, but it is diminishing. The speed at which it is diminishing ought to be known. I maintain that the only way in which that can be done is by having a plan of mobilisation made in all detail—planned, as it were, on D-Day lines. It should be a plan in which a great many details are taken into account, by which every single man or woman capable of joining the Forces is known—by which it is known where they all are, whether in industry or agriculture, and which of them are fit enough to join up. By this plan the Minister of Defence could know where they are all to go.
That may seem a tremendous task. It may cost a great deal. However, I am certain that a scheme of mobilisation such as that is essential if we are to know whether or not we are to fulfil our commitments. Unless we know what is to happen when we mobilise, how can we possibly know how to decide when the stages of the long-term plan are to be effected? Without this plan we shall not know the rate at which our asset of manpower is being diminished. Nor can we know what contribution we can make in common with the Western European countries or with those joining in the Atlantic Pact. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, when he replies, will answer that point—whether it is not advisable, really and truly advisable, that we should have a complete overall mobilisation plan. It is laid down, after all, as one of the great duties of the Minister of Defence in the White Paper which sets out his duties and which we debated nearly two years ago.
I think that our whole defence situation is in a very serious state and I will conclude by quoting a remark I read in the 609 "Economist" the other day, which referred to our defence situation:We are in a muddle, and we have no British Eisenhower to whom the problem can be handed for solution since our own counterpart sits on the Front Opposition Bench.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Crawley (Buckingham)
The remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) concerning capital ships caused, I think, some embarrassment to the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor). I will not follow him in that discussion. I should like to concentrate on a rather different aspect of the main problem.
The main problem is simply stated. It is that we need to strengthen our defences, but every penny that we have to spend to do so, jeopardises our economic recovery. The main thing which strikes me in thinking about this matter is the fundamental change which has come over our position now from what it was before the last war. That change is really this: Whereas then we were a great military Power planning to meet an equal military power or a Power slightly greater, today we are not a first-rank military Power, and we are planning to meet an infinitely superior military Power.
Therefore, in planning our defence we have to plan not a metropolitan force, not a force in which we have the cadres of every arm, not a force which is going to be the core of an imperial force, but a force which is going to be a part, and a subsidiary part, of a hemispherical defence. I do not feel that our plan, although a great deal has been done in that direction, has really gone far enough. I believe that we have to specialise more, and plan more narrowly.
I know that there are some people to whom the fact that we are dependent on the United States in a military sense is anathema, but it is really no longer a question of argument. The fact is that had it not been for the presence of United States troops in Europe, what has happened in Hungary and Czechoslovakia would have happened in France, Italy and Germany, and our position would have been precarious in the extreme. Further, American troops, as we know, whatever the formal commitments which are in existence, and whatever the formal wording of the Atlantic Pact, are going 610 to remain in Europe until, in the opinion of the Government of the United States, security is achieved. Therefore, we know that should war break out, which we all hope and have good reason to believe may not happen, America is bound to be involved. My point is, therefore, that whatever the wording of any Atlantic Pact, we must plan our own defences of all arms on the assumption of immediate American assistance. If we fail to plan in that way, if we allow any hangover of the days when we had to think that we might have to fight a whole war alone, and not merely take the first brunt of it alone, to influence us, then we shall be dispersing our strength industrially and militarily and fail to carry out our share of this hemispherical defence, which is to take the first brunt and act as a spearhead.
I admit at once that a great deal of progress has been made in the coordination of our defences with those of Western Union and of the United States. I am aware of the very great interchange of information and of planning, which we have had described in the White Paper, and which is taking place on the supply side. Nevertheless, I think that the actual form—and I am speaking of only one arm of our Forces—that our Air Force at the moment is taking shows that, although there are ideas and hopes of full co-ordination, those ideas and hopes have not yet permeated the Service itself or the industries which lie behind it.
In the air what, in fact, is the problem? One has only to read the better American magazines to find much fuller figures than we get here. I do not think that there is much question that the Russians have—and we are always thinking only of one conceivable enemy in this context—about 400 first-line modern bombers. They are not jet-bombers but they are, in fact, so fast that nothing short of a jet-fighter is any defence against them. We know also that the Russians have a much larger number of troop-carrying aircraft, and a larger number still of what I would describe as a close-support aircraft which they use as long-range artillery. That is going to be the immediate menace—for we are never going to be the aggressor—which we have to meet. We have to plan to meet the first onslaught and to hold the line in Europe, as far out in Europe as we can, and to give time to the rest of the forces of 611 the Western Hemisphere to come to our assistance.
I know the argument which the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) used about retaliation and attack being the best form of defence. I admit that is true. What I want to suggest is that we alone are not in a position to do both things: We have not the economic power both to build up adequate defences and meet the initial attack which may be launched against us, and to build up a really efficient means of retaliation in the air, either by medium or long-range bombers. I suggest that to build up a sufficient fighter defence is in fact going to take all the resources which we can devote to air defence. It costs now about three times as much to build any aircraft as it did in 1939. It costs nearly 10 times as much to build a modern jet-bomber as it does to build a jet-fighter. I want to ask those who have been, quite naturally, asking questions about bombers, whether they have ever worked out what in terms of industrial outlay a really large fleet of jet-bombers means. Have they asked themselves the question: Can we, with these vastly greater costs, attempt to carry out the functions both of defence and attack?
How, in fact, are we equipped? One does not need to have any secret information to know roughly what is the position. If one goes to exhibitions of the Society of British Aircraft Manufacturers, reads the American magazines and watches squadrons flying in the sky, one can know pretty well what is the position. Our need is fighters. Our need is jet-propelled fighters and, above all, night jet-propelled fighters. What is the position? In regard to night jet-propelled fighters, Lord Henderson, in another place yesterday, told us what the position was. He said that we had none. That, of course, is perfectly true. We have adaptations which we hope will prove sound, but it is a very serious fact which the whole world knows and the recent exercise has demonstrated, that we have not adequate night-fighter defence. I am not blaming the Government for that. I am anxious, however, that all possible resources, and I think greater resources than is the case at the moment, should be devoted to filling that gap.
612 What about day fighters? We have the two best day fighters in existence. I do not think that there is any dispute about that; but equally we have not got them in adequate numbers. I know the reason—the breakdown and run-down and so on—but are we, in fact, increasing our numbers as fast as our industrial air potential allows, or are we dissipating some of it on what I suggest are unnecessary forms of armament? I shall not say how many factories I think there are, but I think I know the rate at which our fighters are produced, and I believe that it is not nearly fast enough. The reason was given yesterday in another place, and was hinted at by the right hon. Member for West Bristol: we are devoting a considerable part of our resources to the development of bombers—and to the development of jet bombers. The fact is that there are nearly as many prototype jet-bombers as there are prototype jet-fighters.
Now, if I am right about the function we must play in Western Hemisphere defence, does that really make sense? Does it make sense to keep a large part of our aircraft industry waiting to produce a fleet of jet-bombers, which I personally very much doubt that we can afford to develop to any considerable extent in peace-time, and wonder if we should be in a position to develop in war-time? Does that fit in with our requirements? In my opinion, until we have built up our fighter defence to the right strength it is nothing short of madness to devote even the amount of our resources that we are now devoting to the development of bombers. Surely it is obvious that there is a clear demarcation of functions in the air between ourselves—and by that I mean the Brussels Treaty Powers, the Western European Powers—and the United States of America? It is here that fighters are going to be used, in this country and on the Continent of Europe. It is we, first and foremost, who will use them. We have great experience of fighters; we are producing better fighters than the United States of America; and we surely must have that as absolutely our first priority.
Why, then, are we devoting so much to the development of bombers? I take exactly the opposite point of view from that taken by the right hon. Member for West Bristol, and I am not in the least 613 daunted by the fact that that very distinguished airman Lord Portal should support him. After all, Lord Portal was one of the creators and one of the great commanders of our great bomber force in the last war, and one expects him to hold that point of view. I can only say that there are just as eminent men in the other branches of the Royal Air Force who have the opposite point of view, and as there is a difference of expert opinions it is a matter on which the Government and we in this House must decide.
But have the Government really got down to these details with the United States? I know that discussions are taking place, but are the Government really urging the United States to look at our fighters, to consider the problem of fighter defence as a whole, and to consider whether they ought not to use our fighters and produce our fighters in the United States to a certain extent? It is not generally known that, although the United States fighter is faster than ours, and has greater endurance, it could not really be used in this country: it needs longer runways than we have got; also, it would not be suitable because it does not climb fast enough to be an effective defence from our point of view when we have to meet the initial attack.
Does it really make sense that we and the United States should be competing in the production of fighters at this stage, when we know that we have got the right type of fighters to meet the danger? Would it not make more sense if we coordinated our efforts in that respect? Would it not make more sense if in regard to bombers, where they must inevitably be ahead of us, we also co-ordinated our efforts; if Bomber Command used American aircraft which I think they could easily do; if we put our own jet engines into them for experimentation, rather than build bombers of our own which may never be used? Ought we not to run both great arms of the force in conjunction? I suggest that unless we do this, we shall be failing to take the one real advantage that accrues to us from the change in our strategical position.
We are no longer an independent military Power. We are a dependent Power. Therefore, we ought to be able to make real economies by relying on the United States for a considerable part of our force. I believe that the Government are thinking along these lines, but I do not 614 believe that they are taking action energetically enough or fast enough. Yet, if they do not do these things, I do not believe they will make the only large-scale economy which could be made and yet keep our defences in order.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I do not propose to trespass on the patience of the House for any great length of time this evening. I am suffering, as are many other hon. Members on both sides, from a feeling of disquiet, a feeling that all is not well in our defence plans, and I want to begin by saying a word or two on the subject of secrecy. I am not at all convinced in my own mind that this secrecy is not so much a matter of security as of fear of disclosing the truth. I believe that the reason our allies the Americans find it very easy to disclose their figures is because they are not in the least bit ashamed of them. If the Government had, as the Americans have, 12,000 front line aircraft they would not mind telling the world. I wish I could feel a little more certain that it really is a question of security and not of fear. I should also like to know very much whether it is the view of the Chiefs of Staff, or merely that of the Cabinet, that there should be this secrecy.
I do not believe it is possible for this House or the country fully to realise and appreciate the position unless we are told a little more. I am sure it breeds confidence to disclose as much as possible—and we have been told extraordinarily little so far. In the past it has been our habit to win the last battle; but just for a change I should be happier to feel that we would be able to win the first battle. I have said before, and I shall say again many times, that next time there will not be any breathing space: it will be a press button affair on the lines of Pearl Harbour, so that we must have in readiness not only a force on the Continent to act with a united Europe, but also a force in this country capable of defeating what I have already alluded to in former spe•eches—the danger which may exist from an airborne attack. The other day General Eisenhower said that the ultimate result of any war will depend on the ability to act and react in the first 60 days. In my view, that should be a motto hung over the beds of the Minister of Defence and his colleagues on the Government Front Bench.
615 I wonder if we are all aware of the object of the North Atlantic Pact? I believe that the object is to prevent war, and we shall only prevent the risk of war by being strong, and by showing that we are strong. The Government must be aware of the challenge. If they are not I can assure them that the whole Continent is. As I go about this country I am alarmed to discover how little awareness there is of the danger. I do not wish to be in any way alarmist, but coming back to this country from the Continent after speaking to the people abroad, one has a feeling that the people of this country do not realise what may face them in the future. It is in order to prevent what has happened in Eastern and Central Europe that we are disturbed about our defences.
I am in agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) in what he said about long-term and short-term policies. I was entirely behind the Government in their original long-term view; but I am now completely convinced that that long-term view is quite out-of-date, that there is a very urgent and immediate short-term problem which must be solved, and solved very, very quickly. There is for this short-term plan a total absence of overall directive to the junior ranks in all the Services, within which they should be immediately capable of training and building up a detailed organisation. It is high time that they were given a better chance of being able to see what it is they have in front of them so that they can become more efficient in their present tasks.
I want to say a word about the antiaircraft defence of this country. I am worried when I see fine Territorial units, who fought in active roles in the various theatres of war, being turned into heavy anti-aircraft regiments. I do not criticise the system or make a remark like that unless I have a possible solution of the problem to suggest. I can assure the Secretary of State for War that one of the reasons why two or three units are not getting recruits is because they were very fine field regiments in the war. I had the honour to have one of them under my command. They have not succeeded in recruiting many of their old personnel, because anti-aircraft defence does not interest them. They want something which is in the more active line.
616 I believe there is in this country a large potential reserve of anti-aircraft gunners. They exist at the moment in the potential reserved occupations in industry. The Government must make up their minds what are to be reserved occupations, and I believe when they do these men in their own areas could man the gun sites and anti-aircraft defences in their areas. That can be done without having to call on the Territorial Army except to a small extent. I throw that suggestion out. I am not in a position to give a categorical statement on this matter, because I have not the figures available, but I throw it out as a suggestion to the back room boys.
§ Wing-Commander Millington
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggest the creation three and a half years after the war, of a Home Guard for antiaircraft purposes?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
At the present moment the Territorial anti-aircraft units have been asked to do this work. They have not got the numbers, and, therefore, we would be starting from scratch if we did as I suggest and transferred the responsibility to the men I have just mentioned. There will be no time lag in the matter.
I have a feeling that the Government are enveloped in a fog of uncertainty. They do not seem to be able to size up this problem. They will not tell the country quite frankly what is the problem and give the clarion call to action. There are too many people going about saying that they have heard so many contradictory statements from the Government that they are not clear in their minds what it is the Government want them to do. I often wonder whether the fault lies in the Cabinet or in the Chiefs of Staffs. Is it that the Chiefs of Staffs have put up suggestions and plans to His Majesty's Government which have not been accepted, or is it that the Chiefs of Staffs have not put up the proper comprehensive plans because they are fearful of the reaction which may come on them from the Cabinet? The fundamental fault lies somewhere there. It seems to me as if there may be men in that hierarchy. who are lacking in imagination and possibly in experience.
Let us remember that it takes a very long time for the experience gained by 617 the man in the front line to percolate to the top. It is generally a year before what is learned in the front line is appreciated in the rear and implemented from the top. We have not made enough use of the younger commanders who ended the war in the front line. Those are the people who should be planning the future war. They learned lessons which never got to the ears of the people sitting in the high headquarters well behind the front line.
An example of what I am saying can be seen at the present moment. We have seen a report of recent amphibious training. If there ever was an example of winning the last war at this juncture that is one. Such training was necessary during the last war, when it was perfectly obvious that we were going to invade the Continent, but surely the problem which will arise in the future is how to eradicate the initial weakness from which we have always suffered in the past, namely, the inability to stave off the initial attack. That is what we should be practising at the moment, and not the reverse landing from boats off the shores of Malta or wherever it may have been. That is typical of the mind of some senior officers. They have learned one special lesson, and they are not prepared to learn any other.
One of our chief weaknesses has been the initial defensive. We have failed in two wars in that. There are an enormous number of lessons to be learned from the early days of the last war in France. Those are the lessons which ought to be studied now and that is the type of exercise which should be carried out today. I rather agreed with what was said by the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Crawley). I think possibly it would be as well if the Americans produced the bombers and we produced the fighters, with the exception that such things as light and medium bombers should be produced here. We are eminently suited to provide them. We shall not wage any battle successfully in the future unless we have complete air superiority over the battlefield. That was one of the reasons why we failed in the first battle of France and why we succeeded in the second battle of France. Light and medium bombers are required for that class of warfare.
618 On the subject of equipment I should like to ask what progress has been made with regard to standardisation. Are we anywhere near one type of soft vehicle with interchangeability of parts? Standardisation should not cover only vehicles but staff duties and organisation. Is this being done, and if so to what extent? I should very much like to hear a comforting reply from the Prime Minister. I had a Question down on the Order Paper the other day on the subject of spare parts. Unfortunately I was not here to ask it, because I was ill, but I should like to know whether there are no spare parts available at the moment for mechanical vehicles. The same mistake was made at the beginning of the last war. We ended up with 80 per cent. spare parts for every vehicle. The American figure was 120 per cent., but at this moment we have got none. No doubt if that is inaccurate I shall be corrected, but that is the advice I have received from people coming back from Germany, including Members of Parliament and officers and men on leave. I shall not pursue that further because it does not come within the purview of this Debate.
Unless we get some kind of formation training going at an early date—and by that I mean proper divisional exercises with live ammunition—we shall never he able to put into the field at a moment's notice a force capable of withstanding any form of attack. But it is absolutely vital. We cannot collect men together at the last minute, put them into uniforms and set them to fight against overwhelming numbers. We must never endeavour to compete with a vast Continental Power in numbers. What we require is a small but very highly-trained and efficient force with immense fire power. We contemplate fighting an enemy with enormous numbers, but he is not very subtle and his system of supply is weak, he relies entirely on his numbers to get him through. I am certain that with highly-trained troops backed by overwhelming fire power, one British battalion could hold up a brigade almost indefinitely, but without that fire power they will not. It is different from the lesson we learned from the Germans, for they had numbers, efficiency, fire power, and air power.
I hope the Prime Minister will give us a little more comfort and a little more elucidation so that we can feel that the 619 vast sum of money which we are voting and which we support is being spent in the proper way and not wasted, and so that we may sleep in our beds more securely in the future.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Chamberlain (Norwood)
I have a great deal of sympathy with much of what the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) said, and I agree with him that there must be an efficient short-term policy as well as a long-term policy. I have never sympathised with the pacifist point of view, and if we are to have defence, we must have efficient defence, and that entails an effective short-term policy as well as a long-term policy. I rather agreed with certain aspects of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said about the obscurity of the White Paper, although I cannot agree with him as to the necessity or advisability of completely revealing the plans of our striking forces. There may be reason in a complete revelation in a country like America which has overwhelming strength, but we know that we have not got such overwhelming strength, and I would not press the Government to reveal details of our power and striking forces.
I agreed more with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) when he expressed the Opposition point of view that there was obscurity as to the overall plan and the general direction of defence. That is quite different from regretting obscurity about technical details. I do not think that we should have such details, but I feel—I think the Prime Minister is aware of this—that there is a good deal of needless obscurity as to our overall plan and the general set-up and direction of defence policy. If we need defence, we need proper defence. It must be related to potential threats, and to our world-wide obligations. It must also be technically efficient and, last but not least, we must be assured that it is economically organised and that the results we get for the enormous expenditure are commensurate with that sum. But that lies more particularly in the realm of the Estimates which will be dealt with later.
However, before those four points are dealt with, there is something still more basic, and we must face up to it, and the 620 people of the country expect us to face up to it. Has everything been done not only to preserve peace but also to promote peace? Has everything possible been done to make this great and expensive rearmament unnecessary? Last year's White Paper on Defence contained this very excellent sentence:The supreme object of British policy must continue to be the prevention of war.That was a clear, decisive and valuable statement, and I am sorry that it is not matched by a similar statement in the present White Paper. Certainly there is a good deal of talk about our obligations under the United Nations Charter, but there is nothing like that statement. I only hope that although it is not restated, it is still the policy which dominates the minds of the Minister of Defence and the other Service Ministers, because I must confess that, having worked for very many years in the Socialist cause, it is rather a humiliating experience for me to have to support an expenditure of about £760 million on defence after three and a half years of a Labour Government.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (Ayrshire, South)
Why has the hon. Member to do that?
§ Mr. Chamberlain
I feel that there is an obligation to do so. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) takes quite a different view—I am not at the moment necessarily questioning that that expenditure is necessary: it may be, but I think the case has yet to be established—but whatever view we take about it, my hon. Friend and I will both feel that it is a humiliating state of affairs that there is this enormous expenditure on preparation for war, even though it may be called preparation for defence.
Has everything possible been done, in the background of this tremendous Estimate, actively to promote peace? I am not convinced, I regret to say, that everything possible has been done. The Prime Minister probably will not thank me for referring again to the proposal which some of us made a little while ago to him that he should initiate a meeting of the Big Three—himself, the President of the United States and Marshal Stalin. I am afraid that he rather brushed that aside. I am well 621 aware that one can immediately argue all sorts of difficulties on a project of that kind, and raise all sorts of objections, but I am convinced—I know that other hon. Members agree with me—that the present impasse will only be resolved when there is a top-level meeting. Nothing else at the present moment and in the present circumstances can possibly get over the impasse which we have now reached. Had such a meeting taken place, it might well have had its reflection in our statement on defence today, and I regret that the attempt was not made.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
Why have not previous meetings had that effect?
§ Mr. Chamberlain
There have not been any similar meetings of the Big Three for a very long time. I am talking not about meetings of Foreign Ministers, but a meeting of our Prime Minister with the head of the Russian State and the head of the American State.
Clearly, when one talks about potential threats, one is talking, as hon. Members have said—although perhaps the Government will not declare themselves so clearly—about Russia, and the particular point of danger and difficulty is the Berlin situation. In common with most hon. Members on this side, I support the stand we made. It was right, but I hope that as soon as possible the Prime Minister will make clear to us exactly what the situation is in reference to the Committee which studied that problem recently under the United Nations organisation, and appeared to have come to some decision which has not so far been translated into effective action. I hope we shall hear more about that as soon as possible.
In regard to the Atlantic Pact, several Members have indicated what is undoubtedly the fact, that we are very much in the dark as to our defence obligations generally until we know more about its contents. The Minister of Defence told us that this factor of our planning must remain indeterminate. I quite appreciate his difficulties, but he lifted the veil of obscurity just a little when he talked about "categories of responsibilities." Will he or the Prime Minister go a little further and explain more about what is meant by "categories of responsibilities "? I appreciate 622 the difficulty of revealing the exact setup and intentions of that Pact at the moment, but we are very much in the dark in discussing the needs and general set-up of our defence on the eve of revelations that are quite indeterminate at the moment.
I asked recently whether we should be under an automatic obligation to become a belligerent if war broke out, as indeed it might, between America and Russia, but I got no satisfactory reply. I cannot say whether the Pact will make that clear, when we know its terms, but I think I am right in saying that the American Congress will be consulted before any warlike action is undertaken. My own hope is that similarly we shall not be committed automatically in the event of hostilities elsewhere.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
May I ask the hon. Member whether he believes in collective security or not?
§ Mr. Chamberlain
I certainly believe in collective security. I was not questioning it, or even questioning the desirability of an Atlantic pact. Surely it is very different when one asks about automatic obligations on certain matters. Collective security certainly, but surely it must he left to us to determine whether at any particular moment and in any particular circumstances there is an obligation for us to participate.
§ Mr. Alexander
I have heard my hon. Friend ask me this question before. What we are doing is to provide a measure of collective security in those areas under Article 51—we should have been glad to see it spread over the whole world. I am sure my hon. Friend would not wish us to escape the obligations we undertook under the United Nations on the wider basis of collective security, but surely if we cannot get wider security, he would not wish us to escape the narrower collective security?
§ Mr. Chamberlain
There is no desire to shuffle out of our obligations under the United Nations or elsewhere, but it is important to note that America will have the advantage of reference to Congress. All I am suggesting is that before we are committed, Parliament should have the same opportunity of saying "Yes" or "No."
623 Another matter, in connection with our commitments and obligations, which is very much in the minds of many of us, is the obligations we have undertaken under the Economic Aid Agreement. We are already committed pretty far and entangled under Article 5 in regard to obligations for stock-piling and such like, and I only hope that the Government will bear these obligations and entanglements in mind when negotiating the Atlantic Pact.
As I indicated in an intervention this afternoon, I feel that there is considerable obscurity in regard to the Pacific. I have tried on a number of occasions in this House and elsewhere, to discover some kind of plan vis-à-vis the Pacific and American strength in the Pacific. America is extremely strongly entrenched in the Pacific, and, as is well known, she already has certain islands that were Japanese mandated territory which are now special American strategic areas. I feel that Australia and New Zealand are also waiting for a stronger lead and a clearer indication from us of what is to be our policy in the Pacific. Have we any forces in the Pacific at the present time? I very much doubt whether we have.
I raised the question on the Colonial Naval Defence Bill, but the Minister responsible for that Measure was unable to speak on the wider implications of our Pacific policy. The fact remains that we should have some light in the darkness on that subject. The right hon. Member for West Bristol also raised the question of Commonwealth relations. He said quite rightly that the difference in communications have entirely altered the state of affairs in reference to our defence relationship with other parts of the Commonwealth. It is really not enough to say, as the Minister of Defence said, that we are in close consultation and are engaged in joint planning. We should know something more than that. We ought to know the direction of our planning, what we are endeavouring to do and where the obligations and commitments are to lie as between this country and other parts of the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Alexander
We get no such publication of information as to the intentions and plans of Moscow and her satellites.
§ Mr. Chamberlain
I do not think it is very apt to liken Moscow and her satellites to ourselves and the Commonwealth. I do not think that is a very happy comparison, because our relationships are a little different and have always been based on equality and interchange between ourselves and the Commonwealth. It is due to the members of the Commonwealth to be told a little more about our defence policy. At the Commonwealth Conference held in Westminster some time ago, there was abysmal ignorance on the part of Members of Parliament from Canberra and Wellington as to where we stood in our defence policy in relation to the Pacific, although I do not think they are looking to be dictated to by us as the satellite countries of Russia would be dictated to by Moscow.
§ Mr. Alexander
I did not suggest it.
§ Mr. Chamberlain
I agree. But I think the whole set-up should be made clearer for our sake, as well as for their own.
§ Mr. Alexander
It is very important that an impression that is entirely wrong should not be created in the Dominions. No one suggested that we should dictate to the Dominions as Moscow dictates to her satellites. What I said was that we do not wish to publish all the details of our plans with our sister nations in the Commonwealth, because we get no such publicity of the plans of Moscow and her satellites.
§ Mr. Chamberlain
My right hon. Friend used the simile, not I, but I accept what he has said. I hope that when the Prime Minister comes to reply he will throw a little more light on these wider issues. Something more like a master plan, and not merely such detailed matters as Reserves and call-up, which I agree are very important, is due to us. A Debate on defence and certainly a statement by the Prime Minister on defence ought to throw some light on these wider issues, and I hope we shall have that tonight.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
I find myself in agreement with certain aspects of the speech of the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Chamberlain), and particularly with those parts where he stressed the importance of defence with regard to peace. I think many hon. 625 Members opposite often look upon us Tories, and especially upon ex-brigadiers, as a kind of licensed butchers; I think that is what the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) calls us—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
§ Brigadier Head
—whereas I believe that everybody here, especially if he has had any experience of war, is actuated by one motive and one alone, and that is to achieve a sufficient degree of armed preparedness to give us the best chances for peace.
I do not want to follow the very accurate and searching survey of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) because he covered the ground with great skill and much understanding; and I also want to restrict my remarks to the very widest aspects of defence as a whole and not go into any matters of detail. At the outset of my remarks, I should like to stress one aspect of this matter which I believe to be the most important one before the House today. It is this: in the middle of a time of great economic stress, when we are struggling for our economic recovery, and in the middle of a foreign situation which demands preparedness of our defences, we are being asked to give to the right hon. Gentleman £750 million and 1,500,000 men, including those in the factories. That is a very considerable amount of money and manpower to grant in these days.
The question which the House should have answered today is this: with that money and those men, why have you produced so little that can fight? We have had no answer to that question, and we have had no indication of what can fight. It seems to me very wrong to get neither of those things. It is beyond my knowledge to state any accurate assessment of what can fight, and I believe that, as far as the Navy is concerned, it is better off than the rest. But as for the Air Force, it would appear that there are practically no operational bombers and only a few fighter squadrons and that in the Army there is probably something less than two divisions operational. That is a poor present for a Minister of Defence to bring to the House on that expenditure which we have just voted to him. It is an even poorer present 626 when he gives no reasons for those small numbers.
I believe that this situation in our defences should cause to the House and to the public the greatest concern. I do not believe it does. I think that very often people say, "Oh. that is just the Tories who are in Opposition." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am proved to be correct. I beg hon. Members opposite just for one moment to try to look on me as someone who is genuinely worried about our defences. I assure them that I would say just the same things if there were a Tory Party on the other side of the House. If hon. Members do not believe that, I hope that one day, should this recur, I may be able to prove it to them.
Hon. Members opposite should not think that everything is all right because a satisfactory situation may be concealed behind this secrecy, or because sufficient money and the men have been allocated. The situation today is very worrying, and they should not think it is all right because the Minister of Defence is in the hands of the experts. There are things that ought to be done, and they ought to be done now; in my opinion, it is very important that the House should recognise that. I do beg any hon. Members who are doing me the courtesy to listen to me, to try to understand that I am not saying these things just because there is a Socialist Government in power. I am doing it because I am genuinely worried about our defences. I hope some hon. Members will have the civility to believe me.
Mr. Swinger (Stafford)
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell us this? We have had all this before from the hon. Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low). Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman say what information he thinks should be given to the House in this White Paper? A previous speaker on the other side said he wanted to know the number of divisions, but what is the point of giving the number of divisions or formations without the details of equipment and fire power? Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman think that those facts and details should be given?
§ Brigadier Head
I am coming to that. What I am saying now is that we have received today from the right hon. 627 Gentleman the same two answers that we have had ever since he was appointed to his office. The first, answer is, "Hush, most secret"—hardly any information at all. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that concealment of information to this extent gives people dirty thoughts. That is a fact in life. A book only has to be banned, and people want to read it. We only have to conceal information about defence for people to want to know all about it. I will give my answer to the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Swingler) now. What should be revealed in this White Paper? We do not want to know numbers of divisions, but we do want to know that we have some hope for the future, that there is a plan, that equipment is being planned and that there is a period of evolution going on and some sense of design. The White Paper is a series of disconnected statements with a lot of ad hoc measures for each of the three Services independently. That is my complaint. Furthermore, the House is left in ignorance of absolutely everything; we know none of the things that every foreign military attaché in London knows. That is not only discourteous but it is a great disservice to the country.
The second answer that we have had today is also one that we have had each year: "Do not worry too much. There may not be much to show. It may all look a bit of a muddle now, but we are in a transition stage, and there are better things to hope for." Year after year the right hon. Gentleman has come to the House and has displayed this sort of shapeless mass which comprises the men and the money in the Armed Forces, and has said "Do not worry. It is an ugly looking thing, but this is a chrysalis. Something is changing inside it, and eventually there will come forth three beatutiful Armed Forces all up to date." I believe that chrysalis to be bogus. We have looked at it now for four years running, and all that has happened is that each year out of the chrysalis has fluttered a small White Paper. That is all we have had—nothing else. I personally wonder very much what is inside it.
As the right hon. Gentleman has declined to inform us what are the reasons for the present situation, I 628 propose to try to do it for him. It is my belief that there are two main reasons for the parlous state of our defences today. Let me say at the outset that the reason why I am worried about this is because I do not think the hopes for the future are good. It is my belief that the present situation is not one which will improve, but if the present trend continues, will deteriorate. That is the seriousness of the situation, and the reason for it is this: Voluntary recruitment has failed.
I am now talking about the Air Force and the Army, because the Navy is rather different. I am not going into the actual reasons, but let us face the fact that voluntary recruitment has failed, and let us also face the fact that the Regular elements of the Army and the Air Force are short in quality and quantity. At present there is a tendency for many of the best men to leave owing to dissatisfaction with conditions. That is what is serious in the situation today. That is what must be arrested.
If we take the two elements of the Services as representing colours, and if we take the newly-joined National Service man and the untrained National Service men as white, and the Regular formations and units with technicians, good officers and N.C.O.s as black the present situation is that what should be black in the Regular Army is now often only dark grey and there is so much white that the general colour of these two Services as a whole—the Air Force and the Army—is a pale grey. It is over-dilution. That pale grey spells only one thing, and it is dangerous in this world. It spells operational unpreparedness. It means that if we have a sudden mobilisation, those units and formations will take a very long time to get ready. That is the reason why there is so little coming out, as a result of this vast expenditure in money and manpower. The reason is over-dilution. It is easy for the right hon. Gentleman to say—and we commend him for it, although he did wobble a bit—that we provide the money and manpower and then say to the Chiefs of Staff "get on with it." Obviously it is very difficult for the right hon. Gentleman to change. I suggest that he should consider this matter very carefully because it is my belief that we have to change.
629 If we are going on like this, the trend will be downwards. We must arrest the deterioration in quality of the Regular Services. If we do not, their deterioration in quality will colour all the men who go through and we shall have permanently unprepared defences. It is legitimate for the right hon. Gentleman to ask: "How would you do it?" For what it is worth, I will tell the right hon. Gentleman my own view. We must really spend money to improve things like pay, conditions and accommodation. That will cost a lot of money but it will be worth it. I do not back the right hon. Gentleman in a sort of free-for-all with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I believe that in our present state of economic difficulty we must give something back to the Treasury. We shall have to give something back in terms of manpower out of National Service, either in smaller numbers, or in a shorter term of service. The great thing is that the right hon. Gentleman should see that the position is wrong and that he should correct it. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that we on this side are all talking nonsense, I assure him that he is alone in thinking so, and that in all the Services there is an absolute certainty that the present trend is downwards and that we must arrest it.
The second point in discussing the reason for the present state of affairs is that there is no plan. Today, for the first time, the right hon. Gentleman has agreed that there was no plan. He has said that he could not make a plan until he knew about America. But there should have been a plan all along. The trouble with the three Service Ministries during the last few years has been that they never knew what was going to happen next and they have never been able to make their own plans. The result is maladministration, muddle and waste. We must have a plan, even if it is not a good one, and stick to it so that everybody knows where he is. I remember some time ago I said jokingly, and I say it seriously now, that if the Minister of Defence wanted a badge he should have for it a buck passant, and that if he wants a motto he should have the words "Ad hoc"
As I have already said, we are operationally unprepared, that is to say, we have practically no formations or units which can fight at short notice. I 630 believe that to be extremely dangerous and for the next five or 10 years I cannot see that we have any prospect of getting out of that state of affairs unless some action is taken. Modern war exacts a terrible penalty on anybody who is not ready. The last war never underlined the penalties that a country has to pay for being unprepared. Let hon. Members remember that last time there was Munich, then a year after Munich, followed by a year of phoney war. That warning has never fully brought home the terrible penalty of unpreparedness. Unless we do something, we are going to remain unprepared. That is why active steps must be taken. To neglect them, is to play ducks and drakes with the safety of the people of this country. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to ponder my words very carefully. I believe that I have behind me the opinion of all the experts in the country. I have met nobody who is an expert who does not agree with me in this case. Let the right hon. Gentleman realise that it is dangerous. I think the present situation, especially regarding A.A. defences, would make hon. Members' hair stand on end if they knew it and appreciated its significance. It will go on, unless over-dilution and unpreparedness are arrested.
My next point concerns Western Union. I believe that out of the Brussels Pact, and with that goes the Atlantic Pact, great hope arises for the future of the Western world but I also believe that it will only be realised if we make a reality of the defence aspect of the matter. We are at the cross roads in this matter of Western Union defence. Up one road lie plans, conferences, consultations, the setting up of staffs, agreements, operational arrangements and so forth, but no real defence forces to support them. That is a favourite habit of democracies in peace. Up the other fork of the road lies realistic defence and a real approach to the problem of gradually, laboriously and painfully and with full American aid, building up a defence that can really protect Europe.
It so happens that leadership and the responsibility for deciding whether this is to be done realistically or only on paper, lies to a large extent with this country. We have had put into our hands that leadership. Europe will look to us and judge us by our own contribution. 631 America will look to us and to Europe to see which way we are going. If we mean business, America will come in, but if we do little about it, America will do little about it. What will happen is that there will be a swing of opinion in America towards the strategic theory which is already prevalent in some quarters, that America cannot protect Western Europe. It says: "As to war, we will fight a war against Russia if it comes, from air bases in those parts of Europe which Russia has not occupied and from the Middle East." It would be fatal if that strategic theory won the day and we lost the great hope of the Western world, which lies in the preservation of the integrity of Western Europe.
War today is not just a matter of strategy. Our aim would be not to defeat the Russians but to preserve Western European civilisation and our way of life. If Western Europe were overrun and this country were hammered, as it will be, we might win the war but it would be a hollow victory. We should have lost all that we fought for. When the right hon. Gentleman goes to his conferences they will want to know what he can produce in the first month or so of the war. That is the time when they may be under desperate pressure. That is the time for the life or death of Western Europe. What will the right hon. Gentleman be able to say if we retain this policy of having pale grey operational unpreparedness? He will be told: "You will have a fine force in six or nine months' time after the war has started, but we are not interested in that." We shall find that Western Union will gradually drift into talk and conferences, and that America will not give her full aid, because it is not matched in Europe.
I hope very sincerely that the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister realise that this question of our operational unpreparedness will have an immense effect on the realisation or otherwise of Western Union. It is bound to be taken up. The only hope for Western Europe will be for this country to give a lead: then others will follow us, and America too. If we can achieve that, in my opinion we have the best hope for peace.
§ Mr. Alexander
What the hon. and gallant Gentleman is saying is exceedingly important. I hope he will 632 weigh his words and think what their effect will be in Europe and Washington. Let me assure him of this: in my view there has never been in modern history a time when we have made such rapid progress as in the last nine months, in spite of the conflicting elements in the nations concerned, in getting together for the safeguarding of Western Europe. It is fantastic to suggest, as he appears to do in his speech, that we have done nothing but plan. I have already indicated that we have succeeded in supplying, in advance of any defence formula, arms to the countries concerned. The actual plans must be made before one can settle between each of the Powers concerned what is to be their contribution in the rôle of service in which each country is best fitted to give its maximum effort to the collective whole. It really is quite unfair to make these criticisms—although I am certain that the hon. and gallant Gentleman intends to be constructive—when there has never been such a hope of getting progress for the real stepping-up of the armaments of Western Europe as we have at present, on the basis of the talks that have already gone forward.
§ Brigadier Head
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am trying to be helpful, but what I am trying to guard against is that we should fail to look this thing straight in the eye. There is always this tendency. Immense strides have been made in the structure, the organisation, the building up of staffs; what I am worried about, and what is so habitual in democracies, is talk without action. Of course there are weapons, but I am saying that our general policy for the three Services—which is what I have been talking about—is one that will produce preparedness after only a considerable interval. What we must have if we are to make a realistic thing of Western Union is rapid preparedness. The right hon. Gentleman may say, "We have made great progress," but unless he looks this question of operational preparedness straight in the eye, he will be fooling himself and, in the long run, he will ruin Western Union.
Hon. Members may think I am talking nonsense, but I believe I am stating the truth. What Western Union will be interested in is rapid operational preparedness, and we are not progressing towards 633 it. That is why I beg the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider this matter. If he thinks I have not weighed my words, I can assure him I have. If he thinks I am being unhelpful, my answer is that it is much better to look these things straight in the eye than to kid yourself along the years and then, when the trouble comes, find you have deceived yourself. That is the habit of the democracies in their peacetime preparation for war.
I have seen that first-hand, and one of the reasons why I stood for Parliament was to try to stop it happening again. I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to dig himself into wishful thinking and to believe that everything is fine. What I am saying is bound to happen in Western Union sooner or later. Let us make up our minds to get our Forces well prepared. If we do not, we shall regret it. This is a vitally important matter. The House may think I am trying to attack the Government or that I am talking nonsense. I am not. This is a thing which affects our lives and our children's lives. A realistic defence system will do more for peace than anything else.
I beg hon. Members to think also of its effect on the cold war. I beg them to think of people getting up on soap boxes in the Eastern part of Western Europe, sticking up for democracy and downing Communism. They are brave men. There is their Eastern frontier wide open and, if anything were to happen, they know they would be overrun. Think how their morale would go up if they saw realistic steps being taken to build up real and proper defences. It must be done soon, for there is not much time left. The right hon. Gentleman must act because at the present moment opportunity is knocking at the door for England. If he just drifts along—and that is politically the easy thing to do—he may miss it. Remember Shakespeare:There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.The flood stands fair for Britain now. We must catch it because I believe that, if we do not catch it now, it may never flood again.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Symonds (Cambridge)
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant 634 Gentleman into a general discussion of questions of strategy, but to limit myself to one theme which has figured in his and in many other speeches on both sides today and which I think is fundamental to any questions of strategy. No matter what strategic plans are drawn up, they obviously remain ineffective paper schemes, unless we have the manpower to implement them. We know only too well how short of manpower we are, and therefore its economic use becomes all the more vital. I was hoping that the Minister of Labour would be here, because what I have to say particularly concerns his Department. The economic use of manpower, as I see it, is not merely an objective affair, not merely a matter of having the right number of bodies doing the right jobs in the right places at the right times. There is a subjective and personal aspect of the use of manpower too. Men, I feel sure, will be more efficient if they feel they are being fairly and equitably treated in comparison with the way other men are being treated.
With regard to our use of manpower, that naturally raises the question of the working of the National Service Acts as we now have them. I am not proposing to debate their merits or demerits in principle. I accept as a fact that we have now got National Service until 1953 at least. As upwards of 200,000 young men become liable for call-up each year, it means that in those five years at any rate we shall have the lives of upwards of a million men drastically affected by these Acts. As they are working at the moment, we know that a whole class becomes liable, but a class is too large for the Services to handle and so we have in effect a selective call-up.
There are various methods of bringing those numbers down to what can be handled. There are deferments for various groups—apprentices, agricultural workers, coalminers, seamen, university students, conscientious objectors, and so on, and there is perhaps an inevitable tendency in the Ministry of Labour to look for some means of "shedding the load," so to speak, to bring down these numbers to manageable proportions. Within certain categories it seems fairly easy to obtain deferment. On the other hand, where grounds of personal and family hardship are involved. 635 it seems extremely difficult to obtain either a deferment or, once called up, a release on compassionate grounds.
I shall quote the last available figures. As against some 41,000 deferments for apprenticeships, there were considerably under 2,000 for a variety of reasons, including deferment on personal hardship grounds, so the latter must be small. A typical case is where a man running a small one-man business has his son called up. His health breaks down, but it is almost impossible to get that son out to run the business. There seems to exist a feeling that if somehow a young man can be got into some form of apprenticeship there will be no difficulty, and that apprenticeships are becoming to some extent rather phoney. The 1929 class, for instance, included 41,400 apprenticeships, whereas the first half of the 1930 class alone contained 25,800, which gives an appreciable annual increase.
If it is possible to obtain deferment within these categories, what happens after a deferment has been granted? I was interested in the figures given today by the Minister of Defence about the 1931 class. He said that 110,000 deferments were contemplated for various reasons—agriculture, coalmining, apprenticeships and so on—whereas some 21,000 men whose deferments had expired were to be called up. There is, of course, a great discrepancy between these figures. In many ways it is understandable, because agricultural workers and coalminers, I suppose, will continue to be deferred almost indefinitely. The discrepancy in these figures, however, suggests that there may be some possibility of evasion. My post-bag reveals considerable concern about this. I very much hope we can be given some further and more exact figures to show whether or not these evasions can actually occur.
There is an impression in many quarters that once a man has been granted a deferment, no real check is maintained; that once he achieves deferment he is well away. It is said that the authorities, once they have disposed of a man by deferment, are not reluctant, perhaps, to let him slip, so that they may be helped in their problem of getting the numbers down to manageable proportions. There is a suspicion that if only a young man can obtain deferment 636 until he is about 21, he is safe from call-up. Many people regarded as evidence in support of this belief an answer which the Minister of Labour gave to me on 16th November last, when I asked him a Question about the numbers of men liable for National Service in each year since the end of the recent war; how many of them had not been called up; how many were excused for various reasons, and how many of those granted deferments still had not been called up at the expiry of their deferment period, and for what reasons.
The Minister gave me some figures referring to men liable for call up from dates beginning on 1st December, 1945, which is quite a long time ago. They applied to the 1928 class. He said:Statistics of the numbers on the 1928 class who have not yet been called up are not available.That is rather surprising. It may not be possible to give absolutely exact figures, but I would have thought there would be fairly accurate statistics to show, at any rate, how many men still had not been called up after deferment. At the end of his reply the Minister said:It is not possible to say how many separate individuals have, during any stated period, had their call-up deferred in order to complete their apprenticeships or take examinations, etc., nor are statistics available showing the numbers still not called up after the termination of their deferments, but the latter figure must be small."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 16th Nov. 1948; Vol. 458, c. 200.]I should have felt much hapiper if. instead of the vague phrasethe latter figure must be small,there had been something much more categorical and an assertion that "the latter figure is small." It is this vagueness and uncertainty which is so disturbing.
Since January of this year, with the implementation of the new National Service Act, we have this position. A man who obtains deferment and who at the end of it, for some reason or other, is not called up, is completely free from all liability, whereas the conscript, after his 18 months' service with the Forces, still continues to be liable for Territorial or Reserve service for a considerable number of years. There is, therefore, an even greater discrepancy now between the man who is called up and the man who is not. This discrepancy is causing disquiet, and I should like to suggest what might be 637 done to meet these difficulties and to make the situation happier. The present occupations of all men under 26 who have not yet served in the Forces should be checked; not only their present occupations, but their occupations for the previous 12 months, to prevent any last-minute rush into some sort of phoney apprenticeship.
In order to deal with the very many real cases of hardship arising from call-up and from the failure to grant compassionate releases, there should be a widening of the grounds for deferment and release. If it is suggested that thereby I am making discrimination all the greater, my proposal is that that greater extensions of deferments should be combined with some form of compulsory Territorial or Reserve force training for all those who do not serve their 18 months in uniform. There would not then be the anomaly of one man becoming liable for service in uniform, followed by Reserve service, whilst another man escapes all liability.
Every eligible man would then be doing some form of service, either in uniform with a Reserve liability, or in some form of Territorial service without an initial period in uniform. We should then dispel the growing feeling that some young men, for one reason or another, are able to get away with it while others have to carry the whole burden. If, in that way, we can make the working of the National Service Act more fair as between man and man, the result will be a far more effective use of our manpower because that manpower will then he contented.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
I want to follow up—and I am operating, I understand, under a very strict time limit—the subject which has been pursued by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Symonds). The hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers), who is no longer present, seemed to think that denunciation of the actual system of compulsory service was all that was necessary, and that no important function would be achieved in analysing exactly how that system had been operating. I take the view that, for better or for worse, we have this system, but that we are entitled to hold Ministers strictly to account for the efficiency or otherwise of the way in which they operate that service. In that respect the Minister of 638 Labour, as also Minister of National Service, is not the least important of the Service Ministers.
I think it has been made abundantly clear, first, that the Government never have, for more than a few weeks at a time, any settled intention of how many men they are going to call up under the National Service Acts; nor have they any definite plan as to how many they want. Since 1st December we have had three separate sets of figures from Ministers of the Crown of the number of young men to be called up during 1949. This seems to indicate the complete absence of any plan for a call-up system. I am quite certain also that the crux of the problem is that the Defence Departments do not want all the men who are technically liable for service, but the Government have not faced the problem of how to limit that number to the number really required.
The hon. Member for Cambridge referred to evasions. There may be some, but what more concerns me is whether the Departments are operating the system fairly and properly. This has become extremely clear during the course of the afternoon in this connection. The latest figures that the Minister of Defence gave of men liable for National Service was 300,000 during the current year, out of 371,000, which was the figure for male births in the appropriate year. He subtracted from that figure of 300,000 a number of grades, totalling 110,000, under the headings of mining, agriculture, Mercantile Marine students and apprentices. I hope that when we get a reply we shall have these figures either amended or reinforced.
I have taken the opportunity, with the possibility of inaccuracy due to speed, of looking up some of the relevant figures. The total number of men between 18 and 21 in the agricultural industry is 47,000. It is therefore fair to say that the age group there is about 17,000 at the outside. The number of men employed in the whole mining industry, according to the last available figure, was 736,000, aged 16 to 65. The other day the Minister of Fuel and Power told us that the average age of miners today was somewhere between 35 and 37. To get the age group in the mines I think one is being generous in dividing the total in the mines by 40, which gives a total of 17,400. Therefore in mining and 639 agriculture we have 34,400. Students and apprentices should be an almost self-balancing item, since, if we are deferring people this year, we are also getting the balance from those deferred in a previous year. Surely it is not seriously suggested that the balance of 110,000, the 64,000, all went to the Mercantile Marine. I have not been able to get the figure for the Mercantile Marine, but it seems to me on these figures that there is a very big divergence between the 110,000 which the Minister gave this afternoon as being exempted from call-up by reason of following those occupations and the actual figures of young men to be found in those occupations.
I hope that when the Prime Minister replies he will be able to assure us that the system is being operated fairly and properly, because, on these figures, we are left with the impression that, in order to get down the total number of people liable to call-up to the number really wanted, the Government, instead of facing the problem and arranging a definite and fair system, have adopted various administrative expedients. The more one looks at the figures I have given the House the more thoroughly disquieting they become.
There was another thoroughly unsatisfactory feature of what the right hon. Gentleman told. The House will recollect that on the Second reading of the National Service (Amendment) Bill on 1st December, the right hon. Gentleman indicated that he was going to reduce the number of men called up to the total decided by the, to my mind, thoroughly unsound expedient of a block deferment of one-quarter's registrations. That process would be carried on cumulatively in the coming years. There were protests from all sides of the House, led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), and in January we were assured by the Minister of Labour that this procedure was being dropped. Now we are told by the Minister of Defence that they are proposing, either next year, or certainly the year after, to revert to this system.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider that. Does he not realise the appalling hardship that uncertainty as to the age at which one is liable to be called up causes a young man? It is impos- 640 sible for those planning their education, apprenticeship, or career to make sensible arrangements. It is impossible for employers to know over many months when their employees are liable to go and we are enormously magnifying the inevitable inconvenience involved in a system of compulsory service by introducing this element of uncertainty. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us that the Government are prepared to consider a more clearly thought out plan on this subject than that of merely putting off the evil day by slowly raising the age of call-up. a process which cannot be continued indefinitely since, if so, we shall get the age too high from a military point of view.
§ Mr. Alexander
As I said this afternoon, the position is that for the next few years there can be no question of a variation in the call-up. We think we are clear for 1949 and probably 1950, but we are not sure whether we may have to alter one registration age in 1951. We fully realise that the point wants clearing up as quickly as possible, but I would remind the House of what I said this afternoon.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I hope the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers will work out a better plan than this clumsy expedient of deferring one registration.
There is another matter which is cognate to this subject. I do not believe the Government have any clear plan of how they propose to use their National Service men. That view is supported by the extraordinary situation today, when some of the men under the Act passed recently are liable when they come out in the summer of next year to part-time service, but no statement has been made of how that part-time service is to operate. It is provided that they will be liable for 60 days training in the course of the year, but there is no indication to those young men of whether that training will be concentrated in one camp, whether it will be a question of a week-end camp, or training on certain weekdays. No information of any sort has been given. It seems quite improper that young men who are planning their future and whose employers have to consider the position in respect of them should not be told what are the Government's intentions and what obligations 641 and liabilities will be imposed upon them. This Act has been on the Statute Book for a year and surely the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers have had time to think out how they propose to use this part-time service. It is intolerable that they should impose a liability without thinking for what military purpose it is to be used. If they had made up their minds, it is quite wrong not to announce their decision. Employers had to consider their position. Why should not men be told what are the alternative methods under which they can perform this service?
The right hon. Gentleman ran away entirely from the fact that National Service is a second best and that the basis of an efficient defence system must be properly recruited Regular Forces. Here I agree with the hon. Member for North Dorset. The right hon. Gentleman ran away from the fact that the major factor which is preventing recruiting is the inadequate level of pay offered. The right hon. Gentleman has never faced the fact that it is not good enough merely to offer the equivalent of what an ordinary man may earn in civilian life. He has never faced the fact that the only equivalent which will produce results will be the equivalent of what can be earned by a skilled man in civilian life who has the opportunity to work overtime. The right hon. Gentleman will not face the fact that service in the Armed Forces of the Crown is a skilled trade. He will not face the fact that those who serve in those Forces are entitled, in addition to the equivalent of the pay of a skilled man, to something by way of compensation for the inevitable disadvantages of Service life, frequent posting, etc. It is useless for him to say he has offered that equivalent when he has done nothing of the sort.
If he wishes to have an example of how a proper system of pay operates I ask him to look at the United States of America. It is a good example because Americans are, although most valiant people, even less military than we are. So satisfactory is their recruiting position that they have had to put a limit of 13,000 on their monthly intake to the Armed Forces. They are able to select and pick out men of the highest quality from the large number of applicants, many of whom they reject. One of the reasons why they are able to do so is 642 that they pay a recruit £18 5s. a month, they pay him the equivalent of £20 a month after four months' service and give him substantial concessions in his Income Tax liabilities. That is an example of what has happened; that is not merely theory.
If the right hon. Gentleman really wants to get Regular recruiting going he will not do so by these small increases, these tinkering increases which he has so far produced, but only by offering a rate of pay which a skilled man who is able to work overtime can earn in civilian life. Let him try that and he will have as great a success in recruiting for the Regular Forces of the Crown as his opposite number in America is having in recruiting for his country's Forces. If he persists in this attempt to recruit the Regular Forces on the cheap his attempts to recruit will fail, as they have so far failed, and he himself will be answerable to this House and the country for that failure.
§ Mr. James Glanville (Consett)
Is it not much easier to recruit members of the Forces in America, where they have an unemployed population of 3,000,000, than in this country, where we have no unemployed?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I should say that that was not the explanation. I should say, as one who knows and loves the American people, that they are people who are on the whole rather averse to military service, and that the success of the American recruiting scheme, backed by proper pay, is a good illustration of what the Ministry of Defence should do.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton (Sudbury)
The last two speeches have been devoted to a special point. I should like to bring the Debate back to the general question of defence and particularly to the point raised by the hon. Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) and the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) as to the long-term and short-term policy. As I understood them, they have urged that we need all the emphasis to be on the short-term policy and take exception to the fact that the long-term policy is mentioned first in the Defence White Paper.
We all know that such a thing as absolute security is quite impossible, 643 whether it be in our own private lives or in the life of a nation. All that we can hope to do is to take reasonable precautions to maintain our security, and we know that in doing that we have to make continual compromises. One compromise, which is well understood by every Member of this House, and by the general public, is the compromise between the proportion of our manpower and materials which we devote directly to military purposes, and the proportion which we keep for the general economic and industrial progress of the nation. That is understood because we know full well that in these days no nation can wage a war successfully with out a very strong civilian industrial system behind it. If that system is starved of men and materials in order to increase the Armed Forces, we might be destroying our long-term war potential.
Another important compromise is perhaps not always so clearly understood. I refer to the question of the short and long-term aspects. If we really anticipate that a major war is just round the corner we then have to boost up our Armed Forces so as to be absolutely ready, with large quantities of the very latest equipment in all three Services, notwithstanding the fact that it will be out of date later. But if we do that, if we multiply our stock, equipment and weapons which are up to date now, it is quite certain that we shall not be able to do the same thing in four or five years' time, particularly in view of the rapidity with which invention is moving at the present time, especially in regard to aircraft, for example. It is quite extraordinary how aircraft which were up to date a short time ago, are now becoming obsolescent.
Therefore, we need to look very closely at the international position and appreciate, very carefully what it is. I think that is where the Members to whom I have referred are perhaps making their mistake. I do not think that anybody could question the deep sincerity with which the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton spoke when he said that he had seen unpreparedness—I take it that he was referring to 1939—and that he did not want to see it again. I do not believe that our present position is similar to that 644 of 1939. I do not believe it is similar to that of 1914. On both those occasions we were faced with a potential aggressor, a great military nation, the successor of Prussia, of which it was said that instead of being a nation with an army it was an army with a nation attached, a great nation which looked to war to accomplish its ends. We know that the German General Staff in 1914 were prepared to lose one million men to achieve their ends. They were working up to a climax. Every one with eyes to see could see that. They could see the great extension of strategic railways all along the Belgian frontier, where they served no purpose other than strategic purposes. It was all there, just hovering on the brink. Although Hitler, in 1939, hoped to achieve his ends with less expenditure of military force, he was nevertheless in a somewhat analogous position.
The position now is entirely different. We have not got, in the Soviet Union, a great military Power in the sense in which Germany was such a Power—a Power really aiming all the time at achieving its ends by military means. Quite the contrary; it is the last way in which the Soviet Union wants to increase her influence. I do not believe that she wants war at all. Her method of increasing her influence and sway in the world is by infiltration, by stirring up ideological troubles and by methods of that kind, backed up, of course, with the knowledge that there is military force behind it. It is primarily a cold war in which she is engaged, a war of nerves, and it is a war that may go on for a long time. Our aim must be to prevent its extending into a shooting war.
I believe we can do that as long as we make it perfectly clear to the Soviet Union that defeat is inevitable if she does launch a major war, apart from any initial successes which she may get, and I think that should be our primary aim. I think we are achieving it by the very remarkable steps we have already taken in collective security in Western Europe and in the Atlantic area. As long as we can maintain that position, I do not think there is any great immediate risk of a shooting war. Of course, that is not to say that we do not need any immediate military strength at all. It is stupid to go to extremes in any direction. For one thing, we want immediate military strength to encourage the nations of 645 Europe and to enable them to withstand the infiltration of which I have spoken and the underground attempts to upset their various Governments. What we have to look forward to is several years—we do not know how many—of cold war, but we have to keep our heads cool all the time and see that it does not break out into a real war.
We must not be misled by analogies with 1939 and 1914, because they do not apply in these days, and therefore I think the Government are right to lay stress on the long-term aspect of the present defence position. I think they are right to concentrate a great deal on research, and, although they cannot tell us much about it, we all know that our scientists are as good as any in the world and that we can rely on the fact that they are making good progress towards keeping us right up to date with other nations and probably ahead of a good many. For my part, I entirely agree with the Government in laying the stress on long-term policy and in not feeling it necessary that we must be all armed to the teeth and ready to jump off into a major war the day after tomorrow.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)
I listened very carefully to the speech of the Minister, but he made no reference to what I, with due respect to my military friends, regard as the most important aspect of Defence. A statement of policy was made in another place on 24th November, when Lord Henderson, brother of the Secretary of State for Air, speaking for the Government, said that the Government recognised the predominant importance of air power, and that very little could be achieved without it. The Leader of that other place underlined that statement by saying that, without a doubt, the Royal Air Force is our greatest safeguard.
The Minister of Defence did not repeat that statement, nor does the White Paper show any sign that it is going to be translated into action. I can only conclude that the Minister of Defence and the Government have forgotten that statement of policy. Five-sixths of the hon. Members of this House wish for co-operation with the Western Powers in defence, a matter to which the Minister of Defence himself devoted 646 quite a large part of his speech. I assert that, as Western co-operation grows, so does the case for increasing British air power grow. The most suitable contribution that we, with our necessarily limited army, can make to Western Union defence is air power. It is perfectly true that the United States is building a vast air force, but to our European allies aircraft in this country must always be a greater encouragement, and a stronger incentive to a maximum. effort themselves, than aircraft on the other side of the Atlantic. In spite of our present grave weakness, Britain is still the foremost Power in Western Europe, and Britain will certainly be expected to take the lead in her air contribution, as well as on the sea. Moreover, nothing is more likely to reassure France about her fears of a renewal of the German danger than a strong British Air Force.
There is a further reason why we should give priority to air power. Russia, our only possible antagonist at present, has supplies of men which she does not mind using prodigally in peace as in war, and, in spite of that, her supplies of men seem almost inexhaustible. She and her satellites, who are bound together by innumerable defence agreements, have between them far larger armies than exist in the West. These facts give Russia a great advantage. Is it possible for us to nullify that advantage? There is only one answer—air power. We discovered the possibilities of air power in the last war, and so did the Germans. Von Rundstedt said that the German collapse, less than a year after we landed in Normandy, was due to air force, air force, and again air force. He said that the main factors were the smashing of the lines of communication, the attack on marching columns, which made it impossible to bring up the armoured divisions, and carpet bombing. Von Kesselring said the same thing. What air power did against Germany it could do against any other European aggressor, if it were available.
Leaving out of account the atom bomb—and I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) and other speakers that the atom bomb has certainly not made other weapons obsolete—I say that a strong bomber force, instantly ready to attack 647 enemy bases, enemy war industries and enemy rocket sites, is alike the strongest deterrent to an aggressor and the best hope of victory if war comes. The Minister of Defence seemed to doubt whether our economic position made it possible to have a big bomber force. It seems to me that the real question is not, can we afford it, but can we afford to do without it? Yet, as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol pointed out, the White Paper is almost silent about the bomber, and completely silent about the jet bomber, which is an absolute necessity to us. The Government announced yesterday in another place that an order was soon going to be given for jet bombers. Not one is in the air today, yet the Americans have had jet bombers in the air for at least two years, and they are now being supplied in quantity to American bomber squadrons. We shall have—
§ Mr. Alexander
The hon. Member is casting a rather grave reflection on our position in the matter. The Americans were developing this new type of heavy bomber right from the beginning of the war with very much larger engineering and general resources at their disposal at that time than we could possibly have had, stretched as we were. I should have thought that the hon. Member, with his experience of the Air Force, would have realised that starting with the design, going through the drawing-board stage to the prototype, and then on to the production line takes a considerable number of years. In all the circumstances, we are making good progress.
§ Mr. Keeling
I am glad that good progress is being made. I was not trying to cast a reflection on anybody, but merely to state what are the facts. The fact is—I do not think this will be denied—that we shall have no jet bomber squadron for at least two years. In the meantime we have only Lancasters and Lincolns, which are likely to be an easy prey for jet fighters. It may be said that jet bombers require highly-skilled Regulars to man them, who are not forthcoming. That is quite true. The Government have admitted that the most pressing problem of the Royal Air Force is what they call the problem of trained manpower, which I take to be jargon for trained men, and that the Air Force must 648 be based primarily on Regular Service. The White Paper shows that only 13,600 Regulars were recruited for the Air Force in 1948, but we are not told how many Regulars left the Air Force during that time.
This is not the occasion to discuss the pay and allowances of the Air Force, but I will say this: it is already demonstrated, beyond the possibility of doubt, that however much the Minister may talk about the attractiveness of the pay and other conditions of service, in fact they do not attract. It is really no good the Minister trying to persuade our young men that the conditions are more attractive than they seem, and it is also quite futile, in my opinion, to suggest that anything we say here will make the terms of service seem less attractive than they are.
There is one other thing we can do besides improving the conditions of service. We have to make the Air Force better known, to give it a little more glory, to do the same thing for the Air Force as is done for the Navy where the ships are known by name, whereas in the Air Force the squadron is hardly ever mentioned by name. I conclude by quoting some words from "The Economist" of the week before last:It is hard to resist the conclusion that our excessive secrecy is designed not to confuse the Kremlin but to prevent a probing into the weakness of Government policy.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
On a point of Order. I want to ask you, Sir, with the utmost courtesy, if it is not the case that you told my colleague that you would not call my Amendment but you would call me, and that at half-past six you told me to go and get something to eat and that you would call me later on?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member seems to be reflecting on the Chair. It is perfectly true that his colleague saw me and that I said I hoped to call the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), but he was not successful in catching my eye.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is it not the case—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I cannot listen to the hon. Member any further. He is reflecting on the Chair.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Further to that point of Order. Is it not the case that you told me you were going to call me? I want to know what influence was used to prevent my being called.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I certainly never informed the hon. Member that I would call him. My invariable custom is to say that I will do my best and it may be that I hope to call an hon. Member, and that is the message I gave to the colleague of the hon. Member for West Fife. Certainly no influence of any shape or kind was used on the Chair.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to make a protest about discrimination. Before I lose my temper I will leave the Chamber. It is a scandal.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has left our Debate, but I think he will be able to satisfy himself that the point of view which he represents has never been, and will not be during the rest of the Debate, altogether absent from our minds. We are indebted to you, Sir, for the method in which you have allowed this Debate to be carried on, for if it had been rigidly confined to the narrow terms of the White Paper it would have been dull and limited indeed. But, fortunately, Members on all sides of the House have contributed in the course of the Debate a number of original and important speeches which have illumined our counsels and enlivened our discussions.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) observed at the opening of the Debate, the White Paper would appear to have been composed by a number of gentlemen in the appropriate Departments who had been asked to make contributions of the various paragraphs to make up the joint White Paper; and the Minister's speech consisted largely of an expansion of those paragraphs—compiled, no doubt, by the same gentlemen, or at least those of his own Department. It did not really add very much more to our information, except to expand and, as my right hon. Friend said, paraphrase what was already in the White Paper. Indeéd, if there are any left in this House who are keen Dickensians I would mention that the 650 Minister's speech and the White Paper remind me of that famous trial of Bardell v. Pickwick.The ushers called 'Silence'.Our Debates begin with the cry, "Order."Mr. Simpkins proceeded to open the case. And the case appeared to have very little inside it when he had opened it for he kept such particulars as he knew completely to himself, and sat down, after a lapse of three minutes, leaving the jury in precisely the same advanced stage of wisdom as they were in before.Mr. Simpkins's method had, at least, the advantage of brevity.
What would one expect from a serious document on national defence, or any serious attempt to expand it? One would expect a broad, politico-military appreciation of the situation. One would expect a short but clear definition of our purposes and objects. One would expect an account of the methods by which we hope to attain those objects. One would expect some report, generalised, of course, because of the necessity of security, but some report of the progress already made and of future plans. That is what we thought, when defence Debates were instituted, a defence Debate would be; and that is what they had never been in any of the years since they have taken place.
Of course, these matters are touched upon in the White Paper; they were mentioned by the Minister; but they are not marshalled in any logical sequence. The presentation in the White Paper is confused in form; it is jejune in style; has neither clarity nor vigour, nor any sense of proportion. For instance, some of the paragraphs are of vital importance, but others of them are a mere account of historical events of the year, which would be more suitable to the Annual Register than to a Debate on defence. Of course, on certain points the Minister has given us some new information today, but I say that on most of the vital matters we are still left in a position of complete ignorance.
Indeed, so far as defence is concerned it is not an exaggeration to say that the country learned far more from yesterday's Debate in another place than we have learned either from the White Paper or from the statement of the Minister of Defence today. As regard the bomber 651 programme, as my right hon. Friend said, there is not a single reference to it in the White Paper. Apparently that was prevented by reasons of security. The White Paper was presented to the House of Commons at the end of February. We were not allowed to be told about bombers. At the beginning of March a Debate is held in the House of Lords in which quite a long statement is made by the appropriate Minister. Security prevents the House of Commons from knowing at the end of November what security allows the House of Lords to know at the beginning of March. I shall have something more to say later about the question of secrecy, but if there is to be secrecy, let it at least be consistent.
The broad, politico-strategic appreciation is indeed referred to under the heading of Section III—"Co-operation within the Commonwealth and with other countries." In paragraph 9, in guarded language and careful under-statement there is revealed a tremendous fact, which is perhaps the greatest fact of modern history—for what does it say? It says that the United Nations organisation has failed. It says that all the dreams and hopes of 1945 are ended, that the foreign policy of conciliation and appeasement has failed. It says that the election cries of 1945 have proved in this respect, as in so many others, false and illusory. We were told then that, because of its Socialist policy, a Labour Government is most fitted to co-operate more and more closely with Soviet Russia. We were told then that Left understands Left, but Right does not.
What is the truth? The truth is that at the end of this time we are at war—not, thank God, a shooting war, but a cold war, a war which, in some ways, may make greater demands upon us than open war. For we are in danger of an insidious and progressive deterioration in our position, and we risk a steady decline; we risk being unable to call a halt at any particular point in the march of Communist aggression, until it is too late. It is to the solution of this problem that paragraph 9 makes some reference. The White Paper says—and I will read the phrase—that we need to turn to theappropriate regional security arrangements as contemplated in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.652 That is a perfectly fair definition in legal terms of our situation. It may raise some men and women to the necessary sacrifice of leisure and wealth to deal with it. I think that what we really mean to say is that we turn, not for the first time in our history, to the Grand Alliance of Free Peoples for the defence of the liberty of the world. Nor is there anything to fear if that alliance becomes strong and united, for it consists, after all, of the British Commonwealth and Empire, the United States of America, and all the peoples of Europe, or what remains of Europe. Marshalled together, in a careful and well-designed strategy, and well-balanced preparation, I am certain that these immense forces can achieve their purpose.
But the work must be put in hand with vigour and expedition. It must be the supreme purpose of Government policy and must have first priority, for if it fails all else falls to the ground. All our hopes and plans for social betterment, all our schemes and ambitions, all our policies, all our dreams—all depend on the issue of this immense world struggle in which we are involuntarily but ineluctably engaged. We need, therefore, not the leisurely approach of the Minister of Defence, but a sense of urgency and of drama, for we cannot conceal from ourselves in any true appreciation of the position how much we have lost ground in the last three years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] Well, let us consider a man who had retired altogether from the world in 1945 and then returned, not like Rip Van Winkle after a whole generation, but after only four years. What would he see?
He would see the whole of Eastern Europe and a great part of Central Europe gone. He would see Eastern Germany in the grip of Russia. He would see in Berlin a situation which has been dealt with by an extraordinary miracle of improvisation which has solved the temporary crisis, but which cannot be regarded as a permanency—and which, indeed, if it becomes permanent becomes perilously near appeasement. He would see in the Middle East a situation in which we have no friends left—in which respect I am indeed sorry for the Minister of Defence, for never was a Minister of Defence more handicapped by a colleague than he is in the 653 sphere of the Middle East, for the policy of the Foreign Secretary has left us without a friend. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] We know that, and hon. Members opposite know it, and were the first to say it. Similarly in the East and in the Far East: Burma is in a state of anarchy; Malaya is held in the grip of Communist-directed mass murder; and, perhaps the most significant even in the whole century, China has fallen into Communist hands.
But what does the White Paper say of all this. [HON. MEMBERS: "What?"] I will tell hon. Members what it says. It says:The degree of success realised"—what an awfully good expression: "The degree of success realised," meaning the complete failure—The degree of success realised has, however, proved a grievous disappointment and the establishment of collective security on a world-wide basis under the United Nations has not been achieved.What a miracle of understatement. What delicacy. What objectivity. Why, the Minister might be a B.B.C. announcer about to tell us of the approaching end of the world, and in the grammar and the syntax which is, I think, the approved style, he would be saying: "The last trumpet is expected to be sounded just after the nine o'clock news." So much for the appreciation of the situation. That is all we have, this jejune paragraph, to tell us of the greatest world situation that has ever been faced.
What are our objects? Surely they are, first of all, and above all, as has been said in every part of the House, to avoid a shooting war. But our second object, and just as important, is to avoid further gains by the aggressor, and then gradually to recover lost ground—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—unless hon. Members want to see the whole of Central and Eastern Europe held for ever in the grip of the tyranny that now controls it. Is that what they want? We must gradually recover lost ground. We must avoid war—
§ Commander Pursey
You were at war with Russia last time.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I have been at war, yes, and I know something of war, and I say that a third war would be fatal to a civilisation which has, with great difficulty, survived the first two. How do 654 we avoid war? [HON. MEMBERS: "How?"] I will tell hon. Members. Not by being afraid of it ourselves. It is by being so strong, with our allies, that the other fellow is afraid of it. Peace cannot be won by wishful thinking.
§ Commander Pursey
Nineteen thirty-nine again.
§ Mr. Macmillan
We have learned that lesson, but hon. Members opposite have not. Peace must be earned, for peace is a by-product of courage and of truth. Above all, we must put out of our minds—and this has been admirably said by hon. Members on both sides—any conception of a long leisurely war, for if war comes, we shall not this time have the time to do what we have done twice before in my lifetime, and that is to build up our Forces during the first year of conflict. We shall never be able to do that again, and even if we could, the whole life of Europe would be so destroyed, if it were overrun, that even if we were the nominal victors at the end of a long war, we should in fact be destroyed with it. Surely, what follows from this in the discussion of our defence programme is, above all, that speed and rapid-striking forces, whether of conventional or unconventional weapons, are necessary, if war should come, to secure a quick and decisive result. That is the essence of our defence problem.
In a long drawn-out preparation, where during the first two or three years we are able to build up our strength behind other people's efforts, that surely must govern the whole character of our preparation. In my personal opinion I would rather see a smaller but really efficient force at the disposal of the Grand Alliance than a vast reserve of power which can be mobilised only over a long period of years. So far as our forces are concerned, the sooner the Air Force and the Army, like the Government, get back upon a regular full-time engagement the better it will be. There I agree with the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers), although I do not agree with the arguments which he presented in regard to conscription during the first period, because he overstated them. It is a duty in any democratic society to give National Service in the Reserves which is inescapable, but we must make a definite full-time first line force of Regular troops.
655 We are in a very dangerous situation, because I understand that, according to the White Paper, we are to lose in the next 18 months some 110,000 men of something between 18 and 27 months' experience. We shall be left in the next year or two in a much worse position than we are in today. That gap must somehow be filled, but we must do more than this, for we must avoid war. We must make it clear that we are not prepared to see one country after another taken over by blackmail. If any other country is threatened—and I make this prophecy that some countries I know particularly in the Mediterranean will be threatened before this year is out—be it Greece, Turkey, Persia or even Germany—we must be ready with our Allies to prevent this piecemeal absorption. How are we going to do it? Let us be frank, otherwise there is no good having Services at all. We have got to put out of our minds local assistance. That will not succeed. We must revert to the doctrine that peace is indivisible, and we and the Alliance as a whole must make it apparent to the aggressors that such methods will be answered by general and overwhelming attack. If we do not do that, country after country will be lost to Communism, as they were lost to Nazism.
This threat the Grand Alliance must be in a position to implement, because if it is bluff it is worse than useless, and if it is not bluff then it is the truth, however hard and cruel it is. If we have the force to make it effective then it will prevent gradual decay and it will succeed. Finally, we must begin to recover lost ground. I do not doubt that if we once attempt to show that the tide is turning and that the power of the Alliance has been created, some of the peoples at any rate of the oppressed countries will no longer tolerate their position. I believe they have the courage and the strength to recapture their lost freedom.
What are our methods for achieving the purposes and objects we have in view? Neither the White Paper nor the Minister's speech gives us any very clear picture of Allied co-operation, the machinery of planning, either in each group separately or in the groups together, or what the role of each group and each partner in each group is, or the state of readiness of our United 656 Kingdom Forces. All we are told is that we are to spend £750 million and employ 750,000 men in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.
I therefore repeat my right hon. Friend's question: Is there really a plan? There are a lot of rather general statements about the Atlantic Pact, Western Union and Commonwealth consultation, but are these things being translated actively from generalisations into reality? What, for instance, is the method of control? Is there in Western Union or in our relations with the United States anything as clear and precise as the old machinery of the Combined Chiefs of Staff and the Combined Supply Board? We are told that there are observers attending the Western Union meetings. Observers are very good, but I prefer partners to observers, and unless it is a complete and full partnership, the Grand Alliance will fail. What are the allotted roles? Are the roles of the British Fleet and the American Fleet being planned in conjunction so that one is not superfluous to the other? Are plans for the possible submarine attack—that is the real danger, not main fleet action—being concerted together? To what extent are we arranging our policy as a team?
I want again to mention the Debate in another place last night. When I saw no reference at all to the bomber programme in the White Paper, I thought that an interchange of role was being arranged, and that, as the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Crawley) mentioned, while we were to concentrate on the fighter programmes, the bombers would be provided by the Americans. That seemed a possible plan, but apparently that is not so. From the statements made in another place, which were rather obscure and not altogether satisfactory, there is to be a jet bomber programme at home, although we are not told when it is likely to become effective.
Then, as to supply. How far are the design and character of weapons being made interchangeable between the countries? During the last War we had the tremendously important difficulty of the different types and calibres. How far is that difficulty being overcome in heavy weapons, automatic weapons and light weapons? What is the state of the antiaircraft defences? What has happened to what were called the "minute men"—the Registered Reserves? How many 657 of them are there? What is the state of our anti-aircraft weapons? What about the aircraft themselves? How many fighting squadrons have we? We have seen what the great leaders of the past in another place have told us what we ought to have, and they are not altogether to be pooh-poohed because they were the most successful air chiefs we have ever had and they brought us to great victory. What is the state of the armoured divisions?
We are told over and over again that these questions cannot be answered because of security risks. If, in replying, with his hand on his heart, the Prime Minister will tell us that the reason for this extraordinary reticence, unparalleled at any time, is that he is afraid of leakages to foreign Powers, I suppose we must accept that. However, can he really tell us that even the broad picture—not the details of which the Minister of Defence keeps speaking, not the precise details of research and the character and calibre of weapons—but even the broad details are not known to foreign Powers? Are they not the common talk of every embassy in Europe? Is it really the foreign Powers and the leakage to the agents of which he is afraid? Why are the Government afraid of telling us the truth? Is it because the truth would frighten the enemy, or is it because it would alarm our Allies and our own people? Is it because we are too strong, or is it because we are too weak?
The Government have claimed a blank cheque. By what authority do they do so? Not their record. The hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) introduced the element of pre-war recrimination into our discussions. The record of the party opposite is that they voted against every Defence Estimate.
§ Mr. Bing
All I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman is that since he voted, and indeed was one of the two right hon. Gentlemen opposite who voted, against the Conservative Party with the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), does he not agree that the reason which the right hon. Gentleman then gave for voting against the Conservative Government was:History will disentangle individual responsibility and will lay the blame on the shoulders where blame should be, but hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway—pledged, loyal, faithful 658 supporters of His Majesty's Government—must not imagine that they can throw their burden wholly on the Ministers of the Crown."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November. 1938; Vol. 341, cc. 1128 and 1129.]
§ Mr. Macmillan
Look at the picture. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was then my Leader. He is still my Leader. He was right then, he is right now. Hon. Gentlemen were wrong then—all of them, without any exceptions. I know that many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have been converted. We know they are subject to rapid conversations. Last Friday, for instance, we had the agreeable spectacle of the most improbable Cabinet Ministers turning up here as riders to beagles and pursuers of the otter. I have no doubt that on Friday week we shall see the Lord President of the Council in his special new impersonation of Mr. Jorrocks.
I say that if they have asked for a blank cheque—and they have asked for a blank cheque—they cannot stand upon their record. They have given us no information. If they tell us that it is contrary to the public interest to publish in this House or in another place any greater details than are in this Paper, to give us any more information than the right hon. Gentleman has given in his speech this afternoon; if they tell us as Ministers of the Crown that they feel it their duty to give no greater degree of information, either in broad picture or in detail, than they have given today, then a heavy burden rests upon them and we must accept it. If, however, Ministers ask for a blank cheque, they also take upon themselves a heavy responsibility. Ministers, of course, hold in this prime matter of the defence of the Realm the supreme responsibility that any men can hold, to the King and to their fellow subjects. But an Opposition also has a duty, and we intend to perform our duty tonight.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) made an allusion to the celebrated trial of the case of Bardell v. Pickwick. I am bound to say that at times he reminded me of Serjeant Buzfuz, with a good deal of—Chops and Tomata Sauce, Good Heavens!659 about it. But I was interested in his speech, because there was a certain contrast between him and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley). The right hon. Gentleman devoted a good deal of his speech to the subject of collective security. Even he, curiously enough, seems to pooh-pooh this White Paper as saying nothing, although, as a matter of fact, the greatest developments that we have seen of collective security, vigorously led and pursued by this Government, both in Western Union and the movement towards Atlantic security—
§ Mr. Macmillan
And The Hague.
§ The Prime Minister
Yes. We got no acknowledgment from the right hon. Gentleman of that but he did, at least, speak about collective security. The right hon. Member for West Bristol spoke very little of it. Perhaps that was due to the past of those right hon. Gentlemen, because the right hon. Member for Bromley, when he used to sit below the Gangway, supported collective security. He will remember that every time we spoke against those Estimates that were brought forward it was because the Government of the day would not follow collective security. We voted against them because, as is now seen by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite—and was only too painfully seen in 1939—their policy left us to fight alone.
The right hon. Member for Bromley made two other points. One was with regard to bombers. It is a pity—
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
The right hon. Gentleman is arguing like a Liberal.
§ The Prime Minister
It is quite true that in those days, when we were arguing collective security, we were fortunate in having the support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) and the right hon. Gentleman who then represented Caithness and Sutherland. I wish it had not been so late before we got enlarged support from the Conservative Party.
The right hon. Gentleman dealt with two other points. I think he had omitted, perhaps, to notice that, in addition to the White Paper on Defence, there are also the Service Estimates and the 660 introduction of the Secretary of State for Air. He would have found in that Paper what he seemed to think was secret revealed only in another place, a matter regarding bombers. The other point—about which, I must say, I was rather surprised—was his line about the Middle East. At one time he knew a great deal about the Middle East. I am afraid he has got a bit rusty if he thinks we have no friends in the Middle East. He is entirely wrong.
Except for the right hon. Gentleman, who gave us a performance in a good, blusterous style, this has been rather a quiet Debate. I am afraid that some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have been able to attend this Debate were inconvenienced because they were not able to attend what I understand was some form of an inquest on their party. But we have had an interesting Debate and there have been some extremely useful speeches.
The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) raised a point, in which he said there was no statement of priorities with regard to the Air Force in the White Paper this year. If that had been put in, he would have said, "You are only repeating what you said last year." There was, as a matter of fact, set out very clearly in the White Paper last year exactly what those priorities were, and there has been no change in the emphasis placed on the importance of the Air Force.
Some speeches, I thought, were perhaps more suitable for Debates on the Service Estimates than for a defence Debate. I think that applied to the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) on one side of the House, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Symonds) on the other. But there were a number of very thoughtful speeches from both sides of the House and I noticed particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Crawley), my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Dr. Segal), the hon. Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) and the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head). I will try to pick up some of their points in the course of my remarks.
There was one special question put by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), who 661 raised the question of deferments, and I will give him the figures. He can take up the matter again, if he wishes, on the Service Estimates. The figures of deferred were: 18,000 agricultural workers, 8,000 for the mines, 5,000 students, 70,000 apprentices and 9,000 in the Merchant Navy. The Control of Engagement Order makes it quite impossible for any person to escape ultimate liability to serve.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Will the Prime Minister say whether the figures, in particular the large item for apprentices, are gross or net figures, because there must be some apprentices who were deferred some years ago coming into the Services.
§ The Prime Minister
Those are this year's figures. The hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers) raised the question of the utilisation of civilians. That is a matter which has had a great deal of attention. We have already done something in that matter. It is desirable, wherever we can, to relieve military personnel from services which can be done better by civilians. That matter requires a good deal of consideration. The hon. Member for North Blackpool suggested that the Government had refused to give Opposition leaders information as it used to be given before the war. I know the amount which was given and the limitation on the amount given, because I was Leader of the Opposition for some long time before the war. Perhaps it has escaped his attention that the Leader of the Opposition gave me notice that he would like to come to see me on defence and I am prepared to receive him at any time, but so far he has not notified me of the time when he wants to see me. [Interruption.]
§ Major Bruce (Portsmouth, North)
Where is he?
§ The Prime Minister
I am not complaining at all, but I am only saying, in order to put the matter on record, that he did approach me and, of course, I said I would be pleased to see him.
§ Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth)
Very kind of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ The Prime Minister
I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman wants to make such a remark as that. Would he not have done so?
662 The right hon. Member for West Bristol opened mainly on a complaint of lack of information. I think that both he and the right hon. Member for Bromley suggested that the White Paper had been composed by a certain amount of stuff being sent round from various Departments and hastily put together in the Ministry of Defence. That reminds me of a speech I made on the subject when the first Defence Paper was issued, which I think was correct. But this time I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the White Paper on Defence is prepared in the Defence Ministry and does not come from the Departments to the Ministry of Defence, but goes from the Ministry of Defence and is taken up with the Departments and very fully discussed by Ministers. The Defence White Paper is not designed to go into great detail. There are also the Estimates and the introduction to the Estimates of the various Services. It is a mistake to think that the whole of this information can be put into one Defence Paper. All the detailed information cannot be put in.
I would, however, like to deal with the question of the amount of information which can be given. Certain facts stand out. It is a fact that the Germans benefited very much from excessive information which was given before the war. That does not mean to say that we should close down on all information, but it shows that there is a danger. Documents which we have inspected show that they got quite a lot of information which it would have been better they should not have had. Secondly, it is possible to exaggerate the scale upon which people pick up information they should not get. The idea that everything is known everywhere is not true. We have found that out by experience.
It is not easy to draw the exact line as to what information should be given and what should not. Personally I should like to give as much as possible. One of the dangers is that of giving incomplete information which may have a misleading effect. Secondly, if one gives incomplete information one is harried for more information to make it complete, and eventually one finds one is driven into giving rather more information than anyone would wish. I would wish to assure hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that we consult very 663 carefully on this matter. We have looked into it and we are advised that in present conditions we should not release a great deal more information. Last year I looked especially into this matter at the request of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), and I wrote to him in due course, pointing out that I did not see how we could release more information at present. I am always prepared to look at it again, and perhaps if an example could be set in other countries, we might get a little more information. [An HON. MEMBER: "America."] I know, but I was not looking in that direction.
The next point I wish to make in regard to the speech of the right hon. Member for West Bristol is that I thought there were underlying assumptions in it which were not justified. He seemed to judge our position from the standpoint of stable conditions. Despite what the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) said, we are only just completing one of the greatest turnovers of manpower in the history of the Services. It is no use saying "That is an old story which you have told us before," because the facts are still with us. That turnover took place on the basis of the accepted plan put forward by the wartime Government, and that plan, together with the cessation of regular recruiting during the war, inevitably causes a great lack of balance in the Forces. I think that was recognised at the time it was accepted by this House. The programme was accelerated. Various things follow from that. It takes a long time to make a new fully peace-time Army.
Secondly, in regard to weapons we cannot suddenly change all our weapons. We have to use the weapons we have got. We have to hold the balance between the new and the old. Everybody knows that if we are everlastingly seeking for perfection we get the case of the best being the enemy of the good. Clearly, we have to have a plan there. Weapon production comes forward slowly, and some modern weapons take a very long time. The case has already been made with regard to aircraft. The aircraft coming into this country now were started during the war, and it takes a long time. All the time, a change-over 664 was taking place, and we have not got all the aircraft that we would like to have, but they are being developed. In the same way, it takes a long time to build up a navy with ships, and we might like to have more cruisers. All these things take a long time, and we must have a long-term programme.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
We must also have some in reserve, as well as in commission.
§ The Prime Minister
That is quite right, but the amount that we put in commission at any one time must have regard to other considerations. I am sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will fight that out with others who have suggested that we were doing too much for the Royal Navy.
We also have to have regard to the economic position of this country, for that is the basis of the whole defence position of any country. I thought the right hon. Gentleman was rather postulating that this was a position in which we were getting a great Navy, Army and Air Force, all just keyed up for a major European war, and he was rather scornful of what I think he termed putting the long-term defence plan first in the list of the three considerations, though, curiously enough, the whole emphasis of the latter part of his speech was that we must have a plan. Certainly, we must have a long-term plan, but we must also deal with the possibilities in the near future, and we must also deal with the actualities of what exists at the present time. That is not an awfully easy position to be in.
Of course, we are working to a long-term plan with a view to having certain forces ready, with a certain scale of Reserves, at a certain time, but there must be a degree of flexibility in that plan. For instance, we are now working in with Western Union, and we hope to be working with the Atlantic Powers. We want to make our plan such that it will fit in with our other plans for collective security with other Powers. The right hon. Member for Bromley was rather previous suggesting that one might answer that all this had already been fixed concerning what the allocations must be. Inevitably, it takes a long time to fix these things, and it is not wholly a question of what this Government can do.
665 The right hon. Gentleman, who has had experience, knows perfectly well that it is a question of what we can do together with other people. I thought that my right hon. Friend in his speech gave an expansion of what was in the White Paper, showing the very considerable progress that has been made, both with regard to command, supply and finance questions and all the rest concerning Western Union. It is very remarkable progress, and, surely, it is wise that our plan must have a certain flexibility. One cannot prophesy right ahead as to what we should have, without taking into account what our Allies are going to have.
The right hon. Gentleman asked questions about how many divisions we have got and so on, and I rather think that there is a little 1914 thinking in some of this. In 1914, as we all remember, there was a threat of war. There were plans for war on the Continent, plans that were already made. But this time we are in a rather more difficult situation. We have to work out a plan for the future. Actually, at the present time, we are engaged in what is called the cold war. That inevitably means a certain dispersal of our Forces; it inevitably means also that we have rather a greater tail to our formation, because it is one thing to have a formation sitting at home here on fixed establishments and the rest, and quite another to have it operating out in the world. Inevitably, therefore, the tail gets far greater than we would wish.
I know that the right hon. Member for Bromley remembers the difficulty we had during the war. I remember how often, talking with the right hon. Member for Woodford, we sought to reduce this enormous amount that we get now in, so to speak, the haft behind the spearhead. The complication of modern warfare prevents one doing that. It is the dispersal, as we must be dispersed at the present time. Therefore, it is not a very good comparison to look at this with 1914. One can establish so many divisions here and there if one brings them back, but at the present moment we are inevitably dispersed.
Though he went rather far in that, I thought that the right hon. Gentleman returned to the path of wisdom when he 666 talked of the need for holding a balance between the people whom he called the "Blimps" and the "Boffins." That is a very sound point, and a point we have to bear in mind. There are people who think that we do not need an Air Force; that we need nothing but an atomic bomb. There are always some people thinking in terms of the war before the last. The right hon. Gentleman is quite right. One has to look ahead with the new weapon. One has also to keep the old ones in being as long as one may need to use them, and, with the existence of the cold war, one has to have these weapons in one's hand.
I would like to say a word on recruiting. We have taken a great deal of trouble in looking into this question. I have talked with a good many people, and I cannot be quite so absolute as the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames or some others who seemed to think it was entirely a question of money. It is not entirely a question of money. In the matter of recruiting, there is, first of all, the question of the desire to serve, and we can all do our part in helping that side of recruiting. Next, there is the doing of a worth-while job, and that is a very big work for the Services. It has been very difficult, under the circumstances at the present time, to get back to the old regimental conditions where one is not separated from one's pals instead of moving people about all over the place. We are trying to re-create that position. Then there are the living conditions, and, without blaming anybody, we all know that for years our barracks were neglected, and were frightfully out of date. It takes a long time to overtake that sort of thing. Today, we have more married people, and more younger married people, and therefore we have to do what we can in regard to that.
Finally, there comes the question of security in employment, and then, again, there is pay. I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that pay can be fixed on the lines of some hypothetical person working on the basis of piece rates. We have tried to make it broadly comparable, but I do not think we can do more than that.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."668
§ The House divided: Ayes, 291; Noes, 155.669
|Division No. 72.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||McAdam, W.|
|Albu, A. H.||Evans, John (Ogmore)||McAllister, G.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.||Evan, S. N. (Wednesbury)||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Ewart, R.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Fairhurst, F.||Mack, J. D.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Farthing, W. J.||McKinlay, A. S.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Field, Capt. W. J.||McLeavy, F.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Follick, M.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Foot, M. M.||Macpherson, T. (Romford)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Forman, J. C.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Mann, Mrs. J.|
|Baird, J.||Freeman, J. (Watford)||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)|
|Balfour, A.||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Gibbins, J.||Marquand, Rt. Hon H. A.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Gibson, C. W.||Mathers, Rt. Hon. George|
|Barton, C.||Gilzean, A.||Medland, H. M.|
|Battley, J. R.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Mellish, R. J.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Gooch, E. G.||Middleton, Mrs. L.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Millington, Wing-Comdr E. R.|
|Benson, G.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Monslow, W.|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Grey, C. F.||Morgan, Dr H. B.|
|Bing, G.H. C.||Grierson, E.||Morley, R.|
|Binns, J.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Lianeily)||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)|
|BlenKinsop, A.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham. E.)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Gunter, R. J.||Moyle, A.|
|Boardman, H.||Guy. W. H.||Murray, J. D.|
|Bowden, Fig. Offr. H. W.||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||Naily, W.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L"pl. Exch"ge)|
|Bramall, E.A.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil||Naylor, T. E.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Hamilton, Lieut.-col. R.||Neal, H. (Claycross)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)|
|Brown, George. (Belper)||Hardman, D. R.||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)|
|Brown, T.J.(Ince)||Hardy E. A.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon P. J. (Derby)|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||O'Brien, T.|
|Butler, H. W. (HacKney, S.)||Haworth, J.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Bulter, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford)||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)|
|Carmichael, James||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Paling, W. T. (Dewsbury)|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Champion, A. J.||Hicks, G.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Chater, D.||Hobson, C. R.||Parker, J.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Holman, p.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Paton, J. (Norwich)|
|Coldrick, W.||Horabin, T. L.||Pearson, A.|
|Collick, P.||Hughes, H. D. (W"Iverh"pton, W.)||Peart, T. F.|
|Collindridge, F.||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Perrins, W.|
|Collins, V. J.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Popplewell, E.|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)||porter, E. (Warrington)|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon G. A.||porter, G. (Leeds)|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb"well, N.W.)||Janner, B.||Price, M. Philips|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Jay, D. P. T.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Cove, W. G.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Crawley, A.||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. pancras, S. E.)||Pursey, Comdr. H.|
|Cullen, Miss||Jenkins, R. H.||Randall, H. E.|
|Dagger, G.||Johnston, Douglas||Rankin, J.|
|Daines, P.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)||Rees-Williams, D. R.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)||Reeves, J.|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Jones, Jack (Bolton)||Rhodes, H.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Robens, A.|
|Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Keenan, W||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Dear, G.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Rogers, G. H. R.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||King, E. M.||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)|
|Diamond, J.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.||Royle, C.|
|Debbie, W.||Kinley, J.||Sargood, R.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Kirby, B. V.||Scott-Elliot, W.|
|Donovan, T.||Lang, G.||Segal, Dr. S.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Lavers, S.||Shackieton, E. A. A.|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.||Sharp, Granville|
|Dumpleton, C. W.||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Dye, S.||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Leslie, J. R.||Silverman, J (Erdington)|
|Edelman, M.||Levy, B. W.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Skeffington A. M.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Lewis, J. (Bolton)||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Smith, H N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, W.)||Lyne, A. W.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Soskice, Rt. Hon, Sir Frank||Tolley, L||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Sparks, J. A.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Steele, T.||Turner-Samuels, M||Williams, J. L.(Kelvingrove)|
|Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Ungoed-Thomas, L.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Strachey, Rt. Hon. J||Usborne, Henry||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Lambeth)||Vernon, Mai W E||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Stross, Dr. B.||Viant, S. P.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith||Walker, G. H.||Willis, E.|
|Swingler, S||Wallace, H W. (Walthamstow, E.)||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Sylvester, G. O.||Warbey, W N.||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Symonds, A. L.||Weitzman, D.||Wilson, Rt Hon. J. H.|
|Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)||Wells, W T (Walsall)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)||West, D. G.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||White, H (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Zilliacus, K|
|Thomas, John R. (Dover)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W|
|Thurtle, Ernest||Wilkes, L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Tiffany, S.||Wilkins, W. A.||Mr. Snow and|
|Titterington, M. F||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)||Mr. George Wallace.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Nicholson, G.|
|Asshcton, Rt Hon. R||Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)||Nield, B. (Chester)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Harvey, Air-Comdre, A. V.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Head, Brig A. H.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Pickthorn, K.|
|Birch, Niget||Hinchigbrooke, Viscount||Ponsondy, Col. C. E.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Hollis, M. C||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|Bowen, R.||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D.|
|Bower, N.||Howard, Hon. A.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Hudson, Rt. Hon, R. S. (Southport)||Raikes, H. V.|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G||Hurd, A.||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Renton, D.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G T.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Jennings, R.||Roberts, H. (Handsworth)|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)|
|Byers, Frank||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Robinson, Roland|
|Carson, E.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Challen, C.||Lancaster, Col. C. G||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Channon, H.||Langford-Holt, J.||Savory, Prof. D. L.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Shepherd, W S. (Bucklow)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Linstead, H. N.||Smithers, Sir W|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Lipson, D. L.||Snadden, W. M|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Lloyd, Maj Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Spearman, A. C. M|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Crcwder, Capt. John E.||Low, A. R. W.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Strauss, Henry (English Universities)|
|Darling, Sir W. Y.||Lyttelton, Rt, Hon O.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||MaoAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|De la Bére, R.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd"t"n, S.)|
|Digby, S. W.||Macdonald, Sir P. (I of Wight)||Teeling, William|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Thomas, J P. L. (Hereford)|
|Dower, Col. A, V. G. (Penrith)||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Thorneycroft, G E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N|
|Drayson, G. B||Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Turton, R H.|
|Drewe, C.||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Vane, W M. F.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Wadsworth, G.|
|Eocles, D. M.||Manningham-Buller, R. E||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Erroll, F. J.||Marlowe, A. A. H,||Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Marsden, Capt. A.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale.)||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Fyte, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Gage, C.||Maude, J. C.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Gammans, L. D||Medlicott, Brigadier F.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Gates, Maj. E. E.||Molson, A H. E.||York, C.|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke)||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.||Young, Sir A. S. L.(Partick)|
|Glyn, Sir R.||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)|
|Granville, E. (Eye)||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Grimston, R. V.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Commander Agnew and|
|Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Mr. Studholme.|
§ Main Question put.670
§ The House divided: Ayes, 227; Noes, 3.671
|Division No. 73.]||AYES||[10.13 p.m|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Gibbins, J.||O'Brlen, T.|
|Adams, Richard (Batham)||Gibson, C W||Oliver, G. H.|
|Albu, A. H||Gilzean, A||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon A. V||Glanville, J. E (Consett)||Paling, W. T. (Dewsbury)|
|Allen, A C (Bosworth)||Gooch, E G||Palmer, A M F|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Gordon-Walker, P C||Parker, J|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwoll)||Greenwood, A. W. J (Heywood)||Pearson, A.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon C. R||Grey, C. F||Peart, T. F|
|Awbery, S. S.||Grierson, E||Perrins, W|
|Bacon, Miss A||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Popplewell, E.|
|Baird, J.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Porter, E (Warrington)|
|Balfour, A||Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Porter, G (Leeds)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Gunter, R J||Price, M Philips|
|Barstow, P. G||Guy, W H.||Proctor, W T|
|Barton, C||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Bechervarse A E.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil||Pursey, Comdr. H.|
|Benson, G||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Randall, H E.|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Rankin, J|
|Bing, G. H C||Hardy, E. A.||Rees-W.lliams, D R|
|Binns, J||Henderson, Rt Hn. A. (Kingswinford)||Rhodes, H.|
|Blackburn, A. R||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Robens, A.|
|Blenkinsop, A||Hewilson, Capt. M||Royle, C.|
|Blyton, W. R||Hobson, C R||Scott-Elliot, W.|
|Boardman, H.||Holman, P||Segal, Dr S|
|Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W||Holmes, H E. (Hemsworth)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|BraddocK, Mrs. E M. (L"pl. Exch" ge)||Horabin, T L.||Sharp, Granville|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Silkin, Rt. Hon L|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Irvine, A J (Liverpoo1)||Simmons, C. J|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Isaacs, Rt Hon. G. A||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Brown, T J. (Ince)||Janner, B.||Smith, H. N. (Nottinghum, S.)|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Jeger, Dr. S W. (St. Pancras, S. E.)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Jenkins, R. H||Sparks, J. A|
|Carmichael, James||Jones, Rt Hon. A. C. (Shipley)||Steele, T.|
|Chamberlain, R A.||Jones, D T (Hartlepool)||Stewart, Miehael (Fulham, E.)|
|Champion, A J.||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Strachey, Rt. Hon J|
|Chetwynd, G. R.|
|Cocks, F S.||Jones, Jack (Bolton)||Strauss, Rt. Hon G R (Lambeth)|
|Coldrick, W||Keenan, W||Stress, Dr B.|
|Collick, P||Klnghorn, San.-Ldr. E.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon Edith|
|Collindridge, F||Kinley, J.||Swingler, S|
|Collins, V. J.||Kirby, B. V.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Lang, G.||Symonds, A. L.|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Lavers, S||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Cooper, G||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Taylor, Dr S. (Barnet)|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb" well, N. W.)||Lewis. A W. J. (Upton)||Thomas, D E (Aberdare)|
|Corlett, Dr J||Lewis, J (Bolton)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Crawley, A||Lipson, D. L.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Cullen, Miss||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Tiffany, S.|
|Daggar, G||Lyne, A. W.||Tolley, L.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||McAllister, G.||Ungoed-Thomas, L|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||McEntee, V. La T.||Usborne, Henry|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||McGhee, H G.||Walker, G. H.|
|Davies, Haydn (St Pancran, S.W.)||McKinlay, A. S.||Wallace, H W (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Deer, G||MoLeavy, F.||Warbey, W. N.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||McNeil, Rt Hon. H.||Weitzman, D.|
|Diamond, J.||MacPherson, Maloolm (Stirling)||Wells, W. T (Walsall)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Macpherson, T (Romford)||West, D. G.|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwion)||Mann, Mrs. J.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon W.|
|Dumpleton, C W.||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Wilkes, L|
|Dye, S.||Marquand. Rt Hon. H A.||Wilkins, W A.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Mathers, Rt. Hon. George||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Edelman, M.||Medland, H. M.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Mellish, R. J.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. N.(Caerphilly)||Middleton, Mrs. L.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Millingten, Wing-Comdr. E. R||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Evans, E (Lowestoft)||Mitchison, G. R.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Evans, John (Ogmore)||Morley, R.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Evans, S N. (Wednesbury)||Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)||Willis, E.|
|Ewart, R||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Wills, Mrs E. A.|
|Fairhurst, F.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Farthing, W. J.||Moyle, A.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H|
|Field, Capt. W. J.||Murray, J D||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Fletcher, E. G. M (Islington, E.)||Nally, W||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Foot, M M||Naylor, T. E.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Forman, J. C.||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Younger, Hon Kenneth|
|Freeman, J (Walford)||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)|
|Ganley, Mrs C. S||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Snow and Mr. George Wallace|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Pritt, D. N.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|platts-Mills, J. F F.||Mr. Gallacher and Mr. Piratin.|
|"That this House approves the Statement for Defence (Command Paper No. 7631)."|