§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
It has been decided by the House that our Debate must be in public, and I shall confine myself to stating facts which are certainly well-known to the Soviet Government and to the General Staffs of Europe and the United States. The most important things that I shall say I have already said in public before. I shall base myself on matter which has already appeared in the newspapers or been disclosed by various authorities in Europe or the United States.
§ I shall ask the Government a number of questions, but if they do not wish to answer them now that they have escaped into public Session, I shall not press them. I have little doubt that they could have been answered in private Session, as they are already within the limits I have prescribed of being certainly known to foreign Powers.
§ I had intended to open today with a statement of the strength of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Government. This would obviously give them no information which they do not already possess. But yesterday, in what seemed to me the most impressive part of his speech, the Minister of Defence gave us the figures on which the Government rely. There were, he said, 175 active divisions. This 701 I presume is a part of the much larger number, nearly double, which could be produced in a few months. Even if only half of the 175 were used against us in Western Europe, they could, therefore, launch over 80 divisions upon us without any further mobilisation.
§ The Minister of Defence also stated that one-third of these 175 divisions are mechanised or armoured. Sir, that is a tremendous statement. I see that Mr. Vinson, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee of the House of Representatives at Washington, whom I mentioned yesterday, quoted the total Russian tank strength as 40,000, or seven times that of the United States. Our figure of 6,000 British, given yesterday by the Minister of Defence, is comparable, I take it, to this estimate of 40,000
§ But even more important than the reserve or general stock of tanks is the number organised in formations. Could we be told, since so much has been disclosed, of the number of Soviet tanks now assembled on or near the Western Front in formations? Would 4,000 or 5,000 tanks in organised formations be an excessive estimate? In Korea we have seen how formidable even a few score of tanks can be, and how tough the heavy Russian tanks are. Any development and improvement in the bazooka and other anti-tank weapons would be greatly welcomed.
§ I do not know how well the Western Union Forces are equipped with the latest and largest patterns, but I cannot think that the threat of the enormous mass of the Soviet armour is in any way mastered, or that there is anything in use and service at the present time which could cope with the array of armoured avalanches we must expect on the outbreak of war, should war occur.
§ Now let us see what the Western Union could put against all this. The former war-time French Prime Minister, M. Reynaud, recently again a Minister, made some precise statements on this point last week, which have been published in the newspapers and which I do not think should escape the attention of the House. M. Reynaud said that we and our European Allies have in Western Germany two British Divisions, two American and three French. For the rest, he said the French have four divisions in Europe and, I think, the Belgians one, a total 702 of 12. I should think that M. Reynaud is tolerably well informed on these matters.
§ The French and the Belgian divisions must inevitably be hampered in their tactical efficiency by having to train the annual intake of conscripts. The two British divisions are of course largely composed of men completing their eighteen months' service, and are almost entirely dependent upon a numerous German civilian contingent for their transport, without which of course they cannot move. One of the two American divisions, I believe, is armoured, but I ask if the British have one full armoured division.
§ On this assumption, Western Union would have 12 divisions, against more than 80, and of these less than two are armoured, against anything from 25 to 30. The Russians know their own strength, but it is certain that they also know with great precision the Allied weakness and condition. Apart from agents, there are Communists all over Germany who see the troops living among them day after day, and we here in the House of Commons are entitled to ask the Government—are these figures, which I have just quoted, and their proportions, broadly speaking, true? Are the odds in ground troops on the Western Front eight or nine to one against us, or are they four, five, or six, or seven to one? Or is there no truth in this figure at all and are things much better? I hope the Prime Minister, if he is going to reply—or is it the Minister of Defence?
§ Mr. Churchill
I hope the Minister of Defence, when he replies, will tell us. There is really no reason why we should not know what the Soviets and all the General Staffs of Europe know, and what the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence must themselves have known for a long time. In a Secret Session, there would I think, have been no difficulty in giving the broad facts.
When, in March, in the Debate on the White Paper, I said in the House that it would be necessary and right to enable the Germans of Western Germany to take part in the defence of their hearths and homes from the hideous menace under 703 which they lie, the Prime Minister dismissed my advice as irresponsible. However, it is the advice which I understand the military commanders of the United States, at any rate, would give. At present, we have followed the principle that the only Germans who may be re-armed are the Communist Germans in the Eastern zone, who have been formed by the Soviets into a highly effective police army with powerful weapons and numbering 45,000 or 50,000 men—it may be more—and with considerable offshoots in the Communist cells and caches of arms known to exist in Western Germany.
I do not wonder that something like panic prevails along the Eastern frontiers of Western Germany. Every true German friend of reconciliation with the Western democratic world, and the redemption of their past by faithful service, knows that the lurking Communist in the neighbourhood has marked him down for early liquidation. How can there be any foundation for a helpful German policy under such conditions?
In all that I have said so far, I have only spoken of the Soviet forces with which we are confronted—eight or nine to one against us in infantry and artillery, and probably much more than that in tank formations. I have not mentioned the satellite Powers. Poland, under strict Russian control, with a Russian marshal at the head of her forces, has a powerful party army. Czechoslovakia has another army, though less trustworthy, and the arsenals of Skoda, possibly the largest arms plant now in Europe, are steadily pouring out their weapons. If the facts that I have stated cannot be contradicted by His Majesty's Government, the preparations of the Western Union to defend itself certainly stand on a far lower level than those of the South Koreans. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman said yesterday with candour:I will not conceal from the House that the Forces at present available, or in sight, fall a long way short of requirements estimated even on the most conservative basis. There is nothing to be gained by failing to recognise this fact."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 474.]It is always, I think, true to say that one of the main foundations of the British sense of humour is under-statement, and this appears to be a very excellent example of that fact.
704 We may, no doubt, throw much of the blame on France and the Benelux countries, weakened by the disasters of the war, but do not let us imagine that we are not in danger ourselves. If, as M. Reynaud says, and I have no reason to dispute him, the Soviet armies, with their armoured columns, could be at Calais and reach the Channel—or the Atlantic, that is to say—before any substantial reinforcements from the United States could arrive upon the scene—if that is true, then we ourselves, although protected from an immediate incursion by the anti-tank obstacle of the Channel, with its waves, tides and storms, will be subjected to a bombardment by rocket-propelled and guided missiles—I am not speaking of atomic bombs—incomparably more severe than anything we have endured or imagined.
The Soviet Government picked up and developed all the Germans knew about this form of war. Peenemunde fell into their hands, and all the German secrets of this new phase of warfare, on which Hitler had set his final hopes, but the development of which was cut short by our advance—all this new phase of warfare has been developed in five years of intensive study and production.
The Russians do not need to come to the coast to plant their batteries. Very long ranges are within the compass of these weapons, and they can pick and choose their places. If we were alone, I might give some indication of the inconvenience which might be caused thereby. All this is true, and may be near—how near no one knows for certain, except the dictator oligarchy in the Kremlin, who accept no moral principles as known to us, but who are able to pursue, year after year, their calculated plans for world conquest without being concerned with public opinion or elections or any of the scruples which rule the Western and the Christian world.
Here I leave the first part of my subject—the relative strength of the armies and of the tanks upon the Western Front. Let us now look to the air. Immense figures have been published in America and in this country about the Soviet air forces—25,000 military aircraft produced yearly was one figure. The Minister of Defence said yesterday that the Russian forces—he was speaking of their total 705 military forces—are backed by 19,000 military aircraft, including jet aircraft of the latest design, both bombers and fighters.
But, on the Western front, which is the matter which I have most in point at the moment, in fighter and bomber aircraft, how many have they got in full commission? Would 4,000 or 5,000 or 6,000 be too large an estimate? I should be greatly relieved if the Government were able to answer this question in a reassuring manner. But, considering all we have been told of the Russian strength, I can see no reason why, even under the conditions of a public Session, it should not be answered. But, even if we take it as only 4,000, how many have we got? We and the Americans and the Western Allies, how many have we got on the Continent—I am not speaking of home forces—to sustain our Armies of perhaps 12 divisions, as stated by M. Reynaud, against 80 or 90? Here, again, even if we were in Secret Session, I would not ask the Government to state the exact figure, but could they say, for instance, that we have a half, a third, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, or a seventh of what we know we have to face? I do not press them for a reply unless they wish to give one.
Upon the question of quality, no doubt we may hope to have superiority in machines and pilots, but this is by no means certain. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that a large proportion of the Russian aircraft are of the highest quality. They have certainly made great improvements on the jet aeroplanes in regard to which we so lightheartedly furnished them with our specimen engines a few years ago.
There are other aspects of the Russian air menace not concerned with the mainland of Europe with which I must now deal. If the Russian Armies reached or approached the coast of France and held the airfields there from which we were attacked by the Germans 10 years ago, they could, I fear, outnumber us in the air by a far larger number of machines than Hitler ever had. Anything that the Government choose to say upon the fighter forces available for the defence of London and our vital feeding seaports which would reassure the House would give the deepest satisfaction to us all.
706 But there is another aspect of the air defence of Britain which is even more grave and intense. Two years ago, the Government agreed that the Americans should establish a bombing base in East Anglia from which they could use the atom bomb upon the Russian cities and keypoints. The Americans have other bases, but this is one of the most important. We on this side of the House do not criticise the Government for taking this very serious step for which, in any case, they had the large Socialist majority of the last Parliament at their disposal.
§ Mr. Churchill
Not at this point. All this has been in the newspapers for a long time. I would not have asked the Government, even in Secret Session, for the exact numbers of the American offensive forces for using the atomic bomb on Soviet Russia which are located here in this island. However, the Prime Minister stated them on Monday as 10,000 men and 180 planes in three bomber groups. To this, the Minister of Defence added last night that there were fighter squadrons also, so we may be sure that the Russians know the main facts pretty well. It is on this foundation that the Communists base their oft-repeated charge that Britain is an aircraft carrier moored to attack the Soviet Union. It is also, this base in East Anglia, our major defence against the consequences which would follow or accompany a Russian onslaught in Europe, and it is a vital part of the atomic bomb deterrent, which is what we are living on now.
More than two years have passed since this base was established and became public. It was obvious, whatever else was done or not done, that from that moment the utmost endeavours should have been used to make the base secure by every form of anti-aircraft artillers and by the most perfect and elaborate development of radar, and, above all, by the largest number of the latest fighter aircraft which we could produce ourselves or get from the United States. I hope this has been done. I naturally do not ask for a detailed reply, but one fact makes me anxious—it has been mentioned before, and I must refer to it now for it may be typical of much else 707 in our present administrative policy. I simply cannot comprehend a policy which while, on the one hand, taking this extraordinary risk of establishing this base, can disperse or distribute so large a proportion of the jet aircraft in the production of which British genius has held the lead.
We wonder how many jet aeroplane engines we have distributed to our friends or sold to foreign countries. I do not ask for a reply in detail; I will content myself with reminding the House, as my right hon. Friend did yesterday, of what has been published in the newspapers and admitted by Ministers, namely, that 100 of these jets were sold to the Argentine, which lays its claims to the Falkland Islands and is at this moment in wrongful occupation of British territory in the Antarctic. It has also been stated, and not denied when raised in the House, that 110 were sold, traded, or given to Egypt—written off against sterling balances, or the like—to Egypt of all countries at the present time, which was actually blocking the Canal in violation of the treaty, and no doubt given to them in order to enable them to face the new State of Israel. Here at any rate are 210 machines, only, of course, a proportion of what have been dispersed or disposed of, out of the total of these invaluable jets, and of these 210 we have been deprived by an act of improvidence beyond description or compare.
We have the Auxiliary Air Force, which is an important element in our home defence—about 20 squadrons—and is manned by very high quality volunteers really worthy of the finest weapons which our factories can make. This Auxiliary Air Force could all have been re-armed by now with the jets we have distributed to these foreign countries. I simply cannot understand it. In the 50 years since I entered this House, I have never seen anything quite like it. I made my protests and appeals to the Prime Minister more than a year ago. Perhaps he or the Minister of Defence will tell us tonight that at least the sale of our jets to neutrals has now been stopped.
But this particular illustration of the manner in which the policy of the Government has been incoherent or uncoordinated, ugly though it be, must not draw our minds from the general picture 708 which I am presenting to the House. I have dealt with the relative strengths of the armies and the armoured forces on both sides in Europe. I have spoken of the Air Force, though I have not attempted to go into actual or relative strengths, except to state that we are, I believe, outnumbered as we have never been before.
Now I come, thirdly, to the naval sphere and the Soviet U-boats. Reliable naval reference books estimate the present Russian U-boat fleet at 360 divided, no doubt, between the Pacific and the West, of which between 100 and 200 are ocean-going and capable of high speeds. These seem to me very large figures, and I am not at all accepting them as final figures, but what is the truth about them? I do not see why the Minister of Defence should not give us his best estimate, considering the information which has been given about other portions of the Russian forces.
Many of these boats, we are told, are of 20 knots. A modern 20-knot submerged U-boat would, it is calculated, be able to search five times the area of water that was covered by the last war U-boats with their maximum submerged speed of nine knots. What is the truth of this? There can be no harm in giving this information to the public. All German technical discoveries and, no doubt, some German technical aid have been at the command of the Soviets since the war. Considering that we and the world have been told the deadly details of the American atomic force in East Anglia, surely the facts about the Russian U-boat construction can be given on the best estimate that is available.
When I went to the Admiralty at the beginning of the last war the Germans had 30 ocean-going U-boats with a maximum underwater speed of nine knots. Only 30 And now the figure of 300 is mentioned; but it may be much less and yet be most grave. I am not committing myself to any precise figure, but they only had 30 then. I hope it may be possible to reassure us on the present position.
I do not know, nor do I ask, what resources we have in up-to-date anti-U-boat craft, but I doubt very much whether they are in number equal actually, or still less proportionately, to what those who are called the "guilty men" 709 of the last war had prepared. I believe it is probably true to say that the Russian-Soviet U-boat menace to our trans-ocean Atlantic life-line and world communications, which also comprise all American reinforcements for Europe, would be far more severe than was the German U-boat force in their attacks of 1939 and 1940; and this seemed quite enough then.
We have, however, the Air Force Coastal Command, and in this and in multiplication of aircraft carriers and antisubmarine vessels lies our hope, and, I trust, our policy. But it was said yesterday that the Coastal Command is below its approved strength, both in aircraft and in their personnel. I hope this may be contradicted, and if it cannot be contradicted I trust it will be made good. I do not feel I should be exaggerating if I said that the Soviet attack by modernised German U-boats in Russian hands upon our ocean life-line would, for a year at least, perhaps for more, be far more severe than was the Hitler attack in 1939 and 1940. I ask specifically if the Minister of Defence will deal with this in his speech, because it is fundamental and vital.
Summing up the scene, it looks as if there is at present no effective defence in Western Europe beyond the Channel, and that the Russian advance to the Channel or towards it will bring us under air bombardment, apart from the atomic bomb, far worse than we have ever endured. Secondly, it would be very bad for us if the Russians were to gain the command of the air over the Channel and over this island by an overpowering use of numbers. On the sea we are also at a serious disadvantage, as I have just described, compared with the last war. It is, perhaps, worth while for the House and the country to weigh these facts attentively. If they can be substantially corrected, no one will be more fervently thankful than I.
If the comparison of British and Western Union forces ended at this point, with a survey of land, sea and air, our position might well be judged forlorn. We might feel the need of the striking phrase used the other night by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) when he said, "While there is death there is hope." Fortunately, there is a fourth vast sphere of defence in which the United States have enormous and measureless 710 superiority. Two years ago I said in the country, at Llandudno:If it were not for the stocks of atomic bombs now in the trusteeship of the United States, there would be no means of stopping the subjugation of Western Europe by Communist machinations backed by Russian armies and enforced by political police.Again, I said on the same occasion:Nothing stands between Europe today and complete subjugation to Communist tyranny but the atomic bomb in American possession.It is to this aspect that I must now recur. I understand that we have no atom bombs of our own. Considering how far we were forward in this matter during the war—we could not ourselves undertake it because we were under fire, that was the only reason why we did not—and that we earnestly pressed the Americans into it, as my conversations with President Roosevelt in 1942, which are on record, will show, it is remarkable, considering all this, how quickly we were denied the confidence of the United States after the war was over, and how we have never been able in five years with all our own gathered knowledge to make the atom bomb ourselves.
I also said in 1948:What will happen when the Russians get the atomic bomb themselves and have accumulated a large store? You can judge for yourselves what will happen then by what is happening now. If these things are done in the green wood, what will be done in the dry? If they can continue month after month disturbing and tormenting the world, trusting to our Christian and altruistic inhibitions against using this strange new power against them, what will they do when they themselves have large quantities of atomic bombs?And further:The Western nations will be far more likely to reach a lasting settlement, without bloodshed, if they formulate their just demands while they have the atomic power and before the Russian Communists have got it too.No attention was paid to this. I fully realise the difficulties and the dangers of such a policy and it did not rest entirely with us.
But now things have definitely worsened. It is painful in every respect to be told, as we were officially told some months ago, that the Russians have been able to gain the secret of the atom bomb through Communist traitors in the American and also notably in the British service. But between having the secret and making any large number of 711 bombs, there is undoubtedly a considerable interval.
It is this interval which we must not waste. We must endeavour to make up the melancholy leeway in military preparations which oppresses us today, and we must never abandon the hope that a peaceful settlement may be reached with the Soviet Government if a resolute effort is made on the basis not of our present weakness but of American atomic strength. This is the policy which gives the best chance of preventing a fearful war and of securing our survival should it break upon us.
I do not expect that any of the Allies know how many atomic bombs the Soviet Government have yet been able to make, but—here I am only stating my personal opinion—I do not think that they have made many yet, or that their rate of production is at present rapid. As I say, I only candidly state my own personal view to the House. It would be very wrong that the House should attach any undue importance to it, but it is one of the stepping stones upon which my thought advances.
I see, however, that I said to the House earlier in this Session, two months ago, that if the Americans had a stock-pile of, say, 1,000, and the Russians had only 50, and we got those 50, it would not be pleasant. I was surprised that this crude remark did not affect opinion. But then, only two months ago there was a different atmosphere. All these matters, quite wrongly, seemed outside the range of ordinary politics and daily life. Now they dominate the minds of all thinking and patriotic men, and will increasingly do so as the months pass by.
It was stated officially at some Lobby conference with, I think, the Home Office, according to the "Daily Telegraph" of Tuesday, that each bomb costs as much as a battleship. This, of course, is ludicrous nonsense. It might be that the first two or three would cost that amount or more if they were saddled with the whole expense of research and production up to date, but once they were in production the cost would certainly be less than one-twentieth or even one-fiftieth of a modern battleship. Nevertheless I still adhere to my feeling—I am quite ready to be instructed by those who have the advantages of official information—that so far, 712 very few have been produced, and the extraordinary efforts which the Soviet Government are making to obtain even small quantities of uranium seem—I only say "seem"—to justify a hopeful view.
If this should happily be true, there can be no doubt that the United States possesses at this moment a superiority so vast that a major act of Russian aggression is still subject to an effective and even perhaps decisive deterrent. It is for this reason I have ventured on several occasions to express the opinion that a third world war is not imminent, and I cherish the hope that it may still be averted.
I noticed in the Debate on Civil Defence on Monday, at which I regret I was not present, that there was a considerable tendency, not confined to any one part of the House, to minimise the effects of the atomic bomb, and the Government have issued a carefully thought out booklet on this subject. No doubt, it is right nearly always to take a robust and cheerful view, but I expect this booklet, from what I have been able to learn of it, looking through it—I have not had time to read it with the attention it deserves—will be more cheering to the Russians than to us, because the atomic bomb is the only weapon on land, sea and air in which the Americans—that is to say the Allies—can possibly have overwhelming superiority during the next two or three years.
I should have thought, therefore, that it was a mistake in propaganda to weaken or discount the deterrents upon those who are already so much stronger in every other sphere except this. We shall need the whole weight of these deterrents to gain us the time which remains while this great advantage of ours endures. We are, of course, dependent upon the United States both for the supply of the bomb and largely for the means of using it. Without it, we are more defenceless than we have ever been. I find this a terrible thought. In 1940 I had good hopes that we should win the battle in the air even at heavy odds and that if we won, the Navy could stave off and repel invasion until eventually vast air power was developed here which would bring us out of our troubles, even if left alone. But now I cannot feel the same sense of concrete assurance.
713 We must never despair. We must never give in. We have over 5 million men and women who had service in the Armed Forces in the last war. We have three-quarters of a million who have been trained since, and there are nearly 700,000 now in the Armed Forces, and many thousands in our Volunteer and Auxiliary Forces. Our industrial capacity and that of the free world is gigantic. Our scientific and technical ability is unsurpassed. We may well have time to reorganise and develop the mighty latent strength of Britain surrounded by her Commonwealth.
But I warn the House that we have as great dangers to face in 1950 and 1951 as we had 10 years ago. Here we are with deep and continuing differences between us in our whole domestic sphere, and faced with dangers and problems which all our united strength can scarcely overcome. It was this that led me to hope that in Private Session the sense of the corporate life of the House of Commons might have asserted itself. But that has been forbidden by the Prime Minister. [HON. MEMBERS: "By the House."] It has been forbidden by the Prime Minister, and at his request the House has prevented our meeting together and talking things over among ourselves in secret.
It is with deep grief that I have to say these things to the House, and to reflect that it is only five years ago almost to a month when we were victorious, respected and safe. The whole burden does not rest upon this country, nor upon the Government of this country. They have done several important things, like establishing compulsory National Service and the East Anglian American base. They have fostered the closest relations with the United States and our European friends, and they have maintained active resistance to Communism in its various forms.
Nevertheless, I say they bear a fearful accountability. The Prime Minister and his party have had power, men, and money never enjoyed before by any Government in time of peace. If they had asked for more, Parliament would have granted it to them and we would have given it our full support. It was with a sense of relief that I felt entitled to say in March that we could accept no responsibility for the present state of our defences. That does not mean that we will not strive to help the Government, in spite of 714 their total lack of consideration for our wishes and point of view, in every measure, however unpopular, which they may propose and which we recognise is aimed solely at securing national survival.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
It is very difficult for a back bencher to follow the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) on the subject of defence, of which his knowledge is unrivalled, and I think I shall express the feeling of the House in saying that there is hardly anyone here who would challenge his analysis of the present balance of power between East and West. I should like to try to add some comments on that analysis, accepting it as basically true. One thing struck me about his speech. It was an unconscious tribute to the speech of the Minister of Defence, for there was no criticism of any sort of the proposals for rearmament put forward by the Government, even though the right hon. Gentleman had had 24 hours to think over the Minister's speech. I think we can feel that the Government have done well when, after 24 hours, that doughty expert could find nothing wrong in detail with the proposals put forward by the Minister of Defence. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Other back benchers may find things wrong; I only point out that the right hon. Gentleman spoke in no way about the concrete and practical proposals put forward by the Minister.
The second point which struck me was that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to lay all his emphasis on the American superiority in atom bombs as the strength of our defence. I would agree with him about Western Europe, but I would agree with hon. Members behind him that the superiority in atom bombs, as we have seen in Korea, is no sort of deterrent against localised actions, one after another, which might well bring us to the position where, having never been able to use the ultimate deterrent, we had lost the whole of the world except Europe. I should have thought that instead of relying solely on the atom bomb, what we ought to study, in this Debate, was how the Western world, which is not prepared to use the atom bomb in a small local action and which will use it only when it is driven to it by a frontal declaration of world war by the Russians—how we in the Western world, deprived of that instrument, because we are civilised, can 715 defend ourselves with our land, sea and air forces against the threat, of which one example is Korea.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will excuse my saying one thing in a somewhat party spirit. I have noticed that this Defence Debate has had more of an undercurrent of party manoeuvre than any Defence Debate in the previous Parliament. Having heard the right hon. Gentleman's very remarkable speech, I still have the impression that the constant demand for a Secret Session was much more designed to restore the atmosphere of a war-time Parliament, in which the right hon. Gentleman ruled supreme and in which he could make the sort of speech which would restore his war-time reputation, than to obtain any information from the Government.
The right hon. Gentleman's demand for a corporate spirit from this House, following the ardent applause given to the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) in his demand for a Coalition, made me feel that there was something going on which was closer to home than the subject of Defence. On that point I should like to make two comments. If we are really concerned with national unity in the present crisis, I would repeat the comment of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. Wyatt)—the best thing the right hon. Member for Woodford could do is not only to withdraw, but to withdraw from public life altogether. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I say that in all solemnity, and I think hon. Members on all sides of the House will know what I am talking about.
Secondly, I would make this comment on the talk about a Coalition. If a Third World War breaks out, a Coalition may be necessary, but in this period, when it is our aim to prevent a world war, I believe that any talk of Coalition divides this country at a moment of crisis far more than it unites it.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
Whatever my hon. Friend may think of my remarks yesterday—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not much."]—whatever he may think, I can assure him that they came from myself alone, without consultation with any other Member of the House.
§ Mr. Crossman
I never suggested otherwise. I am relieved to hear that no one 716 else shared my right hon. Friend's indiscreet views.
I want to deal with one other subject, which has been raised throughout all the speeches from the Opposition, and implicitly was raised by the right hon. Member for Woodford. There was constant implication that the Government had neglected the subject of defence, for three years—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That applause helps my argument. It was suggested that three years had been frittered away, that the country had been allowed to drift into deadly peril. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I thank hon. Gentlemen opposite for that applause.
I should like to ask hon. Gentlemen who say that with such urgency today, whether, in the General Election campaign, they proposed as the first point in their manifesto that taxation should be maintained to pay for increased armaments. If the party opposite had discovered that the country was in deadly peril, were they not somewhat irresponsible last February to promise increased social services and decreased taxation when now, a few months later, they say that we should have been spending millions more on defence? It was no surprise to us to find that Mr. Baldwin's performance in 1935 had been repeated by the party opposite.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
I am obliged to the hon. Member for giving way. If he had listened more carefully to what was said by this party on this side on the subject of Defence, he would have realised that the complaint was not that more should have been spent, but that £780 million and 700,000 men had been wasted through inefficiency.
§ Mr. Crossman
I listened to every speech in the Debate. The hon. and gallant Member does not know that many of his hon. Friends, in his absence, demanded that more money should be spent now and complained that not enough money had been spent in the past. I do not want to stress this, however; it is obviously a painful subject for the Opposition. I want, instead, to turn to points of agreement between us.
We all welcome one thing and it is that, by and large—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
On a point of order. We cannot hear the 717 speech because of the observations of the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton).
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
On a point of order. Is it not in accord with the traditions of this House, when an hon. Member makes a speech of the kind which is being made, in a situation of this gravity, that hon. Members on this side of the House may express their strong disapproval?
§ Mr. Crossman
I will now continue, and I should like to tell the noble Lord that I have dealt with the party side and wish to come to a point on which even he, I think, may possibly agree. I think the best thing about yesterday's Debate and the Debate today, including the right hon. Gentleman's speech, has been that, with one exception, it has been agreed that the main object of our defence policy now is not to achieve victory in an inevitable war, but, first, to prevent a war if possible and, second, as a secondary objective, to win it if the disaster of war comes upon us. I have been greatly relieved to find that, because hon. Gentlemen opposite, in their speeches and in writing letters to "The Times," have been saying that the war has already started, and that we can dispense with legalistic formulae or any close attention to the charters of certain organisations we belong to: we are fighting this war and that we must not be nice in fighting it.
Of course, if we accepted that view we should find ourselves precipitating the war we are trying to prevent. The Government have an infinitely more difficult task. They have to maintain the ascendancy of diplomacy over strategy in order to isolate the Korean struggle—in order, for instance to persuade the Chinese Communists not to enter into the struggle and so to spread it. That is one side of their job—a job of policy and diplomacy. Simultaneously, and equally, they have to be 100 per cent. behind the United Nations police action in Korea. We have to be both belligerents and peacemakers at the same time. That is a job which I thought was achieved with conspicuous skill in the speech of the Minister of Defence. It combined 718 in exactly the right quantities the determination to fight if necessary, and the reasonableness which shows that we are not provoking a war.
I would suggest that many of the criticisms of the Opposition are frustrated by that thought. Of course, if we thought war inevitable then life would be relatively simple. Then everything would be concentrated upon the single objective. We should accept the re-arming of the Germans and General Franco, and principles would go by the board. Everything would be seen in terms of warlike strategy. Thank heavens, that is not the position today. Today, everything has to be balanced between the policy necessary for preserving the peace and the defence which may ultimately be necessary if we fail in our prior objective. I must say that I am greatly relieved that we have not got a Coalition Government to fulfil those arduous purposes.
I should like to say one word to hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House on the subject of troops going to Korea. I was a little disturbed, if I may talk quite frankly, at the reaction of some hon. Gentlemen here on that subject. After all, we have said that we stand behind the United Nations in Korea. After all, the Americans, some of them not very well trained, are losing their lives. If this country holds, as it should, that it stands behind the United Nations in Korea, and refuses to collaborate in Formosa, because that is not an affair of the United Nations, then we must make that absolutely clear in our actions.
Collaboration is a very difficult thing between this country, which is not yet at war, and the Americans, who are at war. It is the collaboration between the two countries in 1940 in reverse. We tend to be the isolationists today. We tend to be the people who feel a bit nervous about dipping our toes in the river. Let us be careful that our moral lectures are not rationalisations for trying to keep out except on paper. I must honestly say that I feel in a sense relieved that we are sending troops to Korea. I know it is a shock to the people of this country. But it is a shock without which our contribution to the United Nations would have been meaningless, and I think it is important for us, if we are going to use our influence with America to prevent her from taking rash action in 719 Formosa, to be absolutely above board and in the clear about our support of the United Nations' action in Korea.
As for the problem of the conscripts, I would ask the Secretary of State for War or the Minister of Defence whether it would not be possible to make use of the rule we had in the war that no boy who is under 19 should be sent. If we had that rule as we had in the last war, we should regard the United Nations' action to prevent a major war as something in which life may be sacrificed at least as conscientiously as in a third world war, which would destroy everything altogether. If it is worth doing, I am afraid that we have to make the ultimate sacrifice to do it. I am sorry to say that, but it seemed to me vital that it should be said.
I want to draw one lesson from Korea which was not mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) used a very clever phrase. He said the Russians were carrying out an "invasion by proxy." It was a clever phrase, but, like so many clever phrases, it concealed the formidable truth, which is that the invasion of South Korea has not been undertaken by the Russians but by North Korean troops, trained in five years to be able to undertake a major operation of war. That is to say, the Russians have trained a colonial army in five years. [Interruption.] I am not saying that it is right. I am saying that the really formidable fact is that they have built there a colonial army in five years to fight with a national ardour and fanaticism. General MacArthur has completely failed to train a colonial army on the other side. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laugh. I am only judging by the results of the war.
§ Mr. Somerset de Chair (Paddington, South)
I suppose the hon. Gentleman is aware that the Koreans have always been regarded as among the finest fighters in the Far East, second only to the Manchurians, and that, therefore, it is not difficult to train them.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am simply pointing to the fact that if the Koreans are the finest fighters in the Far East, 10 million North Koreans are now licking 20 million South Koreans plus the Americans, which 720 is a very sorry fact. I grant that the South Koreans did not have heavy equipment. I only say that it is a sinister fact. We have to note that "invasion by proxy" means getting nations to fight fanatically on one's own side.
I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford talk of British and American and French co-operation quite complacently. But I say to the House that if we rely on the white nations only to preserve world freedom, and say it is the white nations who can defend liberty everywhere, and believe that we need not worry about the coloured peoples, because they cannot be trained or because they are "inferior," we are doomed to defeat by Communism. Unless we have allies who are coloured, who will fight with the same fanaticism for our cause of democracy as the North Koreans fight for Communism, we are outnumbered, and our superiority in technique and equipment will be as insignificant as that of knights of the Middle Ages who were overwhelmed by common people who had not such elaborate equipment—people from below, who fought with the strength of numbers and faith.
Have any of the nations who are representatives of democracy got such coloured allies today? I reply, one country has, and one alone. It is not America. It is this country—thanks to the Commonwealth policy of the last five years. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite try to talk party politics. I am trying to talk serious sense. If hon. Gentlemen will allow me to say it, the fact that India, Pakistan and Ceylon—Asiatic peoples—are part of our Commonwealth, and ready to fight for their national existence, is the one encouraging factor in the Far East today, If all the British and American soldiers in the world, and all the howitzers and tanks and atom bombs were put into India they would not have availed against Communism as much as the knowledge by the Indian or the Pakistani that he was a free man on our side.
§ Mr. Crossman
If the House will forgive me, I want to leave time which will allow many other Members to speak, and I cannot do so if I continually give way.
721 There has been from the Opposition a great deal of criticism of the Government's policy in Burma. I agree that there is an inefficient Government there, but I ask the Opposition to note that Burma democrats are today fighting Communists on their own; that they have regained half the territory; and that not one white soldier has had to go in to help them. I say that in Asia it is more important that the Asians should themselves fight on our side for their own country, because when we have to defend their country for them, we have half lost the war before it is started. The basic defence issue today is this: in terms of white Europeans and Americans against Russian Communists, we have no chance of winning the third world war—none whatsoever. Despite all the atom bombs, if we allow ourselves to be isolated as privileged whites, the overwhelming superiority of numbers will, in the end, wear us down.
Nothing was more terrible than the report in "The Times" of the experience of the G.I. in Korea. We are told that he has to treat every civilian as an enemy. We know from our own experiences in Palestine and Greece that against a guerilla movement harboured by the majority of the people no white army can prevail in the long-run. Millions can be spent on armaments, but everything depends on getting the people on your side, at least to the extent of preferring your rule to that of the Communists.
Let us be clear about the contrast here between Europe and the Far East. I would say today that if the Russians marched into Europe they would not be able to trust the Czech Army, or the Polish Army, or the Hungarian Army, because they have violated the principle of national self-determination in Europe. They cannot trust those troops, thank heaven. That is one of the things that restrains them. Unfortunately, in the Far East Communism is identified in millions of minds, not, if I may say so to my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Frederick Elwyn Jones) simply with filling empty stomachs, but with national liberation. Again, if I may say so to my hon. Friend, national liberation makes a man fight harder than an empty stomach; curiously enough, it is more important to him.
The Communist has captured the whole spirit, which says, "I want to liberate 722 my nation from Western Imperialism," and I say to this House—because I think we are allowed sometimes to be proud of of our country—that in the last five years the British people and the British Commonwealth have built the only genuine bulwark against Communism, which is the Commonwealth, with a friendly Burma. She chose to go outside: she is fighting on her own because she chose to go outside, but I hope she will be back.
In Malaya even, with all our difficulties, we do at last have Malayans volunteering for their own police force; we do have at last a sense that, though there is a lot still to do, our side means their side and does not mean oppression. That is why I want to stress in this Debate that anybody who tries to think about the defence of Western democracy by totalling up, as the right hon. Gentleman did, the number of divisions and squadrons, and the number of white Americans, British and French, is leading us into defeat. The ultimate issue is who wins the soul of the colonial peoples throughout the world.
If this country, by an untoward act in Formosa, permitted the Chinese Communists to be dragged into this war against us, nothing could prevent, in the long run, the loss of every one of our positions in the Far East. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes. It is as serious as that. That is why the policy of the Government of concentrating on Korea is so wise, because in the Far East the people are suspicious of Europeans, and if we make our cause the cause of the United Nations and not merely the cause of the Europeans or of Western democracy, that is a cause which can inspire a Burma nation, or an Indian nation.
Observe that the Indians have supported sanctions. That is a tremendous achievement when we consider the position of India five years ago. Observe, too, that the neutrality of India could very easily be produced by a foolhardy Anglo-American policy vis-á-vis the Chinese Communists—very easily indeed. To produce the neutrality of India is to produce, without the loss of a single man or gun, our defeat in the Far East. Those seem to me the central issues which we ought to discuss in assessing our strength and our weakness in a Defence Debate.
§ Mr. Crossman
I really cannot give way, because I have one further point to make before sitting down.
Having shown that our re-armament is vital for the re-moralisation of our friends, I want now to turn to the effect of our re-armament on the Russians. I am one of those people who have for some years felt dubious about whether the argument of force was the only argument the Russians could understand, and I should like to tell the House of an experience I had the day before yesterday which, I must say, has brought me nearer to the conclusion that really very simple arguments are the only effective ones on the Russians.
The day before yesterday I was asked to meet Mr. Ilya Ehrenburg who, as the House knows, has been invited over here by the British Peace Campaign as a cooing dove of peace. I happened to sit in a room, with others, talking with him for three hours—[Laughter.] I would just say to the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Bracken), who seems to find that amusing, that it is worth meeting one's enemy in order to understand him.
I thought it interesting to hear a comment which Mr. Ehrenburg made when somebody asked him what he thought of the mood of the British people. He said, "Well, of course, it is very much better than the American mood, because the Americans are vagabonds and they wander into other people's countries. The British are a rooted people, a sensible people; and, of course, a people who have experienced war; but they are not such a sensible people as the French people." I then asked him, "Do you mean, Mr. Ehrenburg, that the French have already been defeated and we have not yet been defeated?" Then he said these words, which I shall never forget, "Britain and France are physically and morally incapable of waging war. The only difference is, the British do not know it." I could not help looking back 12 years when somebody else came to England, and went round, consorting with people who told him that everything was all right, some of them on the other side of the House. Ribbentrop made a great 724 mistake. He met only the people who were ready to capitulate.
§ Mr. Crossman
I suggest to the noble Lord that we should consider this subject with relative seriousness.
Ribbentrop made the mistake of finding here only people who would tell him what he wanted to be told. One of the difficulties of totalitarians is that they never discover the morale of the other side, because the people who are sent to find out report back in the wrong way. I must say that it rather distressed me to think that Mr. Ilya Ehrenburg—who by the way, does not speak a word of English—was going to go back and say to Mr. Stalin that he had studied the morale of the British people and knew we were morally incapable of waging war.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
As we are dealing with history, on this totalitarian analogy it is not uninteresting perhaps to observe this. I suppose Ribbentrop saw more of me than of most Englishmen, and I did try to impress him with our point of view. But I had the same difficulty as the hon. Gentleman, that what we say to them makes no impression at all. What they say is the only thing in which they are interested. I do not want to delay the House, but may I add this one sentence? Upon one occasion I tried to impress this upon him. He gave me a long account of what the Führer said, and I said, "Please, Ambassador, your task is to explain England to the Führer?" He could not understand what I meant.
§ Mr. Crossman
The right hon. Gentleman has taken the words out of my mouth. I am quite certain that nothing that I said to Mr. Ehrenburg had any effect whatsoever. This is what made me feel singularly depressed by the conversation.
I conclude with this thought: there are two alternative conclusions that the Russians can draw from Korea. They can draw the conclusion that they have proved the Americans to be weak and ill-prepared; they can draw the conclusion that the British are degenerate bourgeois; and, now that they have succeeded in probing one place they can probe here, there and everywhere until 725 they have gained the world. In that case, we shall have a third world war. Nothing will prevent it if they draw that conclusion from the experience of North Korea.
There is another conclusion which they could draw if they could only understand the outside world. Democracies always start badly because they make difficulties for themselves at the starting point and have no preparation. But Korea should prove to them that every time they move in that particular way from now on, they will be met with increasing forces and increased preparations, and that, therefore, it may be good to come to terms with the Western World. In the last resort, the future of the world does not depend on anything that we do or even, if I may say so to some of my hon. Friends here, on what the Americans do. Ultimately, it depends on which of these two conclusions the Russians draw from our re-armament Debate this afternoon, from our decision to send British troops to Korea, and from the present attitude of the British people.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)
The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), has made many speeches to the House of the same kind as the one to which we have just listened on all sorts of theses and, as this afternoon, be has argued successfully against himself. Before coming, as I think he came at the end of his speech, to a very reasonable conclusion, he manages to beat about. This afternoon at the start of his speech, he completely destroyed the atmosphere which all of us hoped to see in the House during this Debate. I can only hope that if we had had a private Session he would not have thought it worth while making a speech like that, because he would not have had any Press to report him.
§ Mr. Low
If in those circumstances he would have made the same speech, it seems to me that the hon. Gentleman lacks a sense of atmosphere and a sense of responsibility in this serious time of danger. The hon. Gentleman is gifted with a very clever mind, and it is a tragedy that he so often misuses it in the course of his speeches in this House.
726 Let me deal with some of the extraordinary things that he said at the beginning of his speech. Let me take first the ludicrous suggestion that my right hon. Friend's purpose in demanding a Secret Session was sinister and one based on his personal position and not on the national interest. What a ludicrous suggestion that is, if the hon. Gentleman and the House will only think it out. Is it really sensible to suppose that a politician imbued with that purpose would put forward a proposal which is going to deny him any publicity at all? What more ludicrous suggestion could there be than that?
But I think that there was an even more ludicrous suggestion which the hon. Gentleman made, and that was that the speech of my right hon. Friend was made, as it were, in support of the proposals that the Government made to us yesterday. Certainly he supported the proposals so far as they went, but if the hon. Gentleman listened to the speech, as he did, and accepted the analysis, as he said he did, surely he could draw the reasonable conclusions that the ordinary man of common sense would draw from that analysis. I am very sorry that the hon. Gentleman saw fit to make this ridiculous and contemptible attack upon my right hon. Friend.
His third suggestion was that my right hon. Friend should withdraw from public life. Yet he implied by what he said about the analysis of that great speech, that he applauded it and accepted it. Nobody else had made that analysis in the Debate which we have had on Defence, and I say that nobody else could make that analysis as the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well.
§ Mr. Low
The hon. and gallant Gentleman should know that I am not speaking of the information and figures which his speech contained. I am dealing with the form which the speech took and the analysis which was given to the House.
I want, in as few minutes as possible after that short introduction, to refer to the Government's own proposals against the background of this Debate. The statement of the Minister of Defence yesterday was a careful diagnosis of the situation. It was lucid—much more 727 lucid, if I may say so, than any previous speech that we have had from him, and certainly more lucid than any speech which we have had from his predecessor. But it was very alarming. It was alarming for what he said and for the disclosures it made, and even more alarming for what the Government refuse to do. He said:It is our purpose to show here and now that aggression does not, and cannot, pay."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 473.]He showed us how far short we are of being certain that we can do that today. He was quite frank. I suppose that he would agree in principle that, if we want to prevent aggression in 1950 or 1951, we have to show the world and persuade Russia and such people as Mr. Ehrenburg that we are ready to fight in 1950 or 1951. Yet it is clear, and I think we all admit it, that until the Korea affair all our arrangements for combined defence in the Atlantic and our arrangements for building up defences here were based not on readiness today but on readiness in 1953 or 1954. Now we are brought right up against a change of policy. Are we going to accept that change? If we are to base the time of readiness of our forces upon the actual conditions of today, we must get our forces prepared for today.
It seems to me that the United States have accepted that challenge in President Truman's proposal. It has been accepted in so far as their own defences are concerned—ten billion dollars on extra defence and five billion dollars extra for military assistance for us. They have faced up to the challenge of the present world conditions. I am not quarrelling about figures, nor am I arguing whether we can rival the actual figures of expenditure the Government of the United States propose. Of course we cannot. I am arguing on the principle of whether this £100 million proposal and the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, an extract from which I shall shortly quote, does not show that we differ from the United States, in that we do not accept that change of policy.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us whether he is genuinely trying to bring our defences up to preparedness today. Are we trying to get strong today with 728 speed? It would appear from the words the right hon. Gentleman used that we are not. In the course of his speech, he said:The measures we are now taking mainly in these fields will cost an additional £100 million, but this is no more than a small part of the cost which would be involved fully to equip our Forces to fight. Much larger sums would be required in order to put our Forces in a condition of readiness."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 481.]These words alarm me very much indeed.
I ask the House to bear with me while I bring to its attention one or two things that are still short of preparedness, things which will not be affected as much as they should be by the expenditure of this £100 million. Before I do that, let me ask the right hon. Gentleman one more question. It is clear from the right hon. Gentleman's speech and from the whole attitude of the Government in this matter that they are prepared later to bring their plans up to date to increase our preparedness if certain eventualities take place. The question I want to ask is this: "What is it that has to happen before they decide to increase the preparedness of our forces?" Do the Government accept, as I and, I think, all of us on this side accept, that the primary object of our defences today is to prevent aggression—to prevent another war?
If that is our object, then surely, for goodness sake, we want to get ready before the next Korea takes place and the next act of aggression is threatened. I think the right hon. Gentleman knows me well enough to realise that, in asking for defensive preparedness, I am not seeking complete mobilisation of everyone or the throwing out of balance of the whole economy of the nation. But if we accept the change of policy, which I think we are forced to accept, we have to strike a new balance between the military requirements, on the one hand, and the financial, social and economic requirements, on the other.
I accept the need for that balance, but I ask the Government whether they are trying to strike a new balance, and what that balance is. We have been reminded more than once in the course of the Debate that more than half our strength lies in the combined defences that we make with the Americans, the Commonwealth and with Western Europe. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and 729 Leamington (Mr. Eden) referred yesterday to an overall strategic concept, and the Prime Minister told us that the concept was fixed for the Atlantic area, but he did not tell us—he seemed deliberately not to tell us—that a similar concept existed for the world.
Surely, we know that the fight against Communism is a world fight; surely the time has come when, either through the extension of the Atlantic Pact, the Atlantic Council or through the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as in war-time, or through some other machinery, an overall world strategic concept should be fixed. Once that has been done we can get all the countries together, and there will be no necessity for these differences of opinion, like there appear to be today, over what should be spent, how soon land forces get to Korea, and whether or not we should defend Formosa. These things arise from the fact that we have no agreement about our overall world strategic concept. I am quite certain that we can only get that agreement quickly by having conversations on the highest level. That is why I support the proposal that has been made more than once, that the time has come for the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence to go to Washington and see the heads of the American Government to fix up this matter. Until it is settled, nothing can be settled below.
So much for world defence. Now a word about Western European defence. From what the right hon. Gentleman has said, it is clear that things are far from right. I think I am right in saying that we have not at the moment more than half the requisite number of divisions available in Europe to fulfil the plans upon which the people at Fontainebleau are working. That is a terrible thing; that plans are being made and we are not able to provide the forces up to that basis. That is, perhaps, more alarming than making plans which seem inadequate but for which, at least, we have the tools and divisions.
I saw a report in the Press a little time ago that if the plans of Fontainebleau for European defence were put into operation 24 billion dollars more would have to be found. That is symptomatic of how far the plans are out of touch with reality. It is about time that something was done. We want radar screens and 730 more aeroplanes, but if we are to stop Russia, we have to do it with land forces. If we are to persuade Russia that it is not worth attacking, and, above all, that they cannot get to the Channel ports, we have to have the divisions there backed with air forces to hold them up until the main forces of the Americans, the French and ourselves can reach the area.
We want to increase the number of divisions we have there, and we want to see that the divisions we have are fully up to strength, organised on an operational basis and not on a training basis. What does the organisation of a division on a training basis mean? I think I am right in saying that its operational strength is only two-thirds of what it ought to be; in fact, it is provided with only two-thirds of its major equipment. When we talk, as we often do, of the importance of training, surely we ought to realise that, both in Germany and at home, we must prefer the claims of operational needs to those of training needs in our active forces.
Why is it that we have so few operational divisions in Germany and in this country? It is largely—almost entirely—because of the shortage of Regulars. That has been referred to over and over again. It has been questioned from the other side of the House whether it is pay or something else that is the cause of this lack of Regulars. I would say to the Government that there are many other things wrong, but if all those other things are put right and they do not put pay right, they will still not get the Regulars. When we were considering this in the Estimates Committee a little time ago, and the problem of getting Regular technicians, that was the advice given us by representatives from each of the Service Departments, and I believe it to be correct advice.
I am glad to see that the Secretary of State for Air has taken some steps about the problem of the shortage of technicians in the Royal Air Force. I am glad to know that something is being done by the War Office. But I would beseech them to remember that an Army and an Air Force is not built entirely upon technicians. They are vital, but the importance of the skilled infantry man, the skilled man in the tank, and, I imagine, the skilled air crew is just as great. Something must be done, even if it is not 731 exactly the same thing, to encourage more of them to volunteer. The problem of strength is not only the problem of manpower. It is also a problem of equipment. It has been said that the Centurion tank is in "full production." What a nice sound that phrase has, but what on earth does it mean? Full production for what, and on what basis? On the basis of one Armoured Division and a few Armoured Brigades? Or on the basis of what we require for real strength in peace-time; of what we require to persuade Russia and her satellites that we are really prepared?
I would suggest that the Centurion tank is not in full production for that purpose, but I know that other important weapons of the Army are certainly not in full production. If we are dealing with tanks, as my right hon. Friend advised us we should and that we should think about them carefully, we have to meet the problem of the importance of the large self-propelled anti-tank gun. We are not properly equipped with them in the Army today and they are very important in mobile warfare. There are other antitank weapons which require our attention from the production angle.
I hope we realise that it is no good having plans on the drawing board and excellent arrangements for the production of equipment a few months after a crisis. If we are endeavouring to get the best Air Force and the best Army and the best Navy we must give the people on whom we rely for fighting in the early days, the best equipment, so that we may keep up their morale and so that we do not lose them unnecessarily in the early stages. I do not wish to draw critical lessons from Korea, but it seems to me that we and our great Ally have learned once again that even for resistance to acts of aggression, such as that, a lack of really up-to-date equipment on the spot at the right time costs dearly.
I have tried to bring home to the Government a few of my anxieties. We have had many other points put forward in this Debate such as the importance of proper machinery to call up Reservists if that becomes necessary. That is a thing which costs us little. It costs nothing really in money. It costs a lot of brain power and brain fag but it ought to be done. We have had references to 732 the importance of stockpiling programmes. I believe that to be of enormous importance. One has only to look at the Digest of Statistics, and compare the stocks of many important raw materials with what they were in 1939 where they are given, and in 1945, when they are always given, to feel anxious.
I am bound to tell the House that I feel really alarmed; not only because of the strength of Russia which was put forward in that great analysis made this afternoon by my right hon. Friend, but also because the Government appear not to have made up their minds—in spite of the challenge in Korea, in spite of the actions of their American allies—to change their policy and to give up hoping things will be all right, hoping that it will be all right if we are just prepared in 1953 or 1954, and, instead, to make a real effort to achieve preparedness today. I ask the Government to re-think on those lines. If, when they have re-thought, they come to this House and say they must demand more from the country, I am quite certain that I and my hon. and right hon. Friends will be the first to support them.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
When I heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition I was pleased that this Debate was in public. It was a most masterly exposition of the dangers with which we are faced, and I feel that it is most important that the country should hear it. Indeed, he showed once again that he is so much bigger when he speaks as a great Englishman than when he speaks as a party politician.
There was only one passage in his speech in which he went out to score a party political point, and I believe that was a completely false point. It was on the question of the sale of jet aeroplane engines to Egypt and the Argentine. If he were here I would ask him a question or two about that. Does he think that in peace-time it should be our policy to say to the engineering industry that production of jet aeroplanes, or any form of arms, should have an absolute priority, that they should get ahead with that and forget about civilian production? Of course he does not say that, nor does anybody else in peace-time.
In peace-time we have to apportion our Service requirements and our civilian 733 requirements. We do that by our Service Estimates. We say that a certain proportion of our production shall be devoted to the Forces, and that a certain part shall be left to our general economy. Hon. Members opposite have not criticised the Estimates by saying that they were not large enough. Broadly speaking, there has been consent across the House as to the general size of those Estimates. Within the Air Force Estimates a certain amount is devoted to equipment and a certain amount for other purposes.
Again, there has been no substantial criticism as to the proportions within the Estimates. It is not for one moment suggested that the Air Force has not obtained every jet engine for which they estimated. The fact that other jet engines were made for which they did not estimate, and which went abroad, has not made the slightest difference to the amount of jet engines which we decided that the Air Force should have. The only effect it has had has been beneficial, that our capacity to produce jet engines is larger than if those engines had not been produced.
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
Will not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that where vital Defence Forces are concerned, it is unwise to sell jet aircraft to other people unless we are quite certain that we ourselves have enough?
§ Mr. Paget
The decision as to how many jet aircraft we are to have is taken in peace-time by our Estimates. The amount asked for is the amount of jet engines which will be made. The jet engines not asked for, will not be made unless for some other purpose. That is the whole question of jet engines.
§ Air Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
I am much obliged to the hon. and learned Member for giving way. It is important that this point about jet engines should be cleared up. Surely the hon. and learned Gentleman knows that the auxiliary squadrons are not yet fully equipped with jet engines and if jet engines had not gone to foreign Powers, we should have them in the Metropolitan Air Force today.
§ Mr. Paget
No, I dispute that. It is entirely untrue. True, they are not equipped with jet engines, but then we 734 never estimated that we would devote that additional proportion of our economy to the Air Force. The equipment of the Air Force—I am certain that the Minister can confirm this statement—has kept pace engines had not gone to foreign Powers, with what we estimated for it and the expenditure we decided to devote to it. The contracts placed by the Air Ministry have been performed. I have no doubt that the Minister for Air will deal with that point in due course. I want to get' on with the very much more important and broader issue with which I want to deal.
Throughout these five years there has been broad agreement between the two Front Benches on Defence policy. Of course, there has been criticism as to detail, but on the general question as to the shape, size, cost and disposition of our Forces there has been broad agreement. Criticism—and there has been criticism—has come from the back benches of both sides, certainly, in the last Parliament, mainly from this side. That being the position, I feel that it is important that we should realise that the policy to which both parties were largely committed has failed.
Let us look at the position. We have forces in Germany. If the Russians advanced there, the best we could hope for is that we could evacuate those forces successfully. We have forces in the Middle East. If the Russians attacked there, we could do about as much for Greece as we did last time. We can support neither Turkey nor Persia. We have forces in Malaya, the Guards, doing what is essentially a police job, because we have not any other forces to send. We have forces in Hong Kong. Having seen the quality of the Communists in Korea I think we all hope very much that those forces will not be attacked.
That is the very perilous position in which we find ourselves today. We start off the next war, if it comes, in the position in which we were after Dunkirk but with only about half the air force. Because we have tried to be everywhere we are effective nowhere. Because we have designed our Forces for no particular purpose they are not fitted for any particular purpose. It is gravely important that this House should realise the mistakes in this policy. Unless those 735 mistakes are realised they will not be corrected.
Now we are sending forces to Korea. Politically that may be a highly desirable gesture, but strategically it is crazy. In this war of the Russian circumference, to weaken the very large sector which is in our charge and which is already insufficiently held, by taking units up to an extreme corner is strategically crazy. It may be right. There are times when political considerations outweigh strategical ones, but it is not strategy.
In parenthesis I would like to say, because it has not been said before, that I think Americans have put up an extremely fine show in Korea. We have not realised their difficulties. They have had to improvise out of occupation troops, fighting formations which did not exist before the war started, and to put up an effective resistance to an organised army. That they have done so, and held the position—they look like holding a bridgehead—is a very fine military performance. We have to realise this lesson from Korea, that there are difficulties when you have troops but have not fighting formations. The extent to which the Americans have overcome those difficulties is surprising.
Whatever may be the position in Korea, in Europe I do not believe we can give political gestures priority over strategic realities. What are these strategic realities in Europe? The Brussels Pact does not exist except on paper. It does not exist this year, and we all know that it will not exist next year either. Europe is defended by nothing except the atom bomb pile in America. We have heard what Mr. Ehrenburg, who speaks with a great deal of force for Russia, has been saying. It is profoundly important that he should be undeceived. We must convince the Russians that the Democracies have the nerve to use the atomic bomb. Our safety depends upon that. We can point the Russians to our British historical record. In spite of the nonsense that was talked at the war criminal trials, no people on earth have been so absolutely ruthless as the British when their ultimate interests were concerned. Let the Russians know that, and remember.
I believe that I speak for the vast majority of the people of this country 736 when I say with deep seriousness that we would prefer to die rather than to submit to a Russian conqueror. We would prefer to have every one of our cities destroyed and go and live in the ditches rather than submit. We will go on fighting to the end and, as always, we shall win. The Russians have to be convinced of that, because the peace of the world depends upon their being convinced of it. I do not believe that if Stalin really believes in the quality of our resolution he will choose to join the company of those dictators and emperors who have been rash enough to try conclusions with this famous island.
We have to make our position clear. We shall not make our position clear to the Russians, who are realists, unless we make our military dispositions conform to our resolution and to the reality of the situation. It is not realist to have our fighting military formations—few enough, in all conscience—in a place where, as we know perfectly well, and as the Russians know perfectly well, they cannot fight. That is, in Germany. To have our fighting formations placed in Germany is an indication to the Russians that we are not serious, because they know that in the German positions they cannot fight. We should, of course, have occupation troops there, symbolic troops. We should send to the Russians a map with a line on it, and we should say: "Here is the map, and here is the frontier. If you or your satellites invade across that line, then within 24 hours atomic bombs will begin to come down on your cities. Realise that there is nothing in front of you, but realise also the price which you will pay."
Our troops should be disposed where they have a chance of fighting, and that is in this island, for island defence, and in the Middle East, where we want an effective professional Army to maintain the area from which the Anglo-American counter-offensive would eventually have to develop in the event of war. By doing that, we show the Russians we are serious and we may avoid war.
In this island we must get on with our island defences because in Europe a siege fight is all we can do. We must give a far higher priority to "ack-ack" and fighter aircraft. As the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher) said, we must build up our stocks for a siege, and, above all, we must dig in our 737 essential industries, dig in our people and build up our coast defences and show the Russians that we mean to fight in the circumstances in which fighting is possible.
We must build up a professional Army which should in the initial phases be in Britain and the Middle East but we should say to the other Powers upon the Continent that although we maintain that professional Army in the Middle East and in Britain where in the existing circumstances it can fight, as soon as it has done its job and there is a real possibility of defence in Europe, our army will be brought in its entirety to Europe and be added to the army of Western Union just as soon as that army exists as a reality. Meanwhile our forces must not be committed to a paper scheme in positions in which they could not fight.
We have had many speeches about recruiting, including one by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head), who said that the trouble was insufficient pay for the Forces. That is nonsense. Nobody has at any time gone in for a military career because he thought that he could make more money in the Army than in civilian life—or very few have done so, at any rate. People go into the Army for a different reason. They do so because they like a military life, and the military life which they like is the life of the regiment. They go into a regiment, they have their comrades there, they have a sense of home in the regiment, they have an esprit de corps and a love for that organisation and they feel that they have a niche and a function in life. It is the way of life that attracts the recruit.
When we proceed to insert into that regiment a lot of browned-off National Service men whose only interest is to see how soon they can get out, we destroy that whole spirit, and while we have National Service men mixed up in our Regular formations we shall never get recruitment. That was the experience of France and Germany, and it has been the experience wherever it has been tried. If we mingle our National Service men with our Regulars we can never recruit for our Regular Forces. We have no difficulty in recruiting for the Guards because the "rot" has not been inserted. They are professional. Until we unscramble National Service men from the Regular 738 Forces we shall not get recruits for the Regular Forces.
The all-important thing is, first, that we form a professional Army for here and the Middle East and eventually for Europe, and that it should consist only of full-time professionals and of practically the whole of our full-time professionals. In the second place, for home defence we should build another Army consisting entirely of National Service men. Its function would be a relatively static one, and it could be officered by people who have retired from the Regular Army—they are not very old nowadays—and by senior N.C.O.s from the Regular Army, who are also not very old either. By doing that we offer a far longer military career to Regular soldiers because they can become the company officers and battalion officers of the Home Defence Army, which is where the National Service men ought to be concentrated.
Finally, we want a Colonial Defence Army because we cannot have our professional Army dispersed over the Empire on fire brigade duties. We should raise Colonial troops for the gendarmerie jobs in the Colonies. We also want colonial fire brigade groups in, perhaps, brigade groups. I have previously suggested that a Foreign Legion should be raised for this purpose, and I still think that that is a good idea. In any event, and apart from that, I think it would be legitimate for us to suggest to our Dominions that that is a job which they ought to take on and that the striking Forces to deal with any conflagration throughout our Colonial Empire ought to be Imperial troops.
I was a little alarmed when the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Norwood (Brigadier Smyth) said that we wanted a crusading spirit and the sense of a religious war. For heaven's sake, do not let us have anything of that sort. Religious wars, the crusading spirit—that is the road to insanity which we want to avoid. We must make it perfectly clear that we have a policy, a limited policy, a policy which is tolerable to the other half of the world, and that to maintain that policy we are prepared to fight to any extent, but, apart from that, as long as our security is maintained, we will come to an agreement at any point. We will 739 fight for policy but not for an ideology or a crusade. This is a matter which we should keep with sanity in our minds.
§ Brigadier Smyth (Norwood)
I do not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman could have listened to my speech because the whole tenor of what I said was that we must not have another war at all. I said nothing about a religious war. I said that we must have the crusading spirit to prevent another war from ever happening.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Commander Maitland (Horncastle)
I preferred the practical realism of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) to the discursive eloquence of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). I should, however, like to take up two things mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton in what I thought was otherwise an excellent speech. First, he said that we had not differed in matters of Defence policy. Taking it generally, that may be correct, but if he will read the Estimates Debates over the last few years he will see that the points which have been put forward from all sides of the House today are the points which the Opposition have been putting to the Government over the last five years.
The other point on which I disagreed with the hon. and learned Member was his statement that it is not vitally important to increase the pay of the Services. I agree, if he says that it is not the vital point which will bring more people into our Regular Services, but at the moment the pay is a deterrent and that is the point which right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench will have to address themselves to in the near future when they come to the question of the disbursement of the £100 million of which we have heard.
§ Commander Maitland
I am glad we can agree on that point. In one part of 740 speech the hon. and learned Gentleman emphasised the necessity for showing resolution, for showing Russia that we are determined to resist aggression, that we would rather see our cities in ashes than submit to their way of life. I believe that to be true, and I believe it is essential that it should be said.
Of the three short points I shall try to make to the Government, I want that to be the first. I want people to speak about the possibility of war, particularly hon. Members opposite, in a different way from that of the past. Hitherto, too many hon. Members have indicated that they thought even to admit the possibility of war was to betray the cause of peace. Even in this Debate, the Minister of Defence was interrupted by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. O. Davies) who asked, "Why make a war speech?" If we honestly believe in peace, if we honestly hate war, surely we can admit the possibility of war without any shame to us or to those for whom we speak? Therefore, my first point is a psychological one, but not less important for that, that we have to face these facts honestly and that we have to make our speeches in the country and in this House accordingly.
The second of my two points follows from what I have just been saying. The Minister of Labour is the Minister of National Service as well and should be called by that title, particularly in these difficult days. Recently, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he would make known to the people of this country his mobilisation plans, and the Minister said that it would not be in the public interest to do so. From all sides of the House we have heard hon. Members telling us to take the people into our confidence. I believe that the Minister of National Service and Labour must take the people into his confidence in this first great war plan—because that is what mobilisation is.
Mobilisation is one of the great battles fought at the beginning of a war, but it need not necessarily be lost. Just because we are in the habit of winning the last battle in a war, it is not absolutely necessary to lose as many of the first ones as we can. We shall probably lose a good many, but there are certain problems we can tackle better if we think ahead. Mobilisation is the first immediate difficult problem we have to face, but it does 741 not cost money to make the necessary plans.
For several years now we on these benches have been pressing almost in detail for the proposals that were mentioned by the Minister of Defence in his speech. Why have they not been brought forward before? We must realise that we have to start somewhere. It is not easy to spend £100 million on Defence. We must realise that key men in industry will be key men in Defence. It is no good pretending that by careful organisation we can produce a plan whereby all the key men in industry will be reserved. It cannot be done because many of those men are the key men in our Fighting Services. The Government must tell industry and the trade unions now exactly what they mean to do, and then the trade unions and the employers can have others trained ready to take their places when the key men go. That means sacrifice. But it is a sacrifice we all have to face and we can face it.
With regard to mobilisation, anyone who listened to the interesting and important Debate this week on Civil Defence must have realised that failure to understand the mobilisation plans—which of the Z reserve are to be called up, and who are the people reserved in key industries—will completely defeat recruitment for the Civil Defence Service. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that the Minister of National Service and Labour should take the people into his confidence and tell them what he is going to do.
My last point concerns sabotage—a word I do not like. I much prefer "treason" or "treachery." We have to face the fact that in this lukewarm war—perhaps getting hotter, though we hope getting colder—that is one of our great new problems. There will be more and more treachery and treason, such as we had at Portsmouth the other day. It is absolutely necessary and, incidentally, fairer to the saboteurs, to make perfectly clear to them that sabotage of any kind is, in effect, murder. Sometimes it is direct murder, such as we had at Portsmouth. But it is equally murder when it appears in the guise of doing something which does not kill people directly, because all sabotage is aimed at prolonging an existing war or weakening us in the event of war. That means that many hundreds of innocent men, our 742 sons, who will go and fight will be killed. That is why I beg the Government to make it clear, without further delay, and far more strongly that was done at Question Time today or in any statement made recently, that treason and treachery will not be tolerated in this country and that the punishment is death.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Winterbottom (Nottingham, Central)
I agree entirely with one point made by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland), that when we are talking about weapons of war we must not forget the people who have to use them. We must not forget what our people are thinking, and that is why I am glad that this is not a secret Session. While I welcome the statement of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, which shows that we are preparing for a policy of full preparedness, I hope this House will not forget that his statement has come as a severe shock to many honest, patriotic people in this country. There are those who were hoping that as a result of the policy of the Government they would see some realisation of their ideals; there are the hard-working women who have pinned their hopes on the careers of their sons; and, of course, there is the natural pacifism of a civilised country.
We must not ignore the strength of this feeling, and for this reason we must make it quite clear that the choice that we in this country are making is not the old moth-eaten one between guns and butter, but between liberty and butter. "Liberty" is a very much shop-soiled word, but it means something. Perhaps only those of us who have had direct personal experience of life in a country from which political liberty has disappeared realise fully its real value. We must get over to the people of this country, who are deeply concerned by the present situation and by the risks to the attainment of their hopes for the future, that the struggle that we are facing is one which any honest man can face with a clear conscience. There are plenty of people who are trying to distort that view.
I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) that no sacrifices are too great for the preservation of liberty. The word "sacrifice," however, like the word "liberty," has been somewhat tarnished. 743 We must not forget that the sacrifices we are about to be asked to make will be real sacrifices, and we must be prepared to face them, but, at the same time, do not let us be stupefied by this thought.
Let us look round in our own country and among our neighbours to see what forces exist which may mitigate the sacrifices if we use our intelligence correctly. The first of these, of course, is the point which was made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Greater productivity will go some of the way to solving our problems. Secondly, let us look abroad to see where there are unused resources which we may use. If we do that, I think we will see in Western Germany certain resources which we may be able to turn to our own use.
I should like to discuss the addition to our economic and, possibly, military potential which we can get from that country. Alone among the countries of Western Europe, Germany at present has considerable unused industrial capacity; it has an unused capacity of six million tons of steel, and an unused capacity of manpower. The tragedy of unemployment in Germany means that there are unused resources of human beings in that country that we could turn to our use.
Further, in the purely economic field there are financial resources which are running to waste. By that I refer to the deficit in foreign trade now being financed by the Americans and by ourselves. I maintain that because, as a result of rearmament in this country, we will run short of certain consumer goods—if we have more of one thing, we must have less of another—we should see whether we can bring this unused capacity in Western Germany into our own economic sphere and replace our lost capacity in this country by the unused capacity in Western Germany.
The problem is that in Western Germany there is a shortage of working capacity. The Germans cannot get their industrial machine into production because they have not their own money in Deutschmarks to do so; and the main European problem is that the Deutschmark is linked to the dollar. As a result, no country can trade with Germany and run a deficit without having to pay in hard currency. Therefore, the capacity of Western Germany is not fully used. I 744 suggest that, together with the other occupying Powers and the German Government itself, our Government should see what can be done to gear the unused capacity of Germany to our own economy.
Secondly, let us see what part Germany might be able to play, not in our defence, but possibly in her own defence. I fully appreciate the delicacy of this subject, and I do not want to underline the dilemma which everyone in this House appreciates, but we cannot put this problem off for ever. A Press campaign is starting in this country, and I think that most hon. Members have received a copy of a paper advocating German rearmament. What is even more important, we cannot overlook the state of mind which exists in Germany. There is near-hysteria. The simple incident, of which most of us in this House know, of the complete evacuation of a frontier village in the Western zone of Germany because a single Russian official visited it, is an illustration of this fear, which is due to the fact that the Germans feel themselves impotent in the face of a great danger. We have to do something to steady their morale.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence that we cannot at the moment consider the remilitarisation of Germany proper. All through this Debate we have heard that we have not sufficient arms for our own Forces. We simply cannot waste those arms on re-equipping an army which would consist of conscripts from the ground up; we could not even consider this, because we have no overspill which we can afford to waste. There is, however, one thing which we can do, and that is to make Western Germany responsible for its own internal security.
Under the Weimar Republic there was an institution known as the "Green Police," whose purpose was the simple one of internal security and the prevention of riots and sabotage. This force lived in barracks, was under military discipline, and was armed with platoon weapons. I suggest that something like like this should be permitted to Germany now. I understand that conversations are going on about the setting up of a Federal German police force, and I believe that the present intention is that it should be limited to 5,000 men. We have 745 swallowed this particular gnat. We are thinking about this problem along agreed lines with the occupying Powers of Western Germany, and we should not be afraid to go a little further and give the Federal German Republic the right to recruit a Federal police force which would guarantee its own internal security. That would give the Germans a sense of being able to do something for themselves in the face of a pressing danger, and provide us with a force which would do the job, which we should have to do ourselves in case of war, of preventing sabotage and riots.
I make those two concrete suggestions for bringing the capacity of Germany in industry and manpower into the service of the West. Let us use the unused German industrial capacity to eke out our own economy which will suffer as a result of the rearmament programme and let us set up a central Federal German police force which will, in effect, do work which we would otherwise have to do with our own Regular Forces.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. Shinwell)
Despite our political differences, which, I suspect, will continue for some time to come, the Debate, both yesterday and this afternoon, has been conducted with remarkable good temper. It is true that for a few brief moments today some statements were made on either side of a somewhat provocative character, but, after all, in an important Debate of this kind that is not unexpected.
I will admit that in the past, even the recent past, some observations have fallen from the lips of hon. Members opposite and there have been comments in the newspapers of a somewhat offensive character, for example, the allegation that the Service Ministers—including myself—are, if not thoroughly incompetent, at any rate hardly fit to occupy their responsible positions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am confirmed in my opinion that that view is held by some hon. Members opposite. It is common form, it has been common form ever since I became a Member of this House—and I am within the recollection of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen—always to attack Ministers, whoever they are, in whatever Government, on the ground of their incompetency—[An HON. MEMBER: "Quite right."] As I am reminded by an hon. Member on 746 the Government benches, I have ventured,—infrequently—to indulge in these tactics myself.
I propose, for the purpose of winding up this Debate, to put all dialectic into cold storage. Our primary concern, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister included, and all of us, is to present to the House, to the country and, for that matter, to the world at large, a true appreciation of the position in which we find ourselves. It would be most foolish, most fatal, most disastrous if we failed to understand what it is that we are anxious about. Yesterday, in the course of the Debate, the speeches of hon. Members on both sides of the House disclosed their anxiety about the international situation. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition emphasised the gravity of the situation. What we are concerned about is not only an appreciation of the situation, but an appreciation of the problem that is thrown up, a problem that calls for solution as speedily as possible. It is possible to state the problem; that comes easily and glibly, but no one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman himself how much more difficult it is to find a solution.
In the Debate many allegations have been made about the sins of omission and commission for which the Government are responsible. Among the allegations is one with which we are all now familiar, namely, that it was a fatal blunder some time ago to dispose of jet aero-engines to Soviet Russia. There was a time, as I indicated in my speech yesterday, when we were on good terms with Soviet Russia. It may have been regarded as the honeymoon period. There was a time, certainly during the war, when our relations were excellent and the Leader of the Opposition, with that eloquence for which he is unmatched, frequently applauded the virtues of the people of Soviet Russia and their gallant fighters. Indeed, that continued for some time after the war, as we must remind ourselves, when Russia was a full member of the United Nations and subscribed wholeheartedly, as it appeared, to the provisions of the United Nations Charter.
In those circumstances, and there being no war imminent—I but state the facts—there appeared to be no reason why we should decline to provide Soviet Russia with the aero engines of which they were apparently in need. Moreover, as the 747 Leader of the Opposition has said, he is well aware of the fact—much more so than many hon. Members behind him—the Russians were able to avail themselves of the technical capacity of many German technicians, particularly in the field of aeronautical design. If we had not provided the Russians with those engines, can it be doubted that they would have been able to obtain all the information they required from sources under their control?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I understand that hon. Members opposite decline to accept my opinion about the matter. I understand exactly where they are; I remain where I was; and there I am afraid the matter must rest, except to say this: Is there anyone in his senses in this House who imagines that, if we had declined to provide Russia with these aero engines, Russia would not have been able to build up the armed strength to which the Leader of the Opposition and myself have referred in this Debate? It is inconceivable. The sources of information and vast resources were available to Soviet Russia.
I do not complain of the questions which have been addressed to the Government. It is quite proper that these questions should be asked. I used to ask questions myself and, if I may say so, frequently I did not get a satisfactory answer; and never more so than when I was asking the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I understood precisely and perfectly why he failed to satisfy me—[HON. MEMBERS: "We know."] Hon. Members do not know, some of them were not even here to know at the time. There are circumstances, be it noted, when it may be desirable to ask questions, although, even then, some discretion is necessary. But there are certainly circumstances in which it is most inadvisable to answer the questions. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, if he will forgive my saying so—I know he has a forgiving nature—has almost worked himself up into a passion about a Secret 748 Session. I sometimes conceive the notion that—
§ Mr. Shinwell
If hon. Members do not wish to hear what I have to say there is nothing to prevent them leaving the House. Let it be clearly understood that I shall state my case in my own fashion.
§ Mr. Shinwell
So far I have said nothing—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."] Can anything more cheap than those jeers be imagined?
I have said nothing provocative about the right hon. Gentleman, but I must now make it clear that when he asks for a Secret Session he knows very well, no one better, that we could have a series of Secret Sessions and yet not make available the information for which he asks. Indeed, he disclosed to the House this afternoon a good deal of information, much of which I imparted to the House yesterday. Even in a Secret Session he could not have said much more, and even in a Secret Session he would not have expected me to answer precisely and in detail the questions which he asked. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] The right hon. Gentleman knows very well. Over and over again in the course of his speech he said he assumed that the details could not be given. If hon. Members do not take note of what the right hon. Gentleman said, it is their misfortune.
Let me also point out that last October the right hon. Gentleman, at his request,—and it was quite a proper request coming from the Leader of the Opposition—was received by members of the Government when the question of our military preparations was under review. We made available to the right hon. Gentleman all the information for which he asked. Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman may remind himself—it is no secret that he met us; it was announced in the Press—that he promised the Prime Minister that he would send him a memorandum embodying his constructive views on what ought to be done. We are still waiting for that memorandum. We have never placed any obstacle in the way of the right hon. Gentleman and some of his leading colleagues being furnished with information, and should 749 the right hon. Gentleman wish to present those constructive views to the Prime Minister and members of the Government we shall be only too pleased to have them. They will receive the utmost consideration, as, indeed, they should, coming from the right hon. Gentleman, not only because he is the Leader of the Opposition, but because of the high place he occupies in this country.
We have no wish to withhold information from the Leader of the Opposition, but it is quite a different matter to furnish, either in public or in a Secret Session, information beyond what we have furnished. We all know that, although there is no record of our deliberations in a Secret Session, the atmosphere and odds and ends of what occurs are often heard of outside. We are taking no chances. [Laughter.] There may be a little levity in certain quarters about it, but that will not induce us to revise our opinion. Further, I venture the opinion that, if the right hon. Gentleman were in my place as Minister of Defence, he would do precisely what I am doing. He was Minister of Defence during the war. He has never been Minister of Defence in peace-time. If he were Minister of Defence, or were occupying an even more important position, he would do precisely what I have done. He would, in spite of all demands, furnish to the House the information which he thought it desirable to provide. That is precisely what I am doing.
Just to show how accommodating we are I will reply at once to one question which the right hon. Gentleman asked, which was: Have we one fully armoured division in the British Army of the Rhine? My answer is, "Yes, with a proper proportion of armour." I have answered the question.
I come to the crux of this problem. The right hon. Gentleman recognises it; he knows all about it. The hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Low) also put a question to me about it. The assumption underlying some of the speeches, and to some extent the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, was that we were going to fight alone. He asked what was our strength in land Forces, in aircraft; were we prepared—
§ Mr. Churchill
I was dealing solely with the Western European Forces, and M. Reynaud's figures which I quoted did not 750 in any way refer only to the British; they referred to all the Western Union Forces.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I took note of what the right hon. Gentleman said about M. Reynaud's opinion of the strength of the Forces in the West.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman asks me a question. I took note of what he said. That is as far as I am prepared to go.
§ Mr. Shinwell
What the right hon. Gentleman reported that M. Reynaud had said. I took note of that, and beyond that I am not going.
My point remains as sound as it was originally, namely, that the right hon. Gentleman's assumption in questions he asked was that we, with perhaps certain countries of the West, were going to fight alone. What about the North Atlantic Treaty organisation?
§ Mr. Churchill
That is quite inaccurate. I was thinking about the five Powers who are joined together in Western Union plus the Americans, who have Forces there. It was those 12 divisions to which M. Reynaud referred. That is the only matter with which I have dealt. I never contemplated that we should fight alone on the Continent of Europe, nor did anyone in his senses.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Now I understand exactly. We are not expected to fight alone. As we have said over and over again it is not, in these circumstances, exclusively a question of what we, or France, or Belgium, or Holland can put into the pool; it is a question of what the whole of the North Atlantic Treaty Powers, with any assistance that can be rendered by other countries, can contribute to the Defence organisation not only in the West but elsewhere. We have to look further than the West. The West is vital, but we have to look all around. We must think of the Middle East and the Far East. There are other parts of the world, too, where the danger of infiltration is very serious indeed. Therefore, we are building up on the basis of a plan provided by the North 751 Atlantic Treaty organisation and in association with the Brussels Treaty Powers not only ground Forces but air Forces and, in particular, material.
I have been asked whether these Forces are to be built up speedily or not. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford himself said that he did not expect that a major war was imminent. Of course, we cannot tell. I must say to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House that I am not prepared to take any chances, but to proceed on the assumption—[Laughter.] I see no reason for levity in this particular matter—that anything could happen, and that trouble could break out anywhere, even trouble of a major character. It is possible that a succession of so-called minor incidents might lead to a major conflict. The question is: How soon can we be prepared? All I can say to the House is that as far as the West is concerned we know exactly what we require. It is very important to know what we need at the beginning.
§ Mr. Churchill
Certainly, it is most important, but can the right hon. Gentleman reassure us a little by saying that he and the other Western Powers have got a quarter of what is required?
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman is trying to draw me from the argument that I am adducing, but I am not going to allow him to do so, whatever his hon. Friends behind him may think.
I repeat, the first essential is to know what is required. That is precisely the position the right hon. Gentleman was in in the early stages of the last war. He had to find out what was required, and, obviously, the stuff was not there when he arrived—nobody knows it better than he does—in spite of the war expenditure previous Governments had asked for. That is the first consideration—what we require. We know what is essential, but it is very much more difficult, once we know our requirements, to proceed to approach the target. I am bound to tell the House what I indicated yesterday. I am sorry to say this to the House; I wish it were otherwise. Our present position falls far short of our requirements.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Of all the stupid questions I have heard in this Debate that is the worst. If any provocation is given for a rejoinder, then we have it in that statement, particularly as it comes from someone who has just left the Army and should know what is the actual position. I am very anxious not to be unduly provocative, but when an Army officer indulges in a stupid observation of that kind I wonder why we kept him in the Army so long. We are asked whose fault it is, and I repeat that nobody, three years ago, expected that we should have to prepare for a major conflict.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Why not? It is obvious that it is impossible to speak to hon. Members like that. I have been asked whether we are preparing plans for strategic needs to cover not only the West and North Atlantic but the world. The world is a very large place. It may be there are some parts of it with which we need not concern ourselves at this moment. [Interruption.] Perhaps hon. Members on the back benches opposite will try to restrain themselves.
§ Mr. Shinwell
This may not be agreeable to the hon. Gentleman, but, nevertheless, he has got to put up with it. I am expected to reply and that is what I am doing. On the subject of wider strategic considerations, I can assure hon. Members that the North Atlantic Chiefs of Staff organisation and its Standing Group is not only in existence, but is working very well indeed. They are responsible for the major preparation of the plan upon which we hope to build up our Forces on the ground, in the air, and on the sea, as well as provide the materials that are required. We applaud the statement made by President Truman, because it indicates that the United States of America are ready, as indeed they have been for some time, to assist in the provision of the necessary equipment.
I have been asked whether we are receiving value for our money in the Defence Services of this country. I notice that yesterday the right hon. Gentleman referred to an expenditure of £5,000 million since the end of the war, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), in a 753 speech he made about two months ago, referred to the sum of £4,000 million. I presume what the right hon. Gentleman had in mind was expenditure up to the end of this financial year which, in fact, will amount to £4,798 million. We have to consider what we get for this money and I am going to tell the House. The assumption is that we waste it or, at any rate, part of it. That is far from being the case. Let us take the case of the Army, the estimate for which is £299 million this year. Of this we spend in pay £84,630,000. It is not suggested that we should not pay this amount. Indeed, hon. Members have asked us for increased pay. That is a question upon which there can be no question of waste. [Interruption.] I am not quite sure what hon. Members opposite mean. Do they want us to increase the pay or do they not?
§ Mr. Shinwell
It is obvious that some of them do not know where they are. Then there is the pay of the Reserve Forces, the T.A. and the Auxiliary Forces, and grants for administration, amounting to over £7 million. There is the pay of civilians. A large number of civilians are employed in establishments associated with the Army, and this accounts for £46 million. Movement costs £21 million, which is a vast increase on the pre-war position and largely due to the fact that we have to move men about from place to place, particularly in view of our commitments. Then we have got supplies of food and ration allowances, which amount to £21 million. Do hon. Members expect us to reduce that amount? Recently, we have increased the ration scales. This is an expenditure which is well worth while. Then there is production and research, £57 million.
§ Mr. Churchill
The point which has been concerning us is whether there is anything to show for this in the form of tactical units.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman asked that question, and perhaps the House will bear with me when I give him a reply.
The right hon. Gentleman forgets where our Forces are. He forgets we have Forces in the British Army of the Rhine, Forces in the Middle East, contingents in 754 Malta, in Gibraltar, in Africa, and in Eritrea, and, in particular, large Forces in Malaya and Hong Kong. If all those Forces in those theatres were concentrated in this country, we should be able to produce very large formations. [Laughter.] What do hon. Members want? To abandon Malaya and take our troops out of that theatre, or to abandon Hong Kong? Surely hon. Members do not expect us to undertake tasks of that kind. We have to meet our commitments wherever we are called upon to undertake those tasks. Obviously, while we are undertaking those tasks, far in excess of tasks ever undertaken by previous Governments in peace-time, and I challenge the right hon. Gentleman on that—
§ Mr. Churchill
The right hon. Gentleman must remember that he has not got to maintain, as other Governments had to before the war, an Army of between 50,000 and 60,000 in India.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That was not a commitment. It was not anything analogous to the position either in Hong Kong or Malaya, where we expect trouble at any time. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman cannot use that argument in support of the contention that we are wasting money. I challenge hon. Members opposite, whether they have been in the Services or not, to produce any evidence of waste in the Services. Let them do it. They have failed to do it so far.
We have non-effective charges of £16 million upon pensions and the like. Are we expected to reduce these amounts? Of course not. I claim that the money spent on the Services are well spent and that, all things considered—our commitments overseas, our high training commitments in this country and in the B.A.O.R.—we are in a position which, if not entirely satisfactory, is one from which we can build up from the existing Forces something that can make an effective contribution to the strength of the Western Union nations.
I pass from that to a question raised yesterday by my hon. Friends behind me about the Forces for the Korean operations. First, I should like to say that the decision of His Majesty's Government to send Forces to Korea has been universally applauded in the United States of America.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The American Secretary of State, Mr. Dean Acheson, has extended a cordial welcome to our decision. I have to tell the House that, in addition to the calling up of Reserves for the Navy, it may be necessary to take similar measures in respect of Regular Reserves for the Army. But I now give my hon. Friends the assurance that no soldier under 19 years of age will be sent to Korea. This means that no National Service men will be sent to Korea, except in very exceptional circumstances. There may be some categories where it is impossible to find other men, and we may have to call upon certain National Service men. But, other than that, we do not propose to take any action.
I want to say a final word to some of my hon. Friends behind me who have genuine convictions on matters of war and peace. We in the Government fully recognise the strength of opinion, and the moral force behind that opinion, which exists in certain quarters. But in existing circumstances it is impossible for us to adopt a pacific attitude. I said yesterday, and I repeat it, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has emphasised it, that we have no sinister or aggressive designs on any other country or any other people. We want to be at peace with everybody. We have no desire to take the offensive. But, if, having afforded an opportunity to certain countries—or one country, if we like—to associate with the United Nations organisation and subscribe to the provisions of its Charter, having afforded that opportunity and having discovered that that opportunity is not fully utilised, then, clearly, we must take the necessary precautions.
Events in Korea and elsewhere are all indications of what may happen. We fervently hope that nothing will occur to destroy the peace of the world. We all desire peace. I would say this of all hon. Members: I am sure that there are no warmongers among us. I dislike the 756 epithet which is used about certain people in this country. I cannot believe that anybody in his senses desires another war. Certainly, those of us who are associated with the Service Departments and who are familiar with many of the weapons at the disposal of certain countries, and weapons which may very well be at our disposal—indeed, that could not be avoided—realise what horrors may come upon the world and its people if ever the hounds of war are let loose.
The last thing we desire is to witness another international conflict. We thought, at the end of the last war, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford showed his high qualities—as, indeed, did so many others in this House and in the Government and among the rank and file of the country; all credit due to them—that we had heard the last of war and that we could say, "Goodbye to all that." That was our hope, but unhappily, tragically, it would appear that, if war is not imminent, at any rate there is the dread possibility of a similar occurrence—something even more tragic it may be—and that we desire to avoid.
Therefore, there can be no differences among us as to our objective. There is no difference between those who are pacifists, as they are called, and those who are not averse from shedding blood if circumstances demand it, except that while we recognise the genuineness of their convictions, and applaud them for holding strongly by their opinions, we recognise that as a Government, as a nation and as a people, we must respond to the responsibilities which are imposed upon us. They are responsibilities not of our making, not of our volition but imposed upon us by the reluctance of another country to provide that neighbourliness, good will, co-operation and collaboration of which the world is so much in need.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.