§ MR. STRACHEY'S STATEMENT
§ Order for Committee read.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr.Strachey)
I beg to move, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour began his memorable speech the other night by saying that the first thing we ought to do was to reduce the temperature. I think that will happen automatically on this occasion; it is certainly necessary. A few figures stand out from this year's Army Estimates. The most obvious fact is that the total estimates are up from £300 million to £420 million— I am giving these figures to the nearest million—that is, an increase of some 40 per cent. The House must realise that these figures relate to the former rearmament programme of £3,600 million —not the new one of £4,700 million, and therefore they are all susceptible of further increase. The House ought to look at Vote 7 which, under the traditional title of "Stores," is the Vote under which we expend the money which buys the arms and equipment of the Army; and hon. Members will see that that Vote is up from £58 million to a total of £135 million —an increase of £76 million, or 130 per cent.
I think one reaction to Estimates which make increases of this magnitude is to ask whether an increase of this degree can really be effected efficiently. It may also be asked reasonably whether there is really time to plan the very vast increases in men and materials which are implied in these figures, or whether these figures are indicative of an ill-digested emergency programme and give the appearance rather than the reality of re-armament. I submit that that is a more pertinent question or criticism than the opposite one—which I do not know whether we shall hear this afternoon—that these Estimates are still too small.
I think it is reasonable to ask whether a balanced programme, in the field of 690 equipment and arms especially, can be achieved when we are a good deal more than doubling the rate of expenditure in a single year. By a balanced programme I mean one in which the right weapons and the right equipment are purchased, and in the right proportions. Of course, it is not too difficult to pass out orders at this rate through the very efficient machinery of the Ministry of Supply— though even here no inconsiderable work is involved—but what I am thinking of is the work of my own military advisers who have to decide on the types and kind of equipment, and the proportions between them, and who, it might be thought, have had to do all this in the last few months.
That, I think, is also true in no less a degree on the manpower side—the first four Votes in these Estimates relate to manpower—where a lesser increase, but still a very substantial one, can be seen. What lies behind these Votes is not just expansion but, as I think many hon. Members realise, the building up of what is, in effect, a new Army system to meet a new situation. There, again, the House might legitimately wonder whether this is being done wisely when such very basic decisions are involved.
The first thing I want to emphasise is that we are not engaged on a brand new emergency programme at all. What has happened, on the contrary, is that the sharp growth of international tension in the last few months has forced us to seek to put into operation much more rapidly than we had anticipated a programme which has been slowly and gradually maturing over the whole of the last five and a half years. That is true both on the manpower side and on the equipment side. I think it is true to say that successive Chiefs of the Imperial General Staff, successive members of the Army Council, my own predecessors and, last but not least, the discussions of this House, have added something to the evolution of a post-war programme for the British Army on both sides—manpower and equipment; and that programme or policy was about reaching maturity in 1950.
What has really been done in this rearmament programme in the last six or nine months is that we have decided to attempt to put that general policy and programme into operation far more 691 rapidly than had hitherto been anticipated. Perhaps to dispose of the possible view that this is still a small and slow programme, I should like to make one comparison with the last peace-time rearmament programme—and I think it is possibly the only comparison I can make. I hasten to add that I do so merely to dispose of that argument and not for any purposes of odious political comparisons.
I am dealing here with Army figures. In pre-war years from February, 1936, to February, 1939, the War Office placed orders for £125 million worth of arms and equipment. In the last six months the War Office has passed to the Ministry of Supply—that is the new procedure— orders for arms and equipment of over £350 million. Of course, there has been a change in the price level in the intermediate period. We reckon that change at about two and a half times. Prices are up by about two and a half times. But the House will see that, even allowing for the change in the price level, we have been placing orders at a rate of over six times that of the pre-war re-armament programme. I give that comparison merely to dispose of the argument that this is still a small programme.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I intervene at this juncture to ask whether the money received for the sale of arms and equipment to foreign countries is offset against the figure which the right hon. Gentleman gave?
§ Mr. Strachey
No. I am comparing like with like. In both cases these are actual figures of orders placed for arms and equipment in the two periods.
I now want to draw the attention of the House to the manpower side of the story. I think it is particularly important on this side to grasp that the two things we are trying to do—both the long-term and the short-term measures—are part of a policy which has been maturing over the past five and a half years. We have recently taken six measures—and I shall announce two more today—for the build-up of the manpower of both the Active and the Reserve Armies.
First, there was the increase in pay; secondly, the increase in the time of National Service to two years; thirdly, the call-up of the Z reservists; fourthly, 692 the arrangement which I announced on the Army Estimates this time last year by which the men coming out of National Service went into the Territorial Army; fifthly, the recall of Regular reservists, which we did last summer; and sixthly, the retention of Regulars from one year to 18 months.
There are two more measures, relatively minor perhaps but not unimportant, which I now announce. The first relates to the length of time officers and men can stay in the Army. Since fighting has always been considered, and certainly is, a young man's trade, it has been assumed that officers and other ranks left the Army in their forties. That was not, of course, universally true; a good many stayed on. But there was certainly that impression and there was the impression that a man might well be left stranded without a profession or a job to which he could turn when he left the Army in his forties.
The expansion of the Army which is going on today gives us the opportunity to alter that, and we intend so to arrange matters that majors and lieutenant-colonels, for example, will normally stay on to 55 years of age. Again, the expansion of the Army means that that will not affect the promotion of officers or their prospects or their right to retired pay nor, we are convinced, will it reduce the fighting efficiency of the Army.
For other ranks, in future it will normally be at the man's option whether he re-engages after 12 years to complete 22 years, except, of course, in the case of a man being unsatisfactory. Again, it will be possible for the man to continue in the Service after his 22 years for periods of four years at a time up to 55 years of age, but that will be at the Army's option. I should explain, too, that these older men will not necessarily be able to stay with their existing corps. It will be necessary to transfer them to more technical or more administrative jobs, and they must accept that as they grow older.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
The right hon. Gentleman knows that in the case of officers, promotion up to major is by length of service. Will the extra 10 years affect that principle or will it mean that lieutenant-colonels and above will be promoted by selection only?
§ Mr. Strachey
I think it is quite without prejudice to those ranks. The second alteration is that we are revising our trade structure. This is by no means an uncomplicated matter, but very broadly what we intend to do is to reduce the three groups to two. Group C disappears, and that opens the road to better pay and prospects for tradesmen who were formerly in Group C. The details of these steps are highly complicated and we shall, of course, make a very full Press announcement on the subject tomorrow.
Those are eight measures in all—some long-term and some short-term; some of major importance and some of relatively minor importance; but they only make sense as part of the building up of the general Army system which has been hammered out as suited to our national needs in the post-war period by the War Office, the Government, the House, and, for that matter, the country in public discussion.
There must, of course, first of all be an adequate component of professional Regular soldiers. These professional regulars and the National Service men together make up what we call the active Army—the standing Army, in the old phrase; and that is fixed by Vote A of these Estimates, and the House will see that for the coming financial year it is fixed at rather over half a million men. Of those half a million, at the moment almost exactly 200,000 are serving Regular professionals.
We feel that for the obligation of the Army as a whole, including, of course, the training obligations which fall on the professionals—though they may be exercised in respect of the Reserve Army— this is still an insufficient number. It was to increase that basic component, that cadre, of relatively long-service professionals—as they are for the most part— that we increased the rate of pay last autumn. That was the basic measure which we took. But I recognise fully, and we recognised it at the time, that that could not work fast enough. That is another of the examples where we have been accelerating the long-term programme. Therefore, we had to take the two other measures which I have just mentioned, the retention of Regulars and the call-up of Regular reservists. It was, of course, distasteful to have to take those 694 two emergency measures, but they had to be taken. They are not haphazard and unrelated to the whole picture. They effect the build-up of the corps of professionals much more rapidly than a pay increase alone would have done.
I now come to the other hastening measure which we took, the extension of National Service, which builds up the other part of the active Army, the force of National Service men. There again, it was, of course, a rather unwelcome decision for all of us to have to increase to two years the period of National Service. It was unwelcome, let me point out to the House, not only because it placed an extra burden on the young men of this country, but also because it adversely affected the other part of the whole Army system, the reserve Army. It delayed by six months, as I shall point out when I come to deal with that reserve Army, the build-up of that Army; but still we had to take it, because it was the only way, as was widely recognised, by which in the present international situation we could get a quick influx of trained men into the active Army.
So six of our eight measures for the build-up of the active Army were those— the pay increase, retention of the Regulars, the call-up of Regular reservists, the extension of the time of National Service, and the two, perhaps relatively minor, measures which I have announced today. They were all designed to build up the active Army, and they were particularly necessary because, without them, the active Army's strength would unquestionably have fallen appreciably during this year, because it so happened that there was an abnormal run-up of men serving on comparatively short engagements. What has actually happened is this. Last August we had 350,000 men in the active Army. We have now 415,000, an increase of 65,000.
So much for the active Army. But, of course, the active Army is only one part of the general system which we are attempting to build up today. Traditionally, it was practically the whole of the British land forces. There were always, of course, some auxiliary forces since the days of the train bands, and from the time of Lord Haldane, surely one of the ablest of all Secretaries of State for War, those auxiliary forces were admirably organised in the Territorial Army; but they were 695 also entirely recruited on a voluntary basis and were, on the whole, long-term; there was nowhere, in our traditional British system, which endured right down to the Second World War, anything which could produce a reserve army of anything like the Continental kind.
§ Mr. Strachey
And there could not have been, of course, without conscription and without relatively short-term conscription, because obviously there must be a short-term element in one's active army to create, at any rate quickly, a substantial reserve army. Well, everybody knows why Britain, alone of the major countries, did not have such a system. It was because, owing to our island geographical position, we could depend on the other Service, the Royal Navy, for our initial safety.
The great change—perhaps the greatest of all these changes—that has happened in our national situation since the Second World War is that, from the military point of view, we are partly, at any rate, no longer an island. I say "partly" advisedly, because, of course, the Channel is still a very formidable military obstacle, but now our military advisers say to us about the Channel these two things: the Channel, though still a most formidable military obstacle, cannot possibly be defended by one Service alone—by the Royal Navy; it can only be made use of as a military obstacle by all three Services acting in combination—and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) the day before yesterday mentioned the danger of airborne landings. But they also tell us a still more serious thing about the Channel, that although, no doubt, this island could hardly be—would not be— definitely conquered and subdued without a hostile force being able to pass the Channel, the most dreadful and terrible injury could be done to this island by long-range weapons of the V2 type, without any hostile force passing the Channel.
For those two reasons, and especially the second one, we are bound to regard our basic geographical situation changed from a military point of view, and when 696 such changes take place they are bound to change basic national institutions. It is a change in degree, of course. We have always in practice found the defence of the opposite shores of the Channel of the greatest importance. But now it has become almost, if not quite, a life and death matter, and it is that, basically, which has caused us to adopt —not in identical form—but to adopt something approaching the continental military system. It is that which has made us, over these last five and a half years, come to see the necessity for the creation of a reserve army.
It is true, of course, that we have not usually discussed it in those terms in this House. We have usually discussed the necessity of using men of the National Service part of the Army in the active Army to fufil its current commitments, and we have discussed that mainly, I think, because that has been what has determined the length of National Service; but the issue whether we should have National Service at all is really determined by the need—and it is a new and uncomfortable need for this country—to build up a reserve Army, which can only be done by short-term, conscript National Service.
But, having said that, one notices that we might, of course, have gone further towards the orthodox continental military system, in which we should have had our reserve Army, into which our conscripts could have passed after their term of National Service, and which would then have been organised and administered as a part of the Regular Army. Characteristically, probably, we have not done that. We have sought to take one of our existing institutions, the Territorial Army, formed and devised for very different purposes, and to adopt it for this new purpose in which it becomes a volunteer cadre or basis for the reserve Army, and on to which we seek to graft the outflow of National Service men when they come out of their period of National Service; and that is the way in which we are attempting to form our reserve Army.
The National Service Acts of 1948 to 1950 imposed, as the House knows, something which, very broadly and approximately, one may call Territorial Army obligations—obligations of the Territorial Army type—on the National Service man 697 for three and a half years after his period of National Service. They imposed 15 days' camp, in particular, each year, and the equivalent of five days' more training each year. Those are, of course, smaller obligations than those of the volunteer Territorial, but they are of the same type; and by means of those obligations we shall raise, in the course of the next three and a half years, a reserve Army of between 400,000 and 500,000 men, some 100,000 Territorial volunteers, and well over 300,000 National Service men. At the end of that period we shall possess something which this country has never possessed before, a considerable force of organised and trained Reserves.
It is out of that force, of course, which must come, not only those 12 Territorial Army divisions of which the Prime Minister spoke the other day, but also a very large part of Anti-Aircraft Command. We should never forget what a very large commitment for the Army, in both men and equipment, Anti-Aircraft Command is today. But—and I readily admit it is a very big "but"—that was planned to take place only over the next three and a half years. Therefore, although progress had begun, we had to take some further steps.
Of course, progress in forming that reserve Army really began, in a sense, last summer when for a short period National Service men began to come out of their period of National Service and to flow into the Territorial Army at the rate of—taking the Territorials and Supplementary Reserve together—some 10,000 a month. Twenty thousand of them went into the Territorial Army. I can give the House what is, I think, a really encouraging figure, because of that 20,000 no fewer than 4,000 have since become Territorial volunteers. That is a remarkable proportion. But, unfortunately, because we had to lengthen the period of National Service that flow was interrupted last autumn, and it does not begin again until next year, on 1st April, when the long-term process of building up the reserve Army is resumed.
That is a major example of the military system which had been devised in the post-war years being steadily developed, and some other measures had to be taken to meet the sudden increase of international tension, such as we have experienced. That is why we had to look round 698 for some method of getting our reserve Army, to some extent at any rate, into being more rapidly than was planned by the even, steady flow of National Service men. There was no difficulty about finding a great reservoir of trained men. There were over a million such in the country, and these were the famous Z reservists, whom we have been discussing so fully in this House. These were trained men, but they were not organised men; they had no connection, except on a bit of paper in the record offices, with the particular units and arms of the Service with which they would be asked to serve in the event of war; and it was in order to remedy this and to make a real connection, as it were, between the individual trained reservist and his future unit in the event of war that we put forward this measure of the call-up of Z reservists.
We had to balance the interference with the man's life and with industry with the necessity to do something which would have some real effect in anticipating the build up of a reserve Army, and what we have done, as the House knows, is to oblige anything up to a quarter of a million Z reservists to go to camp for 15 days, to Territorial camps, to special reserve camps, or to the equivalent of Regular units and the like for 15 days. We are convinced that, balancing one set of considerations with another, that was the most appropriate step we could take in this year. Of course, it is perfectly true that they would have had more full training if we had called them up for a longer period, but, after all, these were already trained men, and our emphasis is not so much on the individual refresher training—though we do think that will be useful—as on the bringing of the teams together.
Perhaps one can see that from a very simple example in a gun team in a battery. Of the six men serving a gun in some battery of the Territorial Army two may be Territorial volunteers and four Z reservists. Those men have never met, and the four Z reservists do not in fact know that they have any connection with this particular gun or this particular battery. During this summer they will be brought together, and for 10, 11, 12 or 13 days or so will actually handle this gun. Now, who can doubt that the six men, all of them trained, will handle that gun very much better after those days of being together than they would have before 699 they had ever met one another? That is just a tiny example in a battery. The same thing applies mutatis mutandis in other Arms. We are not claiming that it will do everything, but we are claiming that it will do something.
§ Mr. Heathcoat Amory (Tiverton)
If there is no emergency within the next 12 months, will that man ever see that batterv again?
§ Mr. Strachey
As the hon. Member probably knows, under the Bill we are taking no such powers. In fact, we have said that we will not call up that man again, but we hope he will join the Territorials as a volunteer. That is a possible way of doing it. Of course, year by year at the rate of 10,000 a month, starting from next month, ex-National Service men will be flowing into that battery as well as into all other units of the Territorial Army.
§ Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)
The right hon. Gentleman said he hoped the Z reservists would join the Territorials. Surely many of the Z reservists will not be coming from the same area as the T.A. units.
§ Mr. Strachey
That may be true in some cases, and it may therefore be necessary that the man should join a different unit of the Territorial Army. That is a perfectly fair point, but it is surely not a great objection to the scheme. It is not an impossible thing to ask a man to join a different battery and to settle down in it. For this year this is a short-term measure of anticipation and acceleration to meet the present international tension, and I believe it will be effective for that purpose.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
Are we to understand that these men who are called up to Territorial units will come from the locality of the Territorial unit concerned? The whole of the Territorial spirit and esprit de corps is based on locality.
§ Mr. Strachey
The answer to that is: So far as it is possible, but it is not possible in all cases. It will probably not be possible for the technical arms. It is much more possible in the infantry, and I dare say in the field artillery. We shall do that so far as it is possible, but there are a great many other considera- 700 tions which cut across it. So much for the manpower side. The point is that the short-term measures fit in to the long-term policy and accelerate the long-term programme.
I now want to call the attention of the House to the machines and equipment side, and to say something on the considerable expenditure we are making there. The House knows that, for quite obvious security reasons, I cannot give the House a comprehensive connected account of what we are spending that money on. I would, however, call attention to the fact that we shall be spending by no means all the millions voted in Vote 7 on weapons of war. An army must have an enormous amount of quite unromantic goods—household equipment, pots and pans and the like, for its married quarters.
When I use that phrase "married quarters," I think I should give the House what is the usual annual report on the progress we are making with married quarters, because I should not like the House to think that in the rush of rearmament we are neglecting married quarters, which I think are a very important consideration indeed for the comfort and, indeed, morale of the whole Army.
In 1950–51 we provided altogether 2,320 married quarters. That was a very substantial increase on the provision in 1949–50, when there were only some 1,000 married quarters, and it exceeded the number of married quarters which I forecast to the House this time last year we should be able to provide. So we are really getting going in this field. In the coming financial year, 1951–52, we believe that the figure will be 2,890, so the provision of married quarters is now going on at a pretty substantial rate.
Another vast item of expenditure is, of course, the clothing of the Army. Another is the transport, which sometimes seems almost endless. Just to pick out one item from what I call the unromantic list, I notice that we are spending almost £2 million on jerricans, but I think that if all the vehicles of the Army have to be fuelled this is no doubt necessary. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about those in store?"] Apparently it is necessary, apart from all those in store, to provide that very considerable expenditure.
701 Vehicles are probably the biggest single item in the whole of the expenditure. The Army, of course, has very largely in the post-war years in the matter of vehicles lived on stock. It has been a policy of make-and-mend and very considerable rebuilding of vehicles has gone on. But there is an end to that, because, as every motorist knows, there comes a time when the repair of his car is more expensive than to buy a new one, and it is an actual economy to go over to buying new vehicles. There is a large field in which the Army, in the event of another war, would impress civilian vehicles, but there is also a large field in which it cannot do that. Up in the fighting zones a special type of vehicle is needed—four-wheel drive and the like—for cross-country performance, which is much more expensive to provide, and which has to be specially built for the Army.
Again, in our expenditure on weapons, I would not like the House to think that it is all a question of revolutionary new designs and new types of weapons which will outdo anything which the Army has in stock. The real truth is—I say this perfectly frankly—that we and every other Army in the world are still re-equipping with, in many cases, arms of the same basic type as those in use at the end of the last war. In small arms, field guns and the like we, at any rate—and our technical advisers are quite firm on this point—do not know better weapons. The 25-pounder field gun is, I think, a very good example.
Yesterday, I was talking to two corporals lately returned from Korea. We propose to listen to corporals as well as to Field-Marshals; both are very important in my opinion. They spoke in the very highest terms of the standard British 25-pounder field gun. We are convinced that they are the best field gun seen in Korea today. There are in this field fortunately very large stocks in the hands of the Army, or else re-armament and the burden of re-armament, I can assure the House, would be very much greater indeed than it is. There is nothing that my technical and military advisers more deplore than any attempt to denigrate the weapons which were in use at the end of the last war, and to make the men who use them feel that their weapons are out-of-date, not much good, and ought to be replaced. That can shake 702 the confidence of the men who use these weapons, and it is, in many cases, completely unjustified.
Of course, there are other cases in which on the basic weapons side a great deal of work and expenditure has now to be done in making modifications to those weapons. That is being done to a lesser degree. Large stocks of these weapons are going through a programme of greater or lesser modification. The obvious example which springs to the mind in that respect is the anti-aircraft gun. We do not think that the basic anti-aircraft gun is outmoded in the least; we do not know a better; but, of course, it can be enormously improved as a weapon by additions and modifications in its ammunition, loading and aiming devices. There is a very large programme going steadily forward and very heavy expenditure is going on to it by which progressively these guns are being modified.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)
When the right hon. Gentleman talks about the basic anti-aircraft gun, is he talking about the heavy or light gun?
§ Mr. Strachey
The Bofors is still an excellent weapon but there may be newer types of gun in that field which will give better results, and very substantia] work is on hand in that direction. I was thinking of the basic 3.7.
Let me again emphasise to the House the enormous commitment to the Army and the commitment to the nation in the industrial effort represented by Anti-Air-craft Command. Just as it absorbs a substantial part of the total manpower of the whole Army, so it also absorbs a substantial part of the effort of the rearmament programme. Needless to say, the Army would be only too thankful if the ingenuity of science could devise some way in which our share of the air defence of Britain could be done in some other way, because then these very considerable resources could be liberated for increasing our effort in the field Army or in any other field which was thought right. That is one of the reasons, and even on overriding reason, why we cannot have a 703 greater number of men to provide more divisions for the field Army.
I think that the House would expect me to say something about tanks. The tank is, rightly or wrongly, usually accepted as being the predominant weapon in the modern land battle. Whether it will prove to be so or not is somthing which is ardently discussed by the experts. It has many enemies. The missile weapons which can be directed against it are ever growing in number, complexity and efficiency, but it is the settled conviction of my advisers that, at any rate, today the only final way of stopping an enemy tank is to have a better tank ourselves that can stop it assuredly.
I think that we are fortunate in the fact that we have a post-war tank in the Centurion in production and in now a steadily increasing rate of production. Unquestionably, I think that in the best military opinion this is regarded as a strong bid—I will not put it higher than that—to create one of the best tanks in existence today. I have had an opportunity of talking with the Commanding Officer of the 8th Hussars, just back from Korea, who commanded the Centurions there. They have not so far been very heavily engaged. They have been engaged rather in a self-propelled gun role in the fighting lately, rather than as tank against tank. He has had a good deal of experience with them now, and I know that he has tried out their reliability. He speaks with great confidence of them. They have worked a large number of miles up and down Korea, and he is extremely satisfied with their reliability, which is very important.
The second point with which he is extremely satisfied is the accuracy of the guns which he says is very remarkable indeed, and has made a very great impression, we believe, on the enemy, and, certainly, on our Allies, who have seen it at work. That, of course, is the current tank in production today. Again, I think the House would make a great mistake if it despises our stocks of older types of tank, such as the Comet, which is almost a post-war weapon, of which we have considerable resources, the Crom-wells, and other lighter tanks, of which we have stocks in reserve. These stocks of weapons are being put to very great 704 use, and we are not, finally, neglecting development here. A further tank beyond the Centurion is being developed.
§ Mr. Duncan Sandys (Streatham)
The right hon. Gentleman says a further tank is being developed. I am not asking him to give us any secrets, but can he say whether he means that we have a number of tanks in the prototype stage or on the drawing board?
§ Mr. Strachey
I think that is going a little too far into details. All I can say is it is going ahead, and it will not be very long before—[An HON. MEMBER: "The right hon. Gentleman may as well tell us now."] It would be very nice, indeed, if I could give the House the date upon which these weapons will be in the hands of the Army, but the House will agree that it would not be right for me to do any such thing.
Just as our experts are doing their best to provide the very best tank, so are they trying to provide the very best anti-tank weapons, because nobody knows which will be the more important on the battlefield of the future. A very comprehensive range of anti-tank weapons is being provided at section, platoon, battalion, and divisional levels. As the House probably knows, our infantry battalions at the moment are being re-equipped with 17-pounder anti-tank guns. The new tower of this gun which is being developed was shown to me the other day, and it will not be long before supplies of the newer weapons, the anti-tank grenades, rocket launchers and the recoil-less guns become available. I am afraid that I cannot give the dates when the less conventional anti-tank weapons will be in the hands of the infantry and available to them.
Nobody knows whether they will be the master of the tank or the tank will be the master of them. It is the old argument between protective armour and the missile throwing weapons, which is as old as the Hundred Years' War. It may be that on the battlefields of the future the man in a tank, who is equivalent of the man in armour, will be driven from the battlefields by the man with the missile just as the man in armour was driven from them by the archer and later by the arque-busier. So long as there is any doubt about this issue obviously the correct thing to do is to provide both the most 705 effective range of anti-tank weapons and the most effective tanks.
In this connection the House will want to be assured that the lessons of the fighting in Korea are being properly studied and analysed. I can assure the House that they are, but one should issue a word of warning about them. Those lessons want very cautious study, because conditions there are very special. It is a special terrain and a special kind of war, with the result that misleading deductions can be drawn from them, but my advisers believe that certain deductions can be taken from them.
The first lesson is that the methods of training in the British Army today are proving extremely effective and basically sound. Having regard to all the tasks that they have had to meet there, the fighting has shown that our methods of training are on the right lines. It must be remembered that the 27th Brigade in particular was a brigade not specially selected for Korea. It was in Hong Kong and contained a large number of National Service men. It had to be moved very suddenly to Korea, and during its long career in an arduous war and under heavy fighting conditions it has earned an unsurpassed reputation.
The second lesson which I think my advisers are ready to learn from Korea is that one can have too much transport. It is a lesson they were willing to learn, because before Korea they had already reduced the number of vehicles per division by 20 per cent. The experience of Korea has confirmed the view which had already been taken.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
Does that mean a reduction of 20 per cent in all establishments or just the troops going to Korea?
§ Mr. Strachey
Oh no, in all establishments the number of vehicles per division is being reduced.
In general the Korean fighting appears to have shown that, vitally important as arms, equipment and machines are, the men using them and the spirit of the men using them is more important still. Here I am sure the House would wish to pay the highest tribute both to the 27th and 29th Brigades for their fighting in Korea. They have stuck it through a terrible Korean winter. The 27th Brigade has 706 many young National Service men in it, and the 29th Brigade has had many Regular reservists within its ranks—older men whom we have taken out of civilian life and asked to go through the really terrible and arduous conditions of a Korean winter.
We have asked them to fight in a war right on the other side of the world, whose origins and causes, however clear they may seem to us, are not as immediately clear as would be the defence of a man's own home, near that home. In spite of all this, our men have stuck it right through this grim winter with sub-zero temperatures, with very little shelter and when often it is necessary to sleep out. Right through this winter the men of both Brigades have stuck to their jobs and carried on under these arduous conditions. It is an extraordinary record of British doggedness, skill and courage.
It is natural, of course, to think especially of them, but when we do so I am sure the House would not like the troops in any other theatre, such as Malaya where there is only less arduous conditions, to imagine we have forgotten about them. In Malaya they have to go on month after month with semi-warfare, in which the casualty rate is perhaps not so high but in a different way it is warfare, which is as difficult.
§ Mr. Alport (Essex, Colchester)
Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether the sickness ratio in Korea is any higher than the normal for active operations?
§ Mr. Strachey
It was no higher up to the month of January, but in that month it went rather higher because of the severe conditions. I have looked at the sickness figures very closely, and I can give them to the House at a later stage if it is so desired. For instance, speaking from memory, there have been 61 cases of frostbite in the Forces throughout the winter, which is not bad, although, of course, it is 61 too many. On the whole, considering the very arduous conditions and severe climate, I do not think the average up to January has been any higher than normal.
Something which the House showed itself only yesterday to be deeply concerned with was the extent of the training of our men in Malaya. Since that was raised on Tuesday, I have again 707 carefully consulted my advisers, including the Chief of the Imperial General Staff. I asked him whether the 16 weeks training, which the men must have as a minimum before they go to Malaya, is adequate. It is his considered view that further weeks of training at home would be of no particular service to the man before he goes to Malaya and that after 16 weeks—the man has always been in the Forces a much longer time than 16 weeks—of basic and continuous training at home, the only thing is to put him into his unit. That does not mean that he has to be put on jungle patrol but that he joins his unit in Malaya and that his further training must take place with his unit.
There are troops in other theatres, not, thank goodness, theatres of war—Germany, Austria, the Middle East, Hong Kong, and many other places in the world where troops are serving—where, by their very presence, they give us inestimable service. Our thanks go equally to them. With the men, as they have shown themselves in Korea and elsewhere, the equipment which we possess and the new equipment that is now beginning to come in, we are building a magnificent Army. There is no doubt whatever about it, and we shall see that an Army unsurpassed is being built. I have of course been in the War Office only for one year. That is a very short period even to get the feel of what has happened. In recent weeks, especially, there is no doubt that as the Army increases in size, and as the new equipment begins to come to it, its confidence in itself is growing to a very marked degree. Three new divisions have been formed in the last nine months and a general feeling of accomplishment is beginning to grow.
Finally, I would say a word on the purpose of this very considerable augmentation of our land forces. I say, with respect, to my Service colleagues—and I naturally do not ask them to agree with me—that in the new international situation that we are unfortunately in, these land forces are the very foundation of our re-armament. What is the purpose of them? We cannot reiterate too often that their purpose is to avert the outbreak of a third world war. We repudiate—by "we" I do not mean this side of the House only but the whole House 708 —utterly the insane doctrine that the third world war has already begun, and even the less insane doctrine that the third world war is inevitable.
§ Lord John Hope (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
Will the right hon. Gentleman pass that on to the Lord President of the Council, who credited this side of the House with the very reverse attitude in his speech only a few days ago?
§ Mr. Strachey
On that occasion there may have been some occasion for it. Anyone who does take those views outside is confusing two very different things. It is perfectly true that a struggle between two different systems is taking place in the world today. On the economic field it is a struggle between very different ways of organising the productive process and of dividing the product. There are not only two different ways of doing it but many different ways. It is a struggle in the political field to decide how economic power is to be exercised, whether by the democratic way or not. That struggle is not by any means peaceful in all its aspects. It is being carried out by very rough methods in many parts of the world. Nevertheless it is being carried out in a way which certainly is not a third world war, and we should very quickly discover if a third world war did break out.
The main thing I want to say is that it is immensely to our advantage in the West that we should keep the struggle on the level that it now occupies and avert the outbreak of a third world war. Not everybody agrees with that. The Russians do not agree with it. They say that the imperfections of our economic system will cause it to break down in the absence of a third world war. It would be a frightful pity if anyone in the West came to agree with the Russians in that view. That is what I call the defeatist heresy. It is completely untrue that we stand in any risk of being defeated in the struggle so long as the struggle remains on the relatively peaceful plain that it is on today and short of a third world war. It is on that peaceful level, when compared with much of the rest of the world, that the West is so markedly gaining the advantage. In places like Britain, indispensable reconstructions of our economic life are going 709 on. We are certainly winning hands down.
That is not to say that the West ought never to take the offensive. We believe that we have on the political field most effective offensive weapons of great power, the weapon of political democracy, and the weapon of economic democracy towards which we are making considerable progress. We believe that those weapons are in themselves deadly weapons which nothing in the Soviet system can stand against. This creates a temptation in our antagonists to shift the field of contest on to the war level. We should be neglecting necessary preparations if we did not rearm because we regard our re-armament as a shield to our social system, which is itself our most effective weapon in this struggle.
I am not going to insult the intelligence of the House of Commons by quoting the old Roman bromide that if you want peace you must prepare for war. The real truth is that preparation for war and lack of preparation for war have both, in history, always produced war. The end of every period has always been war which has dragged down all the hopes of mankind. There are situations in which re-armament can help to avert at any rate threatened war. The preparations of a group of Allies such as ours under the North Atlantic Pact can create the Western strength which is undoubtedly a pre-requisite for the pacification for which we all long. Finally, there are certain situations in which to neglect rearmament is to invite the antagonist to take to arms. It is because we believe that Britain is in one of those situations today that we are re-arming.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
I have no desire to quarrel with the earlier passages of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in which he explained why he, and no doubt the Government too, had come to the conclusion that National Service was inescapable. Most of us have had that problem in our minds for quite a while, and what has worried us has been the Government's changes of policy on this topic. Now they have finally, or for the time being, come to rest on a certain policy. We are glad that they should have done so.
I certainly do not want to argue with the right hon. Gentleman whether the 710 differences between our system and the French or some other continental system are important or not. It is easy to exaggerate the importance of those differences. What has come about has done so against our will, and, in particular, against the Tory will, for the Tory tradition has always been to dislike standing armies. Against our will, we have been compelled to have National Service here so that we may have the available forces in the early days of a contest, should it ever occur, because, with modern weapons, the early days must also be the decisive days.
With the concluding passages of the right hon. Gentleman's speech and all he had to say about the contest of will in which we are engaged, I also have no desire to quarrel. I should have put the things which we have to defend a little differently. I do not think that it is only social services which we have to defend——
§ Mr. Eden
The sending of a letter to a bishop does not seem to me to be a terribly flagrant departure from the freedom of our way of life. I do not think that that remark is relevant to the eloquent peroration of the Secretary of State for War about the freedom of this country. I do not think that that instance even crossed his mind at that moment. There are deeper things than that.
The right hon. Gentleman was right to put our effort in that context, but where I wish he could have been a little more accurate was in telling us exactly what contribution we are proposing to make, particularly in Europe, so that his peroration could be most effectively carried into action. There he was discretion itself. The Service Ministers are getting absolutely alike in their various speeches. I 711 am now waiting to hear what we shall be told about the Royal Navy. The Service Ministers always give us only one figure —we had it again today—that for married quarters. The only figure we had from the Secretary of State for Air the other day was that for married quarters and that has been the only figure given to us by the Secretary of State for War today. I wonder what we shall be told about the Royal Navy.
I was hoping that the right hon. Gentleman would tell us how many divisions we were working up to in the West, but we got nothing about that at all. I am not limited by being the Secretary of State for War. I know the figures that we have had. The Minister of Defence gave them to us a little earlier. I want to ask one or two questions about them.
First, I should like to join with the Secretary of State in just simply saying that the troops in Malaya and Korea are doing a magnificent job. Both those distant regions, which are so very different in climate and geography, are in the main what a soldier would call "infantry country." The dense tropical jungle of Malaya is an ideal ground for ambush and infiltration, as all who fought in it during the last war know only too well. But the troops in Malaya now have an even more arduous and exacting task because they seldom have to fight any recognisable enemy in the open. They are faced with the task which the British soldier, and particularly the infantry man, has often had to confront in years gone by, even in more stable times than these: the task of dealing with the bandit in circumstances which make it difficult to distinguish between friend and foe.
I should like to say a word on a topic mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, the extent of the training which our soldiers should have before they take part in battle conditions in Malaya. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Questions on this topic on Monday. As I understand it, men are liable to be posted to Malaya after 16 weeks' training. I only want to say that, in my view, there is no objection whatsoever, to a man going to Malaya after 16 weeks and continuing his training on the spot, where he will get used to conditions of climate and local fighting; but there is, in my 712 judgment, every objection to men going into action in the jungle after only 16 weeks' training or anything like that. There, I think, is the clear definition.
I do not know whether there is any organisation for training men in Malaya after they get to that country and before they are posted to units. With great respect, I was not impressed by the argument that these men can only get their experience with units. Most of the units are in action, and men who have had only 16 weeks' training should not go to units which are in action. In the present conditions of jungle fighting, it is impossible to avoid a company or platoon being sent into action, and if the unit contains men with little training it is fair neither to these men nor to the comrades who are with them. What seems to me to be needed is some system of training in Malaya which the men can have in that country before they are posted to units on active service. If that does not exist now, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should take steps to create it. I do not believe that it presents any insuperable difficulties.
Korea, with its mountains and gorges and violent extremes of climate, offers conditions which compare more closely to those of the North-West Frontier. The whole of the campaign there has illustrated the need for tough and highly-skilled infantrymen, and those qualities have certainly been shown by our two brigades. I think their fighting qualities have been fully recognised by commanders and Allies alike.
As one examines these Estimates, which it is our duty to do today, the first consideration that comes to one's mind is how formidable is the increase in cost of every form of military equipment these days. As a result of much endeavour, we now have an active Army—I am not at the moment referring to the reserve Army —which, in numbers if not in fighting formations, is nearly double the Regular Army which we had in 1939. The House will observe that I am making a favourable comparison with the present day because I am excluding the Territorials of 1939. On that basis, we have nearly doubled the number; but the cost is about five times as great.
There is another comparison of strength. Despite all the steps which have now, belatedly but quite rightly, been taken to 713 improve pay and other conditions in the Army, where are we in relation to the strength of the active Army? It is still a little less than it was at the end of 1948. I believe that is correct. In other words, despite these special measures, we are now approximately where we were two and a half years ago in so far as the strength of the active Army is concerned, and in some parallel directions we have actually lost ground. It is, unfortunately, true that the number of Colonial and Gurkha troops shows a further drop in 1951–52 compared with last year, and last year's figures were down compared with those for the year before. I will give the House the figures. In 1949–50 our Colonial Forces, including Gurkhas, totalled 94,000; next year the figure was 71,000; this year the estimate is 67,000. That is a trend that most of us would much like to see reversed. I think it is rather disturbing in regard to the many commitments that we have. I hope the Government will give us some explanation of those figures.
Now I come to what really matters in looking at these figures of the number of men we have under arms. What matters is the real value of this active Army as a field force. I had hoped we would hear something about that from the Secretary of State, but he has not told us anything new. I do not want to be unkind, but what we heard was an account of the Army which we would have liked to hear if we had been away from this country for some years.
We were told that there are nine of these divisions. The Minister of Defence told us the other day that we should have the equivalent of 10 Regular divisions in existence by next month. Later in the same debate, the Secretary of State for War told us there would be 4⅓ in Germany, 4⅓ elsewhere overseas, and 1⅓ at home. The point the House has to bear in mind is that these 10 equivalent divisions are not 10 divisions in the field, or anything remotely like it. These equivalent divisions, as they are called by the Minister of Defence, include a number of battalions which are on garrison and other duty as isolated units, or maybe as brigades, but without their ancillary troops. I make no complaint about that. On the contrary, the role they fulfil is essential. The Army has to guard, in conjunction with the Royal Air Force, our 714 lifelines on the sea by protecting the key points on these lifelines and other vital places whence flow certain supplies which must be brought to us by sea. But battalions on such duty are definitely not part of any field force, and they are not available for duty as part of it.
If we are to build up an effective deterrent in Europe, such as the right hon. Gentleman apparently had in mind in his peroration, it is essential that we should have available in Germany as our share an effective contribution of at least six divisions this year. Over and above that, we should try to build up here in Britain a strategic reserve available as a reinforcement, whether for Europe or for any other part of the world. I should like to hear from the Government whether they share that view of what are our requirements and duties.
At once the question arises: can these commitments be met with our existing manpower? So far as the numbers available from call-up of National Service men are concerned, I should have said that they could certainly be met. Of course we all understand that our difficulties are accentuated at this time by the inevitable dispersion of our forces. We must have troops available in the Middle East and in the Far East. As a result we have to send National Service men long distances for short periods. This is in every way unsatisfactory, but even that is not our whole, or even our chief problem.
Our chief problem is still the availability of Regular officers and N.C.O.s who alone can carry out the training to build up these forces. That is why I was disturbed when I read in the memorandum which the right hon. Gentleman submitted I to the House this sentence:The Regular content of the active Army is still below what is necessary to support efficient forces of the size we are now required, by our international commitments to maintain.That is a clumsy sentence, but it appears to mean that we have not enough Regulars to help to do the job which we have to do. Above all, the shortage is serious as regards Regular officers and N.C.O.s. Both are indispensable and both are in short supply.
It is of no use to ask regiments, even those with long traditions, suddenly to treble themselves to meet an urgent need.
715 They cannot do it without the indispensable cadre of leadership. The words of the Secretary of State about Regular officers are, therefore, grave. The right hon. Gentleman said:I am still not satisfied with the Regular officer situation and with the comparative dearth of candidates of high quality for Regular commissions.This House ought really to try to examine this problem today to see what lies behind it and whether we can contribute anything towards its solution.
I am convinced that one of the main reasons why the Army is not getting the type of young candidate it wants is because there is no security for a full career in place of a mere introduction to life. The right hon. Gentleman said something at the beginning of his speech which I hope means a new approach by the Army to this problem. I want to see if I have understood him aright. What the young officer has now to face is at least the possibility, if not the probability, that when he reaches the rank of major or lieut.-colonel at the age of 40 or 45, he will suddenly find himself out of a job, having to find a new way of life at an age when that is not an easy thing to do. Is there any way of dealing with this? If I understood the right hon. Gentleman, I liked what he seemed to have in mind.
We know that the Army today has an ever-lengthening tail and an ever-growing staff. Some of this is no doubt inevitable, but cannot we contrive to use for the more sedentary tasks a larger number of those officers who are perfectly qualified in every respect except that they are no longer active enough for work in the field? If I understood the right hon. Gentleman, it is just such a scheme that he is trying to launch. It will be difficult, and it will present many problems of organisation, but I am convinced that it has to be done if the Army is to attract and keep the best quality candidates as younger officers. If these men knew that they had a reasonable chance of staying on for a full career, as is the case in the Royal Air Force now, they will be more ready to devote their lives to a Service which has already claimed their loyalty.
If any such arrangement as that were possible, it would have an additional advantage which the right hon. Gentle- 716 man did not mention. It would free a number of officers in the prime of their life and service for regimental rather than for War Office or headquarters duty.
In the units I know, I have been struck by how many of the officers at the best period of their lives are engaged in excellent and admirable occupations which are not those of active service with their battalions. If we could get those back and replace them by older men, who could perfectly well do their present jobs, we would revitalise the Service and increase the strength of the fighting Forces. If the right hon. Gentleman can work out a plan like that, he will have our fullest support in carrying it out. It will be difficult. With all respect, I know enough about the Adjutant General's Department to know how difficult it will be.
I suggest that these officers should not be regarded as retired when they take over those other tasks. They ought to be continuing to earn promotion side by side with the civil servants with whom they will be working. I hope that a scheme of that kind will be worked out. The ominous drop with which we have been confronted in the supply of Regular officers even since the end of 1948, means that drastic steps must be taken. If they are not, we shall never build up an effective Army in the field.
There is another objective which I should like the Secretary of State for War to set himself. We must make every attempt to make the Army a popular service. Anything the right hon. Gentleman or the Army Council can do to restore the sentimental attachment to units whether they be Regular or Territorial which was once so strong a force, will aid him immeasurably in his task. It will help him to get recruits. We must try to recreate that corporate spirit which was one of the most potent forces in the volunteer Army. The right hon. Gentleman has been asked about this today and he has said he will do it within the limits of the possible. He must not accept the limits of the possible as laid down by the War Office in this matter; he must surpass them. Admittedly the problems there will be great too, but the closer we can keep to the territorial foundation for our Army, the stronger will be the instinctive loyalties on which we shall be able to work.
717 I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman is trying to get back—he did not tell us so today, but I think my understanding is right—to training for the county regiments at their own infantry depots. That is a step in the right direction, but we must try to carry it further. The question of local loyalty applies, of course, strongly to the Territorial Army also, and it is here all the more important because in this field we are carrying out an entirely new experiment.
I am not sure that the House understands how completely unique this experiment is. We are creating units of National Service men for which the training cadres will all be volunteers. That is something that, to the best of my knowledge, has never before happened in military history; it does not exist in any other army in the world. It can, I think, succeed, but to bring it about we are asking a great deal of these volunteers, who, in their original conception, joined with their friends for service which they understood was to develop and to fulfil the traditions and forms of soldiering which had always been enjoyed in the past.
Now, they are doing something quite different—they have to help to train National Service men. Again, if this can be kept largely on a territorial basis, there will be a much better chance of making a successful job of it. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us assurances about this. But here, as elsewhere, the final answer is to produce the best results. Those volunteer cadres will need help from the Regular Army to carry the job through, and so we come back to the shortage of Regular officers and N.C.O.s.
I want to refer to one other topic before I close. I made some reference in the debate on the Air Estimates to the possibility of an airborne invasion, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred today. I even attempted a calculation as to the number of divisions that might be dropped here by a four-engine air force of, say, between 500 and 1,000 aircraft. The Government made no comment about that at the time. I do not know what is in their minds, but I am absolutely convinced that we have a duty to make now such arrangements as lie in our power to deter any attempts at any 718 airborne invasion whether by paratroops or by any other form. In the air, the essential is the provision of night fighters.
§ Mr. Eden
Yes, but I am assuming that it would come by night and that that was the greater danger of the two. On land, what steps should be taken? One which it seems to me should be done now —and I put this to the House—is to create without further delay the cadres of the Home Guard and to issue to them the necessary equipment so that they will immediately play their part should the need arise. We cannot be short of rifles, unless we have disposed of, or thrown away, the very large stocks we had at the end of the war.
§ Mr. Eden
I should be glad of an assurance that the rifles are available. As my right hon. Friend says, we had five or six million at the end of the war.
I am not suggesting that we should immediately re-form the full Home Guard as we had it in the last war, when it contributed most disinterested and loyal service over many years. What I suggest is that the essential organisation should now be set on foot. Commanders down to company commanders, adjutants and quartermasters and all the key personnel, should be enrolled now and should know what their duties are. Once this has been done, they should be empowered themselves to take the names of men willing to serve so that, should an emergency arise or be threatened, they are all at once available. That is my suggestion, and I add, of course, that the arms should go out to the depots to be available should the need arise.
All this effort, of course, will have to be co-ordinated with Civil Defence. I do not want to go into this topic in great detail today because we are going to ask for a special occasion in order to discuss it, but I emphasise to the Government quite simply our view that the preliminary steps to revive the Home Guard should be taken now. That is particularly important in the country districts. It may be that in towns the role of the Home Guard will be associated with Civil Defence. As I have said, that has all to be worked out. There will also be the 719 great advantage that the Home Guard will be able to take part in anti-aircraft defence, as they did in a very considerable measure and very effectively in the last war.
I want now to say a few sentences about equipment. There are any number of these problems which could be considered in this debate—we could have a whole day to discuss them and nothing else; but I am raising now these few points which I and my hon. Friends consider to be important. First, about tanks. I heard what the right hon. Gentleman said just now about the Centurion. What we should like to know is whether we have enough Centurions and other tanks of comparable quality for the equipment of the three armed divisions to which we are committed and allowing, of course, for the necessary reserves which must always be available.
The second of these points is about the anti-aircraft defences, of which again the right hon. Gentleman rightly spoke. We want to know whether our equipment is in step with world development. By this I mean, is it up to the requirements which will be demanded of it as a result of the speed and height at which modern aircraft fly? Are the guns and predictors in production or available to meet this difficult development which we now have to face as compared with the last war? Thirdly, there is the antitank weapon. Are we ready to go into production on a gun which has the range and whose shell has sufficient penetrative power to destroy any tank it is likely to meet? We should very much like to know that. And has the method of the carriage of that gun been satisfactorily determined?
An equally important question, which has not yet been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, is whether we have any plans to provide armoured carriers for the infantry working with tanks. The right hon. Gentleman will probably know that in the closing stages of the last war the chassis of Sherman tanks were often used for this purpose, and I believe that they were highly successful. Is it proposed to continue this practice? Are the chassis of the Shermans available or, alternatively, is some other vehicle being constructed? If so, when will it be available for units? It is of the first import- 720 ance that the infantry fighting with armour should have an adequate measure of protection for the tasks they have to do.
Finally, there is the problem, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, of "B" vehicles—lorries and other general purpose vehicles. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that we are working on wartime stocks, which require a great deal of reconditioning and repair. But what is to happen if mobilisation has to take place? The right hon. Gentleman referred to the need to call on civilian vehicles, and presumably we shall have to do this, as we have done it before. Are the plans for their impressment complete? If not they ought to be made complete immediately. Meanwhile, are any new vehicles in this category being produced, because otherwise our "B" vehicles in the Army will just fall to pieces altogether; they are so old and have been patched and repaired so often.
I conclude in the same vein as I did on the Air Estimates. In all the difficulties of the present time there is one element that can encourage us. That is, the quality of the men and of the leadership we now have in our Army—that is first-class. I was immensely impressed with what little I was able to see of our units during my recent visit to Germany. The B.A.O.R. is without doubt a steadily improving fighting force, admirably and, indeed, imaginatively led, and working with excellent material—I mean, in the men—and improving material in the equipment. Our duty is this House is to see that these men have what they so well deserve: the best that we can provide and the most intelligent support that it is in our power to give.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
I do not think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State can complain of the way the discussion has gone so far. With many of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) most of the House on both sides can agree, and we can consider them in a dispassionate fashion. I feel sure that my right hon. Friend, or the Under-Secretary, when he deals with these matters later on, will give proper consideration to the points put forward by the right hon. Member, who himself has occupied 721 the eminent position of Secretary of State for War.
In listening to my right hon. Friend with whose speech I was in general agreement, I was struck by one noticeable feature. It was something on which the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington commented. My right hon. Friend's speech was as wide a survey as he could have given in the space of an hour and I have not the slightest doubt that he, like his predecessors when they considered what to put in their speeches, had to throw overboard much which would have been of interest to the House. The particular feature which struck me was the lack of information—much of which, of course, could not be given here—which would enable hon. Members on both sides of the House to form an unbiased and judicial assessment of the state of readiness and contentment of our Army.
I am going to make one suggestion which I hope will meet with the sympathy of the House. Hon. Members will know that we have an organisation, the inter-Parliamentary Union, whereby hon. Members are given facilities to go to different parts of the world and see something of what is happening in the political systems of other countries. The remarkable thing today is that with so many hon. Members, youngish hon. Members, who came into the House in 1945 with considerable battle experience, I imagine, very few are given the opportunity that was given the Leader of the Opposition to visit the Army at work. As an ex-Secretary of State for War, I am almost completely out of touch with what is happening in Army circles, unless, like the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington, I contact those whom I know in the Army and hope that, perhaps, they will invite me, as they invited the right hon. Gentleman, to visit the Forces under their command. But it should not be left only to private initiative and I suggest to my right hon. Friend and to the heads of the other Services that they should take an opportunity, now that they are calling up so many Z reservists of the last war, of giving facilities to hon. Members with experience, who are desirous of doing so, to visit the troops at work in different stations.
The suggestion has been made to my right hon. Friend that a Parliamentary delegation should go from this House to Korea. I remember so well during the 722 war, when the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was Prime Minister, that we had the greatest difficulty in convincing him that hon. Members should be allowed to visit the troops in the field. It was not until 1945 that six Members of Parliament of all parties were allowed to visit the troops in Italy. I have a suspicion that, in view of my activities in the House at that time and elsewhere, I was looked upon with a certain amount of suspicion by commanding officers and commanders. I would only say that no hon. Member who has held His Majesty's Commission would be likely to do anything to subvert the allegiance, loyalty and duty of those serving in the Forces and I am quite certain from my experience that the effect on the troops with whom one came into contact was mutually beneficial.
The Americans sent far bigger deputations of Congressmen to their armies in the field. Particularly in view of the temperature of the debate this afternoon, which, possibly because it has been initiated from the benches opposite by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington and not by another right hon. Gentleman whom I might mention, has so far been conducted in What I would call a Council of State manner, something like this might be considered. I would urge sincerely that, however much both sides of the House disagree with each other sometimes on personal matters—and it is no use disguising the fact, that, my right hon. Friend himself has incurred the grave displeasure of the Opposition on more than one occasion— nevertheless on matters affecting the safety of the State, such as defence questions, we should try to keep away from these constant bickerings and divisions which may divide the House.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I agree with the right hon. Member to a certain extent, but he must realise that it is absolutely essential, quite apart from personalities, if a right hon. Gentleman is not doing what is right and safe for the country that we must press that view and go on pressing it until we get a reasonable answer.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I concur generally with that view. If hon. Members opposite really think that my right hon. Friend or his colleagues in the Service Departments are not looking after the affairs of the 723 country most efficiently, obviously this is the place to ventilate their grievances. But, judging from the point of view put to the House this afternoon by the deputy Leader of the Opposition, it seemed to me that he was trying to direct his remarks in a much more conciliatory and, I will not say non-critical, but constructively critical, manner, and that is all I am asking for.
I have my own views of what sort of instrument we should create for this purpose. It is not without interest that in the United States, which probably, second to Russia, has now the largest armed forces in the world, and also in France, another military nation, they have military affairs committees in their Parliaments. I know how much that is against our tradition, but my right hon. Friend this afternoon mentioned one or two things which are quite against the Orthodox customs and traditions of the War Department.
For example, what he said this afternoon about increasing the period of service of officers in the Army to 55 and other ranks beyond 22 years I should imagine was not easily accepted by the Army Council, but I believe it is a right decision to make. I believe that to dismiss an officer who has reached by time-promotion the rank of major and who is not able to make the lieutenant-colonel grade by selection at 45 years is to waste excellent material which could be of use to the Army and which is so often of great use to civilian organisations when he leaves the Service. Unfortunately though, as my right hon. Friend says in his Memorandum, it is not easy to assimilate these ex-officers in civil life when they are thrown out of the Service at 45.
I do not wish to detain the House for a long time this afternoon because this is the occasion when we should hear the views of as many Members as possible, even those who, like the hon. and gallant Member the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) are extremely critical of the Government, for the one purpose of assisting my right hon. Friend or whoever occupies his position for the time being to get the best possible Service.
I wish to make one or two remarks about the Regular Army. Like the right 724 hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington I view with grave alarm the running-down of the Regular Army. My right hon. Friend was perhaps a little coy this afternoon in telling us how the Army is wasting away. We find in the Memorandum figures which tell us the numbers of those who are enlisting in the Army, but we have not the comparative numbers of those who are leaving. If we had them we should see the picture in a better perspective.
As one who represents what is in the main a mining constituency, I do not share in the views of those hon. Members who sometimes press the Government to release miners from the Army. I see no reason whatever why a miner, who is now just as much entitled to choose his occupation as is anyone else, should not volunteer to serve in the Armed Forces if he wishes to do so; or why we should try to direct him to the mines, which is what some of my hon. Friends desire to achieve. All of us agree that we do not want to lose trained manpower from the mines, but if a miner feels that he would prefer a life above ground, a healthy life in the main, rather than work in a mine underground, I for one would not attempt to deter him.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Does not my right hon. Friend realise the tremendous lack of manpower in the coalmines, which are indispensable even to the War Office?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I fully agree, but that does not affect the situation which we have to face today and in the future. If we have not the trained manpower to meet the aggression which may come upon us from certain quarters, I am afraid that our coalmines will occupy the same position as did those of France, Belgium and other countries that were overrun during the war. I recognise the necessity of trained manpower for the mines. All I am asking is for freedom of choice for the individual to serve in the mines, if he prefers to do so, or in the Armed Forces, if that is his preference.
The fact cannot be disguised that, however much my right hon. Friend may try to create divisions, as obviously he must do, he has to look at this problem mainly from a long-term point of view. Divisions cannot be created as quickly as all that; it will take a considerable time. 725 Hon. Members opposite may say that it ought to have been done earlier, and that is a question which they can argue, but if we are to create a Regular Army, it is not a short-term policy; steps have to be taken on a long-term basis. I would say that the problem is not incapable of solution.
That brings me back to the suggestion which I made at the beginning of my speech. I consider that, in view of the fact that so many hon. Members have served in the Armed Forces, many with great distinction, during the last war, we could join together somehow or other and act as great unpaid recruiters for our Regular Army. That is one of the reasons I think why every opportunity should be taken to enlist the help, in the ways I have mentioned, and otherwise, of hon. Members who are able to give some assistance.
With regard to the shortage of officers, I cannot see why a career in the Army today is not something desirable to the young man who is willing and has a spirit of adventure in him. I speak, if the House will forgive me for striking a personal note for a moment, having had one son who served during the war, another son who without any prompting from me enlisted on a Regular engagement in the Brigade of Guards and is now serving as a Regular officer in the Army, a third son who is a National Service man, and with another one following on. I hear quite a lot from these young fellows and from their comrades whom they bring to my house.
I am certain that with all the improvements which His Majesty's Government and different Secretaries of State—as my right hon. Friend graciously said this afternoon—have made, the offer which is made today to young men makes it well worth while for them, in the words of a popular broadcaster, to "have a go." It is a career which will offer them not only adventure but something worth while, particularly now that my right hon. Friend has today announced that he is to extend the period during which they can serve in the Army either in the ranks or in the commissioned ranks.
I should like to hear from my right hon. Friend, either today or perhaps later, in some wider announcement, exactly how he intends to utilise this extra period for promotion purposes, and also about 726 pension benefits, because I believe that if he could say something in that direction he might find that his recruiting figures would rise considerably. I regret to see that, although improvement has taken place in re-settling ex-officers and ex-Service men, due to the valiant efforts of many voluntary bodies, it is nevertheless still difficult to place ex-officers of 45 years of age. That seems to me to be a tragedy.
I know that the suggestions which I shall now make have been made before, but they are well worth repeating. We have nationalised various industries. I should have thought that a man having done his service to his country, as men and officers do by serving for over 20 years, probably the best 20 years of their lives, is entitled to some consideration in some of those large national undertakings —and not only those. I believe that much more could be done even by civilian employers if the Government themselves would give a lead in that direction.
I wish to say a few words about training, which was touched upon by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington. On Monday last I asked my right hon. Friend whether his military advisers considered that 16 weeks' basic training was sufficient to equip a man for the intricate kind of fighting with which he would have to contend in places like Malaya. I was glad to hear from him today that the 16 weeks' basic training is only a part of a man's continued training before he is sent into action. I am bound to say—I agree with the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington—that I should view with a certain amount of disquiet any of my boys being sent out to places such as Malaya and having to go into front line action more or less immediately.
From my own experience I know, as do hon. and gallant Gentlemen, that it used to take—I do not know if it is now the case—six months before a man was sufficiently trained to draw his proficiency pay of an extra 6d. per day. That was in the days when infantry weapons consisted only of small arms and one or two other comparatively simple weapons; but today, when the infantry man, for example, is expected to know about a whole range of mechanical aids to warfare, I should have thought that before that soldier was put into the front line in places like 727 Malaya he would want considerably more than 16 weeks' basic training. I ask my right hon. Friend whether he can tell us if there are battle schools in Malaya so that these young men can get, as it were, a pre-front line training before they are involved in very desperate conditions such as they have to meet in jungle warfare.
I cannot go as far as the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington on the question of calling up the Home Guard or certain portions of it, but I agree with him to some extent. The speech of my right hon. Friend may be significant in that connection when he said that the Anti-Aircraft Command is the largest Command in the Army and is taking much of our resources in men and weapons. I should think it would be possible for a considerable number of the home base defences in England to be on a more static footing than at present.
Obviously in the field Army we want men trained to be mobile; but in this country, which will be the great fortress of Europe if ever we should be involved in war, we might organise a large part of the Anti-Aircraft Command on what I would call a Territorial basis. Men could give week-to-week service without having to go long distances from their homes, and in the event of an emergency they would have been trained together as a team; not merely for 15 days a year, as my right hon. Friend seemed to imply. They would be men who lived together and knew each other: who came from the same localities and manned the same guns in the same spots. No doubt this matter has received consideration by the War Department, and indeed I have mentioned it on more than one occasion.
I think I may safely say that I am now an old soldier, and I view with considerable dissatisfaction that sentence in the Memorandum of my right hon. Friend in which he says, under the heading of "Discipline," that the second largest crime in the Army is stealing. What the causes are I do not know, although I have my suspicions. I only know this— and this is going a long way back—that in the First World War we had a wonderful Regular Army where stealing from a comrade was considered to be one of the most grievous crimes and was punished accordingly. I should like to know a little more about this stealing, 728 and whether it is due to that pilfering habit which seemed to become so rife owing to the shortages during the last war and since. I do not know, but I think it ought to be stamped out, perhaps sometimes a little more ruthlessly than is the practice at the moment. Whatever we may say about this crime in civil life, in a community so closely knit as the Army it is something which, in my view, is far worse.
§ Brigadier Head
In the Army there are two offences, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, stealing and unlawful possession, and there is a difference between them. One is a very bad crime and the other, at one time, became almost a military sport. I am wondering whether we are over-emphasising the stealing, which to a large extent might be unlawful possession. Although that it is a bad thing, it is not so serious a crime in the Army as stealing.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am merely taking up the sentence in the Memorandum of my right hon. Friend, where he specifically says, under the heading of "Discipline," that the second largest crime is stealing, not as one used to call it "winning," but stealing. If I understand English, I know what is the meaning of "stealing," whether it be in civilian life or in the Army.
§ Mr. Bellenger
No, the first is desertion and absence without leave. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend can give the House any figures of the numbers of deserters, or whether for security reasons that is not possible, but I should like to know what is the figure.
§ Brigadier Rayner (Totnes)
As the right hon. Gentleman will admit—and I am now speaking as an old soldier—there is a difference between stealing and "scrounging."
§ Mr. Bellenger
I thought I had admitted that, but I am dealing only with stealing and not "winning" or "scrounging." or whatever it may be called.
I can assure my right hon. Friend that what I have had to say has not been in criticism, either of him or of the Service to which I belonged for a good portion 729 of my political and private life; but in common with other hon. Members I have the interests of that Service at heart. If I might relate my remarks to what my right hon. Friend has put into his Memorandum, I would say that they are introspective, in the same way as that Memorandum was produced by himself in his own Department.
Whatever the differences may be—and it is quite evident that there are differences between hon. Members opposite and hon. Members on this side of the House—we must not forget that for the time being my right hon. Friend is the head of the Army. If our criticism is wild, or wide of the point, or personal, then, to a certain extent it is deflected from his head on to the Army itself. The Army is a very loyal Service as I myself have found. It is loyal to every Secretary of State, whatever his political opinion, so long as it is convinced that that Secretary of State has the interests of the Service at heart.
We are experiencing very difficult times. The times ahead are anything but bright. All I ask is that when we come to consider defence matters, whether they be within the realm of the Minister of Defence or in the Service Departments, we should consider them only from one point of view, namely, the best interests of our own country and of those Services which I am sure all hon. Members, whatever their political opinions, have at heart.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Duncan Sandys (Streatham)
There are a number of points in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War which I should like to take up, but since there are many other hon. Members who wish to take part in this debate, I will confine myself to one topic, and that is tanks. I wish to ask the Government several questions on this subject. I listened with attention to the remarks made by the Secretary of State on this subject, but I must say that he really did not add anything at all to the information which had already been given to us previously.
He told us once again that we had the Centurion tank and that it is a very good tank. I think he might have told us a little more. Incidentally he said that the Centurion was a completely post-war 730 tank. Of course, the Centurion, as such, has been manufactured since the war, but he well knows that one of the great advantages of the Centurion is that it is not a new post-war design. On the contrary it has a long history of development behind it. No tank is a good tank unless its roots go back into the past. The Centurion has been evolved from the Cromwell and the Comet which were developed during the war. One of the most important components in any tank is the engine. The engine in the Centurion is the Rolls Royce Meteor engine de? veloped during the war for the Cromwell tank.
The Minister spoke about the reliability of the Centurion. Before putting the Cromwell tanks into service in Normandy, we laid down as a standard that on an average they had to be capable of running 3,000 miles without a major breakdown. I was glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that close attention is being paid to the question of mechanical reliability, and that the Centurion has done well in Korea.
The other important element in tank design is its fighting capacity. Here it is not a question of attaining a specified standard such as one can set for mechanical reliability. For it is not enough to have a good tank. What matters is to have a better tank than the enemy, and that depends on the power of your gun and the thickness of your armour. What matters to the crew in the tank is that their tank should be able to knock out the enemy tank at a range at which the enemy tank cannot knock them out.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give us more information on this point. I should like to know at what range the gun in our Centurion can penetrate the frontal armour of the Russian Stalin tank, and at what range the Stalin tank can penetrate the Centurion? There should be no security grounds for refusing this information since I understand that at least one Centurion has fallen into the hands of the enemy in Korea. If that is so, they know the measurements of our armour and they are capable of examining our gun. Therefore, it ought to be possible to give these figures without giving any new information to the enemy.
One of the most important decisions in the designing of a tank is to settle the 731 relative priority to be given to the competing demands of gun and armour. It is all a question of weight. If it is decided to mount a bigger gun, of course it weighs more and its ammunition is bigger and heavier. Since there is a maximum weight which the chassis can carry, the extra weight of the gun has to be deducted from the weight available for armour. What is more, the bigger gun has a longer recoil inside the turret, which means that the turret must be enlarged. In order to cover the larger turret with armour, without increasing the total weight of the tank, the thickness of the armour has to be reduced. Alternatively you have to start all over again and build a bigger and heavier chassis capable of carrying more weight.
There is a limit beyond which we cannot usefully increase the weight and size of our tanks. In my opinion, we are approaching that limit. Apart from the question of expense—and I believe that a tank today costs about £30,000—the size and weight of tanks is ultimately governed by the strength of the bridges and the width of railway tracks, over which they have to travel. I do not think that there is very much margin left for further increases in weight or size. Nevertheless, we must clearly go on trying to increase the punching power of our tank guns. Improvement must continue. We cannot stand still. It appears to me that there are two ways of tackling this problem. One is to develop a recoil-Jess tank gun.
The other method is to increase the armour-piercing qualities of the ammunition, as we did in the war by the introduction of shaped charges and the super high velocity sabot ammunition. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman for details about present developments, but I trust that these two lines of development are being pursued and that progress is being made.
I said that I thought that we were nearing the limit for the size and weight of tanks. That, of course, only applies to general purpose tanks. There is, I am sure, a real need for a small number of very heavily armoured assault tanks, which would be held in reserve and used for special operations. Their role would be to deal with strongly defended positions which were holding up the advance 732 of our troops. In the design of these tanks, armoured protection should have overriding priority. Speed is of no consequence, and even the gun is of secondary importance. In 1943, when I was at the Ministry of Supply, I ordered, as an experiment, the manufacture of two or three extra heavy tanks of this kind, so that we might gain experience. I gave this type the name of "Tortoise" so as to impress upon the designers that it was to be a slow-moving vehicle with a thick shell.
Can the Secretary of State tell us what the present policy is in regard to heavy tanks? As far as I know, the Army have not got any heavy assault tanks. Has the War Office decided that heavy tanks are not needed? If this has been decided, the right hon. Gentleman should, I feel, explain to us the reasons for that decision.
Now, let me say a word about future developments. In tank development one can never afford to be satisfied with what one has got. All the time one has to be striving to replace it with something better. What is a good tank in 1951 may be a bad tank in 1952, if, in the meanwhile, the enemy has produced a bigger, stronger and better model. There should at all times, be in existence at least three gnerations of tanks; first, an up-to-date tank in active service; secondly, a successor to that tank which should have reached the prototype stage and should be running at experimental establishments; and lastly, there should be a third generation, the grandchild, on the drawing board.
The Secretary of State spoke somewhat vaguely about a successor to the Centurion. When I questioned him as to whether this successor to the Centurion, about which he was speaking, was on the drawing board or whether the prototypes had already been manufactured, he refused to reply on security grounds. If a successor to the Centurion really exists and is running as a prototype, what possible harm can it do to tell the House and the world? The fact that the Secretary of State refuses to make a statement on this point can only give the impression, which I hope is false, that he is not able to say that we have a prototype, because we have not. The conclusion will, I am afraid, be drawn that we have nothing except on paper. If the right hon. Gentleman is in a position to say something 733 more encouraging, I hope he will not fail to do so tonight.
As regards tank production, we have been told that the programme has been doubled. As usual we have not been told what was the starting figure, and, in consequence, we are not in a position to judge of the adequacy of this doubled programme. But one thing is quite certain, and that is that the present tank production programme, even after it has been doubled, will have to be enormously expanded in the event of war. Therefore, I ask the Secretary of State this question: Has he told his colleague the Minister of Supply in precise terms what expansion in tank production would be necessary in the event of an outbreak of war? Also, have the industries concerned been warned of what is likely to be required of them, so that they can begin to make their provisional plans?
In the last war, the production of Cromwell tanks at one stage was severely limited by the fact that we were unable to manufacture tank engines at a rate sufficient to match the output of the tanks themselves. The reason was that we had changed over to the new Rolls-Royce Meteor engines, and that it took some time before we could get the factories tooled up for the new design. Today, the Government are not faced with that difficulty. The engine of the Centurion is the same engine as that of the Cromwell tank of the last war, and a very fine engine it is, too. That means that the same machine tools as were used in the last war can be used again. This should assure us of a flying start and should save many months of delay in getting large-scale engine production going. Can the Secretary of State tell us whether he has an assurance from the Minister of Supply that these vital machine tools for the production of the Meteor engine have not been dispersed or disposed of and that they would be immediately available in the event of need? This is a matter of great importance. I hope, therefore, that in his reply he will be able to give us this assurance.
In conclusion, let me say that my personal impression is that the Government are not giving to tank development and production the attention which this important question deserves; that having got a good tank in the Centurion, they are resting on their oars; that when the 734 Centurion becomes obsolescent in a year or so's time, the Government will not have a successor ready to take its place; that our present rate of production is totally inadequate, even for our present needs, and that no effective plans are being made to expand it in the event of war. My misgivings may, in certain respects, be unfounded; if so, the right hon. Gentleman will no doubt correct me when he winds up the debate. In any case, I am sure that I am expressing the views of hon. Members in all parts of the House when I say that I hope that in future we shall be given much more information about tanks than we have received in the past.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I hope that the two ex-Cabinet Ministers may forgive me if I do not follow them in their argument, because it is only ex-Ministers who can ask questions, knowing precisely that they are the questions which they would never have dreamt of answering themselves. I will leave that as the private game of those who have tried and failed.
I should like to return to what I thought was the most arresting suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) when he proposed that we should consider forming the nucleus of a Home Guard. If I followed the speech of the Secretary of State aright, I think his most important remark was when he stressed that we had become in part a continental Power and not an island Power, and I believe it is logical to say that, if we have become, in a sense, tactically a part of Europe, then we must behave, in terms of our military organisation, as Europeans. Therefore, I think that in terms of what the Minister himself argued, this suggestion for a nucleus of the Home Guard is something which, however unpleasant it may be, should be seriously and objectively considered.
§ Mr. Crossman
Yes, now, in peacetime. On the other hand, if I may say so to the Minister, he seemed to me to cite only one half of the proposition. If we are now part of Europe, it does 735 not follow that Europe, including ourselves, is defensible. It is not; and that is why I have always been opposed to the concept of a European Army. I think it misleads us into the view that Europe is a strategical entity which can be defended on its own. It is a curious paradox that at the moment we become more closely a part of the Continent of Europe, we are more strategically united across the Atlantic, Without full-scale American help in peace-time, this part of the world called Western Europe cannot defend itself out of its own resources.
I often wonder whether in our discussions on this subject we are fully aware of the revolution in national sovereignty which is now taking place in the obscurity of committees of the Atlantic Pact. We are all now sacrificing sovereignty, and, if I may say so to the Government Front Bench, it would only be fair to the people of this country to let them know what sacrifices we are making, instead of there appearing, almost by a mistake through a leak, in a Danish newspaper sensational news about one naval appointment in the new pooled command.
I do not think that the people of this country are aware that national sovereignty as we knew it in the old days is being destroyed by the military integration of the Atlantic Pact. Least of all are they aware that in the passing of national sovereignty, the Americans are making at least as big a sacrifice as we are. I think it is worth stressing that, as late as 1940, the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was able to decide not to throw the Metropolitan Air Force into the Battle of France. I believe that was a correct decision, even though it meant the tragic fact that we accepted the defeat and occupation of France in order to liberate it later.
Yes, it would have happened anyway, but we had to make the decision, and I would point out that there was no integrated command at that time to order us to do otherwise.
For those who are upset by our British sacrifice of sovereignty, it is worth observing that in modern war the temptation to cut losses would today be very great on 736 the other side of the Atlantic. Integration now is all in our favour. We need it as France needed it in 1940. We want to be sure that there is no question of pulling out and defending only the other side of the Atlantic. In demanding that there should be six American divisions in Europe, we are fundamentally changing the American Constitution. We are making it impossible for Congress any more to have the clear-cut decision of peace and war. That is a convulsion in their national life. I feel that if we do not explain these facts about the U.S.A. clearly to our people, they may not be able to accept the fact that the transformation in our own sovereignty has got to come.
May I now come to another point? The right hon. Gentleman asked for six British divisions in Europe. I was surprised at that demand. I think I am right in saying that we should have five divisions in the course of time. Four is what we are planning now, and we can hope for five. But to ask for six at a moment when the Middle East is almost entirely undefended, is to accept the illusion that the free world is in danger of being defeated only in Western Europe and the Far East. That is to neglect what may be a most vital area.
I have been surprised at the absence of any mention of the Middle East in the debate so far, especially when I recall the murder which took place in Teheran only yesterday. That might well be the Serajevo of the third world war, because there is so much uncertainty and open temptation to the aggressor in Persia. That is why I think it is our special British responsibility not to be over-persuaded by the French and the Americans into sending everything to Europe. We must persuade our friends that our responsibilities in the Middle East have at least an equal priority with Europe. Unless we do that, we are not being true Allies.
I happened to be out there during this Christmas, and I must say that I was profoundly depressed by the fact that at the present moment, if a war happened, the Russian Army could advance virtually without opposition as far as the Suez Canal through Persia and Iraq. I cannot see that in Iraq, Lybia, Syria, or in any other so-called Arab democracy, there would be any serious resistance at all. 737 There are only three nations which would resist—Turkey, Israel and Jordan.
§ Mr. Crossman
If I may complete the argument, I think it is important to realise that of the three States ready to resist, the Israelis and the Jordanians are now at loggerheads with one another, and would be unable to give us any assistance as they are defending themselves against each other. Indeed when I asked the Israeli the question which the right hon. Gentleman put to me, they said, "What is the good of going into a defensive alliance with you British when there is nothing to go in with? You have first to build the nucleus of a Middle Eastern and decide the base it is going to have." So long as we have not decided whether the base is to be in Libya, in Jordan or in Egypt, I cannot see that we can create any serious defence of the Middle East. It is a subject on which I should like more information from the Government.
Now for the question of colonial armies mentioned by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) who opened for the Opposition. I think there is an inclination on the other side of the House to regard colonial armies as a cheap and easy way of increasing the number of troops available for the defence of ourselves. It is a grave mistake to believe that we can use colonial troops in this way. If there are to be colonial armies, they must be armies of people defending their own liberties and their own countries, and they must be persuaded that any common strategy with us is a strategy which defends them at least as much as it defends us.
I agree that the development of colonial armies is of first rate importance; but not so much for the purpose of assisting ourselves, but because I am convinced that in the development of the people in a backward State towards democracy, the formation of an army is one of the most important stages of national emancipation. I am impressed for instance by the fact that in contrast with all the Arab States to which we granted the blessings of "political democracy," only Jordan shows any real 738 stability or any ability to administer itself. I believe that is because for 25 years Englishmen have developed there a volunteer army consisting, not of a horde of conscript destitute peasants, but of 12,000 Arabs who have been trained to be honest and trained to be the skeleton of a modern democratic State. I believe that if we are to have democracy in the Gold Coast or in the Middle East, one essential element is the encouragement of those people to form their own armies, and to fight for their own liberties.
I sometimes wonder whether, instead of having all the colonial students we see in London, who so quickly get a feeling of colour prejudice every time a lodging-house keeper insults them, and who get some very strange ideas at the universities they attend, it would not be more useful if we were to train many more of them here as officers, not in our army, but in the new armies of their own countries, which they could feel to be their very own. If that is the sort of colonial army the House wants, then I think that on this side we could be 100 per cent. in favour of it.
But if the idea is, because we are short of manpower here, that we should borrow a few blacks or a few yellows, that is not going to work, because, as we know, such armies melt away in the stress of war. The "colonial" army worth having is the Burmese Army. We let Burma leave the Commonwealth and make its own mistake. The Burmese Army therefore is an army which has fought for itself and regained its country from Communist control. Whereas colonial armies formed only to fight for us will collapse every time they come up against Communism.
I turn now to one last subject about which I want to ask questions of the Minister, and that is political warfare. We have hardly had it mentioned, and I doubt whether it would be mentioned even if we had a normal Defence debate. I happen to have spent all the last war in working on that subject. It is true, of course, that most soldiers regard political warfare as a trick or a substitute that one tries when everything else has failed. There were occasions in the last war when, soldiers or sailors having got into a desperate jam and every ordinary method having failed, they would say, "let us try those queer people, the 'political warfare boys,' and see if they can do anything 739 about it." What a time to call upon our service!
Yet as the Minister made clear in his speech, political warfare is an important part of every modern strategy whether designed to win or to prevent a war. It means the recognition of the mass participation of every man, woman and child in modern total war, the recognition, therefore, of the overwhelming importance of civilian morale, whether on the enemy side or on our own side. We see that finally epitomised in the ability of the guerillas to stand up to the most powerful totalitarian State on one condition—that the majority of the population acquiesce in their being in revolt. They do not have to be enthusiastic, it is enough that they acquiesce. In Palestine the Irgunites had only an army of a few hundred terrorists. We had 10,000 men there and we could never suppress them. That was because the population acquiesced and were willing to harbour them and not to denounce them.
The rôle played by civilian morale is, therefore, of decisive importance in modern war. In dealing with it, we made every possible mistake in the last war, but I think we learned two lessons. The first is that one cannot conduct political warfare unless the control is entirely integrated. One cannot have separate British political warfare, American political warfare and French political warfare. One must have a common policy. Of course each will still have its national flavour and it is very important to keep that, but there must be integrated control and planning of policy. If, taking an extreme case, American propaganda, as it often does, gives the peoples of the Baltic the impression that liberation is coming tomorrow, and we give them the impression it certainly is not coming, that does not give confidence to the people of the Baltic States. One can have individual national propaganda if one likes, but a united and integrated policy at the top is absolutely essential.
The second thing we discovered is that when you are dealing with an area of military operations, whether it is a matter of civilians in places occupied by our men or of civilians behind the enemy lines, all political warfare must be in the hands of the military. The Foreign Office and the diplomats have no understanding 740 of this job whatsoever; and thank God they do not, because they would be very bad diplomatists if they did. It has nothing to do with their job.
Soldiers, on the other hand, understand this matter very well. They want to shorten the war and reduce casualties and use every possible expedient to induce the other side to give way without being killed. It is not the soldiers who believe that their job is to kill all the enemy. It is the politicians who believe that. On the whole, the soldiers believe in getting a war over without fighting at all. That is their ideal as is shown, for instance, in papers now coming out about the German military staff's advice to Hitler in the 1930's. It is always the soldiers who say to the politicians, Do not go to war, because we cannot be sure of winning. "This is why the soldiers understand the need of political warfare to deal with morale on their own side and with morale on the enemy side as well.
I was glad to hear from the Secretary of State for War that we have just started political warfare in Malaya. I should like to know how active this political warfare is and whether, for instance, the prisoners of war we take are indoctrinated, trained and sent back as agents. Without this political warfare, one can have all the police forces in the world and one will still never get rid of the guerillas. One can succeed only if one solves the economic and social problem and one has the instruments to put one's policy over to the civilians.
In Korea every mistake possible has been made in political warfare. I presume our aim was to unify and liberate Korea. But if one looks at the facts, the aim seems to have been to wipe out as many civilians as possible. I cannot help asking whether if the political warfare in that campaign had ever been considered, the U.N. Command would have tolerated the type of strategic bombing that took place over large areas and the killing of literally hundreds of thousands of civilians by white men, suspected anyway of imperialism, would all that have been undertaken so ruthlessly and with such devastating effects on the Asiatic attitude to the United Nations Organisation, if anyone had studied the lessons of the last war. If ever there was a place where every rule of political warfare was broken it was in Korea.
741 There is a story, which may be a myth, that when hundreds of thousands of civilians streamed south, the Americans believed they streamed south because of fear and hatred of Communism. Of course they did not stream south because of fear of Communism. They streamed south because of fear of American bombing. We had in Korea a total destruction of civilian life carried out in defiance of any regard for the objective we had there. During the last war there was the same thing in Germany. We prolonged the last war for a whole year by adopting that sort of attitude in Germany. It is profoundly depressing to find that the lessons we could have learned from the stupidity of unconditional surrender and the terrible waste and slaughter of strategic bombing in Germany, such as the deliberate killing of refugees in Dresden, have not been learned. Or is that too pessimistic? Perhaps we should note the contrast between Korea and Malaya. Perhaps the truth is that the British have learned a great deal whereas an American general I must not mention has learnt nothing at all. If so, this is an encouraging contrast from our British point of view.
I conclude with this thought. As the Secretary of State said, there are three struggles going on—an economic struggle, a political struggle, and, in a few parts of the world, a military struggle. One can win the economic and political struggle without ever wielding the military instrument, provided that that instrument is strong enough to deter an aggressor. But I claim that one cannot win a military struggle, even in minor campaigns, unless one understands the political and economic struggle and one co-ordinates the military struggle throughout with the other two.
There should have been a rehabilitation policy behind the lines in Korea. There we should have been showing what we would do for the Koreans if they accepted U.N. control. The fact is that today a purely military campaign is utterly disastrous to democracy. The men who believe one can win a modern war by purely military means without including the political and social factors are the men who make our defeat possible. The greatest possible contribution this country can make in the struggle of the free peoples is to put it into the minds of our American Allies that political war- 742 fare and economic warfare are the offensive weapons of democracy, whereas military warfare must remain a defensive weapon. We should use the military method only in the last resort, and even in those areas where there is war we must be prepared to have a policy designed to make the citizens of that area and the soldiers alike feel that in being occupied by our Armies they are occupied by people genuinely bringing them the chance of freedom, security and peace.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
I shall not endeavour to follow the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) on the Korean campaign, if only because it appears to have very little relevance to the Army Estimates.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
We are asked to vote this year £480 million as compared with £299 million last year. That is a very large increase, and I can only express the hope that this time we shall get more value for our money, which certainly has not been the case in the last two or three years.
Again, I would stress that we are getting far too little information about the Army, about its strength, its distribution, its organisation and its readiness for war. We ought to be told at least as much as we were told in the pre-war years, all of which is certain to be known by the foreign intelligence services. We have not got even the monthly Army List. That, at least, used to tell us something about the Army, about its stations and distribution. The Memorandum does give us some particulars, although all too few regarding the present day Army.
The Minister of Defence has told us that on 1st April there will be in the Army some 388,000 men, and these he divides into 220,000 "fighting elements" and 168,000 "non-fighting elements." I asked the Secretary of State a Question on this subject last week, and he replied that it would not be in the public interest to give a numerical analysis of these 168,000 men. He went on to say that they were employedon such duties as the supply, service and maintenance of fighting troops, including medical, dental, educational and pay duties, the manning of base organisations at home and overseas, and on training."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February. 1951; Vol. 484, c. 1914.]743 To have anything like 168,000 non-fighting elements, compared with 220,000 fighting elements, is an extravagance we certainly cannot afford. There ought to be a very serious combing out of these non-fighting elements.
We are told, on training and manœuvres, that the new divisions will be exercised in higher training in the autumn. We should like to know whether these divisions will be divisions in anything other than name, or will they be skeleton divisions with possibly inadequate and obsolescent equipment? We should have some assurances on that. I am sure the House is glad to know that there will be co-operation by the occupying forces of our Allies in the manœuvres of the British Army of the Rhine.
I was very glad to see that there are to be "adjustments in the training organisation," and that these adjustments involve the re-formation of something in the way of recruit training centres, which were referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). I am certain that this is a very sound reversion to former practice. Whether they are to be regimental depots or group depots, it is a very necessary reform in either case to dissociate recruit training from the training of higher units.
I should like also to see the cessation of indiscriminate cross-posting of personnel between different regiments—it is destructive of the regimental spirit—and some of the battalions which have been placed in what is euphemistically called "suspended animation," in other words, disbanded, ought to be re-raised.
The Memorandum states in paragraph 16:The regular content of the active Army is still below what is necessary to support efficient forces of the size we are now required, by our international commitments, to maintain.Pay has quite rightly been greatly improved, which is something that has been long recommended from this side of the House, and there has been a corresponding improvement in recruiting. To get still better results, I suggest something in the way of improved amenities, or possibly privileges, for the soldiers are required. For instance, soldiers should be given a better and smarter dress. The 744 soldier is now the only man in the United Kingdom who has no best suit. He ought to have a best suit, and the sooner he gets it the better. I suggest that additional travel warrants for leave in the United Kingdom might well be issued, an expenditure which could be afforded.
I am sure we all welcome the news that the construction of further married quarters is being pushed on, but I again urge that the arrangements for re-settlement in civil life should include a guarantee of Government employment for Regular soldiers of good character when they finish their time. Men with no less than a "very good" character should be able to count Army service towards pensions in services such as the police and the Post Office.
The Secretary of State says that he is not satisfied with the Regular officer position. Again, I suggest that the conditions of service might be further improved. For instance, free travel warrants for leave in the United Kingdom—they do not get much leave these days—might well be allowed, and some form of better and smarter dress is also required for officers as well as for other ranks. The iniquitous system of taxing allowances should also be abolished. An officer who is housed in barracks does not have to pay any tax on his quarters, but if he has to find quarters for himself when the War Office cannot find them for him and he gets an allowance to pay for quarters, although the allowance may be quite adequate for the purpose before the deduction of tax, he very often finds that it is quite inadequate for the purpose after the tax deduction has been made. That is a very sore point with officers. We cannot expect to have a contented body of officers so long as injustices of that sort are perpetrated upon them.
Another point of grievance is pensions and retired pay. I again draw attention to the grievances of those officers, mostly of the First World War, who retired under the 1919 Royal Warrant. That Royal Warrant laid down that pensions would rise or fall according to the rise or fall in the cost of living. They have fallen all right, and then been stabilised; they have never risen to correspond with the very high rise in the cost of living. That is another grievance, and that is what is influencing a great many older officers 745 when their sons or young friends talk to them about their prospects in the Army. When they tell them this is the sort of treatment they may get, many of them are put off.
As to staff officers, are not the staffs of the War Office and Commands unduly swollen as compared with pre-war times? Are these great increases really necessary? Could not a great many of these staff officers be employed with advantage in training and commanding troops? Many of our young soldiers badly need a sufficiency of efficient instructors. The combing out of administrative non-combatant and semi-combatant staffs and personnel is not only desirable but long overdue. Only those necessary to ensure fighting efficiency should be retained, and I include in those some to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred—the older officers, who might be perfectly well employed on training duties and who would be very useful indeed in that capacity.
Then there is the question of equipment. I will not say anything about tanks, because that subject has been so ably dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). Korea has shown the importance of infantry, but they must be up to date in training and in equipment. I think it is obvious that our troops in Korea have been extremely well trained, or, at any rate, the lines on which they were trained were right.
I have had it urged upon me by very practical soldiers that the greatest requirement now is a self-propelled infantry gun which should be an integral part of brigades, or, better still, of battalions, and which should possess adequate protection for the gun's crew. I am told that the 17-pounder, although a powerful and excellent gun in its way, has two very serious defects. One is an excessive flash which draws fire upon it at once and frequently means that it fires very few rounds before it is knocked out, and the other is that it has inadequate protection for the gun's crew. Mortars are, of course, essential but I am told that they might with advantage be heavier in their projectiles and that they might be more numerous than they are now.
I believe that a better machine gun than our old friend the Vickers is re- 746 quired. I am far from saying that the Vickers is a bad gun. It is a magnificent gun, but it is big and heavy, and italso suffers from the disadvantage that there are a great many stoppages which have to be learned very thoroughly. I am told that there is a gun called the "Beza" and another gun called the Browning which might be better, lighter and simpler than the Vickers.
I am glad to hear that excessive transport has been reduced. I have no doubt that we have too much of it, and there was certainly need for a 20 per cent. reduction. The Army's numbers are to be greatly increased in this and the following years but, as I have been saying for some time, numbers alone do not win wars, and still less when they include a great many non-combatants. What we must have is large numbers of trained disciplined men organised in operational units and formations, with adequate and up-to-date equipment and weapons, and with adequate reserves behind them. I hope, at any rate, that we are on the way, though I quite realise it cannot all be done at once, to getting something like those reserves. But I wonder about the organisation. The proper organisation of the Army is one of the Government's earliest tasks.
There is another matter of importance. Our forces must be properly balanced; that is to say, there must be a correct proportion of the different arms of the Service and of the necessary supply and maintenance services, and there must be adequate air co-operation and support of the troops. I doubt whether in the Army as a whole there is actually such a balance of arms and of ancillary services. Certainly it is not so in Korea, where we now have two separate brigades. I asked the right hon. Gentleman a Question about this, and he gave me some particulars from which I gathered that the 27th Brigade, consisting of two British battalions and one Australian battalion, has no supporting arms or even supply and maintenance services of its own, and is dependent for those on the Americans, while the 29th Brigade is self-contained; but the two brigades are not organised in one balanced formation, and they are not, as they ought to be, under one commander with his own staff.
747 It is, in fact, a thoroughly unsound state of affairs from the point of view of organisation, and the fact that the 27th Brigade was formed and sent out in a hurry is no reason why it should not long since have been properly organised and included with the 29th Brigade in a British formation with its own ancillary troops and services. The fact that, in spite of defects of organisation, British troops have fought splendidly does not alter the fact that there were these defects in organisation.
Unfortunately, this lack of organisation is, I believe, typical of present-day conditions in the Army. In this country we have a mass of partially-trained and ill-organised men of whom certainly at present the best use is not being made. We hope that the schemes which the Secretary of State is going to produce will lead to a different state of affairs, but at present we have not got organised and properly trained forces.
I would again suggest, with reference to our responsibilities, particularly in the Middle East and Far East, the formation of African divisions. I understood from the right hon. Gentleman—I hope I understood correctly—that it is proposed to form Colonial divisions. Am I wrong?
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
I thought the right hon. Gentleman said, amongst his other remarks, that he had favourably considered the formation of colonial troops. Am I wrong?
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I would suggest the formation of African divisions. I think we ought to form colonial divisions to take the place, to some extent, at any rate, of the Indian Army. The loss of the Indian Army is a tremendous loss to us. I suppose it was cheerfully given away without any thought of the difference it would make to our responsibilities in the Far and Middle East. We 748 should be in a very different position today if we had the Indian Army. Now African troops should be raised. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that they did admirable service in the last war, especially in Burma, and the raising of three or four divisions would add greatly to our potential strength.
I appreciate that there would be some difficulties, as, for instance, a deficiency of Africans with sufficient education and intelligence to provide the technical and other skilled personnel required. I suggest, however, that these deficiencies could be made up from home resources, or perhaps we could go one step further and raise a foreign legion, possibly from among Poles and others who have fought for us, and possibly even by a resuscitation of the old King's German Legion in our own Army.
So far as the first and most important part of our Army is concerned, which is to take the lead in Western European defence, I think it is necessary that we should have six divisions, if possible, ready to take the field without delay, organised, balanced and well-equipped. We know that negotiations have been going on and that the Commander-in-Chief has been appointed, but how far has the organisation of our own and our allies' contingents proceeded? Have plans of action been agreed? What is the state of readiness for the field of our own and the combined Forces?
The second, and also very important, task of the Army is, as I have said, the maintenance and strengthening of our positions in the Middle and Far East. As I have said before, and as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington has said, I cannot stress too much the desirability of some measure of standardisation of arms and equipment, thus facilitating replacement and ammunition supply. I remember that some time ago the right hon. Gentleman gave an assurance that this matter was under consideration and that we were aiming at such a standardisation. I hope that the importance of it, when troops of different nations have to work together, will be fully appreciated.
I know it is difficult—I am well aware of the difficulties—but we should aim at this standardisation. Not only should we try to get some standardisation of arms 749 and equipment but also some standardisation in the composition of units and formations. What I mean is that a battalion or a brigade or a division, or whatever it may be, should mean the same thing in different Armies which have to work together and, if possible, some standardisation in or at least assimilation of staff methods is also de-siderable. For instance, some of the staff methods of the French, are very different from our staff methods. I am one of the very few remaining who commanded a considerable British Force in a French Army in the First World War, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that these differences made themselves felt. They were real and practical difficulties. Although we got on very well with the French, those difficulties confronted us.
Another suggestion which I think is worthy of consideration is the desirability of some assimilation of the ranks held by opposite numbers in different Armies. Again, at the time of which I was speaking, I became aware—althought I did not realise it when I first went there—that the French very much resented the fact that the commander of every British unit or formation was in every case senior to his opposite number in the French Army —that is, if he was anything less than a divisional commander. We gave temporary rank to subalterns commanding companies; the French did not. We gave temporary rank to the commanders of battalions and batteries; the French did not. Our staff officers were always a peg higher than the corresponding French staff officers.
It sounds a small thing, but when great Armies have to work together and when Armies are composed of men from different nations who are inclined to look at things from their own particular point of view, then it becomes a difficult matter when every commander or staff officer is of a different rank from that of his opposite number. I hope some consideration will be given to that point. I do not doubt that one of the reasons we have a great many temporary ranks in the British Army is in order to give higher pay to a certain number of officers who would not otherwise receive it, and it may be difficult to overcome that problem. It may not be so difficult now, however, in view of the fact that rates of pay have been raised.
750 I conclude by adding my small voice to that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington and others in urging that at least a cadre of the Home Guard should be formed. Again, I have some personal experience in this connection. I was what was called the county organiser in a large county which had a very large number of battalions—I forget the exact number—and I was suddenly told one day, "Go ahead and raise a Home Guard." I motored many miles going to see people I knew and people I did not know and people of whom I knew, begging them to take some part; but it was a very scratch procedure. I am sure that the same thing was taking place in every county and every big town and the amazing thing is that anything grew out of it at all. The fact is that we cannot possibly raise an efficient force in a short time that way.
If the Home Guard is needed, it is likely that it will be needed at short notice. If we cannot raise the Home Guard itself, let us at any rate form the cadre and have battalion commanders appointed, adjutants appointed, company commanders appointed, and the districts in which the units will be based settled beforehand. I believe that would make a very great difference to the efficiency of the Home Guard if and when it has to be raised.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Hamilton (Fife, West)
Obviously I cannot pursue the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) in the rather technical aspect of his speech as I am very much of a layman. It is true that I spent five years in the Army, but I was under no illusion as to my soldiering capacity. When the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) was speaking about the number of rifles available, it brought back to my mind the fact that as long after the outbreak of war as early 1942, I was a trainee at Skegness with a piece of wood shaped as a rifle because we had no rifles. I sincerely hope that, in the event of another war, we shall not again be in those dire straits.
I should like to bring out one point concerning colonial troops which I think is rather important. If we are to raise black colonial troops and to use them, I suggest to my right hon. Friend that 751 he should make sure that there is no differentiation between the military code of law applied to black troops and that applied to white troops. I understand that in the last war there were different codes of law and that the code of law applied to black troops was very much more severe in its punishments than those applied under King's Regulations to white troops. For instance, I understand that the officer commanding had the power to imprison summarily a black soldier for 40 days.
That is not good enough, particularly in these days when we claim—and I think rightly claim—to be fighting a war of ideas, our ideas being based on equality of race, colour and creed. It is important that as an integral part of that war of ideas we should get rid of the differentiation between the treatment of black troops and the treatment of white troops, especially when they are fighting side by side.
I was very glad indeed that the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield stressed the provision of increased and improved amenities for the individual soldier. I do not think he has consistently pursued that line over the years, but I will come back to that in a moment. He also stressed the need for better conditions for officers. He did not specifically mention pay, but I have taken the trouble to refer to Vote 1, for pay. It is rather interesting that, so far as I know—and I have missed only one speech in the debate—no reference has been made in the speeches so far to pay. In Vote 1 I find, looking at the very highest grade of pay and then at the very lowest, that a field-marshal who is married draws £4,185, and that even a second lieutenant, the lowest grade of officer, if married gets £718.
§ Mr. Hamilton
According to the statistics which are in the Estimates a second lieutenant married gets £718. I should be out of order, probably, if I compared that with the pay of my own profession, the school-teaching profession.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I think in this direction I should be. That is the officers' scale 752 from the maximum of the field-marshal, £4,185, to the second lieutenant, £718.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
May I interrupt for one moment? The hon. Gentleman speaks of a second lieutenant who is married getting £718. I suppose that he realises that not one second lieutenant in 500 is married?
§ Mr. Hamilton
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman looks up the salary scale for an unmarried second lieutenant he will find that it is even better than the scale for the married second lieutenant.
§ Brigadier Head
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? I can see he is now going to make comparisons with officers' pay. To be very fair and realistic would the hon. Gentleman look at the warrant officers' pay compared with a second lieutenant's pay? He will find the difference very small.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that I have looked at the figures, and I have been astounded by the difference between the higher and the lower paid in the Army.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I should be out of order if I referred to the Coal Board. Two wrongs, anyhow, do not make a right.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I think these interruptions indicate a slight nervousness on the part of hon. Members opposite. If we look at the scales we find a private gets 7s. a day, £128 a year. That means that at one end of the scale we get well over £4,000 and at the other end £128. If we take the intermediate scales we get a colonel with £1,776 minimum yearly; a captain with £928 as a minimum yearly; a regular private £128; and certain National Service men 4s. a day or £73 a year. So that we get £4,185 at one end and £73 at the other.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman only a moment? It is a perfectly friendly interruption. I trust 753 that the hon. Gentleman realises that there are very few field-marshals, and that in the case of a field-marshal it probably means 40 years' service and many campaigns; while a private soldier on the lowest grade of pay has probably less than six months' service.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I agree. I am also aware, of course—I just make this observation in passing—that there are miners with 50 years' and 60 years' service whose differential is not quite at that rate.
§ Mr. Hamilton
We have a differential here in the ratio of nearly 60 to one— 60 at the highest and one at the lowest— and that is hardly a shining example of "fair shares for all," particularly in a nationalised industry.
§ Mr. H. A. Price (Lewisham, West)
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that in the case of the Government, the ratio is about 125 to one?
§ Mr. Hamilton
Again my answer is that two wrongs cannot make a right. Let us remedy them both. In the last few years, certainly since I have been in the House in the last 12 months, the Tory Party—probably quite rightly: it is certainly within their right as an Opposition —have urged economy in the public expenditure. They say, quite rightly, that taxation is extremely heavy. We say that it will get heavier, and we do not apologise for that. We also believe —and we are frequently told this—that the patriotism of every one of us in this House and outside will be put severely to the test, particularly when this armament programme gets under way.
As yet we have had no clear indication from the party opposite where they would make the cuts in public expenditure. Well, I am making a suggestion. I am suggesting that we cut the pay of Army officers, especially in the higher ranks, and give it to the privates and to the National Service men in the lowest grades.
§ Mr. Hamilton
All right. We need not give it all to the privates. Give the difference between the privates' and the 754 officers' pay in the form of food subsidies to the ordinary folk.
Major Legge-Bonrke (Isle of Ely)
How much per head?
§ Brigadier Head
Is this policy a financial corollary of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion in the House some time ago that the officers for the Army should be recruited from Dartmoor?
§ Mr. Hamilton
That observation seemed perfectly relevant. I believe that the initiative displayed by the inmates of Dartmoor would be an admirable quality in Army officers at the present day.
However, let us move away from that controversial sphere. I think it is true to say that we are all, irrespective of party, interested in the overall defence of the country. Opinions may differ— opinions do differ—in this House and outside it on how best to achieve maximum proficiency in defence. We have at one extreme the pacifists—the idealistic pacifists, if hon. Members like—and at the other extreme what I would call the negative militarists; and between these we have opinion in the intermediate grades.
I think it is also right to say—I do not think this will be controversial—that most of us believe that, in the present international situation, we have to build up our military Forces, and that those Forces must be effective. It has been stressed earlier today that it is not simply a numerical question—a question of looking at the actual number of bodies in the Army, and of judging proficiency simply by whether that figure is high or small. The effectiveness of our Army— indeed, of any army—is not measured alone by the number of men. It is not measured alone by the amount of equipment that they have. It is not measured alone by the amount of money we spend on it. It is not measured alone by the industrial capacity that is behind it. The strength of any army is dependent upon the moral fibre of the individual soldier. It is not really the physical strength of the soldier that is important. I believe that strength above the neck is what is most needed in today's citizen Army.
In the Estimates I see there is provision for education in the Forces of something like £2½ million. That is not very much. In fact, it is only half of one per cent. of the total expenditure, and it has 755 been suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield, not in this debate but in a previous one, that even that should be cut. Incidentally, it is a lower figure than last year's. His suggestion was that education in the Army was an unnecessary frill. I notice that he himself was educated at Eton and Sandhurst, but the kind of education he got he wants to deny to the private soldier.
This 19th century attitude was well expressed by Tennyson when he wrote "Their's not to reason why." That kind of attitude is dead today, except where it remains in the minds of some hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite. Even so long ago as 1892 an infantry drill manual laid it down that a private soldier should be taught to think and, subject to accepted principles, to act for himself. I do not think that anybody, whether a military man or a layman, would deny the value of education in the maintenance of the morale of our troops, in keeping the soldier's mind alert, and in fostering that individual initiative which is the essence of any good soldier.
Intelligent strength above the neck is the soldier's most important equipment in modern warfare. Any history of the Army shows that as educational standards and facilities within the Army have improved so has the type of recruit improved. We shall only get the right type of recruit when we narrow the gap or eliminate the difference between civilian life and Army life. The civilian looks on Army life as something vastly different and diametrically opposed to everything he has experienced in civilian life, and feels that a deep and wide gulf exists between the two. I believe that we shall not get the right kind of recruit unless we narrow that gulf and make it less deep.
We shall not get the right type simply by increasing the pay. Indeed, I would even suggest the contrary, that we might get the wrong type of recruit simply by increasing the pay. So far as we can humanise the Army organisation, then we shall get the recruits. From my own experience in the 1939–1945 war, I would say that the more intelligent the man is the more he revolts against the petty restrictions and regulations which make life for him so unbearable. Here we have a situation where educational standards both inside and outside the Army have improved, and, therefore, we shall get 756 more and more irritation from the average soldier over these petty regulations and restrictions. I found that the blanco fiend in the last war was an absolute nitwit, and the man who revolted against the blanco fiend and the polishing of brasses, was the man who generally was the more intellectual.
There is one further point I should like to make in connection with Army education. It is important that the soldier, particularly in foreign parts and if he is engaged in active warfare, should first know why he is in the Army at all, and, secondly, why he is fighting. I dare say most hon. Members read in the American Press in the last week or so of an American corporal fighting in Korea, who wrote home to his father asking what it was all about. The father did not know what it was about either, and so he sent the letter to Mr. Acheson and Mr. Acheson took it upon himself to write a letter of explanation to the father requesting him to send it to his boy.
That is extremely relevant, because it must be clear to a man why he is in the Army and what he is fighting for. He is not a good soldier if he is in ignorance of what is being done. After some of the speeches recently made in this House and some of the opinions expressed outside, I am not surprised if some of our men in Korea do not understand why they are there and what they are fighting for. No doubt they are rather confused as to what they are fighting for out there, but that ultimately is a reflection on the education they received before they went into the Forces and the education they are receiving in the Forces.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
I wonder if the hon. Gentleman saw quite recently the reports published in the newspapers of the large number of practically illiterate recruits, the result of the present educational system? Is that the sort of education that is wanted?
§ Mr. Hamilton
They are the products of the educational system fostered by hon. Gentlemen opposite. These are lads of 18 and 19, and if we subtract four or five years from their age it brings us back to 1945. The Labour Party was not in power in 1945.
There are some people in the educational sphere who believe that the Army organisation is incompatible with a genuine education. They maintain that 757 education flourishes only when there is freedom of thought and speech; that it cannot survive in a highly disciplined authoritarian organisation such as the Army; and that education there is a misnomer of anything which survives within the type of military organisation with which we are familiar. My own experience refutes that. In the latter part of the 1939–45 war I was an education officer.
Mr. Vane (Westmorland)
We guessed that.
§ Mr. Hamilton
What hon. Gentlemen opposite say does not deter me very much, because this is a rather important point which I am developing, and if the negative militarists on the other side of the House choose to murmur and giggle it shows their own intellectual limitations.
My own experience of the average soldier in the Army was that he was anxious for education in its broadest aspect and was particularly anxious to study civics and the whole idea of citizenship. Certainly at Mount Carmel Formation College, Haifa, we got a splendid type of young man and young woman anxious to study economics, history, psychology and all the other subjects which go to make a responsible citizen. But at unit level, the whole idea of Army education depends to an enormous extent on the enthusiasm and broad-mindedness or otherwise of the C.O. I believe that, generally speaking, in the modern Army the blimps have disappeared—they are appearing on the benches opposite—and that the majority of the C.O.s are today desirous of giving the private a knowledge of current affairs and an insight into citizenship and civics generally.
But even in the last war we had regrettable instances of C.O.s trying to suppress a genuine expression of opinion. I have an example here in which an Education Corps sergeant was severely reprimanded by his C.O. because he said at a lecture on intelligence tests that he thought that the use of intelligence tests in civilian life had shown that there exists a very imperfect co-relation between the distribution of ability and the distribution of educational opportunity, and the C.O. took him to task for expounding sheer Socialism. That kind of attempt to suppress all political opinions whether right, left or centre is quite contrary to all the 758 concepts of the war of ideas which we are fighting for, or alleged to be fighting for, today.
There is one other point which I want to make. Still on this question of education there is the question of compulsion to be considered. Those of us who were in the Army, either as privates or as officers during and after the war, know that quite often the men were compelled to go to A.B.C.A. lectures or "British Way and Purpose" lectures. Most of us have heard the story of the party who were being prepared for a lecture on Keats, and the sergeant said to them, "I don't suppose one of you would know what a Keat was."
§ Mr. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I agree with what the hon. Gentleman says about the need for education in the Army which we are forming today, but I am anxious that he should not leave any false impression. I am sure that he will agree that the converse of what he is saying is not true. The Nazis produced an exceedingly efficient Army without any of the kind of liberal education which he and I like. Although I agree with him that education is necessary, I hope that he will not give the impression that education is all, and that if one is not educated, he cannot fight.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I am not attempting to convey that impression. The impression which I am attempting to convey is that the education and welfare of the individual soldier equip him mentally, so that, in that respect at any rate, he is superior to his counterpart in the Communist armies or in the Nazis armies of the last war.
§ Mr. Hamilton
That is another matter on which I do not want to be tempted to speak. I want to say in conclusion that today, as has already been stressed, we are fighting for what we believe is a way of life, and if the ideas basic to that way of life are not seen by the individual soldier within the organisation of the Army, then he is not going to fight for them with the same efficiency and the same enthusiasm as he would otherwise do.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Preston, North)
The suggestion which the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) made earlier in his speech, that the pay of Army officers should be reduced and economies made thereby, contrasted rather sadly with the anxiety expressed by the Secretary of State for War earlier about the difficulty of recruiting officers for the Army cadres that we want to build up. I do not think that I need say more than that about the hon. Member's remarks.
As I understand it, the problem which we have to discuss today is whether we are getting value for the money which we are asked to spend. Value in these matters is a relative consideration. A six-foot leap may be a good leap as leaps go, but if one is being chased by a bull and has to jump over a ten-foot wall, it is not good enough. What we need in discussing the form and organisation of the Army is to know how far we are getting value for money from the proposals of the Government. We have to get some sort of yardstick by which to measure them. The only yardstick I see that gives a rough-and-ready impression of how far the money that is being spent is being well spent is to see how far it gives us the formations which will enable us to meet our commitments. It is very difficult to talk about commitments of this kind in purely Army terms, because the Air Force and the Navy play an inseparable role from the Army today; but for the sake of argument we must make large assumptions on these matters and look at these commitments from the Army point of view.
I think that it is generally agreed on both sides that the defence of Europe has to be priority No. 1. It has become an aspect of our home defence. As the Secretary of State for War said, if the Red Army were to be established in the Channel ports, the life could be bombed out of this country. Therefore, the defence of Europe has become an indispensable condition of our survival. The strategists tell us that between 50 and 60 divisions will be required if Europe is to be made safe against attack. Of course, the Atlantic Powers and Germany must all contribute to the building up of this force of 50 to 60 divisions, but in the building up of that force we in this country have a special responsibility. The countries on 760 the Continent which were occupied at one time or another in the last war have suffered a certain demoralising process which makes them, not unnaturally, hesitant to make as great an effort as they will have to make if the Continent is to be defended.
There is a tendency on the other side of the Channel to say, "We want to see what the English and Americans are going to do first." That tendency is particularly strong in Germany. On the other hand, in the United States there is a considerable body of opinion represented by distinguished men, such as Senator Taft, who say that the contribution of America to the defence of Europe must be in proportion to what Europe does herself.
There is a special responsibility on us to solve this dilemma and to take the lead. Of course, the amount we can contribute to the defence of Europe is severely limited by the contribution we make at sea and in the air. Nevertheless, I believe it has to be something much larger than the four divisions which, as far as I understand from the statement of the Government, are all that we so far have been able to promise to place under the command of General Eisenhower. I should have thought that a British contribution to an army which has to be, in the end, about 60 divisions strong, could not be less than six divisions, and I should have thought it might well have been eight divisions-standing on the Continent of Europe, in Germany and Austria, now in peace-time. Of course, it is arguable that we do not need to have quite so many forces on the ground in Europe, that we would have warning of a Russian build-up, that we would have time to mobilise our Territorial divisions, and so on; but are we to mobilise every time the Russians begin moving troops westwards? If so, we shall be a constant prey to a war of nerves and the victims of a political strategy which might have far-reaching consequences.
There is another more fundamental aspect to the question of having a large standing army in Europe today. It used to be said that Britain loses every battle except the last battle. But under modern conditions, if we lost the first battle we may well have lost everything else. But then we are threatened not only in 761 Europe. We are threatened quite as seriously, if not as vitally, in the Middle East, across which run our sea and air communications with that part of the Commonwealth, its greater part of which lies around the India Ocean.
What are our prospects for defence in that part of the world? They are far from hopeless. We have friends in Greece and Yugoslavia. We have our Turkish allies. We have, as the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) pointed out, the local forces of Israel and Jordan. We would not doubt get a sizable contribution, as in the past, from the Commonwealth. There was a statement of Mr. Menzies yesterday showing the continued interest of Australia in the Middle East. Pakistan might make a contribution to the defence of Persia. But we shall not get the Balkan countries pulling together, or the Commonwealth making its full contribution, unless we have a nucleus of British strength out there. I find it hard to see how that nucleus can be much less than three divisions strong.
Going farther East, we have the threat to South-East Asia. The economic importance of this region has been made clearer than ever in the last year during which Malaya alone earned more dollars than the United Kingdom. We are also aware of the strategic importance of that part of the world. If it goes, India and the Middle East may soon be in danger. At present the major burden of the defence of South-East Asia falls upon France. The Commonwealth, too, would in a crisis play its part in the defence of that region. But so must we, and I cannot see how our contribution can be much less than two divisions in South-East Asia.
If that is a fair review of our commitments in Europe, in the Middle East and in South-East Asia, and if the figures I have put forward represent more or less the number of division we shall need for the defence of those regions, then we shall need a standing Army which, allowing for garrisons in isolated Colonies and for some reserve at home, will be of the order of 15 divisions. It is all the more urgent that we should set about trying to create that standing Army as, on the admission of the Secretary of State for War, we shall not have a really properly organised or full Territorial Reserve for three and a half years.
762 Is this possible at all? Can we maintain 15 divisions in peace-time? Of course, in war-time, in 1944, we reached a peak of 27 divisions. We are still the same people and I have no doubt, if we put our minds to it, we could do at least half as much to save the peace as we did then to win the victory. Plainly, however, if we increase the strength of the Army by the equivalent of five divisions, we shall impose a great drain on our manpower and on our resources if we do it at the present rate shown by the Army Estimates.
This brings me to what is really the fundamental problem of organisation today, of how to cut the tail and strengthen the teeth of the Army. Even accepting the Prime Minister's statement that we have the equivalent of 10 divisions—and I think that that is a pretty bold assertion; I should have thought that eight fighting formations was nearer the reality —our divisional slice works out at present at something like 45,000 men; we are getting one division for every 45,000 men in the Army.
Let us see how this compares with other countries. Basing myself on the figures given by the Minister of Defence, the Russians manage to raise their divisions on a divisional slice of 16,000 men. We know, of course, that the Russian division is much smaller than ours in manpower, although its weapon strength is about the same; but even if we regard three Soviet divisions as the equivalent of two Western divisions, the Russian divisional slice is still only 24,000 as against our 45,000.
It is true that the Russians are rather different from the Western world and that we cannot entirely base suggestions for reorganising the British Army on what happens in Russia. But take the organisation of the German Army in the last war—after all, the differences between the living standards and so on of the Germans and ourselves are not so very great. In 1945 the Germans managed to raise one division out of 23,000 men. Some of their divisions were smaller and had seven battalions as against our nine, but even allowing for that, the German divisional slice was still under 30,000.
It could, perhaps, be argued that Germany had no overseas establishments to maintain and that a country with only one main military base does not have 763 quite as large a tail and does not need quite as many supply and headquarters staffs. Let us, therefore, take as perhaps a more equal comparison the present situation in France, because in terms of colonies the French now have greater colonial commitments than we have. The present French Army, on the figures I have been able to obtain, is, or will be at the end of the year, about 15 divisions strong. The divisional slice in France is to be 35,000 and it is estimated that by the end of 1952 it will be down to 30,000. If we could reach this latter figure for our divisional slice, we should be able to get 15 divisions from the existing manpower in the Army; that is to say, our 420,000 men would yield 15 divisions instead of the equivalent of 10 divisions. By a reduction from 45,000 even to 35,000 the difference would be appreciable.
I was very glad that in the recent defence debate the Minister of Defence recognised this problem and even went out of his way to do so. That, at any. rate, is half way towards solving it. But what is the Government going to do to achieve this reduction in the divisional slice which would enable us to raise an Army large enough to meet our commitments without having to make any much larger call upon our manpower? Could the Secretary of State for War at least undertake that a still closer study will be made of what was done in the past in the German Army and what is being done today in the French Army? Can he assure us that the fullest consideration has been given to the possibility of employing more women, for example, in clerical and other jobs?
Is the Minister satisfied that a sufficient investigation has been made into cutting down to a minimum the amount of impedimenta which is carried by our formations? I sometimes have a feeling that in our Army, as, indeed in the United States Army, we are haunted by a sort of White Knight complex, a feeling that we have to have every possible weapon to meet every possible emergency and that as a result the Army has to carry more experts to man them and more different types of ammunition to feed them. Is the right hon. Gentleman quite sure that we could not have greater simplification? I understand that Colonel 764 Marshall, who was observing the progress of the American Army in Korea, has made a report in rather similar vein in the United States Government. Is the Secretary of State satisfied that we have done as much as we can to prune the size of headquarters staffs and that as much as possible has been done to decentralise Army administration and so reduce the number of people employed on the chains of command?
There is another side to avoiding undue strain on our manpower which has been raised by more than one hon. Member this afternoon. It is the possibility which seems open to us in East and West Africa of recruiting colonial troops on a very much larger scale. In the last war the record of these troops was comparable with that of some of our own best units, and they showed themselves altogether suited for campaigning in the Middle East and South-East Asia.
I am well aware that there are limitations in terms of officers and N.C.O.s. and in terms of the numbers of people in those countries who are ready to come forward to volunteer; but the fact remains that we recruited something like 250,000 men from East Africa and a similar number from West Africa in the last war. I should have thought something on those lines could have been attempted again today. There should not be great difficulty in finding Army officers. After all, the same element that gave us the officers and N.C.O.s. of the Indian Army is not finding an outlet today and here might be a chance to give a long-term career to men who, for one reason or another, are not attracted by Regular service at home.
Another point which has been mentioned by many others, but which I must continue to press on the right hon. Gentleman is the importance of forming a Foreign Legion. This would be a very much smaller strain on our resources than the formation of a colonial unit. Among refugees we have large numbers of former officers and N.C.O.s. who fought side by side with our troops in the last war and are still of military age. A great many of them, as a result of fighting side by side with our troops, know our military organisation, understand how we work and would fit in without great difficulty into the main pattern of our Army. I should have 765 thought that it was not outside the bounds of possibility to raise one, if not two, divisions from such a source.
Another point was suggested by the peroration of the Secretary of State for War. He talked about the purely defensive aspect of our military policy, but also stressed the importance of taking the offensive in other fields. I agree with him entirely in what he said on that subject. I do not ask him to go into details, because it is not a subject which can easily be discussed in detail in this House and still less a subject on which the Government can give detailed information. But could the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he has satisfied himself that enough money is spent on political warfare and that enough effort is being made on building up the sort of cadre which was able to pay a considerable dividend in terms of resistance movements in the last war? That is a form of defensive preparation which gives a very high return for a very small outlay.
A certain amount has been said by the Secretary of State on the shortage of officers in the Army. It is, of course, no use crying over spilt milk, it is a fact that we have pressed on the Government since 1946 the importance of increasing the pay and making the conditions of service in the Army more attractive. The officers exist in reserve and, if the national emergency requires it, the Government must have the courage to call them up. I hope it will not be necessary. But in so far as it is necessary, it is because of the failure, as I see it, of the Government to take necessary measures in time, four or five years ago. After all, nothing in the situation has changed very much in the last five years. The dangers which confront us were clear enough to more far-sighted people at the time when the Leader of the Opposition made his speech at Fulton in 1946.
§ Mr. Thomas
Does the hon. Member forget that the Leader of the Opposition questioned whether the expenditure of £750 million on military defence in this country was necessary?
§ Mr. Amery
What I understood was that my right hon. Friend questioned whether it was a good thing to spend so much money and get so little for it. The truth is—and this is, in a sense, the measure of the Government's Army programme —that five years after the greatest war in history we face a renewed emergency without enough officers, N.C.Os. and equipment. More money is being spent on the Army and there are more men in it than ever before in our history; we have National Service but fewer fighting formations than we had on the eve of the war. That seems to me to be the measure of the Government's Army programme, and it is not very satisfactory.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Richards (Wrexham)
I feel that I am entering this debate as a very unworthy back-bencher, and I am strongly reminded of the old adage "fools rush in where angels fear to tread." I am not quite prepared to register myself as a fool, but at the same time I know that a great many hon. and right hon. Members know a great deal more about the subject than I do. I have been impressed during this debate by the fact that we in Parliament at all events are gradually becoming aware of the fact that we must not treat our own defence in isolation. It is a part of a wide scheme which, as we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), involves other countries as well as our own; and the effort, if it is to be successful, involves at all events the 12 nations which have adhered to the Atlantic Pact.
No pact in which America does not actively participate would be worth having. Consequently when we are discussing the re-armament of our own country, we must always keep in view the great interdependence there must be in future between this country and America. At the same time we cannot forget those friends of ours in the Commonwealth to whom we are, by ties of blood and of 767 history, deeply indebted by this time. Leaving America aside for the moment, I should like to consider in some detail the position of the various European countries. Without America the position in relation to the defence of the Continent of Europe is perfectly hopeless.
I should like to ask the Secretary of State, or whoever is to reply to the debate, this question: for what are we re-arming? Is it the idea that we cannot get Mr. Stalin and his colleagues to consider this very serious point until we are more adequately armed than at the moment? Is it the argument that if we arm to some extent we are likely to impress the Russians with the fact that we are in earnest over this business? Let us see where we stand. I understand that by 1953, two years hence, Western Europe will have something like 50 divisions, of which I believe it is estimated that six will be from this country. We are told that Mr. Stalin has something like 150 divisions. Therefore, this preliminary question ought to be answered: is he going to be impressed with Western Europe having re-armed to the tune of 50 divisions when he himself has 150, that is to say, three times as many? That, I consider, is the fundamental question we have to ask ourselves. Are we to try to impress the Russians? If so, is the army that we are to have in the West likely to impress Russia when, she has an army three times as big?
It is perfectly true that if we take the countries in Western Europe one by one, we shall soon find that it is only the highly industrialised nations which can face the possibility of a modern war. Broadly speaking, there are in Europe only two countries which can undertake a modern war—Germany and Russia. At the moment, Germany is in an impoverished condition, but we have to remember that her capacity for recovery is very remarkable, and the high state of education among her people would make it possible for Germany, if adequately re-armed, to take her position again as one of the great and powerful nations in Europe.
I would remind the House that in 1913, before the First World War, Germany was the predominant industrial nation in Europe. From the point of view of 768 production, particularly production of steel, the figure for Germany was three; for Great Britain it was two and for France it was one. Her capacity for production was very considerably increased during the Hitler regime, between 1933 and 1939, although there has been tremendous destruction in Germany since then. Let us look at the other nations which have joined with us in a determination to set up a powerful Western Union. I do not think we need waste very much time about the countries in Northern Europe. All that Hitler did with those countries was simply to walk through them on his way to Paris. I suggest that what Hitler did in 1939, Stalin can certainly do in 1951.
§ Notice taken that40 Members were not present;
§ House counted, and,40 Members being present—
§ Mr. Richards
When I was interrupted, I was trying to summarise the position of the various nations in Europe which are linked with us with a view to the establishment of a powerful union in Western Europe. We are left now only with France. For the time being, Germany is hors de combat. Consequently, it appears to me that the burden will fall upon three nations, primarily upon America; secondly, ourselves and thirdly, France. France is in a very precarious position indeed. There are various considerations. First, she has had a declining population which by now is almost static. Before the last war the Germans well knew the position. They had made a special study of the demographic position in France.
I do not think that anybody in this House can deny that France fell because she was completely exhausted. She had been through one very serious war and she felt that she could not possibly face another. Are we likely to see a considerable resurgence in France in the near future? I think that is impossible, and that we and America will be faced with the defence of Western Europe and that nobody else will be practically involved. It is no use looking to other countries— to Italy, for example. This is what a recent historian has written about the position in Italy:The war in Italy has also proved that Italy, which counted amongst the foremost 769 European States, cannot attain the status of a great military nation even after 20 years of clamorous militarism, since six French divisions indifferently equipped during the last war held 30 Italian divisions in June, 1940, and a handful of British troops conquered the vast Army of Graziani.It is a dark outlook for the people of this country. I know we are prepared to face it; we have faced it before, but I think we ought to know from the Government what they intend when they talk about the re-armament of this country. Are we going to get the other nations to move on as rapidly as we desire to do? If we do not, the re-armament of Western Europe will be one of the great tragedies of history.