§ 3.42 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Winston Churchill)
I beg to move:That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1953 (Command Paper No. 8768).
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
On a point of order. Before we begin the debate this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, is it possible for you to help in this difficulty? I understand that as well as the official speakers from the Front Benches on both sides, it is intended that no fewer than three Privy Councillors on this side of the House, not speaking for the Front Bench, will also try to speak in the debate. If one allows roughly one-and-three-quarter hours for the two opening speeches and one-and-a-quarter hours for the winding-up speeches, that leaves only just over three hours to be divided between the back benchers on both sides.
If each Privy Councillor speaks for an average of half an hour, that means that the whole of the one-and-a-half hours left for back benchers on this side of the House will be consumed by Privy Councillors. While I am second to none in my enthusiasm for the aptness and eloquence of Privy Councillor's speeches, is it an inviolable rule that they must be called, and, if it is, what protection can you offer to back benchers who do not happen to be Privy Councillors?
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
Further to that point of order. In considering the question of Privy Councillors speaking, Mr. Speaker, would you take into account the necessity of reducing the time for former Parliamentary Secretaries?
§ Mr. Speaker
There is, of course, no inviolable rule. It is entirely within the discretion of the Chair whether Privy Councillors should be called, but it is an old custom, which has persisted for a long time, to call them. All I can tell the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) is that he need not necessarily take the most pessimistic view and assume that every Privy Councillor will make a speech of half an hour's duration.
§ The Prime Minister
I am afraid that I cannot guarantee to conform to the 568 shorter limits you mentioned, Mr. Speaker, for I feel that the House must approach this debate in its proper setting and it is necessary for this purpose that I should recapitulate—I can do no more —the salient features of our post-war story. In the first years of peace, we reduced our Forces from the dizzy heights of war-time to a little over 700,000 men, and our military expenditure to under £700 million. In 1946 the Labour Government, with our full support, decided that we must continue National Service in peace-time. There was some hesitation originally as to the proper period of whole-time service, but by 1st January, 1949, when the Act came into operation, it had been fixed at 18 months.
In the early summer of 1948 came the coup d'etat in Czechoslovakia, which made a profound impression on everyone's mind, and was followed by the attempted blockade of Berlin. This was broken by the airlift. There was great international tension. No major re-equipment programme was, however, put in hand, and we continued, to some extent, to live on our stocks; but in the summer of 1950 the wanton, no doubt, inspired, act of aggression by the North Koreans on South Korea occurred. As a result, under the authority of the United Nations organisation, most of the countries in the free world felt that they should shoulder the burden both of a major rearmament programme and the maintenance of much larger forces.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in January, 1951, who had already increased the period of National Service to two years, announced the final plans of the late Government, which are now conveniently referred to as the £4,700 million three years' programme. This was a bold and a necessary act, and, to a great extent, still dominates our domestic position. Even if events have proved that it was over-optimistic—hastily thought out—that does not detract from the statesmanship and courage of the Measure.
We on this side of the House gave our prompt and unwearying support to the policy as a whole, even at a time of sharp political disagreement on minor matters. It was, of course, hoped in many quarters that, as a result of a three years' effort in many countries, above all in the United States, the forces of the free world, and 569 among them our own, could be built up and re-equipped and that, thereafter, there would be a substantial drop in defence expenditure with consequential relief to our economy now so grievously overweighted by taxation.
The re-armament programme, like all others of its kind, was slow in getting into its stride. At this time last year it was concluded that by the end of the financial year, 1952, expenditure would have risen very steeply. It was in the light of the original delay and of the pent up and cumulative rise in the cost of the programme in its second year that we decided that it must be rolled forward and spread over at least a fourth year. We have now had the opportunity of beginning a more thorough review of the whole programme, both in strategic thought and in the light of our financial position. This was not possible, I think, to the same degree at an earlier period either in our tenure or that of those who preceded us.
What is called the cold war—which is not a legal term—continues. What we are faced with is not a violent jerk, but a prolonged pull. We must create forces which can play a real part as a deterrent against aggression and also can afford some measure of defence should war come.
I regret that we were not able to accept the Opposition's proposal to substitute the words "takes note of" for the word "approves" in the Motion which we are putting to the House. The circumstances differ in many respects from those of March, 1950. I shall not take up time in a debate when so many important subjects can be raised by arguing this matter of procedure in detail, although I have looked it all up. The reason for our decision is that there is today one outstanding point of principle at stake on which the Government are bound to make their position clear to our allies and others by vote as well as by words.
The maintenance of the system of two years' National Service is, according to our judgment, vital to the security of our country and to the discharge of our obligations overseas. It is vital to our influence in the struggle of the United Nations to avert a general war and to the 570 practical efficiency of our fighting Services, particularly the Army and the Air. I shall deal with some of these aspects in the course of my remarks. I wish to say now that we should regard a decision to reduce the two-year period at this critical but formative, grave but not unhopeful moment as a mistake and as a disaster of the first order. The brute fact that we had not the courage—we the Government—to express our convictions at this juncture would, in our opinion, be an act unworthy of the dignity of the Parliament we serve which could in no way be compensated for by an appearance of unity where, perhaps, it does not exist.
I do not quarrel with the terms of the Amendment which the Opposition have placed on the Order Paper. The first part recognises very clearly the policy of the Government and in no way evades responsibility for the decision of our predecessors to re-arm on the largest scale and at the utmost speed possible. About the terms and obligations of National Service we are following their example, so far as the period for which we are now seeking powers is concerned. The original Act covered five years and also provided for its extension, if necessary, by Order in Council. We are availing ourselves of this in proposing to extend its operation for another five years. The House will be asked later this year to pronounce a positive affirmation of this period.
That does not mean that the House is asked to commit itself to a prolongation of the two-year service during the whole of a five-year period. That must depend on the course of events, which, at the present moment, give no ground for expecting an early reduction. On the contrary, for the reasons I have mentioned, and to some of which I shall recur, this is a testing time for the free world, and any sign of weakening purpose would undermine what good has already been done by both parties at heavy cost to everyone. But the measures which we should in due course take in no way prevent the Government, this or any other, from reducing the two-year period at any time if they feel it can safely be done. And they can reduce it without legislation. It cannot be increased without legislation, but it can be reduced by an Order in Council at any moment this 571 may be thought fitting by any Ministry which may bear the responsibility.
Where, then, is there the need for an annual affirmative Resolution? The procedure of the House provides ample and recurring opportunities of challenging the Government of the day upon this or any other clear-cut issue, and of bringing it to the test of debate and of Division. There is the debate on the Address; there are all the facilities which the House uses for debate and vote upon any Motion it may wish to discuss; there is the annual debate on defence; there are the Services' Estimates; and various other occasions. On any one of these the matter could be raised, threshed out, a Division could be taken, whether to terminate the two-year system or produce, in the words of the Opposition Amendment, an "affirmative Resolution" in its favour. The issue remains continually in the hands of the House.
If we were to extend the period only year by year, as suggested, we believe that it would discourage our friends abroad and might well encourage the other ones. Above all, there would be uncertainty—uncertainty when so many aspects of daily life are affected—the daily life of great numbers of people is affected. Every year rumours, and the agitations following upon them, would spread: "There is going to be a big reduction." This would affect everyone who thought he was likely to be called up. Still more, it would make it difficult for the Service Departments to plan on a coherent and thrifty basis. For us at this stage—responsible Ministers—to shrink from definite approval of the two-year system would spread uncertainty throughout the Services, and would be, in our opinion, at the present time in no way justified by the international position. We must, therefore, persist in asking for the word "approves."
If I may make a brief diversion, I have thought for several years that it would be greatly to the advantage of France as well as ourselves to have a two-year period of military service. This would enable them to revive the strength of the French army in Europe and render possible their valiant efforts to maintain their Empire. When I mentioned this to French statesmen, while I was a private person, some months ago, they contended 572 that they drew from their population a much larger proportion of men for service in the armed forces than we did, and that our exemptions for one reason or another made a selective cut in our intake which profoundly reduced our defensive effort. This is, in fact, not so. The only permanent deferments we make are for miners and seamen and certain agricultural labourers.
§ The Prime Minister
In a typical age-group these amount to not more than 8 per cent. of the total numbers registered for military service. About 30 per cent. more are deferred after registration in order to complete apprenticeships or other training, but these are called to the Colours three or four years later, when their training is finished, and, it may be, their capacity to render service greatly improved.
I did not convince my French friends two years ago, nor did the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) when he said, just about a year ago, how strongly he had urged the French and the Benelux countries to adopt the two-year system. But there is no doubt in my mind that at the present time two years' service would produce for France—I hope that they will not mind my trespassing on their own affairs, but we have worked together for so many years that I think I may—as it does for Britain, much more efficient and convenient Forces to meet home and overseas commitments.
Mr. Speaker, let us envisage—an unpleasant and overworked word which here, Sir, might find, I think, its proper place—the practical and physical effects of a reduction from 24 to 18 months. We estimate that on 1st April the active strength of our Forces will be about 880,000, of which about 310,000 will be National Service men. A reduction in the length of National Service by six months would mean that the National Service element in the Forces would be reduced by about 75,000. But this is the least part of the consequences.
The increase in the length of National Service has stimulated the new short-service Regular engagements introduced so advisedly in 1950 by the Air Ministry and in 1951 by the War Office. This 573 is a very remarkable development. During 1952, nearly 70,000 men—66,880 men to be exact—who would have been called up for National Service or who had actually commenced such service volunteered for the new three or four year short Regular engagement. The value of this is enormous. We get well-trained soldiers. We get a supply of non-commissioned and commissioned officers. We get strong cadres, frameworks, which make all the difference, or a great deal of difference, to whether troops fight well or badly should war come.
At the present time, the total Regular strength is about 540,000 men compared with 420,000 three years ago. I am talking of the Army. If the period of National Service were reduced we could not hope to continue to receive the improved numbers of volunteers for the Regular Army which we do at the present time. Over a period of three or four years, the total injury to the character and quality of our Forces, apart from numbers, would really be measureless. It astonishes me that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington does not understand what was the best thing he ever did. I hope he will, and try to distinguish it from the worst thing he might possibly do.
Let me emphasise the effect on the Forces of cutting six months from the period of National Service. It is during the last six months of his service that a man becomes a well-trained soldier. Very likely he is an n.c.o. or has gained a commission. I am told that a reduction from 24 to 18 months would strike from the Army over 10,000 corporals and lance-corporals and about 1,800 young officers who have come up from the ranks. Perhaps we may call them all the flower of our military youth. This ill-timed and ill-aimed stroke would not reduce the intake of the National Service men nor the number needing to be trained. There would be no saving in training overheads. The total number in the Army would be less. The proportion in the training establishments would be larger, and the general result undoubtedly inferior.
But look at the effects of such a change upon our overseas obligations at the present time, when all our divisions are 574 abroad, spread about the world, many engaged in some form of warfare. To cut six months off National Service would reduce the period which National Service men could spend in Korea from 11 months to five, in Malaya, from 16 months to 10, and in the Middle East, from 19 months to 13. Thus, if we are to continue to discharge our present commitments—so far accepted by all parties and not directly relevant to our debate today—the use of National Service men in the most distant theatres would simply mean more movement and less result. Many thousands more men would be in the pipeline, doing no good to themselves or anybody else at either end in the meanwhile.
This waste of manpower would require the more extensive use of Regulars in the more distant theatres. This would have a deterrent effect on the voluntary extensions of service in the Regular Army, which I explained a few minutes ago, and which the party opposite have agreed and which has been so highly advantageous. The French are suffering from this acutely, but have not yet found a remedy.
I have dealt with the consequences to the British Army. The effect on the Royal Air Force would, in general, be very similar. However, I am strongly of the opinion that the members of non-flying personnel in the Royal Air Force must be the subject of continued scrutiny with a view to any saving which will not detract from efficiency
Another important feature in the White Paper is the addition of five years on the Reserve of the commitments of National Service men under the post-war conscription Acts of the late Government. This is indispensable if we are to have our vitaily necessary Reserve kept at an adequate strength. Otherwise, the Z and G Reserve would slowly fade away. They are actually fading away.
Neither the new reservists who will already have completed their two years' service and their three-and-a-half years in the Territorial and other Forces, nor the Z and G Reservists who fought in the late war will be required to discharge any commitments except in periods of the gravest war emergency. They will have to let their Service Department know where they are and what they are doing in civil life, which is most important to any general mobilisation, but they will not be required for training. 575 Not to take the step which we are now proposing would mean either the total lack of a Reserve or the imposition of further sacrifices upon the Z men. This would be most unfair. So far from adding to our claims upon the Z and G Reservists, we are now proposing to give them marked relief. Their loyal response to their recall by the late Government for refresher training in 1951 and by us in 1952 was most helpful to the country. We now have the good news for them that in the absence of any sudden darkening of the world scene we do not propose to call up any more for refresher training, and secondly, that after 45 we make no further call upon them.
When I came into office, 16 months ago, I was startled and concerned with the condition of home defence, especially against large-scale attacks by paratroops. I felt naked as I had not felt at any time in the recent war. We had moved, or it had been decided to move, all our divisions out of the island. I did not cancel these movements, and, therefore, I accept inherited responsibility. However, we took important measures. There were 250,000 men in uniform here who, at that time, were entirely absorbed in training or administrative duties of one kind or another. As I explained to the House, I considered it my first duty as Minister of Defence, as I then was, to impart a combative value to this large body of proud and capable youths and men.
Continuous progress has been made. Weapons and ammunition were issued. Motor cars were made available. Every man in uniform was made to feel that he had to fight to the death for the sake of his native land and the protection of his fellow-countrymen. Over 450 mobile columns have been formed, and plans have been made, and exercises conducted, at very small expense comparatively, to enable these columns to concentrate rapidly on any point where we should be subjected to an air descent.
Still, the fact remains that we have not got a single combatant division in this country. This is another aspect of what I said just now: our whole formed or regularly organised Army is abroad. This shows how great is the need to improve our fighting strength at home. No other country is voluntarily running the 576 risks to which we have subjected ourselves. They are, however, I think, appreciably diminished by the measures we have taken.
There is another aspect which may be borne in mind, though I should be shy of dwelling too much upon it. The farther east, speaking of the European scene, the effective front line is drawn in Western Europe, the greater is our protection not only from paratroop attack but also from air bombing with all its measureless features, especially in the early days of a conflict.
However, it seems to me at the moment that one of the really vital processes of national survival is the development and expansion of the Home Guard. So far its growth has not been in any way adequate to our needs or our dangers. The Home Guard is an indispensable aid to the Territorial Army, because it helps in the defence of airfields and takes over vulnerable points and so forth in the hour of peril. Until an adequate Home Guard is in being and on a far stronger scale than we have so far attained, the Territorial Army, instead of preparing for rapid mobilisation, would be largely scattered over the country carrying out local defence.
The men who have joined the Home Guard are of first-class quality; but we need many more of them. There are 9,000 officers, but only 20,000 men who have as yet enrolled. This is not a quarter of what we need. Any man who is a Z reservist and under 45, although he has a Reserve liability, should write to the War Office. There are many reservists whose present occupation suggests that they would not be called up in war-time, but they might volunteer and play their part in the defence of hearth and home around where they are working and carrying out probably very skilled and specialised functions.
I make my appeal to all parties in the House to help in every way in encouraging enlistment in the Home Guard, not as a measure of panic or alarm but as a bringing into play of a new, effective and necessary element in our system of home defence.
I must now warn the House that I am going to make an unusual departure. I am going to make a Latin quotation. It is one which I hope will not offend the detachment of the old school tie and will 577 not baffle or be taken as a slight upon the new spelling brigade. Perhaps I ought to say the "new spelling squad." because it is an easier word. The quotation is, "Arma virumque cano," which, for the benefit of our Winchester friends, I may translate as "Arms and the men I sing." That generally describes my theme.
§ The Prime Minister
Little did I expect that I should receive assistance on a classical matter from such a quarter. I am using the word "man" in a collective form which, I think, puts me right in grammar.
Let me now come to arms, about which I believe there is no classical dispute. Here let me again embark on some generalisations. Ever since we took office, the Government have been pursuing the twin but divergent objectives of financial solvency and military security. Solvency is valueless without security, and security is impossible to achieve without solvency. Whichever way one turns, one does not like the look of it. On the other hand, by the adjustments that we have made and the spreading out which was inevitable, we have tried to bring our military expenditure within the limits of what we can afford. I say "tried" because, even after the adjustments have been made, it can be argued that we are still devoting a disproportionately large slice of the nation's economic effort to defence production.
§ The Prime Minister
We feel that very much indeed. Even in the absence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it does not pass from our minds. But I would face criticism on that score rather than lay ourselves open to the charge of not bearing our full share with our allies or, indeed, of failing to set an example to Europe in the defence of the free world. No one with knowledge of the facts of our economic situation could challenge our claim that the effort we are making on defence is the absolute maximum of which we are capable, and that any further substantial diversion of our resources from civil to military production 578 would gravely imperil our economic foundations and, with them, our ability to continue with the rearmament programme. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."] There are a frightful lot of things we are all agreed about.
Over and above our own rearmament, we are developing a substantial export trade in arms to other countries. Nearly all of this is in the form of what are called "off-shore" purchases by the United States for N.A.T.O. or purchases by the Commonwealth and Western European countries. Let me emphasise that these exports of arms are over and above not what we want, but the maximum expenditure which we are financially able to afford for the re-equipment of our own Forces. We should like to rearm some of our own formations more rapidly, but we do not withhold modern weapons from our own troops in order to sell them to other countries. In so far as there is retardation apart from technical delays, it is because we cannot afford to spend more on ourselves. This is a serious and unpleasant fact which I do not hesitate to state to the House.
There are, of course, on the other hand, solid compensating advantages even in the military sphere. The value of these exports adds not only to our balance of payments, but also to our military strength. In these times of rapid scientific progress when new and improved weapons are being constantly evolved, one of the most vital factors in the nation's preparedness for war is the possession of an adequate and flexible armament industry capable above all of speeding expansion.
By making arms for others in addition to those we make for ourselves, we are enabled to build up a war potential substantially greater than we could otherwise achieve. In the event of hostilities the existence of this extra war production capacity, fully equipped with machine tools and manned up with skilled and experienced labour, would provide us with an important armament reserve of inestimable value. In short, the sale of arms to other countries has three most valuable compensations. It increases our own war potential; it increases our export earnings; and seven-eighths of it, which goes to the Commonwealth and Europe 579 adds to the military strength of the free world as a whole.
There is one field in our export of arms which should be more clearly illuminated this afternoon. I mean the furnishing of jet aircraft to Egypt, to the other Arab States and to Israel. All this is on a very small scale, and so far as it has been carried out it fulfils contracts entered into in the time of our predecessors when, no doubt, circumstances were somewhat different. Nevertheless, we must not forget that there was a war four years ago between Israel and the four Arab States, including Egypt if that is the correct description, and that a truce has been established on a somewhat precarious basis but that no peace has been made. We must, therefore, be very careful, even on the small scale on which we are supplying aircraft, not to alter in any appreciable way the balance between the sides. I can assure the House that this principle will be observed.
About the export of jet aircraft to Egypt, 43 were sent in the time of our predecessors and we have agreed while the negotiations about the future are in progress not to interrupt the supply. Four more have gone. I can assure the House that this addition to Egyptian air power makes no difference to our overwhelming air superiority in those regions. I wanted to deal with this matter this afternoon although it is a little outside the scope of the White Paper, but I felt that the House ought to understand very clearly the position which Her Majesty's Government takes up.
As a result of the Government's strategic review, the types and quantities of weapons and ammunition to be produced have been more precisely related to the kind of war or wars which we might have to fight in various parts of the world. This has enabled us to make considerable economies in many directions. To some extent these economies have reduced our overall defence expenditure and eased the strain upon the metal-using industries to which we look for the needed expansion in our export trade. To some extent, also, these economies have made it possible, while keeping within the limits of what we can afford, to re-direct money saved to the production of other more urgent or vital items of defence equipment.
580 The period of gestation required for the production of a complicated, modern weapon, as we all know, is a fairly long one. Even, therefore, in the case of weapons and aircraft already in production, the results of changes which we have decided upon do not in most cases affect the pattern of deliveries for about 12 months. In the case of weapons still in the development stage, the cycle is, of course, much longer. I can assure the House that within these limits of our economical and technical resources our material rearmament is making good headway.
As I stated a year ago, the production programme when we took over was a long way behind the forecasts of the late Government, whose estimates made in haste or, shall I say, in emergency consultations—I do not wish to be controversial—were necessarily, in many cases, unrealistic. I do not blame them for that. They tried their best. Defence production can be divided into three stages. The first stage is of research and development. Over most of this field work is proceeding well and results are extremely encouraging. The third and last stage is what is called flow production. In older days at the Ministry of Munitions it used to be called mass production, but flow production is probably the more accurate term. The flow production of weapons means those weapons whose design has been more or less finalised. The rate of deliveries of aircraft and equipment of this class is in most cases satisfactory and up to expectations.
Between the stage of development and the stage of flow production there is an intermediate stage in which, in order to save time, production has to be started notwithstanding the fact that the design is not fully settled. During this stage modifications in design have to be introduced both in the tooling-up period and even later in the period when production has already started. With the growing rapidity of new inventions and in consequence of the increasing rapidity of obsolescence, the practice of going into production off the drawing board, which still remains a risk, is becoming almost a normal procedure.
The time taken to cure defects which reveal themselves in the tests and trials of prototype aircraft and specialised military equipment varies greatly from case to case. It is not, therefore, 581 possible to generalise about the progress in this intermediate stage. I can assure the House that we will seek tirelessly the correct solution of this ever-varying problem, and that we are very much aware of the importance, both of designing new weapons and of getting them as rapidly as possible into the hands of the troops. It is an issue which changes from month to month and it is not a new one. It has always been a question when we should go on producing in the regular way and when we should turn to experiment with something new. Never has this process been so rapid, so tense, giving such opportunities for making mistakes, as it is at the present time.
I am grateful to the House for the attention with which it has listened to me. I have confined my speech almost entirely to the limits of the White Paper and have not sought to sail out on to the sullen and unpredictable oceans of human destiny on which this modest document floats. The policy we are pursuing may claim, and ought, I think, to command, the loyal and friendly support of all parties, for all are deeply and gravely committed on all the broad principles involved. The more united is the decision of the House the better will it be for our country, provided that we are not led or lured away from plain, clear-cut expressions of our duty. That is the reason why I have moved the Motion.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
I beg to move to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:recognises the need for a defence programme which is adequate both for our own security and to enable us to play our part in the defence of the free world, and is also compatible with national solvency; takes note of Command Paper No. 8768, but considers that the period of national service should be subject to an annual affirmative Resolution by this House in order that any change in our commitments, the contributions of our allies and any new developments may be taken into account.The Prime Minister dealt with the subject matter of this Amendment at the beginning of his speech and then went on to other matters. I shall reverse that order in my remarks.
In the first place, I would respond to the Prime Minister's generosity in giving us a Latin quotation. The Latin quotation that occurred to me in the later stages 582 of his speech was "locus penitentiae," a place for repentance, because I had such a lively recollection of the debates we had when we sold armaments abroad. I remembered so well putting forward just the right hon. Gentleman's arguments today about the need for keeping up our potential and the need for assisting our allies, and even glancing at the balance of payments.
I had such a lively recollection of the fierce attack of the right hon. Gentleman. I can recall in detail speaking of the difficulties of production—the first stage, the second stage, and the third stage when we got on to the flow—and the criticisms levelled by the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends on that matter. Therefore, I welcome very much this change of heart that has come with fuller knowledge and a change of location by the right hon. Gentleman.
One thing disappointed me in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I thought that we might have had a broader survey of the world position. No one is better qualified than he on a matter of that kind. I have heard him do it before. I notice that in the White Paper there is not much said about N.A.T.O. or about what is the effective gathering of the forces for the defence of the Western world. There is a great deal about the infrastructure and about command. It was almost all about harness and nothing about horses. We are, as the whole House recognises, making very great sacrifices in our contribution to Western defence and we should all like to have heard something from the right hon. Gentleman of how he thinks Western defence is being built up.
In past debates he has told us of the menace that may come from the East and of the need for erecting a substantial dam against any possible danger of flood from that direction. To the best of my knowledge that dam is still very weak and very thin. I think the right hon. Gentleman has acknowledged that in our time we did our full amount of fulfilling our obligations. We had effective divisions overseas in Germany. There are also the American divisions; but the rest of the effort of Europe is still very thin.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he had talked to our French colleagues about National Service and the length of service. I understand that the French 583 forces have been strengthened, but I think he will agree that those forces are not so strong and battleworthy as are the forces that we have in the field.
I was a little disturbed that, instead of dealing with N.A.T.O., the right hon. Gentleman devoted a considerable amount of his time to the home defence of these islands. Although he said, quite rightly, how vital it was that our lines of defence should be drawn as far East as possible—that is vitally necessary for us—it is vitally necessary also for the people of Holland, Belgium and France. It will not be very inspiring for them to learn that we are considering the defence of these islands and have not said very much about the defence of the rest of Western Europe.
I hope that, in the reply, we may have something more by way of estimating what are the forces of N.A.T.O. today. What are the real forces of the Atlantic Community? That is of vital importance. It is far more important that there should be a strong defence against any possible attack rather than special provisions which assume that that attack is going to be successful and come right up to our shores. That is why I confess that I am disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman did not give us a broader survey.
That leads me, quite naturally, to the consideration of the substance of our Amendment. I do not wish to speak at length, because many people want to take part in the debate. We have put down the Amendment because we consider that National Service is a matter which the House should keep in constant review. I am well aware that we can raise a debate on this and other matters on a defence White Paper. We can raise this matter on the Service Estimates. As the right hon. Gentleman said, we could raise it on the Queen's Speech, but this is a specific point which we should like to be discussed by this House on an affirmative Resolution by the Government.
Admittedly, we are bearing in this National Service a heavier burden than most other countries. I think that there is a comparable burden of length of service by Turkey, Greece, Palestine and America. There is not a comparable burden on the rest of our continental friends or on the Commonwealth. It was recognised when we introduced the two 584 years' service that it was making an extremely heavy demand on the youth of this country, on the industry of this country and on the resources of this country.
Therefore, we are asking not for an immediate reduction but for a review. I was a little surprised that the Prime Minister should have said there were numerous opportunities on which we could raise this matter but that, if we raised it on a specific point like this, it would cause distrust, alarm and despondency among our allies. I cannot see why that should be so. I cannot see why, because we raise it on an affirmative Resolution, it should cause more alarm than on an Amendment to the Address.
I want to look at the matter of National Service, because it is one to be kept under review and I shall refer for a moment or two to its history. The Government of which I was a member introduced National Service, a thing unprecedented in peace-time, because of the condition of the world as we found it, and also because of the change that had taken place in the development of military operations. Before the war there had been a system by which we depended on a Territorial Army which, confessedly, would take a long time before it could be put into the field.
Our Service advisers told us that the essential thing was that our reserves should consist of fully trained men in order to shorten that period. Originally, when National Service was introduced, the main object was the creation of a trained Reserve by pouring into the Territorial cadres the product of the National Service Acts. I think that this White Paper shows the success of that process in that for a number of years we have been depending on our reserves of men who took part in the war.
There is necessarily a decreasing value of that asset as their ages increase and as they go out of the Service. They have done well in an emergency, but they were obviously a diminishing force. That was originally the intention of National Service. Why did it change? It changed because of a deterioration in the world situation, with the consequent need for employing National Service men overseas. That was due to the fact that we had not a sufficiently large Regular component.
As a matter of fact, recruiting, after the war, was fully up to, and indeed above, 585 the standard of ordinary Regular recruitment before the wars. That is remarkable because recruitment for the Armed Forces is always difficult in a period immediately following a great war. We found it so after the First World War and we found it so after the Second World War. It is perfectly natural. Therefore, we have not that Regular component. Today we have a much greater Regular component and I welcome it very much. That is partly due to the process of time, it is partly due to improved conditions, it is partly due to the three years' service.
The conception we had always was that the National Service element should be used for building up reserves, but for the actual work of policing the British Commonwealth and Empire and providing a central mobile force for use in emergencies, we should depend on the Regular Forces just as we did in former days. It was because we had not that Regular component that we had to use the National Service men. Indeed, I can remember hon. and gallant Gentlemen on the other side of the House proposing that we should reduce National Service to only a few months and, by offering much higher pay, and so forth, manage to build up sufficient Regular Forces to fulfil our overseas obligations.
§ The Prime Minister
It may have been put forward and discussed, but it was never the official policy of the Conservative Party.
§ Mr. Attlee
I was talking of hon. and gallant Members with great fighting experience, like the Secretary of State for War.
§ Mr. Attlee
I know, but it indicated their conception of the kind of force needed and the kind of function that the National Service men should perform. The position changed because of world 586 conditions. We cannot at present say that the international climate has changed much for the better. There are many more obscurities, but it is not much better. I do not believe, therefore, that for the present we can do without the National Service Act, but it means that we have to study very carefully what should be the period of National Service, and what that period should be depends on a number of conditions.
First, it depends on the extent of Regular recruitment. It Regular recruitment is adequate to provide for commitments then we can shorten the period of National Service because the main object is to establish reserves. Next, it depends on the level of armaments throughout the world. That is an international matter and we all wish that we could see the general level of armaments throughout the world reduced. It is not the fault of the Government of this country that progress in that respect has not been made. It also depends upon two other factors. One is our commitments, and the other is some technical considerations.
We have 11 divisions or rather more overseas. The Prime Minister was at one time apt to criticise us because our Forces were widely extended. That was due to the fact that there was a cold war, with pressure everywhere, but it has been a source of great anxiety that we should be so spread out that we did not have a quick reserve ready to move off at any moment here at home.
I think that our commitments want constant review. I am not suggesting that at the moment we could cut them all down. We have to do our part in Korea. We have to do our part in Western defence. We have certain places where we must keep our troops, but from time to time those commitments want to be reviewed. It may be that in course of time, and I hope so, the business of cleaning up Malaya will be accelerated—we all want that—and we should be able to release our troops from there. Negotiations are proceeding at present with Egypt, which may or may not result in the release of troops from Egypt.
I think everyone would agree that it would be desirable if we could reduce our overseas commitments, because they are too heavy today. Never before in our history in peace-time have we had 587 so many divisions overseas. That must be a matter of constant anxiety to the Government and of constant review; and it depends on the conditions and also to some extent on what our allies are doing in these various fields. I think that most people in this country would say that we are bearing a disproportionate burden of keeping the peace of the world.
It would be very desirable if we could get more troops at home, because it would mean a lessening of the pressure on manpower. There is, first, the wastage in the pipeline. The further overseas that we have our troops, the greater amount of their time of service is taken in going backwards and forwards in reliefs and in leaves. Secondly, where troops are posted abroad, a much bigger tail is needed.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman thinks as I do and has tried often at cutting down the tail. The further away from here, the bigger the tail and the auxiliaries. If troops are stationed, so to speak, in a factory area, we can cut down a good deal of R.E.M.E. and all the rest. That is another reason, apart from the point of view that it is more satisfactory in a far-flung Commonwealth and Empire like ours to have our troops at home, whence they can be dispatched to where trouble may arise, than to have them scattered right throughout the world, which shows that we want to look constantly at our commitments.
I am aware of the difficulty, but that is a matter that wants to be reviewed year after year. I do not need to tell the Prime Minister, using the word with a small "c," that the military mind is apt to be conservative. The right hon. Gentleman will recall how at one time in our military history we kept garrisons all over the place where they were not wanted in the slightest. Those garrisons had to be withdrawn. The right hon. Gentleman will remember the same thing with the concentration of the Fleet by Admiral Fisher. From time to time we need to review a number of these things, and I would say that there are a great number of them now.
§ The Prime Minister
I am not in disagreement, but the Cardwell system was to have the same number abroad as there were at home; they played into each 588 other's hands and it lasted 50 years or more. Now, unhappily, nearly all the battalions are abroad at once.
§ Mr. Attlee
There was particularly the Army in India which was on the Cardwell system, but I quite agree on the general principle that we do not have enough at home.
Then there is the question of the use of manpower. In our time we have seen an enormous increase in the offensive power of the fighting men, which, broadly speaking, means that the volume of fire which used to be produced by 10 or 20 men is produced today by a very few men. The trouble is that very often an increase in the tail always follows from a reduction in the number of people actually fighting, because of the large numbers of people to serve these difficult, complicated and expensive weapons.
Here, again, a constant watch is necessary, because the numbers in any particular formation tend to become sanctified by the years and older people are horrified that any particular unit should fall below what it used to be. With the changes in weapons—and as the right hon. Gentleman said, there are many changes in weapons today—we want constantly to see whether we cannot reduce the number of men in the fighting units. Therefore, I say that all these matters should be taken into review by the Government, and I think it is right that there should be an opportunity every year in which the onus will be on the Government to show that two years' service is necessary.
I am not prejudging as to whether next year the period should be two years, 21 months or 18 months. What I am saying is that there is always a danger, once a term is fixed like this, that the Services will say that they must have it. I have the greatest admiration for the heads of the fighting Services, but we all know that they all want more than we can give them. I do not blame them in the least. We have to hold the balance, just as the right hon. Gentleman said, in very much the same words as I have very often said before, that we have to hold the balance between defence and economics. The soldier, unless he is a very exceptional and balanced educated person, will, naturally, always put defence far beyond economics. I claim, therefore, that there is every case for a review in this matter. 589 I say that the onus should be on the Government, because we must recognise that this is a very heavy burden on this country.
I am not so much taking it as the burden on the individuals, but it means that at a time when people are getting into trade, business, professions, and so forth, they are taken away for two years, which is a very long time. In some cases it means the deprivation from the economic life of the country of a very large number of working hours. Therefore, we put forward this proposal, which, we think, is sound from the point of view of democratic practice, that it is good that the Government should come before the House.
In the figures given by the Prime Minister, there is not quite as much in it as one would have thought. The increased Regular content is coming very largely from the people who would have been doing National Service, but that increase in the Regulars almost makes up for the reduction which the right hon. Gentleman said would ensue from the cutting down of the Service. It is a fairly narrow thing today.
As I say, ultimately, the major matter of decision is the question of commitments. If we can reduce our commitments overseas—if those commitments can be carried out by the Regulars—then the main reason for the two years goes, because the effective reason for the two years was the need for supplying men for the actual duties in the field, occupation and the rest.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Captain Charles Waterhouse (Leicester, South-East)
I wish to preface my few remarks this afternoon by congratulating the Government and the Minister of Defence on the general form of the White Paper. I think my right hon. Friend has now got it about the right length compared with 1951, when the plan was just starting to operate and brevity was rather too emphasised. In 1952 a certain form was arrived at and now that same form has been held, and, I think, held with advantage.
I wish to deal with two quite different aspects of this subject. First, I want to follow a line with which the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition 590 dealt—the balance between what we can afford and what we should like—and then to deal with Forces in the Middle East. First, on the question of what we can afford and what we should like, the Leader of the Opposition used the apt phrase that we must ever hold the balance between defence and economics. That is obviously true. It is quite clear, I think, from the general feeling of the House that few on any side wish to grudge any money which must be spent on security. It is equally true that every one of us, on every side, is anxious to make certain that no money is wasted on armaments which is so sorely needed in other directions.
What precisely do we mean by waste? I do not for one second suppose that any of the Services is going to spend money uselessly, but can we really afford all the various directions in which we have decided these vast expenditures? Take first the new medium bomber. I do not believe that a figure has ever been given for its price, but I understand that it is to cost something like £300,000. If one takes £1,000 as being the product of one man for one year, that means that every one of these bombers is to take 300 men one year to construct. Can we really afford machines of that magnitude if we are fighting a war? A thousand bombers are not a very great number, but can we in time of war set aside 300,000 men to produce one particular type of bomber? Is it necessary that we should have such an elaborate machine as that?
Another example is the Centurion tank. I think that figures have been published, and I believe that a fully-equipped Centurion tank will cost about £75,000. How many such machines can we afford? How many such machines do we want? Are we quite certain that we need machines of such a complicated type at all? I believe the machine will weigh about 50 tons. There is scarcely a bridge in the world which will take it, very few roads which will take it and the complications of the machine are such that there are very few men who can work it. It is not only the complication of the machine in the making which we have to consider, but also the training of men to run such machines and to keep them running when once they are supplied to the Army.
The same sort of criticism, in a much less degree, might be levelled at vehicles. 591 Has any real effort been made to standardise vehicles over a very wide field? I am told that now there is some standardisation, but I am amazed to hear that standardisation is being based on the Rolls-Royce. Is that really true? If it is true, are we wise in concentrating on such an expensive machine? Is it not possible to get a machine which would be perfectly adequate for our purpose, which has neither the intricacies nor the initial cost of a Rolls-Royce engine?
There are two other minor points about which I want to ask information. Whenever one goes into Government or Departmental expenditure one always gets a most remarkable figure for travelling, and in this case for movements. In this White Paper there is a figure of £35 million for Army movements. With 11¼ divisions, £35 million for movement means £3 million per division or, if divided up into 440,000 or 450,000 men, it works out at £79 8s. per soldier per year for movement alone.
I am told that it costs about £75 to send a man from here to the Far East. If, therefore, every soldier we have in the Far East went out there every year the bill would be about £7 million. Of course they are not all moved each year, so what happens to the rest of this vast sum of £35 million? There is an average of £79 8s. per man for movements. I believe that there is a point which might well be investigated by my right hon. Friends.
Another point which is an obvious one but which may be worthy of investigation is that it costs £103 to feed a soldier but costs only £73 to feed an airman. According to Mr. Rowntree it ought to cost 12s. 6½d. to feed a healthy man at work. That was in 1951. Making all allowance for certain increases in prices and allowance for what you will—that the soldier is a more robust chap and needs a more robust meal than the chocolate maker in York and, on the other hand, allowance for the fact that it ought to be cheaper to feed men by the thousand than for the individual lady to feed her husband in her own home—it still costs £103 to feed a soldier—about £93 to feed a sailor and about £73 to feed an airman.
§ Captain Waterhouse
These are days when we have to look at expenditure very closely. I suggest that on these lines, first, the simplification of the great engines of war; second, the more detailed arrangements regarding the movement, feeding and clothing of troops, it would be possible to save a certain amount of money, a matter of vital importance to this country at the present time.
The position in the Middle East is dealt with in paragraph 79 of this year's White Paper, and in paragraph 61 of the White Paper of last year. There is a material difference in the wording of those two paragraphs, and it may well be that there is also a material difference in the meaning. This year we refer to the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa as havingexpressed their willingness to join with other interested Governments in setting up an Allied organisation for Middle East defence.There the word "organisation" is spelt with a small "o." Last year the expression was:The Governments of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have accepted the invitation of the United Kingdom, the United States and French Governments to join with them and other interested Governments in setting up an Allied Command Organisation "—all with capital letters—in the Middle East.I do not wish to probe unduly into these matters. I am most anxious not to make any negotiations, when they start, one bit more difficult than they are bound to be. But I believe it desirable that I should give expression to the widespread feeling of anxiety which exists throughout the country on this matter of Middle East defence. The Minister will use his discretion about whether or not he feels able to give the House any information upon it.
I make no apology for raising the matter at this time. Events move with such amazing rapidity. Only three or four months ago everyone in this House was perfectly satisfied with the position in the Sudan. Now things have moved so quickly that we have not really understood what is happening——
§ Captain Waterhouse
Many of us are greatly disturbed about some of the provisions in the Agreement we have signed with the Egyptian Government. We feel that the interests of the Sudanese may have been jeopardised in the signing of that Agreement. That is my reason for raising this matter today.
Nothing has a more direct bearing on the defence of the Empire, and the Commonwealth, and the whole of Western civilisation, than affairs in the Middle East. Since the dawn of history Egypt has occupied the key position in the world. That is not because of the Egyptian people, nor because there is a great river in Egypt. It is because Egypt happens to lie where two continents meet. One can do what one will and say what one will, but the geographical importance of Egypt will remain. I believe that at no time in the history of the nations has that been of greater importance than at the present.
It is, therefore, a matter of great significance that, within a few days of the signing of the Sudanese Agreement, various leaders in Egypt were saying that now was the time to shift the British troops altogether from Egyptian territory. I would remind the House of the sequence of events which lie behind this demand. I will not go back over a long period, but I will sketch in a few sentences what has happened since the war.
It was just before the war, in August, 1936, that we signed our present Treaty of "friendship and alliance" with Egypt. It runs for 20 years. At the end of that time it was to be our duty, if the Agreement had to be altered, to take it to the League of Nations, or some other arbitral body, if no arrangement could be arrived at between us. Then, immediately after the war, came trouble in Egypt. There were riots in 1945. In February and in March, 1946, anti-British riots broke out in Alexandria and in Cairo and two British soldiers were murdered.
On 7th May, 1946, there was a very disturbing announcement in this House, when the present Leader of the Opposition, then the Prime Minister, announced that negotiations had begun "in an atmosphere of cordiality and good-will" for the withdrawal of all British forces from Egyptian territory.
§ Captain Waterhouse
I would remind the House of what the present Prime Minister said on that occasion. He spoke of it as beinga very grave statement, one of the most momentous I have heard in this House—the complete evacuation of Egypt by all naval, military and air forces, and this offered at the beginning of the negotiations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th May, 1946; Vol. 422, c. 782.]My right hon. Friend moved the Adjournment of the House, and during the debate he used these words:… who has ever suggested that there is any method of safeguarding the Canal except by troops in the Canal zone? You will not get any military man of eminence and responsibility to say that the Canal can be kept open —because that is the whole point; it is to keep the Canal open."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 7th May, 1946; Vol. 422, c. 893.]That was the opinion of my right hon. Friend six years ago, and the geography of Egypt has not altered in that time. The position has become very little better.
In January, 1947, the Foreign Secretary announced that the negotiations with Sidki Pasha had broken down, and that we therefore returned to the 1936 Agreement. But evacuation, both from Cairo and in the Delta, proceeded the whole time. We were moving our troops away from metropolitan Egypt on to the Canal, and it is on the Canal that they now rest. The riots, burnings and murders of recent months are still fresh in the minds of hon. Members as happenings which have occurred since we have left Abadan.
In the last few months there has been a change in the sovereignty in Egypt. Fuad has been dethroned—Farouk has been dethroned——
§ Captain Waterhouse
Now there is a new Government on trial. I am the last to wish to attack that Government or anyone else out of hand, but we have—[Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but I do not believe the British people will laugh at this. They look upon it as a serious matter.
There are three of four hon. Members opposite who sneer at everything British. They have no pride in this House or in the country. Those of us who speak from this side of the House at least speak with sincerity. When other hon. Members speak with sincerity we give them 595 their due, and when we speak with sincerity we expect them to give us our due.
§ Captain Waterhouse
I was saying that this Egyptian Government is now on trial. It would be unwise to condemn them out of hand. There is nothing new in these events. They are common throughout the whole of Egyptian history. Periods of riots and disturbances have nearly always heralded changes of Government. There is no guarantee that this new Government will be of any long duration.
Her Majesty's Government must make what agreement they think right and proper, but I hope that they will base it on the interests of the British Empire, the British Commonwealth and Western civilisation. I hope that they will not try to reach agreement merely for the sake of getting an agreement. The day has gone when any individual or any nation can stand in the way of world progress. In this country if any such incident arises we have our own methods for dealing with the individual. In international affairs we must find a way to deal with nations.
When Leningrad was in danger the Russians did not hesitate to take the steps they thought necessary to secure it at the expense of Finland. When the States in India got into Mr. Nehru's way, he dealt with them arbitrarily. Does anybody suppose that if the United States of America had been unable to come to an agreement with Panama for the construction of the Canal there—and much more so if, having constructed that Canal, incidents such as those in Egypt had taken place—the position would have been tolerated by the great American people? Of course not. The American people bought the Canal area from Panama. I have not the smallest doubt that we are perfectly prepared to buy the Suez Canal area from Egypt if they wish to sell.
The appeal I make to Her Majesty's Government and to the Egyptians is strong. For 70 years we have held out the hand of friendship to the Egyptian people. For 40 years, under Lord Cromer and those who followed, Egypt 596 was better governed than at any other time in its history. Now it is a free country. Let it show us that it understands the responsibilities as well as the rights of freedom. Let Egypt come to us as a free and sovereign country and make an arrangement with us, and the rest of the West if it wishes, for the security of the Canal and the Middle East. Above all, let the Government realise that we rely on them to arrive at an agreement about the Middle East which will give the security which the Egyptians, no less than we ourselves, need for the benefit of the whole world.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
It is about 17 years since I first claimed the indulgence of the House when making my maiden speech. After hearing the point of order of my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), I feel that once again I ought to ask the House to be patient with me even if, as a Privy Councillor, I may be privileged by being called early in the debate. I assure my hon. Friend that Privy Councillors on the back benches exercise some restraint in what they say. I hope to be able to compress my remarks so that they occupy the short period mentioned by my hon. Friend.
White Papers on defence seem to follow a uniform pattern, so far as I can recollect from the first White Paper which came to my notice in 1935, which was issued by Mr. Ramsay Macdonald. They are all, to a certain amount, given to wishful thinking and to a certain amount of hiding of the facts, as the Prime Minister will be the first to recognise. Before the war a considerable portion of his time was spent in trying to elucidate from his own Government what the real facts were.
We who lived through those days know now how inadequate those White Papers were. In 1939, in spite of the large amount that was supposed to be spent on defence, we were not prepared for war. In a discussion on defence we have to look at what the country will be like if war should come. Our defence forces are maintained for the purpose of avoiding war; but if history is any guide it does not appear that the existence of large defence forces can prevent an act of aggression if it is going to be undertaken by a country determined to get her own way by force majeure. 597 I want to examine this White Paper to ascertain whether the huge expenditure in manpower and money is adequate, inadequate, or more than adequate, for our purpose of trying to maintain peace or, if peace should be broken, trying to prevent the aggressor from over-running the free democratic world. Manpower in the Services, especially in the Air Force and Army, consists of two elements—the Regulars and the National Service contingent. It is interesting to compare the number of Regulars today with the number before the war. Shortly before the war the international situation was even more grim than it is today. Hitler had informed the world in no uncertain terms that he meant to have a war to get what he wanted.
With all the difficulties with which we have to contend from Russia, she has not gone so far as to say in those terms, as Hitler did, that she means war. I do not say for one moment that one can afford to ignore certain acts of aggression which have taken place in different parts of the world with Russian acquiescence and connivance. But in comparing the Regular Forces today with those of before the war we have—if it is not too extravagant a term—judged by this standard of grimness, an abundance of manpower.
During the '30s right up to 1938 when there was no doubt that we should shortly be involved in war, the average number of all ranks in the British Army was about 130,000 Regulars. Today, thanks, to a large extent, to the efforts of the Secretary of State for War, there has been an increase of nearly 80 per cent. Our Regular Forces are nearly 80 per cent. higher than they were in the terrible years immediately before the outbreak of war.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
My right hon. Friend has overlooked the number in the Indian Army. The number was nearer 200,000 than 130,000.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am quoting the Army Estimates before the war. They dealt with British Service men, and these figures are official; I therefore hope the House will take them as being accurate. At any rate, if they are not accurate, perhaps the Secretary of State himself will get up and tell me where I am wrong.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am taking the figures in the White Paper, and I include, of course, the women, because they are doing administrative services, and they amount to something like 7,000. At any rate, that small element does not alter my comparison, namely, that the number of all ranks in the British Regular Army has increased over what it was in the years between the wars.
In addition to that, there is the National Service content, which we did not have before the war. That National Service element, with its two years' training period, in my opinion and in the opinion of many in the Army, is not really adequate for what the Army requires. I speak of the Army's problems because I am more familiar with them. The Army itself would prefer a longer period for effectiveness, not only in training, but in the actual fighting which the Army has to do on many fronts. If they could get it, they would prefer a period of three years.
Therefore, I am asking the House why we have this period of two years' National Service training. Originally, to a large extent, because the White Paper says so, the purpose of National Service was to create trained reserves, and we have reached a position today when the Government say in the White Paper that, by 1954, we shall have something between 400,000 and 500,000 trained National Service reserves. If we are to consider what is the right period for that purpose, should we not also consider what was the period of training which men received in the Army during the war to make them fit for immediate battle? The period was eight 599 to 10 months, and they were then—[Interruption.] I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that I am not speaking without my book, because these are official figures. The period was eight to 10 months, and, after such a period of eight to 10 months' training, the recruit or National Service man was liable to be involved in battle.
Let us look at another Army which I hope will be created before very long, because I believe that that fact will alter the whole strategic picture in Europe. I refer to the German Army. If re-armament comes in Germany as a result of the ratification of E.D.C., what do hon. Members think will be the period of National Service for which the Germans will ask or which they will be allowed to have? I doubt whether it will be anything like two years. Indeed, about a year ago, I was speaking to a German Army Group Commander who had had considerable experience on the Eastern Front, and who said: "If I could have my way completely, I would turn out trained soldiers from zero in six months." I rather queried that, because I still think it takes longer than six months to turn out a trained infantryman, to say nothing of the technical arms of the Services.
Therefore, I come to this conclusion. As far as training is concerned, it is not necessary to have two years, and, indeed, if it had been, why did not the present Government, then in Opposition, challenge the Labour Government when they introduced the period of 18 months, later reduced to 12 months? It is true that they criticised us for reducing it from 18 months, but they never asked for it to be increased to two years. Indeed, I go further and say that no demands were put forward by the expert advisers to any of the three Services for a longer period than 18 months.
What is the real reason why we have a two-year period of compulsory service? The reason is, of course, that in 1950 we had the war in Korea, and my hon. and right hon. Friends who were then in office decided, no doubt on expert advice, that it was necessary to strengthen the Forces. That period of two years' training was not necessary in order to supply the troops we have in Korea, because our contingent in Korea is comparatively small. It is true that we have certain 600 heavy commitments in Malaya, but, in speaking to this Amendment, all I have to show is, not that it is possible—although it is no doubt desirable on many grounds—to reduce the period of training immediately, but that it is possible in the next two or three years, if the conditions are not likely to be different to what they are now. After all, we cannot look many years ahead, but can only take conditions as they are now and assess what they will probably be in the next two or three years, and then make up our minds on that assessment. Indeed, I imagine that that is what the Staffs do.
I am one of those who believe that it will be possible within a period of two years to reduce the term of National Service from two years. I will not state a figure or a period to which that term should be reduced, because I think it should be reduced, not at one attempt, but probably by easing off from the two years down to what I think will be an adequate period of 18 months. On what do I base this opinion? I am not going to attempt to argue the question of commitments or the cutting of commitments. I think it would be the height of folly to advocate now, that we should come out of Egypt without further ado while we are undertaking delicate negotiations with General Neguib, which we hope will be successful.
But I do say, in regard to the Middle East, that our Treaty runs only for a further period of four years, and, within a certain period of time, if we observe our Treaty obligations, we must leave. I estimate that, if the Government are successful in their negotiations with Egypt, we shall be able to have in reserve, for some purpose or other—either for reducing the period of National Service or any other purpose—a substantial pool of men. That is all I want to say about our commitments in Egypt.
I now want to draw the attention of the House to the strategic defence picture in Europe, which has changed considerably since 1950, when the Labour Government increased the period of National Service from 18 months to two years. Since then, a Treaty has been made between Greece, Turkey and Yugoslavia, and that Treaty has tremendous possibilities from a defence point of view. Two of these countries—Greece and 601 Turkey—are members of N.A.T.O. Each of them has well-armed and on the whole well-equipped forces, and if those forces can be used in Eastern Mediterranean defence, there is no doubt that they will protect the vital flanks and relieve this country of a considerable burden which we have been undertaking for a long time.
Turkey—whose small contingent in Korea has shown that it can fight—has something like 22 divisions, of which 14 are fairly well equipped. They may not be up to the standard of the four British armoured divisions in Germany, but, nevertheless, they are a well-equipped and a good fighting force. I do not know the size of the Greek and Yugoslav armies, but I know that if the necessity arose each of these three countries could give a good account of themselves militarily, and that is what we want in allies.
One of the reasons I have consistently supported the re-arming of Germany is that the Germans, provided they fight on the right side, are soldiers with whom British soldiers would be glad to fight. British soldiers, of course, are always able to give a good account of themselves.
§ Mr. S. Silverman rose——
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am sorry I cannot give way to my hon. Friend, but in view of what my hon. Friend the Member for Aston has said about Privy Councillors, I think I had better get through my speech quickly and leave it to my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) to try and catch Mr. Speaker's eye later in the debate.
In support of what I have said about the battle-worthy qualities of the troops of Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey, I would quote what the Yugoslav Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said the other day, that those armies in cooperation and even singly were very formidable forces. I do not think that the military experts on the benches opposite would deny that contention. The strategic picture of military strength in Europe, which I believe is something on which we can reasonably base the demands embodied in our Amendment tonight, has undergone and is still undergoing a remarkable change.
There is one other factor which I think should enable the Government within the 602 next two years to reconsider the period of National Service. That factor is Germany. If both Germany and France ratify the Treaty and the E.D.C. is set up, and if Germany provides a minimum of 12 divisions, that will upset the balance of power in Europe to our advantage and may make it unnecessary, at any rate for military reasons—although it may be desirable for political reasons—to keep four British armoured divisions in Germany.
The conclusion which I draw from the factors I have put before the House is that within the next two years the Government should undertake a review of the period of National Service and should, providing the military situation has not changed for the worse and that the factors of which I have spoken come into operation, then suggest a reduction in the period of National Service.
On the question of manpower, I think the Prime Minister is quite wrong when he tries to alarm us by suggesting what would happen if we reduced the period of service by six months. He said that if we did that, we should lose 1,800 officers and 10,000 corporals, which figures, I presume, were given to him by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. How long did it take to make corporals and officers in the last war?
§ Mr. Bellenger
That is quite true, but we lost corporals and officers as casualties in the last war. There will always be a wastage, but we shall have a constant turnover of National Service men from which to make corporals and officers, although it is true that we shall not have them for so long a period after they become corporals and officers.
I turn now to the material aspect. We were told in the White Paper and again today by the Prime Minister that serious reductions have been made in the provision of weapons and various other military materials. The Prime Minister supported the views he expressed by saying that economically the country was unable to afford the burden of the rearmament programme introduced by the Labour Government. 603 But what is going to be the effect of that? I suggest that we are going to be unbalanced. On the one hand, we shall have plenty of Regulars and National Service men and large reserves, but, on the other hand, those reserves will not be equipped for the duties they will have to undertake in the event of war. Small wonder, therefore, that Field-Marshal Montgomery, in statements made to many Members of this House, has expressed his concern, not at the lack of front-line troops, but at the lack of adequate and well equipped reserves which would be needed for the inevitable counter-attack once the line has been stabilised.
The White Paper makes it clear that our weakness does not lie solely in the inadequacy of the weapons available for our reserves. I go so far as to say that if war broke out tomorrow the 400,000 or 500,000 reserves, on whose training we have spent a lot of money, would not be able to be sent into Europe for some considerable time.
I challenge the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War to state what our anti-aircraft defences are today. The White Paper talks about making certain modernisations and repairs to light anti-aircraft equipment. I submit—and let the right hon. Gentleman deny it if he can—that, compared with the money and effort we are spending on them, our antiaircraft defences are almost as bad as they were in the days when the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Supply was attacking his own Government for the lack of anti-aircraft batteries with which to protect London. That is a state of affairs which should be exposed.
Although I believe that a considerable advance has been made in equipping our first-line Forces with modern weapons, it seems to me that we have put our goods in the shop window and left nothing under the counter. [Interruption.] I suppose that the Parliamentary Secretary will reply later and I am making this statement in order to obtain a reply from him, if he will give it.
I should like to make one point in the nature of a question. I personally do not challenge the rightness of the Government's request to have a further period of five years for National Service men 604 after they have finished their Territorial or Auxiliary training. I understand that the Government are asking for registration only, but they say that these men will be liable to call-up in a military emergency. I should like the Government to define more clearly what they envisage as a military emergency. Of course if war came then obviously, as the Prime Minister implied, it would not be National Service men or Z Reservists alone who would be called up but, I fear, a good many more.
I have been observing and studying defence matters in this House for a good many years. I hope that I speak with some knowledge, though I would not say expert knowledge, and I hope also with responsibility on these matters. It is because I believe that it is possible on military grounds alone to reduce the period of National Service training within a reasonable period that I wish to support the Amendment which was moved by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I hope that all of us, with our differing views on militarism, will be able to support that Amendment.
The Government are asking us for a blank cheque. Although as my right hon. Friend has said, the Opposition do not defer to the Government, in their resolution to defend this country and to observe our international commitments with adequate military forces, nevertheless, it is not right for the Opposition to pass a blank cheque to the Government and to acquiesce in their policy. If we did that we should not deserve the name of Her Majesty's Opposition.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
It always seems to fall to me to have the great pleasure of speaking immediately after the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). I shall not be able to follow him in his speech, except on the point of National Service, to which I should like to reply to him when I get to that part of my speech—if he can contain himself from going for his well-deserved refreshment until I come to it.
Before starting on my own speech, I should like to refer to what the Leader of the Opposition said today. He suggested that because the Prime Minister 605 had dwelt at length on the measures taken for home defence, that would alarm our allies, particularly France. But I suggest that because we are going to attempt to strengthen the Home Guard and have a certain number of mobile columns, and because the French in particular know that we have 11 divisions abroad, there is no great validity in that argument. I have been talking to a number of Frenchmen lately. They are very sensitive indeed that this country does not appear to appreciate the fact that they have something like 100,000 men in Indo-China and that the flower of the French Regular Army are fighting there. The oftener we can refer to the sacrifices that they are making there the better.
I regret that we are not having a two-day debate on foreign affairs and defence, because in my view the two are entirely inter-dependent. Treaty obligations are dependent on our defence Forces, and our defence Forces owe their raison d'être to our treaty obligations: and I cannot see how one can really debate the two things independently. If there is a feeling today that the danger of martial conflict in the West has receded, it is because our Forces have been strengthened there of late. If that be the case, and I believe it to be so, there is a change of emphasis. It is not a question of emphasis on tackling a hot war, as before. We must begin to think how we can deal more effectively with the cold war, especially in the West.
On that point, I am still disturbed at the amount of money allocated to the B.B.C. for their overseas broadcasts. I sent for figures this morning and have just received them. The B.B.C. spend 560 hours on broadcasting overseas where Moscow spends 1,000 hours. In my view, we have a wider area to which to broadcast than has Moscow, because we have to broadcast to the satellite countries. I really hope that the Government will be able to do what we asked the late Government to do when we on this side of the House were in Opposition, that is, to see that the B.B.C. have more facilities and more funds for this very important psychological aspect of cold warfare.
Reference has been made to a strategic reserve. I know the necessity for the Forces in Egypt at the moment, but I feel that the sooner we get the strategic re- 606 serve back to this country the better it will be. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] But not for the same reasons as those for which hon. Members opposite say "Hear, hear."
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
Because from my own experience and training I always thought that concentration was better than dispersal. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is so nice to get the support of both sides of the House.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I know that the strength of the strategic reserve in the Middle East is very much more than is required under our obligations under the 1936 Treaty, because the men were sent there to defend those vast installations and dumps and to protect British lives. We know the difficulties of the men. We know about the difficulties of families, the conditions under which they are living and so on; and we know of men who expected to be abroad for three years at the very most and who have been kept there longer.
I urge the Government to consider the transport of troops by air. I know the difficulties with regard to tanks and supporting weapons and so on, but in a very large number of cases it is not a question of that type of warfare. It is a question of dropping infantry with light supporting weapons to quell some disturbance. I know about the expense involved and I expect that that will be the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary, but surely it should be possible to alter civil aircraft or to make those aircraft easily convertible to troop transports. That is worthy of consideration so that we shall not have to disperse our Forces to the extent to which we are doing at the moment.
It is my view, and it always has been, that the temptation to indulge in a hot war in a southerly direction in the Middle East is greater now than is the temptation in the West. The problem is simpler from the Russian point of view, and the prizes are greater. The historical reasons for the Russian desire for a warm water port are just as valid today as they have ever been. I have been told that the difficulties are too great. 607 We should remind ourselves of what happened during the war. Hundreds of thousands of tons of war equipment went to Russia through those very lines of communication. Every possible port of delivery was being used—Basra, Bandar Shahpur, Bushire, and so on. Basra, in fact, came to be known as the front door to Russia. If it were easy to send vast quantities of equipment in one direction I suggest that it is equally easy to send troops and equipment in the other direction. That is why I—and, I am sure, the whole House—welcome the signing of the Turko-Greco-Yugoslav Treaty.
At last a washer is beginning to form between the Middle East and any potential enemy in the North. I think I shall carry the hon. Member for Coventry. East (Mr. Crossman) with me when I say that it is vitally important to get an agreement between the Arab States and Israel at the earliest possible moment, because that would form another washer. I have been talking to members of both countries, and it is quite clear that they do not begin to understand the danger. They are so concerned with their own private affairs that they cannot see the wide picture and the wide danger. From the point of view of foreign affairs I hope the greatest possible effort will be made to get understanding there.
As far as Suez is concerned we should get our thoughts a little straight. People talk about troops. Under the 1936 Treaty we are entitled to have only a strong brigade there. But we have much more —what is vitally important—the vast base with vast installations, employing thousands of civilians; and that base cannot be moved elsewhere. There is no water, there are no communications and there is no civilian labour anywhere else in the Middle East which could take the place of that particular base. If war should ever break out—which God forbid—it is vital that that base should be maintained as it was in the last war.
If we come to an agreement with Egypt very shortly, as I hope we shall, if we bring a large quantity of troops back from Suez do not let anybody say that we have scuttled. We shall be doing nothing of the sort. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I agree with hon. Members opposite, but, again, for a very different reason. It is on the strict under- 608 standing that adequate troops are left there for the protection of that base.
Then there is the question of the jugular vein between East and West—the Suez Canal itself. In my view, the time has come when the protection of that jugular vein for world commerce and strategic reasons should gradually move into the hands of N.A.T.O.
§ Mr. Crossman
I want to be clear on this point about scuttling. Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman mean that if a Labour Government makes a sensible withdrawal it is a scuttle, but if a Conservative Government does the same thing it is an honourable withdrawal?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
If the hon. Gentleman is referring to Abadan, I regard that as a scuttle, because we cleared out lock, stock and barrel. That is no comparison with this case, if adequate troops are left to protect this base on the vital life-line to the Far East. The hon. Member ought not to "buy" one quite so easily as that.
Whatever may be said about N.A.T.O. responsibility for the Suez Canal, every country in the world must remember and realise that that base has always been and will always be one of the keystones of Commonwealth strategy and defence. On that particular subject, I would ask my hon. Friend what has happened about the trans-African route through Lake Chad, which was used during the war. Is that being improved or is it no longer under consideration? Is there any news about that? It may be that the Suez Canal itself, as in the last war, would not be used for a temporary period. This alternative route is well worth remembering.
On the question of the 18 months' service, the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw has completely missed the point. In 1946, when this question of National Service was under discussion, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw said that it was to create a reserve. At that time my information was that that was by no means the whole picture. A very strong case was put forward that the National Service men were urgently required to reinforce the Regulars in the Far East and overseas. It is not strictly correct 609 to say that the need to create a reserve was the only reason. If it had been, 12 months' service would have been quite adequate.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
That was on the understanding that it was only for a reserve. But if the National Service men were needed to reinforce troops overseas —as I understand they were at that time —it could not happen. I spent no fewer than three years training troops in England, and I can tell hon. Gentlemen opposite that one cannot train men to fight in tanks—with modern equipment, modern wireless and modern weapons—in under two years and make them into first-class soldiers. I do not know of any people who were sent out to fight in the Middle East—at least, any that I commanded—with under eight months' training.
Unless we have the National Service men to send both to Korea and Malaya it will mean that the Regular soldiers will have to spend a longer period abroad. We are just entering a period when Regular recruiting is going up, and I cannot conceive of anything more likely to kill that desirable trend than the knowledge that Regular soldiers might have to serve in these distant parts of the globe for long periods at a time. The effect would be that Regular recruiting would begin to drop, and before we knew where we were we should have to reinstitute a period of two years' service.
I wish that a representative from the Admiralty were here, because I am rather disturbed at the figures in the Estimates. Heaven forbid that I should suggest that any less should be spent on the Army, but I see that compared with £581 million for the Army the Navy are getting only £364 million. It will not be any good having vast trained armies abroad if the civilian population and the great productive effort of this country are going short of food and materials because of the submarine menace. I have no knowledge or inside information on this subject. All I hope and pray is that we are seeing that 610 our defences, from the anti-submarine point of view are not being let down through want of money.
This question of defence should not be a party matter; it is a question of the survival of the nation, and it is far too serious a matter for party politics. There is also the question of the morale of the people who are out in the Middle East, Malaya or Korea. Morale is one of the greatest single battle-winning factors in any army. I remember the effect on my morale of reading some of the debates which took place in the House during the war. I remember reading some of the questions—I am not making a party point and saying from which side they came—and the horror that would have gone through me if those questions had been properly answered. We must remember that the soldiers are putting up a magnificent job—especially the National Service men—and we ought to give them our fullest support and the whole of our backing.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
For more than a year I have advocated a review of the National Service Act. I agree at once that my views have failed to meet with general assent, but that is no reason why I should cease to advocate what I believe.
It is significant that in the debate so far, and certainly in the Prime Minister's speech, we have devoted ourselves largely to a consideration of the manpower position. It is obvious that the Prime Minister attaches considerable importance to this subject. In September, 1950, on behalf of the Labour Government. I presented a White Paper to the House—Command 8026. It may be that hon. Members have forgotten what this Paper contained. I will remind them.
It asked the House to agree in principle, preceding legislation in an amending Bill, to an increase in the period of National Service from 18 months to 24 months; and, at the time, cogent reasons were advanced for making this proposal. In paragraph 10 of the White Paper it was stated:It is only after the most careful consideration that the Government have decided to recommend this action to Parliament. We have a clear duty to take effective action to increase the strength of the forces in the present serious international situation.611 That was the first reason. The second was,To meet the immediate need for experienced men, the Navy and the Army have already found it necessary to retain men due for release at the normal termination of regular engagements, and the Air Force will now be taking similar action.That was the second reason, because it was obvious that we could not continue for any long period the retention in the three Services of Regulars who were entitled, by virtue of their contracts, to suspend their engagements.
It was pointed out that although, preceding the submission of this White Paper, we had agreed to raise substantially the pay and emoluments of the men in the three Services, insufficient time had elapsed to enable us to judge whether the changes would attract large numbers of men into the Forces. We said:In the meantime, the only effective way quickly to strengthen the Services, apart from the emergency measures already mentioned, is to retain National Service men for an extra period.Then we said—and I hope the House will note it:It is the Government's hope that as the Regular component of the Services increases, it will be possible to review again the length of full-time National Service.I will be fair to the House and complete the paragraph:But the results of any such review must depend in the main upon developments in the international situation.Nevertheless, there was a pledge to review the period of National Service and, on the basis of that review and the results of that review, in the light of the international situation, to determine the course of action to be taken. I stand by that pledge.
In the course of the succeeding debate, the House was obviously alarmed at this increase in the period of National Service, nor were those apprehensions confined to any particular quarter. They were, naturally, ventilated on the Government side of the House—the Labour side, as it then was—and strong protests also came from the Liberal benches. From the Conservative Opposition came a speech from the present Home Secretary, making it clear beyond any doubt that conscription was not to be regarded as a permanent feature of our national system 612 and supporting the view that, if they agreed to what the Labour Government had asked—namely, an increase of six months in the period of National Service —the time would come, perhaps very shortly, at any rate at no remote date, when we could review the position.
There was, therefore, undoubtedly general agreement, first, that conscription was not to be regarded as permanent and, secondly, that at some time in the future a review should take place. I would remind the House that that was more than two-and-a-half years ago.
In the debate on the amending Bill, which was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), who was then Minister of Labour and National Service, various speeches were made. I will not quote all of them. There have been changes in attitude since then, but there is no particular virtue in consistency. Even the Prime Minister would not regard consistency as a virtue—and I will leave it there. Speeches were made by responsible Ministers, among them myself, as far as I had any responsibility; and, in response to the pressure exerted by hon. Members in all quarters of the House, and in particular from the Government side and from the Liberal benches, Members of the Government responded by giving the most definite assurances that the period of National Service would be reviewed.
I will quote very shortly from the speech which I was then called upon to make at the conclusion of the debate—there was a little excitement and it seemed as though trouble might emerge. We were, naturally, resilient, as is proper, and, in reply to the Leader of the Liberal Party, the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), who had made a very forceful speech on the subject, appealing to the Government to agree to an amending Clause, which, in effect, meant a review at an early date, I said:I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his party, in those circumstances, to wait and see what happens. If we find, in the course of perhaps 12 months, maybe 18 months, or within the period mentioned in the new Clause, that we can revise the position, I assure the Committee that that will be done.The right hon. and learned Gentleman the present Home Secretary, who supported my proposal and was anxious to 613 meet the difficulty about the somewhat truculent Members, said:I should like to say for myself and for those who sit with me that we feel just as strongly as anyone who has given expression to the same view that this proposal should not be a permanent part of our national set-up.Following that there was a summing up by the present Deputy Chairman of Committees and of Ways and Means, the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris), who said:We have had a solemn assurance both from the Minister of Labour and from the Minister of Defence, and a solemn assurance from the right hon. and learned Gentleman on behalf of the Conservative Party, that at the first opportunity, Parliament will review this question. I think that in the circumstances of the time and in view of the seriousness of it, I could appeal to my hon. Friend on this occasion, having established, with the consent of the leaders of the Government and of the Conservative Party that this question shall be raised at the first opportunity, to withdraw the new Clause."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th September, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 1504–7.]The new Clause was withdrawn on those assurances.
It may be argued, in the light of the international situation, that this is not the time to reduce the period of National Service. That may well be argued, but there is no cogency in the argument which is adduced that, in face of this pledge, generally accepted, and the assurances given and readily received, we ought not to undertake a review if only to ascertain what is the actual position.
I want to give my reasons why I think the time had come some time ago, and why it still exists, for the review to take place. First of all, let it be recalled that the primary reason for increasing the period of National Service —and many right hon. and hon. Members have adduced arguments this way and that, sometimes accurately or nearly accurately and sometimes inaccurately—was, first of all, the shortfall in the Regular component. We wanted 70,000 to 80,000 men and we wanted them within six months. Because of the shortfall in the Regular component, and in spite of the raising of pay and emoluments—for we had to wait to see the result of that action—it was necessary to increase the period of service by six months.
There was another reason: there was Korea, there was Hong Kong, there was the Middle East—trouble was boiling up 614 in almost every sphere. We were reluctantly forced to the conclusion that this increase in the period of National Service was essential.
What has happened since? As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said in his very able speech this afternoon, there has been a substantial increase in the Regular component since we decided to increase the period of National Service from 18 months to two years. What has been the increase? In round figures, it has been over 100,000. We have never had a Regular Force such as we have today.
But, over and above that, we have achieved what we set out to achieve—and we had the full support of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Conservative Opposition at the time: we have achieved the main object, the building up of trained reserves. What will be the position in mid-1954? Apart from the Regular reserves—and there will be a substantial number to be found in that quarter; but apart from the Regular component and the Reserve Force which emerges from it, we shall have, from National Service men alone, men who have had two years' or 18 months' training as the case may be, nearly 500,000 reserves. That is an enormous number of reserves.
Surely, in those circumstances, the time has arrived when we might consider a review of the National Service Act. But there are even more substantial reasons which I venture to submit. One is this. I agree that the Secretary of State for War, the Minister of Defence and the other Service Ministers have done all that they regard as possible to shorten the tail of the three Services. It is "under constant review," as we say. But I think we can go a long way in that direction still, and the right hon. Gentleman agrees. He assents.
We can go a long way in that direction. We ought to comb out all the men who are regarded as unessential, and, in my view, we do not require as many men in the three Services who are engaged on non-military tasks—far too many of them. I know that when I was at the Ministry of Defence I did my best to help to shorten the tail. I appreciated the difficulties. It seems to me that we shall not shorten the tail and remove some of the dead wood and eliminate the waste of 615 manpower in the Services until we have had an independent inquiry conducted by those who are unbiased and have no particular axe to grind.
I do not want to speak at length. I am coming now to a conclusion, because I have no desire to cover the ground of the foreign policy aspects of defence, and I have no quarrel at all—if I may say so with respect—with the Prime Minister in his survey of the position. I am as wedded to the need for defence today as I was when I was Minister of Defence. I do not withdraw a single word. I wish I could. I wish the international situation were less tense. I wish it were possible to abolish National Service altogether and to reduce, too, our expenditure on arms. Of course.
But those of us who care to see the facts—not being fogged in our minds on matters of this sort, and not because, even if we are alleged to be, we are somewhat prejudiced—who are ready to face the facts realistically, must agree that in the present state of the world some measures of defence—and, indeed, adequate measures of defence—are essential to ward off any possible aggression. I believe that; I stand by that. If I believed otherwise I should say so and take the consequences. But, equally, I do not believe that we require this huge expenditure on manpower. We have cut down expenditure on weapons. The bulk of the expenditure is on manpower. It is going up all the time, while the expenditure on weapons has been reduced. That is not striking a correct balance. In these circumstances, we are entitled to ask for a review.
I want only to say this, in addition. The party to which I have the honour to belong, to which I have belonged for nearly 50 years now, have decided, in their discretion and in their wisdom, to promote an Amendment. That Amendment goes some way in the direction I have advocated; not as far as I would wish, but it does denote—and the speech of the Leader of the Opposition also indicates this—that this party are beginning to appreciate that before long we shall have to review the manpower position.
If that is generally recognised, I support the Amendment, and I shall go into 616 the Lobby in support of it; and whatever I may do, whatever I may say in the country—and I am rather troublesome, some people believe—there is one thing I shall never do, and that is transfer my political allegiance from the Labour Party to any other.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)
I am sure the House is grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) for the careful and cogent way he has made known his exact point of view, but I would say to him that no one—certainly on this side of the House—has ever looked upon conscription as something that would become a permanent feature of our national life or thought that the period of service should not be open to review.
The right hon. Gentleman some weeks ago put down Questions to the Prime Minister asking that the period of National Service should be reduced. He was told by my right hon. Friend that at this critical stage in world affairs it would be a bad moment to take any such step. I feel that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington, in putting his views before the House, has not made it clear from any point of view that there has been any easement in the affairs of the world or the situation in Europe which would justify the call-up, the period of National Service, being reduced.
Indeed, I would go further than that. Certainly in my constituency and amongst my own constituents I see not the slightest evidence that there is widespread concern about the present period of National Service, or that the country generally is preoccupied with the sort of review that the right hon. Gentleman has in mind. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"] Well, I think it would be acknowledged on both sides of the House that, in the critical situation in which the world is at the moment, and, in my opinion, made more critical in these last two days by the news that has come from Moscow, to hold the sort of review that the right hon. Gentleman has in mind now might convey to our friends in Europe that we were in fact flirting with the idea that we should reduce the call-up period.
What, I think, we have to do is to set an example, as the Prime Minister said 617 —stretching ourselves to the maximum now to put all that we have into the common pool.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am rather puzzled by the hon. Gentleman. As the Prime Minister has decided twice to slash the arms programme, why is it more depressing to our allies to have the manpower cut than to have the arms cut? Why is it that when the Prime Minister cuts the arms programme that is intoxicatingly cheerful to our friends, but that if he cuts the manpower it is depressing?
§ Sir R. Cary
The hon. Gentleman is rather forgetting what the Prime Minister has in mind in the revisions he has made in the arms programme. I think he put it clearly before the House today when he said he was in process of not making in the arms programme a violent jerk but a prolonged pull.
§ Mr. Paget
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that this White Paper is precisely the programme recommended by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) two years ago and precisely the programme recommended by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man)? Is this abandonment of the defence programme, this requiem for the defence programme, welcome to our allies?
§ Sir R. Cary
I really cannot accept that. The hon. and learned Gentleman talks about abandoning the arms programme when, in fact, we are putting into the common pool of defence of the free world the maximum of our effort.
§ Sir R. Cary
I do wish the hon. and learned Gentleman would give up trying to conduct a war in terms of peace. because that is exactly what——
§ Sir R. Cary
Because of the Privy Councillors, it is not my intention to intervene in this debate for more than a few brief minutes.
I want to take the opportunity of congratulating the Government on laying before the House a White Paper which in so many ways is, perhaps, the best White Paper that has ever been placed before the House of Commons. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) regretted that we were not holding a two-days' debate—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—to consider foreign policy and defence at the same time, but some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will recall that in our pre-war discussions, when we were without a Ministry of Defence and without the sort of White Paper that is before us today, we used to hold such debates combing foreign affairs and defence. Only in the post-war years, after the experiences of the war, have we come to a time when we can separate these subjects.
We have now a Minister of Defence in charge of a Ministry of Defence, which has at last given valid reality to the coordination of defence. In our pre-war discussions the co-ordination of defence meant little more than a nursery scheme of a great experiment. Surely, it has reached maturity today, and that is a tribute to the methods of Parliamentary democracy. Again, in those former days, when each Service Secretary of State came to the House to present his Estimate, they were almost minor Budget days.
One of the features of our debates in recent years has been the rather specialised attendances for and attention to the several Service Estimates. It was once said by a well-known member of the party opposite that the creation of a Minister of Defence and a Ministry of Defence would reduce the Secretaries of State in charge of the Service Departments to little more than Parliamentary Secretaries. Be that as it may, I think 619 the House is indebted to the late Government and to the present Government for laying such White Papers as that which is before the House today, so that we can consider defence divorced from foreign policy.
With such an immense degree as there is of common ground between the parties on this subject I do ask, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing asked, that we should cease to treat foreign affairs and defence on a party basis, and that the House should approach this subject with a united voice and a united will.
Finally, there is one small sentiment I should like to express, and it is this. I feel myself that far too much time is spent on the political analysis of our situation in the world today and that all too little attention is paid to keeping the Services equipped and manned as they should be, not only on a peace-time footing, but to act as a potential safety margin against the contingency of war. I do ask the Parliamentary Secretary, when he winds up this debate tonight, to give the House as much information as is possible on these matters of preparation, on which, really, our discussions ought to be centred.
Perhaps, one of the most tragic things we can remember was that when, on 3rd September, 1939, something like 100 to 120 Members left this House to report to regiments and depots, they found so many discrepancies and shortages in the ordinary regimental equipment—boots, clothing, and so on. I am not talking about the rather more splendid equipment of tanks and guns, but the ordinary personal equipment of the fighting soldier. After all, there is the human factor—the need of men to be clothed and to be fed. Do not let it ever occur again that any contingent should leave these islands to fight in a war overseas and not have the ordinary essentials of clothing and food with which to sustain their lives in the field.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I do not think that I have ever heard a more damning indictment of the Conservative Party than was contained in the concluding words of the hon. Member for Withington (Sir R. Cary), because if 120 Members of this House in 1939 went out 620 of their depots into their units and found that they were responsible for men neither properly equipped nor clothed, that responsibility rests on Members of the Front Bench opposite.
I was extremely interested when the hon. Gentleman joined forces with the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) and asked that defence should be treated as a non-party question. I have always been in favour of defence being treated in that way, but I also remember what has taken place in the debates in this House since 1946.
In that year we had a White Paper which was little more than a stop-gap, primarily concerned with mobilisation, and the spokesmen on behalf of the Conservative Party were the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Foreign Secretary. The proposal which they put forward on behalf of their party was that this country, weakened as a result of two wars, could no longer carry through a defence policy on its own. It had to work out a defence policy as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
I remember only too well the present Chancellor of the Exchequer advancing the theory, with which I agree, that we should not get very far unless we drew very heavily upon colonial strategic resources. What has happened since 1946 to these demands for Commonwealth defence and the demand that colonial manpower should be used? The White Paper today contains nothing at all about colonial manpower and says precious little about a Commonwealth defence policy. It does little more than repeat the platitudinous remarks of last year.
We on this side of the House want to adopt a realistic attitude towards defence. We certainly want to put the needs of the country before those of party and, before hon. Members opposite start making the plea to us to consider this matter on a non-party basis, they must look at what has happened in the past.
In 1947, the White Paper of that year laid down the principles which govern our defence policy—the protection of these islands; the maintenance of our strategic communications and our international obligations. On that occasion there was no Division. By 1949, the Conservative Party had decided that the time had come when they could use defence for the purpose of a political 621 debate, and a similar Amendment was put down to the Government Motion as has been put down today.
We were told then that we should look to the length of our tail. The Conservative Party spokesman then said that very little was coming out of the vast amount being put into defence. I want to look at that proposition, because how many times has it been repeated from the benches opposite, both in debates on defence and on the Service Estimates and on platforms up and down the country, that the Labour Party has expended enormous sums both on manpower and production and has got very little return from it?
A year ago the Government came to the House and told us that they had 11 divisions overseas. This year they have combed the tail. They have got 11⅓ divisions.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Preston, North)
The Prime Minister said nearly six and five. Nearly six and five do not make 11.
§ Mr. Wigg
If the hon. Gentleman wants to get away with that, let me remind him of something that he once said. He wanted three or four extra divisions in the Middle East. The Prime Minister said that there were 11 divisions there. This year there are 11⅓ divisions, so we are not getting such a lot out of the tail as the result of the year's combing.
I want to point out what the Conservative Party now say and what they did when they were the Opposition. There is a great deal of difference. As I have already said, by 1949, the tune had changed somewhat. But a year before, in 1948, we had an Amendment put down by the present Foreign Secretary. He 622 wanted us to work out an Imperial defence policy. This, apparently, was forgotten in 1952 and it remains forgotten now. By 1950–51 the hunt was on, the Prime Minister was using defence as hard as he could as a stick with which to beat the Labour Government. He did not care what he said or did so long as he turned the Labour Government out.
Let me give an example. This afternoon I gasped with astonishment when I heard the Prime Minister say that he thought it was most helpful to have had a Class Z call-up. He thought it a wonderful achievement that we had called up 330,000 Class Z Reservists in the last two years. What did he say in February, 1951? He said:… the Government have succeeded in striking the exact balance which combines the maximum disturbance and cost with the minimum of practical military advantage."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 636.]Now, as Prime Minister, he says something else.
I agree with what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). There is an overwhelming case at present for an examination not only of manpower but of the working of the National Service Acts. As our Reserve strength moves towards its ceiling by the middle of 1954 there will be 500,000 National Service men doing their Reserve training, and if things go wrong it may become a matter of life or death to the country that their training is adequate, because it has always been part of the over-all plan, presented by both sides of the House, that those serving with the Colours, when serious trouble starts, will provide a screen behind which the mobilisation of a Reserve force will take place.
That is the Prime Minister's concept. It is different from the one he has put forward on previous occasions. In 1950 he gave us an idea of what he thought our strength in Europe ought to be, He said that the French had resolved to contribute 20 divisions but he understood it might be 15 divisions. He also said that there would be 10 divisions from the United States, two or three from Canada and six or eight from Great Britain. He said that an effective force on the Continent of Europe should be of the order of 60 to 70 divisions. He did not tell 623 us how near we had got to his pre-election defence scheme.
Taking the situation as I find it, I believe that the period of 15 days' training which we require our Reservists to undertake may well be not enough. I am not sure that I should not be prepared to barter a reduction in full-time service for an increase in part-time service. I believe it would be to the military advantage of this country to reduce the period of full-time service and increase the period of Reserve service. We must note that while the Territorial is to have 15 days' full-time training, plus six days' spare-time training, the National Service man is to have only 15 days' training, and as we reach the point when units will be composed almost exclusively of Reservists, how will they carry out their higher training if their Reserve period is different from the part-time Territorial period? That is the kind of problem that should be looked at, and would be looked at, if the Prime Minister had not made up his mind to go on plodding along in pursuit of his old fashioned ideas.
There is an additional reason for the most careful examination of the workings of the National Service Acts and the use of manpower. In one simple word it is "Coronation." I am not voicing my own opinion on this; I could quote speaker after speaker from the benches opposite who has spoken about the vast contribution which is going into the rearmament machine and has cast doubts upon what is coming out at the other end in the way of firepower and mobility. When this country is as enfeebled as it is, can we afford to detach such a vast number of men for the purposes of the Coronation parade? The Coronation must be celebrated, but to have 31,000 on parade seems to be a very expensive way of doing it. Have we the surplus manpower to enable us to detach 30,000 to 50,000 men for the purpose? Is it absolutely certain that an equivalent number of men could not be returned to civilian life when the Coronation is over? An independent inquiry would find the answer to such questions.
The Government may carry its will in the Lobbies tonight but the final arbiter in these matters is the public. If conscription is to work, and if we are to get adequate defence, it depends what the 624 people think about National Service. The people draw the conclusion that I am drawing, that at present there is an overwhelming argument for the most careful examination of the workings of the Acts. That is not necessarily with a view to an immediate reduction. Even if the Prime Minister came to the conclusion tonight that National Service could be reduced, I do not believe that it could be done very quickly, for that would be likely to cause a great deal of unnecessary disorder and chaos. The run-down must be much more gradual. I should have thought that in the first instance we could have moved down to a period of 21 months.
I also consider that we ought to look at such things as our Reserve Forces, and we should certainly look very carefully into the use of Colonial manpower. For some reason which I do not understand, the Government when in opposition ran this argument as hard as it could. In every defence debate the Colonies were mentioned. However, last year the Secretary of State for War said that the idea was wrong and that the subject was finished for the time being. I remember it well because the Secretary of State for War himself drew attention to the fact that from the Government Front Bench he was saying something quite different from what he had said from the Opposition Benches.
I earnestly ask the Government to look into the question of colonial manpower. The political situation today is completely different from what it was a couple of years ago. Only a few months ago Mr. Nkrumah, the Prime Minister of the Gold Coast, one of the most advanced of our Colonies, said that he recognised that if the Gold Coast was to move towards self-government, his country had to undertake responsibility for defence. The case for using colonial forces is very strong. After all, we know there are difficulties about recruiting Gurkhas. We have no fewer than 23 battalions in Malaya. If our manpower resources are strained to these limits, can we really afford to overlook such resources of manpower as the Colonies offer? I opposed hon. Gentlemen opposite who wished to look upon the Colonies merely as a reservoir of manpower in substitute for the Indian Army, for that is an archaic way of looking at the problem. But I believe 625 that an Army might make great contributions towards the political and economic advance of the Colonies. If the Government are wise they will look very carefully into this aspect of the problem.
I think I understand why the Government do not do it. There is a political reason for it. This was revealed in the first or second volume of the Prime Minister's "History of the War." The Prime Minister wrote that the West African Division had behaved with great gallantry and great competence in the East African campaign, and then Field Marshal Smuts got to work, and South African opinion demanded that the West African troops should be withdrawn to West Africa. We do not get very much out of South Africa, and South Africa's military potential does not seem to be very great. The present strength of its Army is about 2,000. I regret to say that none of our partners in the Commonwealth have put very much into the Commonwealth Defence pool. So when we have a Colony like the Gold Coast which understands its obligations inside the Commonwealth, it is indeed very foolish if, for out-moded and out-dated political reasons, we do not take advantage of its defence potentialities to the Commonwealth.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
The hon. Member will, no doubt, remember that when the Conservative Party was in opposition I advocated precisely the course he now advocates. Is he aware that there are at the moment in Malaya units of the East African Rifles?
§ Mr. Wigg
I know that in "The Times" last Saturday there was revealed the fact that the purpose of the visit of the C.I.G.S. to East Africa was to try to persuade the Colonial Government to let the 5th Battalion The King's African Rifles go to Malaya to relieve the 3rd Battalion. Because of the policy pursued by the Government we have scraped the pot. There are colonial Forces upon which to draw. The Secretary of State for War knows that if we really tried, and were prepared to pay for them, we could have three divisions from West Africa. It would, of course, cost something in money and in terms of officers and N.C.O.s, but if it is a price which West Africa is prepared to share with us, we shall be extremely foolish 626 if we do not re-cast our colonial defence policy.
As a first step towards getting defence on a non-party basis, I should like the Government to examine with great care some of the things its members said when they were in opposition. They should examine the possibility of really working out a Commonwealth defence policy and of having a colonial force. If they will do that, we shall believe what they say and shall not constantly be reminded of the difference between their theory and practice; and we shall thus have moved substantially towards the goal which the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing and the hon. Member for Withington seek to attain.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
I support the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), as do hon. Friends of mine, when he says that a great deal of consideration should be given to the contribution which can be made by the Colonial Empire with the free will of those in charge of the Colonies.
The history of the last war shows that the African troops who served in British units gained very much by the technical knowledge which they acquired, and distinguished themselves very greatly. This provides an opening of which we ought to take full advantage so that troops in the West Indies and in Africa and in all the Colonies might be given an opportunity of assisting in the defence of the Commonwealth. There is only one thing we ought to bear in mind, and that is that up to now the Legislative Councils have always said that they are prepared to contribute towards internal colonial defence, but they must have assistance from British fronts for Imperial defence. If we make those points clear it would help in the general question.
I will not detain the House very long, but I am very concerned about changes that have taken place and the failure, revealed by our methods, of handling these changed conditions. It is a fact that we have maintained the present Formations both in the Army and in the Air Force exactly as they were before the last war. I believe that the time has come when there ought to be an independent inquiry to go into the whole question of the shape and the pattern of formations. 627 We are now working in co-operation with N.A.T.O. and it is interesting to compare the formations of the United States and French armies with ours and see how much they vary. We are forced today to talk about brigade groups, which are necessary to handle the modern weapons which were never thought of when the old divisions were set up. I believe that there is in this country a man who would confer as great a benefit on the Services as did Lord Esher in his time when he had the support of perhaps one of our greatest War Ministers, the late Lord Haldane. If hon. Members take the trouble to read the speeches of Lord Haldane on the machinery of Government they will find that they make worth-while reading even today.
There is one other thing I should like to say and that is in regard to the Ministry of Defence, the Department which has produced this White Paper. Those of us who have been in the House long enough can remember the Minister for the Coordination of Defence. That was an experiment that was worth making, but it was a failure. One of the strangest things in the set-up of Government here which certainly puzzles our foreign friends is why the Ministry of Defence should be a civilian Department. It is, in fact, one of the civilian Departments, and one of the peculiarities which faces the Estimates Committee when considering the Estimates is to find the Ministry of Defence tucked away with other civil Departments and not as a Service Ministry at all.
At this moment, one of the most urgent matters for consideration in the sphere of defence is the lamentable fact that owing to taxation and other causes the size of the British Mercantile Marine is being dangerously reduced. That is by far the most serious aspect of defence. While we are discussing this White Paper and considering all these matters, it is well to record that it is of paramount importance for the safety of this country in war that we should have a sufficient number of ships. The number of ships available now is considerably less than it was at the conclusion of the last war.
I believe that the work being done by the Admiralty and by research and development in regard to chasing submarines, and so on, is extremely good, but that is just the sort of matter that an independent inquiry could go into, 628 because it is useless to discuss Service matters unless we take into account the importance of the Mercantile Marine.
The White Paper also refers to research and development. We are spending over £110 million on this and it is money very well spent. There has been a great flow of results from this expenditure, and many of the new developments are still progressing. For instance, think of the gas turbine and what progress it has made within the past 12 years, and there is the whole question of the atomic discovery. All these things suggest that there is the problem of knowing when to switch production from one type of thing to another. The avoidance of making obsolescent things is one of the greatest problems which faces any Service Department today.
For this as well as for other reasons I should like to see the Ministry of Defence made a greater reality than it is now. There is enormous scope for a real Ministry of Defence which can not only allocate the products but work closer with our allies so as to ensure that we shall have a share of what may be the most up-to-date type of aircraft, gun or other armament, and that we should also extend to our allies the benefits of what we are producing in the race in research and development. This is the concern of the Ministry of Supply, but it should be more closely associated with the Ministry of Defence.
The range of weapons and of armament generally is becoming so enormous that it is quite obvious that it is not possible to continue to spend the money necessary and maintain our economic position unless we change some of our methods. If there were set up a commission on the lines of the commission over which Lord Esher presided, which brought about a complete change at that time, whose advantages have never been questioned, and which was for the benefit of the Services, we should be able to effect great economies. For instance, there is the question of a Central Purchasing Agency and, also, there could be reviewed again the formations in the Services so as to see that manpower is used to the utmost efficiency, having regard to modern weapons.
Over and above everything else, besides the question of the Mercantile Marine, is the matter of an adequate war 629 potential and when the time comes for expansion we can be sure that the jigs and tools and everything else are ready so that the skilled engineers can play their part. In the First World War it was said said that for every man in the lines eight were wanted behind. In the last war for every man in the lines twice the number were wanted behind. In any future war the figure will have advanced to 30 men engaged in all the different industries, especially electronics, to maintain what is necessary in the matter of up-to-date equipment and warlike stores.
I hope that the Government will consider that the time has come for the formation of the Services to be reviewed. It can only be reviewed efficiently by an independent inquiry. There is a man who took over the Ministry of Supply and organised it at the end of the war, putting it on a sound basis. That man has held very great appointments since then, and I believe that the appointment of the kind I have envisaged would not be beneath his capacity or dignity.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
In considering this White Paper, the House is bound to ask what is the general conception of defence implicit in it, and more particularly, what are the actual requirements for which all this enormous mass of men and money—a mass somewhat reduced from the original programme but still an enormous mass—is asked?
On the day this White Paper was published, "The Times," in an important leading article, gave us four requirements for which they said the defences of this country were now being provided. The first was the cold war. "The Times" leader went on to refer to the specially heavy burden—heavy indeed it is—which the Army is bearing all over the world in connection with that. The second, said the leader, was the supremely important task of keeping a large enough force to deter any possible aggressor. That made it clear that it meant a striking force of something in the nature of the Commonwealth strategic reserve.
Thirdly, "The Times" gave this requirement: a requirement for the first 30 days of a full-scale modern war, in which period both sides would fight with their most terrible weapons, vainly hoping to 630 snatch a quick victory in the teeth of hideous reprisals. That, I take it, was referring to a possible blitz period at the outset of a new war. Finally, they said, there was a fourth requirement for the long months and years that could follow D plus 30, when exhaustion had possibly set in and the tempo had slackened for a breathing space and for more old-fashioned methods of fighting.
I think the House would agree that those are the four requirements, reasonably stated, of what is in the minds of defence thinkers at the moment in preparing our defence requirements. I, at any rate, have reached the conviction that if we tried to prepare adequate Forces and resources for all those four requirements we should be asking the nation to do something which is quite impossible. It is impossible, for the reason that if we try to prepare defence Forces and resources for all four of those requirements simultaneously we should be bound to do one of two things.
Firstly, we should be bound to provide some Forces for the essentials of all those requirements, and if we did that we should risk breaking, and should probably actually break, the back of the nation economically and fall into the pitfall to which the White Paper refers very eloquently on page 4, when it says we should give our opponents "a bloodless victory." No one wants to do that.
We might do the opposite, which is what the White Paper does—reduce our efforts to within what we hope is the capacity of the nation. Then we leave out certain obvious essentials. I put it very earnestly to the House that that is what we are doing in the White Paper. I would refer, in passing, to the one requirement, Civil Defence. How can we possibly have, in regard to Civil Defence, anything adequate for the first 30 days of the blitz war, as it is pointed out in "The Times" leading article, and as it so easily might be?
I do not want to speak about that requirement but about an even more important one, the second of those "Times" requirements, a striking force in being to deter aggression. It has been referred to several times in the course of this debate as a Commonwealth strategic reserve. What has been referred to time and time again is that we make no provision for it whatever in this White Paper. 631 First, I would meet the very obvious objection, which might be made from the Government side of the House, that the criticism I am making can be applied equally to the defence proposals which the Government of which I had the honour to be a Member made to the House of Commons. Of course, that is perfectly true. It is true also that, in the light of future events, we can see the defects of these defence proposals which the previous Government put forward. We can see easily, for example, that two years ago we set our sights too high. We proposed a defence effort which simply could not be carried through in its entirety in the time proposed without breaking the back of the country economically.
I simply mention that because it has become a commonplace in this House. The Prime Minister referred to it. It was interesting to see how, this year, the necessity for an adjustment and a reduction of our defence effort, which was not so long ago one of the most controversial topics in British public life, has become not in the least controversial today and agreed on all sides of the House.
I am not saying that I am in the least ashamed that we of the previous Government set our sights too high when we made our defence effort. I believe that in the international emergency at that time, to which the Prime Minister referred, any Government would have had to make almost the maximum defence effort which could be made. Therefore I feel no shame in criticising the White Paper, although it is a perfectly fair point, if anyone on the Government side thinks it worth while making it, that I am criticising our defence programme at the same time.
The main submission I make to the House is that the White Paper is scaling down our defence effort from the 1947 programme, as I think rightly, but does not see the necessity of revising our conception of defence at the same time, of revising our dispositions; and something deeper than our dispositions—the whole principle on which we are attempting to conduct Commonwealth defence and to secure the security in war of these islands.
That brings me back to the point I was making just now of the non-existence today of a central Commonwealth 632 strategic reserve. It was referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), who used the word "concentrated." That is one part of the theme I am putting before the House. Think of our dispositions today. The Prime Minister and other Members have referred to them. We have 11-plus divisions, and not one of them in this country, but scattered all over the world. Was there ever any State which had dispositions of that sort before?
I am irresistibly reminded of one of the most striking passages in the Prime Minister's war memoirs when I think of our dispositions today. The House will remember it. It concerns the time when the Prime Minister went out in the darkest hour of the battle of France. He visited the French Government and General Gamelin. The Prime Minister, whose French is no doubt better than mine—but only just—said to General Gamelin:Ou est la masse de manoeuvre?General Gamelin replied:Aucune.And with that single fateful word he sealed the fate of France. The Prime Minister says in his memoirs how terribly he was struck by it.
He writes:I was dumbfounded. What were we to think of the great French Army and its highest chiefs? It had never occurred to me that any commanders, having to defend 500 miles of engaged front, would have left themselves unprovided with a mass of manoeuvre. No one can defend with certainty so wide a front; but when the enemy has committed himself to a major thrust which breaks the line one can always have, one must always have, a mass of divisions which marches up in vehement counter-attack at the moment when the first fury of the offensive has spent its force.But what do we say to the Prime Minister today about the dispositions of this country when it is a question of a front not of five miles—a front not engaged in the same sense but engaged in respect of some parts, a front which might be engaged? To meet that eventuality is the point of all our efforts. It is a front of tens of thousands of miles and we are attempting to hold it in precisely the way which was stigmatised by the Prime Minister, that is, the way in which General Gamelin was trying to hold the French front, without any mass of manoeuvre, without any strategic reserve at all. 633 That seems to me to be a situation which this House ought to view with the utmost gravity because this is the way in which states and empires fall and go to their destruction. There are always good grounds for using all their resources on the periphery, scattering them over the world as we have done—the Prime Minister used that phrase. Of course there are good reasons for our doing it at the moment. Nations and states which are led into dispositions of that sort do it for all kinds of reasons, some good, some less good. They do it for reasons of prestige. Sometimes they do it even from habit. They also do it in support of allies, in support of their legitimate interests all over the world—for many reasons which are certainly important.
However good and however weighty those reasons are, I put it to the House that they must be overborne if they produce a situation such as the one we are in today. I say that because that situation is one, frankly, in which the nation might easily perish, and it can very easily perish defending to the death the lifelines of Empire which, in their old form at any rate, no longer exist. I am haunted by this country getting into the general condition of the Austrian Empire in 1914, a position hopelessly overextended, ramshackle, indefensible because of a conditioned habit of mind leading to dispositions totally out of touch with the new reality which had supervened.
In this connection it is not the efforts as a whole so much which matter but the distant commitments because they financially, economically and in terms of manpower really impose the intolerable burden. It is the old obvious point of bearing the weight at the stretch of one's arm being far more difficult than bearing the same weight close to one's body. That metaphor applies in terms of money, in terms of economics—we get it by the fact that we are spending not pounds sterling but foreign exchange and usually hard currency at that—but still more in terms of manpower. Various speakers have referred to it.
It is the fact that, for example, all our discussion on the length of National Service, and the term of it, is bound up with the fact that all our active Army is overseas. When we increased the term of National Service, as undoubtedly we had 634 to, to two years it was specifically to meet the increased commitments at the other end of the world, in the Far East. There is no doubt that the increase from 18 months to two years was made for that purpose.
I am simply emphasising that it is those distant commitments which are imposing the intolerable strain. Therefore, I echo most strongly the words of the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing that "concentrate" ought to be our watchword almost at all costs. I recognise that it is a great deal easier to say that than to do it. How can this absolutely indispensable reorganisation of our dispositions be undertaken?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that until the agreement which we all hope will be reached with Egypt is signed, it would be suicidal to move troops back from Egypt at this moment?
§ Mr. Strachey
Certainly, and I will say a word about that in a moment. What are our dispositions? There is no secret that, roughly, there are four-plus divisions in Europe, two-plus in the Middle East, three-plus in the Far East, and that with scattered garrisons of the corresponding naval and Air Forces—do not let us forget those because they impose a very heavy increased strain also—adds up, as we have been told repeatedly today, to the whole of our active Army being overseas.
Where, then, can we make a start, at any rate, on this indispensable process of concentration? As the hon. and gallant Gentleman anticipated me in saying, one's mind turns at once to the Middle East, and I am glad that he, again anticipating me, said that when we speak on that subject in this debate there is one word which both sides of the House should abstain from using, the word "scuttle." Of course we cannot forget that in the last Election the Prime Minister came out one day—I remember the headline—with the slogan that we were beset with the triple liabilities of Abadan, Bevan and the Sudan. Well, one of those liabilities has changed his side of the House.
I am not attempting to score a point here; I am only guarding myself against the point which might be attempted to be scored against me.
§ Mr. Strachey
It is what is called in military terminology an offensive defensive. The hon. and gallant Member is perfectly right in saying that in referring to the Middle East position today we must exercise great care and a sense of responsibility because negotiations are to take place in the immediate future. All I need say for the purpose of my argument is that I think we should be clear about what should be the aim of those negotiations.
The aim of those negotiations should be an agreement with the Egyptian Government which enables us to evacuate the Suez Canal Zone. I believe that to be an objective which, if we can get an agreement which makes it possible, is an objective quite as much in the interests of this country as of Egypt.
§ Mr. Strachey
It is quite clear that an important part of such an agreement is an agreement as to maintenance of the base. That is a matter which we must raise with the Egyptian Government, but I put it to the House that if we do so with the sincere intention that, provided we get that agreement, we intend genuinely to evacuate, then we shall not find it impossible or even difficult to get that agreement.
The exact state of maintenance of the base in our absence will not be as good, of course, if we are not there—let us face it; but I believe that the net gain will be just as great for this country as for Egypt. This is not the time to argue it. but I think that the political advantages of that change in our dispositions would be enormous. They would vastly increase the security of the Middle East.
By "the security of the Middle East" I do not mean the Canal; that is not the essence of the matter. It is the Middle East as a whole and Britain's real interests there. One must be perfectly frank and crude about it. Those interests are oil, the commercial, trading and producing interests of the great oil companies there. Those interests, I am quite sure, would be enormously benefited by an agreement between this country and Egypt. And that agreement—let us face 636 the fact—can only be got on the basis of a real and genuine intention to evacuate the Suez Canal.
I wish to say a word about the defence side of these considerations, and I have to say something which may be against my own argument. We must face the fact that if we mean to evacuate the Suez Canal area, there is no other area—I do not think the Secretary of State for War will contradict me—in that part of the world where we can station large masses of men. Of course, there are places where we can keep an advance guard; there is Cyprus, where the cantonments are going up today. But when we are talking in terms of divisions, there just are not places there.
Therefore, if we do what I am suggesting, and what, I understand, is Government policy, if we enter these negotiations with that sincere object in view, we must, from a defence point of view, face the fact—probably it is an assent really —that the United Kingdom must be the main real base, not only for our armies in Western Europe, but for any armies which we should have to send to the Middle East in the event of war.
I believe that the best military opinion would take the view that, with modern methods of transport, that is a perfectly practicable proposition. It is perfectly practicable, with air transport and rapid sea transport, for the United Kingdom to be the base—and it is really the only possible one—for the general strategic reserve. It may have to go to Western Europe if that is the threatened point, or to the Middle East if that is the threatened point. Therefore, I suggest that if we make it our sincere objective to do that, we have the real beginning of that policy of concentration which I believe to be the whole key to our safety today, because we have in the Middle East a real beginning of about two divisions which could be brought back to this country.
I do not say that there is any immediate possibility of the same kind with our other commitments. All I say in that connection is that in the case of Germany, I, for one, think that in the support of Western Europe we ought to be increasing rather than diminishing the amount of support which we are giving. But do not let us necessarily think that 637 for all time this means stationing more troops, or even necessarily the same number of troops, in Germany.
Think of the situation which may arise if the Bonn Agreements come into effect, in which the stationing of troops in Western Germany becomes for the first time a heavy financial liability in foreign exchange, in dollar equivalent, and in which there are German forces arising. It might well be that some of the forces destined—if you like, earmarked—for the defence of Western Europe would be best kept in this country. However, that is a possibility for the future and not for the present time.
In respect of the Far East, I think it would be quite wrong to suggest that there was any immediate possibility of relief, although there again, as other speakers have said, our objective should be some element of disengagement. It is certainly the element of the activities of our allies. The essential point which I am putting to the House is that we should revise our conception of defence which has brought us into—I put this again to the House—the very great peril which we are in today and in which we must remain so long as we hold our present dispositions.
We must concentrate. We must stop stationing all our available forces—land forces, at any rate—all over the world, as the Prime Minister expressed it; and be it remembered that they are very often stationed on other people's territories. That brings very grave political liabilities in the world as it is today. I believe that we could be not only as strong, but far stronger, politically if we ceased to do that, and, obviously, far stronger militarily, because we should have a force at the centre available to send to the threatened point.
I know the main criticism that can be very easily made of the thesis that I am putting before the House. I shall be told that this is a "Little England" policy, a policy for reducing this country to a Sweden or a Switzerland. Well, Sweden and Switzerland are not altogether unhappy countries—there could be worse fates; but whether we like it or not, and even if we would like it, we cannot become a Sweden or a Switzerland. We are a nation of 50 million, and not 5 million people.
638 What this means is a radical revision of the tradition of our world defence policy. It means ceasing to try to behave as if we were still the leading world empire. From the date—let us face it and take responsibility for it, and, to my mind, take pride in it—of India's assumption of independence, a re-orientation of our whole attitude was absolutely necessary. We have begun to undertake it, but we have not carried it through in the military field, where to a very considerable extent we are still living in the past.
Finally, I answer a question which I know will be asked: when all that is said and done, what actually is the economy which can be got from all this? What economy in money and manpower can be expected, even if we could—I say that we must—reorganise our dispositions on these general lines? Of course, I fully recognise the argument that can be used against me in terms of manpower, that we cannot both claim that such a redisposition of our forces would give us a strategic reserve and at the same time allow us to dispense with troops and so reduce the terms of National Service—that is perfectly true; we cannot use the same division for those two purposes at the same time, and there is great force in that argument. But it is not completely true; it has not complete force, and for the following reasons.
In the first place, the Commonwealth strategic reserve for which I am pleading must, no doubt, consist in its nucleus of an active force. It must have, say, at the very least, one active division of the standing Army. As to its larger part, it not only could, but, I submit to the House, should, consist of Reserve divisions, but Reserve divisions at a very high stage of readiness, capable of being sent abroad at relatively short notice. Therefore, I suggest that the attention of the House ought to be given to these first four Territorial divisions to which we began to pay great attention, which I know has been continued by the present Government.
The object of the call-up of Z Reservists, of which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said, the Prime Minister takes a much brighter view now than he did a year ago, was precisely to bring them to a high state of readiness. Now they are beginning to fill up with National Service men doing part-time 639 service. Therefore, I suggest, for that and other obvious reasons, that bringing back a proportion of our Forces to a strategic Reserve in this country would provide a very substantial net economy of manpower. There is no doubt about that. It would do so not only in that way but by avoiding an enormous number of men—tens of thousands—being continually in the pipeline, passing about the world, as is the case today.
It seems to me that if we can make, but only—I say this quite frankly, and I think that my hon. and right hon. Friends ought to face it—if we can make, these changes in our dispositions we can open the way, at any rate, to a reduction in the period of National Service. I should be pushing the argument much too hard if I said that even if we could do all I want to do in the way of altering dispositions we could at once reduce the period of National Service this year. We could not, and that is recognised in the Amendment which my right hon. Friend moved today. We could not, but we could open the way to it, and the purpose of the Amendment is to call the attention of the House and of the country as forcibly as we can to what we think is the absolute necessity of reducing the period of National Service from two years —which is a very long period indeed and was never meant for one moment to be permanent—at the earliest possible moment.
I think we should be untrue to the pledges which I gave as a Minister and which other Ministers gave to the House when we increased the period, if we did not do something this year to enable us to say that at the very earliest opportunity that period should be reduced again. I feel it a bounden duty at all events to indicate methods in which the way can be opened to actually accomplish that.
I will summarise the arguments which I have endeavoured to put before the House. The White Paper which we are asked to consider does attempt to bring our defence commitments, our defence burden, into line with our economic capacities, and for that we should commend it. But it does not to my mind take the indispensable further step of saying what that means in terms of re-thinking about our entire world-wide defence policy. Therefore, it falls between two stools. It 640 fails very grievously to provide absolutely indispensable elements for our defence and leaves us in a most woefully indefensible position.
Unless we are to undertake far bigger and far more expensive defences than this country is capable of, we ought to adopt and must adopt new dispositions appropriate to our very important but changed position in the world. When we have done that I believe that we shall be in a far stronger position, both militarily and politically, to emerge from the very grave situation in which we are today.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Preston, North)
The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) began his speech by emphasising the weakness in our position which results from the absence of a strategic reserve here at home. I think there is general agreement on both sides of the House that there is a great deal of force in what he has told us on that point. I believe, however, that his comparison with the situation in France at the time of the battle of May, 1940, was not altogether appropriate. After all, when that battle took place more than six months had passed since the declaration of war. Six months after the declaration of war, I would hope six weeks after declaration of war, we should have on foot in this country the beginnings at least of a substantial reserve raised from the Territorial Forces.
The proposal of the right hon. Member that we should evacuate the Suez Canal Zone raises three distinct but related questions of considerable importance. There is, first of all, the security of the Suez Canal waterway, then the maintenance of the base in the Suez Canal Zone and, finally, the question of the location of our strategic reserve.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the base was all that mattered. I agree that the base is much the most important thing in the Suez Canal Zone, but the waterway, the Canal itself, is also very important. With our widespread commitments throughout the world we inevitably have at a given time a large proportion of our troops at sea. It is inevitable. They are in transit, in the pipeline, as it is called. But, if the Canal were closed; if our troopships sailing to Malaya, Hong Kong or Korea had to go round the Cape, the wastage in time, in manpower 641 and in expense would be very nearly double what it is today.
We have another interest in the Canal of which I would remind the House. Some 35 per cent. of the ships which sail through the Canal every year are British ships. Admittedly most of them are merchant ships; but I think the experience of the last two wars has taught us conclusively that a strong merchant fleet is an essential of any defence effort. If the Canal were closed and world shipping had to readjust itself and sail round the Cape, or through the Panama Canal, British shipping—our Mediterranean and Indian Ocean shipping—might suffer a serious decline.
Let us be under no illusion. If we were to withdraw altogether from the Canal Zone, there is a very serious danger that the Canal might be closed. I will try to elaborate that point a little. As the House knows, the Canal is operated by the Suez Canal Company. There is already talk in Cairo that, if we were to withdraw altogether from the Canal Zone, the Egyptians might seek to abrogate the concession of that company—which runs until 1968—and nationalise the Canal. There is the precedent of the Anglo-Iranian oil installations at Abadan to guide them.
Nationalisation would almost certainly lead to the withdrawal of the European technicians and key personnel, as it did in Persia. Now there are not enough trained Egyptian personnel to operate the Canal adequately. There is, therefore, a danger that nationalisation might lead to the Canal becoming derelict, not through ill will but through sheer incompetence.
It may be objected that General Neguib, or whoever is in power in Egypt at the time, would do nothing so stupid to endanger his own country's interests. But, if there is anything we should have learned from the lesson of Abadan, it is that Middle Eastern politicians are swayed by nationalist passions and not by national interests.
There is another aspect of this matter which we ought to bear in mind. If British security forces were withdrawn it would be very easy for ill-intentioned persons—Communists or others—to sabotage the Canal. In January of last year the general strike which broke out in the Canal Zone would have paralysed the Canal altogether if the bluejackets 642 of the Royal Navy had not taken on the essential jobs. In the same way it would be very easy to block the Canal by blowing up the bridges—the Ferdan bridges I think they are called—as soon as trouble began. There is, thus, a very real danger that, if we were to pull out of the Zone the Canal might be closed with serious loss to our shipping and a heavy additional strain on our military machine, spread as it is from the United Kingdom at one end of the world to Korea at the other.
§ Mr. Crossman
Who is the hon. Gentleman afraid is going to bomb the Canal Zone in peace-time if we pull out?
§ Mr. Amery
Let me try to make my point clearer to the hon. Gentleman. I said, first, that there was the possibility of the Egyptian Government nationalising the Canal, that, if they did, they would try to Egyptianise the personnel of the Canal in much the same way as Dr. Mossadeq has done at Abadan, and that it might then become derelict not through ill will, but through incompetence. The other possibility is that Communists or other subversive elements would succeed by strike action or sabotage in closing the Canal. I do not think that either of those possibilities ought to be neglected by this House.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Dundee, West that the base is more important than the means of communication. We need a base in the Middle East for three main reasons—first, to defend the Middle East against attack from the north; second, to defend our own interests in the Middle East and in Northern Africa—the right hon. Gentleman referred to our oil interests there—and, thirdly, because the Middle East is the region which links the two great sectors of the Commonwealth, the Western sector with the United Kingdom, Canada, West Africa and the West Indies, and the Indian Ocean sector which lies in a vast semi-circle through New Zealand, Australia, Malaya, India, Pakistan, East Africa and Southern Africa.
We need a base for those three reasons, and we shall not find a better base than the Suez Canal in the whole of the Middle East. Only there shall we find the necessary ports, roads, railways, airfields, labour, water, power and food. It has the advantage that from it one 643 can organise the defence of the Middle East against attack from the north. From it one can maintain order in the Middle East itself and in the whole of North-Eastern Africa as far as the Equator. The House will remember that when the trouble became serious in Kenya a few months back the reinforcements flown to the support of the Kenya Government came from the Canal Zone. Above all, the base has the advantage that we can move out with equal ease either right handed, as it were, to support our Commonwealth associates in the Indian Ocean area or left handed to support our Allies in the Eastern Mediterranean.
It has been suggested that we might pull out of the Canal base and establish alternative bases in Cyprus and East Africa. Of course we could, if we were foolish enough to do it. But if we were to establish two bases where we now have one we should duplicate the cost of installation and rear services, to say nothing of all the new construction that we would have to undertake. We should also be flying in the face of every strategic principle by establishing two different bases neither of which could be used to the support of the other.
I come now to the question of the reserve. We have to make a clear distinction between the forces needed to ensure the security of the Canal and of the base, and the reserve needed for operations which might break out, not in the base itself, but anywhere in the region of the Mediterranean, the Middle East or the Indian Ocean. At the present time the reserve is concentrated in the Canal Zone. It is there partly because of the danger of Egyptian terrorism, and partly because there is nowhere else very obvious for it to go to in present circumstances.
Present conditions in the base are not satisfactory. This is because they are temporary. If the Egyptians continue to refuse agreement with us, then we must make these conditions permanent and satisfactory. That could be done. The area is not in itself so very unhealthy or unpleasant. If, on the other hand, we can get a reasonable agreement with the Egyptians, then there is no reason why we should keep the reserve, as distinct from the troops, needed to maintain and defend the base, in the base itself. After 644 all, we maintained order in the area before the war with a few battalions. The reserve itself was in Palestine.
Palestine is no longer available to us. The question is, therefore, where could we station the reserve. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that if we had enough transport aircraft and if we were sure of air superiority over the Mediterranean, there would be a great deal to be said for having at least part of the reserve stationed at home. The rest might, perhaps, be stationed in Cyprus, Cyrenaica, Jordan or, if the contending parties would agree, in the disputed Gaza Strip.
I think the whole House will agree that if we can get an agreement with the Egyptians we shall not need to keep our whole reserve in the Canal Zone. Any agreement, however, which this country could accept must meet our minimum requirements. As we stand on the eve of new negotiations between Egypt and Britain we may as well consider what these minimum requirements are. I would say there are four of them.
First, the Egyptians are not technically competent to maintain the complicated installations of the base. Therefore, there must be enough trained British personnel to discharge that task. Second, the ports and some other installations in the base are of such value that we could not trust the Egyptian security forces to ensure their defence. There must therefore be a minimum of British military and naval forces available to guard them. Thirdly, our communications with the Indian Ocean area call for an air base under our control in the Zone.
I come now to what I think is the crucial requirement. General Neguib has been called the best ruler of Egypt in modern times. That may be true; I do not know. The same was said of Nahas Pasha and Hilaly Pasha in their day. For my part, however, I gravely doubt whether even General Neguib will be able to establish the solid social and economic foundations for his Government which alone could enable them to honour their obligations for any length of time.
I believe we should be very wrong and very rash if we accepted Egyptian assurances at their face value. It is not enough to be given the right to re-enter the Canal Zone; we must have physical 645 positions in the Zone which can be reinforced whenever we think right and necessary. This means that there must be a minimum—I hope it can be kept within the limits of the 1936 Treaty—of "teeth" troops to make it possible for us to reinforce the base whenever we need to do so.
§ Mr. Amery
I will deal in a moment with the consequences of a refusal by the Egyptians to accept the proposals. But I hope there might be some chance, after mature consideration of the problem, of General Neguib accepting them. I may be wrong, but we are all entitled to our opinions on this point.
I will now try to deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). There has been talk of forming a Middle East defence organisation. The late Administration was a party to proposals for this organisation, an organisation which would include not only ourselves, but Egypt, the United States, France and Turkey. It is quite right that other countries interested in the Middle East, should share the burden of its defence. But we must be very careful in all this that we do not get the disadvantages of a multi-national organisation without the benefits.
Let us be quite clear about it. The Middle East will remain a primarily British commitment, if only because nobody else is going to take it on, at any rate, for many years to come. Our French friends are stretched to the limit. The Americans are very unlikely to send ground troops. The Turkish Army must stay at home to defend its present frontiers. Therefore, we shall have to carry the main part of the burden in the Middle East. I do not think that we ought to hesitate from carrying it. Other countries share our interest in defending the Middle East against Soviet aggression from the North. But we have a second interest which other countries do not share. This is an interest which existed before the Soviet danger arose and which will endure after that danger has passed. The Middle East is the junction, the hinge between the two main sections of 646 the world-wide system of the Commonwealth. It is also the fulcrum of British power and influence in the whole area of the Indian Ocean.
The question has been raised of what would happen if the talks with Egypt fail. If they fail, we should have no option but to stay and stand firm under the 1936 Treaty. I know that the Treaty has only three and a half years to run, but much can happen in that time, particularly to American strategic thinking. There has been talk of the formation in the Far East of a new collective pact on the lines of N.A.T.O., which would embrace South-East Asia and the Pacific generally. I do not know whether this will mature, but, if it does, the Americans may begin to see the need for establishing a reliable defence organisation in the Middle East at the point of junction between the N.A.T.O. theatre and the new Pacific theatre that is to be created. It would certainly help our problems a great deal if the Americans did this, if they worked with us in the Middle East instead of sniping at us from the wings.
There is, of course, the danger that if the talks fail we shall be faced with a new outbreak of Egyptian terrorism. I doubt whether that could be very long sustained. If the terrorism moreover went beyond certain limits, world opinion would support us if we took forcible measures to suppress it. In any case, one thing is clear. The burden which Egyptian terrorism would throw upon us would be nothing like the burden which we would have to bear if we ran away from it.
If there is one lesson which we should have learned from the last 20 years it is that to give way to terrorism or to the threat of terrorism in one place is only to invite more terrorism in another. If we withdraw from the Suez Canal Zone for fear of Egyptian terrorism, sooner or later we shall be pushed out of Cyprus, or East Africa or any other base to which we may retire.
Defence is not just a question of communications, reserves, bases and collective arrangements. It is, above all a question of the impact which one makes on the morale of one's friends and one's foes. The psychological factor, prestige, is perhaps the most decisive weapon for the maintenance of peace or for victory in 647 war. A total abandonment of the Suez Canal Zone could not fail to have far-reaching repercussions on all our defensive arrangements with other countries throughout the world. They would be felt first of all in the Middle East itself. Do hon. Members really think that we could keep our air bases in Iraq or our special rights in Jordan if we were to leave the Canal altogether? If they go, sooner or later the rot will spread.
Then there is the question of our arrangements with the Asian dominions. They are tied to us—and it is quite natural—by links of interest rather than sentiment. These links are largely economic, but the Asian dominions are not altogether indifferent to the question of defence. The Commonwealth Defence Science Conference which Pandit Nehru opened in Delhi the other day is a case in point. Whatever superficial sympathy the Asian dominions may feel with Middle Eastern nationalism, they would have little interest in continued membership of the Commonwealth if Britain vacated the only point in the world where she could help them if they were in trouble.
More serious still would be the impact on Australia and New Zealand. Already, against the danger of attack in the Far East, they have made an exclusive arrangement with the United States. Nevertheless, with South Africa they are prepared to enter into the defence of the Middle East, because that area is their link with "home," as they still call Britain. If the Middle East link were to snap the shortest route to safety for Australia and New Zealand would not be through Suez but through the Panama Canal.
§ Mr. Paget
If it is a question of sending help to India or Pakistan, would not the hon. Gentleman agree that if we stay in the Suez Canal Zone against the will of Egypt we cannot take troops away from the Canal? The reserve would be required there to protect the Canal position if we held it against the will of Egypt. I cannot see, therefore, how we could go to the help of India or anywhere else if our whole reserves were to be tied up.
§ Mr. Amery
I do not believe that Egyptian terrorism would make such a 648 heavy call on our defence forces. But even if it made the call which the hon. and learned Member has in mind, if we kept the Canal base we still would be able to raise troops in this country in an emergency and send them through the Canal Zone sustaining them from the Canal base to help our friends in the Asian Continent.
Broadly speaking, the Suez Canal Zone is the only place from which we could defend the Middle East. It is the Clapham Junction of Commonwealth communications, and the keystone of the architecture of Imperial defence. If we pull out of Suez we cut ourselves off from the greater half of the Commonwealth and we abandon our friends in it to face the Soviets alone or to become dependents of the United States.
We ought to remember, at the moment when negotiations are to take place, that if we followed the advice of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West and withdrew from the Suez Canal Zone we should be sealing the doom of the Commonwealth as an independent force in the modern world.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I am tempted to follow the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) in discussing Suez, but all I would say to him is that my impression is that if the Foreign Secretary were to enter the negotiations in the spirit of what he has just been saying there would be no possibility of agreement with the Egyptians. I only hope that the Foreign Secretary enters the negotiations in the spirit of those who have spoken from above the Gangway and not in that of those who have spoken from below the Gangway.
There is a reasonable chance of retaining the use of bases in war-time if we recognise the political realities of the Middle East. The first major political reality of the Middle East is that British imperialism is something which is detested, loathed and abominated by everybody there. I will not say whether that loathing is justified or not. If we go into these negotiations with the idea that we are going to retain even the facade of imperialism we are not going to succeed. In fact, there are only two alternatives—to evacuate or to occupy the whole country. 649 The hon. Member for Preston, North was very gay about Egyptian terrorism, but the problem is not that of terrorism. There are 37,000 Egyptian civilians who are essential to the maintenance of that base. Only 8,000 are now available. The rest have been withdrawn, and the 8,000 could be withdrawn overnight. The fear which we have of the Egyptians is that they could make the base useless without terrorism. The hon. Member for Preston, North shakes his head, but he should go there and see whether he can find a single soldier who would agree with him that the base is any use if we have a hostile population against us. Here is a case where, if we want to keep something, we have to lose it first. We have to lose it as part of the British Empire and regain it as friends and allies of the Egyptian people. It is a risk, but if we do not take that risk the whole life-line of the Empire will be sundered for ever.
Returning to the White Paper and the general strategic and economic picture, I find that my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench have made my position very much easier. Last year we were asked to approve the Government's defence policy but to find the Prime Minister incapable of carrying it out. This year we are not approving it: we are taking note of it, and that is not approval. We are also making this demand for an annual affirmative Resolution by the House. Frankly, I am relieved, because it would have been difficult to do anything but vote against the White Paper if we had been asked to approve it.
The case against this White Paper on the strategic side has already been put overwhelmingly. Can we say that this White Paper enables us to maintain national solvency? To begin with, it lays down a principle which might have been put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). It says:… we must balance the need for greater defensive strength against the risk that by overstraining ourselves too greatly we shall by economic collapse give the Communists a bloodless victory.We have to ask ourselves whether we have balanced those two factors. I have looked at the matter very carefully and my answer is "No." If we adhere to this defence policy and the strategy on which it is based we shall go on imperilling our 650 national solvency and our independence. I want to argue simply on that point and leave all other arguments to other speakers.
We must first consider what I will call the "Churchill cuts." Speaking about the White Paper last year I said very adventurously thatEverybody has agreed to cuts. They have done so because it was physically impossible to carry out the programme. Six months from now they will be agreeing to cuts all over again."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 484.]I was right. In six months the Prime Minister was scrapping last year's White Paper.
I will make another prophecy for this year. I prophesy that there will be major cuts in our overseas military commitments and that they will have to be made because the alternative will be national insolvency. But the only cuts in this defence White Paper are in regard to supply and equipment. It is very difficult to calculate these things owing to rising prices, but I estimate that on the whole we are spending about £200 million less in the third year of the programme than was intended. I cannot help recollecting that I was severely rebuked last year for suggesting a £250 million cut in the supply of equipment. I am deeply at fault; it is a cut of only £200 million instead of £250 million. But I do not claim to be an economic and military expert. I am just somebody on the outside making tentative suggestions.
Having got that programme down to this level as far as equipment is concerned, can one say that the position is satisfactory? To answer this, we had better look at the way in which we have reduced the supply of equipment. What have the Government done in the course of cutting the arms budget after trying to carry it through? First we cut imports; then we cut national production; then the standard of living and then capital investment. It is not very difficult to make physical room for £650 million worth of re-armament if we cut imports, cut national production, cut capital investment and cut consumption.
§ Mr. Charles Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
The hon. Gentleman has said we cut national production. Is it not the fact that it was our customers who cut national production, because we were 651 making the wrong things? We have now put our efforts into engineering exports, which are needed.
§ Mr. Crossman
It is very strange that so long as there was a Labour Government production rose; but directly we had a Conservative Government production mysteriously started to fall. Perhaps it has something to do with rearmament. That is what some of us said would happen last year. We first imposed a gigantic programme on the engineering industry which produced every sort of difficulty for it, and although it had masses of orders it could not carry them out; so during the course of last year the industry watched the Germans picking up orders while we were trying to carry out the re-armament programme. The next stage is to cut re-armament—after we have lost the orders. The result is that we have less arms and fewer orders, and that is what is called a coherent arms programme.
It is perfectly correct for the Government to say that we have the physical capacity to carry out the supply of £650 million worth of equipment. We have that physical capacity because we are failing to export, because we are failing to carry out essential capital investment and failing to increase production. We can do this because we have an underemployed and stagnant economy. If the Government congratulate themselves on achieving such stagnation in our economy, let me remind them that in 1938 we could have afforded a bigger armaments programme because we then had two million unemployed. To be able to re-arm in this way is one of the signs of a stagnant economy. The Government should not congratulate themselves on their great achievement in being able to afford a £650 million armaments programme. They should realise that its cost, in the long run, is national insolvency.
I want to give some figures to illustrate the danger in which the events of the last two years have placed this country. Let us see what has happened to the American and other economies and what has happened to our economy since rearmament began. The American output —the national product—has risen by 20 per cent., American consumption has risen by 7 per cent., their fixed capital 652 investment by 17 per cent. and their defence by 130 per cent. It is an astonishing achievement. As the Americans put it, they have had arms, butter and the whole cow.
They made all the arms they wanted and they have increased their production, consumption and they have increased their rate of capital investment. Let us see what has happened to the British economy in the same three years. Our output—which had gone up by 5 per cent. in every year from 1946 to 1950—began to sag in 1950 and has gone up only 2 per cent. in the last three years. It is now beginning to fall. Contrast that with the American increase of 20 per cent. Our consumption is 2 per cent. down, whereas the Americans are 7 per cent. better off. Our rate of fixed capital investment is down by 7 per cent. while America's have gone up by 17 per cent. We are making that much less new equipment for the factories which are the essence of our whole economic survival in the future. Finally, we have increased our defence by 90 per cent.
Taking 1952 alone, let us compare the figures for investment. Last year the United Kingdom spent 13 per cent. of its gross national income on capital investment. The United States spent 15 per cent. and Germany spent 20 per cent. In the three years in which our economy has grown weaker and weaker month by month the American, German and Japanese economies have grown stronger. So when the Government say that we must balance the need for greater defensive strength against the risk of overstraining ourselves, I suggest that these figures indicate that we have been overstraining ourselves in the last three years, and that those Powers who are our chief competitors in the world markets have been forging ahead while we have fallen steadily behind.
In fact the effect of re-armament has been the opposite in the American and British economies. It has acted as a stimulant to their vast continental American economy and as a deadening poison to our own economy. What is the good of talking about having made our defence programme compatible with national solvency when we are heading for absolute ruin in the next four or five years—and the longer we spin re-armament out, as we are spinning it out, the more acute is the effect on our capital investment 653 and our competitive powers in the world markets.
I turn to two other aspects which make this bogus solvency even more bogus. First, the Prime Minister referred to the sale of arms. Apparently we have an entirely new principle. We build a lot of arms factories, or we switch our factories from engineering to armaments, and when we cannot afford to use the arms ourselves, we sell them off. They say it is all part of the plan of N.A.T.O. If anybody tells me it is being done in terms of the requirements of European defence, I ask, why are the Swiss and the Swedes at the top of the list? Is that because they are the most important militarily or because they have the most dollars? These are the three at the top —Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, and of course the U.S.A. They are the people who get the latest Centurion tanks and the latest jet engines.
We must remember that there is a sharp distinction between new machinery and equipment and obsolescent machinery and equipment. To our credit, we sell to our allies in Europe and America only our latest equipment. Nevertheless, we have to get rid of the obsolescent stuff—the stuff which is no good—if we are to keep our factories going. Where do we turn? We turn to South America and the Middle East—to any little nation which can be persuaded to enter into a re-armament race, one against the other. We have set off a nice re-armament race in the Middle East—and the Prime Minister congratulates the Government on some rather profitable business which "keeps the economy going."
When criticisms are made, he says, "It does not matter. It is so little." But it is a race which imposes a £1 million burden on the Israeli economy this year; and if hon. Members realised the size of the Israeli and Lebanon economy they would realise the effect of these countries each being asked to spend £1 million on jets and equipment. And then, after they have the jets, if we make them pay £4,000 for training a man to fly aircraft, is not that a burden? I do not expect a Tory to mind. The Tories believe in free enterprise and in profiteering out of war.
I hope that we shall hear a different view in the winding-up speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker). After all, he 654 made his name through those great books on the private manufacture of arms and the deadly effect of arms profiteering. Now we find that this country is perpetrating crimes of the sort which the Labour Party were denouncing year in and year out before the war. The Government calmly come along and say, "How clever we have been. We cannot supply British troops with these arms; we cannot afford it. So we palm off the duds on the Middle East and we sell the slap-up equipment to those who have dollars." That is called a defence policy.
The second factor which makes this criticism of solvency even more potent is dollar aid. I must say that I was surprised by the Prime Minister's speech. He used to rebuke us if we did not thank the Americans for Marshall Aid. But I heard no reference from the Prime Minister today to the effect that dollar aid to this country is larger this year. Was that because such a reference would have exposed the fact that we have not national solvency, that we are depending on increasing injections of dollar aid even to make this reduced programme feasible, and that even when we are selling arms abroad we still have to have dollar aid?
Of course, the right hon. Gentleman knows that if we admit to ourselves that dollar aid is essential, then we have to admit that national solvency has not been achieved. And if we admit to ourselves that dollar aid is being given with political strings, if by taking dollar aid we submit the whole of our foreign trade with Eastern countries to the fiat of Congress, then it is not only national solvency but it is national independence which is at stake. So long as we accept increased injections of dollar aid on political conditions, we can say boodbye to national independence. I find it staggering that for hours this afternoon people have discussed the Defence White Paper and have never mentioned the fact that this country is increasingly dependent on politically-conditioned dollar aid.
So far, I have dealt only with the impact of the arms programme upon the economy. I want quite briefly to deal with the impact of the overseas military commitments on the economy.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
Would my hon. Friend permit me to make this comment, because I feel it ought to be made. There are big 655 concerns which today are manufacturing armaments and which, if they were not manufacturing armaments, would be manufacturing power plant and other electrical equipment for export to markets which we urgently need.
§ Mr. Crossman
I agree with my hon. Friend. If he wishes me to sum up in a few sentences what we ought to do, the answer is, first, we must cut back the arms programme to what we can afford out of our resources; and, secondly, if we take any American aid it must be in the form of lend-lease of finished equipment and not in the form of economic aid which submits us to political conditions. I would give my approval to a White Paper only when I heard those two conditions clearly enforced for the British arms programme.
May I now deal briefly with the third aspect, which is the effect of our overseas military commitments on our balance of payments? It has been an extraordinary fact for years—and partly the fault of the Labour Government—that Governments have never seemed to realise that the stationing of British troops overseas was not only expensive in the use of young men but was colossally expensive in dollars. In 1950 we were spending £112 million a year on military commitments overseas, mostly in dollars. That went up to £137 million in 1951. This year it is running at about £150 million, mostly payable in dollars.
In other words, that is contributing directly to the dollar gap, and if and when E.D.C. is ratified and the costs of B.A.O.R. fall upon us and are not part of the occupation costs, that will impose a further burden of at least £100 million —and in dollars—making the total of our overseas military commitments, in dollar costs, about £250 million or £260 million a year. What is the good of talking about national solvency and about bridging the dollar gap without at least facing the fact that having 11 divisions overseas not only has a serious effect on the manpower in industry but also makes the dollar gap permanent.
I suggest that the House should face this problem, in strictly economic terms —I am not here dealing with the strategic side. They must face the fact that we must either reduce those overseas 656 military commitments or accept a permanent dollar gap in order to maintain them.
§ Mr. Crossman
What currency does the hon. Gentleman imagine is taken in the Canal Zone for all the items we need? Surely he does not tell us that they are all paid for in sterling? Indeed, one of the difficulties is that there is no way of breaking down our overseas commitments fully and successfully into how many are dollar commitments and how many sterling area commitments.
§ Mr. Crossman
There is no way of breaking it down. I have discussed this before. In the case of B.A.O.R. we know that the whole is payable in dollars, for Germany is a hard currency area. In other areas it depends whence we get our provisions and in what currency we have to pay the bill. All I am saying—and I will not delay the House because there are other Members who wish to speak—is that these commitments contain a large dollar component which is a serious element in the dollar gap.
In conclusion, may I link this argument with the problem of manpower, around which the debate has centred? I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) that when we started the two-year term of National Service it was because of an emergency. What was the emergency? It was the belief, wrongly held as it has turned out, that the Third World War had begun. That is not an exaggeration. It was believed that in Korea the balloon had gone up.
If the Third World War had begun, as some believed, it was necessary to maximise our effective strength in the shortest possible time. We had to manufacture obsolescent weapons, because obsolescent weapons are those which we use this year or next. We had to get as many obsolescent weapons and as many soldiers as we could because the belief 657 was—I always thought it was lunacy—that the war would take place in 1951 or 1952 or 1953—hon. Members will remember how it went.
The military analysis has now changed. Nobody thinks in terms of an imminent war. Very rightly, the Prime Minister said, we are not thinking of a short-term jerk but of a long-term pull. If we are not thinking of a short jerk but of a long pull, then our defence programme must be planned in relation to our long-term economic requirements. We must face the need for capital investment. We must face the need for cutting our overseas commitments to the amount we can afford to pay without increasing the dollar gap.
The excuse for the two-year period of National Service was that we should get the men rapidly. Yet today the Prime Minister explained how useful was this last six months of service. He said it produced 11,000 officers and corporals. But that is an argument for maintaining the two-year period permanently. To talk of the 11,000 officers and corporals and of these six months being the best months in the man's service is to talk as if it were a permanency. That is exactly how we get permanency. That is, we say there is an emergency and we let it run until the Chiefs of Staff cannot do without the extra six months of service. What we are saying on this side of the House is that though it may be convenient for the Chiefs of Staff to have the six months what this does is enable them to maintain overseas commitments which would otherwise be cut and so enable us to ruin ourselves in the long run and destroy our national solvency.
It is better to be compelled to be sensible—or rather it is better to compel ourselves, by cutting out these extra convenient men, to face the strategic and economic realities of this country. It is also better, if I may say so with respect to some of my right hon. Friends, to set a really good example to our allies. We are often told we must keep the two years because we must set an example to our allies. Surely we should not set an example of overspending—of over-committing ourselves, of taking on more than we can afford.
Surely the example we want to set is of somebody who really does his job of 658 estimating his resources properly—does what he can afford, what he has carefully worked out that he can afford within his economic means. Not jerking our military strength up for two or three years, but facing the 20-year pull we have got ahead, and only taking on an arms programme and overseas commitments that we can maintain for a generation. It is only that sort of White Paper which makes sense.
Hon. Members opposite say we must keep up our pretensions and remain a great Power even at the cost of over-committing ourselves. I suggest we get out of "the big house" we have been living in. Any sensible man who has a big house he cannot afford takes a three-bedroomed house that he can afford, and I suggest to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that a neat three-bedroomed house is much more comfortable than a big country house with huge unheated rooms. It is a choice of that sort that faces us in planning our defence policy today.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man). I think he always speaks with great conviction, and he is so often able to say, looking back on some speech he made earlier, "I told you so." I am not surprised he is able to say "I told you so," because even in the same speech he sometimes contradicts himself, saying first one thing and then the opposite, and in this speech of his tonight he praised the private enterprise of America and then two minutes later was condemning America for subsidising the re-arming of the Western world. However, I will leave it to my hon. Friend who is to reply to the debate, and to the right hon. Gentleman who will wind up for the Opposition, to deal with some of the arguments the hon. Member brought forward.
Tonight I want to deal, firstly, with the question of manpower, uniformed and civilian; and secondly, the need for a mass of manœuvre, a point which has been well covered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey); and, lastly and above all, the means for moving this mass of manœuvre to the right place at the right time. It is obviously useless to have 659 that mass of manœuvre if we cannot get it where it is needed.
I wonder if the House will consider for a moment the manpower at present employed in the Services. In the Armed Services there are.88 million persons, but the civilian manpower the Services employ it is a little more difficult to discover. The only criticism I want to make of this year's White Paper is that we are not given in it what some of the earlier White Papers gave—the details of civilian manpower employed by the Services. The 1950 White Paper told us there were 234,000 civilians employed by the Services.
By raking page by page through the very large Estimates of the three Services separately I have totalled about 360,000 civilians as being now directly employed by the Services. That total excludes those on the atomic energy programme; it excludes those in the Ministry of Supply. I think it would be convenient for the House if my hon. Friend will consider giving us these figures, at any rate in future years, so that we can discuss intelligently what is happening as a result of the Government's policy—which is a policy that was initiated by the other side when they were the Government—the Government's policy of civilianising the armed Services.
We have 88 million in uniform and 4 million civilians working in the Services, and the White Paper tells us that we have 850,000 people working on production for the Services, so that we have a grand total of 2.1 million people working for the Armed Services of this country. I thought the Prime Minister put it so aptly when he said that our defence effort today was "at absolute maximum." If it has reached maximum I wonder what is going to happen when the new weapons which are now being developed and produced come along. I draw attention to the need for reviewing the whole manpower supply in every form, so that we can not only man up the military programme but atomic developments, helicopters, and the other new weapons which are coming along. We cannot go on superimposing new weapons on the existing fabric ad infinitum. At some time we have to reconsider the whole question.
I think most excellent results have been already achieved in combing the tail. It 660 was encouraging to learn that 250,000 in the Army's tail had been given teeth and had been formed in 450 mobile columns to help in the defence of this country, but I believe there is still need for more combing, and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence whether he would appoint a group of surveyors to discover how economy and efficiency can be combined both in the uniformed and civilian elements of our Defence Forces.
The United States of America has had to take exactly this step. The United States, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry, East said, has got immense resources, but Mr. Truman had to appoint the Sarnoff Commission, and Mr. Eisenhower has himself appointed a group of surveyors. I am not so concerned with examining establishments in this country because I know that committees have been doing that work, but I believe we have got to examine the way manpower is employed in the 20 different garrisons which are scattered around our Imperial perimeter. After all, if the United States has had to do it I think there is room for us to follow the same procedure.
I would argue the case for greater mobility of the Armed Forces. We have 20 separate garrisons around our Imperial perimeter. Would it not be right to ask these surveyors to examine whether we could, perhaps, run the strength of those garrisons down with safety, leaving them as bolding forces. By using them as care and maintenance parties, we could scrape off the manpower which would help to form the absolutely invaluable and, I believe, essential strategic reserves?
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West referred to the mass of manoeuvre. We have got to form a mass of manoeuvre. I think Members on both sides of the House are united on that, but it is no good forming it unless we can move it about to places where it is required. Yet today, when we examine the White Paper or the Service Estimates we find no trace of orders for the transport aircraft needed to carry these troops. One sees mention of the new types—the new bombers which are to be produced in a transport version. They will obviously cost the best part of £1 million, and they must, in any case, be a long way off. 661 I believe that today there should be ordered not these large and expensive aeroplanes but smaller and cheaper aeroplanes, with lower landing speeds and shorter take off runs. These are the sort of aircraft we need in fighting a perimeter war. It is small landing strips which are available; it is not miles of concrete for take off and landing. If we do not give attention to this, we shall not be able to reinforce our garrisons if they need it.
I wonder whether we should not begin to build up strategic bases not only in this country but in one or two other selected places in the world—strategic bases where we can base the heavy maintenance and repair machinery which is needed in modern warfare, where we can base our transport aircraft and from where we can move our troops to the various garrison bases around. If this conception is possible—and I believe that eventually we shall be forced to do it—we could encourage Regular recruiting by enabling married quarters to be built at these strategic bases. When we have a defence cost of £1,636 million, it is surely nonsense to say that we cannot afford 1 per cent. of that to give the forces we are creating the mobility which is essential to the defence of our commitments.
I would also urge that if and when we get these transport aircraft—and in an other place a debate covered this point— we should show the flag with them. In the old days, we used to send a cruiser around to show the flag. I believe that now we should fly our troops around from base to base. It is absolutely essential to show these parts of the free world which is uncertain of the future that we can send needed reinforcements and defend them against an aggressor. We can achieve this if we have mobile forces and transport aircraft.
I well understand that it may be uneconomic to tie up large numbers of military transport in the Services, but I believe we can make valuable use of the "Merchant Fleet of the Air." Much has been heard of this, and yet it has never really prospered. If we had civilian transport aircraft normally going about their lawful occasion, then for exercises and during emergencies they could be used to carry our troops. At other times, they would carry British trade.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The hon. Gentleman has given the cost of a bomber as approximately £1 million. Could he give us the cost of one of these transport aircraft?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
If the hon. Gentleman would put that question to my hon. Friend, perhaps he would be able to get the information he requires.
I was pointing out that I did not want to tie up this transport all the time. They could earn this country valuable dollars and foreign exchange when they were not being used for military purposes.
There is one further point which I should like to mention. I have combed through the Estimates, and I can find no mention of helicopters being ordered. The United States Air Force have asked for 1,100 helicopters to be produced this year for the United States Army alone. They estimate that the manufacturing technique as a result of operational experience with these craft in Korea has advanced by five to 10 years. Yet I believe we are neglecting them almost completely. The United States' eventual allocation this year was £45 million for the purchase of helicopters. As far as I can discover, apart from 10 we receive under M.S.A., there appear to be orders on United Kingdom producers for only 10 for the Royal Navy and 10 for the Royal Air Force.
I wonder that the recent experience of the floods did not bring it home that these aircraft would not only be invaluable for the tactical battle but might also be very important indeed for civil defence against an atomic explosion. The first craft which arrived to survey the scene of the floods was a helicopter. I wonder whether the civil defence side should not also be examined to see if these craft would not be invaluable for future use in that sphere.
To summarise what I have tried to put before the House: Will the Minister reestablish the practice which existed in 1950 by publishing in his next White Paper the number of civilians employed by our defence Services? Will he consider appointing a body to survey the Service establishments at home and abroad, and will he ask that body to look into the civilian establishments which are at present employing 400,000 persons? Will he ascertain whether the civilian 663 establishments are employing those persons economically at a high productivity figure? Will he also consider the establishment of strategic bases on which could be based our mobile mass of manoeuvre? Lastly, will he ensure that both transport aircraft and helicopters are ordered so that we can move the slender forces which exist for the defence of our commitments to the right place at the right time?
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
As I feared at the beginning of this debate, I have been defeated by the procession of Privy Councillors and have had to telescope my speech almost to nothing.
§ Mr. Wyatt
Defence is a most difficult subject to be objective about. It appears to arouse emotions more than does almost any other subject discussed in the House. There seems to be a great tendency for us to believe what we want to believe. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), for instance, is this year able to believe that something which he advocated last year had now been carried out by the Government. What he advocated last year was that on a programme of production and research of £650 million in last year's Estimates there should be a cut of £250 million, thus reducing the amount to £400 million for that year. This year we have a figure of production and research of £745 million, an increase of £95 million over last year, and yet my hon. Friend thinks that that is the policy which he advocated last year. If he can believe that he can believe anything. What he advocated last year was a reduction to £400 million and not an increase to £745 million.
§ Mr. Crossman rose——
§ Mr. Crossman
If my hon. Friend will look up my speech in the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will see that that is exactly what I said. This year the Government have cut their programme by £200 million.
§ Mr. Wyatt
Last year's speech. My hon. Friend advocated a cut of £250 million on a figure for last year of £650 million, and that would have reduced the amount to £400 million. This year the figure is £745 million, and yet my hon. Friend thinks that is the same thing as he advocated. How can it be? The amount should be £400 million if he were right. Yet there has been an increase of nearly £100 million in respect of production and research.
I do not think the Prime Minister would also fall a victim to the danger of believing what he wants to believe. Shortly before Christmas he began to tell us that the danger of war was receding. General Ridgway and Lord Ismay, both of N.A.T.O., immediately said that they did not think the danger of war was receding and certainly had no information to suggest that it was. I thought the Prime Minister might have sound reason based on new information for the suggestion that he was making, and I began to ask him some Questions about it. He became very testy and said it was not a matter for discussion at Question time but for debate.
He repeated his statement when he went to the United States, but when he came to speak this afternoon he still did not tell us anything about it. Although he did say it was not a question to deal with at Question time but for a debate, when we have a debate he does not say anything about his reasons for believing that the danger of war is receding. Yet that statement has had a tremendous effect throughout the world, and it caused countries in Europe to reduce the speed of their re-armament programmes because they began to feel that the danger was not so acute.
I think the Prime Minister said that because he was thinking of other things. First of all, I think he was very much hurt and wounded by the campaign which was run in certain quarters, or which he thought was run, in certain quarters of the Press during the Election in which it was suggested that he was a warmonger. He was so anxious to show the country that he was not a warmonger 665 that he began to take action in the field of defence which I do not believe he would have taken before.
Then he thought to gain a great deal of political advantage by emphasising the disagreements in the Labour Party on the subject. He came to this House and said with great emphasis that on the whole he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) was right, and he encouraged as much as he could the disagreements that were known to exist in this party. He has done the same again today. After all, when he was Leader of the Opposition he said in 1950 that he could not get his colleagues to give their approval to the White Paper on defence presented by the then Government, and the Prime Minister of the day, now the Leader of the Opposition, very kindly agreed to substitute the words "take note of" for "approve" to save him from embarrassment. But when the right hon. Gentleman becomes the Prime Minister he is not going to do anything of the same kind to repay the generosity which once he received from this party.
Again, the right hon. Gentleman was afraid of the political consequences of having a programme of £4,700 million completed within three years.
The Prime Minister has now used the statement that the danger of war has receded to justify something he has done to the defence programme. What it is he has done is not wholly clear, because the first year's expenditure on defence amounted to roughly £1,100 million, the second year's to £1,500 million and the third year's to £1,600 million, which makes a total of £4,200 million over the first three years. If we allow 10 per cent. for the increase in prices, the figure is reduced to £3,800 million over the three years, which is an average of nearly £1,300 million a year. If we multiply that by four, supposing that the same figure as this year is expended next year, which it most probably will be, that means that in four years the original programme of £4,700 million in three years will be completed, and something rather more.
Last year we were told that the programme had been stretched out by a year to four years. This year the Prime Minister implies in the White Paper that there has been a further stretching, but where 666 is it? It does not seem to be in the figures at all? Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that there has been a complete shift of emphasis within the rearmament programme? Does he mean that we are concentrating so much on new weapons, on development, on experimental weapons and on that kind of thing that we are of fulfilling the original programme at all?
Judging by the end of paragraph 5 in this year's Statement on Defence, it would seem that there is a tendency for us not to complete the original programme at all, and if that is so it is obviously a very serious thing in view of the fact that the original defence programme was arranged to be a part of our contribution to the defence of Western Europe. It was to be ready in 1954.
§ Mr. Wyatt
The hon. Gentleman took a long time to make his speech and I did not interrupt him. Perhaps he will be good enough to remain silent now.
The danger into which the Prime Minister is leading us is in emphasising that the danger of war is receding without giving any reasons whatever for that statement. It makes us think that we can afford to be more complacent about our rearmament programme than we can or should be, at a time when there is no evidence in the world situation that that is so. In his speech this afternoon he dealt with no major problem whatever. He did not deal with the European Army or with Middle East defence. For those reasons I believe that he is not dealing with defence on the grounds of the interests of the country but purely on those of political advantage.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South) rose——
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Could I, through you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, make an appeal to the respective Front Benches not to close this debate, because many hon. Members have sat here waiting for an opportunity to speak. There is a point of view on this subject which has never been heard at all and which ought to be heard in this debate.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I should like to respond to that appeal, but I am advised that I ought not to and that in the very early future there will be an opportunity, perhaps next week, of discussing National Service in all its aspects.
No one can have listened to the debate without a very heavy heart. The proposals embodied in the Government's White Paper call for £1,630 million of expenditure on our Forces and 860,000 men bearing arms. That imposes a crushing burden on the people of our land. None of us imagined on either side of the House in 1945 that we should be facing any such situation as this today.
In the defence White Paper of 1946 the Labour Government said that they could not abandon their responsibilities in any part of the world because to do so would have been to throw away the fruits of victory and to betray those who had fought and died in the common cause. They said that our Armed Forces were confronted with tasks of resettlement and pacification which the Government were resolved to carry out, even if it meant —as it did mean in Indonesia, Greece and other places—that the reduction of our own defence burden was much slower than we desired. They said that they meant to give the utmost support to the United Nations and to try to make a collective agreement with the Security Council as to the contribution that we would make to the forces set aside to restrain aggression. And of course, the Government looked forward then to the time when, in an early future, the provisions of the Charter for all-round armament reduction would be fulfilled.
Ever since 1946, our people have stood firmly behind the principles which the Labour Government then declared. We have never abandoned our responsibilities overseas; we have never shirked the tasks of post-war resettlement and pacification, and we have never hesitated to stand against aggression and to give support to its victims—in Persia in 1946, in Greece, Berlin, Malaya, Korea and elsewhere. We have always striven, and the present Government so far have striven—I will say a word about it later 668 —to bring the disarmament provisions of the Charter to life. When we could not get worldwide collective security behind the Charter, we did not throw the whole thing up. We did what we could.
We made first the Treaty of Dunkirk with France, then the Brussels Treaty, and then the Atlantic Pact which brought in the Scandinavians, United States and Canada, and later Greece and Turkey, too. When people complain today of N.A.T.O. and all its shortcomings, and the dangers it may involve, I wish they would remember the state of Europe when we signed the Treaty of Dunkirk with Leon Blum and pledged our all to France.
We never shirked our post-war responsibilities and the risks which they involved; we never shirked resisting aggression; building up a collective security system, which in the beginning inevitably was weak; we never shirked providing the Forces, the arms, the money and the men which that policy required.
When, from 1947 onwards, we saw Communist aggression, military, political and industrial, spreading from country to country, growing fiercer and fiercer, supported by ever greater quantities of money and arms and by a propaganda machine more sinister and much larger than even Goebbels dreamed of, we found ourselves compelled to increase our national contribution to the forces that stood for freedom and for law and order in the world. And after the aggression in Korea we were obliged to put forward the expanded 1950 programme.
We are now in the third year of that programme. What the Government have put forward in their White Paper is simply a continuation of what we began. We recognise that, and we recognise that, if it was right when we began it, broadly it must be right today, unless there is some solid ground for thinking that the danger of aggression has got less, or unless there has been some other great change in the circumstances in which we live.
Has the danger of aggression got less? I wish it had. It seems to me that the Korean conflict is the acid test. We know that when India were preparing their resolution in November they were talking 669 to the Government of Peking. We know —Nehru has told us—that they had hoped the resolution might be accepted. We know they offered a truce on terms that were honourable to all. We know that before Peking could give an answer, Vyshinsky answered for them with a brutal "no."
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The Kremlin wanted the fighting to go on. That is why, broadly, we think that, in this third year of our 1950 programme, some such burden of armament as this is unfortunately required.
No one who voted for that programme in 1950 will believe that the Government provision for arms production and research is now too high. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will confirm what my hon. Friend has just said—that our real effort in production and research is represented by the figure of £745 million.
If I have it right, that is an increase on what was spent last year, a real increase after allowing for the rise in prices. It is a lesser increase than there would have been if the Government had not decided to stop production of obsolescent and nearly obsolescent weapons, and to give priority to the latest types. That process, of course, involves a certain risk. It involves dislocation, some unemployment and undoubted waste. But in my judgment what the Government have done is right. I think we shall get better value for our money, greater strength tomorrow, while doing something to preserve our solvency today.
I am certain the Government have been right to make the greatest increase in the Air Force—£81 million against £25 million for the Army and £4 million for the Navy. In defence and in attack, at home and abroad, as all experience in the last war showed, as all subsequent developments have proved, aircraft are now the deciding factor in modern war.
I am glad of the increase in the Air Force. I am glad that the aircrew turned out in 1952 were double the number of 1951. I am glad that the flying hours have gone up. I am very glad that the largest single expansion is in the Second Tactical Air Force, where we are with 670 the Dutch and the Belgians under General Ridgway's supreme command.
The hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) spoke of the Merchant Navy. I was concerned with merchant shipping in the last war. I hope that the Government will give grave consideration to what the hon. Baronet said this afternoon. I also support what he said about research, and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he can clear up a doubt which has been expressed: I have seen it said that the provision for research this year has been heavily cut. I hope that is not true.
In the 1946 White Paper, of which I have spoken, the Labour Government said that on equipment they proposed to be guided by four principles. Concentration on research, they put first, and they went on to say that safety lay far more in an adequate organisation for pure and applied research than in the building up of stocks of obsolescent weapons.
I venture to say that our research has been the biggest contribution we have made to the forces of freedom. If the infantry today have a whole new family of anti-tank weapons at their disposal, if our pilots have the finest aircraft in the world, if the new naval ships show a great advance on earlier types, if our sailors have new devices to defeat the submarine and the mine, all this is due to our huge expenditure on development and research.
That is the one part of our defence budget which also, quite certainly, helps the nation in other ways. The Comet and the Viscount are one example. The present Admiralty research on ship propulsion may well do for our Merchant Navy what the Comet and the Viscount will do for British civil aviation and for our aircraft industry. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will reassure us that the research expenditure is not being cut.
I come now to the most important section of the White Paper—manpower—and I am afraid that I shall largely repeat the argument which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition so admirably made this afternoon. Last year, the Government in their White Paper quoted the four principles on which they said the manpower policy of the Labour Government had been based; Maximum recruitment and re-engagement 671 of Regulars in all the Forces; two years' full time National Service; maximum recruitment to the Auxiliary Forces and the Reserves; and maximum economy in the use of Service manpower.
Those were the principles of our manpower policy, and we agree, with heavy heart, that they are necessary for this year, for 1953–54 and, perhaps, for longer still. The second of them is to us a painful necessity. Many hon. Members opposite think that conscription is a desirable feature of our social system. Some hon. Members on this side think so too. Most of us look forward to a world in which Britain's contribution to collective security can be made in other ways.
When we introduced our first National Service Bill in 1947, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, as he said today, that we hoped it would be the means of building trained reserves and that we could use Regulars to fulfil our obligations overseas. We found that we could not do so, because, as my right hon. Friend said, "our commitments overseas proved far more onerous than had been hoped."
When my right hon. Friend proposed the two-year period in September, 1950, he said that he did it "with reluctance" and that it was "a temporary measure to meet an emergency." The present Minister for Housing and Local Government said that two years wasa heavy and harassing burden for people in every class and walk of life…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th September, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 1116.]And so it is. Our young men have accepted the two years' service. They have done their service overseas in a British spirit. But two years does remain a heavy and a harassing burden, to them, to their families, to industry, and to the nation as a whole. The Government say in the White Paper that they will review the period from time to time. We say that this is so vitally important that this House should review it every year. After all, the circumstances may change, and may change quickly.
Our overseas commitments are very heavy. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) said in his very interesting speech, before 1950 we had six and a half divisions 672 abroad. Today we have 11-plus. For a nation of 50 million, whose main strength must be on the sea and in the air, that is an enormous burden. If they are needed to uphold world law against aggression, then they must stay. But we all hope that our commitments will in fact soon be reduced.
We hope for an early end to our troubles in Kenya. We hope that the negotiations with Egypt will lead to an agreed and more sensible system of international defence for the whole Middle East. I believe that, but for Russia, we should have had a United Nations system of defence in the Middle East years ago. Some day—it may be soon—the bandits in Malaya will say what the guerillas in Greece said in 1949, that life was so intolerable, that their struggle so hopeless, that they had better give it up. Some day the Kremlin will decide that the Korean aggression shall be stopped. We all wish that Stalin had done it. These things may happen at any time.
As hon. Members have pointed out, the numbers of our Regulars have much increased since 1950–51. That may continue, and it is another factor of great importance, as has been said. The contributions of our friends and allies in the Commonwealth and in N.A.T.O. may increase, and may make it possible, not now, but some day, for us to lighten the burden which we bear.
Looking back to 1945, I think we have carried more than our fair share of keeping order in the world. That was not new; it was the same in 1940. And by every test it has been right to do it. But, when we put forward this programme in 1950, we did so as part of an international effort by the free nations of the world. We believed that our effort would help our friends and allies to increase their effort, and that indeed was a major purpose which was then in view.
I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he can give us a better picture of what in fact has happened. The Prime Minister, very surprisingly, really told us nothing about it this afternoon. I do not think he once mentioned N.A.T.O., although it is incomparably the most important factor in British defence.
A little while ago, just before Christmas, I read some articles by an American 673 expert, Mr. Baldwin, in the "New York Times." He said that in Eastern Germany, in Austria and the satellite countries Russia had about 34 divisions and 2,500 aircraft. N.A.T.O., he said, without Greece and Turkey, had 28 divisions, in real strength more powerful than the Russians' 34. He said they had 4,000 aircraft which were battleworthy. That is not the whole picture, and Mr. Baldwin did not pretend that it was. Having visited N.A.T.O. and S.H.A.P.E. since I read his articles, I should be reluctant to accept his figures of the divisions now. But I did gain the impression in N.A.T.O. and in S.H.A.P.E. that our allies had made real progress since 1951. Can the Parliamentary Secretary confirm that that is true? It is really important that our people should know.
We know that the United States have increased their output of arms by six times since 1950. We know that they have 3¾ million men under arms, and that they are now spending at the rate of 16½ per cent. of their national income. We are spending 12½ per cent. of our national income; they are richer than us, perhaps they can afford it better, but 16½ per cent. is now their rate.
Is it true that five out of the 12 members of N.A.T.O., leaving out Luxembourg and Iceland, have 24 months as their period of service, that Belgium has 21, Holland 20 and that four more countries, including France, have, as a result of our effort in 1950, come up to 18 months? Most of us believe that France would do well for a time at least to go up to two years; but is it a fact that in spite of her difficulties she has made real progress in all her Services since 1951?
Is it true that France, Turkey and Canada spend approximately as large a percentage of their national income on defence as we do? Is it true that Belgium, Holland and the Scandinavian countries are spending, or soon will be, about 8 per cent. of their national income—more than we were spending four years ago, and far more than we then dreamed they would be spending?
Have the Commonwealth countries since 1950 adopted a three-year programme, which within their respective frameworks, involves a big expansion, comparable to our own? Is it true that Australia will soon have in her 674 Regular full-time Army and Navy 50,000 men which, in a population of 8½ million, is the equivalent of 300,000 for us? Is it true that they have a large Air Force as well, and a growing citizen army? In other words, in Europe, in N.A.T.O. and in the Commonwealth, have our example and our influence led to a big expansion which in 1950 it might have been difficult to hope for?
Behind the paper figures is there the reality of strength? I gained the impression in N.A.T.O. that there was. But the country ought to know if that is true; it ought to understand the vast historical significance of N.A.T.O. itself, the creation of a unified international command, dedicated to peace, and controlling the armed forces of 500 million people who have joined together to uphold the rule of law.
But if this is true, and if the E.D.C. succeeds, as we hope it may, that may in due course, like the other factors I have mentioned—not today, but in due course —affect our own commitments and the burdens which we must bear.
Those are the reasons why we think the House should review the two-year period of National Service every year, and why we think there should be an affirmative Resolution on which the Government should tell us about our commitments, the strength of our Forces and the progress of our allies, so that the whole House can decide in its wisdom whether the two-year period should go on.
That plan has another advantage. It will oblige the Government to keep up a constant pressure on the fourth of our principles—maximum economy in the use of manpower. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us something about what has been done in recent months, both with the Services, and with the vast numbers of civilians who, as an hon. Member mentioned, work for the Forces today.
Before I sit down, I wish to touch on two matters of a rather different kind. Almost anything in foreign policy inevitably affects defence. What I shall mention will be very strictly relevant to today's debate. I wish to raise two United Nations questions.
First, it is vital to us and to the world that our partnership with the United States should work harmoniously and 675 well. Broadly, it has done so—perhaps, indeed, to a miraculous degree. But there have been misunderstandings about Korea, about General MacArthur, about bombing and the prisoner camps. More difficult questions may arise in times to come. I believe that most of the difficulties which have arisen have come from the exclusive responsibility of the United States—inevitable at the beginning, but not inevitable today.
Could not President Eisenhower do for the United Nations what he did for S.H.A.E.F. and S.H.A.P.E.? Could we not have an integrated U.N. Command, and something on the lines of the N.A.T.O. Council? This is the first collective action against aggression in history. It is vital that the moral forces behind it should not, by misunderstanding, be frittered away.
Second, it is vital that we should not allow the idea to grow that war is inevitable. General Bradley protested against it the other day. That idea was a major cause, as I think, of both the two world wars. It is a mortal danger to mankind today. But there is one way in which, more effectively than in any other, the Western nations can help to kill that wrong idea. A year ago—and I am putting again something which I put to the Foreign Secretary last November—a year ago following the work which we had done, the present Minister of State agreed with Mr. Acheson and M. Vyshinsky to set up a new United Nations Disarmament Commission. They gave it a mandate to prepare a draft treaty, of all round international disarmament, inspection and control.
In that Commission, the Western Powers, including Her Majesty's Government, have made proposals for the abolition of all weapons of mass destruction, for the reduction of conventional weapons, for the reduction of manpower in a drastic degree—in the case of the United States from 3,750,000 to one million at the first stage—and for all-round international inspection and control of the most rigorous kind.
On those proposals, the Commission could certainly draw up a draft treaty within a year. So far, Russia has obstructed. But I believe that we could obtain a draft treaty with a majority of 676 11 to one, and I believe that the moral effect of such a treaty would be profound in our country, in Europe, in Asia and perhaps in Russia itself. As the Minister of State will remember, even M. Vyshinsky found, to his cost, that he could not laugh at a serious disarmament proposal in Paris a year ago. Even if one regards this simply as political warfare, it is by far the most effective thing we could possibly do. Why cannot the Government get the Assembly to instruct the Commission to complete their draft within a year?
Once the treaty is drafted, once the technical problems have been solved in black and white, once the peoples understand it, then some day, somehow, it will succeed. I suggest with great respect that the first detailed plan for de-militarising the world, for ridding mankind of the atomic powers which he has described so vividly and so well, would be a very glorious and very British climax to the Prime Minister's National and international work.
Some people look upon us as a second-class Power today. I hope that it is appropriate to say in a defence debate that that is pernicious nonsense. It is only 12 years since the Battle of Britain. We are still the heart of a Commonwealth that is still the most important single factor in world affairs. We made an effort in the last war that no other nation, free or slave, could equal. We have today the greatest forces that we have ever had in time of peace. We have led and we still lead mankind in the power of sacrifice, in the heroism, in the scientific genius which modern war requires.
If that is true, it is because our people have long believed that to stand against aggression is the true and only road to peace. To every British private in the First World War, that conflict became the war to end all wars. That is the war we are still waging by our present rearmament programme, and that is the war the British people want to win.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (Mr. Nigel Birch)
I am sorry that so many hon. Members who wished to speak have been cut out of this debate. I can only plead that at any rate I am not a Privy Councillor. I listened with interest to the very helpful 677 speech by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker), and the only fault I have to find with it is that it was rather interrogatory. I counted up to about four dozen questions. I hope I shall be able to deal with quite a few of them as I go along.
As it is rather outside the main debate perhaps I may say, about the Disarmament Commission, that the Minister of State is in very general sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman's views and we shall see what progress we can make in that direction.
This White Paper sets out our defence policy, the main lines of which are the same as they were before. But there have been a great many alterations and adjustments in the armament programmes since the war. When the Leader of the Opposition spoke here on 12th September, 1950, he said:… the assumptions on which the estimates of our defence needs were formed before the end of the war were not fulfilled and plans made subsequently have had constantly to be revised or interrupted by the pressure of immediate requirements."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th September, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 952.]It may be that the expectations of many hon. Members on both sides of the House at the end of the war were unwarranted. In the event, their expectations of peace and safety in the world proved to be unwarranted. But that is old history now.
The basic position has not changed very much since the war. What has happened is that the people of the free world have realised what it means to be the neighbours—and to suffer the consequences of being the neighbours—of the leaders of a Communist revolution. That type of militant fraternity does not make them very happy neighbours. They have, therefore, realised that without unity and strength there can be no safety for the free world. Recent history—from the second rape of Czechoslovakia right up to the war in Korea—confirms that.
As a result of this growing realisation we have had a number of shopping lists and re-armament programmes, culminating in the £4,700 million programme. After that programme was announced we ran into some very heavy economic weather. 1 do not seek to blame the Opposition for all the trouble in which we became involved, because many of the events were completely outside their 678 control. But it is fair to say that if we were to carry this colossal re-armament programme and ride the economic storm some pretty drastic steps had to be taken. They were not taken, and the result was a financial crisis.
The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) talked about our bogus solvency, but there was certainly nothing bogus about our insolvency. We ran into a national crisis and the result was a General Election. That is how it came about that the Tory Party was left nursing this gargantuan baby, and this debate is concerned with how we have set about that task. First-aid measures were taken by the Chancellor. There were immediate cuts in the Estimates last year, and the Prime Minister announced in the debate a year ago that we had taken steps to slow down the programme. As soon as we had time to turn round we carried out a thorough strategic and economic examination.
There has been much talk of a three-year programme. I think that the talk of a three-year programme has led the public in this country to suppose that expenditure on arms would go on rising for three or at most four years and would then fall away very rapidly. When the costings were worked out they revealed that, under the plans we inherited, the expenditure in the fourth and fifth years would be very much higher than in the earlier years. In fact, if no adjustments had been made, defence expenditure in 1953–54, on the basis of the plans as we inherited them, would have been some-where between £1,900 million and £2,000 million.
I think the House, with the possible exception of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), will agree that that would have been an insupportable burden upon the country, if we had done nothing about it. A revision of the plan had to take place, therefore, and it has taken place in the light of four dominating considerations. These were, first, that we have with us the cold war, and we are fighting it now. Second, with the development of modern weapons, not only are deterrents to hot war more important than ever they were before, but they are likely to be far more effective. Third, the nature of a future war may be very different from the nature of the wars we have known in our time. Lastly, 679 while our financial position has certainly much improved, it remains difficult.
These considerations give rise to conflicting claims upon our resources, and to strike a correct balance at any one time is a matter of great delicacy and difficulty. We have cold-war responsibilities. We have talked about them a lot today. We have troops deployed all over the world—the Far East, the Middle East, Germany and so on. All these troops are fully armed and fully equipped. The dominating fact of the cold war—and this is why it is such a burden upon us—is that it is fought by men, and that in this struggle the weapons of mass destruction are obviously irrelevant. Yet, if we lose the cold war, if we are edged out of one position after another, we lose all.
The question of manpower brings me to the question of National Service and the national Reserve, which has perhaps been the main subject of the debate. The Prime Minister deployed the main case, and I do not think the House would wish me to go over exactly the same ground as he did. I will, therefore, confine myself to trying to answer the main case made by hon. Members opposite. I was going to say that there had been criticism on three lines, but in fact we have heard criticism on only two lines, because the active body below the Gangway, the Pacifists, had no one called to speak. Nevertheless, they are perhaps entitled to a short answer, and I will make one comment upon their argument.
§ Mr. Birch
I observe. One cannot be very long in the House with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) without knowing something about the Labour Party.
We all regret the absence from this debate of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). An armaments debate without him is rather like Hamlet 680 without the Prince. He once held the old idea that in any circumstances National Service was wrong. Hon. Members will recall that when National Service was introduced before the war, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said in the House, on 4th May, 1939:We have lost, and Hitler has won."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1939; Vol. 346, c. 2136.]Those were vivid words, but not, as it turned out, a very good judgment. Perhaps if more people had thought as he did, he might have been right. I think this total objection to National Service has a rather nineteenth century Victorian smell about it. G. M. Trevelyan once wrote what I think were some very wise words. He said:It was only after the long period of peace and safety after Waterloo that men began to regard it as part of English liberty not to be trained for defence.In the terrible century in which it has been our lot to live, I think we can see that the peace and safety of the Victorian era was a piece of very especial good fortune. I cannot believe that very many hon. Members now think that we could do away completely with National Service. I do not know what history will record about the Leader of the Opposition, but my guess is that it might record that one of his greatest services to his country was to take National Service out of party politics by introducing it himself in a period when war did not appear to be imminent.
§ Mr. Birch
Next, we heard the criticism that, although National Service may be necessary, the period of two years is too long. Here, I must say that I have been a little confused. The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has been campaigning for a reduction in the period. He carried on a Dutch auction by himself, getting down from two years to nothing in a very short space of time. Today, however, he called only for a review, so that he appears to be bidding up the other way. Although he asked only for a review, the speech which he made was in support of a reduction. I think we may therefore look upon him as the leader of that mournful sect, the lapsed Attleeites.
§ Mr. Joseph T. Price (Westhoughton)
hon. Gentleman has just paid a well-deserved tribute to the Leader of the Opposition for taking this question out of the realm of party politics. The trend of his own speech is bringing it right back into party politics.
§ Mr. Birch
Perhaps the hon. Member could persuade his right hon. Friend the Member for Easington to be a little more consistent. I am pointing out that he is rather difficult to follow.
The first argument, I think, was put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) and the hon. Member for Coventry, East was on general lines that it was wrong—absurd, indeed—to keep National Service at two years and to cut down expenditure upon defence production. On that, I would say that this year expenditure on defence production is £650 million, and the volume of defence production will be more this year than it was last year. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South was perfectly correct about that. It will be more this year than it was last year, and £650 million, even today, is a lot of money; we can get a lot of arms for it. So I do not think there is very much in that argument.
The right hon. Member for Derby, South asked if it was true, as he had seen in the Press, that expenditure on research had been cut. I think the paper he was referring to was the "Observer." In fact, one is not without difficulty in following the "Observer's" addition. The exact expenditure on research is £10 million more this year than it was last year. So I can certainly give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance.
Not only that. From 1949 to 1950 the numbers in the Services have gone up by 22 per cent., but expenditure on defence production has gone up by 300 per cent., and the dates, I think, are worth looking at. The two-year period of National Service was announced in August, 1950, not only before the £4,700 million programme but before the £3,600 million programme. If the £4,700 million programme had not been altered we should in fact have needed very many more men to be called up, particularly in the Royal Air Force. That was the first argument—that we were getting men with nothing to arm 682 them with. I do not think that there is anything in that.
The second argument that was put forward—which is always put forward on these occasions—was that manpower in the Forces is often wasted. We had that from the right hon. Member for Easington and other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen. When we have over 850,000 men in any organisation or series of organisations it certainly would be very foolish to say that all of them are employed all the time. I do not think anyone running any organisation a tenth of the size would put his hand on his heart and say, "Every man on my books is 100 per cent. employed." That sort of thing simply does not happen.
I am the last person to suggest that no waste of any sort whatever takes place, but on the main issue I would say that the tail of the Forces has been combed many times. Since the war there have been 11 separate inquiries and in seven of those inquiries outside help from business concerns and from trade unions—with accountants, and so forth—was called in. So I do not think we can say that we have been very short of inquiries; nor can we say that all the inquiries have been kept entirely within the Services.
An interesting point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) about inquiries into the employment of civilian manpower. I will certainly draw my noble Friend's attention to that. It may be that an inquiry about that should be carried out. This is a process which is continuing all the time, and the point that the House must be seized of is that these inquiries, these combings of the tail, cannot produce dramatic results. They produce results that are worth while, but if we are to have dramatic results we have got to have a change in policy, not simply better administration.
The sort of thing which has been going on is this. Before General Templer went out to Malaya he carried out an examination of all the static establishments in this country. As a result, 6,000 men were saved. Similar inquiries were also carried out in the Army abroad. As a result of these economies, seven new battalions have been formed out of those savings. Then since the beginning of 1952, to give an example from the Royal Air Force, 683 nearly 4,000 posts have been struck off establishments. That was done in the first nine months of last year.
When the late Government raised the period of National Service they did it because they believed we could not fulfil our commitments without it. The commitments are no less today. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry, East is quite willing to cut them. He talked about the convenience of living in a three-bedroomed house. What he did not say was which of the existing rooms he was prepared to blow up or knock down, and what we have not had from any leading Member opposite is any suggestion of what could conveniently be cut now.
The Leader of the Opposition said, very rightly, that if we had less commitments we could have strategic reserves which, of course, we have not got now, and we should be in an easier position. That is what we say to each other every day in the Ministry of Defence. The difficulty is what to do about the commitments. The commitments are there, and they are not easily got out of.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington will remember saying not so very long ago that he did not believe Europe could be defended unless all the E.D.C. countries had two years' national service. I do not accuse him of not wanting Europe to be defended, but I would say to people who talk like that that if they are opposed, as so many of them are, to German participation in E.D.C., and are also opposed to our having two years' National Service, it is rather difficult to see how Europe is to be defended. We believe that the E.D.C. countries should have two years' national service, and we have made our views clear to them. The Prime Minister said today we have made our views clear to them.
We have more commitments outside Europe than most of the countries in E.D.C. But if other countries do less than we think they might that is surely no reason for our doing worse. I hope we shall not set the example of running away from our obligations at the critical moment. That would indeed be playing with fire and having nothing with which to put it out. I would commend to the House the words of the Leader of 684 the Opposition at Morecambe on 2nd October, 1952, when he said:A policy which was right when a Labour Government was in power does not necessarily become wrong when a Conservative Government is in power. If we had continued in office we should have had to do just as the Conservative Party have had to do.I believe that is true.
The third line of criticism has been the orthodox line which is set out in the Amendment. That line accepts two years' National Service today, and anyone who votes for it will be accepting two years' National Service now. The Amendment accepts that but takes the view that it should only be prolonged subject to annual affirmative resolution. It has been said that National Service is kept under constant review by the Government and there is nothing whatever to stop them reducing it if they think it is possible. In making their reviews they are, of course, supplied with all the secret information available to the Government.
As the Prime Minister said, there are plenty of opportunities of debate in this House, and if the Opposition thought that National Service ought to be reduced they could have put down an Amendment to that effect. We believe that to adopt this system of an annual affirmative Resolution would cause doubt and confusion among our allies and doubt and confusion at home. The Prime Minister put that forward very clearly.
I was interested that the right hon. Member for Easington mentioned the debate on this subject during the passage of the National Service Act in September, 1950. I was going to refer to that because when that Act was going through the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) moved an Amendment which would have had almost exactly the same effect as the Amendment now moved by the Opposition. That Amendment was resisted in forcible terms by the right hon. Member for Easington and by the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), and they were supported in an even more able speech by the present Home Secretary. It was exactly the same proposition, and the arguments used by the right hon. Gentleman were the same as those which we are using.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Gentleman is quite correct in what he said. He has overlooked, however, the fact, which I 685 endeavoured to point out earlier in the debate this afternoon, that we gave a pledge that the period of National Service would be reviewed, and in my speech he will find that I was proposing not 12 months but 18 months.
§ Mr. Birch
We have given a pledge that National Service not only will be reviewed but that it will constantly be reviewed. It is in fact being reviewed tonight.
No one under-estimates the burden of National Service on the young men of this country and the burden on their parents and the burden on the economy of this country. No one wants to make that burden any heavier than need be. No one wants to prolong it for a moment longer than is necessary, and no politician is likely to do so. But the late Government would not have imposed the two-year period and we would not have carried it on unless they and we believed that it was vital for the free world and vital to our own interests to do so. We will not carry it on, we promise, unless we believe it to be essential.
I should like to say a word or two about deterrents. There are two main deterrents—the prospects of atomic counter-attack and the formation of a firm front in Europe. A firm front in Europe cannot be formed, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Basset-law said, without a German contribution to E.D.C. In answer to the hon. Member for Derby, North (Group Captain Wilcock), we can say that fairly substantial progress has been made in N.A.T.O.
The force goals set at Lisbon have been substantially achieved. General Ridgway has asked for more troops. He is right to do so. It is fair and true to say that no general in history has ever had all the troops he wanted. What we can say is that there has been a substantial improvement compared with two years ago. In Western Europe two years ago we had less than half the divisions we now have, and they were deficient in equipment and in training. Our air power was very weak, and the system of command was only in its infancy. Today we can say that the command structure is gradually shaking down, and our commanders have substantial land, sea and air forces to command.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he is on a point of substance there. What he means, surely, is that the other N.A.T.O. countries have not provided the divisions they promised but that Great Britain has provided everything we promised, and has supplied four divisions.
§ Mr. Birch
I was just coming to that point. I was about to say that our contribution is one in which both sides of the House can take pride. On land our contribution is four divisions, three of which are armoured, which is exactly what we promised. At sea we have almost produced what we promised, except for a certain deficiency in minesweepers which we are now in process of making good. In the air we have not produced quite all we had hoped but we have in the Tactical Air Force on the Continent a force which is very highly trained and which forms a substantial part of the Supreme Allied Commander's Forces there.
Therefore, we have some grounds for satisfaction and confidence. We cannot be secure without German participation, but surely this is not the moment to weaken, pull down or even destroy what has been bulit up with so much pain and trouble. We believe that a reduction in National Service today would mean running the risk of doing precisely that.
One word now about the atomic deterrent. There are certain things that we are doing in this field. The Americans will, of course, remain the dominant atomic power, for they have the weapons and they have the means to deliver them. However, we have not wished to be altogether excluded from this field, and there are certain targets of special importance to us in a hot war which we might wish to engage. We have exploded our first weapon at Monte Bello; and in the Vulcan, the Valiant and the Victor we have medium long-range bombers which we believe will be the best in the world. It is for that reason that we have decided to build up our light bomber force to a lower peak than we had originally intended and to go into immediate production with the new long-range medium bombers. We shall not have a very large strategic Air Force, but it will be a highly effective one.
Incidentally, there is no truth whatever in the story that the Americans are 687 trying to stop us building medium bombers. There is also no truth at all in the story that we do not intend to maintain our strategic bomber force under national control.
§ Captain Robert Ryder (Merton and Morden)
On a point of order. Might I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that throughout the debate on this very important subject virtually no mention has been made of our maritime problems?
§ Captain Ryder
I cannot help feeling that it would be very unfortunate if the impression went out to the country that in this House we can debate a matter of this sort without any reference at all to the very important maritime aspect.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Whatever may be the views of the hon. and gallant Gentleman on that subject, it is not a point of order. That is one thing of which we may be certain.
§ Mr. Birch
If it would appease my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Merton and Morden (Captain Ryder)— [HON. MEMBERS: "No appeasement!"] —I have had to cut some things out of my speech, but I was about to say that the supreme task of the Royal Navy in a hot war will be to keep our sea communications open both in the initial intense phase and subsequently. It is for that reason that naval construction is being concentrated on ships designed to deal with mines, submarines and air attack—that is, the minesweeper, the escort vessel and the aircraft carrier—and we hope this year to have considerable improvement in naval aviation.
We say in the White Paper that the examination of the arms programme continues and that this is necessary for two reasons; first, because of the speed of scientific invention; and second, because of the increasing cost of weapons. I 688 often call to mind some lines by Hilaire Belloc:when science has invented something more We shall be happier than we were before.I fear that that is far from the truth when it comes to arms, because new weapons cost more than the weapons which they replace. All the time scientific invention is accelerating. I heard a leading figure in the aircraft industry say, "You have to realise that any aeroplane in production is bound to be obsolescent." That is a profoundly depressing thought.
If I may, I should like to give one or two examples where things cost more. Particularly does that apply to electronics. Without the use of radar our Forces in a modern war would be ineffective, but it is not a cheap business. In a modern all-weather fighter the electronic gear costs as much as a Spitfire did before the war. Radio equipment in an aircraft carrier in 1939 cost £12,000; today it costs £345,000. Guided weapons are coming along, and it may be that at some future date they will be the dominating weapons in war but they are not likely to be cheap.
Therefore, there is need for constant vigilance and constant thought about our future in order that we may make those things which will be vital for us and do away with the things that are not vital or essential. That is what we are trying to do, but while we try to do it we must all the time remember that the cold war is being fought here and now with men, and that the cold war must be won if we are to survive. The examination continues and we shall have more to report in our White Paper next year.
In the last analysis everything depends upon the spirit and the efficiency of the men in our Forces. The Ministry of Defence controls no men directly, but my noble Friend and I get out when we can, and we never watch the men in the Services, either in the great exercises we have had this summer or doing the more humdrum duties, without being deeply impressed by their morale and their efficiency. That is something for which Members on both sides of the House can feel proud and grateful, and it is well that we can be proud and grateful because on a strong and resolute Britain the prospects of peace depend.
The Amendment which was moved last year by the Opposition specifically 689 endorsed our programme but cast doubts on the capacity of Ministers. The Amendment this year implicitly accepts our programme and casts no doubt whatever on the capacity of Ministers. My right hon. Friends are much gratified by the growing esteem in which they are held not only in the country but by hon. Gentlemen opposite. We are grateful for most of the Amendment, with which we are in agreement, but we regret that we cannot accept it for the reasons which
§ the Prime Minister and I have given. We cannot agree to the annual affirmative Resolution procedure. With confidence I ask the House to reject the Amendment and endorse the policy which we have sought to carry out. Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes. 295: Noes. 254.693
|Division No. 117.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Deedes, W. F.||Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Digby, S. Wingfield||Hurd, A. R.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Donner, P. W.||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Doughty, C. J. A.||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Hylton-Foster. H. B. H.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Drayson, G. B.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Drewe, C.||Jennings, R.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M.||Jones, A. (Hall Green)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Johnson-Hicks, Hon. L. W|
|Banks, Col. C.||Fell, A.||Kaberry, D.|
|Barber, Anthony||Finlay, Graeme||Keeling, Sir Edward|
|Barlow, Sir John||Fisher, Nigel||Kerr, H. W.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Fort, R.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Foster, John||Langford-Holt, J A.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Birch, Nigel||Gammans, L. D.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lindsay, Martin|
|Black, C. W.||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. C. Lloyd||Linstead, H. N.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Glyn, Sir Ralph||Llewellyn, D. T.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Godber, J B.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Gomme-Duncan, Col A||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Gough, C. F. H.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Braine, B. R.||Gower, H. R.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Graham, Sir Fergus||Longden, Gilbert|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr, G. (Bristol, N.W.)||Gridley, Sir Arnold||Low, A. R. W.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Hare, Hon. J. H.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Bullard, D. G.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||McAdden, S. J.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||McCallum, Major D.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Campbell, Sir David||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.|
|Carr, Robert||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hay, John||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Channon, H.||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Maclean, Fitzroy|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Heald, Sir Lionel||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Heath, Edward||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)|
|Cole, Norman||Higgs, J. M. C.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Colegate, W. A.||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Markham, Major S. F|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hollis, M. C||Marples, A. E.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)||Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. 0. E.||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Maude, Angus|
|Crouch, R. F.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Maudling, R.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Horobin, I. M.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C|
|Crowder, Petra (Ruislip—Northwood)||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Medlicott, Brig. F.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Mellor, Sir John|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Howard, Hon. Greville (st Ives)||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter|
|De la Bère, Sir Rupert||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Moore, L1 -Col. Sir Thomas|
|Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Robertson, Sir David||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Thomes, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Nabarro, G. D. N.||Roper, Sir Harold||Thomas, P. J. M (Conway)|
|Nicholls, Harmer||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Russell, R. S.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Nield, Basil (Chester)||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Tilney, John|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Nutting, Anthony||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Oakshott, H. D.||Scott, R. Donald||Turton, R. H.|
|Odey, G. W.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R||Vane, W. M. F.|
|O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Shepherd, William||Vosper, D. F.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Osborne, C.||Snadden, W. McN.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Soames, Capt. C.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Spearman, A. C. M.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Speir, R. M.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Payton, J. W. W.||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)||Wellwood, W|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Stevens, G. P.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Pitman, I. J.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Wills, G.|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Storey, S.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Profumo, J. D.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Raikes, Sir Victor||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||York, C.|
|Rayner, Brig. R||Studholme, H. G.|
|Redmayne, M.||Summers, G. S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Remnant, Hon. P.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold||Mr. Buchan Hepburn and|
|Renton, D. L. M.||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)||Sir H. Butcher.|
|Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Teeling, W.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)|
|Adams, Richard||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Albu, A. H.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hobson, C. R.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Holman, P.|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Deer, G.||Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Delargy, H. J.||Holt, A. F.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Dodds, N. N.||Houghton, Douglas|
|Awbery, S. S.||Donnelly, D. L.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Baird, J.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Balfour, A.||Edelman, M.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Bartley, P.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Bence, C. R.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Janner, B.|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.|
|Benson, G.||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Beswick, F.||Fienburgh, W.||Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Blackburn, F.||Finch, H. J.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Follick, M.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Boardman, H.||Foot, M. M.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Forman, J. C.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Keenan, W.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Freeman, John (Watford)||Kenyon, C.|
|Brookway, A. F.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Gibson, C. W.||Kinley, J.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Gooch, E. G.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Carmichael, J.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Lewis, Arthur|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Champion, A. J.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||MacColl, J. E.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Grimond, J.||McInnes, J.|
|Clunie, J.||Hale, Leslie||McLeavy, F.|
|Coldrick, W.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Collick, P. H.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hamilton, W. W.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Cove, W. G.||Hannan, W.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hardy, E. A.||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Hargreaves, A.||Manuel, A. C.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Hastings, S||Marquand, RI. Hon. H. A.|
|Daines, P.||Hayman, F. H||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Mellish, R. J.||Rankin, John||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Messer, F.||Reeves, J.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Monslow, W.||Rhodes, H.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Moody, A. S.||Richards, R.||Thornton, E.|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Morley, R.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Timmons, J.|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Tomney, F.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Mort, D. L.||Ross, William||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Moyle, A.||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Mulley, F. W.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley||Viant, S. P.|
|Murray, J. D.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Nally, W.||Short, E. W.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C)|
|Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Shurmer, P L. E.||Weitzman, D.|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P J||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|O'Brien, T.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Oliver, G. H||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||West, D. G.|
|Orbach, M.||Slater, J.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Oswald, T.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Padley, W. E.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Paget, R. T||Snow, J. W.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Sorensen, R. W.||Wigg, George|
|Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Palmer, A. M. F.||Sparks, J. A.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Pannell, Charles||Steele, T.||Willey, F. T.|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Parker, J.||Stokes Rt. Hon. R. R.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Paton, J.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Peart, T. F.||Strauss Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Plummer, Sir Leslie||Stross, Dr. Barnett||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Poole, C. C||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Popplewell, E.||Swingler, S. T.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Porter, G.||Sylvester, G. O.||Wyatt, W. L|
|Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Proctor, W. T.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Pryde, D. J.||Thomas, David (Aberdare)||Mr. Bowden and Mr. Pearson.|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1953 (Command Paper No. 8768).