§ 3.44 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (Mr. Nigel Birch)
I beg to move,That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1954 (Command Paper No. 9075).My noble Friend the Minister of Defence takes the view that the people of this country who foot the bill are entitled to get all the information about defence which, in the general interest can be made public. Last year's Defence White Paper was an improvement on its predecessors and this year's gets to grips with our problems and sets out our plans a great deal more clearly than has been done before.
The present rearmament programme followed a series of untoward events: the coup d'etat in Czechoslovakia, the blockade of Berlin and the war in Korea. The main reason for the rapid deterioration of the situation was the military weakness of the free world. Unless a vigorous policy of rearmament had been undertaken, the slide to disaster would have gone on, and it was for that reason that the Labour Government, with commendable courage, launched the £4,700 million rearmament programme, to which we on this side of the House gave our full support. Our efforts, and those of our allies, have resulted in an impressive increase in strength. The rot has been stopped and the risk of a major war has receded for the very reason that we are stronger.
It is doubtful whether a lesser effort at the outset would have turned the tide. Praise is due to the late Government, as I said, for their determination. There was no question of the programme as we inherited it tapering off after the third or fourth year. After we have built up our forces, we must maintain them, and this costs money. Further, it was an essential feature of the late Government's plan to build a large number of armament factories and many of these factories were not due for completion until the end of the third year period. This policy, therefore, made no sense at all if the plan were to be closed down after the third or fourth year.
1019 As I told the House last year, if we had not reorganised the programme, it would have cost, during the current financial year, between £1,900 million and £2,000 million, and would have cost more during the next financial year. We could not have sustained such a burden without going over to a full war economy. My right hon. Friends have felt that there was no need, in the circumstances of today, to do that. There is no need now to panic. The problem is to maintain and improve our power, and this will take time. We have a long way to go before we can relax. One cannot run a mile at a sprinter's pace.
That was why, last year, we initiated the policy of the long haul, and that policy is now accepted by all our allies in N.A.T.O. I must make it clear that the policy of the long haul does not mean a lessening of our present burdens. I fully admit that they remain formidable, but, with the present balance of power in the world, we do not believe that safety can be bought at a cheaper price.
When we come to think of the future, the first consideration in our minds must be the bearing of advancing science on the nature of war. This is dealt with at some length in the White Paper, and we have disclosed the large and increasing sums which we are now spending on research and development. I will deal in a minute with the effects of this on the shape of our forces. I should, however, like to make two general points.
First, nobody doubts the immense importance of scientific development. Although the Second World War is still recent, the developments in weapons and technical thought since the beginning of that war, and perhaps still more since its conclusion, are enormous. Things moved more slowly in the past. Today, the advance of science is a commonplace. At the beginning of the century, there was no broadcasting, no television, no radar, no antibiotics and no aeroplanes. Now we have all of them, and the atom bomb into the bargain. The only thing that could surprise our generation would be a slowing down of scientific development. The point is well taken. No one is more anxious than my noble Friend, the Service Ministers and their military advisers to look ahead.
Having said that, I come to my second point and that is how important it is to 1020 keep a correct balance in these matters. Progress in development of any new weapon takes a long time. Progress is one of the predictable factors in a situation where there are many unpredictables. We do know what we are not going to have. It takes some years before a major weapon is ready, and we must resist the temptation to take credit for weapons which we have not got and which we shall not have for a number of years. Planning in terms of instruments we have not got can be every bit as dangerous as living in the past. Some of the extreme prophets of strategic air power before the last war fell into this trap, and many of their prophecies went wrong. But events have now caught up with them.
We fully acknowledge today the dominance of air power and the lead of the offensive over the defensive in the air. We acknowledge this in the White Paper and our plans take account of it. The consequences will be more apparent in the future.
Nor do we underestimate the possibilities of guided weapons. Unlike the atom bomb, they are not now a dominating factor. Recent military history is the history of the extension in range and accuracy of missile weapons, from stone throwing to long-range artillery. Guided weapons give potentialities for a great extension of range and accuracy. I do not doubt that in the future they will bring about radical changes in the shape of our forces. But, I repeat, they are not now the dominating factor in the situation.
Hon. Members may ask if, as we all agree, air power using the atomic weapon is now dominant and if guided weapons are likely to be so important, whether the present shape of our forces is correct. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) put the question in its simplest form in the Defence debate we had last July, when he asked:Why do the Government proceed with the provision of conventional weapons?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 29th July, 1953; Vol. 518, c. 1308.]That is a sweeping question which he might have answered when he was at the Ministry of Defence, but I will endeavour to give him an answer.
The threat of atomic reprisals is the main deterrent to a hot war but the second deterrent, and one which may be almost as important, is the provision of a firm 1021 defensive shield in Europe. If Europe were overrun and held as a hostage, the second liberation would present terrible difficulties, difficulties which the Russians might well think would daunt the remaining Powers in the free world. It is not only a question of our obligations to our allies; our own fate is inextricably bound up with theirs.
As the speed of aircraft increases and as the range of guided weapons extends so does the importance of depth in defence. If the Continent cannot be held, there is no depth in our radar warning system. We are bound to be attacked by escorted bombers and short range ground-to-ground missiles. Nor can we retaliate if our bases, airfields and launching sites are overrun. Therefore, I say to the House the ability to pursue a forward strategy in Europe in the event of war is vital to ourselves as well as to our allies.
Much study has been given by S.H.A.P.E. and by our own military advisers to the effect of both strategic and tactical atomic weapons on the conduct of war. Many changes will certainly be necessary. Many things are still uncertain, but there are two conclusions which I think can be drawn with certainty. The first is that strategic air power alone, whether using the atomic weapon or not, cannot prevent armies advancing unless they are opposed by conventional forces on the ground. The second is that the use of tactical atomic power can only be decisive against an enemy which has been forced to concentrate his forces. Again that means it cannot be used with effect unless there are conventional forces on the ground.
It is almost certainly true that the use of tactical atomic weapons will prevent a massed attack being made in the classical manner. Therefore, it can be of some advantage to a Power weaker in numbers but stronger in technical development. But whatever gains we may get from the use of atomic weapons in the tactical roles we shall still need a firm shield on the ground in Europe.
The present allied front in Germany is 500 miles long, and it is not protected by any major natural obstacles east of the Rhine. Holding such a front is a formidable task, even with a German contribution to E.D.C., but to hold such a front far enough forward to give us 1022 the depth we require for our own defence without a German contribution would present insuperable difficulties. It is not only of ourselves that we have to think.
Nor can we do without conventional weapons at sea in a hot war. Every year in peace 50 million tons of dry cargo and about 30 million tons of oil come into this country, and however austere our standards would be in war—and they would be very austere—great tonnages would still be needed. We must also maintain the flow of materials to the Continent.
I have been speaking of a hot war where both strategic and tactical atomic weapons were used, but there is a distinguished school of thought on both sides of the Atlantic which takes the view that the effects of such a war would be so terrible that no nation would dare to start one. Even the devil takes fright and peace comes in by the back door. This may well prove right. It may be that fear can do for the human race what love cannot. But fear is not the same thing as amicable relations between nations. No hot war is not the same thing as no cold war.
Since the end of the war the hot war has been prevented by the fear of atomic retaliation, but the cold war has been going on all the time. There is still only an armistice in Korea and fighting goes on in Malaya and in Indo-China. To carry on a cold war there must be troops armed with conventional weapons. What good are atomic weapons in Malaya? Internal subversion can only be met on the ground.
There is a further danger of which I think hon. Members are aware. If our forces, armed with conventional weapons, are cut too low the only way we would have of avoiding defeat and betraying those who rely upon us would be atomic retaliation. The mountains would be in labour every time a mouse was born. This would create some pretty grim problems for decision. Nor can we, without our conventional forces, fulfil our many world-wide obligations. The Navy must protect our ships on their lawful occasions and we must see that those living in the Commonwealth are protected from pillage and rapine.
To sum up this part of my argument. Accepting, as we must, that air power, 1023 using the atomic weapon, is dominant in modern war, and accepting, as I think we ought, that guided missiles will, in the future, be very important, we shall still need conventional forces both in the hot and in the cold war. The problem is to achieve the correct balance bearing those factors in mind, and also the great cost of the new weapons. The problem involves a complex of political, strategic, technical and financial considerations, none of which is static. Therefore, there is no final or tidy solution at any point in time. What we have to do is to pursue a policy of gradual change and compromise. It would be wrong, in these circumstances, to put our foot further forward than we can keep it down.
Before I deal with the application of these general considerations to the forces, I want to say something about pay. Paragraphs 28–30 of the White Paper deal with the problems of the Regular soldier, sailor and airman. There is general agreement that our forces must be built round a strong, regular cadre. It is also generally agreed to be equally important that the Regular cadre should include a large proportion of men on medium and long-term engagements. Without this we cannot have the N.C.Os. and the technicians which we need.
The present composition of our forces is given in the White Paper and, at first sight, the number of Regulars appears not unsatisfactory. But the numbers do not give the whole picture. A large proportion of those on Regular engagements are on short service engagements, or on an engagement giving the option to leave after a short period of service. There is at present a shortage in the forces of men with skill and experience. When we can recreate a strategic reserve in this country, conditions will be improved because we shall have a better balance between the forces at home and overseas. There is no doubt that the constant movement in the Services forced upon us by our overseas obligations means much hardship for Regulars, particularly Regulars with families.
Though it is not the only factor, pay is an important issue. Accordingly, we have reviewed the whole question, taking account of the fact that the Services are neither attracting sufficient numbers on 1024 long-term initial engagements nor inducing enough of those on Regular engagements to extend or re-engage.
In our review, which is the first since 1950, we have had regard to the opportunities in civil life and the ever-growing attraction of civil employment to men in the forces, particularly skilled men. As a result, we have decided on selective improvements in pay in the Services. These improvements are designed to give increased recognition to long service, skill and experience. Each Service has rather differing problems and requirements and there are certain variations in the incidence of these improvements between the three Services, but the general effect of them is much the same.
In the case of other ranks, the changes take mainly the form of improved pay for N.C.Os. and technicians and of better inducements to prolong service. In the case of officers, the increases cover the middle range, from Army captains of four years' seniority to brigadiers and, of course, the equivalents in the other Services. Since the object of our proposals is to increase the number of experienced Regulars, it is not proposed to extend these proposals to National Service men.
The changes come into effect from 1st April. Full particulars are given in a White Paper which will be available in the Vote Office at 5 o'clock. There will be chances to debate this matter, when hon. Members have had an opportunity to study the question, on the Service Estimates this week and next week.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
Would the hon. Gentleman give the House an indication of the size of the forces at which he is aiming? Obviously, there must be a ceiling.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Can the hon. Gentleman say why it was found impossible to include this information in the White Paper on Defence, or has this been an afterthought, only decided upon after the White Paper was prepared?
§ Mr. Shinwell
But as the hon. Gentleman has mentioned the increased pay, and, indeed, has used it as an argument, surely, in view of the need to increase the Regular recruitment, it would have been proper to have made the White Paper available to hon. Members before he made his statement?
Mr. Alfred Kobens (Blyth)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Parliamentary Secretary has raised important matters which, he said, could not be printed in a White Paper. Yet he is obviously reading his speech from a prepared document. Was it not possible that this information could have been printed and circulated to the House before this debate?
§ Mr. Birch
I now turn to a matter which has been much discussed in the House. I refer to the retired pay of officers who retired before the war and who were affected by the decision in 1932 to abandon variation of their pensions with the cost of living and by the subsequent fixing of their pensions in 1935. This is the grievance commonly referred to as the 9½ per cent. cut.
1026 On 24th November the Prime Minister told the House that the Government had come to the conclusion that it was not possible to do anything for these officers as a special case when many other demands were pressing. I do not think that that statement was very cordially received on either side of the House. The Government have thought about this matter again. They remain unchanged in their view that no return to the system of pensions linked to the cost of living is possible. They believe that the decisions of the 1930s were right in principle, and they believe that pensions once awarded should not be increased except to relieve hardship. This is no new principle; it has been followed by all Governments since the 1944 pensions increase measures were sponsored by the coalition Government. Nevertheless, the Government recognise that the earlier operation of the sliding-scale system, and its subsequent withdrawal, gave rise to a special sense of grievance. Here, I must emphasise that civil servants were affected in the same way as the retired officers.
It seems now generally accepted by public opinion that the final act of stabilisation, in 1935, the Act which produced the so-called 9½ per cent, cut, puts these pensioners in a special position. Previous Governments have already to some extent recognised this by making provisions for them in the pensions increase schemes of 1944 and 1947. In those measures the automatic 10 per cent, increase, in effect, meant the restoration of the 9½ per cent., cut, but it was limited to pre-war pensions of no more than £400 a year.
Her Majesty's Government have now decided that this limit should be removed and they propose to seek at an early date prerogative instruments which will extend the 10 per cent, increase to all officer drawing pensions at rates still reflecting the 9½ per cent, cut, wholly or partially. This means that those concerned will, to all intents and purposes, have the 9½ per cent, cut restored to them. Legislation will be introduced, at the same time, to amend Section 2 of the Pensions (Increase) Act, 1944, under which the scheme was applied to retired civil servants. The House will not expect me to go into further details at this stage. It 1027 is a matter which is very complicated. A White Paper will be available at five o'clock today.
§ Mr. Shinwell
May I ask the hon. Gentleman two questions, at this stage, to elucidate the point which he is making? First, why was it necessary to introduce this matter into a defence debate? What has it to do with defence? Secondly, would the hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell us what this will cost?
§ Mr. Birch
I hope that we shall not consider that retired soldiers have nothing whatever to do with defence. The cost of this arrangement, including both Service pensioners and Civil Service pensioners, is about £250,000.
After this rather lengthy digression I want to get back to the shape and equipment of the Services. In view of the terms of the Opposition Amendment, I should like to draw the attention of the House to certain facts about the proportion of expenditure on development and production on the one hand and on manpower on the other. In 1950, about one-third of the total defence expenditure went on production and research; in 1954, out of a total expenditure more than twice, as great, nearly one-half will go on production and research. In 1950, just over a quarter of the total sum was spent on Service manpower; in 1954, the proportion will be less than one-fifth. This shows that the Government have anticipated the wishes of the Opposition in this matter.
To return to the shape of our forces, it emerges clearly from our study that the Air Force must have a measure of priority. One reason is the need to build up our force of strategic medium bombers. We intend this to be our main contribution to the deterrent and our most immediate offensive weapon should the deterrent fail. It forms a vital part of the defence of the United Kingdom and its versatility will be such that it could be a much more effective contribution to the land battle than a larger force of Canberras.
That is one of the reasons we have restricted our Canberra programme and have gone ahead with the provision of the "V" type of bomber, which will be the servant of all three Services and 1028 the N.A.T.O. alliance as well. It will keep the enemy on the defensive. If for example, in 1940, we had had medium bombers capable of destroying German U-boat bases we should not have suffered such grave anxiety in the ensuing years.
There have been considerable delays in production, particularly of fighter aircraft. These are now being overcome. The first Swifts are in squadron service and the Hunters are following. We are looking forward to the steady equipment of Fighter Command throughout the year. The Minister of Supply spoke about delays in production yesterday, in a statement after Questions. The production of modern aircraft involves formidable difficulties, involving aerodynamic, structural and electronic problems. As my right hon. Friend said, the only way we can see of speeding up this production is the provision of more research aircraft in the initial stages during the testing period; and, as my right hon. Friend announced, that is the policy that we have adopted.
I am now able to inform the House that the United States Government have agreed to place certain substantial further orders in the United Kingdom for aircraft and ammunition, for allocation to the Royal Air Force. This will enable us to strengthen the front line of the R.A.F. considerably beyond what we could have managed from our own resources. In particular, we shall be able to improve materially our support to General Gruenther and our contribution to the air forces under his command.
The United States Government have already allocated about 110 million dollars, or nearly £40 million, for the placing of contracts during their present financial year which ends in June, and is also including in its request to Congress for the next financial year almost as large a sum for the placing of orders in this country during that year. I am sure that the House and the country will be gratified to hear this most welcome news and will join with the Government in expressing their warmest thanks to the United States for thus enabling this country to make a significant increase in its contribution to the common defence of the Western World.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
As regards 1954–55, has the provision of these aircraft by the 1029 United States Government been allowed for in Estimates which are now before the House?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is not a point of order. I hope that the House will allow the Minister to proceed with his statement.
§ Mr. Birch
Of all the Services, perhaps the Army faces the most difficult problems. The strands of policy and necessity are almost inextricably intertwined. A dangerous dispersal is forced on the Army by the cold war, but, at the same time, it must be constantly ready to face a major war. Equipment needed in a cold war is not necessarily the kind of equipment required in a hot war. In the jungle we want a man with rubber boots and a machine carbine; we do not want tanks and artillery. At the same time, the Army must train its formations in the latest devices for its contingent rôle in a major war.
The Army is strained and over-strained. Its forces are sprawled all over the world, and we have no strategic reserve in this country. From a military point of view this is an unhappy position to be 1030 in Regaining a correct balance and building up a strategic reserve, in turn, depends upon a reduction in our commitments. We shall endeavour to reduce these commitments wherever we can. The House need not be too despondent. We have already had a small reduction in Austria, and if things go as we hope we may have further reductions in Korea and Trieste.
But however fortunate we may be over our commitments I must warn the House that the White Paper plans do not envisage a reduction in the period of National Service in the near future. The whole matter was exhaustively debated when the National Service Order was passed at the end of last year. At that time the official Opposition were in favour of the two-year period. I hope that we shall be told today what has happened since then to make them change their minds.
The Navy also has its problems to face. It has to fulfil its world-wide task, and, also, keep open our sea communications in a hot war. For this purpose the principal building programme has been in anti-U-boat vessels and minesweepers. The House should not underestimate the danger to this country of mines in the shallow waters around our coast. The carrier also has a vital role to play. At present, there is no other way of dealing with enemy bombers over the open sea or, perhaps more important, of dealing with enemy reconnaissance aircraft shadowing our convoys. Our new carriers are now coming into commission and they are all fitted with the angled deck which we developed, and which will enable them to handle the latest high performance aircraft.
Civil Defence is not the direct responsibility of my noble Friend, but he is obviously concerned with something which affects all of us so greatly. We stated in last year's White Paper that it was not possible in peace-time to build up the full-time Civil Defence which would be needed in war to back up the local Civil Defence forces. It was added that the possibility of forming a reserve for these services of men trained in peace was under consideration. As a result of co-operation between the Service Departments and the civil Departments we have now reached a decision and I can give an outline of the plan to the House.
1031 So far as we can see, in the early stages of any future war it would not be necessary for all the fighting Services to call up all their reserves at once. This is particularly the case with the Royal Air Force. The reason is that the R.A.F. must be so organised that it can operate at full strength immediately on the outbreak of war. It is for this reason the R.A.F. is more nearly mobilised in peace than the other Services. It is because a number of part-time R.A.F. National Service men are not likely to be needed immediately on the outbreak of war that many R.A.F. National Service men are not called up for training during their part-time service.
We propose, therefore, that a proportion of this man-power shall be made available for Civil Defence duties in the first few months. Under arrangements to be made by the civil Departments, selected categories of National Service men, as an alternative to their normal Service training, will be given training in Civil Defence during their period of liability for part-time service. In war they would be mobilised by the Service Department concerned in Service formations under their own officers, although operating under the operational control of the Civil Defence authorities. Details are being worked out and Parliament will be asked, in due course, to approve legislation.
§ Mr. Birch
This training will start in 1955, and it is hoped that when it is in full operation 30,000 men will be trained each year. In the early stages all these men will go into the R.A.F. and training will be designed to fit men into service in mobile columns.
In all the changes made in our defence arrangements since we inherited them we have given first priority to the building up of our forces in N.A.T.O. under General Gruenther, and we intend to continue to do so. Without N.A.T.O. all our plans are of no account. The progress of N.A.T.O. has been outstanding. General Gruenther recently estimated that N.A.T.O. forces are now three or four times as effective, though not, of course, 1032 three or four times as big, as they were when General Eisenhower first took command.
Last week the Foreign Secretary gave some account of Russian efforts to disintegrate N.A.T.O. The gravest military consequences would follow from the disintegration of N.A.T.O. The object of Mr. Molotov's security plan for Europe was to break up N.A.T.O., to push the Americans out of Europe, and to expose the Continent to what he described as the "protection" of the Soviet Union. Whether Germany is disarmed, or whether as M. Molotov proposed, it is armed, it is difficult to see how Germany could avoid being sucked into the Soviet system with N.A.T.O. gone and no effective balance of power in Europe. The forces on the central sector would be many times outnumbered in conventional arms by the Russian strength but they would also be much inferior in atomic power. Therefore, all balance of power in Europe would be gone.
N.A.T.O. remains vital to our security and the security of Europe. It is the build-up of N.A.T.O. to which we attribute the lessening of tension in the last two years. Although the pace of rearmament remains less hot than it was, it still remains essential that our strength should not diminish. Nor can we run a rational or economic armament policy if we are continually stopping and starting—getting into a panic over Czechoslovakia and then slacking off; starting when the Berlin blockade was on and stopping at the end of it. It is a long steady haul that is essential and the policy is succeeding. We have tried a policy of weakness and it has failed dismally. We are trying a policy of strength, and it is beginning to work.
Some hon. Gentlemen opposite are challenging the whole conception. Their motto seems to be, "Be prepared for the best and the worst may not happen." Such improvidence is generally punished in this world. We are often told that well-being is the answer to Communism. Some hon. Gentlemen may have read an interesting book by Professor Hugh Seton-Watson called, "The Pattern of Communist Revolution." He deals with this argument much better than I can. He says:The widespread belief that social reform removes the need for armaments is a fallacy. 1033 Prosperity invites aggression. It is, of course, true that there are limits to the strain that armaments can place on an industrial economy and that excessive hardships produce dissatisfaction. It may also be true that the Soviet leaders will not deliberately launch a. major war. But to stake the future of the free nations on the assumed probability that Moscow desires peace would be a foolish gamble.To increase social justice and economic prosperity in one's country is, in itself, an essential task of policy, but it is no substitute for defence. To balance the claims of defence and prosperity is the task of practical statesmen, but when in doubt defence should come first. It is more important for both individuals and nations to be alive than to be prosperous.It is more important to be alive than to be prosperous. That is the basic fact. The most important thing to recognise about a heritage is that it may be lost. Nor can it be truthfully said that the hardships the free world has imposed upon itself are excessive. The balance has been fairly struck. We should have been better off if we had let things slide, but Nemesis would have caught up with us. Our policy is the only one consistent with honour and with prudence, and we intend to pursue it with resolution.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what the proposed defence expenditure is for 1953–54 and 1954–55, because he has now given a number of new proposals? It is not stated in the White Paper what the defence expenditure is for this year. Can he give us the proposed expenditure for the current year and for next year?
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
There may have been some doubt in certain quarters about the advisability of submitting the Labour Party Amendment to the Government's Motion, but any doubt that may have existed has been completely removed by the speech to which we have just listened from the' Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence.
Up to 24 hours ago we were under the impression that the Prime Minister was to make the opening speech. That might have been much more useful, and hon. Members would then have been 1034 better acquainted with the policy of the Government today and, in particular, with the policy of the Government in the future. There was a time when the Prime Minister used to say that he had no confidence in the Service Ministers in the Labour Government. But, heaven knows, he cannot possibly have any confidence in the Service Ministers sitting beside him, particularly after the speech to which we have just listened. Of all the higgledy-piggledy speeches that have ever been made on the subject of defence, that was the worst.
The speech, for the most part, had nothing to do with defence at all. We were presented with a succession of irrelevancies. For example, there was the matter of officers' pensions. It is very desirable indeed that something should be done about that matter even at this late stage, and under pressure from both sides of the House, but what has it to do with defence?
The hon. Gentleman actually said—I thought this was the most fantastic statement he made—that retired officers had something to do with defence preparations. What possible interest can they have as retired officers in defence preparations? Obviously, they may have-some interest in defence preparations as: citizens of this country. There were also many other irrelevancies.
In the defence debate last year, the Labour Party made two proposals to the Government. One was that there should be an annual review of the National Service Act, and the other that the Government should conduct an inquiry into-the manpower position in the forces. Both those requests were refused. That was a great pity, because, ever since, the Services, and in particular the Army, have encountered considerable difficulties in the matter of recruitment. That fact appears in the White Paper, and also in the Memorandum and in the Estimates submitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War.
Men are refusing to extend their engagements. That is admitted. There is difficulty in retaining senior N.C.Os., and the short-service engagement, conceived in circumstances of emergency, is now seen to be a device that is practically valueless in retaining men in the Services. That is why the Labour Party is bound to return to the subject of National Service 1035 as it has done in its Amendment on this occasion.
We asked for an inquiry. No more than that. It was a very modest demand. It is true that some of us thought it desirable to proceed to a reduction in the period of National Service, but we decided in our wisdom and discretion that we should ask for an inquiry. What has happened?
The Prime Minister himself, and the Parliamentary Secretary who had to accept the unpleasant task, refused over and over again to agree to any changes in the situation with regard to officers' pensions. But today the hon. Gentleman said that the Government thought it desirable to do something. That is not what he said a few weeks ago. Then he was intransigent, obdurate and obstinate, and would not give way at all.
Now the Government have given way under pressure. Let me put this to the Minister. If it is good enough to give way on this matter under duress, why does he not confer a favour on this side of the House by agreeing to the proposal for an inquiry into the National Service Act and into the question of manpower in the forces?
I hope that even at this stage the Minister will agree to an inquiry. I will tell him why we want an inquiry. Such an inquiry would enable us to understand more about the decline in recruitment. That would satisfy the Secretary of State for War. We should understand the difficulties which are encountered in persuading men to enlist in the Army and the Royal Air Force, though the difficulty is not so great in the case of the Navy.
That is the first point, but there is still a more substantial reason why an inquiry would be of value. I refer to the position of our reserves. For the purposes of argument, let us agree for the moment that in the event of a future war, and on the assumption that conventional troops and weapons would be required to be used—we all hope that such a calamity Will not overtake us—then, clearly, the number of divisions hi the West, even with the strategic Air Force, could do no more than hold the line, and that only very briefly.
That is the opinion of expert military officers of the highest rank, not only in 1036 the United Kingdom, but in the United States and elsewhere. They want reserves to be available and readily mobilisable not, say, within three or nine months as in previous wars, but, possibly, in the course of a week or a fortnight, so that they can be thrown into the line to stem the onrush which the enemy may make upon us. That is the conception held by the military advisers, and, in my view, it is a very wise one. Clearly, we ought to do something about the position of the reservists.
At present, as a result of National Service, to say nothing of the Regular reservists, we have more than half a million men who have been trained during the last few years in the various Services. That is a considerable number of men. But their training is not continuous. It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to tell us now that because it is impossible for the Royal Air Force to absorb the men who have served for two years into the Auxiliary Air Force, they are now to be transferred to Civil Defence —and not this year but next year, 30,000 of them.
After all. what was the purpose of the Territorial and Auxiliary forces liability in the National Service Act if it was not to continue training—I do not say regularly every week or even every month, but at any rate intermittently, not merely a 15-day period in the course of the year but continuous training to keep every man up to scratch so that in the event of a calamity they could be used speedily. That is a subject for inquiry.
We also ought to know why men are disinclined to enrol in the Territorial Army. The numbers have declined. They are much fewer now than they were when we on these benches were in office. There must be a reason. Do they dislike the Territorial Army? Are conditions unsatisfactory? Is the bounty not adequate? What are the reasons? There are many reasons— though I should not like to enumerate them all now—why there should be an inquiry into the National Service Act, and, in particular, into the whole question of our manpower and its organisation. That, of course, would remove doubts which exist not only among hon. Members on both sides of the House but in the public mind as well.
1037 May I ask these questions? What have the Government to be afraid of? Why should they burke this inquiry? Are they so content with themselves that they believe that an inquiry conducted by high ranking military officers is adequate for the purpose? Surely an independent inquiry by people who take an objective view of the position, who are anxious to serve the State and help to build up an adequate defence and prevent the abuse of manpower, would be of great value. What is there to conceal?
Or do the Government really believe— I address this question to the Prime Minister in particular—as the right hon. Gentleman suggested last year, that this would alarm our allies? That is what he said. He said that our allies would be very seriously alarmed if we decided to play around with National Service and our manpower organisation. I should have supposed that our allies would be delighted to learn that we were seeking to promote greater efficiency in the organisation of our manpower. I was really surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, who pretends to have such wide knowledge of these matters, and who, no doubt, has a good deal—I readily concede that— should have made such a statement.
I suggest that one of the reasons that the Parliamentary Secretary has come forward with these proposals about increased pay arises from the difficulties which the Government have encountered over National Service. I am on firm ground in saying that if it had not been for National Service—I agree that it was essential in the circumstances—there would have been less difficulty about Regular recruiting. What happens? National Service narrows the field within which the men who might wish to volunteer for the Services may do so. Obviously, that concerns large numbers of young men who might look upon the Services as a career to engage in regular service.
Therefore, I submit, in favour of the Amendment, that not only to clear up the position but to find out whether National Service has given us sufficient reserves, whether those reserves have been trained for an emergency and also to determine the length of service, that the case for an inquiry is in terms of equity and public interest unanswerable. A great deal more could be said about National Service, and 1038 I have no doubt that many of my hon. Friends will return to the matter.
Now I turn to the subject of expenditure. The hon. Gentleman was right; it is contained in the White Paper. Our expenditure constitutes a heavy burden for the national economy. Of course, we always recognised that. When we proposed the £4,700 million programme—
§ The Prime Minister (Sir Winston Churchill)
I did not quite understand whether the right hon. Gentleman was proposing a reduction in the period of National Service from two years to some lower period, or whether he was merely asking for an inquiry. He ought to make that clear.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Certainly. I shall be delighted. I referred to the fact that we had previously asked for an inquiry—
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman can have it either way. Is he ready today to say that he will agree to an inquiry?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I will say what I want, and I will say what I believe the generality of people in this country believe is necessary. That is that as early as possible—and I believe it is possible much earlier than the right hon. Gentleman thinks it is—there ought to be a reduction in the period of National Service.
§ Mr. Shinwell
If there had been an inquiry we should have determined, in the light of our commitments and in view of technical considerations—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] I will say it again. If there had been an inquiry we should have been able to determine, in the light of our commitments and in view of technical considerations, whether it was possible to reduce the period, to begin with, by three months or four months, as the Belgians did. Do not forget that the Belgians reduced their 24 months' period by four months. Or we might have discovered that it was possible to reduce it by six months. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman who represents, or misrepresents, Sunderland, 1039 South (Mr. P. Williams), and who has just been pitchforked into the House, should wait a little while before he interjects on any subject.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that if there were such a committee of inquiry and it recommended a period of three years, he would have to accept that recommendation?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I would not agree with the hon. Gentleman on any subject.
When the National Service amending Measure was before this House I argued the case for a reduction in the period of service. I do not think it necessary now to cover the whole of the ground—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I wish the right hon. Gentleman would restrain himself until I get into the guts of this question.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I have no particular desire to speak at length, but if the right hon. Gentleman provokes me I shall have no alternative. Otherwise, I shall be as brief as possible. I shall tell the hon. Gentleman. Let us take the question of commitments, to begin with. I do not deny that commitments have a great deal to do with the matter.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
My right hon. Friend was the responsible Minister at the time, so he will not mind me asking this. Am I right in saying that when the period of service was increased from 18 months to two years that increase had no reference whatever to existing commitments, either then or now, but was attributable to another cause altogether?
§ Mr. Shinwell
My hon. Friend is, to a large extent, correct in what he says. If I may be permitted, I will explain the circumstances to the House. I have done it before, not today, but I shall be only too glad to do so again and I think the 1040 House will find my interpretation of the matter is correct.
What happened was this. As Minister of Defence in the Labour Government when the Korean affair blew up, I had to consider sending troops there. But there was something more than that; it was not only the Korean affair. There was grave apprehension in N.A.T.O. circles—and we shared that apprehension —that because of the Korean affair the Soviet Union might use the opportunity for attacking in the west. That was the assumption. The assumption may have been unfounded, but that is what we believed at the time. We said so at the time and I have said so since.
§ The Prime Minister
I am sure everyone thinks that the right hon. Member had nothing whatever to be ashamed of at that time. He did quite right. His difficulty is in not living up to it.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Not at all. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I have no difficulty at all. Neither am I ashamed of what I did, nor ashamed of what I am saying to the right hon. Gentleman now. I shall not be ashamed to go into the Lobby to vote for the Labour Party Amendment either.
Since I have been challenged, let us look at these commitments. Take the case of Korea. There is an assumption in certain quarters that we have vast numbers of men in Korea. I ask the Secretary of State for War to tell us how many men in the Army are in Korea.
§ Mr. Shinwell
We will come to that later—[Laughter.] Of course we will come to that later, but we will deal with Korea to start with.
There were many—some, I believe, hon. Members in this House—who thought we had vastly superior numbers in Korea. I am not sure that we have even 20,000 there, nevertheless we accept that figure. But will anyone suggest that 20,000 is such a heavy commitment in itself? I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what the commitments are; I will go through them. Hong Kong with a division and a third, Malaya with what?— 1041 20,000?—a little more than 20,000 British troops with some Gurkha battalions and the East African Regiment?
Mr. Shin well
That is the figure.
About Malaya, General Templer, the High Commissioner, has said over and over again that the situation has vastly improved, but we have not reduced the size of the forces there by a single soldier. If the situation improves and we retain the same size of forces what is the point in arguing that we have no strategic reserve in this country?
I mentioned Hong Kong and said there was a division and a third. The reason for those large numbers in Hong Kong is that at the time we were apprehensive about a Chinese attack from the mainland. That has completely receded. Does anyone believe that that would now happen and that there is any reason why we should have such large numbers there? We had a brigade in Austria and a brigade in Trieste—
Mr. Shin well
Oh, some have been taken out. Very well, I presume that part of them have gone to Bermuda to satisfy the Prime Minister. Imagine the situation there, 250 British troops in Bermuda. If that were done to satisfy the vanity of the right hon. Gentleman it is going a bit too far.
Take the case of Egypt. We do not propose to discuss Egypt but we have, say, 70.000 troops there—
§ Mr. Shinwell
Fewer than 70,000. We do not know how many troops we have in the Suez Canal area or Egypt. It is about time we did know. We are now discovering many things of which we were unaware before. It is only by 1042 probing that we are able to get at the facts.
I hope that when we come to the Army Estimates debate the right hon. Gentleman will tell us exactly how many troops we have abroad and their locations. It is time that the public were informed on these matters. I suggest, quite seriously, that it is possible to reduce, not our commitments as a whole, but to reduce our commitments so far as the number of troops is concerned, without weakening our strength in those territories. No one will suggest that if we reduced the size of the forces in Malaya that would weaken our position. No one would suggest that if we reduced the size of our forces in Hong Kong that would weaken our position. No one would suggest that if we took 250 from Bermuda that would weaken our position.
No one would suggest that if we took 10,000 or 20,000 from the Suez Canal Zone it would weaken our strategical position in the Middle East. I say nothing about the African position, because I recognise the difficult circumstances there. What about the men in this country? I hazard a guess—perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—that there are 140,000 here and 100,000 in Germany, or round about that number. Yet it is said that we have no strategic reserve. Then in heaven's name what are they doing in this country?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am obliged to the hon. and gallant Member. I reckon that there must be many thousands of Regulars and non-commissioned officers—senior non-commissioned officers at that—training National Service men. What is more, there are 25.000 in the pipeline.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Anyway, there are large numbers in the pipeline, and it is no use the right hon. Gentleman denying that. There are far too many in the pipeline. Why are they there? I will tell the right hon. Gentleman. It is where some of his colleagues ought to be, but I will tell him why they are in the pipeline. It is because of National Service, short-service engagements and the like. They are sent out and brought 1043 back and sent out and brought back again.
§ The Prime Minister
By shortening the period of service that very difficulty would be aggravated. The astonishing thing is that the right hon. Member is so ignorant of some of these simple points.
§ Mr. Shinwell
It is so easy for the right hon. Gentleman to throw his adjectives about. He is accustomed to that sort of thing, and so are we, but I am not troubled about it. I can use lots of adjectives, but I forbear. In this country we have vast numbers of men in process of training, and men engaged in training others, who could be licked into shape as a strategic reserve. When it comes to a question of commitments, I say that it is possible to reduce the numbers of men without weakening ourselves in respect of those commitments. I will add that I think we have far too many commitments. Too many burdens are imposed on the United Kingdom. We are all over the place, in Hong Kong, Malaya, Egypt, the Mediterranean and Africa.
I doubt whether it as possible for the United Kingdom to sustain such a burden very much longer. I say that quite honestly, although at the same time I Would not wish in any way to weaken our defensive position. [Laughter.] Hon. Members make themselves foolish by laughing at these matters. Have I ever on any occasion made any suggestion in this House or outside that I sought to weaken our defence organisation? By no means. And the right hon. Gentleman himself—I am obliged to him and grateful for any contribution—has gone so far as to say that we on this side of the House rendered great service, when we were in office, in building up our defence organisation.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman is making himself more youthful and, if I may say so, a little ridiculous.
The question I wish to put to the Minister is whether this does not impose too heavy a burden on the national economy, having regard to the need for capital investment and the use of more manpower and raw material for our indus- 1044 tries. Even in the defence field the Government have encountered difficulties. In the electronic field we have had trouble. I doubt if we have an effective radar network for the whole country, and the reason is not a lack of raw material but of electronic experts, artificers and the like. Therefore we must not use our manpower unwisely, and the White Paper agrees with what I have said.
On the question of general expenditure, there is no indication in the White Paper that the present rate of expenditure is to be curtailed in coming years. On the contrary, all that the hon. Gentleman said in his speech indicated an increase in expenditure. Take, for example, the provision of strategic air bombers. They are very expensive indeed, the cost runs into millions of pounds. I do not know how many the Government will construct, but if they are to be effective there must be an adequate number.
In addition, we have an increase in pay, and may I point out that it does not stop there, because once the pay of one branch of the Service is increased you can depend upon it that other sections will want their share. So the expenditure is going up and up. I do not grumble so much about the expenditure this year, but I am apprehensive about the present rate of expenditure continuing in the coming years. The country cannot sustain such a burden.
What are the United States doing? They are curtailing their expenditure. Last year their expenditure on defence amounted to 48 billion dollars. I understand that next year it will be reduced to 35 billion dollars. Why? Because they are now concentrating more and more on the non-conventional weapons, on the basis of non-conventional strategy, and less on conventional strategy and manpower. Indeed they have reduced the size of their forces from 3,700,000 to 3 million. Of course, comparable with this country that is a very much larger reduction than will take place in the United Kingdom. Over and above that there have been reductions—[Interruption.] The Secretary of State for War says, in reply to a question put to him by the Prime Minister, "The United States have no overseas commitments."
§ Mr. Head
No. If the right hon. Gentleman is going to quote my remarks, he may as well get them right. I said they have not got as many overseas com- 1045 mitments as we have. I did not say they had none. I would point out further that in his suggestions for getting manpower the right hon. Gentleman has not taken into account the fact that if we reduce National Service to an unspecified period we still have the problem of overseas commitments, none of which the right hon. Gentleman has suggested should be done away with.
§ Mr. Shinwell
In fact, the United States commitments overseas in respect of numbers exceed our commitments in any other part of the world. That is the position. President Eisenhower has declared that it is their intention not to undertake any further overseas commitments if they can be avoided. I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to think for one moment of undertaking any more foreign commitments, because we simply cannot afford to do so.
Why is it that the United States and the right hon. Gentleman and his Government have decided in the light of rising prices to reduce expenditure, although not to the extent that some of us would like? Because, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, and it is in the White Paper, the danger of a hot war is receding. That is implicit in the whole of the White Paper. The situation has eased. There is not the same tension in international circles. Surely, in those circumstances, now is the time to revise our military organisation, to reconsider our strategy and to adapt ourselves, not only to our national economic needs but also to the changed situation with respect to a possible war.
There is a further point. Is our military expenditure correctly balanced? I do not believe it is. We spend more than we should on manpower and far too little on production, research and development. I agree that the expenditure on production, research and development has increased in the past two years, but we still spend far too little. Take the case of aircraft. Why is it that there is a short-fall in the delivery of aircraft? On one occasion when I directed attention to this matter in the House hon. Members opposite jeered when I said that many of our aircraft manufacturers were at fault. When I was at the Ministry of Defence I was so seized with the need for something to be done in this matter that someone was appointed to take full 1046 charge and to ensure a more speedy delivery.
Are we not producing weapons of little value in the event of an atomic war? Supposing there were a conventional war in the West. It would be impossible for us to carry on without the aid of vast supplies from the United States. I think the right hon. Gentleman would agree that was obvious in the last war. It would be impossible to obtain those supplies because there are very few ports available. In the event of heavy bombing on those ports by rockets—I shall not say atom bombing—and by air bombs of a conventional character—I am speaking of a conventional war—it would be impossible for us to supply our ground forces in the West. Therefore the circumstances are quite different from what they were.
Whether we like it or not, we must turn our attention to thinking in terms of a possible war—we hope it may not happen—more in the direction of the possibility of atomic war and adapt our strategy accordingly. That means a curtailment of ground troops and of expenditure.
What are the prospects? They are very gloomy indeed in my view, which is confirmed by the White Paper. What does atomic attack mean? We are told in the White Paper that atomic bombing, if it occurred, would cause vast destruction. Of course it would. But following that vast destruction we are told that there would be a period of "broken-backed warfare." I wish the hon. Gentleman, instead of indulging in irrelevancies, had told us what he meant by a "broken-backed war." Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some information to enlighten the House, because there is a great deal of mystification about it. What is a "broken-backed war"?
A statement was made by Admiral Carney, which perhaps the House will permit me to read. He is the Naval Commander in the West, and he said:A future war may see a 'nuclear stalemate' with both sides fearing to use atomic weapons because of the threat of retaliation.The Naval Commander continued:War could start with devastating atomic blows and wind up with 'guerrilla bands armed with bamboo spears' stalking each other 'across the remaining ashes.'Is that what is meant by a "broken-backed war"?
§ The Prime Minister
What the right hon. Gentleman has just read from Admiral Carney is a conception of a war where all the modern structure of a country had been utterly shattered, but nevertheless the races continued to fight each other. There is no reason why we should not have that present in our minds.
§ Mr. Shinwell
If the right hon. Gentleman accepts the interpretation of Admiral Carney, there is no quarrel between us. But if that is to be the situation, what is the use of talking about using large numbers of ground troops and conventional weapons? I beg the right hon. Gentleman to enlighten us and the public a little more on this situation.
I am sorry if I have detained the House, but there were many interruptions, though I am probably at fault myself. However, we must make our position about defence unmistakeably clear. The Labour Party does not abandon its views on the need for defence. It is perfectly true—it might as well be said—that there are some members of the Labour Party who are genuinely opposed to any form of defence. We do not agree with them and they do not agree with us, but nevertheless we respect their opinions. The Labour Party, as such, at successive annual conferences, and the party in this House, has always agreed on the need for adequate defence. Our difference with the Government is whether at the present time there is not a need for reconsideration of our strategy, our manpower and our general military organisation.
The Labour Party says that the cost may be too heavy to bear and, indeed, that is consistent with what appears in the White Paper. We do not deny the difficulties which exist in the stage between the use of conventional and atomic weapons. We recognise that there is a difficulty and it is a matter for careful analysis, but the Government must make up their minds. The Government have the responsibility, it does not lie upon the shoulders of the Opposition. We expect enlightenment from the Government, and 1048 the public are entitled to be informed so far as that is practicable.
Meanwhile, every effort must be made to reach an understanding with other nations. We wish to encourage the Prime Minister in his efforts to travel along the path towards peace and, more particularly from what appears in this White Paper to be the ghastly prospect, to save the world from being hurled headlong to destruction. The world would be crazy to permit that to happen, and even if sometimes we have to make concessions and to try to wring concessions out of others, peace is more desirable than that the world should go down into ashes. I say to the House that peace is now more than ever the most urgent need of the world—I believe that represents the opinion of the House—but if we do not take heed, it will be a sorry day for us all, and neither conventional weapons nor atomic weapons will be of any avail.
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:while in no way departing from its resolve to ensure adequate Defence, regrets that the Government has failed in the Statement on Defence, 1954 (Command Paper No. 9075) to make a proper allocation of national resources between defence and economic needs, and between defence expenditure on research and production and on manpower; and, in particular, has made no proposals for a reduction in the length of National Service.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
It is: with the greatest humility that I address the House on this important subject of defence. I am encouraged by the fact that I represent the historic division of Harwich, off the shores of which Canute drove back the Danes many years ago. Also, in modern times, from that division many people from its hinterland, its harbours and shores have gone forth to defend our sea lanes, and there may be hon. Members here, as I know there are others, who have sallied forth from Harwich harbour to add their gallant and distinguished exploits to the annals of our history.
Also I recall that a year ago the constituents of my division and others in Eastern England were fighting a different battle of defence, namely, sea defence. I am glad to tell the House of the magnificent spirit of courage, cheerfulness and 1049 fortitude which they displayed at that time. However, I do not think it would be right for us to take for granted our national morale, and it is on this point that I wish first to address the House.
Napoleon has said that morale is as important to material as three is to one. At the present moment I feel we are inclined to base our way of life too much on material things and not enough on ideals. When I hear about recruitment being slack, I feel that it may be because of this material concept of life which is being substituted for our past ideals of individual freedom and family life. It is important to realise that these are part of the structure of our national unity and that we must build on them. From that it follows that, in building an international structure, we must pay due regard to the interests and traditions of each nation and in this way prevent our international armies from becoming a veritable Tower of Babel.
I welcome the fact that the House has agreed to a German contribution towards E.D.C., and I want to draw attention to the magnificent work of the French in defending our free world through the gallant fight they are putting up in Indo-China. I am especially interested in this part of the world because, before the war, I was seconded as a language officer to the British Embassy in Tokyo. It fell to my lot to keep the Japanese order of battle when they entered the war. During and after that time I realised the enormous strategic importance of Indo-China to the defence structure of the Western world. That is a point of which we should not lose sight.
I should like to see the defensive structure going through Indo-China, through the Philippines and through the Pacific Islands to Pearl Harbour. We face in the East, more than in the West, a great danger which many people may underestimate, and it is important for us to seek all the allies we can. I may be treading on very difficult ground, but when I listened to the arguments during the foreign affairs debate about bringing Germany into the European Defence Community, I thought of the time I spent in Japan as a language officer. I recalled the fact that when we were faced with a similar strategic danger in the Far East in 1902, and when Russia threatened, as she does indeed today in the East, we 1050 thought it fit to make an Anglo-Japanese Alliance.
This part of the world which I know is rather an American sphere of influence, but having regard to the old Alliance and to the characteristics of the Japanese—that they are an insular people, an island race, a seafaring race, and that many of their traditions are similar to ours—I think we can play our part in helping them to overcome the very great problems which face them in that part of the world. Knowing the Japanese and how they feel about these matters, I believe that they will not preserve their neutrality. They will either come in with us in the West or they will go to China, for it is vitally important for us to realise, from the point of view of trade, that China and Japan are economically interdependent.
If we pay due attention to the strategic factors, I hope we may find that we have a most important ally and friend who can help us. We must understand these problems constructively. They are difficult problems, but when we talk about our desire for peace we must explore every avenue. It is along this particular avenue that I make this special plea this afternoon.
My conception of a defensive structure through the Southern Pacific, through Indo-China to the Pacific Islands and through the Philippines to Pearl Harbour, is based, as in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, on an Anglo-American Alliance. I believe that the structure of all our defence effort today must be based on the Anglo-American Alliance, and that can only rest secure if we remain strong and live up to our responsibilities, and also if we remain independent and enterprising and are not afraid to take the initiative.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
The whole House will join with me in congratulating the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) on his very agreeable maiden speech. He referred to the importance of morale in war; he has just gone through an ordeal in which morale is important indeed. We all feel that he has gone through it with very great success and has kept his morale very high. Even though we cannot agree with some of the things he said, I must add that he said them in a way which 1051 made us feel that we would like to hear him very often speaking from those benches.
The Government White Paper is advisedly and confessedly one dealing with the size, shape and cost of the defence forces over the coming year. We have heard little or nothing about the emergency programme which was initiated by the late Administration. We are faced with what is perhaps the normal expenditure for this country. There is a problem which the House has to face in considering this estimate and statement.
I take the view that we are bound to face in the years ahead of us a very high level of expenditure and a formidable defence effort. We all know the reason for that. It is that there is a need for us to make a contribution to the defence of the West. We may take the view, as I do, that international tension has decreased, and we may take, as I take, an optimistic view, relatively, even of the recent Berlin Conference; but it is perfectly fair to say that these improvements have been helped—I put it no higher than that—by the rally in the defence efforts of the West, in which our defence preparations have played a real part. The part which this country plays, the self-sacrificing part, initiated by the late Government, and the rally in the West, must have been one factor in the improvement in the situation which it is common ground has now taken place. That will always be a satisfaction to us in all parts of the House who supported that rally.
We must look at the other side of the picture. The defence statement is very ready to recognise, and does recognise, not only by implication but overtly in the speech of the Minister, that there must be some limit to defence expenditure. Defence cannot have an overriding priority over everything else, for the simple reason that if we regard the security of the country as something which must come before everything else—and we must, of course, in one sense do that—there would come a certain level of defence expenditure at which we would actually begin to weaken the strength of the country. We should weaken it economically more than we were strengthening it militarily. That is also common ground to the whole House.
We have to look at the practical question whether the defence statement does 1052 or does not propose a level of defence expenditure and effort for which the long fall—in the Government's own phrase—-is above that critical point which will give us, net and on balance, the greatest measure of national security. As we imply in the Amendment which my right hon. Friend has moved, we feel that the level of defence expenditure set out over the years in this defence White Paper does exceed that wise and sane limit.
I shall immediately be asked the question, quite fairly: Why do I think that? What are the economic consequences I fear, and which we on this side of the House fear, from a defence effort at that level? It is true that one can exaggerate the economic consequences for any particular year, and that nothing very terrible is likely to happen to the economy of the country in this particular year with a defence expenditure of £1,640 million. I am not suggesting that it would. If we have the degree of luck which the present Government have had in the economic sphere—[Laughter.] Yes, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be the first to claim this—with uncovenanted benefits to the extent of £600 million or £700 million from the improvement in the terms of trade alone-it certainly helps to bear a defence expenditure of this size; unquestionably it does.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)
Do we understand from that that the late Administration was unlucky?
§ Mr. Strachey
It was certainly unlucky compared with the terms of trade of the present Administration. I do not know how much economics the hon. Member knows, but he might look at those very simple statistics.
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
The right hon. Member has called the Chancellor in aid of his argument, but the House will recall that the Economic Secretary categorically denied that the terms of trade were all due to good luck, and said that they had been caused in large part by the Government's policy.
§ Mr. Strachey
I do not think that that can be sustained, although it can be argued. All I say is that, from whatever cause, the terms of trade have turned in our favour to that degree and have helped us in the sustaining of defence expenditure. Over the years, if this Government 1053 unhappily stay in office, they will find that they do not control the terms of trade. That the terms of trade depend on different and outside factors no one can possibly deny.
We therefore have to look at whether a defence expenditure of the order of £1,640 million is compatible with the health and strength of the British economy over a long run. I put it to the House that it quite clearly is not. First, it is not compatible with our social progress. Hon. Members will be very unwise to think that social progress is just a luxury with which the country can dispense. Even from the defence point of social coherence and unity, a steady measure of social progress is very necessary. If hon. Members opposite take very little stock of social progress—as they appear to—they should look at I he very basis of economic progress.
Do they really claim that, year in and year out, a defence expenditure of £1,640 million at present prices is compatible with economic progress? Do they claim that it is compatible with a level of capital investment in industry which can really keep this country abreast of its world's competitors? Abreast of America, Germany—and Russia, too? Capital investment in Russia, we have been told by the 30 economists, is on the most formidable level. Do those hon. Members really think that this expenditure is not almost bound to be a burden which will make it terribly difficult—to put it no higher—for us to keep up in the all-important economic race—a race which is just as important as the military race in the world today?
Having said that, I shall be asked, quite fairly, by how much do I think the defence Estimates should be cut. One ought to meet that question quite squarely, but one encounters immediately an obvious statistical difficulty. Of what price level are we talking? The price level has changed so much in the last four years that any figure such as £1,640 million has only reality in relation to the existing price level. Most economists and statisticians would agree that really the only rational way of talking about the defence burden is not the absolute figure, but the percentage of the national income. How much of the total national income is it sane, wise and reasonable to 1054 devote to defence? What figure will give the greatest measure of national security?
Just to keep a sense of proportion there, let me remind the House of one or two figures. Before we started the rearmament programme, we were spending some 5.9 per cent, of the national income on defence. Curiously enough, that is the same figure as immediately before the war—in 1938, when we were supposed to be very actively preparing. Those, therefore, by all past conceptions, were very heavy levels.
In the palmy days of 1928 the level was as low as 2.25 per cent, of the national income, so the 5.9 per cent, level of the days before rearmament was by no means negligible. Today the level is nearer 11 or 12 per cent. That is a most formidable level of defence effort, not, I repeat, in any one year, but as the permanent peace-time level. It has certainly never been approached over a series of years in our history.
What, therefore, should be regarded as the maximum level which this country— making the most formidable defence effort, as I have admitted it must do— ought to be able to sustain? I do not see how it can be really put above something of the order of 10 per cent, of the national income. Ten per cent, of the gross national product, as the economists call it, should, it seems to me, be the maximum with which we should burden ourselves. I am not taking into account American aid. I do not think that we should. It is a wasting asset, and the time must come when we have to pay for the whole of our defence effort.
What figure would this give us? No one knows yet. We shall not know for another month the national income for 1953. If the Government have later estimates they will correct me, but it will probably run out at between £14,000 million and £15,000 million—nearer £15,000 million, I should say. Ten per cent, would give us £1,500 million to spend on defence.
§ Mr. Joseph Reeves (Greenwich)
Does my right hon. Friend mean for one specific year, or would that be the normal amount we could spend without injuring our economy?
§ Mr. Strachey
All I say is that at the present time we should make a determined effort to get within that level. I 1055 agree that it is a very high level—far higher than the country has ever sustained over a long period of years. I think that we should make a most determined effort to cut from the defence budget something of the order of £100 million in order to bring it within 10 per cent, of the national income.
We should make a start, at any rate. If we got the £100 million off in the first year, we should be doing very well indeed. It is very difficult to do it in any particular short period. But that is the objective we should set ourselves. Frankly, I do not think one can be more precise than that. The question one ought to answer, I know, is how does one think a cut even of that magnitude can be made—because my hon. Friend seems to think that that is a very modest cut. I can assure him that it is a very difficult cut to make. It would be most difficult to find a way compatible with sound defences in which it could be brought down even to that modest amount.
§ Mr. Wigg
Is it not a matter of following the laws of nature, as it were? The Government have each year set out to spend a certain amount, and in the end they have not been successful in spending it. Even this year it is clear that they have under-spent. In the event, will the Government not shed the expenditure, even if they do not say they will?
§ Mr. Strachey
That may be so, but I cannot rely on the Government's inability to spend the amount they say they will spend. We do not know what they spent last year. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nor do they."] And they do not know either, but we must assume that they will spend what they say they propose to spend in the coming year. We must compare estimate with estimate.
If we are asked how this cut should be brought about, I would put this consideration before the House. The way we ought not to bring it about is by still maintaining expenditure on manpower and all that goes with it and cutting still further that on production, development and research. That is the road down which the Government have been going. I think I am right in saying that absolutely every penny of the reductions they have made in real terms in the rearmament programme—and they are 1056 considerable, of course, and I am allowing for the increase in the price level— has come out of production, development and research. The amount they have spent on manpower has been well up to the original estimate.
It is quite natural, and I can see how it has happened, but it is a disastrous thing to have happened because it is steadily distorting the defence effort. That is why in our Amendment we call attention to the wrong planning, the wrong emphasis between the different aspects of defence spending. We think it wrong because, if we go on keeping up our manpower and cutting down spending on production, development and research, it means that a very large number of men are kept under arms, but under most obsolete and inadequate arms. That is the position to which we are tending today. We are tending to a position in which we have too many men chasing too few arms.
Therefore, if we are seeking to limit our total defence expenditure, we certainly must not go further down that road, keeping up our manpower while still more reducing our expenditure on production and research. That road down which we are going is quite contrary to the picture that the Statement on Defence itself draws of any probable future conflict. The Statement on Defence, rightly or wrongly, lays heavy emphasis on the possibility of atomic warfare in a future conflict. If we go on this road, keeping up manpower and reducing expenditure on production, development and research, we starve and estop development for atomic warfare, either for offensive purposes or—and, perhaps, still more—for defensive purposes.
We note that extremely inadequate mention of Civil Defence at the end of the Statement on Defence, that mention of Civil Defence which reads so oddly in the light of the conclusions of the Select Committee on Estimates, which gave the most scarifying picture of the actual state of Civil Defence preparations under the present Government. That is the sort of thing that is bound to happen if the emphasis is swung too much on immense manpower and too little on production. I believe it is perfectly right to look to the manpower side of the defence budget, which is roughly half, rather than to the production side.
1057 How are we to get a reduction there? I think it is easy to see that we cannot get it in the Regular content of the forces. The Regular content of the forces is too small, and the Government, rightly, I think, have brought in further inducements to retain the services of N.C.Os, technicians, and the rest. They have to spend more, not less, on the Regular content. Therefore, we are driven by a process of elimination to look at National Service and the period of National Service, because that alone is the tolerable way in which we can reduce our manpower burden. Subject to one proviso that I shall mention in a moment, I believe that our Amendment is right in pointing to the period of National Service, and in deploring the failure in the Government's proposals to reduce it, for that is the essence of the issue.
What is the proviso I wish to mention? Once again I must differ from my right hon. Friend the Member for Easing-ton (Mr. Shinwell), as I differed from him on this subject a year ago. I never have believed, and I am afraid I still do not believe, that we can reduce the period of National Service without a clear-cut reduction in commitments. I believe that it is absolutely indispensable, if we attempt a reduction in the period of National Service, to attempt at the same time a reduction of some major commitments.
The reason for this is essentially an Army matter. The Army today is very touch the work horse of the Defence Services. It does very hard labour in very difficult conditions all over the world. I repeat what I have said before, that I think it would be wrong to ask for a reduction in the terms of National Service, which means a reduction in the available forces, above all in the Army, unless at the same time we point out at least some major commitment that could be reduced. We all know what that major commitment is.
I shall not traverse again the arguments I put at some length a year ago in favour of coming to a businesslike arrangement with the Egyptians for the total evacuation of our fighting forces in the Canal Zone. It was a rather difficult argument to put forward at that time, and mine was a rather lone voice in this 1058 House, but it is a very much easier argument to put forward today because the Government have themselves been negotiating these many months on the basis of a total evacuation of all our armed forces from the Canal Zone. Therefore, it is certainly not possible for anyone on the Treasury Bench, at any rate, to accuse me or anyone else of a policy of scuttle when we advocate the very course on which they have been negotiating for all these months past.
I do believe that the coming to a settlement with the Egyptian Government, and, therefore, the elimination of at any rate one major commitment—and the biggest of all—for the Army becomes the key to the reduction in the manpower bill which has to be met, which alone makes possible a reduction in the terms of National Service. It may be right or wrong to evacuate our fighting forces from the Canal Zone, but the Government have been negotiating for all these months on that basis, and if it is right to negotiate on that basis, conceding that basis, surely what cannot be right is to hesitate and to boggle at the two out standing items that are at issue with the Egyptian Government. They are, I will not say of minor importance—no doubt they have their importance—but they are of relatively minor importance compared to the principle of whether it is right or wrong to have an evacuation of the Canal Zone—
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
If the right hon. Gentleman suggests that there should be a reduction in the forces at present in the Canal Zone—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will let me put this point first. If that is so, why do we need an agreement at all? Why should we not reduce the number of men there in accordance with the terms of the Treaty and without an agreement? Then we can achieve the right hon. Gentleman's purpose almost immediately.
§ Mr. Strachey
That is so, but I disagree with the suggestion completely. I have always thought that the most disastrous course of all would be to leave a few men in the Canal Zone. That was advocated by the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse). It has always seemed to me the most disastrous course we could follow. If we keep men in the Canal Zone at all, we must keep very substantial forces there, because we shall be keeping them there in the teeth of the will and the intentions of the Egyptian Government. It is therefore a question of all out or none out. I am afraid the idea of a few men there is the least workable proposition of all.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way a second time. Would he, first of all, tell us what reduction he considers it right to make in National Service, in terms of months? Secondly, let us assume that we have something like 70,000 or 80,000 men in the Canal Zone and that we bring all of them home. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that it would cost 60,000 men to reduce National Service to 18 months and would mean that three or four divisions would be completely disbanded, leaving us with no reserves of any sort in this country. Would he accept that?
§ Mr. Strachey
I do not think the hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite right. If we liquidate a major overseas commitment of this sort, we shall get much more use out of our National Service men, even on a shorter engagement, such as an engagement for 18 months. The Prime Minister pointed out, in an Interjection in my right hon. Friend's speech a few moments ago, that one of the great difficulties about reducing the period of National Service was the distant commitments. We have to send these men abroad. When we have at any rate a reasonable proportion of our troops at home, it is much more possible to have a shorter period of National Service. I do not think it is entirely true to say that we should use the whole of our savings in a reduction of six months in the period of National Service.
In any case, all I am saying is that when we criticise the Government in our Amendment for not making proposals for 1060 some reduction in the period of National Service, we must at the same time agree that that involves the liquidation of at least one major commitment, such as Egypt.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
There is another aspect of this matter, and we are tending to lose sight of it. I should like my right hon. Friend to stress it. The "Manchester Guardian" has published a special survey based upon interviews with a large number of big industrialists who are very critical of young men being taken out of industry for so long. They say that this is having a very serious effect upon the training of skilled men in this country.
§ Mr. Strachey
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The whole sociological aspect of National Service is, however, something with which I cannot hope to deal in this speech without trespassing for far too long upon the time of the House. I hope we shall go into it in some detail on the Service Estimates.
May I summarise my argument? As I see it, there are four reasons why some reduction in the commitments of the Army, of which Egypt is only an example but by far the biggest and one of the most important examples, is the key to the whole interlocking question of defence which is so baffling a problem for us. Unless we can make some cuts in commitments of that sort, then in my submission we cannot cut the period of National Service. Unless we can cut the period of National Service, we cannot cut the total manpower—or, at least, we can do so only in the quite unacceptable way of still further reducing the Regular content. That is something which no one would contemplate.
§ Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of reducing the period of National Service, could he explain to the House why he has changed his mind so much in a few months? I have looked at the report of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in the debate of 16th November, 1953. In column 1418 of the OFFICIAL REPORT he is quoted as having said:I was just about to say that I was far from suggesting that even when the Canal Zone commitment has been liquidated it will be easy for the Army to reduce the period of National 1061 Service again. It would impose great difficulties and problems on the Army to return to a period of 18 months, say, as against two years;"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1953; Vol. 520, c. 1418.]I wonder what has occurred to change his mind?
§ Mr. Strachey
If my hon. Friend will permit me, I would prefer to answer it myself. I have not changed my mind in the slightest. It will be extremely difficult but I think it is absolutely necessary. What I have said is that it cannot be done without the liquidation of a major commitment. With such a liquidation, I think it can just be done. I think it can be done and should be done, and if the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) reads my speech, he will see that that is exactly the position which I took at that time.
On that occasion, too, I had to declare my disagreement with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington. I had to say that I could not in honesty demand a reduction in the period of National Service without a reduction in some major commitment, such as Egypt. That is precisely the position which I am taking today. It is not an easy thing to reduce the period of National Service even when we have made a cut in the commitments, but it is possible, it can be done and, for the reasons which I am giving, I think it must be done.
I am afraid that I must run through this summary again. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, the hon. Member for Horsham interrupted me. The truth is this: we cannot cut the period of National Service unless we cut some commitment. We cannot cut the total manpower unless we cut the period of National Service. We cannot cut the total defence spending in any acceptable way unless we cut the manpower bill, and unless we can cut, even by a little, as I have suggested, the total defence spending, we cannot keep it within a reasonable level which the country can carry without grave social and economic injury over a period of years.
I therefore suggest that these are the interlocking parts of this difficult and baffling problem. I have attempted to put honestly before the House the only suggestion which I can make which can bring this burden within the capacity of the country. We have to carry a burden 1062 —there is no doubt about that; we have to carry a heavy burden for years to come. The suggestion which I have made is the only one I know which can bring it within a capacity which this country can carry without injury.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. P. B. Lucas (Brentford and Chiswick)
I wish to intervene briefly to make one or two observations on the subject of naval aviation, and if I do not follow the arguments of the right hon Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) it is because I wish to turn at once to this point.
First of all, may I tell my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence how much we on this side of the House welcome the statement which he has made this afternoon on pay and pensions. It will be well received and I am sure we congratulate him upon it.
Out of an expenditure of some £1,640 million, with £360 million for the Admiralty itself, I find it very difficult to make any accurate estimate of the overall cost involved in the Air Arm of the Navy but, having regard for the number of carriers in commission, together with all the supporting craft, shore establishments and training stations, the figure involved must represent a sizeable proportion of the total Estimate.
I want, first, of all, to make clear my own attitude towards naval flying. I have the highest regard for its achievements and its organisation, just as I have for the courage and skill of the air crews. I still recall vividly the occasions during the late war when, with the co-operation of the Mediterranean Fleet and the Fleet Air Arm, we flew our Spitfires off the old "Eagle" and the United States carrier "Wasp" into Malta during the battle for the island in 1942. But for the system of carrier supply from the Western end of the Mediterranean in those days we should not, I believe, have been able to maintain our fighter strength on the island and Malta might quite well have been lost.
I also remember well the naval pilots who were attached to Fighter Command units to gain experience of this sort of flying. There was one lieutenant who came to one of my squadrons who was so outstanding that within a fortnight he was leading a flight and, had his attach- 1063 ment lasted longer, he would, on merit, have been able to lead the squadron and carry the full confidence of those who flew behind him.
From this I hope that it may be seen that I have myself no personal prejudice against the Fleet Air Arm; indeed, the reverse is exactly the case. Having said that, I must express the view that in the changed circumstances of defence in 1954, with land-based air power now, in the Prime Minister's phrase, "the supreme expression of military might," our present policy towards naval flying should be open to severe scrutiny. I do not want to Appear dogmatic and I fully appreciate that this is an unpopular view, but I question whether we are right in maintaining in commission something like 10 or a dozen carriers with all their related and attendant costs.
Now we read that three more carriers which are at present under construction, including the Fleet carrier, "Ark Royal," costing upwards of £11 million—I do not know the exact figure—will be completed during 1954–55. I question whether all this considerable expenditure involved in the Air Arm of the Service is justified by the very moderate strength of its front line aircraft or, indeed, by its operational usefulness in any future atomic war.
I do not say that there should be no carriers; I do not say that at all. I think that there are some tasks for which they are probably necessary and even indispensable. I believe the work which the squadrons from "Glory" and "Ocean" put in during the Korean campaign is evidence of that. But I feel that, having regard for the closeness of our alliance with the United States and the reliance which they are now placing upon carrier fleets, there is a case to be considered for a reduction rather than an increase in the number of these ships in commission together with the supporting shore establishments.
It seems to me that one has to look at this problem now in the light of our likely requirements in any future atomic war. I do not think that we can consider it at all on the basis of the air/sea battle as we knew it during the late war. I believe that the hideous potential of the strategic air attack has changed that. We are approaching a time when the swept-wing bomber with its great speeds 1064 will only be able to be dealt with, in any conventional form, by interceptor aircraft capable of supersonic speed. I, personally, doubt very much whether with all the hazards of operations at sea it will be possible to operate these aircraft with this level of performance from the angle flight decks of our newer and modernised carriers.
As to convoy protection, anti-submarine and anti-shipping work, I cannot believe that shore-based aircraft with modern weapons and equipment, acting in concert with the strategic bomber force, will not, in the main, be a sufficient answer. After all, in the late war—and we have to consider these things—during which 58 carriers were commissioned, the Fleet Air Arm destroyed 20 submarines by comparison with 220 destroyed by shore-based aircraft at sea. It seems to me that the balance of power has shifted and is shifting still further in the direction of and in favour of the land-based aircraft.
I agree that there is probably an unanswerable case for the operation of carriers in the Pacific Ocean and in certain areas of the Atlantic, but, in my opinion, their use in the narrow seas in any global war would be an impossibility. As the White Paper says, our Armed Forces cannot, within the limits of our present economy,be provided with all those things which ideally they should have.I consider that some of the carriers now in commission and perhaps even some of those about to come into commission during the next 12 or 18 months might very well seem to fall within that category.
There is, moreover, the related problem of attracting sufficient naval pilots and observers to take short-service commissions. The shortage here does not surprise me at a time when inevitably there must be doubts in many minds—and in parents' minds—about the future use of carriers and also about the status of naval flying. For my part, I have always doubted whether a pair of wings on a naval uniform ever had quite the same significance and meaning as a pair of wings on an R.A.F. uniform. It would be impossible to imagine the Chief of Air Staff without them, but not, I think, a First Sea Lord. A young man of ambition entering the Navy in these days must 1065 surely ponder whether his career will be best served by beginning his days as a pilot or observer in the Fleet Air Arm.
I believe that there is scope now for a much closer integration between the Fleet Air Arm and the R.A.F., particularly in regard to training flying. True, it would mean—and I admit this freely—the breaking down of old prejudices and the ending of many of the rivalries of the past. I feel, however, that with a disposition on both sides to give a little here and there, a settlement might well be possible.
I have particularly in mind that a good deal more might be done to combine the training of Fleet Air Arm and R.A.F. pilots. After all, operating from a carrier is only a form of specialised flying, just as photographic reconnaissance and strategic bombing are specialised forms of flying in the R.A.F. These things can surely be learnt at the end of a pilot's period of training. I, personally, believe that savings both in men and money could be made by turning much of the Fleet Air Arm training flying over to the instructors at R.A.F. stations. I am convinced that there is now an outstanding case to be considered for an impartial and thorough examination by the Minister of Defence of the whole question of integration between the flying Services and into the number of carriers maintained in commission.
I believe that this is a field in which economies could and should be made, not for the benefit of one Service—I am not suggesting that if we can save money in this way it should be given to the R.A.F.—but for the benefit of the British taxpayer. I appreciate that this is an extensive problem, possessed of all sorts of difficulties, but, also, I think that it is possible of solution. I believe that in the light of modern and future circumstances of defence this matter could and should be reviewed urgently, and certainly before the Defence Estimates are presented to Parliament next year.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
I think the chief thing that comes with any certainty from the White Paper is that the emphasis is incorrectly placed on the whole question of atomic warfare 1066 and conventional weapons. One passage reads:If…a global war were to be forced upon us, it must be assumed that atomic weapons would be employed by both sides.The White Paper goes on to take comfort in our superiority in these weapons. But the value of the superiority is in a steady decline, and I was a little alarmed and discouraged to hear General Gruenther, when some of us visited N.A.T.O. recently, placing so much faith in these weapons. Both sides have them. Both may be afraid to use them. One hears that the effect of the cobalt bomb might destroy all life on huge parts of the earth, if not destroy life in all the world. Who is going to take the risk of setting these things off if another war comes?
If fear of these ghastly weapons does not prevent wars it may be that war will be fought entirely without them. If another war comes, then we would have to go back to conventional weapons. Our potential opponents certainly have not abandoned conventional weapons. Since 1951 the strength of the Soviet forces has gone up by 150,000 to 4¾ million men and the satellite countries have increased their forces by nearly 120,000 men to about 1,190,000. At present, they spend, of their national income, a far higher proportion on their defence budget than this country does, being somewhere about 15 per cent, to 16 per cent., not 10 to 11 per cent.
In any case, if atomic weapons were used, perhaps even if they were only used tactically, it would be vital to have a defence shield with conventional forces strong enough to hold up the Russian forces to give us time to build up our war potential. It would also be necessary to hold the advancing forces in one place for long enough to present a target for the tactical use of atomic weapons.
Today, N.A.T.O. is pitifully weak, and the Government are deceiving the country in taking too optimistic a view of its present strength. It has only 20 divisions to put against a potential strength of five times as large with a disparity in front line aircraft just as great. So all that we have done so far with N.A.T.O. is to produce a force strong enough at the moment to compel the Russians to reinforce Poland and Eastern Germany before they launch an attack. We have not got a strong enough shield, if they brought up 1067 reinforcements before such an attack, to hold them up for very long.
The only way—and I think that this is becoming generally agreed—for the West to make sure of having a long-term deterrent force is to have some German divisions armed. That was why the Labour Government and the Labour Party agreed to the principle of German rearmament in 1950. That is why the Labour Party decided last week that any further delay in providing a German contribution would be wrong. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Here I would agree with those of my hon. Friends who are fearful of what those German divisions, which we have now agreed should be provided, could do if they were guided by evil forces. They must be intertwined with the armies of those democracies which have a reputation for defending liberty rather than for destroying it.
The great weakness of the White Paper is that there is no indication how this vital part of Western defence is to be satisfactorily achieved. At the moment the Germans are willing to provide a force on a less than national basis, which is a very remarkable event in history indeed. The European Defence Community Treaty, which they have ratified, means international control of the German armaments industry. It means inter-national control of the size and the command even within Germany of the German armed forces.
The French will not at present ratify this Treaty. Why not? Because they are to be left alone in E.D.C. with the Italians to cope with the Germans. So they take every excuse to postpone a decision. Each postponement weakens German willingness to go on sacrificing sovereignty over their armed forces.
We cannot blame France. A huge element of her regular army is in Indo-China. The French have no staff officers or generals of comparable skill to the Germans. Why should the French go into this organisation by themselves? They were promised by the Prime Minister that we would join the European Army. He said this in August, 1950, at Strasbourg:Those who serve supreme causes must not consider what they can get, but what they can give… We should make a gesture of practical and constructive guidance by declar- 1068 ing ourselves in favour of the immediate creation of a European army under a unified command, in which we should all bear a worthy and honourable part.That was not a chance speech. It was a solemn declaration of belief and principles. Other senior members of the right hon. Gentleman's party present at Strasbourg at that occasion, and who are now Ministers, made similar statements. Everything was done to persuade France that any Administration presided over by the Prime Minister would bring Britain into a European army.
The Prime Minister has quite wantonly destroyed these hopes. He has gravely damaged Anglo-French unity and he himself is now the principal obstacle to a European army. Everybody knows that if Britain offered to join a European army French hesitations would be gone.
The French remember June, 1940, rather differently from the way in which we remember it. They remember it as an occasion when the British troops left the Continent. They saw it as an occasion when we rather desperately got out of Europe, and they wonder whether, in any future war, we might not take the same action. There can be no adequate defence of Europe if the French do not believe that we are going to stay in Europe with them if a war comes.
In the last two years I have asked Question after Question to find out from the Government what their intentions are about the European Defence Community. I have met with nothing but equivocation and evasion on the subject. We have said everything about association with E.D.C. except the one thing that the French want to hear, which is that we would actually join the European army. The Foreign Secretary said that he felt it in his bones that we could not join a European army. I know that his health has improved lately, but apparently he has still an advanced form of rheumatism.
This absence of a policy, and denial of promises, goes right to the root of the whole defence structure of Western Europe. How can we welcome a situation in which France and Germany will be alone together in the European Defence Community? It would be highly dangerous and it would offer no safeguards against the resurgence of German militarism.
It has been argued that if E.D.C. were to collapse German membership of 1069 N.A.T.O. would be quite sufficient, but this is not military true. In N.A.T.O. each nation has a separate national army. The Germans could have as large a one as they liked. They could station it in a threatening way on the frontier with Eastern Germany with no one able to stop them. There would be no control over their arms industry, and if German nationalism grew strong enough again they might be tempted to launch an attack on Eastern Germany which would involve us all in war. No one with any experience of this century could say for certain that they would not be rash enough to do that.
The two great virtues of the European army idea, not necessarily the present scheme, are: first, it gives joint control of the various national armaments industries; and, secondly, the fact that national divisions would be grouped in twos and threes with divisions of other nationalities into corps formations.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Would my hon. Friend agree that our sons should serve under Nazi generals who have the records that the ex-Nazis have?
§ Mr. Wyatt
I am just coming to that. I am not suggesting that the European army should in any case be staffed by ex-Nazi generals. If my hon. Friend will listen to all of my speech, he may see from its final form what I mean.
The second advantage of the idea is that national divisions would be grouped in international corps, and each corps headquarters would have an international staff. It would then be impossible for any unusual disposition of troops to take place without all the other nations having advance information of such a move. That is the only way to have effective and instant control of the Germans.
What are the objections to this idea and to the present scheme? We are told that the Commonwealth would object to Britain being in a European army, but no one has ever produced the slightest evidence that any Commonwealth country would object to it. We are told that we should be unable effectively to manage our overseas commitments, but this is expressly provided for in the present Treaty, where France is allowed to move her troops to Indo-China, back and forth, and so on. We could do exactly the same.
1070 The next objection is that we do not like the word "supranational" and that we shrink from being involved in an organisation which appears to demand a new and further surrender of sovereignty. Recently a number of us visited N.A.T.O. There we heard the Dutch Deputy Secretary-General describe how the Committee of Ministers and the Board of Commissioners of the European Defence Community would work.
I then asked how the present Standing Group of N.A.T.O., which consists of the United Kingdom, the United States and France, works today. This body is the executive of the N.A.T.O. Council. It was apparent that the way in which it functions is very little different from the way in which the European Defence Community would operate in practice. All major decisions in E.D.C. must be approved unanimously by the Committee of Ministers as in N.A.T.O. The Board of Commissioners can be overruled by the Committee of Ministers just as the Standing Group of N.A.T.O. can be overruled by the N.A.T.O. Council.
We know that tremendous preparatory work was undertaken to get international agreement on the form and shape of the E.D.C. Treaty. It is said that all this would have to be gone through again if Britain were to join a new European army and that it would take an immense amount of time. That is not so. There would have to be some modification of the attitude of Britain and the attitude of the European countries, but it would not be as vast as is sometimes thought. Field Marshal Montgomery said not so long ago that he thinks that it is not only militarily possible for us to join a European army but militarily desirable. If he thinks that from the military basis, there is no reason why we should argue with such a military expert.
We should have to ask European countries to use the word "international" instead of "supranational." The effect would be exactly the same in all the relevant documents and it is not a very big step. We should have to see that the final authority remained with Governments and not with a political assembly attached to the European army. We should have to see that the federal concepts in the scheme were reduced. On the other hand, we should have to agree to draw up our armament 1071 programmes in conjunction with the European countries. What is the objection to that?
Mr. S. Silvennan
Would my hon. Friend care to introduce into this part of his argument some explanation of the effect that there would be, if he had his way about the European army, upon the level of our commitments as set out in the White Paper? Should we need more men or fewer men, a longer period of service or a shorter one, £1,600 million a year with no limit at the end of it or less than that?
§ Mr. Wyatt
The general effect in the long term would be that we should probably need fewer men and less expenditure. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about now?"] I am no more prepared to answer that question than was my right hon. Friend when he was asked it.
We should have to commit our divisions in Germany to membership of the European army. That should be easy, because, in any case, the moment we withdrew those divisions from Germany, all joint European defence would be gone. We shall have to keep those divisions there, with or without a European army, to encourage the French and to assist in keeping Russian forces as far away from our shores as possible. It is a simple act of bookkeeping to commit our divisions in Germany to a European army without altering our basic policy, which, in any case, must be indefinitely to maintain troops in Germany. Basically, it simply means putting our divisions into international corps.
We should have to allocate a substantial proportion of our Reserve formations to the support of the European army. That, also, involves no change in policy, because if war broke out we should have to send them to Europe in any case, and we should have to do the same with a substantial proportion of the Royal Air Force.
The time has come for us to see ourselves as Europeans and no longer to look upon Great Britain as an island protected by the Channel from what happens on the rest of the Continent. We cannot say that we should only do what the Americans will do with regard to Europe. The Americans are 3,000 miles away and we are here. All of us tend to be conservative and insular in some of the 1072 beliefs which we have held persistently and perhaps correctly for a long time, although they may be radical views. It may not be so difficult to make our people understand the need for Britain to identify herself with Europe as the House sometimes thinks.
The "Daily Mirror," which is never far away from popular thinking or feeling, has come out very strongly for British inclusion in a European army. I believe that that is good evidence that the idea would not be alien to the British, particularly if the British were told something more about these schemes. I think it is an idea which would also appeal to my hon. Friends. It is, after all, a Socialist idea to have an international army and an international police force in which people are grouped together internationally so that one nation will prevent another from trying to promote aggressive designs.
There was a conference on the Continent last week-end at which 10 Socialist Parties, against one, voted for the European Defence Community. That is conclusive evidence that Socialists on the Continent are in favour of the idea. The only party voting against it was the German Socialist Party. [Interruption.] If my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) wants to ally himself with the German Socialists against the Socialists of every other country he is welcome to do so.
§ Mr. Silverman
Let me assure my hon. Friend that I would far sooner—I said this during the war—ally myself with the German Social Democrats than with any other force or party in Germany.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I was not talking merely about Germany. There are Socialist Parties in every other country in Europe, and they have taken a different view. We have had it from Herr Ollenhauer that the reason why the German Socialist Party does not like E.D.C. is that it restricts the sovereignty of Germany over her army. They do not like it because it is an international force and they want greater sovereignty over their own armed forces.
Mr. R. H. S. Grossman (Coventry, East)
My hon. Friend said that the British Socialists supported it, but it is fair to note that they supported it 1073 strictly from outside, and agreeing strictly with what the Germans said— that other people's sovereignty might be tied up, not their own.
§ Mr. Wyatt
My hon. Friend can always speak for everyone else, but he did not happen to be at that conference. I am merely saying that we should come inside the organisation and not stay outside. I did not say that we said that at Brussels. I simply said that 10 Socialist Parties against one voted for the European Defence Community.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I am studiously trying to avoid having an argument with my hon. Friend. I know he misses it, but I ask him not to try to provoke me.
In 1940, the Prime Minister offered union with France but by 1950 he had come down to a rather smaller proposal, the one which he made at Strasbourg when he proposed a European army with Britain as a full member. I thought that possibly the only good result of the election of a Tory Government was that we were going to join a European army and that one promise might be fulfilled by the Tory Party.
Can the Prime Minister not now redeem his offers and promises to France? If France falters and falls through our failure to support her, Britain will be in acute danger and the Prime Minister will be to blame. A magic of a sort still clings to his name in France—the French are not so well informed about him as we are. If he will propose to the six countries now in E.D.C. that there should be a new form of European Defence Community treaty in which Britain will join, British initiative would secure a totally different atmosphere in the international situation.
In the first place, Europe, from a position of strength, would be able to curb the Americans if they were inclined to rash action and we should have a more effective force to deter the Russians under a unified command as far as possible away from us now, and, later, perhaps in a decade, when American troops are withdrawn entirely from Europe. If we took this action it would re-invigorate Europe and make the defence of the free world vastly easier. It would give us the moral leadership of Europe and it would enable us to in- 1074 fluence the world far more effectively with counsels of sanity and caution. It is my complaint against the Prime Minister's defence policy that in this he has failed Europe and, with Europe, this country.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
I do not want to preface my remarks with what is perhaps the most deadly remark that we hear in this House, namely, "I do not propose to take up the time of the House for very long," but I promise to take no more than 10 minutes. I was interested in the remarks which I thought the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) addressed largely to his own colleagues about the rearmament of Germany, but I do not want to refer specially to those remarks so much as to the point the hon. Member made when he talked about the disparity of conventional forces which may oppose each other in Europe.
The Statement on Defence states thatOur active forces must be able to withstand the initial shock. Our reserve forces must be capable of rapid mobilisation behind the shield which our active forces provide and be ready to perform their combat tasks at the earliest possible moment.It is true to say that our strategy in Europe is based very largely on our ability to mobilise very rapidly our Reserve Army in support of active forces which we can deploy in Europe, and we must depend on a well-trained Reserve Army that can go into action in a matter of a few weeks after mobilisation.
I want to examine the state, size and training of that Reserve Army at present, because it is the vital backbone of our defence forces. According to the Statement on Defence, on 1st January the size of the Reserve forces, Territorials and Army Emergency Reserve, and so on, was 571,000, that is more than two-thirds of the active Regular forces in existence and of that number some 400,000 were in the Army Reserve. That appears to be fairly good on paper, but what is the Reserve force like, in fact? I speak with some personal experience and I say that if it were called out for mobilisation the Reserve Army today would not be capable of going into action in support of the active forces which we could deploy certainly until it had had at least three months' intensive training 1075 and in the case of the Army Emergency Reserve very much longer.
§ Mr. Hall
Yes, and to the Army Emergency Reserve.
If the Territorial Army had to go into action after mobilisation I doubt very much whether it could function very efficiently in support of active divisions until it had had at least three months' intensive training. In the case of the Army Emergency Reserve it would be rather longer. How can one expect anything else when one considers the limited time available for training both in the Territorial Army and in the Emergency Reserve?
The Territorials get a certain number of drills each week plus two weeks' training each year. The Emergency Reserve have only two weeks' training each year for a commitment of 3½ years. I contend that it is quite impossible to produce a really well trained unit which shortly after mobilisation can go into action in the time available for training in these circumstances.
There may be many things which will have to be done to put this Reserve Army training right, and there are one or two suggestions I should like to make to the House. One is that we may have to reconsider the spread of National Service time as between the Regular Army and the Reserve forces. There may be a time, for example, when it is possible to consider the reduction of the actual Regular Army commitment, but in those circumstances I think that it would be necessary to increase the Reserve Army commitment and give a very much longer training. It may be necessary to consider a longer period of training camps. That will make many difficulties in industrial life. It will demand the cooperation of employers and adjustments in the normal attitude towards reserve training. But it is essential if we are to produce the results.
Anyone who has had anything to do with Territorial Army training or the Army Emergency Reserve will appreciate the very great problems that there are today. The National Service man who goes to the Territorial Army and is only prepared to do his minimum legal 1076 liability for service is a problem. Would anyone claim that at the end of three years' service he is a trained soldier who can perform his part in a trained team? I defy anyone to claim that an Emergency Reserve until after three periods of two weeks' training could be put into action before a further three months of intensive training at least. I claim that the period would have to be very much longer.
There is also the question of the volunteer element. The White Paper informs us that the number is diminishing. Volunteers number about 5 per cent, of the strength of the Emergency Reserve and the Emergency Reserve is half the size of the Territorial Army or, in other words, one-third of the reserve power as a whole. It may be possible for additional incentives to be given to volunteers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) asked why it was that people did not volunteer. Perhaps I could give one or two reasons. One is the problem of holidays. A certain number of men who served in the Reserves and do their fortnight camp do not get any additional holiday.
Another problem, and one which is much more important and which affects; the Regular Army, is the division from the family. Here a man who would normally be holidaying together with his family has to serve that period in the Reserve forces and his wife and family have to holiday on their own, ft they have any holiday at all. There are other small things which might add to the attraction for volunteers, but I do not think we shall get sufficient volunteers, to make the reserves efficient if we have to depend upon them and upon them-alone.
If one considers pre-war experience it will be seen that we are getting nearly as many if not more than we got in those days but our commitments are greater and a number of our units are greater particularly in the Territorial and Emergency Reserve. I do not look forward to any great increase in volunteers in any service in spite of all the publicity that might be given to increases in conditions of service.
This question of reserve training has to-be examined again. It is the cornerstone of our military strategy. If the Reserve 1077 is not efficient and cannot be moved in support, the active support, of formations in Europe after mobilisation what will happen? Is it to be assumed that such active divisions as we have deployed would be able to contain the enemy for a long enough period to enable the Reserve to be brought to a proper state of training? If not, the alternative may be that only half trained units will be put into battle. This matter should be looked at seriously because it affects the future well-being of the country and the lives of many in the Reserve forces today.
I would ask whether, in reconsidering this matter, we should not increase the period of training of the reserves whatever sacrifice that may call for, without that training our forces will not be as effective as they might be in the early days of a war.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)
Having sat through the whole of this debate, I realise the wide canvas that has been painted on both sides of the House, and I intend to confine my remarks to a particular aspect raised by the White Paper.
I spent last Saturday evening with some of my constituents in the Quarry Bank Labour Club. I noticed a number of them standing in front of a poster on the wall. I said to the steward, "What is that?" He said, "That is a Government poster," to which I replied, "But this is a Labour club." He said, "Yes, but it is a good Government poster; it shows how the money goes." It showed, among other things, that out of every £1 in taxation 10s. 4d. went to pay for past and future wars.
We had some discussion about it in the club. I do not claim to be a military strategist or an economist. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] No, thank goodness. I am one who looks at a problem from the point of view of the ordinary chap, and we need more of that point of view to go on record in this House.
Defence expenditure is a regrettable necessity. Are there any objections to that? The threat of Russian armed strength is something which we cannot, and dare not, ignore. It must be met collectively by all the nations who care for freedom and for the democratic way of life. I have read the White Paper over 1078 and over again. It is not convincing. There is no ring of confidence in it. It is a limp, broken-backed effort. It shilly-shallies between the traditional and atomic methods of fighting a war. On page 5 it states:… such a war would begin with a period of intense atomic attacks lasting a relatively short time but inflicting great destruction and damage.On the same page it also states:Our reserve forces must be capable of rapid mobilisation behind the shield which our active forces provide and be ready to perform their combat task at the earliest possible moment.Where will the reserve forces be after the atomic attack? How can they be mobilised rapidly after such attacks? If the "top brass" really believe, and are really convinced, that atomic weapons would be used by both sides, why go on producing obsolete weapons of war and large reserve forces? But I do not think that the "top brass" really know anything about atomic warfare.
There was a cartoon in the "Star" which portrayed a "top brass" officer giving a lecture on atomic warfare. He-was saying, "I am not sure whether you blanco it or polish it," and so on and so on. I suggested that that is as much as the "top brass" really know about atomic warfare today. Nobody knows. It is a terrifying and frightening picture which should make all of us careful before we consider whether to precipitate a conflict again.
This brings me to National Service. The two-year period of National Service was for an emergency. I think we have continually to insist on that. As a matter of fact, the whole conception of National Service in this country was introduced as a temporary expedient. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, when in office, gave a pledge that they would not regard National Service as the normal way of raising our defences in this, country. All soldiers agree, and here I think I will take the brigadiers and; colonels on the other side of the House with me, that the Regular professional Army is the best kind of Army when one is going into a war.
We are told that the length of National. Service is linked with our commitments, and that has been argued at great lengths on both sides of the House, so I do not intend to develop it now. As long as the 1079 "top brass" continue to rely on the product of two years' National Service for the forces, no effort will be made by them to recruit an adequate Regular army or to reduce our commitments. Why should they? We all remember Paschendaele and how the "top brass" were supplied with troops, who were "pushed around." We shall not stand for that sort of thing again. Our commitments will be maintained and expanded as long as there are troops to do the job.
If the period of National Service is reduced the commitments must also be reduced. That is the way I should take. Take away the potential for doing the damage and the damage will not be done. National Service is wasteful; it cannot produce the best soldiers, and it demoralises youth. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh golly!"] It is no good hon. Gentlemen saying, "Oh golly." I am not going to give a moral lecture, but if the hon. Gentlemen will wait they will see what I am getting at.
From the age of 15 to 18, the youths of this country have years of indecision and drift. They do not know what is to happen to them, and their drift leads to juvenile delinquency. From 18 to 20, they are neither soldiers nor civilians. They are "browned off" and far from home. I know what that means; I have had some. And because those two years' service are not going to make professional soldiers of them, they are wasted on the majority of men who undertake them. At 20, manhood is attained without the moral, mental or technical equipment necessary to make them good citizens.
That is what National Service means. No other European nation has a two-year period of National Service. If we believe in collective effort, then we should all make a contribution to it. How much longer is Britain to be the "mug" that "carries the can"? We always have to bear the brunt at the beginning of a war, and then somebody else jumps on to the band wagon and hogs the fruits of victory. That has happened twice in 20 years. We went to the aid of Belgium in 1914, and somebody came in at the end of the war and waved the flag. We were the first to go into the last war, and had we not done so the world would now be under the domination of a German or a Russian totalitarian system.
1080 Why should we always get the worst end of the stick? Why should we do more than our share while others do less than theirs? If we did our share, and no more, it would have the effect of administering the "kick in the pants" necessary to galvanise the scrimshankers into activity, and would encourage them to do their duty if only to save their own skins.
The White Paper makes it clear that the enemy with which we are concerned is world Communism. But the White Paper really does not deal with world Communism at all. World Communism cannot be contained by armed force alone. It appeals to the hungry, to the wretched and to the despairing in the under-developed areas of the world. It promises these people action, and sometimes when it has got control it has given them action. However much we may disagree with the philosophy behind it, it has at times been able to alleviate immediate suffering.
The real defence against Communism in those areas is not to blow out the brains of the Communist dupes, but to develop their brains and their ability to serve the democratic ideal and the democratic way of life. We have to show them a better way of life. We have to fill their bellies and demolish their hovels and house them decently. We have to give them technical assistance and train them to do skilled work, and, by dropping the colour bar, give them some sense of human dignity.
The cost of doing this would represent a far more effective defence expenditure than much of that proposed in the White Paper. I do not desire to cut defence expenditure in order to get a penny a pint off beer, 3d. off a packet of 20 "fags," or even a" tanner" off the Income Tax. We are the trustees and the guardians of these colonial people, and must guard them against ideological penetration as much as against physical aggression.
This cannot be done by smooth words, but only by acts designed to win their confidence. It would be the most effective defence against Communism. That is why I want to see a reduction in the money we spend upon this kind of defence so that it can be transferred to the other kind of defence.
1081 As an ex-Service man of the 1914–1918 war I reluctantly vote for any war expenditure. When I came into this House in 1929, I voted against the Service Estimates. I was very near to the First World War at that time. The scars which it had left were still fresh, and perhaps I allowed my feelings to run away with my head. I do not apologise for that, because it is sometimes good to do that. However, I would not vote today against the defence of this country, or against the Service Estimates in view of what has transpired in the years between the 1914–1918 war and the present time.
I think that we had a right to oppose war in 1914. It was Mr. Lloyd George who said that it was something into which we staggered and stumbled, and for which no one side was wholly responsible or guilty. But when Hitler came to power it created a new situation, and when we appeased Hitlerite Germany we brought nearer the day when war would come. Therefore, having seen the results of the appeasement of one totalitarian Power, I am not in favour of the appeasement of another totalitarian Power or a group of totalitarian Powers whoever they may be. I realise that aggression must be checked.
I shall support the Amendment because I believe it is more realistic than the White Paper. We must not only deter the potential aggressor, but by our actions we must remove the fears that make him aggressive. We must pursue policies that reduce the fears and tensions which threaten peace and security for peoples of all races.
Armaments are linked with policy, and the very fact that we have heavy armaments today is due to a certain policy. Therefore, we must see that the policies of this nation are such as shall not recreate or add fuel to the fears of those who through fear have been driven to aggression. We must pursue a policy which will give them confidence and prove to them that we really mean to use our position as a dominant force in the world today, not to destroy any nation, but by our encouragement, by our economic aid and by our military leadership to those people in the backward areas of the world, to show them the way in which they can win their freedom through democracy instead of 1082 relying on the promises of the totalitarians.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Captain Robert Ryder (Merton and Morden)
I am sure that we have all listened with great interest to what the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) has been saying. He obviously spoke with great feeling and sincerity. However, I hope he will excuse me if I do not deal with the particular matters about which he spoke because I desire to refer to what my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Lucas) said about naval aviation, about which not a great deal is said in the White Paper.
The White Paper makes some fairly profound remarks as to the possible trend of a future war, but when it comes to the possible course of a war at sea it does not seem to me to be a very clear document. This does not come altogether as a surprise, because the House will realise that the Royal Navy is strictly limited in what it can do with aircraft. It is limited to those which can operate from aircraft carriers.
We have now reached a stage when some people conclude that the future of the aircraft carrier in the event of a conflict is a matter of extreme doubt. I am prepared to agree to the extent that as regards operations in narrow waters, the aircraft carrier is likely to have a very difficult time and is likely to be an unprofitable venture. But when it comes to the question of protecting our ships at sea against air attack, it seems to me that we must have our fighters on the spot; and that cannot be achieved by basing them on the shore. There is a great danger that people will come to regard the carrier as obsolete before there is anything to put in its place. That is one danger which is worrying me and I think we must give it careful thought.
Another danger which is worrying me is that the Admiralty, by virtue of the fact that it is strictly limited in this way, may tend to hold on to the carrier long after it may, in fact, have become an obsolete weapon. If the Admiralty does that, then, ultimately, the Royal Navy will become discredited. But there are very strong inducements for the Navy to take that attitude. The Navy is from time to time taunted with not being air-minded, but 1083 the fact is that the Royal Navy is intensely air-minded and regards its Air Arm as its main offensive arm. If we are to say that its main offensive arm is obsolete and it cannot build any other, it will, obviously, have a demoralising effect on the whole Service. If the Navy, in the future, is to find that its main offensive arm is a broken weapon in its hand, not only will this have serious repercussions on the Service as a whole but a very distorted line of tactical thought will be built up.
This is a time when we are considering some amazing developments in new weapons, and when one considers the tactical evolution and the strategic evaluation of new weapons one must remember that it takes a long time to produce the weapons in the first place, and an even longer time to evaluate their strategic and tactical significance. The danger that lies ahead is that if the Royal Navy is restricted so that it cannot develop its strategic and tactical thoughts on the wider field we shall find a yawning gap ahead of us when considering the control of the sea in the event of another war. It is for that reason that I think the time has come when the question of the control and administration of aircraft designed to operate at sea should be reconsidered. This, of course, raises the question of Coastal Command.
§ Captain Ryder
The hon. Gentleman says, "No," but I think it does.
I hesitate to raise this matter because there is a great danger of provoking inter-Service animosity, but this is of such great importance to the future of the Navy and should be fully and fairly considered, and without bias. If an inquiry shows that Coastal Command is essential for the future of the Royal Air Force, clearly that is a matter which must have full consideration. But what I am saying at the moment is that if the Navy is restricted from developing aircraft on natural lines and is limited to a purely arbitrary definition—that aircraft have to be able to fly off ships—we shall find the Admiralty tending to continue to build carriers in order to be sure that they have some aircraft.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I hope the hon. and gallant Member for Merton and Morden (Captain Ryder) will excuse me if I turn from his specialist observations to the theme on which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence started in his speech. I was interested to hear something more about the strategic assumptions in the White Paper. My view is that we should not take them too seriously. Clearly the White Paper was written in the first place by people in the Services, and then a few observations were spatchcocked into the document by the Prime Minister which bore very little relation to anything concrete in the later paragraphs.
I take, for instance, what is clearly a Churchillian phrase about atomic warfare at the beginning of the White Paper, and then turn to page 21 where I find the practical application of the view that atomic attack will be the main threat to us in the next war. Paragraph 86 on Civil Defence says:The allocation of resources to Civil Defence in 1953 has necessarily been limited by the more general considerations of economic policy outlined in paragraph 7 of this Statement. As with the active defences, it has been necessary to spread the programme over a longer period than originally proposed. Within these limits our policy is to build up a nucleus of services and productive capacity…How can anybody in this House take seriously the Churchillian paragraphs at the beginning of the White Paper as to what the Government thought could possibly happen in this country, and then believe what is said later in the same White Paper that the allocation of resources to Civil Defence is limited by economic difficulties, that we cannot make any serious preparation for what the Prime Minister tells us would be bound to happen to us if World War III began?
I do not take the view of some of my colleagues that we should leap to the conclusion that the Prime Minister is right in his prophecy. I suspect that he is guessing, for a number of experts hold the view that just because both sides have the H-bomb—and I must say that our worries have been a great deal eased ever since Russia had the H-bomb—it is unlikely that either side will start a war by permitting itself to use a weapon which would boomerang in a week.
§ Mr. Crossman
Yes; I am glad to observe that the Prime Minister himself does not really believe it. Therefore, we should not take too seriously these Wellsian prophecies at the beginning of the White Paper, but we should study what the Government are proposing to do.
There is one strategic assumption which the Parliamentary Secretary made, and to which I should call attention. It relates to Germany. He said that we must keep the front as far East as possible, because if the Russians ever got to the Channel ports this country would be totally uninhabitable, we could not mobilise anybody in this country, and we should not have any possible defence if the Russians were on the Channel. I suspect that the Germans heard him say that. If this country is uninhabitable with the Russians on the Channel, what is Germany in the first week of the next war?
We are telling the Germans in this White Paper, "We wish you to be the glacis of our fortress of which the moat is the English Channel. Would you please commit hara-kiri in order that the enemy should not send a rocket onto London?" I suggest that the Germans are not as stupid as all that. When my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) talks about the European Defence Community as a great Socialist conception, may I tell him that it is not a Socialist conception any more than the Schuman Plan was a Socialist conception. It is a conception designed first of all to enable the French to throw dust into their own eyes in consenting to German rearmament, and it is also a method of pursuading the Germans to take great risks on our behalf.
I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Aston that, knowing the Germans a little better than he does, I quite agree that they will agree to rearmament—that is quite certain—but when they have the 12 divisions and with them the power to negotiate and the power to decide whether to provide a glacis or not, they may decide not to provide it. So do not let us say that E.D.C. is a gorgeous Socialist concept, but let us see what are the realities of the situation. My hon. Friend should think about this because, every time we 1086 teach the Germans that their country is a glacis defending Britain, we are preaching Moscow propaganda. That is exactly what the Communists are telling the Germans.
§ Mr. Crossman
A glacis is a fiat area before an old-fashioned fortress. There was a flat part, then the water in the moat and then the wall. [An HON. MEMBER: "Now we all know."]
I sympathise with the Service chiefs in regard to the White Paper. They say that of course we must have all these expensive unconventional weapons, and they say that we must keep the expenditure absolutely constant. If we get out of Egypt all the money we save is to be spent on unconventional weapons. This is very neat. They make it quite clear that if we have atom bombs we must still have just as many troops to prevent the Russians getting to the atom bases. First we build up enormous conventional armaments and then in addition enormously expensive unconventional weapons. We are told we must keep to conventional armaments in order to guard the unconventional weapons.
When we agreed to rearmament it was in September, 1950, and January, 1951. It was under very special conditions that we agreed to that emergency programme. All the Chiefs of Staff and the experts told us that war was imminent. The first stroke was in Korea and there would be another thrust through Europe. On the evidence of the Chiefs of Staff—although there was no evidence for it—there was panic rearmament—I am grateful to the Secretary of State for War for saying that there is no need for panic. In fact we got the arms programme in 1950 out of a misunderstanding. We thought the Russians were going to start a hot war and so we voted the three-year programme.
§ Mr. Crossman
And the second six months' National Service. Now the argument of the Government is, "You panicked yourselves into another six months' National Service and panicked yourselves into doubling the percentage 1087 of the national income spent on armaments. Now we want to keep the increased figure as normal. All this is necessary Service expenditure."
§ Sir Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
Does not the hon. Member think that the seizure of Czechoslovakia and the blockade of Berlin gave some cause for apprehension?
§ Mr. Crossman
I am talking about Korea. If I may point it out to the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby), the seizure of Czechoslovakia and the blockade of Berlin were not the cause of the 1950–51 panic rearmament. They were the cause of a much more sensible thing—N.A.T.O.—and N.A.T.O., as Senator Vandenburgh pointed out, reduced the need for rearmament by committing America automatically to come to our assistance in the event of aggression in Europe. Rearmament came afterwards and arose directly out of Korea. The whole of this gigantic rearmament programme was an emergency plan. It was a programme to get ready for 1954. The idea was that the Russians were going to wait conveniently and launch their attack when we had got ready in 1954. Now we have the 1954 defence budget and, instead of an emergency programme, we are told that this is going to be the normal.
We were told by the Parliamentary Secretary that it was our rearmament which changed the whole international situation and that the sacrifices were worth-while because our rearmament tamed the Russians. I want to consider this astonishing suggestion. There is of course no evidence for it whatsoever. Of course our arms had some effect, but do not let us over-estimate the effect they have had on Russia. Rearmament would have had a greater effect if the view of some of us had been taken about the way in which we should do the rearming. We suggested that we should do the rearming which we could afford. Actually we gave ourselves wonderful targets and never got anywhere near them.
If one wants to impress an enemy, is it wise to say, as the Prime Minister said, that 70 divisions are the minimum we require by 1954 and then only have 22 divisions at most in 1954? Is it really 1088 wise to say that we must spend millions on producing equipment for our forces and then cut four-fifths of our production programme? If we wanted to impress the Russians, it may be that those of us who said, "Let us do what we can within our resources," were correct. We said, "Let us build up a small compact force in Western Europe which we can afford to maintain for 40 years. Do not let us take panic measures which do not impress Russia." Our advice was not taken. Instead "dis-rearmament" went on year by year, and this created dislocation and harmed our exports far more than if we had undertaken a modest programme which we could afford.
However, in the new atmosphere which prevails, I want to keep the complete sense of unity on our side of the House. Therefore, I will turn from an analysis of the past to study the future. Today we have before us the first normal post-Korean defence budget. There is now no question of emergency or looking forward to a "year of destiny" three years ahead. May we take this, therefore, as the normal amount which will be spent? No. It is not the full sum. We heard about the new expenditure for Service pay this afternoon. That is only £18 million, but when the Government have had their way and the Germans start rearming, there will be another £120 million which is not mentioned here. That will be in respect of the cost which falls on us of the British Army on the Rhine which is now paid by the Germans. People often tell us of the enormous economic advantage we shall get in rearming the Germans. Actually the first economic effect will be to add another £120 million at least in hard currency to the defence estimates.
So in dealing with this normal peacetime defence budget we must reckon not with £1,640 million only, but with £18£ million extra, for pay, £120 million for B.A.O.R. and also the extra amount for the cruiser policy of the Colonial Secretary year by year. So we are getting up towards £1,800 million as a normal peacetime budget, or 14 per cent, of the national economy, and all we on this side of the House are saying is that we think it a little too much to sustain.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am sorry. I will take the £16 million and the £120 million— [Hon. MEMBERS: "It is £16½ million."]—I thought I took it from the hon. Gentleman's own figures and that it was £16 million—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I shall get the figure right in HANSARD.
If it is a long-haul, normal budget, it is intolerable. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) went, I thought, too far in saying that we could apply 10 per cent, of the national income to defence. That is an enormous sum to devote to defence, but I would point out that to get it down even to that figure would demand a major cut. The figure of 10 per cent, means a total revision of the Government's defence policy.
I will not deny that we could afford it. Of course the country can afford to spend £1,600 million on arms under a Tory policy. We can afford anything we like on arms if we can afford to spend the £600 million that we made on the favourable terms of trade on increased consumption mostly for the wealthier classes. Tories can afford anything they choose in that way. But what we cannot do is to afford a defence budget of that sort under Socialism. To do that in normal times, in peace-time, is to make complete nonsense of every plan we put forward in "Challenge to Britain."
We believe, and I do not think there are many back-bench Members opposite who would disagree, that we must compete in capital investment with the Germans and the Americans. May I repeat what I said last year? Each year during our rearmament they have increased their capital investment and their rearmament simultaneously, and also their consumption; whereas our consumption was stable and our capital investment went down and was even in 1950 on far too small a level. I admit it. Under the Labour Government we did not do enough investment in industry. We did not put enough into the modernisation of our plant and factories. Inevitably we concentrated on houses and schools. And then in 1950 the Labour Government destroyed the capital investment programme. What is the use of boasting that production is 21/2 per cent, above the 1951 level? Of course it is. But look where the Germans are now, and the Americans. Look how 1090 far they are above the 1951 level. Everyone must agree that we must spend more of our resources on capital investment and we are not doing it.
So long as a large section of our engineering industry is diverted to the production of arms and equipment for the forces, we shall not be able to do so. And here is the dilemma we must face. How much shall we spend on defence and how much on capital investment? I suggest it might be as well to take a risk. The generals are usually wrong, but it would seem that this time they agree that there is no imminent danger of war. I suggest, therefore, that if for a period of three years we were to turn back a large sector of our engineering industry to capital investment, we should then have an industry large enough to carry a defence programme.
We must prime the pump and get the machine moving. We must make industry stronger than it is now so that it may carry our defence programme. But if we impose such a defence programme as this upon an industry which is starved of capital investment, it will be wrecked. I am not an economist and I do not pretend to be, but it is common sense to maintain that in the next four years we should decide to spend £300 million on capital investment in new factories and machinery. All that machinery would be available when the next emergency arose. The time to develop industry and get on with the production of arms is when there is a long "long haul." Then you should concentrate on increasing peaceful production, not on producing obsolescent weapons.
What are we actually doing? We have these fleet carriers costing millions. Does anyone think they will be any good in the next war in 10 years' time? No one believes it. They are needed to show that the Admiralty is producing something or other until the "boffins" find a function for the Navy in the next war. I do not blame the Navy. Every Service has a vested interest in getting its share of production. We have to compete industrially with America and Germany and Japan in exports. Yet we are having to build aircraft carriers to keep the Navy competing with the Army and the Air Force. We on this side of the House think it is time to call a halt to the production of obsolescent weapons at a time when the Government themselves admit 1091 that the danger of an imminent war has dwindled.
But it is no use getting rid of the obsolescent weapons and keeping enormous numbers of men in the Forces. That would be a totally irresponsible thing to do. We cannot have men in the Forces scattered all over the world and not provide them with arms. In this respect we are unlike the Americans who rely on us to fight their colonial wars. We are the people who keep a large standing Army while the Americans cut back their Army. They have had a 10 per cent, cut in their forces manpower which is equal to a cut of six months of National Service in this country. They are relying on the manpower of their allies—the Europeans to fight the Europeans and the Asians to fight the Asians.
I do not blame the Americans. We British did it for 100 years. We relied on other people to provide the troops. But I think that by now we should know enough not to fall for that kind of thing. We should say to our American brethren, "Sorry, gentlemen, but this is a common duty. If troops are to be scattered all over the world we do not 'carry the can.' We must have equal shares."
Hon. Members opposite used to talk about a commonwealth policy. Where is that policy now? Where is the wonderful Commonwealth contribution that the Tory Government would create? If I may quote from an organ of the Press with which I am connected, the figures of Commonwealth manpower contributions are as follows:Australia: Navy, 14,000; Army, 26,000; R.A.F., 16,000. New Zealand: Navy, 2,800; Army, 6,500; R.A.F., 4,000. South Africa: Navy, 863; Army, 4,600; R.A.F., 3,300. Canada: Navy, 15,500; Army, 48,500; R.A.F., 42,000.That is Commonwealth strategy. There is the burden we are carrying compared with other members of the Commonwealth. We are the only nation carrying this manpower burden and I know why. It is because we have colonial commitments. Do not let us talk nonsense and pretend to ourselves that most of our troops are defending us against the Russians. We have four divisions in Germany which could be said to be N.A.T.O. divisions. But do not let us talk about the three-and-a-half divisions in Egypt defending us against 1092 the Russians. They are defending the prestige of the Prime Minister. Militarily they are as stupid as the 250 men sent to Bermuda—our men are in the Canal Base simply because an old man cannot get out of the spirit of Omdurman.
This country is paying £85 million a year to enable the Prime Minister to be stubborn and so create conditions for an ignominious withdrawal which a sane policy of negotiation could avoid. Are we to keep a two-year National Service period for that? What did we have a two-year period for? We were told that war was imminent and we were told that it was because there might be an invasion of Europe. National Service men were called up for Europe and Korea, but they are used for Egypt, for Kenya, for Guiana and for Bermuda, for more and more colonial commitments.
Here we notice the lunacy of the policy. We say that a hot war is imminent, and then we involve ourselves in a whole series of colonial commitments, which, if the hot war had come, would have made it impossible to defend these islands at all. Imagine a hot war striking us today.
Where are our troops? The troops who are supposed to be defending us against the Russians are scattered all over the place. In Europe, mainly Germany, we have 175,000—that is all right—in Egypt 70,000, in Korea 10,000, in Malaya 10,000 to 20,000, other overseas garrisons take 10,000, and there are always 25,000 in transit. We have 11½ divisions overseas but not one division in strategic reserve in these islands, although the main base of our defence strategy is defence of these islands.
We are seeking to hold down a great many more places than we can hold down, and the number is increased by each ineptitude of the Colonial Secretary. I agree with my right hon. Friend who said that we might try to prevent colonial wars instead of fighting them. If we had spent on social services in Kenya a tithe of what is being spent on the war against Mau Mau, what a difference there would have been.
I did not know until I went to Kenya this year—it shows how ignorant one can be as a Member of Parliament—that the Colony has to pay for every one of our officials out there. It has to pay for 1093 every one of its social services out of its own resources. So we have to force economic development and step up the rate of profit in order to secure the revenue to provide the schools. Trusteeship used to mean looking after somebody else. Here it means making a profit out of somebody else.
We have these gigantic military commitments in the Colonies as a result of that type of policy. My right hon. Friends are correct in saying that the dominant factor in the White Paper is the problem of colonial military commitments. It is perfectly fair to say that we shall have these commitments as long as we have the Tories in power. Are we to be told that we have to provide the troops to enable the Colonial Secretary to make mistake after mistake?
The one way to cut colonial commitments would be to cut the term of military service, because then we should not have the troops to send to the Colonies. If the term of military service had not been extended for Korea we could not have had 70,000 troops in Egypt or a division in Kenya, because there would not have been the National Service men available. It is about time the Labour Party denied the Government the young National Service men who are being used, not in defence of N.A.T.O. commitments, but to sustain colonial commitments which we should have discarded years ago. We ought to have learnt from the example of India that we gain economically by a policy of active liberation. That is the policy we should adopt towards the colonial peoples in Africa, too.
Therein lies our answer about commitments. Year after year since 1945 we have watched this country sustaining a military position in the world which it cannot afford. Britain has not benefited by it, and it has, indeed, caused a great deal of harm. How much better it would have been if in 1947 when we liberated India we had at the same time withdrawn all our troops from the Middle East. I am sure that we should now have been the allies of every nation in the Middle East if we had then voluntarily withdrawn our forces, and we also should still have been holding Anglo-Iranian oil today.
How much wiser it would be to have a policy which makes it unnecessary to have military commitments. We have the 1094 opposite; our commitments are growing and growing. The result is that we grow weak militarily. We become a flabby Empire which is unable to defend itself because it is greedily trying to hold on to possessions all over the world.
I concluded my speech last year by saying that I should prefer this country to recognise the reality of its position in the world and to recognise that it will be a better, stronger and more efficiently defended country if it does not try to hold down so much, if it is prepared to trust people and liberate them and if it is willing to do a few jobs well instead of a lot of jobs badly. That is the way in which we can live.
This defence budget is a significant aspect of Tory colonial and foreign policy. It is an expression of a policy of clutching and holding all we can, and thereby losing it. We must, therefore, oppose it.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
This is the second time that it has fallen to my lot to follow the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Grossman). I should like to follow him in all that he said in his speech, but I have a speech of my own to make. I will, however. follow him in one or two points.
We have all become accustomed to his distortion, irrelevancy and irresponsibility. The hon. Member is very forceful, and he is also a very good speaker, but there are very few in the House who take him seriously when he speaks. It is merely an amusing and interesting interlude.
First, the hon. Member criticised the White Paper because it states that, while we have to make arrangements for atomic war in case it should occur—God forbid that it should, and there is a possibility that it will not, because both sides have the same weapons—there is also the commitment of the cold war, and that probably uses more men than a concentrated effort against the possibility of a hot war.
Secondly, the hon. Gentleman tried, in a slightly dangerous way, to drive a wedge between us and our Commonwealth. He has repeatedly sought to do that in the case of ourselves and America. He changed his ground today when he compared the effort in strengths of the Commonwealth forces and our own. He did 1095 not give the population figures. The strengths represent very good percentages of the populations.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I will not be interrupted. Perhaps the hon. Member cannot take it, but I listened the whole time to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East without interruption.
It is surely fair to point out that not one of our Commonwealth independent countries has any form of national service except Australia, which had 85 days, and that was reduced by 30 days last year. It is, therefore, difficult to say that the manpower burden in that case is equal to ours. It would be futile for the hon. and gallant Member to say that.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
If they are able to get the number of men they want by voluntary effort, that is all to the good. In comparison with their population, their effort is a very fine one.
The third point, which is really the most important, is that the hon. Member virtually said, referring to "Challenge to Britain" that to implement the promise made in it our defence expenditure must be cut. Let the country realise that, and let every Tory speaker on every platform refer to it.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
We all know where hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway stand. We have listened today to the little domestic squabble that is going on on that side of the House and we know perfectly well where hon. Gentlemen opposite stand.
I would like to refer to the aspect of the Minister's remarks in which he announced the increase in the pensions and in pay for the middle N.C.O. ranks of the Army. That is something which has been standing out for a very long time and is one of the things which will help to keep the middle rank N.C.Os. in the Army. Another thing, which I hope to enlarge upon if I happen to catch Mr. Speaker's eye on the Army Estimates, is the question of education of Service families' children, which is equally important with pay.
I believe that the cold war will be with us for a very long time. The emphasis is 1096 shifting from the danger of a hot war to a cold war. The organisation of hot warfare is not necessarily that which is suitable for the cold war. The time has come to consider very seriously the organisation of our forces in relation to this question of the cold war. It has been said several times during this debate that we have no strategic reserves in this country at all. That was one of the great weaknesses of France at the beginning of the last war, and it is now a very serious weakness in this country.
I would make a suggestion, for the consideration of the Ministry of Defence and of the War Office, about the air transportation of troops. I believe that we could bring back to this country one division from the Canal Zone now, and that that division could be trained in the type of warfare which is necessary in the cold war, which is going on at present in Malaya and Kenya. They could be capable of being lifted by air at a moment's notice to any part of the world where their services are required. I am aware of the usual arguments against it. One is that the transport necessary for a division is too heavy to be transported by air. Another is that it is necessary to have field artillery in support of the division and a certain amount of heavy equipment. Those arguments could be met.
First of all, the type of warfare which I am envisaging makes the 25-pounder artillery unnecessary. Secondly, I would point out that our campaign in Italy was supplied for six weeks or two months by jeep transport. The roads became so bad that no lorries or trucks could use them. Jeep transport is necessary to an air transported division and there are aircraft capable of carrying jeeps. As for artillery, very little can equal the effect of multiple mortar fire. For short range work multiple mortar fire can be just as effective, if not more effective, as the 25-pounder fire and can equally well be carried in aircraft. The same is true of scout cars.
To keep a permanent Transport Command for this purpose would be very extravagant and I do not suggest that the division should be transported in Royal Air Force aircraft. I believe that there is coming into production, if they are not in production already, types of civilian aircraft, freight carriers, which will be capable of doing this work. They should 1097 be earmarked and capable of being turned over to this task at a moment's notice. I believe that there is an aircraft called the "Blackburn Freighter," which is coming into production very shortly, and another called the "Britannia." I hope that the War Office will consider this question of economising our forces by having a reserve in this country and making one or two divisions readily available to be transported to any part of the globe at a moment's notice.
We have to consider the expenditure which is incurred not only in chartering the aircraft but in meeting the compensation which has to be given for loss of business while the aircraft is in use. There is also the danger of foreign competition taking the trade of these aircraft while they are commissioned. These objections can be overcome, and I hope that serious consideration will be given to this matter.
We are building up in Western Europe a large increase in solid defence in case a hot war should break out. I am sometime? inclined to look on it as like the Maginot Line which was built up in the last war. Are we taking enough precautions to see that our Sank is strong enough? The stronger the front line gets in a specific place so the danger to the flank increases. Has the possibility of an advance through Norway and Denmark via Finland been contemplated? I hope that consideration has been given to that great possibility.
When we look at the map of the world from over the North Pole, it shows quite clearly that the North Pole is now the Piccadilly Circus of the defence of the world. The problem there is very serious. It is no wonder that the Canadians have their faces turned in that direction. It is only 2,000 miles from the Russian mainland to the Canadian mainland and it is 1,000 miles from some of the islands such as North Land to Ellesmere Island. This is just as serious, if not a more serious problem than the defence of Western Europe.
What is being done about that gateway for submarines operating, as they will, around the North Cape which exists between Norway and Greenland, with the two gateposts, Iceland and the Faroes, in between, as well as the bottlenecks out of the Baltic? Are arrangements being made to put corks in these 1098 bottles? The submarine menace, great as it was in the last war, will be an even more serious one in the next war. We all know how serious it was then.
My final word is about the Home Guard. I visited my own Home Guard and I want to tell the House that I found some young men who had been rejected for National Service, or exempted. When that happened, they went straight away and joined the Home Guard. It was said to me, "Why is it not put over more strongly what the Home Guard really is for?" I want to say this once more—it cannot be said too often or too strongly: the present Home Guard has taken over the role of the old Territorial Army.
The present Territorial Army is the first line reserve of reinforcements and it will be sent overseas as quickly as possible. No defence will be left in this country except for flying columns from training regiments and the Home Guard. They will be left to deal with possible parachute attacks. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take care to see that this is fully understood throughout the country. If he does that, I am sure he will get more recruits for the Home Guard than he is getting at present.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) has done himself less than justice. It was most unfair of him to attack my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Grossman) in the way he did. My hon. Friend does not need me to defend him, but it is dear, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman is right and really believes that my hon. Friend was attacking the Commonwealth, that he must have forgotten the earlier debates that we had on this subject.
If the hon. and gallant Member will cast his mind back to 1946, he will remember that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and the present Foreign Secretary—speaking with the full authority of their party—made the point that the future defence of this country must depend upon co-operation with the Commonwealth. In March, 1946, those two right hon. Gentlemen said that we could never again carry world-wide commitments unless those were shared with the Commonwealth.
1099 My hon. Friend was pointing out, not that the Commonwealth, but that the hon. and gallant Member's right hon. Friends had failed; they were guilty of inconsistency, and had failed to carry through something which I also believe is basic to the country's defence. When my hon. Friend went on to criticise the Government's colonial policy, he was also criticising on the ground that the Government have failed to carry the Commonwealth countries with them. If there had been a sound Commonwealth policy we would not find ourselves in our present position.
Again, the hon. and gallant Gentleman forgets that the present Secretary of State for War and many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite said that, in the absence of the Indian Army, we would solve our manpower problems by building up Commonwealth forces. We had debate after debate, bait even the Secretary of State for War had not the "brass neck" to come here as Minister and forget what he had said on colonial affairs when in Opposition.
My hon. Friends who talk about our commitments today as being the prime reason why we cannot deal with the length of National Service overlook that, had the Government a sound policy on defence, we might very well be able to raise a very considerable force from the Colonies, instead of not being able to go beyond a ceiling of between 65,000 and 70,000 because there is a shortage of what has been called middle-piece N.C.Os. and officers. It is appalling that not only are we unable to get the quantity of officers and N.C.Os. we require for the colonial forces, but the quality is so bad. It is appalling that young officers and N.C.Os. are dissuaded—certainly not encouraged—from service in the colonial forces.
A great deal of the trouble in Kenya would have been avoided if the officers had been of the same pre-war quality. There were, it is true, financial inducements before the war. Officers and N.C.Os. did not pay Income Tax and enjoyed a relatively better Service life than did the Army at home. Whether it is due to lack of financial inducements, or whatever the reason, we are not getting the type of men we want hi the colonial forces. As a result, that aspect of the 1100 policy, advocated by the Government when in opposition, has gone by the board.
This afternoon we started to debate Command Paper No. 9075. My right hon. Friend put down an Amendment to the Government's Motion approving it. By the time the Parliamentary Secretary had finished his speech it was quite clear that the House was not being asked to approve Command Paper No. 9075 but quite a different White Paper, which has not yet been made available in the Vote Office. The House and the country have been treated with. a flippancy and a lack of candour which does no credit to the Government at all.
Paragraph 27 of the White Paper claims that the Government are very worried about recruiting figures and that that aspect presents disquieting features. During the past year speech after speech has been made from these benches. It started on the Supplementary Estimates in January, 1953; it went on in the defence debate in early March, 1953; it carried on during the debate on the Service Estimates—and again in July last. Even in the debates before Christmas we raised this vital question of recruiting for the Regular forces. We got no encouragement at all from the Government that they were even thinking about the problem.
This afternoon the Parliamentary Secretary suddenly says that a White Paper will be in the Vote Office at five o'clock. A cursory glance at that document shows that the situation which we have been worrying about over the past year must be very serious indeed if the Government—out of the hat—produce stampede proposals to cost £16½ million. It is perfectly clear that had the Government been thinking of the problem over the last year the White Paper would have indicated that it was under consideration and that proposals would be placed before us.
All the external evidence points to a terrible row inside the Government, with the Service Ministers going to Cabinet meeting after Cabinet meeting. They were at a Cabinet meeting at the end of last week, but because of the row with the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the size of the bill, we have these watered-down proposals. A hotchpotch has been produced and it has been rushed 1101 through to be in the Vote Office by five o'clock. That is treating a very serious problem with a light-heartedness which is positively disgraceful.
The issue here is the security of these islands and the happiness and well-being of the men serving in the Forces. I hold the view—as do many of my hon. Friends—that the best way to solve both the long-term and short-term problems of the Army is to build up the Regular Army. That cannot be done quickly. When the war ended the Regular Army was about 100,000 strong. It was clear that if we were to have the reserves we needed we had to tackle Regular Army recruitment. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East has pointed out, because we put on the Army burdens which it was not ready to carry we have discouraged men from undertaking further periods of service.
If this had been part of a well-thought-out scheme one would have thought that the Parliamentary Secretary would have told us what he hopes to get from it. As a result of spending £16½ million, do the Government hope to solve the problem, or is it just a stop-gap measure? This subject is absolutely vital and will certainly have to be explored when the Army Estimates are before us.
I should have thought, however, that we would have been told that today, because not only is Regular Army recruitment 20,000 men short of the Government's estimate of a year ago, but the January figures are some 400 fewer than in January, 1953. It may well be that the Government's action will result in a spurt in Regular Army recruitment and expansion, but I am not at all sure that this is the answer.
Let us see what we are up against. I try to study the speeches of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. I spend nearly all my spare time trying to understand what they are getting at. I take it that when they make their statements they have carefully thought them out, and that they make them with the authority of the Government. In the debate on the Army Estimates last year, the Under-Secretary of State for War said that the Secretary of State… estimates that something like 33 per cent. of Regular recruits must stay on for six years, and of those about half will need to 1102 stay for nine."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March. 1953; Vol. 512, c. 1043.]Is the House expected to believe that, as a result of the proposals in this hastily conceived White Paper, the Government hope to be able to persuade 33⅓ per cent, of the Regular recruits to sign on for six years? I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary would tell us now. If he will, I will give way to him. Or perhaps he will get the Prime Minister to tell us the answer. Would he like me to give way to him? No, I thought not.
As he will not provide the answer, let him consider the situation that will face us next autumn. In November, we shall begin to lose the first flush of the three-year men who came in as a result of the new engagement introduced in 1951. At the same time, we shall continue to lose those men serving on the old five-year engagement. If at that time we do not have the re-engagements that we want, not only shall we not be able to keep the colonial army at the existing level of 65,000 but we shall be faced with a terrible problem in training our Reserves and the National Service men.
The long-service N.C.Os. and warrant officers are the backbone of the Army, around which the whole machine is built. If that is not there, then there is nothing there. Here is a warning. No country in this century has succeeded in solving the problem of how to get long-service warrant officers and N.C.Os. against the background of masses of short-service conscripts. The old German army did it for a while by special methods, and it paid a terrible price for it in the long run. We have not ever succeeded in doing it.
Any Minister of Defence at any time is faced with an appalling problem in this respect, but I think that the Government have made that problem infinitely worse. Perhaps it has now reached the point at which it is unmanageable. I do not believe that there is one answer to it, but when the Secretary of State was in Opposition he persuaded most of his hon. Friends that there was a panacea. Increase the pay, he said, and all will be well. He increased the pay, and then he played around with the terms of service. The price being paid for that is the disappearance of the Regular Army as an effective force.
§ Mr. Wigg
If the right hon. Gentleman will give me the evidence of when I said that, I will withdraw my words. Over and over again the right hon. Gentleman has claimed the credit. I do not mind his damaging himself, but I do mind his damaging the Army.
There is another aspect of the matter. The attack has come from the benches opposite. The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) spoke of the Emergency Reserve, and said that in his judgment the Territorial Army, with its National Service content, would not be ready to take its place in the field in less than three months and that the Army Emergency Reserve would take much longer. It is quite true. As the number of our Reserves rises towards its ceiling, as it will in July, the question of their training becomes one of major importance.
The reason the training of those formations is so bad is that they lack a Regular content to put them through their paces. Wherever we look at the Army structure, whether we look at the colonial army, or the training of the Reserves, or the keeping of regiments up to strength, we find the same blight caused by the lack of Regular recruits and the reluctance of men to extend their service, to reengage. That imposes a limit on effectiveness.
One of the major heresies from which we suffer and which also, I regret to say, affects some Members of my party, is the belief that defence is a sacred cow and that we can go on blowing the cow up and getting it bigger and bigger and that nothing can happen. Nothing could be further from the truth. The White Paper itself says that the Government do not know how much they have spent in the current year. It is an astonishing admission. Within a month of the end of the financial year we cannot even be told how much is likely to have been spent during the year.
We learn also from the White Paper that there has been a short-fall in the delivery of aircraft and associated equipment. Why? Because there is a bottle- 1104 neck. Let hon. Members read any of the London evening newspapers any day and they will find in the advertisement columns advertisement after advertisement for skilled workers in this and that aircraft firm. I have been told by one of my hon. Friends—I had better not mention the name of the town or the firm—that there is a firm engaged on defence orders that is at present short of 2,000 skilled workers.
There is another bottleneck. There are only so many brains in the country, and there is only so much ability. If we boost the number for fighter crews, and boost the number for the Royal Armoured Corps, we reduce the balance left. It is absolute nonsense to think that the armament programme can be carried on regardless of a proper balance in these matters. If we do not keep the priorities right, we shall be in a muddle. The muddle is not concealed by the style of the earlier paragraphs of the White Paper, which owes so much to the Prime Minister's literary ability.
Consider what the House has been confronted with today. We have dragged from the Government, who have here again been less than candid, the fact that only 8,500 Royal Air Force reservists received any training last year. The effect of this is to give a considerable economic advantage to the 100,000 other young men who had the good fortune to do their service in the Royal Air Force. It means that a man can do his two years and come out knowing that for three and a half years he will have nothing more to do.
That is an economic advantage to the man concerned, and to his employer. We may yet reach the point at which three men of equal ability may apply for the same job and the Royal Air Force ex-National Service man will get it because he has no Reserve liability, no part-time liability. That would be a scandalous state of affairs, but it may well happen.
We have given the Government notice of the problem but again, this afternoon, we have been offered a half-thought-out, amateurish solution. Of the existing number of men—the figure on 1st January, 1954, was 124,000 Royal Air Force National Service reservists—the Government propose to train 30,000 in the summer of 1955. We must bear in 1105 mind, too, that the figure which was 124,000 will continue to rise up to the middle of this year.
When such an admission is forced from the Government—and we hear it only when it can no longer be concealed—we are driven irresistibly to the conclusion that the Government's manpower policy is in a mess. If we accept some of the other statements in the White Paper, we can understand that the Royal Air Force would need a number of National Service men during time of peace; these men would do their two years' service, but, at the end of that time, the Royal Air Force would have no need of them in peace, nor would the R.A.F. have the same problem of expansion as that which will face the Army on mobilisation.
In those circumstances, one would have thought that there would have teen a conversion of these Royal Air Force men into either infantry or perhaps antiaircraft gunners so that they could carry out an operational role for which they could receive payment. Why do not the Government do that?
The answer Is this—and I challenge anyone on the Government Front Bench to deny it: the Government are calling up far too many men for too short a period. What the situation demands is the calling up of far fewer men on much longer engagements. The House should recall what the Prime Minister said, when in opposition, on 16th March, 1950. As reported in column 1286 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, the Prime Minister said:But I believe that the method of choosing those who are required could be greatly improved, and I do not exclude the principle of selective service by ballot from a proper application of our National Service law.… I am satisfied that conscription could be applied with less burden and with less expense, combined with greater efficiency, having regard especially to our peculiar needs."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1950; Vol. 472, c. 1286.]That is what the right hon. Gentleman thought when he was in opposition. As the facts certainly bear out that the Government have some very odd methods of solving the manpower problem, why does not the Prime Minister come to the House and tell us either that he was wrong on 16th March, 1950, or, as I suspect, that he thinks it would be politically unwise to put into operation what he regards as a military necessity?
1106 The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing attacked my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East on what he thought was a political point, suggesting that "Challenge to Britain" was in conflict with our defence requirements. But there is nothing wrong in that; we solve a problem in one way and hon. Members opposite solve it in another way. There is no gift of purity given to the Conservative Party in the way in which they have handled these problems, for in my view they have handled them inefficiently, with a lack of candour and in a way which will leave a very grievous legacy not only for Defence Ministers who succeed the present Minister but also for the Forces themselves.
We shall deceive ourselves if we think, in view of the situation which we now face, that there is any easy solution. That, again, is one of the troubles of the Secretary of State for War. He sincerely believed, and I am sure that nothing which has happened in the last two or three years has made him change his mind, that all we had to do was to alter the rate of pay, give a little more bounty here and a little more bounty there, and the problem would solve itself. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every month that goes by, every year which it is left, the problem gets worse and worse.
It is not decided by votes in this House. It was Lenin, I think, who said at the time of the treaty of Brest Litovsk that the Russian army voted for peace with their feet. What remains of the British Army is being decided not by any collective decision but by the fact that the young men are taking the increased rates of pay, are soldiering on for the minimum period of three years and then are returning to civilian life.
The Secretary of State was a Regular soldier and ought to know something about the Army. Perhaps it is that the one thing a Secretary of State should never be is a Regular soldier. There is something in that. Any Regular soldier who takes on that job starts with an enormous disadvantage. If the Secretary of State had understood, or even tried to find out, how men react, he would have discovered that the longer men serve and the older they are, the more likely they are to sign on for a longer engagement.
1107 By limiting the engagements to periods of three years the right hon. Gentleman is bidding against himself. The young men take on for three years and then come out of the Forces. If they were serving on a longer engagement we might well find that as many as 70 per cent, to 75 per cent, of those with 12 years' service were staying on.
The Amendment which my right hon. Friends have put on the Order Paper is by no means an Amendment to the original White Paper because that has been withdrawn, even though another White Paper has not yet been introduced. In my judgment, the Amendment gets things right, and it certainly has my support. It suggests that the White Paper should face this manpower problem and that there should have been well thought-out schemes devised by the Government which would lead us in the direction of a reduction in the length of National Service. That is what I believe the situation demands. I also believe that we have fallen out of balance not only in the total of the White Paper itself. Evidence for that has been produced by the Government proposals this afternoon, because when we started off I suppose we all thought our expenditure was £1,639 million, but by now we know that the minimum is certainly £1,700 million.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am leaving aside the argument between my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East and hon. Members opposite about paying for the German contribution. In any event, as a result of the additions this afternoon, the figure is certainly £1,700 million, and that is probably not the last word. The Government themselves cannot claim that their original figure was right, because they have since altered it.
I want to turn to another issue. For reasons which I do not understand, the Parliamentary Secretary introduced into his speech this afternoon the fact that the Government have changed their minds on the question of officers' retired pay. I am very glad about that. I joined with my hon. Friend the Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler), the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward) and others in demanding that the Government should put right an injustice 1108 which was created in the years before the war. That has now been done. Although it does not go anywhere near as far as I think it should go, it is a step in the right direction.
I suggest that the Government should think more about it. I have said this in the House before and I will repeat it now: one of the things which has happened is that the link has been broken. I do not apologise for repeating this. The problem here is very similar to that which existed in the mining industry before nationalisation. The miners were treated so badly that the tendency was for mothers and fathers of mining families to say to their sons, "Whatever you do, never go down the pit."
Because Regular soldiers were treated so badly between the two wars by the Conservative Administration, the same thing has tended to happen in military families. I believe that something was done to restore confidence in the years since the war, but I do not believe that sufficient has been done.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Between the two wars I thought that we were making great progress in this direction in this House, and I must admit that I am sorry to say that I derived a certain amount of satisfaction from that; but since I have talked to the young men who served in the last war I have found out how wrong I was.
§ Mr. Wigg
I must not spend too much time on my hon. Friend finding out whether he was right or wrong in the past. I want to turn to another point.
I believe that one of the great deterrents to service in the Regular forces and one of the things which worries commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers and men is what is to happen to them when they get back to civilian life.
A man joins the Army as a young soldier from a particular locality. He may or may not desire to return to that locality at the end of his service. During that time he may have acquired a wife and family, and all through his service he is worrying about the education of his children and the housing of his family. I would say that if the country makes an appeal to young men to undertake service in the Armed Forces as a profession, they ought to be treated as 1109 honoured citizens, and they should not be deprived of the civil rights which are possessed by every man and woman in the capacity of ratepayers.
It would have an enormous practical effect if a man, while in the Services, could register his name for a house and take his place on the housing lists, and not be faced with this appalling problem of resettlement on discharge. I am quite sure that the Government's policy of letting things drift and then, when they reach the point when little or nothing can be done, of dipping into the "kitty" for more money is a very stupid policy, which ultimately results in their bidding against themselves.
There has to be a great deal more thought and more planning, and the Government have to realise that when one has sown there is a period between the sowing and the reaping. If the Government have in mind this manpower problem today and expect to get a solution of the problem this year, they are living in a dream world, because they will not get it.
The Regular Army has been allowed to run down and by November of next year it will find itself in a grievous and parlous condition. I made that prophecy a year ago, and everything has happened to justify me in that attitude. The Government have to go much further than they have gone if they are to find an answer to this problem.
My concluding words are these. If the Government had been wise they would have accepted our suggestion of a year ago for an inquiry into the whole question of the working of the National Service Act. In fact, they have not done so and have allowed the thing to drift. The consequence is to be found in the hasty proposals which have been produced this afternoon. Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give some indication that he appreciates the objectives that we have in mind, that we stand by adequate defence, we want the defence forces to be on an economical and efficient basis, and that the best way of tackling the problem is by accepting the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell).
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. J. B. Godber (Grantham)
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) spent a good deal of time on the question of the pay and conditions of the Armed Forces. His argument for a good deal of the time seemed to lead me to rather disagree with the Amendment on the Order Paper than to agree with it. I thought that he might well have a point when he talked of having a smaller number of people in the forces over a longer period, but that is not what the Amendment seeks to do.
It seeks to bring about a smaller number by reducing the number of National Service men, and I do not think that ties up particularly well. This is the first time I have ventured to intervene in a debate on defence, and I claim no special qualifications for doing so. My only reason for seeking to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, is that when I read the terms of the official Opposition Amendment on the Order Paper, I was somewhat surprised at the attitude which the Opposition has adopted in this matter.
I have endeavoured to listen very closely to the arguments from the other side of the House today in order to elicit the reason for the terms in which the Amendment is drawn. Apart from two hon. Members, who, I think, did treat the House honestly in this matter—the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man) and the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey)—we have not heard the reason. Both those hon. Members posed a question as to what would be the effect of accepting this Amendment and what it would mean if we cut down our commitments in the world, and they both suggested an answer.
It is an answer, incidentally, which I do not find very acceptable. I do not propose to argue today the pros and cons of withdrawing our Forces from Egypt, but it seems to me that whatever merit that proposal may have, this is certainly not the most opportune moment to discuss it. No one can claim that the Egyptians have a particularly stable Government at this moment. In any case if we did withdraw our Forces from Egypt, we should have to maintain some Forces in the Middle East at some other place. Although we might gain a considerable number, we certainly should not gain, as 1111 the hon. Member for Coventry, East tried to claim, the whole number of troops which would be withdrawn.
The right hon. Gentleman who opened the debate for the Opposition, and to whom I listened very carefully, seemed to be dealing chiefly with the question of an inquiry into the manpower position and he came, I thought very reluctantly, to the proposal for a reduction in the length of National Service. If an inquiry were the best way, surely the Opposition has prejudged the whole case to start with in seeking a reduction. If one wants an inquiry one should wait and see what the result of the inquiry is. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman was on very doubtful ground.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I would like to put the hon. Gentleman right. I referred to the request that I made 12 months ago for an inquiry, and, of course, that is well known to the House.
§ Mr. Godber
I accept what the right hon. Gentleman says. He did make that request 12 months ago, but I understood he was still asking for an inquiry. If I am wrong, I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I said that the Prime Minister had yielded to certain demands from his own side of the House in connection with officers' pay, with which I agree, and I asked him would he not confer a favour on this side of the House and agree at this late stage to an inquiry.
§ Mr. Godber
I accept what the right hon. Gentleman said, but my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is here and I will not attempt to answer for him.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West also spoke on this subject, and I was interested to note the reference to a reduction in the total amount on expenditure for defence. He instanced the difficulty of trying to reduce the amount by £100 million, and he also said that this must be related to the items in the pamphlet "Challenge to Britain." There an increased expenditure is envisaged running to many hundreds of millions of pounds for the social services, but in my opinion it would be quite wrong to consider increased sums on the social services at the expense of the safety of our people.
1112 The main reason I intervened in this debate was because I listened last week to the two-day debate on foreign affairs. I was very concerned at the attitude taken up by some hon. Members opposite. I do not seek to make any party point out of the divisions that have arisen in the party opposite from their real and genuine feelings about rearming the Germans. I fully understand the reason for that, and I think there are some on all sides of the House who have doubts about rearming the Germans. What I felt then, and I feel now is that we should not allow ourselves to concentrate too much on the past in considering this question, but we should be looking to where the real danger is today.
I believe in the past we made exactly that mistake in that we carried our distrust and fear of France 100 years ago or less to the stage where it led to our difficulties with Germany. Had we had an entente with France earlier we might have prevented the war with Germany. We ought to cast our eyes further ahead and embrace friendship with France and Germany, because we must realise that the real enemy is Soviet Russia. That is a point which hon. Members should consider.
Leading on from that I know that the view is honestly felt by hon. Members opposite that we could not take the risk of rearming the Germans. But if we are afraid of doing that, then we must accept the obligation to keep our own armament higher and our manpower greater. If we are going to deny ourselves the assistance that the German forces can give us in N.A.T.O. and E.D.C., surely the argument for keeping more men under arms is not lessened. We cannot have it both ways, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite seriously hold those views they should tonight be voting not for a reduction in National Service but, if anything, for an increase.
I do not see how any hon. Member who feels like that could justify voting for a reduction in the number of Service men today. Some hon. Members want us to deny to Western Germany a part in the defence of Western Germany, and if they want us to reduce our own armed forces they must, therefore, want us to undermine the whole concept of Western defence as envisaged first of all in the Brussels Treaty and in N.A.T.O. and then 1113 in E.D.C. If hon. Members will only face up to this matter they will see that this is nothing less than a complete betrayal of all that Ernest Bevin stood for when he started to build up this great alliance against Soviet domination. We cannot go down that slippery slope, and this is certainly not the time to be taking a step in the direction envisaged in the last sentence of this Amendment.
I am not sure that we have not gone back to the old question posed by Goering before the war about guns or butter. It was certainly asked in a different context because we are not seeking guns for a war of aggrandisement. But, however much we may like butter, it is necessary to maintain sufficient guns for real security for our people at home. We should be running away from our responsibilities if we were to seek cheap electoral popularity by seeking to reduce our commitments at the present time whether financially or in manpower.
If we jettison any of the things upon which we are now engaged in the process of building up this solid phalanx of strength in Western Europe, it would be a folly which we would have bitter cause to regret in the future. I hope, therefore, that this Amendment will be heavily defeated if it goes to a Division.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)
Not being an ex-Parliamentary Private Secretary, I do not intend to address the House for over half an hour. There are hon. Members around me whom I would like to hear address the House, too, although I should probably not agree with what they said. Nevertheless I wish to see fair shares for all so I shall raise briefly only two points.
The first concerns the reference in the White Paper on page 20 to the European Defence Community—The British forces on the Continent are already closely linked under N.A.T.O. operational command … the Untied Kingdom has put forward proposals to the Interim Commission for even closer military co-operation….I want to know, if possible, what those proposals are because they are vital, and I am glad to hear that something is being done in this respect. It seems to me that our duty is now to encourage France at last to come to a decision to enter the European Defence Community. I under- 1114 stand that one of the reasons why she is holding back is because she is not satisfied that we are genuine in our statement that we will take part in the defence of the Continent.
We have said that we shall be there as long as the Americans. Is that enough? Ought we not to state that we are there for good, that we have forces on the Continent because it is there that the defence of these islands rests; not on the coast, not even as it was in the First World War. The defence of Britain is not on the Rhineland today but even further East on the Elbe, indeed, as far East as we can go. Therefore, if we are to encourage France to come into the European Defence Community, we must state that definitely. It may not be possible for us to say that we will keep certain Divisions there because we have other commitments elsewhere. We ought to say, however, that we will keep a certain number of divisions there although we may have to change them.
Now I want to mention what was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), who referred to the reduction in manpower being connected with a reduction of our commitments. That has figured largely in this debate, and on page 5 of the White Paper we read:Many of our forces are at present tied down in areas remote from their war stations, and our overseas commitments have made it impossible for us to maintain an adequate Army strategic reserve in this country.Not long ago the Secretary of State for War stated in the Press that 80 per cent, of our Army today is overseas in Kenya, Malaya, Trieste, Korea, Hong Kong and Suez. That is most unsatisfactory and provides an abundant reason for moving this Amendment. We, on this side of the House, feel that our commitments are too wide. Vital as some of them are, we feel that there are others with which we could well dispense. Our strategic resources would be strengthened at home and the cost of our overseas garrisons reduced.
I refer particularly to the Suez Canal Zone where I believe there are 70,000 troops based in a hostile region. I do not trust the Egyptians in any circumstances, no matter what the regime is there. We cannot rely on the Egyptians. It is very much better to look elsewhere for bases. I know that the Suez Canal 1115 is a very important waterway in peacetime but in the last world war most of the traffic went round the Cape. Moreover, the possible enemy today is not coming from the West but more likely from the north and therefore it is probably better that the defence bases should be further north.
It should be borne in mind that we have a much friendlier atmosphere further north. Unfortunately, much of the Arab world is in a state of chaos and we cannot rely on it today. I suggest that our base in the Suez Canal Zone could be well shifted further north. The Americans have air bases in Turkey and I suggest that it is there and in Cyprus that our main defences for the Eastern Mediterranean should be concentrated.
The hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) said that if we move from the Suez Canal we should have to retain forces elsewhere. That is my answer to him. If we can come to an agreement with the Egyptians to keep some technical staff to back up the Egyptian Army, well and good, but I do not lay very much store upon that. It is very much more important to rely upon countries that are really friendly to us. The Republic of Turkey is friendly. It has a stable Government and first-class soldiers who have been recently re-equipped with modern equipment, as I had occasion to see when I was out in Turkey last autumn. Moreover, that in itself would save us from having to keep large forces out there. We can keep some in Cyprus, no doubt, and I had occasion to go round the port of Alexandretta in South-East Turkey. Developments are taking place there and more should take place. Military stores and equipment could be sent out from there at short notice into an area which is very friendly. We should thereby save manpower and we should not have to keep large forces in that area. We could not go in, of course, without Turkish consent, which no doubt would readily be granted in war-time.
§ Mr. Godber
I think that the hon. Member misunderstands the point which I was trying to make, when I said that if we did have to go out of the Suez Canal Zone we should have to keep some troops in a base somewhere in that 1116 area. The point that I was making was that, whilst one could say that some of the troops could come out of the area if we left the Suez Canal Zone, one certainly could not save all the troops that came out, in contrast to the point made by an hon. Member opposite that we should save 60,000 troops if the Opposition Amendment were accepted.
§ Mr. Philips Price
I see the hon. Gentleman's point. My own view is that we may not be able to save all, but a great many of the troops and what we could do with those we save would be to increase our strategic reserve here and also be able in that way to reduce our period of National Service, but not by six months, for I would not be so optimistic as that. I certainly think it would be possible to have a somewhat shorter period of National Service. The point which my hon. Friends on this side of the House have put is that the Government have spread their wings much too wide, have wasted a lot of money keeping garrisons which are not necessary and could make a contribution to increasing the strategic reserve at home and opening the possibility of reducing our National Service.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)
At this late hour I am sure the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) will forgive me if I do not follow his line of argument, interesting though it was. I should like however to make this point about it: however one talks about the troops that are now in the Canal Zone, the Suez Canal must be protected against aggression.
I wish to confine my remarks to paragraph 16 of the White Paper which is about the obvious necessity to cut down the strength of the Army. In prefacing my comments, I should like to say that if in reducing the size of the Army one has still to carry out commitments, which I and all my hon. Friends agree must be carried out, then the mobility of the Army must be increased. If it is reduced in strength it must be increased in mobility.
I am glad to see that we are to have a strategic reserve, small though it must be to begin with, but I am sad to note that there is not one word in the White 1117 Paper about the most startling development of the last war, that of airborne troops. I know that this is a subject to which I return each year, and I make no apology, because it is the arm of the Army with which I am most acquainted. I make a plea that the Parachute Brigade, the only brigade of airborne troops we have, should be brought back to this country and made the kernel of the strategic reserve. It is a complete waste of the training of those particular men, who have volunteered, for them to be left as they are at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. It has been put to me that it is no good bringing them back now because Transport Command is lagging behind, and must lag behind, the priorities of Bomber and Fighter Commands.
I still think that Transport Command by now should be able to carry a strategic force of one brigade of parachute troops, and if it is not so ready I feel that priority should be given for Transport Command to be made capable for that purpose. If we could start our strategic reserve based on that one brigade, which could be carried by aircraft at between 180 and 200 miles an hour to a particular point where danger may lie, we begin to form that reserve on real mobility.
The only other point I want to make is about the Territorial Army. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said earlier in the debate today that he wondered why recruiting for the Territorial Army had fallen off. He wondered whether the bounty was too small. As a Territorial of not a few years' service, I do not think the bounty really matters at all. If the Territorials could be given an interesting job, volunteers would be found to join them.
The proof of that is in the 16th Airborne Division because that division is the one that is more nearly filled to capacity than any other division of the Territorial Army. That is due to the fact that every now and then—far too seldom, I admit—that division gets the opportunity of jumping by parachute. That is what the young men want, and that is the sort of thing that will attract the right type of men into that arm of the Service. If that Airborne Division is really to play its part in our Territorial 1118 Army, or whatever we like to call it, then the men in that division must have some reasonable assurance that should war come, which heaven forbid, they can go to war quickly in the air.
If my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation were to make inquiries among the many charter companies as to whether charter aircraft that are at present being used for peaceful purposes could be quickly transformed into suitable parachute aircraft and could be detailed for the various units of the 16th Airborne Division, and their pilots and aircrews made members of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, I believe there would be an enormous increase in the morale of the Territorials in that division. Furthermore, the division would really have some teeth in it as a second-line strategic reserve to its brethren in the Parachute Brigade.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
On a point of order. May I ask for your guidance and advice, Mr. Deputy-peaker? Since this is the second defence debate in which those who are totally opposed to any form of conscription have been quite unable to put their points of view in the House, can you tell me what redress is available to them?
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Shackleton (Preston, South)
I have a great sympathy for my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) but this is the fifth defence debate in which I have tried to speak. I originally had seven minutes in which to make my speech, but now, as a result of my hon. Friend's intervention, it has been reduced to six minutes.
This is the one debate in the year when we should survey the whole question of defence, and there are many points of view, including the very genuine and sincere point of view of my hon. Friend, with whom I have had the opportunity to debate on some occasions in the past, and it makes it very difficult when the House has so little time in which to put the different points of view. Indeed, I have many points which I would like to have made, but—
§ Mr. Shackleton
I am prepared to support my hon. Friend on many things, but, unfortunately, not on this.
§ Mr. Shackleton
Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to make my few remarks and to say that, in principle, I am strongly in favour of the Amendment, though, in practice, I find it difficult to see how some of the things advocated in it are to be carried out.
There is one point I want to make to my hon. Friends who, I know, are opposed to National Service.
§ Mr. Shackleton
The cutting of the period of National Service may, if not accompanied by that indispensable cutting of commitments which some of my hon. Friends have advocated, increase the dangers to peace rather than produce a more pacific world. I would urge them to look at the map at the end of the Memorandum on the Army Estimates when they will see just how widely this country is extended in the field of commitments. No doubt with their interest in conscription, they have already looked at that map.
It is tempting in this age of atomic bombs to confuse the rôle of the Army in peace with the rôle of the Armed Forces in war. At a time when we are trying to preserve peace, I think it would be very dangerous to put too much faith purely in the atom bomb which we may regard as the ultimate deterrent or the ultimate destroyer. This is what the present trend in American policy amounts to, with their cuts in the ground forces, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) referred. The rôle of the Army in peace is surely to prevent a hot war breaking out, and I do not think that we can be anything but proud of the part that the 1120 Army plays in this connection. Indeed, we have one recent example in Khartoum where there may be a battalion or part of a battalion, whose presence has been extremely valuable.
I believe that the cutting of commitments is indispensable to a reduction in our arms budget, and I do not think that it could be done very easily except in cutting the Egyptian commitments. But even here we cannot expect to obtain that immediate increment in forces that will enable us to introduce a large-scale reduction in the period of National Service.
I appeal once again to the Government to make a much more striking effort to get an increase in our Regular Forces. The number needed is not very large. It may be a 20 per cent, or 30 per cent, increase. If we got this increase there would be a genuine saving to this country; there would be a great gain in efficiency, and it would be possible to cut the period of National Service not by six months but by 12 months.
There is another major cut that I would advocate, and I am sorry that I have no time to develop this point. I refer to the Navy Vote. We are preparing to devote nearly a quarter of the Defence budget to forces which, according to the White Paper, are apparently intended to take part in broken-backed warfare only. I hope on another occasion to adduce some arguments as to how and why that should be done. The desirability of some cut in the arms budget has not yet been fully appreciated by hon. Members opposite. It is imperative—and unfortunately, owing to the shortness of the debate, it has not been possible for some of my hon. Friends to make this point as fully as they should—that we put a larger part of our national production into raising living standards in backward parts of the world. It is possibly a greater contribution towards maintaining peace than even the maintenance of our Armed Forces scattered throughout the world.
I hope that the Government will regard this not very satisfactory Amendment as a warning that next year we hope they will have reconsidered the whole strategical concept, that they will have looked at the duty which is laid upon us of helping to maintain the peace of the world by raising living standards as a matter of priority, and that next year 1121 and the following year they will produce Defence Estimates which are more appropriate than these which we are debating tonight.
§ Mr. Yates
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I have raised a question in this House about the time for the debate. It is quite obvious that hon. Members with minority opinions have not had an opportunity for expression in this debate. I want to ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether you can represent to Mr. Speaker that an approach should be made to the leaders of both parties with a view to obtaining time in which all points of view can be put in the House.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
As the hon. Member well knows, that is not a point of order. It can be represented by him as he suggested.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
I think we had the first discussion on a Defence White Paper 19 years ago. It so happens that I opened that discussion and it was difficult for us to get that debate. Previously, we only had debates on the separate Estimates, which were very scrappy and often dealt only with constituency points. Eventually, we did extract a White Paper from Mr. MacDonald and got a debate, but the whole purpose of such a debate was that we should discuss the very broad question of defence.
To do that I think it is essential that it should be opened by a Minister, preferably a Cabinet Minister. I do not want to be unkind to the Parliamentary Secretary, but, frankly, he did not fill the bill. He read a number of passages of some interest and he interpolated the substance of two White Papers into a defence debate. That to my mind was entirely wrong and was really most discourteous to this House.
§ Mr. Attlee
Yes. We had one on Service emoluments. The question of Service emoluments is vital to a consideration of the kind of forces we have, the effect of National Service and the like and in the White Paper there is a statement with regard to the difficulty of getting N.C.Os., highly skilled men and so on. There is no hint in this White Paper that the Government were thinking 1122 of raising the pay. I do not know whether they were or not. What happened is that this is brought out by the Undersecretary in the middle of a debate and he calmly says that it is in the Vote Office at 5 o'clock, after he has sat down. That is an insult to the House.
Another White Paper on the retired pay and pensions of former officers was spatch-cocked into the debate. This has been pressed on both sides of the House and eventually we get it in the introduction of a defence debate as if one threw a bone to a dog and, in fact, all the dogs went out directly they got their bone.
§ The Prime Minister
I thought that hon. Members went out equally from both sides of the House for tea.
§ Mr. Attlee
Whatever it was, some people seemed to have had advanced knowledge that this pabulum was coming to them and they went out as soon as they got it. Whether they went out together or separately, quite obviously that was quite wrong in a defence debate. It is a very bad precedent. If the right hon. Gentleman could not do it himself we might have had the Secretary of State for War, or better still the Foreign Secretary, who has a long and continuing knowledge of these matters, could have done it.
The whole purpose of this defence debate is to discuss high matters of policy. We are faced by very difficult problems—the problems of the allocation of resources and the problem of just where our defence expenditure is to come in the very changing circumstances of the present world situation. We had to take that into account year by year and we introduced conscription—National Service—under certain conditions. It can be looked at again when conditions change.
We introduced our three-year rearmament plan because there was then a serious threat of an outbreak of a shooting war. That was the opinion of high ranking officers, not only in this, but in other countries—that with the Korean adventure and the rest there was an imminent danger. We must, therefore, build up our forces, and in a three-year period.
We all recognise there may have to be modifications for various reasons, and there have been modifications. Armaments programmes, like all other programmes, have to be constantly reviewed. The difficulty is to try to reconcile the 1123 degree of continuity of policy with the changing circumstances in the world as we know it. We had it said generally, and, indeed, it is said again in the White Paper in paragraph 5, thatit is the Government's view that the continuation for a long period of the present state of cold war is now more likely than the outbreak of a major war on any particular date.We all welcome that and we hope that it is true. At the same time, I think that Berlin has shown that there is no great change in the general policy of Soviet Russia. Their attitude towards the world is the same, but there is a change of emphasis. I think we have to consider that change of emphasis in respect of our preparations for combating the Communist danger.
The contest between the democracies and totalitarianism takes many forms and the balance between military and other expenditure must always take account of the kind of double-prong attack on the West. It has always been clear to us that one of the objects of the rulers hi the Kremlin would be to make us expand so much on military preparations that we might cripple our economy. The other side, of course, was that if we neglected it there might be a chance for attack. It is said in this White Paper—and we have all said it very often—that we had to hold that balance.
I suggest that that is a change in the Russian economic policy that ought to be taken note of today. We can speculate as to the reason. It may be to avert or to mitigate internal unrest, but it is the fact that the Russians are turning over to the production of consumer goods. They are trying to give their people a better deal. They are not carrying on quite the same rigid austerity, with everything devoted to war. There is an interesting report, I have only seen a summary of it in "The Times," from the Economic Commission for Europe. They say:The chapter on Russian and the Eastern bloc is interesting mainly for the evidence it provides of a shift towards gearing the economies of the Communist countries to making greater provision for the consumer. The report does not say so explicitly, but it is implicit that the rival claims of butter and guns are being gradually readjusted.…It is fair to say that the report says that there is no clear information yet as to whether the U.S.S.R. are thinking of 1124 sacrificing part of their military expenditure, resources allocated to armaments. In the light of this it is worth while considering the deployment of our resources.
The report also states:… it is problematic whether Western Europe would be able to guard itself against serious consequences if recession tendencies in the United States were to become more pronounced.In a word, we have to consider the balance, as is stated in paragraph 7 of the White Paper.
Although our economy has stood the strain of rearmament, it is a very heavy burden, and no one would suggest that our economic basis is absolutely stable yet. But the White Paper seems to suggest that we have to accept the present level of expenditure, at about £1,639 million per year, for the next few years. Is that a wise deployment of our resources?
§ Mr. Attlee
But the general assumption in the White Paper is that we have reached a stage where we are to spend this amount.
Communist policy for the conquest of the world is based on several methods. There is the crude use of force and terrorism. There is also the intrigue which throws Governments over. We must remember that there is another force which is attractive in certain parts of the world. In parts of the world where standards of life are very low and where the social system is very bad, the Communists are still able to pose as deliverers. That is one of the things that we have to combat. The Communist fail in that in this country because they have nothing to offer, but it appears that in some of the backward areas the people think that the Communists have something which they want. Therefore, as my hon. Friends have said today, one side of our policy of resistance must be the raising of standards in those areas.
If the Communists decide that they are not going in for a shooting war, if they turn all their resources to providing consumer goods in those countries, and if the appropriate resistance is not provided there, they may make great inroads. The appropriate resistance there is not merely armaments. We have to consider the 1125 kind of support which can come from the Colombo Plan and other activities of that kind.
I was very much disturbed to learn that the Government are economising on information services. This is one of the vital means in the world of ideas and information of fighting Communism. I should have thought that the expenditure suggested in the Drogheda Report, compared with some of our armament expenditure, was well worth while. It is of absolutely first-class importance in the cold war. Are we doing enough on the side of resistance to the attraction of Communism? Do we not need a redeployment of our resources?
The Opposition accept the need for defence. We have made our own policy clear. We have taken our decisions—often very unpopular ones, but we do not run away from them—but that does not mean that we necessarily accept all that is put forward by the Government as being the best way of doing things in all possible worlds.
Therefore, we criticise the allocation of resources. The allocation of resources is obviously difficult, because the future is so obscure. I was a little puzzled by some of the statements in the introductory part of the White Paper. For instance, it says on page 5:If, by some miscalculation in Communist policy or by deliberate design, a global war were to be forced upon us, it must be assumed that atomic weapons would be employed by both sides. In this event, it seems likely that such a war would begin with a period of intense atomic attacks lasting a relatively short time…I wonder what the basis of that "relatively short time" is. Surely it depends upon how many atomic bombs or weapons there are in stock and the rate of their production.
Although the whole question of what we should do then is wrapped in mystery, it is certainly going to be extraordinarily difficult and unpleasant, and I cannot imagine that when the atomic bombs have done their work we shall be in a position to go ahead with the old-fashioned shooting war. I do not think it will be there. I have no doubt that if it came to that—whatever it was, and even if it were sticks and spears—we should defend our liberty, but I cannot see any kind of deployment of conventional weapons then taking place.
1126 Our great hope is that the horror of the atomic weapon will be so great that it will lead to its never being used. I do not see much point in speculating upon broken-back warfare. If that war breaks out, both combatants will be ruined. It will be difficult to live, let alone fight.
§ Mr. Attlee
It may still go on, but not in the way that is envisaged, with all the scientific work going on, rather like the end of the last war. I think it will be such a mess that we shall be down to fighting primitively. It depends who has the last atomic bomb. We realise that there is this possibility, and that we have to consider what conventional forces we need, and where. We recognise that there is a need of conventional forces to prevent aggression and for the protection of key points in various parts of the world, but a great many hon. Members today have criticised the dispersal of our forces.
I recall that when I sat on the other side the Prime Minister used to get up and make exactly the same complaint about us. He said there was nothing left if we dispersed our forces to the ends of the earth. Our reply was that, unfortunately, events had caused that. That is his reply today.
§ Mr. Attlee
I know. It may be that we have to consider very carefully what these commitments are and whether they are all worth while. I have been struck lately with the problem of the mass of troops that we have out in Egypt. We have had very strong comments made about it by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price).
I know the difficulty of dealing with the Egyptians. We had a long, long time of it. I know all the arguments about the Suez Canal Base. It seems to me that the position there is getting worse and worse and that the possible value of that base is getting less and less. The reasons for having the base in Egypt were not only geographical, but because we might get some kind of backing of industrial power there. If we have the 1127 whole place in a turmoil against us we do not get much out of that.
Again, there is the danger of attack upon the Canal and the equal danger, if the people are against us, of getting sabotage. It seems a pity that we have not managed to come to an agreement with Egypt and get rid of the appalling locking up of 78,000 or 80,000 troops there. It is a strategic absurdity at the present time.
We instituted National Service primarily to get reserves, trained reserves, that could take their place very quickly in a battle line. That was its object, but owing to commitments all over the world we were forced to lengthen the period of National Service and to use National Service men for purposes for which they were really not designed at all. It ought to be our effort to try to get back to our original conception of National Service—I do not say that we can do it at once—and to reduce the length of time. I do not think we can do it without changing some of our commitments.
The other side, which has been stressed very often today, is the need for strengthening our Regular forces. People with considerable knowledge tell me that probably the greatest deterrent to Regular enlistment is the Canal Zone. With 80 per cent, of our Service people overseas some of them will go to pleasant places, but a great many of them go to the Canal Zone. That is not fit for troops to live in. We have not been able to do much for them because we were always on the point of going out. But I am told that it is a very great deterrent.
The danger, which is stressed in the White Paper handed in today is that we have masses of men but not enough senior N.C.Os for their backing. The suggestion is put in that they have not had time to think of these extra demands, but today there is a lack of the backbone of the Forces—the senior N.C.Os. It is not much use having a mass of trained men with no leaders.
I was interested in a speech made by the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) on the subject of the Territorial Army. He said that it would be a long time before our Territorial Reserve would 1128 be fit to put into the line. The whole plan of National Service was that young fellows would go into the Territorial Reserve fully trained and that that training would be kept up. If it is not being kept up—if, as a matter of fact, we cannot mobilise more quickly than that—the whole plan of National Service is being defeated.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) pointed out some of the difficulties today, and our real weaknesses, and there is an illuminating article in Brassey's Annual which shows our weaknesses in senior N.C.Os. Clearly, we have to get back to having a long service Army for the tasks suitable for a long service Army. I have not referred specifically to the other Services, but they have they own difficulties. The National Service men who are in the Air Force are left with absolutely nothing to do. That sooms to me to be sheer waste.
I think it is necessary to take a strong line on this. Inevitably—and I think perfectly naturally—the Service authorities always want all the men we are prepared to give them. With the increase in fire power and the increase in mobility there ought to be a decrease in numbers—but there never is. We get the same kind of cadre, although the fire power may have been increased 10 or 12 fold.
My last point is—is there enough integration in N.A.T.O.? One had rather the impression that there was not sufficient division of work between the various parts of N.A.T.O.—that we were rather perhaps going to duplicate the work to be done by the United States. I wish that in these White Papers we got rather more about N.A.T.O. and about this general collective layout in defence, and not quite so much on the home side. I think that it would be a useful corrective.
We move this Amendment because we are profoundly disturbed on certain points, which I have just been making. We consider that there is need for a better balance in our effort in our general contest against totalitarianism. We shall divide on the Amendment; we shall not divide on the main issue. We are in favour of defence, but we consider that there are grave mistakes in the Government White Paper.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Sir Winston Churchill)
I was a little surprised at the unusually strong and remarkably disproportionate language which the Leader of the Opposition used in referring to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence. I am sure that the last thing in the world he wished was to be discourteous to the House. He has been here nearly three years in office and has never had an opportunity of presenting the Defence Estimates to the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Whose fault?"] I thought that it would be quite all right if I came along at the end, especially as this really is an occasion when no real, serious passion is raging in the Chamber. When the right hon. Gentleman says it was an insult to give the House accurate and precise information about the important changes in pay and pensions, I must say that I think we shall very seriously limit the freedom of our discussions if we are going to call such a very harmless and considerate ceremonial as that an insult.
This is not a good moment, I think, for us to quarrel on the broad issue of defence. I hope that it may be possible even at the last minute to avoid a mere partisan Division on defence as a whole. The Amendment as such is not quite the same. Still, I should be glad if this went off without a vote. There is nothing that is stated in the Amendment which could not be brought out and emphasised in the debates on the various Service Estimates, but tonight we are dealing with the general policy of the country at a time when our unity and composure should increase our moral influence among our allies.
I do not myself understand how the leaders of the Opposition can vote for the policy of arming the Germans and at the same time urge that we should weaken our necessary counterpoise of strength. It will certainly be misunderstood abroad. Foreigners do not understand our party complications any more than we do theirs. The French will certainly think it odd that the leaders of the British Socialist Party should vote for German rearmament one week and British disarmament the next. I always thought that the French hoped that we should help to counterbalance the German contribution. It is not, of course, true, but 1130 now it will look to some foreign eyes as if the Leader of the Opposition is simply anxious to shuffle off some of our load on to France. That, I am sure, is not his aim, and I have taken every precaution to disclaim it on his behalf.
Now I come to the Amendment. I understand that it must have taken a lot of care in its composing, but that it was very carefully considered, that it slipped through quite placidly, with none of those shocks and disturbances which sometimes attend ordeals of this kind. The first two charges of the Amendment are very vague and general. It is only on the issue of two years' service that a precise challenge is made. It is made; it is not an inquiry, it is a challenge on the length of service. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] All right; I am in full agreement. Let me deal with the general charges first.
The situation today is not only critical, but it is very complicated. All is in flux—political, economic and, above all, scientific; all is in flux. Uncertainties, acting and reacting on each other, dominate the scene.
When I was a subaltern in India about 60 years ago, and was endeavouring to improve my education, I read a passage in Schopenhauer. It stuck in my mind. I will repeat it to the House, because it a little applies to the general situation.
We look upon the present as something to be put up with while it lasts and serving only as the way towards our goal. Hence most people, if they glance back when they come to the end of life, will find that all along they have been living ad interim.Everyone can weigh the truth of these words of the pessimistic philosopher, but there is no doubt that they very accurately describe the mood of the leaders of many countries, especially the military leaders, on the present position in defence. No sweeping, clear-cut, wholesale decisions are possible. The changes in the types of weapons are so rapid and continuous that if war should come at any time in the next decade, all the countries engaged will go into action with a proportion—a large proportion—of obsolete or obsolescent equipment, and they will fight each other with this as well as they can on the ground, in the air and on the sea. Changes there must be, but it is inevitable that the changes should be gradual, because you must go on living from day to day all the time you are 1131 improving. You have to go on living and trying to improve at the same time. It is very hard.
One thing I must say. The Opposition Amendment complains that we are spending too little on defence research. It says "research"; that means research on defence. We are, in fact, planning to spend on defence research in this coming year almost exactly double the amount spent on research in 1951–52, the last year for which the Opposition were responsible. One may learn and improve one's outlook by learning, but one should be a little charitable of other people who are toiling along the same road by which one has made such progress.
There never was a moment when it was more difficult to decide when to quit research and experiment for mass production, or when there were more numerous examples of these baffling riddles. On the whole, I believe that in Britain the three Services, guided by the Ministry of Defence and aided by the Ministry of Supply, are pursuing a right and reasonable course. We all know the old jibe about the War Office always preparing for the last war. It would also be a mistake, on the other hand, for the War Office to be preparing for the next war but one. It would be folly to suppose that our Forces could be organised on the basis solely of what we think would be needed for what is called a pushbutton war in, say, 10 years' time. Moreover, the assumption that the sole purpose of armed forces is to fight a major war is a fallacy, and with no one is it more of a fallacy than with our country.
Our armed forces have to guard us during what we hope will be long years of peace and minor bickerings, and to maintain continuously a deterrent against aggression. It is therefore necessary that we should move gradually and not precipitately, keeping in mind the three ruling purposes, all of which go on together: to maintain law and order, to deter aggressors and to fight effectively for life if need should come.
We have argued so much about two years' service that I really do not want to plunge into that. It can all be talked over on the Army Votes—two years, 18 months, or some compromise between the two. There are certainly no new arguments. With our forces spread as they 1132 are about the world under the pressure of events, and with the European position so utterly undetermined, our whole military system would be thrown into confusion by such a reduction at the present time.
I cannot understand how the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) brings his mind and his character to this point, when we think that it was he who introduced it—and he knows how big a change it was—and when we think that it was he who reproached the French so severely, even in this Parliament, for limiting themselves to 18 months. I do not want to quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman tonight or to provoke him to interrupt me, but it really is difficult to find any reasons for his change of policy, except reasons which are at once obvious and uncomplimentary.
I was very glad to hear, I must say, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey)—indeed, I always have agreeable recollections of Dundee—say that he disagreed with the suggestion that two years was not necessary now in the present circumstances, and that some alterations in our commitments would have to be made before any change of that kind could be brought about.
Then there is the burden of expense. We have to balance the burden of arms and of finance. No one denies the burden of expense. We have the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he does not often allow matters to slip from our minds. If these two announcements made today were somewhat belated, it was not out of any discourtesy to the House, but only because for many months they have been the subject of long, persistent and careful argument and examination inside our own body, which is exactly what we are supposed to do.
I consider that the late Government rendered a national service in starting up re-armament when they did in harmony with the N.A.T.O. Powers. But there is no doubt that if all the orders which they placed and the whole expansion which they planned had been allowed to reach their maturity, our financial position would be much more anxious than it is. We have, therefore, undoubtedly modified in important respects the scope and the rate of the Socialist re-armament plans. What about that?
1133 In this we have taken serious responsibility. I think so. I am ready to bear my share of it. The Estimates this year are practically the same as last year, and the Estimates for the last two years are £400 million more in each year than those of the last year of the late Administration. But that is because what the late Administration sowed, although greatly pruned and reduced, has been growing naturally to its maturity, which is gigantic. Had we gone on with the whole re-armament scheme outlined in emergency by our predecessors, we should be nearer £2,000 million today than £1,600 million.
In this process we have been greatly helped by the wisdom and knowledge of Lord Alexander, by the friendly influence in which he has guided and helped the Service Ministers and the sense of proportion which he has gathered in a wide survey and experience of the world. All three Services have made vehement exertions to lessen their demands upon the taxpayer, and have achieved substantial savings in expenditure without a proportionate loss—I do not say without any loss—of war power.
I give full credit to the party opposite for the patriotic action which they took, and they ought to treat our policy, which is only a natural modification of theirs. with similar fair play. It would be a great pity if in this critical period we cannot at any rate have a general agreement on our defence policy. One could not choose a worse moment to show party divisions on vital defence matters or appear to the world to be relaxing our efforts.
We are, of course, strong enough to carry our own Estimates ourselves. We do not ask for favours. But the appearance of disunity might throw away much that was gained by the late Administration. The forces which have worked and are working successfully for the consolidation of the peace of the world would, in my judgment, be seriously injured by the appearance of weakness or division in Britain. If there be a force in Russia which believes that the Stalin policy was mistaken, or at least overdone, they would be stultified if it could be said to them, "See there the British are breaking up under the strain of re-armament." [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, think a bit. It may cut both ways, but let us 1134 look at things even when they do not happen on our side. Weakness, I think, might be an inordinate danger to the cause of peace.
The result in Germany and France of our making a definite gesture of dimunition and disarmament would be wholly bad, and we should be hampered at a time when we need all our influence with our American friends and allies to make them feel that Britain and the Commonwealth are a force not only for tolerance and patience, but also for vigilance and strength.
Frankly, I do not see how those opposite who last Thursday took so strong and decided a line in favour of arming Germany can consider withdrawing their support from the sober measures of prudence in defence which we are promoting after an immense amount of work and toil. I tell them solemnly that the policy introduced by the Socialists for rearmament and sustained by us has undoubtedly been largely responsible for the improvement in world tension that occurred in the last three years, and that any weakness and disunity in Britain, when she is known to be working for peace, will weaken her strength in the world to an extent out of all proportion to the money saved.
These matters are so grave that it is a serious national misfortune when they fall into the trough of party bickering, for the facts are then exaggerated on both sides. In carrying on an animated argument one side tends to exaggerate the danger, and the other to brush it away.
In order to make a good cause for rearmament many things have to be said which, though true and in our minds, might well be left to slumber as far as public controversy at the time is concerned. I think it would be a misfortune if, at the present time, we had to reiterate a long indictment against the Soviets for their policy since the war, and still more if in the course of discussion an undue feeling of anger and alarm was aroused, as it might well be when one dwells on Russia's overwhelming strength in conventional ground war in Europe and their power with and in China.
I think we ought to try to keep the temperature low, and to do what is necessary without having to restate facts which are only too well known by responsible 1135 people. I hope at least, that this aspect may be favourably considered by the House as a whole. I cannot think of anything worse than that the two parties should be divided, one recapitulating all the crimes of the Germans and the other stating the whole case against the Soviets. It would indeed be wrong to minimise our dangers, but neither is it helpful to world peace to have to rub them in all the time.
The House of Commons will add to its reputation, not only throughout the Commonwealth but also throughout the world, if it shows how superior it is to mere partisanship, and shows its power to settle vital issues without being drawn into national or anti-national ebullience. I think we can all think over this without having any quarrel with each other.
That remarkable military figure, General Gruenther, the Supreme Commander of the N.A.T.O. Forces, made a speech last month which deserves study and consideration. It was mentioned also by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence. General Gruenther said that the strength which we have on the front from the northern tip of Norway to the eastern borders of Turkey, a distance of 4,000 miles, is from three to four times as effective as it was when General Eisenhower came to Europe, although there is no accurate arithmetical yardstick. But certainly the improvement is of that order of magnitude. He said:This air-ground team constitutes a very effective shield and it would fight very well in case of attack. We think it is of such strength that the Soviets do not now have in occupied Europe"—There he indicated on a map the satellite countries—sufficient air and ground forces to be certain of overwhelming this shield. Of course the Soviets can move additional forces to overwhelm that deficiency, but if they do we should be able to get some warning of an impending attack. As a result of that warning we ought to be able to increase our defensive strength considerably, in particular we ought to be able to alert our air forces.It is very important. The hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) said—I must apologise to him because I was not here, but I was told what he said—that N.A.T.O. was pathetically weak and that our shield in the West was only strong enough to make the Russians reinforce 1136 their ground forces before launching an attack. But that is the very point that constitutes the great improvement. It means that we may hope for a warning period or an alert. I attach the greatest importance to the creation of a warning period—I think I coined the word "alert" at one time and introduced it into the method of air protection. A period of alert means not only that immense precautions can be taken for the saving of life from an atom bomb raid, but also that in that period—please remember this—before firing is opened, short though it may be, even only a week or two, final efforts can be made to avert the supreme catastrophe; avert it, perhaps, even by a revelation of the strength which the allied forces possess in the atomic field. At any rate, I can assure all parties in the House that an alert period means not only a sure and substantial minimisation of the massacre but an additional hope of averting the conflict itself.
It is remarkable and comforting to battlers for peace that the Soviets have not increased their armed forces in the deadly area concerned and have even reduced their air force in that area during the four years of allied rearmament. They are still vastly superior in numbers and with reserves certainly four or perhaps five times as great as ours, and they have no fear of invasion; but the idea that we should ever make our forces so strong that we should be able to invade Russia is so silly that it does not deserve to be mentioned to the House. But the fact that we have to get in our heads is that the Soviet armies can afford to be cool and are able to be cool, and that is all that we in our preparations are seeking to be able to do at the present time.
Here I must mention that it is only by securing an alert period that we can be saved against a paratroop attack on a formidable scale, as we have no regular formations, not even a brigade in this island, and only depend upon those mobile columns and organisation of training forces which I set on foot on assuming responsibility. It is vital for us to be safeguarded against paratroop attack until at least the full power of the allied aid has come into being. As long as the Soviet paratroops are held at a considerable distance—I need not go into geographical details—their fighter aircraft 1137 have not got the range to escort their carrier aircraft to this island, and the slaughter that these last would suffer from our fighters would probably be regarded as prohibitive.
Holding the line of hostile paratroop attacks as far east as possible is indispensable, to anything like the present arrangement of our forces which leaves us so weakly defended at home and enables us to make such a large contribution to the defence of other countries—the only country in the world that ever had two years' national compulsory service and not a brigade to defend its own land. It is a situation full of anxiety, but certainly not without honour.
These are the reasons why I attach such commanding importance to the alert safeguard against surprise which General Gruenther is working out and developing. It cannot be any menace to the safety of Russia, but is a great pad and interruption to the horrible dangers that dwell with us night and day if we think about things, and nothing must be done to deprive us of that.
We are only acting in prudence and moderation in bringing our Forces, which four years ago were almost non-existent, up to a level where, although it would be unwise to predict how long Western Europe can be successfully defended on the ground, there will be at any rate an
§ alert period, the longer the better, before any irrevocable blow is struck.
§ What we are doing now in harmony with our allies is aimed only at securing the merciful interlude necessary for this modest but none-the-less invaluable security. It is, of course, utterly impossible for anyone to deal with these vast and various subjects in the course of a single day's debate. I have only tried to submit to the House a few thoughts, some of which at least I hope will be calming and not relaxing to effort. I should be relieved if the House, as I suggested earlier, left this general question of defence, without a Division and if the definite issue of two years' service has to be raised the Army Estimates are used for that purpose, for whatever attempts are made to explain it a Division on the principle of defence, perhaps with a narrow majority, would be a blow not so much to the strength of the Government as to the nation and, still more, I venture to submit, a blow to our influence for peace in the world in what is, it may well be, a most important year.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 295; Noes, 270.1141
|Division No. 45.]||AYES||[9.57 p.m.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Digby, S. Wingfield|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Brooman-White, R. C.||Dodds-Parker, A. D,|
|Amony, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Browne, Jack (Govan)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Donner, Sir P. W.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bullard, D. G.||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Burden, F. F. A.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Duthie, W. S.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Campbell, Sir David||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Carr, Robert||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Barber, Anthony||Cary, Sir Robert||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Channon, H.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston||Erroll, F. J.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Fell, A.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Finlay, Graeme|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Cole, Norman||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Colegate, W. A.||Fletcher, Sir Walter (Bury)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Fteicher-Cooke, C.|
|Birch, Nigel||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Ford, Mrs. Patricia|
|Bishop, F. P.||Craddcok, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Fort, R.|
|Black, C. W.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Foster, John|
|Boothby, Sir R. J. G.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Gammans, L. D.|
|Braine, B. R.||Davidson, Viscountess||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G Lloyd|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Da la Bère, Sir Rupert||Glover, D.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W H||Deedes, W. F.||Godber, J. B|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||McAdden, S. J.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Gough, C. F. H.||McCallum, Major D.||Russell, R. S.|
|Cower, H. R.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Macdonaid, Sir Peter||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Grimond, J.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St Albans)||McKibbin, A. J.||Scott, R. Donald|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Scott-Mitler, Cmdr. R.|
|Hall, John (Wyoombe)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Shepherd, William|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Maclean, Fitzroy||Simon, J. E. S. (Middtesbroush, W.)|
|Hare, Hon. J. A.||Macleod, Rt. Hon. lain (Enfield, W.)||Smithers, Peter (Winohester)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N)||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Soames, Capt. C|
|Harvis-Watt, Sir George||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Hay, John||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Speir, R. M.|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Marples, A. E.||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Heath, Edward||Marshall, Douglas (Bodwin)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maude, Angus||Stevens, G. P.|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Maudling, R.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Storey, S.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Mellor, Sir John||Strause, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Molson, A. H. E.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Studholme, H. G.|
|Hollis, M. C.||Moore, Sir Thomas||Summers, G. S.|
|Holt, A. F.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Hope, Lord John||Molt-Radclyffe, C. E.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Horobin, I. M.||Neave, Airey||Teefing, W.|
|Hersbrugjh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Nicholls, Harmar||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Thomas, Lestle (Canterbury)|
|Howard, Hon. Grevitle (St. Ives)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, IN.)||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Hurd, A. R.||Nutting, Anthony||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Odey, G. W.||Tilney, John|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Turton, R. H.|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Jenkin-s, Robert (Dulwich)||Osborne, C.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Jennings, Sir Roland||Page, R. G.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O||Vosper, D. F.|
|Johnson, Howard (kemptewn)||Perkins, Sir Robert||Wade, D. W.|
|Jones, A. (Hatl Green)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Wakefield, Edward. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Wakcfield, Sir Wavetl (St. Marylebone)|
|Kaberry, O.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Kerr, H. W.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Wall, P. H. B.|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Pitman, I. J.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemeuth)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Powell, J. Enoch||Waterhouse, Capt. Rl. Hon. C.|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Profumo, J. D.||Wollwood, W.|
|Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Raikes, Sir Victor||Williams, Rl. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Rayner, Brig R.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Lindsay, Martin||Redmayne, M.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Remnant, Hon. P.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Renton, D. L. M.||Wills, G.|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Ridsdale, J. E.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Longden, Gilbert||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Low, A. R. W.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Robson-Brown, W.||Sir Cedric Drewe and Major Conant.|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Bence, C. R.||Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth|
|Adams, Richard||Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Brockway, A. F.|
|Albu, A. H.||Benson, G.||Brook, Dryden (Halifax)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Beswick, F.||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Beiper)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Bing, G. H. C.||Brown, Thomas (Ince)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Blackburn, F.||Burke, W. A.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Blenkinsop, A.||Burton, Miss F. E.|
|Baird, J.||Blylon, W. R.||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Bottemley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Callaghan, L. J.|
|Bartley, P.||Bowen, E. R.||Carmichael, J.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Bowles, F. G.||Cattle, Mrs. B. A.|
|Champion, A. J.||Janner, B.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Chetwynd, G. R||Jeger, George (Goole)||Rhodes, H.|
|Clunie, J.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Richards, R.|
|Coldrick, W.||Jenkins, R. H. i(Stechford)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Collick, P. H.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Ross, William|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Keenan, W.||Royle, C.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Daines, P.||King, Dr. H. M.||Shawcross, Rl. Hon. Sir Hartley|
|Darling, George (HilIsborough)||Kindley, J.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Leo, Frederick (Newton)||Short, E. W.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merlhyr)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Deer, G.||Lewis, Arthur||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lindgreni, G. S.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Logan, D. G.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||MacColl, J. E.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||MoGhee, H. G.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Molnnes, J.||Snow, J. W.|
|Edelman, M.||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||McLeavy, F.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (CaerphilIy)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Steele, T.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestolt)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Fernyhough, E||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Fienburgh, W.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Finch, H. J.||Manuel, A. C.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Sylvester, G. 0.|
|Follick, M.||Mason, Roy||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Foot, M. M.||Mayhew, C. P.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Forman, J. C.||Mellish, R. J.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Marpeth)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Messer, Sir F.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Freeman, John (Watford)||Mikardo, Ian||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Mitchison, G. R||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Monslow, W.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Moody, A. S.||Thornton, E.|
|Glanville, James||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Timmons, J.|
|Gooch, E. G.||Morley, R.||Tomney, F.|
|Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewiuham, S.)||Usborne, H. C.|
|Grey, C. F||Mort, D. L.||Viant, S. P.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Moyle, A.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mulley, F. W.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Murray, J. D.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Natty, W.||Wcitzman, D.|
|Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Neal, Harold (Bolaover)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||Wells, William (Waisall)|
|Hannan, W.||Oldfield, W. H.||West, D. G.|
|Hardy, E. A.||Oliver, G. H.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Hargreaves, A.||Orbach, M.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Oswald, T.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Hastings, S.||Padley, W. E.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Paget, R. T.||Wigg, George|
|Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Willey, F. T.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Pannell, Charles||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Hobson, C. R.||Pargiter, G. A||Williams, Rev. Lhywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Holman, P.||Parker, J.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Holmes, Horaee||Parkin, B. T.||Williams, Rt. Hn. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Houghton, Douglas||Peart, T. F.||Williams, W. R. (Droylesden)|
|Hoy, J. H.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Hubbard, T. F.||Popplewell, E.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Porter, G.||Winterboltom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Praetor, W. T.||Yates, V. F.|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Pryde, D. J.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K|
|Hynd, J. iB. (Attercliffe)||Pursey Cmdr. H.|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Rankin, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Reeves, J.||Mr. Bowden and Mr. Pearson.|
Question put, and agreed to.
That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1954 (Command Paper No. 9075)