§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSErose to ask His Majesty's Government to consider the desirability of coordinating the three Fighting Services under a Ministry of Defence; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion which stands in my name is one which I venture to suggest is of great importance to our country and one which, at the present, moment especially, ought to receive the serious consideration of the Government. Rules of procedure in another place prevent the discussion of this subject on almost any occasion, and it is only, as, I lately discovered, on the Appropriation Bill that members in another place can really discuss this subject of the coordination of the three Services. Recently in another place there was a declaration by the Lord President of the Council that he vas considering the Estimates for the three Services together. I presume when he said that that he meant that discussion would take place within the Cabinet, certainly not before Parliament. I am happy to think that the procedure in your Lordships' House allows such a very important subject to be debated much more freely than is possible in another place.
§ I bring the question forward with every helpful feeling towards His Majesty's Government. I know that they have a difficult task and I know that from time to time they have examined this very difficult question. It was raised in 1928 in the House of Commons when the Prime Minister of that day, the present Lord President of the Council, made a very long and interesting speech. I venture to suggest to your Lordships that the situation to-day is much more serious than it was in 1928. It is much more serious from the point of view of the situation in Europe. The position has far advanced from the opinion rightly expressed at that time, that we were a long way from a future war. There was no indication then that the European situation would develop so 158 rapidly as it has done in the last six years.
§ Coming to the purely financial aspect of the case one finds under the recent Estimates provision for an expenditure on the Navy of £56,550,000, a small increase of about £2,980,000; on the Army £39,600,000, an increase of £1,650,000; and on the Air Service, £17,561,000, a small increase of £135,000. What strikes one when looking at these Estimates, in view of the extraordinary development of the Air arm, its striking power, its extraordinary rapidity of action, is the small relative cost to this country of the Air arm in relation to the older services of the Army and the Navy. For a long time in another place it has been argued that the taxpayers of this country are undefended against the Estimates of the individual Services. The various Ministers in charge of the Army, Navy and the Air Service put forward their demands for a share of the loot, for a share of the available money which this country can afford to spend on armaments. I cannot think that the Secretary of State for War or the First Lord of the Admiralty or the Secretary of State for Air really considers the other Services when he puts forward his own Estimates. After all, the Government have no money to spend except the money they can extract from the taxpayers and the only watchdog the taxpayers have got is the Treasury.
§ What technical experience has the Treasury in dealing with the Secretary of State for War or the First Lord of the Admiralty or the Secretary of State for Air? The Secretary of the Treasury can only try to the best of his ability to limit the demands put upon the national purse. It always seems to me that we ought to have some expert type of board that can protect the taxpayer against demands for the various Services. How do we know that the total money voted is being rightly spent? How do we know, when demands are made for money to be spent for the safety of the country, that the money is allocated so as to get the best value in terms of defence? That leads me to think that we ought to have some expert body able to examine the Estimates and report to the Commons exactly in what channels they consider the total sum about to be voted for defence can best be spent. Human nature being as it is, undoubtedly the most powerful personality among the three 159 Ministers concerned with defence will be most successful in getting a large share of the total expenditure. I venture to suggest that in the experience of the world to-day perhaps the Air Minister has not got quite his fair share. I see increases for the Army and the Navy, and only a very small increase for the Air Force. I think perhaps that that might be altered with advantage to the safety of our country. At any rate it is true that there is a feeling—and I felt it when I was in another place—that there is no buffer between the House of Commons and the demands for the various arms; that is, the Army, Navy and Air Force; that there is no allocation of the money as a whole, and that it is not allocated with expert advice. I think that on those grounds alone a good deal could be done towards giving us better value for the money spent.
I now come to a question which involves closer co-ordination between the three Services. I know perfectly well that a great deal has been done in recent years towards improving that co-ordination between them, which was so much lacking during the early stages, at least, of the Great War. We had the Committee of Imperial Defence, and here let me quote what was said by my old chief, Sir William Robertson, with whom I spent so many years of service before, during and after the War. He said:
War is not nearly so much a matter for soldiers and sailors as soldiers and sailors think. On the contrary, it embraces all the activities of the nation.
§ I believe myself that the great want that we have at the present moment is in the strategical direction of our defensive forces. If we have learned anything at all from the last War—and I thoroughly realise that the war of to-day is not the war of yesterday, as the war of tomorrow will probably not be the war of to-day—I do think that a great deal can be done to bring in the principles of higher direction. Although the elements with which we have to deal may differ, according as the applications of science and other things are directed towards war, still the main principles remain the same, and it is the violation of those principles which brings about the disasters which come to those who violate them.
§ I think one of the lessons which we learned after the Great War was the 160 faultiness of the higher direction in the War. Anyone who was associated in any way with the higher direction of the War knows how difficult it was for a Cabinet composed of twenty-one or twenty-two members to direct and deal with the higher leadership of our forces at the beginning of the War. After many months it was proved that that sort of direction was quite impossible, and when Mr. Lloyd George became Prime Minister he appointed a small War Cabinet, of Ministers who were not tied up in the various Departments which Ministers usually have, in order to carry on that direction. But that direction suffered from a very great difficulty, and that difficulty was that they had no expert staff to advise them, nor an executive staff to issue the necessary orders. They could only advise. They could advise the Prime Minister, who obviously must always be the one individual who gives the final direction to his country. They had no expert staff in which to coordinate and collate the information which must necessarily be placed before any body of people directing the efforts of a great nation at war.
§ This small Cabinet, which did carry on and was known as the War Cabinet, did very good work. It certainly repaired the lack of direction which a large Cabinet had; hut unfortunately, and I think unfortunately for our country, it ceased to act at the end of the War. I think it would have been a good thing if that type of direction had been carried on; but do not forget, my Lords, that the direction was only concerned with two Services. The Air Service at that time was not in being. It was part of the Army machine, and it was only afterwards that this arm gradually grew, with the various activities of the War, until it became the very great Service which it is to-day. Therefore it seems that now, when you have a third great Service added to the older Services of the Army and Navy, it is the more desirable to have some form of definite coordination of the three Services. It is undoubtedly true that we have to-day a much closer co-ordination and working together of the three Chiefs of Staff. After 1923 and the inquiry into the activities of the Committee on Imperial Defence you undoubtedly got a very close coordination between the three Chiefs of Staff, but I beg to point out to your 161 Lordships that this co-ordination, however welcome and however beneficial to our defensive arrangements, is limited to this extent, that although they issue the Annual Report which is laid before the Cabinet and the Prime Minister, and which is based on the foundation of a survey produced by the Foreign Office, you still go back to the individual Services in order to carry out any of the findings of that combined body.
§ What I fear more than anything else is that you will not get quick enough action unless there is some form of executive staff to deal with these combined Services. You have to make arrangements beforehand. You have this new element of the Air Force—comparatively new because it only originated at the beginning of the War—an element which predominates over the other two Services, which, owing to its speed, owing to its quickness of attack, owing to its secret movements adds a new dreadful peril to any country which is in danger of war. Far be it from me to suggest that we are in any danger of war at this moment; but any prudent people dealing with the defence of their country, and the defence of an Empire such as ours, must undoubtedly take notice of the various movements in the world. I think everyone who talks on this subject with knowledge agrees that there is a danger of a rapid and devastating attack coming from an enemy country or a collection of enemy countries by air. It seems only natural that we should take precautions and prepare our plans to deal with that devastating attack. We cannot afford, and we certainly shall not have time, to improvise. In the last war, thank God, We had more than two years to improvise and deal with a faulty organisation. I venture to say that if and when the next war comes, unless we are prepared beforehand, unless we deal with these matters now in time, of peace, our country will suffer very severe trouble.
§ The last time this question was debated it was pointed out by the Prime Minister of that day, Mr. Baldwin, in a very long and valuable statement, that all these questions were being attended to within the Committee of Imperial Defence—the various Committees and Subcommittees, innumerable Sub-committees dealing with every aspect of national defence. They all issued their Reports; but who, may I ask, collated those 162 Reports? Who read those Reports? Who dealt with the findings of those Reports? In many cases, I have no doubt, they were dealt with by the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry. But who dealt with them as a whole? What directing force was there to deal with the admirable findings of those Sub-committees? I venture to say that it was quite impossible for members of the Cabinet or for the Prime Minister to look at one-tenth part of these various Reports. Moreover, it was almost impossible to get any real direction as the result of those Reports.
§ I feel very strongly that you do want some executive force, some executive headquarters. I am not pleading for the great super-man, the Minister of Defence, although there are arguments in favour of that. What I am asking for is that there should be some inquiry into the question of a Ministry of Defence. Whether the head of that shall be an individual or a board does not matter to me. What I do suggest is that the present Committee of Imperial Defence should be turned into an executive body; they ought to be a Superior General Staff. You have your Imperial Staff College, which has been going now for some years, preparing officers—for what? For that very purpose which I believe is so necessary for our country. Those officers who are now being trained at the I Imperial Staff College are the very officers you ought to collect together in the form of a General Staff. All civil activities, whether it is coal, or iron, or manufactures of all kinds, are going into larger units, and yet we continue in the most important matter of the Defence Services to keep the vital units acting without that co-operation which I believe is so necessary for the safety of this country.
§ Speed is the element that we have now to consider. Speed is the thing that is going to hit this country, or any country, in the future when it has to deal with war, and that question of speed has become more vital than ever, in view of the fact that democracies in many countries have disappeared. You now have dictatorships in Germany, in Italy, and in Russia, and one is coming in France. That dictatorship system means speed, action secretly directed, and, I am sorry to say, very often without consulting or without giving consideration at 163 all to the masses which those dictators are supposed to represent. Any machine of government that is based on democracy is then bound to suffer because it cannot act so quickly as that type of direction under a dictatorship. That is a consideration which ought to be very closely examined by our Government to-day.
§ The war of the future will undoubtedly concern not only the Army, the Navy and the Air Force; it will touch every ramification of our civilised life. The Foreign Office did well in the last War in bringing in certain countries; it brought in Italy, but it failed in regard to Turkey and Bulgaria. When we are considering any future attack on this country therefore, we must consider the question of the Foreign Office, and we must consider also high finance. The India Office is concerned and so are the Dominions Office, the Colonial Office, and the Board of Trade. What about the feeding of our people? I see here the noble Viscount, Lord Devonport, who dealt with our food supplies in the days of the War. He knows how near we were at that time to starvation. With the destructive methods of modern science as applied to war we are much more likely in future to find this country within a very short period of the outbreak of war in the position of not being able to feed its people. For that reason, although I do not want to exaggerate, I say that we want plans to be thought out beforehand collectively, and that is why I plead for a thorough investigation as to whether or not some co-ordinating body of a larger General Staff ought not to be set up in this country.
§ I do not want to exaggerate, but anyone with imagination and knowledge can picture the devastating effect of a rapid or secret attack by large bodies of aeroplanes on this country. There is no passive defence to that. There is only counter-attack, and it is the fear of the counter-attack that will stop such an attack being made. I see my noble friend Lord Trendhard in his place. He knows very well what the effect may be of a sudden attack on our aerodromes or war supplies, on our machines themselves, and on the factories which produce the aeroplanes, all within a very small area round London. Have plans been made to meet that probability? I can only say that I hope the Air Ministry have 164 got those plans, but they cannot make those plans alone; and not only have plans got to be made but you have got to have an executive body under the direction of the Cabinet or War Cabinet to issue orders. We do not want to have the Dardanelles over again. I am not going into the details of that, but anyone who has had inside knowledge of the want of co-ordination between the Services then knows perfectly well what I mean. You do want a guiding, directing force that can give orders and make absolutely certain that you get the coordinating and united effect of all the elements in our national defence.
§ I would ask the Government: Who are working out these plans? Who are really dealing with all the various ramifications of national defence? Who is dealing with things like the switching-over of industrial effort to war? Are the plans being made now? Can industrial effort switch over quickly to the provision of material, which, as we know well, in the late War was two years behind the provision of men? The men are there, but unless you have the necessary material and equipment they are of little use in modern war. Do not let us forget this, my Lords, that if and when we are drawn into another world war the whole nation will have to be applied to that purpose. I hope we shall not make the mistakes then that we made in the last War in the application of conscription. Conscription was new to us then, but I hope we have learned the lessons of the late War in that respect. Conscription will be necessary over every form of national life, not only in respect of the Fighting Services but in respect of our mines, our factories, and every ramification of our national life. And it will be necessary to call up not only the men of twenty-one, then of twenty-five, then of thirty, and then of forty; but you will have to call up sections of the nation of all ages and place them where their physical capacity and their ordinary uses in civil life best fit them to be. One of the great mistakes we made in the last War was in not applying the old men to the jobs they could do, but in putting men into jobs for which they were ill-fitted. I know what I am talking about because I had to try and reconstruct that phase of national life in 1917, and one thing I was up against then was the misplacing 165 of our man-power in the various efforts which had to be made in the War.
§ Who are making these plans now? Are they being attended to? It does not concern one Service alone—it concerns the whole nation. It is vital to success if we ever have to face a national need as was the case in 1914. I am pleading for the Government to look at this question, which I believe in my innermost soul and in my bones to be so necessary for the safety of our country. It is necessary that these plans Which are essential for war should be looked into now in time of peace, that the co-ordination of our Services should be done by a collection of men, the best. we can get out of the nation, and that they should be brought together to think out these plans now, beforehand, and have them ready, and be the driving force which will issue orders For the nation if and when the time comes. I am pleading for a Ministry to deal with these great problems, not a Minister, although there are men who could do that job. I remember very well years ago in Rome meeting Signor Mussolini and asking him: "How do you find time to deal with five Ministries—Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, the Army, the Navy and the Air? "And I remember his reply. He said: "It saves me time because I have not got any departmental arguments or quarrels to deal with." Any one who had departmental trouble during the War knows what that means.
§ I am not pleading for a superman. I am quite willing that it should be a board, a board of Cabinet Ministers without portfolio-anything that will give the direction and will be the head of a, real General Staff to deal with matters of our national de fence. From day to day this country is faced with the problem of who is the enemy. I doubt whether any one can say who is the enemy of tins country. We try to be on friendly relations with all, but the time may come when we shall be up against the problem of an appeal to arms, and we must be prepared for all eventualities. The only way we can be prepared is to have an efficient Staff to look into what is moving in the world. We have not only national defence to consider, but we have Imperial defence as well, and we may well be drawn into quarrels in Imperial defence which will make our national defence the more vulnerable. We are building to-day a great 166 base at Singapore. That may well be a target to draw a good deal of our forces to its defence, because once that is attacked we are bound to go to its defence. And once drawn into the Far East, how much more vulnerable are we here! Therefore it seems to me that this problem of national defence is a problem which cannot lightly be dealt with by each individual Service, but is one which demands the collective action of a higher General Staff.
§ I know that within the time available for me this evening I cannot possibly deal with many matters of detail, for there are ninny others of your Lordships who want to speak on this great subject, but I venture to suggest to His Majesty's Government that it might be well to take the opportunity to appoint a Committee from those who have had great experience in the War, to enquire into this aspect of Imperial Defence. We have still with us men like Mr. Lloyd George, who was Prime Minister; we have Mr. Winston Churchill, we have Lord Cecil, we have Mr. McKenna, we have Sir Austen Chamberlain, we have Mr. Amery, we have Mr. Bruce, of Australia, we have Sir Frederick Sykes, home from Bombay, we have Lord Lloyd, who has had great experience in these matters. I venture to suggest that the Government could well select from men of that calibre, who have had that experience in the past, Committee to examine and report upon this matter. I do not ask for more. I do think that we have reached a point in national development which demands some movement forward. I remember Mr. Baldwin saying in 1928 that we were in a condition of evolution at that time. 1928 was a long time after the end of the War—ten years. We have progressed since then, and I venture to say that the evolution which has taken (place, certainly in the Air Service, is such that we may contemplate a very much greater evolution in the next six or ten years. Therefore I venture to suggest, my Lords, that now is the time.
§ There is one last word which I would say, and it is this: Whatever may be decided in this great matter, it is perfectly true to say that the Air Force is such that it cannot remain in the air all the time, but must come back to earth; and I believe that great economies and great advantage, not only in the interchangeability of personnel but also in thousands 167 of minor details, would be secured by combining the Air Force and the Army. I do not care whether the Army takes over the Air Force or the Air Force takes that the economic contradictions between over the Army; that is immaterial to me as an old soldier; but I do believe that you want some combination between the two, because the two are absolutely dependent upon each other. The Army cannot act without the Air Force; the Air Force undoubtedly has got to come back to land and therefore cannot act without the the Army. Of all the more immediate steps which can be taken towards a final co-ordination of the three Services, I think that that at least is the step. I have no feelings of pride, and from that point of view it does not matter to me whether the Air Force takes over the Army or the Army takes over the the Air Force, but I do think that it would be of great advantage to the State if those two forces could be amalgamated. I do press the Government to carry out an inquiry such as I have suggested. I believe that it is necessary; I believe that we have arrived at a point in our evolution which demands it; and one last word that I would say is that we ought to do it now, before we are again brought into the violence, the controversies, and the troubles with which the world is faced. I beg to move.
§ LORD MARLEY
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken has outlined in a wholly admirable manner of number of arguments in favour of a Ministry of Defence as against the separate existence of the three Services, and the case for an inquiry into this subject. The Opposition are in favour of such an inquiry. We hope that the Government will seriously consider the proposition put forward and accede to the request of noble Lord. He has argued his point on the broadest possible lines, and in particular has dealt with an aspect of it which is of great importance at the present moment, Fascism versus Democracy. On that ground alone I believe that there is a real reason for an inquiry into the proposal put forward.
He has also argued the matter from the point of view of the change which is gradually taking place in the weapons at the disposal of any Government undertaking a war. Personally I am against all war, war, and I believe that in a future ware lare sections of the population of of country will not co-operate in any 168 such operations: but under the system of private capitalism under which we live I believe that war is quite inevitable—that the economic contradictions between capitalist, and finally between Imperialist, Powers make war quite inevitable, in the circumstances in which we and other nations are governed. Therefore I think that it is important to support any measure which makes for greater efficiency in out forces because of the war into which we are being led. If with that efficiency we can couple economy, then we have a double reason for supporting this inquiry. As regards economy, I have come to the conclusion that we could save a minimum of £10,000,000 a year, of the £113,000,000 which we are wasting on the armed forces of this country, and that £10,000,000 or a sum between the two, might well be used for the social Services, and for the raising of the standard of living of the people of this country, which is the sole purpose for which any Government really exists.
The noble Lord dealt with the supremely important matter of speed in modern war, and I believe that he put his finger on the real reason for which a Ministry of Defence is vitally necessary. When I look back to the state of affairs in the last few years, I believe that the inefficiency—the failure to obtain full efficiency—of the three Services can be examined and can be proved to be quite indefensible. Take for example, first, the failure to co-operate between the Services. The noble Lord mentioned the Dardanelles campaign. From the point of view of national pride, I suppose the less we say about that the better, save to remember the incomparable bravery of the men who were sacrificed owing to the failure to co-operate between the Services. Again, we have the struggle as to who can best defend the North-West frontier of India. We have the Army claiming that its work can be much more permanent, the Air Force claiming that its work is much cheaper, but no full co-ordination or consideration of that work from the point of view of the best service at a minimum cost. There is merely a constant quarrel between the Departments as to who can best do the work.
We have a similar difficulty with regard to the defence of the ports of great Britain. Ought it to be the Army, ought 169 it to be the Air Force to carry through this defence, or ought we not to have some system by which we can co-ordinate the efforts of both? Surely a Ministry of Defence is the right means of carrying through that fully-considered plan. During the War I came across examples of this failure. At the beginning of the War I was in the Admiralty but I happened to be at the Army Staff College. I had mobilisation telegrams from both the admiralty and the War Office directing me to different places. My War Office telegram said I was to be an embarkation staff officer somewhere and my Admiralty telegram put me on the staff of one of the units of the Fleet. I tossed up which I should do.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY)
you were so valuable.
§ LORD MARLEY:
No, I am not pointing out my value but the failure to co-ordinate the services of Departments for one of which the noble Marquess is responsible. I have no doubt he has learned lessons from the failures in the last War. I hope he has, but it seems he has not been successful in securing that large share of the spoils to which the noble lord referred as against the largely increased Estimates of his stronger colleague the noble and learned Viscount who leads the house, the Minister for War, and, of course, the First Lord of the Admiralty. I think his paltry hundred thousand pounds is only a proof of his failure to secure a larger share of the spoils, and I hope he is feeling ashamed of himself in getting such a poor increase. He does not look ashamed, I admit. No doubt he has got the best he could.
At present we get a duplication of services. I wonder whether the noble Marquess really thinks it necessary to have a separate service of chaplains for the Air Force. Why is it that we could not have one common service? I notice that the most reverend Primate has left the House. After all why should we have different chaplains for all the services? A Ministry of Defence might save a good deal in that direction. Why different Medical Services? It is difficult enough to get doctors for the Services. Why not one co-ordinated service which might be started by the Ministry of Defence. Then what about the duplication of Attaches 170 in foreign countries—Naval, Military, Air Attachæs. Why not, in the smaller countries, one Service Attachædoing the work of the three Services and saving the taxpayer's money by doing away with the duplication of unnecessary officials? What about the Intelligence reports? I remember reading the Intelligence reports of the Admiralty and the War Office concerning one country some years ago. They were entirely different. Each brought out quite opposite viewpoints; each reported entirely different results. As a matter of fact in this case the Admiralty were entirely right and the War Office information was entirely wrong. That sort of duplication of expensive information, one report different from another, allowing you to take your choice, seems to me to be a sheer waste of public money.
And what about the three Services separately enabling the country to be fooled; what I would call the conservatism of the Services, the block headedness of the Services, in certain cases the concealment of obsolescence? Take, for example, the food supply of the country. The noble Lord pointed out that the food supply of this country would be in far greater danger in another war than in the past. Of course it would. We know that the Navy, from the point of view of capacity to protect the food supply of this country, is obsolescent. It cannot possibly do it. In the last War the submarine rendered the position of the country extremely precarious. That was got over by the convoy system, but the convoy system is a gift to the Air Force of an opposing country, and there is no solution as yet discovered for dealing with an Air Force.
The noble Lord referred to singapore. Anyone who goes to Singapore realises that is quite impossible to defend singapore from air attack, and the sooner that simple and elementary practical lesson is learned by the country the sooner we shall cease to waste millions of the country's money on that sort of development. A Ministry of Defence would have seen through the fatuity of building a base which was quite incapable of defence. Gibraltar is the same. You cannot defend Gibraltar now. Yet we go on wasting public money in the dockyard of Gibraltar, with nobody to raise a voice of complaint. That is because 171 there is no Ministry of Defence. The three Ministers are each mounted on their separate chargers clothed in—
§ LORD MARLEY
No, not white raiment but in shining armour; and the strongest wins. The picture of the Minister of War on a horse in a magnificent cuirass surely must bring pleasure to the nursemaids of Whitehall who watch the changing of the Guard every day. He wins the day. He is the finest skater over difficult places of anyone perhaps in your Lordships' House. He wins by sheer force and strength. There is another argument for a Ministry of Defence which, I think, the noble Lord did not bring out, and that is the fact that three Defence Ministers in the Cabinet give an unfair pull to the Services as against the requirements of the rest of the country. I believe that a single Minister would much more represent the real needs of the country in armaments, and, while I do not think there is serious difficulty in finding a super-Minister, I cannot say I think very much of the board outlined by the noble Lord. I am quite certain that the right move is a Minister of Defence with the Committee of Imperial Defence as an advisory body.
The noble Lord suggested that nobody read the Reports of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I dare say he is right. Probably the only man who reads them is Colonel Sir Maurice Hankey, and probably no one else reads the entire series. I am quite certain that the country would gain by having the Departments under three Under-Secretaries of State and one Minister of Defence dealing with the whole of the Services of this country. I hope very much that the Government will accede to the request of the noble Lord.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
My Lords, my excuse for addressing your Lordships to-day is that I had some opportunity of seeing the direction of the late War from the very inside. Therefore, I have no hesitation in the light of my experience then in supporting the general thesis which has been laid before your Lordships by the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, to-night. He raised, in the first place, the question whether, under the system in which we have to-day three 172 main Services, we are really getting value for our money either for defence or, if you can reconstruct the League of Nations and the collective system, for the collective preservation of the peace of the world. I think there is another question which is agitating the minds of a good many non-Service people about which, I think, some reassurance will have to be given before very long and the answer to which can only be given by something in the nature of a Joint General Staff, for, in the long run, the support of Army and Navy and Air Force depends upon the support of public opinion. That question is as to the real significance of the development of the air arm.
I will put it in this way. In the past we have relied in the main on the Navy, and secondarily on the Army. The main characteristic of naval action is the extreme slowness, if also the ultimate certainty, with which it operates. If you look at the history of naval action you will find that its operation is slow. The business of the Navy is to protect our own trade routes and to deny the seas to the enemy and thereby bring pressure upon him to surrender. But it takes a very long time, as we saw in the late War. It took over four years. Probably never again will there be such a combination directed against a single Great Power with the same power to restrict its access to supplies. It is the same with the Army. Defence, undoubtedly, is stronger to-day than it has ever been. We found that the predictions which many people made, that under modern conditions war would be rapidly settled because of the strength of the offensive weapons, were absolutely falsified in the event, and for four long years armies were locked before they could produce decisive results.
As I understand it—I speak as an amateur—the very essence of the air arm is that it strikes directly in so far as it can do so at the nerve centres, the vital centres of the various countries engaged, and that there is, anyhow up to the present, no such defence as a supreme navy can make on the seas or a superior army can effect on the land. I think the question which is in many minds is this: Assuming war, assuming that the slowness of naval action continues, assuming that no rapid and immediate decision is attainable on land, and assuming that the various nations possessed of great industrial power, great financial re 173 sources and the necessary foodstuffs throw their forces into the construction of offensive bombing aircraft, as Germany in the last War threw its resources into the construction of submarines, and assuming you get the systematic continuous use of such offensive weapons on the capitals of various countries, on munition centres, on railway centres, on the harbours, on the narrower waters, will that power be so destructive that it will force surrender before the more slow-moving methods on and and sea can he decisive? That, as I see it, is the primary question which has got to be answered. If the answer is in the affirmative the strategy of the world will he changed and the distribution of the forces of this country and of the Empire will be fundamentally altered. I do not think anybody can give the answer to that question except something like the Joint General Staff that the mover of this Motion recommended.
As I said at the beginning, I saw something of the inner direction, the superior direction, of the Great War. I do not think anybody who witnessed it from within can fail to realise that the supreme advantage which Germany had throughout the War was its unity of command—unity of command not only on the field of battle, but, unity in its General Staff and unity in the use that it made of its financial, its economic and its industrial resources, and not only its own but those of its Allies. The greatest difficulty with which the Allies had to contend in the first three-and-a-half years of the War was the total inability to get anything like unity of command not only on the battle field but in the use of manufacturing resources, finance and so on. Every nation fought the War on its own national front. It was attempted, of course, by co-ordination and co-operation to get some sort of plan, but it was a co-ordination of four or five national plans and not a single plan. It was not until they got something in the nature of unity of command that the Allies began to establish that decisive superiority which, once it was established, brought the struggle to a rapid and conclusive end.
The beginning of that unity of command was not the appointment of a Generalissimo. It was the Joint Allied Council at Versailles. That was not a 174 body which consisted of the Chiefs of Staff of the various countries. It was composed of distinguished officers—Marshal Foch, representing France, Sir Henry Wilson, representing this country, and for the moment I forget who were the officers representing Italy and America. They were seconded for the purpose of forming a Joint Staff. They worked together and I think there is not much doubt that many of the strategic plans which Marshal Foch, when he was later appointed Generalissimo of the Allied Forces, put into operation, were worked out in those quiet meetings at Versailles between the officers of all the larger nations engaged in the War.
I venture to suggest to the Government that they should consider as a preliminary measure, with a view to answering this question which I think underlies the anxieties of a great many people in this country as to the real significance of the air arm, whether it would not be possible to create a Joint General Staff acting under the Committee of Imperial Defence—that is to say, a body of officers of great competence and distinction seconded from their own Services, because as long as they are actively in their own Service human nature being what it is they will fight for their own corner. You should get these officers seconded to form a single Staff reporting to the Committee of Imperial Defence on the strategic problems which concern this country, whether it is going to use its forces, as I say, as instruments of collective peace, or is going to have to use them as the instruments of national and Imperial defence. I think that this matter is causing much more anxiety among thinking people than is generally realised. If what I have said is true, that owing to the slowness of military and naval action the air arm has transformed or will transform the problem of war, then the sooner the significance of that change is realised, and such moneys as we do spend on military or naval or air purposes are employed in accordance with the facts which will be revealed, if ever there is another war, the better; and I would venture to submit to the Government the suggestion as to whether as a preliminary it would not be possible to create through a method of combined officers a Joint Staff directly under the Committee of Imperial Defence, to examine problems and report to the Cabinet.
§ LORD LLOYD
My Lords, I think we are all very grateful to Lord Hutchison for introducing these absorbing and interesting questions. We have listened not only to an extraordinarily interesting speech from him, but also to one from the noble Marquess who has just sat down. The last speaker argued, if I understood his argument, in favour of Lord Hutchison's contention and thesis on the basis that unity of command in the field was achieved through the creation of the Versailles Staff, and I think his argument was intended to reinforce the plea put forward by my noble friend beside me. On that question of unity of command in the field of which Versailles was only a part—I need not remind your Lordships of the Doullens Conference in which the Versailles Staff was set up, planned not by one Commander-in-Chief but by two or three—I suggest that unity of command in the field is not germane to this proposition, which is the study of war and of preparation for war in peace time, and how best this can be effected.
In the past people who have raised this issue have not always wanted quite the same thing, as we shall remember if we read the debates, although they all had more or less the same objectives, either economy or efficiency or speed. Sometimes they wanted a single Minister of Defence placed in supreme command of the three great Services. Sometimes they wanted, as I thought my noble friend was going to want, a super-Minister. Anyhow he wants a super Executive, super-imposed over the Minister of Defence, or put shortly, to diffuse the three Services and administer them as one, under one Chief; or to super-impose over existing Ministers a super-Minister and Staff for defence. I shall try to argue briefly that neither of these propositions is feasible or, indeed, advantageous.
Let us consider for a moment only the task that will confront a single Minister of Defence. Even in peace time it would really be entirely beyond the power of one man to perform. He would find himself in control of, and solely responsible for, the work of three great offices of State—not only the routine of three great Departments but, what is enormously important in preparation for war, of the personnel of those three Departments. There is enough in one Department to 176 keep a Minister extremely busy. He could barely keep in touch with the heads of Departments, let alone with the commanders in the field. He would, as Mr. Baldwin reminded us in a speech in 1928, as a single Minister of Defence have to have a Navy Council, an Army Council, and an Air Council, and of course a combined Defence Council as well, and he would have to speak for all three in Parliament and answer questions for all three—no small task in itself.
He would be forced to preside over each one of these Councils, and my noble friends who are in the Cabinet themselves, to-day, will I am sure support me when I say that if they are to keep in touch with the work of their offices they have to attend numerous Committees as well. We have heard a great deal about that pre-eminently great man Mussolini, but he has never been tried out in war. One man controlling so many Departments in peace time is a superman, even in a smaller country like Italy; but our experience in the War was not that there was greater concentration of Departments but, on the contrary, that there was greater decentralisation. No fewer than ten Ministries were created, after two years, during the War. We were not alone in that. It was the case in Germany, too. Germany extended her Ministries and Departments. France and Italy did so also. In fact, every country had exactly the same experience—all exactly opposite in practical experience to that which is advocated here to-day by Lord Hutchison. After all, in war you have to face a sudden and vast expansion from the skeleton cadres we keep up in peace to-day.
If you could find such a superman—Lord Kitchener was very nearly a superman—what would be his position in relation to the war policy of the Government? He would supersede If power, authority and influence the Prime Minister himself, and yet in war-time, especially in a country like England, the man who devises and defends, who expresses, explains and propounds the policy of the Government—and in time of war the policy of the Government is war policy—must be the Prime Minister. We have heard something about dictators and their advantages from Lord Hutchison. May I suggest to him that while dictators perhaps have a great 177 advantage in the swiftness of the decision to be made, what is more important even than swift decision is that you shall carry with you the will to war of the people, and only the political head of a great State in war-time can do that. I think that that is a very great argument against a combined Minister of Defence for all three Services. So much for the single Minister and his Ministry of Defence.
Then there is the plan to leave existing Ministers in their several offices hut to superimpose an Executive Council over them. I wonder how that would work out in practice. There are several noble friends around me who have been great heads of War Departments. I wonder, if they were in office. to-day and if they had an Executive Ministry of Defence put over their heads, how many of thorn would not find it necessary to consult the Minister of Defence himself and ignore the heads of their own Departments. It must be so, and in wartime the executive heads of the War Office like the the C.I.G.S., or the Marshal of the Air will in the end be obliged to go to the man at the top who is in consultation and direct relation with the Cabinet. My noble friend argue, I think, that there would be some measure of economy in his proposal. But I did not quite understand why that should be so. After all, what is necessary for war to-day is decided in the Committee of Imperial Defence; that is the advisory body, the General Staff which advises the Government and the Prime Minister on all war matters.
§ LORD LLOYD
The executive authority is the Cabinet. Having received from the expert staff what they consider is necessary for war. I suggest that there is no other possible authority except the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Cabinet as a whole which can decide how much money is going to be allocated for the defence needs of this country. That is one of the many underlying fallacies of the superficially attractive idea of a Ministry of Defence; you get this division of authority which, I think, would not in the end add to speed but would add a great deal to delay and confusion in time of War.
178 May I remind noble Lords—though it is not necessary in this House—of the enormous expansion and development which has taken place in the expert study of war since 1918? You have only to read—I refer to it again because it is so comprehensive—Mr. Baldwin's speech in 1928. You will find there that there are to-day operating in the Committee of Imperial Defence, not just the number of Committees with the narrower range of subjects dealt with before the War but—far the most important—the Chiefs of Staff's Committee, who have, I believe (though I am not sure about this) the absolute right of access direct to the Prime Minister. If that be true you cannot imagine a machinery for swifter or more decisive action between an expert body and the head of the Government. You have a Man-Power Committee, you have a Principal Supply Officers Committee, you have Committees on disarmament, on war trade questions—that, and cognate questions would, no doubt, be delegated—you have a Committee on Censorship, and Committees on Imperial Communications. on oil fuel, on insurance in time of war, on, air raid precautions, on emergency legislation. The noble Lord also referred to that extremely important question the swift transfer of industrial power to war purposes. That is not enumerated in the list of Committees, but I have not the smallest shadow of doubt that so vast a subject as that is not only being studied, but is being regularly studied by the same expert authority to-day.
I was a little surprised to hear that here the noble Lord, who is a very distinguished soldier, made as I think a grave technical error in a remark he made. He said that we were building the fortress of Singapore, which might draw our forces to defend it. I am sure that his military knowledge is not rusty, but after all that is a very odd conception of a fortress, if I may say so. A fortress, if properly conceived, is a place built adequately to defend itself and to provide a further jumping-off ground for other people to take the offensive or defensive.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
I do not want to interrupt, but it is perfectly obvious that if Singapore is attacked it will undoubtedly draw forces of all kinds to its defence. It means war in that area.
§ LORD LLOYD
I am afraid I must demur to that description again. I do not think it will draw any forces to its defence. It will draw a large number of forces to assist it in offence, or defence from other people, but not in defence of the fortress.
§ LORD LLOYD
I misunderstood the noble Lord. I thought he meant defence of the fortress. Although we made many mistakes in the War I believe we showed more elasticity, more rapidity in power of recovering our situation than any other country. It is elasticity of machinery that is so enormously important as well as swiftness in time of war. I believe that if noble Lords would examine the machinery—which I am sure is fairly easy for anybody to do—they would feel satisfied, not that the machinery is perfect, but that. if any further amendments on our present organisation should be made they would not be in the direction of interfering with the main control of defence, but rather in elaborating and giving further power and authority to the machinery at present existing.
My Lords, I crave the indulgence of your Lordships' House in addressing you for the first time, and I also feel I owe an explanation for speaking so soon after I have had the honour of taking my seat in this House. My excuse is that this is a subject on which, with many other noble Lords, some of whom have not spoken, I feel very deeply indeed. I supported the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, in another place on this question six years ago, and I believe it is even more vitally important in the interests of the nation that this matter should be more sympathetically examined than it was then. For that reason I felt that I must support the noble Lord again in this House.
I think the noble Lord is to be congratulated on his courage in admitting—what is really the truth—that in case we are involved in another great war, in common with other modern industrialised nations, it will not be only a question of conscripting young men for the Army and the Navy, but the whole force of the nation will have to be compelled—or we shall have to attempt to compelit—to assist, in its various spheres, in waging that war. It may as well be recognised that 180 that will happen. There is a law on the French Statute Book to that effect already, and the Russians will undoubtedly do it. There are two great Powers who would conscript every man, woman and child in the country for war purposes. I have no doubt also that in the present temper of Germany the Government there would attempt to do the same. If we were involved with any of those three great nations, either as their Allies or their opponents, we should undoubtedly have to follow suit. It is just as well that that should be known and recognised, as well as the fact that they all ought to be, and I hope would be, on a soldier's pay.
In spite of the weighty speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, and the no doubt weighty speech we are to hear from the Secretary of State for Air in opposition to the Motion, I believe that this change is bound to come. In any case, I think that we are sure to be forced into having a common General Staff, such as the noble Marquess above the Gangway pleaded for, and I think it is absolutely essential that this should happen because of the invention of the aeroplane. As soon as we moved from two-dimensional warfare, with navies and armies on the surface, into three-dimensional warfare by the introduction of the aeroplane, some common fighting Staff controlling the three arms became necessary, and with the technical advance of the aeroplane there is no escape from that. I am going a little further even than the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, in this matter. We are all spending all we can on armaments to-day—the only limit is what the unfortunate taxpayer will stand, and we may as well face the facts—and I believe that if one of the Great Powers devoted the whole of its energy and available money to building up its Air Force only, with the necessary ground troops and naval tenders to support that Force, it would be altogether invincible. Fortunately vested interests in the shape of Admiralties, Ministers of Marine, and War Offices, prevent any nation doing that, even in Italy, where, as the noble Lord has pointed out, Mussolini holds the portfolios of all the Fighting Services. There are tremendous vested interests which prevent that happening, but perhaps in a few years' time some Power like Germany may put all its energies and all its available resources into the Air.
181 I want, if I may, to give your Lordships one or two very brief examples from the past and from the present showing the lack of co-ordination. My noble friend Lord Marley mentioned the Dardanelles. I believe that is the classic example. Your Lordships will remember how a naval force first of all, without any reference to the War Office, bombarded the entrance, beat down the Turkish defences, landed marines and blue-jackets, and marched all over those historic hills which were afterwards soaked with the blood of our best Imperial troops; of course, putting the Germans who were advising the Turks, and the Turks themselves, on their guard, with the deplorable results afterwards which we all know.
Let me remind your Lordships of another example which is very striking indeed. When Lord Allenby was making that famous advance on Jerusalem in the steps of the Crusaders, he had on his right flank Lawrence and the Arabs attacking the Turkish communications and worrying the Turkish left flank whenever they could. Where was the Navy? Why was not the Navy on Allenby's left flank? Why was the Navy not on the Syrian coast landing and raiding in the old tradition of amphibian warfare and harassing Turkish communications in the rear? I was in a position for a short time on the Admiralty War Staff working out the actual plans for that while the War Office on the other side of the street were working out the plans for the land advance. We worked out admirable plans. There was some misgiving about German submarines which might come to the assistance of the Turks in the Levant, but that could have been got over. Nothing was actually done, however, and much loss of time and loss of valuable lives resulted. We might have taken Jerusalem months before if there had been real co-operation between the Navy and the Army, and we might have advanced on Damascus much sooner. These are two examples from the War, of which I venture to remind your Lordships.
Now, may I quote two cases in peace time? The noble Marquess, the Minister for Air, probably knows of the classic case that occurred a few years before he was responsible for that great Service—the case of the naval air pilot who was one of our few expert pilots skilled at landing and taking off from the decks 182 of aeroplane-carriers when that art was not nearly so technically advanced as it is now, and for two or three years that invaluable expert was kept in Iraq. The other example has already been quoted by Lord Hutchison—Singapore. It may surprise some of your Lordships when I say that the naval plans for Singapore were drawn up and started and half put into execution without any real executive consultation with either the War Office or the Air Ministry. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, has had to leave the House for the time being, because this is a point on which I wanted to answer him. In order to command the Straits of Malacca, that very vital sea passage, which has nothing to do with the naval base, long-range artillery is needed, but for the defence of any naval base or arsenal now you must have an adequate Air Force available, and there has been the greatest difficulty in finding aerodrome space at Singapore, as the noble Marquess, the Secretary of State for Air, and other noble Lords will be aware.
The whole question of the land defence of Singapore, as the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, pointed out, is extraordinarily difficult. I am going to venture to submit to your Lordships that if we had had a competent Great General Staff combining the three Services—having nothing to do with the routine that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, talked about; the burden of administrative routine ruins any staff if it is not separated from these petty details—that Great General Staff, when it really examined Singapore, would have reached the far sounder conclusion that it should be made, not into a great battleship base, a great arsenal, a great fortress, which may be another Port Arthur, but that it should be enlarged as a cruiser base, as it was before; that it should be the advance base for submarines and aircraft; and that our naval force in the Pacific should have been concentrated, not at Singapore, not in Malaya at all, but at Sydney where the Australian Army and Navy would have defended it, and where you would have had invaluable help from the growing industrial resources of that Dominion. That is the second example I venture to submit to your Lordships of what I consider to be the lack of co-ordination.
The third example has more to do with the future. This is a matter of which I 183 gave notice to the noble Marquess yesterday, and I hope I shall not receive the reply that it is not in the public interest to give information on this point. The question I have to put to him is this. Apart from the slow, ponderous method of blockade that the noble Marquess. Lord Lothian, referred to, which has always been the great weapon of the Navy, naval operations will nearly always be amphibian operations in co-operation with the Army and the Air Force. We did not do nearly enough of that in the Great War, not so much as we could have done with our immense resources. The tank is a very important weapon to-day, and in future amphibian operations, where you cannot always count on capturing some defended harbour, or it is blown up before you finally seize it, you need a light tank that can be carried on board ship and go through a certain depth of water and land on the enemy coast. I should be very interested to hear if we are making any development along those lines. I know that the Army possesses tanks that can swim across rivers and that sort of thing, but I have yet to know what the Navy is doing in this respect. I have tried to find out, but it is difficult to find out these things, and if it is not in the public interest to say so, I would of course accept that answer, but I am interested nevertheless to enquire whether we are going into this question of a mechanised form of combined landing force for any future amphibian operations.
I think we should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, for introducing this Motion. I will refer, if I may, to one more example of what perhaps the future may bring forth. My noble friend referred to the convoy system as the defence against submarines, and he made the very true remark that while the convoy of merchant ships was a useful defence against submarines, it presented a very great and easy target to aircraft. That is going to be particularly true in the future in the Western Mediterranean. We are all talking this afternoon in your Lordships' House of war, and we may as well continue to talk of war as a possibility. Although we are friendly at the present moment, thanks be to Heaven, with every great nation, and hope to continue so, we have to face eventualities. That is why the taxpayers of this country 184 have to find £113,000,000 a year to pay for preparations for war. We have to be realists in this matter. The Western Mediterranean trade route is dominated by the aerodromes in French and Italian territory all along that trade route, and with our present forces in the Mediterranean, in the unfortunate and tragic event of some combination of Powers with France or Italy hostile to us we could not possibly use that Western Mediterranean route as things are at present. We would have to route our oil tankers and so on round the Cape of Good Hope. We could hold the Levant, and we could make a very good front in the Eastern Mediterranean, thanks to our position in Haifa, Alexandria and Cyprus, and our hold on the Suez Canal, but the Western Mediterranean as a sea route will become unusable in the unfortunate and tragic event of either a hostile France or a hostile Italy.
These are very grave matters, and I think therefore that the case for a much closer co-ordination, through a General Staff and if possible a combined Ministry of Defence, is really overwhelming. It is always opposed by the heads of the Air Force, the heads of the War Office, and the heads of the Admiralty, both the political heads and the professional chiefs—at least in public they oppose it. A great vested interest opposes this reform, but nearly all the younger officers in all the Services to whom I talk are in favour of it. I had the pleasure of lunching to-day with a most distinguished French submarine officer, and I told him that we were to have a debate this afternoon in your Lordships' House, and the subject of it. He jumped with joy, and he said: "That is what we all want in France—a combined Ministry of Defence; but the heads of our separate Departments will not agree to it."
I make no apology for supporting the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, on this Motion, and I know that I speak for my friends, one of whom has already addressed your Lordships. My noble friend Lord Marley spoke of the possibility of democracies having to defend themselves against dictatorships. It is possible that the Socialistic States of the future may to begin with have to defend themselves against non-Socialist democracies. The world is certainly in a very terrible state, and we are faced with very grave possibilities, and if we can save the 185 taxpayer's money and at the same time improve the combined efficiency of the Services, surely there is no justification for our listening to the specious pleas of the old gentlemen on either side of Whitehall. I repeat that we are all talking of war this afternoon and we have therefore to face the lessons of it. I am delighted to say that all my political friends to whom I have spoken on this matter are strongly in favour of the noble Lord's Motion.
§ EARL PEEL
My Lords, may I be allowed, at the commencement of the few words which I shall address to your Lordships, to congratulate the noble Lord opposite on the first speech which we have had the good fortune to hear from him; and perhaps I may be allowed to congratulate his Party on the very substantial accession of strength which they will obtain from the noble Lord's entry into your Lordships' House.
In the few words which I want to address to your Lordships I am not going to discuss any of the failures of cooperation between the Services during the War. I could myself give many instances of my own personal knowledge, but I think that that is really and strictly irrelevant to the subject which we are discussing this afternoon. Indeed, when heard so many useful strategical and tactical suggestions made by some noble Lords who are laymen, I really wondered whether we wanted a combined General Staff of technical advisers at all, because there was so much excellent advice that we could obtain from your Lordships without setting up this rather expensive new Department. The only support that I can give to my noble friend Lord Hutchison is, I am afraid, of a rather dubious kind, and I am not quite sure whether he will accept me as a supporter at all, though I am in very large agreement with many of the observations which he made during the course of his speech. I suppose we are all in favour of cooperation between the Services, and more especially since the Air Force came into being—since that new young God of War shot up and rather displaced the two older Services.
But may I thank him for the marvellous generosity that he showed when he said, in a very striking arid eloquent passage: "Let us combine the Air Force and the Army, and I do not mind whether the 186 Air Force absorbs the Army or the Army the Air Force"? It so happens that ten or eleven years ago I was a member of a Committee of three of which Lord Balfour was Chairman, which had the duty of deciding whether or not there should be a separate Air Force. I can assure my noble friend that military opinion has changed a great deal since those days if what he says represents military opinion. A very large number of eminent generals came before us on that occasion, and I assure your Lordships that it was not at all their view that the Air Force should absorb the Army. Their view rather was that the Air Force should be a rather humble dependant on the Army. I note that military opinion has altered very much since those days, therefore.
§ EARL PEEL
I will argue that with my noble friend later, but the point upon which I wish to dwell is that the only question as regards co-operation is where that co-operation should be—at what point and in what respect. It is upon that point that I want to address a very short observation to your Lordships. There are two details which I should first of all like to mention. One is the question whether there should be one buying department for the three Services. I have often heard this subject discussed by the experts. I understand that the real difficulty is that the technical equipment for the various Services is so different, and that it requires such special knowledge that really you would be only having three separate departments of one department to deal with these different forces. As regards the enormously important question of the organisation of industry for war and of passing, as it were, from a peace industry to a war industry, I do not know how far that has gone now, but know that when I was at the War Office twelve or thirteen years ago, just after the War, that subject was being very carefully and fully discussed. I imagine that by this time plans for it have been very largely developed. Then I come really to the actual suggestion made by my noble friend. If I may say so, I did not: exactly understand what it was. It seemed to vary at different times. There 187 was first of all a sort of triple-headed Cerberus who was going to be called a Minister of Defence.
§ EARL PEEL
First of all a Minister of Defence, and then my noble friend, I thought, shifted a little from that to a Ministry of Defence, and seemed to suggest that it would be better, or just as well, to have a board to control the Minister, or suggested that he did not mind if there was a board. Of course we have had many examples in our history during the last hundred years of boards controlling Ministers. They have been of most extraordinary compositions and very variously composed, but they have always resulted in the other members of the board not appearing, or doing nothing, and the Minister being the sole controller. Let me take the position of this Minister of Defence. This is a very practical question. I am not quite sure in what relation he is going to stand to the three Services that he controls. To begin with, are you to leave the three Services with, shall I say, Under-Secretaries as their heads? In that case, I suppose, all the differences and disputes between the Services would first of all be dealt with by these Under-Secretaries together under the Minister of Defence. Everything, therefore, would be settled by the time the Minister of Defence came to the Committee of Defence. I did not quite understand from my noble friend what was to be the exact relationship between his new Ministry of Defence and the Committee of Defence, because if all these matters have been solved before you get to the Committee of Defence I do not quite see what would be the object of having a Ministry of Defence. Nor, if they were summoned to the Committee of Defence, could they give any other advice or express any other opinion than had been already expressed by their chief. They would either be bound to say the same thing or to differ from him, and the latter would be most unfortunate from the point of view of subordination.
Another consideration is this. They could remain as three separate Ministers, in which case you would have the controlling Minister and the other three Ministers in the Cabinet, and I do not really know who would answer in the 188 Cabinet for the different Ministries, whether it would be the heads of the Ministries themselves or whether it would be the super-Minister who had the general control. Again, I am quite unable to see what exactly would be the function of this Minister as regards the Estimates. Would he have a lump sum which he had to divide between the different Ministries, and in order to do that would he have to examine most carefully the Estimates of the different Ministries themselves? If he did that he would have to have a very substantial number of advisers, and you would have to create a sort of additional Ministry, and its relations with the three other existing Ministries would have to be very carefully defined. I feel very doubtful whether in that way, with a sort of super-Ministry controlling the three under-Ministries, you would have any better co-ordination, or in fact so good a co-ordination as you get at present. You would certainly shatter the existing organisation of the Committee of Defence, with all its Committees. That Committee has itself all the flexibility, which was desired by my noble friend, of other Ministries, such for instance as the Foreign Office and the Board of Trade and so on. In the Committee of Defence you get the combined advantage of the knowledge of all these different Ministers sitting together, and also of hearing the opinions of the Chiefs of the Staffs. I think that a great deal would have to be said before you displace that existing machinery, and before you establish a case for setting up the new body which my noble friend wishes to set up.
As regards the more technical questions, they are dealt with already, and have been for years, by the heads of the great Services, and they are not without their advisers also. You therefore have now, what I think my noble friend asks for, growing up—namely, combined strategical and tactical information and knowledge and judgment derived from the constant consultation of the heads of the Staffs with their advisers. You have, therefore, at the disposal of the Committee of Defence and of the Government the best advice you can get at present. I am all for altering the machinery if you think it does not provide you with that you require, but I cannot see why this additional Ministry of Defence could provide you with any better co-ordination or co-operation than you have under 189 the present system. If there should be defects in the present system, I am bound to say with great respect that is not so much due to the machinery and organisation itself as to the men who are running it; and if you have the best men and they come together I think that is the best and the most practical system you could have.
As regards the further point of imperial co-operation in defence, no arrangement could be more easy. The Prime Minister has only to call in any Ministers from the Dominions who happened to be here, and you can get their advice in the most easy and most practical manner. If you want a subject more fully discussed you have only to appoint a Committee of the Defence Committee to examine it. Though I am entirely in sympathy with the object which my noble friend wishes to attain, I am very doubtful, if you weigh the advantages of the two systems, whether you will find it necessary to introduce, at considerable expense of course, a new Ministry of Defence, which is going to perform miracles of co-ordination, while most of those matters of co-ordination are perfectly well discharged at present by the existing machinery.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will agree that we have listened to a most interesting and most useful debate, and our thanks are due to the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, for having brought this matter to your Lordships' attention. We have had the advantage of hearing most valuable speeches. The noble Lord in introducing the subject showed, if I may say so, a very wide knowledge of certain matters but a very limited knowledge of others. He referred to a great many matters which I do not feel called upon to discuss with your Lordships to-night. I think I am right in saying that he made no mention of the existence either of the Cabinet or the Prime Minister. I should have thought the fact that there was a Prime Minister in existence and a body of advisers called the Cabinet would suggest that executive body which the noble Lord seems to think is so lacking in the present system. If he will allow me to make one further criticism of his speech, he seemed to suggest that since the War we have stood completely still, and that we have not profited by the lessons learned by those individuals 190 who had the same experience as the noble Lord—and he had a very wide experience in the War—and whose services have been made use of by the different Governments of the day. The noble Lord seemed to think we were going to proceed on the same lines as before the War, without having made any improvements in our methods or any consistent step forward in the right direction. I do not think that is really what the noble Lord means.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I think the noble Lord knows of the coordination which is in existence at the present moment. I shall hope to show before I sit down that the system which is now in existence, though like all systems it cannot be called a perfect system, nevertheless is one which we believe does meet the needs and necessities of the moment better than any other system that could perhaps be suggested at this time.
The noble Lord, Lord Marley, also raised many matters which I am not able to discuss to-night. He touched upon smaller points rather than larger ones, such, for instance, as the co-ordination of the Medical Services and of the Chaplains to the Forces, and matters of that kind. I agree with the noble Lord that those are very important matters indeed, but I should have thought that from the Ministerial experience which he has had he would know how these matters are dealt with arid that it is the continual study of those in authority to see how these matters can be co-ordinated. I think he is aware that the Weir-Mond Committee in connection with Medical Services said that an amalgamation was not advisable and that it was doubtful if any substantial economies could be effected. I think the noble Lord knows also very well that at home we have only three hospitals, two of which are at Halton and Cranwell, which, as he is aware, are large stations remote from the naval and military hospitals and stations where hundreds of young officers and apprentices are quartered. If he will look into the matter closely he will find that in these matters co-ordination and amalgamation are the object and aim of those who are in authority. As regards chaplains, there is no Air Force chaplain 191 where there is an Army chaplain in existence. I think the noble Lord is perhaps not aware that there is a Joint Chaplains Co-ordinating Committee for the three Services. I agree that these matters are of great importance, but they are being continually looked into and where amalgamation and co-ordination can be effected that is one of the chief objects of those who deal with these matters.
The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, raised a very important question of the wider consideration of warfare in the future. He is well aware of the machinery which exists at the present moment, but I am quite willing to say that his suggestion that officers might be seconded for this purpose is a matter certainly for very serious consideration. These duties are performed, as I shall show later on, by the Committee of Imperial Defence and by the Chiefs of Staff Committee, but the question as to whether there should he a Staff of continually seconded officers is certainly a matter for consideration, and I shall represent it to those quarters in which these matters are considered.
The noble Lord who raised this question desired naturally to satisfy himself as to whether an efficient co-ordination exists between the three Defence Services, or whether the system at present in existence can be improved by the establishment of a Ministry of Defence presided over by a Cabinet Minister with three junior Ministers controlling the three Services. I think that is really the noble Lord's case—that the three Services should be amalgamated together, that a Minister should preside over those three Services and that the Departments themselves should be controlled by junior Ministers who might correspond to Under-Secretaries of State. I am prepared to admit to the noble Lord that I have held views not dissimilar to those which he has put forward himself, and I have perhaps even gone further than the noble Lord and have believed that various Ministries of what I may call a homogeneous character could be concentrated under the authority and control of a single Minister. But after the close examination and after the considerable study which I have given to this subject, I feel that practice has shown us that instead of contracting offices under one chief the opposite tendency has 192 compelled us to take a quite opposite course and, as my noble friend who sits on the Cross Benches has shown us, we have seen an increase in the number of Cabinet Ministers.
We often hear that this is quite unnecessary and we sometimes hear that it is due to a venal desire to increase posts and emoluments and to increase civil servants, and altogether to put additional burdens on the already overburdened back of the taxpayer. But I do feel that a very brief comparison of modern business, not only with the business before the War but with the business of the last century, shows an increase so remarkable that I am probably correct in saying that the number of Ministries and the number of officials are, in proportion to the business which has to be transacted, fewer than formerly. As I have said, the noble Lord has really confined himself to the most efficient method of co-ordination of the three Services. That is a matter which interests us all and on which we should be wrong if we were not prepared to listen to all the advice given us, no matter from what quarter that advice comes. The noble Lord was supported by the noble Lord who sits opposite, Lord Strabolgi, and I should like to join with my noble friend Earl Peel in congratulating him on his speech and to say that we are very gratified to hear the words which fell from him. Although perhaps I shall not find myself in agreement with everything he says, still, with the noble Lord's experience in another place and his experience in the Navy, we know that we shall hear from him most capable and valuable contributions to our debates.
As regards the history of the development of the organisation at which we have arrived at this moment, I do not know if your Lordships are aware that at one time the conduct of war was in the hands of the Department of War and Colonies and this system remained in being until the Crimean War, when owing to the terrible inefficiency of the Army—only counterbalanced, as Kinglake tells us, by the fighting qualities of the soldiers—it became necessary to look very closely into these matters. At the time of the South African War the War Office was still not a satisfactory machine, and as a result of criticism the Esher Committee was appointed and the whole war administrative machine was thereby over 193 hauled. The War Office organisation was approximated to that of the Admiralty and to-day the systems of those two Departments and of the Air Ministry are in outline very similar.
The Esher Committee, however, did not limit itself to the overhaul of the War Office. In its first Report the Committee pointed out that:The British Empire is pre-eminently a great Naval, Indian and Colonial Power. There are, nevertheless, no means for coordinating defence problems, for dealing with them as a whole, for defining the proper functions of the various elements, and for ensuring that, on the one hand, peace preparations are carried out upon a consistent plan, and, on the other hand, that, in times of emergency, a definite war policy based upon solid data can be formulated.Following the Committee's recommendations, and—as I know I am correctly informed—owing to the able representations by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, and the noble Earl, Lord Midleton, the Committee of Imperial Defence was set up not only to meet these particular needs, but also generally for the purpose of co-ordinating the whole of our defence preparations. That work of co-ordination was immensely developed during the years preceding the War. At the present time it is not an exaggeration to claim that the objects for which the Committee of Imperial Defence was established are completely fulfilled.
In the early part of the War the machinery of the Committee of Imperial Defence was utilised for the various bodies that directed the War effort as a whole, which were known successively as the War Council, the Dardanelles Committee and the War Committee. After the change of Government in December, 1916, the War Cabinet was formed, which absorbed the powers of the Cabinet and employed the machinery of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and the same system was later extended to the Imperial War Cabinet which coordinated the War effort of the Empire. After the War we reverted to the pre-War system of the Committee of Imperial Defence, strengthened in the light of war experience by the recommendations of a Committee presided over by the Marquess of Salisbury in 1923. Since that time there has been an immense increase in co-ordination, to which I shall refer later, but at this moment it might be interesting if I were to quote the answer given by Mr. 194 Baldwin on February 25, 1926, to the present Prime Minister:We are convinced that the way to secure the higher co-ordination in our defence machinery, indispensable to full efficiency and, indeed, to economy, lies in combined action between all three through the machinery of the Committee of imperial Defence and the agency of the recently instituted Committee of Chiefs of Staff.From 1918 to 1921 an experiment took place which has some bearing on a Ministry of Defence. During those years there was a single Secretary of State for War and Air with a Deputy Minister in the Air Ministry. The unsatisfactory nature of this arrangement was developed in the House of Commons on November 12, 1919, in the personal statement made by General Seely, who now sits in this House and who I am sorry not to see in his place to-day. Lord Mottistone has described the arrangement as "inefficient and wasteful" and "inimical to the interests of the Air Service." If that was true of one Ministry and in a case where the Secretary of State was a statesman of exceptional experience and of great industry, and when his Deputy was one of his most intimate friends, it would be infinitely more true of the Ministers who would come together in the ordinary course of affairs when there were three Deputies working under one Minister of Defence. That was the time after the War when the Air Force sank to its lowest point. The large and efficient Air Force with which we came out of the War was ruthlessly cut down; there was hardly any Air Force, and, within a year or two after a separate Secretary of State for Air had been appointed, we were compelled by actual national danger, revealed as the result of an Inquiry at the Committee of Imperial Defence, to start to recreate our Air Force. The plan of control by a single Secretary of State of two Departments, with a Deputy in one, was recognised as a failure and was dropped in 1921.
This is not an encouraging precedent to the proposals contained in the Motion before the House, and if I might make one reference to the remark made by Lord Strabolgi I would here mention to your Lordships that France has tried a system of a Ministry of Defence. On the formation of the Tardieu Government in February, 1932, the Ministers of the three Fighting Services were replaced by a 195 Minister of National Defence, assisted by Under-Secretaries. The experiment, however, was, I gather, not a success, and with the change of Government in June, 1932, there was a return to the former system of a Minister for each of the three Fighting Services. Co-ordination is secured by machinery not unlike our own Committee of Imperial Defence. However, let us assume that it has been decided to set up a Ministry of Defence with a single Minister at its head and perhaps we may be able to consider what his duties would be in time of peace.
First of all he would have to attend the Cabinet, to speak on all Service questions with full knowledge, and, in addition, to watch all questions which re-act upon the Defence Services—matters of foreign, Indian and Colonial policy, and so forth. The Minister can only do that if he is very well up in all aspects of Service questions; otherwise, he would sometimes riot be sufficiently informed to realise that one or other of his Services is affected. He will have to be a member not only of every Cabinet Committee on all or any of the Defence Services or their branches, but also of many of those dealing with matters of Disarmament, Foreign, Middle East or Colonial policy, and many other matters in which the Services are concerned, whether in the first or the second degree. He will have to represent the Services at the meetings of the Committee of Imperial Defence and to be a member of its Sub-committees, taking part quite frequently in long and detailed inquiries, in which he will have to speak for all three Services. If he is a member of the House of Commons he will have to speak on all the aspects of the Services arid to answer a great many questions. I hardly think the individual exists at the present moment in such a physical condition that he would be able to undertake all those duties, or, what is much more important, be able to discharge them with the efficiency and knowledge which the country has a right to expect.
One of the most important duties of a Service Minister is to visit and inspect the different establishments for which he is responsible. There is no other way by which he can make those personal contacts with officers and men of the Services, and with the numerous forces and establishments, industrial and otherwise, under his control. These visits are essential 196 if he is to be familiar with his subject and to be in a position to adminster his Department with knowledge, efficiency and economy. I myself have only just completed a very extensive tour of inspection throughout the Air Force commands and stations in Egypt, in the Soudan, Trans-Jordan, Iraq and India. My predecessors did the same. The First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War are constantly making similar inspections. Even to-day, with three Ministers at the head of the Defence Services, their pre-occupations with the Cabinet and Parliament sometimes make it difficult for them to visit and inspect as much as they would like. For a Minister of Defence who would be in control of three Services such visits would be almost impossible. I must confess that even now I have been unable to inspect every unit and establishment in this country, and the reason is that the so-called holidays and week-ends for Service reasons are quite unsuitable for this work, and the remainder of the week—as your Lordships know, though I am not sure that the noble Lord who raised this question is aware of this—is so occupied with Parliamentary, Departmental and Cabinet duties that I have had to keep on postponing this obvious duty.
These inspections are of the greatest importance in connection with the making of high appointments in the Services. Many of the appointments of the Defence Services require very special qualities, for on the holders are thrown quasi-diplomatic tasks of a delicate character in many parts of the world. As these appointments become due, it is vital that the Minister should have first hand knowledge of the individual and not have to rely entirely on second-hand information. If it is important in peace, it is even more important in war. How is a Minister of Defence ever to have knowledge of the personnel of three Services, since he will never have time for proper inspections? At times the Minister at the head of the Defence Departments may have to attend International Conferences abroad. On one occasion Lord Lee was absent for several months at the Washington Naval Conference. The Disarmament Conference at Geneva has made a heavy, and I must say at times an embarrassing, demand on the time of the Service Ministers. How is a Minister of Defence to 197 look after the affairs of three Services, when his whole preoccupations may have to be given for months together to a Disarmament Conference, or some other Conference at which his presence is essential?
One suggestion that has been made for surmounting the difficulty is that the Defence Minister should have Deputies. That is a most unsatisfactory arrangement. The Deputy Minister's position must inevitably be anomalous. He cannot settle any considerable question or fill any important appointment. He is merely what I might call an extra piece of machinery, interposed between the Staff or the permanent advisers and the Minister. The principal officers of the three Service Departments cannot be expected to accept decisions on questions of policy from a subordinate and deputy Minister. They will rightly insist on having a decision direct from the head of the Department and on maintaining personal contact with him. Yet a Defence Minister will not be fitted to take those decisions unless he is carrying on what I might call the day-to-day routine work of a Cabinet Minister at the head of a Department. No one can deal effectively with these questions unless he is familiar with all the essential details. Neither economy nor efficiency will be promoted by over-centralisation, and the whole tendency of modern administration is quite in the other direction. There is a definite limit to wise rationalisation and that limit would, in my judgment, be passed by any attempt to set up what is called a single Ministry of Defence. As I have already said, the tendency of modern administration has been the other way. In comparatively recent years, besides the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Pensions, there have been established the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Transport, the Dominions Office and sub-departments under the control of Under-Secretaries, such as the Overseas Trade Department and the Mines Department. These developments have taken place to meet an absolute necessity.
Those are the duties which would devolve on the Minister of Defence in time of peace. Now let us try and imagine the task of a Minister of Defence in a major war!The Cabinet, or War Cabinet, or War Committee, would be meeting every day and sometimes twice or thrice a day. They would set up 198 many Committees on which the Minister would have to sit. He would be expected to give these bodies at every meeting an appreciation of all the latest developments of warfare, of movements of the forces, training and so forth in three elements. Apart from naval, military and air questions on which he would be expected to lead the Cabinet or War Committee, he would have to bring his mind to bear on the naval, military and air aspects of innumerable questions of Government policy and administration. He would have a huge administrative task to perform; he would have great numbers of high appointments to make. The expansion of the three forces would raise innumerable problems of the greatest complexity, necessitating his personal attention. There would be much legislation for him to see through Parliament. At all hours of the day and night—as anyone who reads the published memoirs of statesmen during the War can see—most difficult and complex problems would present themselves, often simultaneously. Sometimes, as constantly occurred in the Great War, he would have to hurry away to some International Conference or discussion. To anyone who has examined into the work of the supreme control in the Great War, the idea that one man could control it all is fantastic.
It is absolutely certain that in any major war the effective control of the three Services would, at a very early stage, pass beyond the capacity of any single Minister, however competent and industrious he might be. During the Great War we found ourselves compelled to carve out of the then two Service Departments a Ministry of National Service, a Ministry of Munitions, and a Ministry of Air, while several of the other new Departments derived part of their functions from the Service parts, such as the Ministries of Shipping, Blockade and Information. It is certain that in a war of this magnitude we should have to re-establish some at any rate of these Departments. To have to expand in addition from a single Defence Ministry into the three great Service Departments would cause the utmost chaos and confusion. Even that would be less serious than an attempt to try and control them by a single Minister.
199 There is a form of Ministry of Defence which has been alluded to to-day, and that is a Ministry superimposed on the existing organisations. That has been dealt with by my noble friend Lord Lloyd, who has shown the great difficulties which would have to be faced by having three Cabinet Ministers arid a Minister of Defence all sitting in the Cabinet. I hardly think I need enumerate all the difficulties which would naturally arise in such circumstances, or discuss the fact that the Minister of Defence would find himself in a most difficult position, more in the position of the fifth wheel to the coach than anything else. In fact, such a position as that of Minister of Defence can only be occupied by the Prime Minister. Some idea of how the proposal for a superimposed Minister of Defence would work can be gained from the experience in the Committee of Imperial Defence after the War. Before the outbreak of War the Prime Minister had invariably presided over the Committee of Imperial Defence, and during the War he presided at. the various War Councils, War Cabinets and so forth. After the War, when successive Prime Ministers were immersed in International Conferences and other overwhelming public business, several experiments were made in delegating part of the work to a Chairman. I am assured by those who are competent to speak that under this system there was often a certain loss of authority, and attendances of members were less regular.
Since 1925, the Prime Minister of the day has regularly attended the Committee of Imperial Defence and the authority of the Committee has automatically been reestablished and its prestige fully restored. The fact is—and I think your Lordships will agree with me—that no one except the Prime Minister carries enough weight to give the last word when difficult questions have to be decided. The work, owing to the efficient organisation I am entitled to say exists, is not unduly burdensome because detailed work is delegated to Sub-committees and the meetings of the actual Committee of Imperial Defence are not frequent. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister of the day always manages to keep an eye on the progress of the work of the whole organisation. This is perhaps facilitated by an arrangement under which the Secretary to the Committee of Imperial 200 Defence is also Secretary to the Cabinet, which enables him to keep the Prime Minister informed as to the state of the work of both bodies. Here I am sure your Lordships will join me in paying tribute to the able and devoted work of Sir Maurice Hankey, who has for so many years held these two important offices with such advantage to his country and with such distinction to himself. Another point worthy of mention is that if war should occur the conduct of the war inevitably becomes the main policy of the Government. No one can expound the main policy of the Government in Parliament with the same authority as the Prime Minister, and as far as I know, there has never been a substitute for the Prime Minister in this connection in any democratically-governed country. The Prime Minister will obviously be better equipped for such an emergency if he is at the head of the body which formulates for consideration by the Cabinet the general policy of the country on Imperial Defence, and that body is the Committee of Imperial Defence.
There have been several previous inquiries since the War into the question of a Ministry of Imperial Defence. I know that your Lordships to-day are asking that a further inquiry should be held, but I do feel that such an inquiry at this moment is quite unnecessary. There was the Committee which was presided over by Lord Weir and which in February, 1922, reported in these terms:We are of opinion that in existing circumstances the complete or partial amalgamation of the common services of the three Fighting Departments is not advisable, and we do not believe that any substantial economies would thereby be effected.There was another Committee presided over by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, which reported in practically the same way. As recently as 1931 the May Committee on National Expenditure reported that:Our conclusion after careful review of all the evidence is that no substantial reduction of cost would follow from the creation of a Ministry of National Defence, and that on the contrary there would be a serious risk that the efficiency of the Services might be impaired by the alteration of system involved.It may be added that for many years the heads of all the Fighting Services and of the Civil Service have been opposed to the idea.
201 Rather than make radical changes in our present system, with all the dangers of inefficiency and waste which that might entail, it is surely better to build on a system which proved very useful before the War; which was easily adaptable to the circumstances of war; and which has made vast strides since the War to meet the difficulties of co-ordination occasioned by the advent of a third Service. That system is now very complete indeed, and perhaps I may in a few words indicate the system as it stands at the present moment. I was sorry to note in the remarks of the noble Lord and also in those of the noble Lord, Lord Marley, that they are both under the impression that there is an unseemly scramble between the three Defence Ministries for some sum of money which is dangled in front of them by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I can assure the noble Lord that nothing of the kind occurs. Our Estimates are carefully scrutinised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They come before the Cabinet and are considered, and we are apportioned that sum of money for which we ask—and which is denied us sometimes!I have seldom been present when a higher Estimate has been forced on a Minister—that is quite true—but these Estimates are very carefully considered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and also by the Cabinet.
The Committee of Imperial Defence, as has often been announced, is a consultative and advisory body, and the members of that Committee are, in practice, the Prime Minister, the Lord President of the Council the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretaries of State for Foreign Affairs, India, Dominion Affairs, Colonies, War, Air and the First Lord of the Admiralty, as well as the Chiefs of Staff of the three Services and the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury. All these are ordinarily summoned. Other Ministers and other persons, including representatives of the Dominions, frequently attend. In recent years attendance by Dominion representatives, when available, has been more and more frequent. The functions of the Committee are those which I have already mentioned in the recommendations put forward as long ago as the Esher Committee. It may interest your Lordships to know that during 1933 no fewer than 405 persons were associated in the work 202 of the Committee. These included twenty-one Cabinet and other Ministers; 135 Service officers of different ranks; 211 civil servants; thirty-eight persons outside the Government Service, besides several Dominion representatives, and Governors of Colonies.
The aim of the Sub-committee system is to place the Defence Services and the Defence functions of Civilian Departments in contact and to cover every phase where co-ordination is necessary by concerted arrangements, but without interference with the administrative responsibility of the several Departments. Some idea of the principle of the Subcommittee system may be gained by considering the organisation of any of the Defence Service Departments. Each of them has under the political head of the Department, a Board or Council. The Committee of Imperial Defence, with the Prime Minister at its head, corresponds to this. Each Service Department has a First Member of the Board or Council whose sphere of activity is defence policy, strategy, tactics, training. But I will not weary your Lordships with all these minor details, because I am quite sure that they are in your Lordships' minds, although from some of the speeches which I have heard this evening I do feel that there is an ignorance, if I may use that, expression, of this mechanism which is working, I might almost say, day and night, and carrying out those objects which the noble Lord has put forward.
There are three great pivotal bodies (as I may call them) of the organisation of the Committee of Imperial Defence. There is the Chiefs of Staff Sub-committee; there is the Man-Power Committee, which deals with those matters to which the noble Lord drew the attention of your Lordships; and there is another Committee which emphasises the coordinating principles of the Committee of Imperial Defence, known as the Principal Supply Officers Committee. Of course there are as well a number of subordinate Committees planning and co-ordinating in a great variety of details. It should be noted, however, that it has been found necessary to associate in the work of these Committees not only the Defence Services but Civilian Departments as well. The Prime Minister himself is the President of the Chiefs of Staff Sub-committee, which, I think, disposes 203 of the doubt which was in the minds of some of your Lordships as to whether the Chiefs of Staff would have access to the Prime Minister. He is the President of that Sub-committee, which is the most important body dealing with co-ordination of Service policy, although it is not necessary for him to attend its meetings except on special occasions. Nevertheless he is in touch with its work.
The Man-Power Committee and the Principal Supply Officers Committee are presided over by Cabinet Ministers, and include representatives of a large number of Government Departments concerned in their work. The object of these two Committees is to plan our arrangements in order to avoid the costly mistakes of the last War. But besides the three great pivotal Sub-committees already mentioned there are numbers of other Committees, each with its own complete organisation, some including several Cabinet Ministers, and others only officials. They deal, among other subjects, with home defence, overseas defences, Middle East questions, Imperial communications, air raids precautions, all kinds of censorship in war time, the co-ordination of the whole for the possibility of a war emergency, and a variety of other matters relating to Imperial defence. Connected with the Committee of Imperial Defence and under the immediate supervision of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, except so far as administration is concerned, is the Imperial Defence College. Here senior officers of the three Services, as well as officers from the Dominions and India, and selected civil servants both from this country and the Dominions, are trained for co-operation in higher Staff work. It is interesting to mention that many of the graduates at the Imperial Defence College now occupy posts in which they come into almost daily contact with the other Defence Services at the Committee of Imperial Defence, with great practical benefit in co-operation.
The idea so sedulously fostered in some quarters that the Defence Services are in a continual state of warfare, and struggling together for limited sums of money available for defence, has no foundation in fact. Every year the situation as a whole is surveyed in its defence policy aspects by the Chiefs of Staff Sub-committee (with the aid of material furnished by the Foreign Office and other 204 Departments), while the administration side is surveyed by the Co-ordination Committee, which includes the permanent heads of all Government Departments concerned. Those surveys bring to the notice of the Committee of Imperial Defence any new factors in the situation that require examination. These reports are considered by the Committee of Imperial Defence, who submit them, with their observations, to the Cabinet. The Estimates are then worked out on the basis of the policy finally approved by the Cabinet. The Estimates are co-ordinated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury, in the light of the financial situation and of the approved policy, before they are submitted to Parliament.
§ LORD MARLEY
Will the noble Marquess say how often the Committee of Imperial Defence meets, and how many meetings there are of the Chiefs of Staff Sub-committee?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I have not those figures with me, but the whole organisation of the Committee of Imperial Defence, the Chiefs of Staff Sub-committee and the other Subcommittees which I have mentioned—this complete network is, I might almost say, in continual session. The Committee of Imperial Defence meets probably once or twice a month, or perhaps not as often as that. The Prime Minister presides at all those meetings; and the Chiefs of Staff are in continual communication with each other. I have not the numbers of their meetings, but that is a figure which I will give the noble Lord.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
The Prime Minister does not often attend the meetings of the Sub-committee of Chiefs of Staff, but he is the President of that Committee, and is in continual and close contact with the reports which are made by that Committee. In my judgment, and I hope in the judgment of your Lordships, this system maintains the authority of the Cabinet and Parliament, and also the responsibility of Ministers and their Departments, while at the same time it ensures that, both in policy and in detail, their plans and preparations for 205 all matters connected with the defence of the country, and the future plans which will have to be adopted in case the situation changes, are concerted. I think I am entitled to say that it is a progressive system, that it ensures that the whole situation is continuously under review, and that all new factors are immediately taken into consideration. It associates Civilian Departments of Government and outside experts with the work of defensive preparation over a very wide field—and the Great War showed how vital are the ancillary services that they have to perform. In addition, this great advisory body is at the disposal of, and made considerable use of by, the Dominions and India, when they so desire. The system provides for the education of a Staff in these higher functions. Above all, it is at the present time achieving one of the essential bases of any defensive system—namely, the proper co-ordination of the activities of all the Departments concerned.
I must apologise to your Lordships for the length of the speech which I have delivered to you this evening, but in view of the debate which was raised and the questions which were asked I felt that it was of the highest importance that I should make as clear as I could the arrangements under which this co-ordination, which has been Questioned, is being carried out.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
My Lords, I must thank the noble Marquess for his long and very interesting reply. I should be a poor pupil indeed of the Chiefs whom I have served if I for a moment suggested that the Minister of Defence should look after the detailed working of each Service. I never for a moment suggested such a thing. What I did say was that you do want a machine for preparing and executing plans and for advising the Prime Minister on the various items of information which you receive. I think the speech of the noble Marquess to-night is a splendid exposition of that situation. I think he has given every argument why you want to have such an Executive. There are innumerable Committees and an extraordinary amount of information is collected with nobody to co-ordinate it except the individual Services. You do want somebody of that kind to advise 206 the Prime Minister and the Government. However at this late hour I do not want to develop that theme further. I thank the noble Marquess for his reply and I ask the House to allow me to withdraw my demand for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.