HL Deb 15 May 1935 vol 96 cc866-910

LORD MOTTISTONE rose to call attention to the urgent need for closer coordination of the Navy, Army and Air Force both as regards general direction and supply, and to move to resolve, That in the opinion of this House it is desirable that a Minister should be appointed to direct the policy and method of supply of the three Services.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I make no apology for raising this matter, because it is no doubt of importance at the present moment. I believe, and I shall ask your Lordships to agree, that although we are now in the midst of general rejoicings, from the point of view of Imperial defence we have got to a point which constitutes—I do not wish to put it too high but I think it is true to say, a state of emergency. I am going to ask your Lordships to consider whether it would not be right therefore to take certain definite steps; not to say we are going to consider this, and that we are going to do this, that and the other a few months hence, but to say that we are going to act, and act now—to-morrow I should like to say, but at any rate without delay—in order to avoid the immense waste and the real danger which will follow if we proceed to rearmament, to which we are undoubtedly committed, without having some plan by which it shall be directed by a man who gives his whole time to the job, with all our best brains, industrial and scientific, at his disposal.

Last week I ventured to say to your Lordships that I thought it was wrong to regard Germany as the common enemy, and I repeat that now. Nevertheless, if one looks on a map of the world, including all our neighbours, I think any one who knows the facts and cares to consider them will say without doubt that Britain and her Empire are in danger and that a state of emergency exists. I know that many people do not realise that there is a state of emergency, and perhaps my noble friends behind me may be of that opinion. I am reminded, when I hear my noble friend Lord Ponsonby mutter low, of a conversation I had with a man much wiser than anybody here, in a desert between the Mandi and the British forces. With a relation of mine I had carried £1,000 across the desert some 130 miles in order to pay it over to friendly tribes. We and our caravan got through all right and handed over this £1,000 in gold. I said to this extraordinarily wise chieftain: "Well, we have got here, rather luckily, with such a cargo." He replied: "We understand this very well. For hundreds of years it has been the same. Caravans pass and re-pass, but if you find a rich man with a small escort, and they all know he is rich and they all see the escort is small, sooner or later he gets cracked on the head." So it is to-day.

If any one really considers the matter, I think he will see that although the Committee of Imperial Defence, with the help of all Parties in the State, have made many good and wise plans and thought things out, and although we are no doubt a most formidable Power—I challenge any one, especially my noble friends behind me, to deny; this after a cool survey of the facts they will admit it I am sure; they will be compelled to admit it—we are a very rich caravan, the richest far in the world, travelling through a country not entirely friendly, and with an escort which is obviously rather small. I do not think any one will deny that. So we are really in for rearmament. It may be very inconvenient, and the particular method to be adopted is a question, but that we are in for rearmament no one can dispute. With regard to the air, I understand that all Parties are at once agreed, but the whole thing is one problem; the Navy and the Army come into it just the same, and therefore there is no doubt that we are in for rearmament.

I hope and trust that the proposals I make will commend themselves not only to His Majesty's Government, but to members of this House and to members of all Parties. I presume that the older Parties, as they are called, Liberal and Conservative, will agree with much of what I shall say, but I hope that the Labour Party will agree too. We do not want a five-year plan necessarily, or a ten-year plan, or any number of years' plan, but we do want an agreed plan, otherwise we shall fail in our essential duty to ourselves, to the Empire, and, as I think, to the world. I am always puzzled when somebody says on these occasions, "I hate war." I cannot think why any man should say that. Yet we all say it. I have heard my noble friend behind me say it, "I hate war." It is as if a man were to say, "I hate rheumatoid arthritis." Of course we hate war. It so happens that by the accident of my life I have spent nearly six years engaged in active warfare at comparatively close range, often at very close range. Of course war is illumined by acts of devoted self-sacrifice which you rarely find at other times, such as when a man throws himself on a Mills bomb, well knowing he is going to be blown to bits, in order to save the four other men in the traverse. But it is a grim and desperate business and, as in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, we must do all we can to avoid catching the complaint and pray in all humility that we may have the fortitude to bear it if and when it comes.

A little more than a year ago the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison of Montrose, proposed a similar Motion to mine. Naturally, I would agree with the view that you must co-ordinate, but I do not quite take his view as to why co-ordination is necessary. Before the war the difficulties between the War Office and the Admiralty were often so acute that the public service suffered gravely. I remember sitting in the chair where my noble friend the Leader of the House now sits at the War Office, and a brilliant young man coming in and saying: "I have got them, I have got them." I asked, "Whom? The Germans?" And he said: "No, the Admiralty." And so it was. In this dialectical controversy we had knocked them clean out. It was then that it occurred to me to ask the Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith, whether he would agree to the formation of what was called—I invented the name—the "High Level Bridge," which consisted only of the two political chiefs—Mr. Churchill as First Lord and myself as Secretary of State for War—the two Chiefs of Staff, the two permanent Secretaries, and the Secretary to the Committee of Imperial Defence. While we were together we solved problems, increased efficiency, and saved money by common consent to a quite extraordinary degree; but, of course, when Mr. Churchill and I differed there was not one man to knock our heads together and put the matter up to the Cabinet and to the country. On the whole, we worked well, but it might have been much better.

Now there is a third force, the Air Ministry. It is really vital that there should be someone at the head. I have discussed this matter with great industrial leaders, and they all agree that in any business, if your only coordinating authority is the mar at the top—in this case, the Prime Minister—who has so much to do that he can only give scraps of his time to it, your business goes to pieces. I submit, therefore, although, as I shall presently show, I do not want to create a brand new Ministry of Defence with all its staff, like one of our great Departments, that you must have an intelligent Chairman. If you do not have him during the process of rearmament, on which everybody is agreed to some extent and which I am going to plead should be on a much greater extent, you will waste time, money and efficiency, and in the end you will be far less strong than if you had had the sense to do what every business man would do, and the Chairman of the L.C.C. would do on the instant, appoint an intelligent Chairman with a whole-time job.

I have said that the Prime Minister cannot have time. We all know that. This thing is full of paradoxes. It is indeed the truth, as experience has shown us, that it is far easier for a Prime Minister to find the time to co-ordinate the Services and get things done properly in the strenuous time of war than it is in time of peace. In time of war, Mr. Lloyd George started the Ministry of Munitions, to which I Will presently refer. Everybody knew that the War was the only thing which counted, and he could and did give practically his whole time to it. But the present Prime Minister, devoted to public duty as he is, having hardly any rest, not having enough as we all know, cannot conceivably find the time to attend the meetings of the Committee of Imperial Defence as he should do in the public interest. The thing is impossible. I know nothing of the present workings of the Committee of Imperial Defence, not having been for some years a member of any of its Committees. I only know what the man in the street knows—namely, that there is a devoted body of men, the best brains we have got, thinking out plans and having meetings occasionally, over which the Prime Minister presides. But he cannot give his time to the matter. He cannot have thought out its problems beforehand. No superman who was ever imagined could do what the Prime Minister is said to do under our present system—be not only Prime Minister of this country with responsibilities all over the Empire, but also Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence.

I beg my noble friend opposite not to temporise in this matter, which I mean to pursue, but to accept the view, now nut before your Lordships, that on every ground of business intelligence and public safety you have got to appoint, now and at once, before you begin rearming as you have promised to do, one man at the top to manage the business. If such a man were appointed, I believe the whole thing could be done swiftly, economically and wisely; but if that is not done it will be done slowly, wastefully and foolishly. The three Services are all bound up together. Many people have rightly drawn attention to the danger from the air. I quite agree, and pleaded more than a year ago in this House that we should double the Air Force. But we must not forget when we look at the map of the world, as I suggest we might do, that we are in an extraordinary position. Our sea-borne commerce is the means of livelihood for millions of our people. Estimates vary, but without doubt, if it was stopped, millions would be on the verge of starvation. Our sea-borne food provides, and must for years to come provide, the food for three-quarters of the population. The air comes into this problem, so does the sea. It is all one problem.

Then there is the Army. I am not now dealing with the precise numbers of the Army, which subject may be debated by your Lordships next week, but I am told by those who have good reason to judge that if, at the time when our interests in the Near East and those of most European Powers were menaced and we sent a large number of troops commanded by General Duncan, who ultimately was appointed to the command of all—and this action by common consent saved civilisation in that part of the world from a terrible blow which could have been fatal—if at that same moment troubles had arisen on the frontier of India of serious magnitude, we should have been very hard put to it to find the soldiers necessary to defend the vital interests which everyone on all sides of the House must agree we must defend. That being so it becomes apparent that we are confronted with a necessary increase in all three forces. It may be said that that will all be done very simply by the existing organisation—the three great Departments of the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Air Ministry, with the Committee of Imperial Defence. But no, it does not work like that. One recalls the days when the good young man dashed into action and said: "We have got 'em now," meaning the Admiralty. But the Admiralty still survive. With all the best will in the world, the Departments fight against one another, and you want a big man and a great man to pull the thing together during this process of rearmament.

Now I come to the point which I think is really the most important of all. This involves a great expenditure of public money, how much I do not know, but a great deal, many, many, tens of millions of pounds. We are up against that whatever Government may be in power. What is the real danger to this country? As I have found out from the inquiries which I have been pursuing for a very long time, the real danger confronting this country and this Empire is not so much the deficiency of our existing forces, though I admit there are great deficiencies there. It is not that. It is a fact which is a new fact not only to me but I suppose to most of your Lordships. I happen to know that it is a new fact to some of those who thought they knew what was happening in this strange warlike world of ours. It is now discovered that the power of expansion, as we call it, that is the power to produce warlike supplies of all kinds, aeroplanes, guns, submarines, etc., from the existing industrial resources of the country, has been carried to a pitch of perfection by our neighbours, to a degree—it is difficult to avoid using language of hyperbole—which is quite astonishing, and, I might add, almost unbelievable. No particular Power need be named. Our neighbours have made a plan, and are ready to carry it out, by which they can produce warlike material, in the event of the war which we all seek to avert, at a rate not 50 per cent. more but I should estimate about eight times greater than our own. That is a very formidable fact.

When the clash of arms came in 1914 we had made elaborate arrangements for the kind of war we meant to wage. According to Sir Julian Corbett we were the best prepared of all the combatants for the limited scale on which we could make war. I was one of those responsible and I am inclined to think that that is not an over statement. But we had not got plans for using our industrial resources to make the things we needed in time of war. The same thing has happened again, for the disparity between our power and the power of our continental neighbours—and possibly of others; I do not know—is now much greater than it was then. I am indebted to various sources for information which has reached me, which I know will not be disputed by the Government, and amongst others, particularly, to the noble Viscount whom I see in his place, Lord Rothermere, who has been at immense pains to find out certain facts and has sent them to me. I gratefully acknowledge his courtesy in so doing. Far be it from me to intrude a personal matter into a debate of this kind but, of course, if it did so happen that during his speech he was inclined to say that in the figures I quoted I was not always Entirely inaccurate and was occasionally justified, it would make our discussion of this important matter rather easier than if I am still supposed to be a very inaccurate person. I will say no more on that point. I acknowledge his courtesy in sending much information which I happen to know is of value and has been made known to important official circles.

Now the question is, how are we to cope with this? First, I want the man in charge of Imperial defence to give his whole time to it. Then I urge that we must do what we did when we were confronted with this problem in the early stages of the War. For a time we tried to carry on with the arrangements already made—expanding Woolwich, getting in this or that industrial leader and labour leaders to help them—but things did not actually begin to go until that extraordinary man, Mr. Lloyd George, founded the Ministry of Munitions. It was a wonderful thing. I can speak with some knowledge of it because, having seen it first when I was home on three-days leave in its very beginnings—when this extraordinary little man had with him only very few people, all of them, it seemed to me, speaking Welsh—I came back to it after nearly four years en the Western Front to be placed in the position of Vice-Chairman. By that time it had grown to a vast organisation. It had at its disposal all the best industrial brains, and, what is more important, all the best scientific brains in this country. As Vice-Chairman I had to take charge of it when Mr. Churchill was away at the Front, as he had to be sometimes.

One saw there a machine more perfect—I do not wish to exaggerate—than any machine I have ever known. Mr. Lloyd George, with his dynamic energy, infused into the whole body of men there—and he had got all the best there were in the country—an amount of determination, vigour, devotion to duty, alertness, which made it a very wonderful machine. Then along came Mr. Churchill. He has held many public offices and opinions differ as to how good he has been in each one of them, but nobody will doubt that he was a wonderful head there. We soldiers at the Front were grateful to those two men because they did give us the supplies we needed. As Vice-Chairman I used to find the most astonishing demands coming in, and the extraordinary thing was that, with money apparently no object, the priorities as to who should get the steel or the shellac, or whatever it was, were settled in a very short time, I suppose three or four days, and production was going on within a month. In the absence of this remarkable organisation a similar demand under our present system would take six or seven weeks to get to the point then arrived at in three days, and it would take three years to get to the stage of production which was passed then in three weeks.

You cannot in peace time set up a vast organisation like the Ministry of Munitions was then, but you can establish the principle, and you can get the best brains, industrial and scientific—I dwell upon the word "scientific"—and you can do that now. One of the most brilliant brains in this country is of opinion that it is possible—and indeed that it is probable it can be done—to find a system of defence against air attack. Nobody dare call him a fool. He is much too wise. What you want is a man who can say: "Yes, let us get ahead with that." In the last War the perfecting of the paravane, which cost comparatively little, a few hundred thousand pounds, did more to prevent the sinking of ships than millions of pounds spent in other ways. If you have scientific brains at your disposal and can send for them at a moment's notice, as was done by the Ministry of Munitions, you may find surprising results which may save millions of money and thousands of lives.

The man I speak of must be a very big man and his job must be a whole-time job. Having got co-ordination of policy—because there is always a dispute between parties, which he can put right—and having got his Ministry of Munitions secure, he will be able to talk to the people. No one talks better than the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. When he makes a speech it is always a good speech. Nobody will dispute that except himself. But I observe that when he speaks on matters of defence, not in this House but in the country, always helpfully and wisely, be is handicapped by the fact—I expect he knows it himself—that other Services are jealous. I live in the country, and I know these jealousies. When emphasis is laid on the Army there are people—there is one on the opposite Benches now, the noble Viscount, Lord Rothermere—who say: "What is the good of the Army? It is the air that matters." Then we have sailors like the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who say: "What is this? It is on the Navy that our safety depends." No one man at present can speak for all three branches of the Defence Services. There should be a man who can speak to the people and tell the people why he is asking them to pay more taxes, or, under the voluntary system, to serve in the Army or in the Navy or the Air Force.

Under the present system some very absurd things happen. I could take up the time of your Lordships for hones making you laugh at the absurd things that happen because the governmental machine talks first one way and then another, but I will give you only two instances. Both of them have to do with the air, which is now most in the public mind. One side of the governmental machine says that the position in the air is a menace and is very serious, and that therefore you must practise against gas attacks. People are told: "You have got very few gas masks, but you must practise with what you have got. The matter is urgent." All the voluntary aid detachments throughout the land have to set to work to do that. I have in my pocket a letter which reached me only yesterday morning. It concerns a great county with a million people in it. The people responsible, the V.A.D.'s and those who deal with them, have been told to practise against gas attacks, and the governmental machine says: "Yes, quite right, go ahead. This is a real menace, go on." So, swiftly, these people got together, all prepared, but, of course, there were hardly any gas masks. Then the other end of the machine begins to work. A responsible person, a very responsible person, writes to the War Office and asks: "Is there an allotment for this county for gas masks?" The answer comes back that there is. He asks again: "Will you kindly tell me what the allotment is?" The answer—I have it here—is "One." One gas mask amongst a million people! If the idea is that we are all, a million people, to take turns in that gas mask, it seems that there would be rather a rush.

I hasten to say that I am not in the least criticising the fact that these particular gas masks are not available, because—though I do not know the facts I can guess—there are reasonable people dealing with these matters who quite rightly think that they have a better form than the one now existing and that there is plenty of time, humanly speaking, to produce the best thing and produce it in sufficient numbers at the right time. What I am quarrelling with is that one part of the Government is saying: "For Heaven's sake pull yourselves together, be ready, do all you can," while another part of the machine asks: "How many of you are there? A million? You will be all right with one." This spreads what is called in the Army Act "alarm and despondency" amongst those who are trying hard, amongst the officers and men of the voluntary system. How can you expect the voluntary system to work unless you take people into your confidence and always talk the same language?

I will give another instance, also to do with the air. One side of the Governmental machine says that there is a real danger of air attack, and a real possibility of minimising it—not stopping it, minimising it—by adequate air defence. We hand over air defence to the Territorial Force, saying: "Get at it, boys, and do it as hard and as quick as you can." I have been concerned in these matters in my capacity as President of a Territorial Association, and know something about it, as I expect most of your Lordships do, for many members of your Lordships' House have to do with these things. We all tried very hard. People were transferred from the Royal Field Artillery and the anti-aircraft branch, and all sorts of people with technical knowledge were induced to join. In the shortest possible time we did what I do not think could have been done in any other country: we formed the nucleus of a highly efficient defence corps.

There was great delay in providing these wonderful new instruments—a little thing not much bigger than the Box at which I stand, but its cost runs into four figures and it makes matters very awkward for any aeroplane that keeps a straight course; in fact, the developments of anti-aircraft defence have been very remarkable and very hopeful. One voice was saying, "Splendid, go on"; but only the other day, in this same county, one of its units found it possible to get all its men and experts together on one day and asked for the essential thing for practice, an aeroplane to shoot at, whereupon the reply came—I do not think it was even regretted—that they wished to point out that requests for an aeroplane must always be preceded by six months' notice. If a possible enemy would always give us that much notice of his intention, how easy this world would be! But I do submit that these two instances show that there is no co-ordination between the appeal of the Government for the patriotic services of its citizens and the real facts translated into its replies. We know that in the War, when the Ministry of Munitions was functioning, all the petty economies were swept away. There may have been waste in high wages and so on, but on the whole it was well guarded and great sums were saved. The man I envisage would, without doubt, save millions of pounds during the rearmament with which we are confronted, but he would sweep away innumerable tiny, petty economies which every noble Lord in this House connected with the Army knows are hampering the efforts to taker advantage of the patriotic service of our citizens.

Somebody might say that one objection to adopting my suggestion about reviving the essentials—not the exact form—of the Ministry of Munitions, calling upon all the best brains in the industrial and scientific world, is that there is a Royal Commission on Armaments, to which the noble Lord, Lord Marley, referred during a recent debate in this House, and that we ought to wait for its Report. I hope that this will not be said. After all, this is a matter which brooks no delay. Unless we are going to be very wasteful and inefficient, we cannot wait for that Report, because that would mean waiting for some time. Moreover, there is no purpose in doing so, because whatever the Commissioners find, the creation of a body such as I described would make it easier, not more difficult, to adopt whatever recommendations they might make to us.

I do not wish to detain your Lordships longer, but I do feel deeply about this question, to which I have given the study of my whole life. I think that we are in a state of emergency and I am sure that we must rearm. I greatly hope that this will be done by the agreement of all Parties. Before the War two of us in this House did, I believe, a great deal to bring defence out of Party politics. I, as Secretary of State for War, of course did my best, but a predecessor of mine whom I see in his place, Lord Midleton, came forward at the critical moment. Of course all this was not openly known, but we may as well proclaim it now. He went to Mr. Balfour and the Leaders of the Conservative Party and said: "I 'have been told by the Secretary of State and by the First Lord that there is an emergency approaching; will you agree to join up? Will you agree to stop all hostile criticism, except on details where one should rightly criticise?" I think it is right that I should take this public opportunity to say that the country owes a deep debt of gratitude to Lord Midleton for the services which he then rendered.

If, in the necessary things that had to be done when the lamentable War broke out, we were practically a united people, it was due in no small degree to Lord Midleton, ex-Secretary of State for War. May I express the hope that the same thing will happen here, and that my right honourable and noble friends behind me will also join in this common enterprise? For indeed it is a great and. necessary enterprise. As I have said before, the whole thing is full of paradoxes, but if your Lordships, and another place, and the country, were to adopt the view which I venture to put forward and say, "There is a state of emergency, we must take special measures, we must in fact rearm, and rearm on a very considerable scale," then the strange thing is that, as we know—and inquiry will show that there is no dispute about it—not only would all the French people rejoice, but all the German people would rejoice as well. It may sound a paradox, but the fact that our caravan, the great august caravan, has a small escort has undoubtedly tended towards greater danger of war between the nations. I am persuaded, my Lords, that paradoxical as it may seem it is possible, indeed probable, that the world may avoid the infinite disaster of another war by the rearmament of Britain. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That in the opinion of this House it is desirable that a Minister should be appointed to direct the policy and method of supply of the Navy, Army and Air Force.—(Lord Mottistone.)


My Lords, my noble friends have asked me to speak on this Motion, and to give general support to it. The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, will forgive me if I say that in his most interesting speech, which I am sure your Lordships enjoyed as much as I did, he dealt more with the question of rearmament than with the question of greater co-ordination of the existing forces, and I hope he will forgive me if I do not follow him in that line of argument at all, but confine myself more to the Motion which he has on the Paper, to which, as I have said, we wish to give general support, for reasons that I will very briefly state to your Lordships. The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, made not exactly an attack but quoted my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition in saying it was a foolish thing to state in your Lordships' House that he hated war. My noble friend did not say that, and he asked me to say that he would not say anything so silly. What he has said is that war is futile, but the trouble is that there are a great many people in this world who do not hate war. There is a section of the mob who, whenever our honour is supposed to be assailed, go perfectly mad. They do not hate war, it is a pleasurable excitement to them. The real people who hate war are the men who have to stand the brunt of it in the front line.

Now, the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, that we should immediately set up a Ministry of Munitions, would create considerable alarm throughout the world. The word would go out everywhere that Britain had finally given up all hope of anything in the nature of an agreed limitation of armaments. Yet we are supposed to be having a great conference this year on naval armaments, and that is all the more necessary in view of German action. Furthermore, it would be said that we were preparing for war in the near future. I can conceive of nothing more embarrassing to our diplomacy and to our desire to work for peace. With what the noble Lord said about better co-ordination between the Services, I most heartily agree. He referred to a Motion moved by Lord Hutchison in March of last year. I spoke on and supported that Motion, as I had supported similar Motions by Admiral Sueter and others in another place, and the more I study this question the more convinced I am.

The noble Lord spoke of his days as Minister for War, just before the outbreak of the Great War, and before he resigned. I am sure it was not news to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who was then Second Sea Lord at the Admiralty, that there was strenuous conflict going on all the time between the Admiralty and the War Office on matters of policy. We know that it continued throughout all the War and that it still prevails, though not so badly. I believe Lord Jellicoe will not deny what I am saying, nor will Lord Trenchard, with his great experience—that during the War it continued. Take, for example, the Intelligence Services of the Army and Navy, and of the Foreign Office. Those three were in continual conflict, a three-cornered duel like that described in Marryat's Midshipman, Easy.

The noble Lord shakes his head. I wonder has he never heard the views of that most able Director of Naval Intelligence, Admiral Hall, on the matter? It may not have come to his notice, but when I was in Gibraltar, as Assistant Chief of Staff, we had the greatest trouble in persuading our intelligence officers in Spain not to spend time in fighting our own Diplomatic Service and the Military Intelligence officers in -Spain, instead of getting on with their job, the War. That sort of thing will continue, with injury to the State, until we get what Lord Mottistone has pleaded for, some Minister who can co-ordinate the policy of the three Services, and have under him a Combined Permanent General Staff, divided into three sections. I am not speaking of supply at all, but of preparations for war, and operations of war. I suggest that three sections are needed in this Combined General Staff—operations, planning and intelligence. They should be in permanent session, in charge of a whole-time Minister, who will try to work out a doctrine for the three armed forces of the Crown to work in conjunction.

The attitude of the Labour Party is perfectly simple. We say that so long as we have armed forces they must be efficient, and as efficient as they can be made. In connection with that I must make this comment. It is a fact, to-day, that we are spending more on defence, in the three Services, than any other nation in Europe. I have a little doubt about Germany on account of her possible secret expenditure on her Services, but owing to the comparatively small sums spent on her Navy, her total expenditure is probably less than ours. I think it is safe to say that we are spending on the three Services more than any other nation in Europe, and, with the exception of the United States, more than any other nation in the world. Yet we have from noble Lords in this House, and from others of great authority, continual complaints of the weakness of our defences. I see Lord Rothermere in his place, and he has continually com- plained, through the organs for which he is responsible, of the weakness of our air defences. Lord Jellicoe, on all naval occasions, makes a speech deploring the weakness of our Navy, Lord Lloyd agrees, and Lord Howe says the same thing. Those are just the views of noble Lords who are facing me at this moment. Here we are spending a great deal more than any other country, with one exception, and yet we are continually told that we are highly vulnerable.

And now we have had a similar speech from Lord Mottistone. Obviously the explanation is that we are not getting value for our money, and I suggest that the cause is that there is great waste, through misdirection of expenditure. I hesitate to say this in the presence of the noble Lord opposite. For instance, we are still, I think spending far too much on cavalry regiments. That is one misdirection of expenditure—I apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, for making that stricture—and also there is a great deal of overlap-ping, and what a business man would call excessive Overheads. That is part of the policy of the Party for which I speak, and the other reason for supporting the proposal of Lord Mottistone is, that we think it is better to have in the Cabinet one Cabinet Minister speaking for the Defence Services than three. We think one head in this case is better than three. We believe that the three Defence Ministers combine together whenever there is a question of cutting down money on armaments, and they make a most formidable combination in such cases. In addition to that, for strategical purposes, we consider a Combined General Staff a necessity, and an immediate necessity, and we consider that the Sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence, known as the Chiefs of Staff Committee, is insufficient for the purpose.

Now may I draw the attention of your Lordships' House to this remarkable fact? In a survey of the activities of the three Forces it is obvious that each one of them, the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry, is preparing for a different kind of campaign, against, if you like, a different enemy. For example, the Air Force is, we are told being prepared now—apart from our Near Eastern commitments, India, and so on—to defend this country, whether by attempting to beat off attacks or by attacking the enemy, against an air threat from the mainland of Europe. That is the object of the Air Force. The object of the Navy is to fight a limited war—I presume in the Pacific, otherwise why are we spending such vast sums at Singapore? In case we have to fight apparently the Navy is to be used in the Pacific. As for the Army—I speak with great diffidence here, not being a soldier—I gather that its three main duties to-day are the defence of the North-West Frontier of India, police duties on the plains of India, in Egypt, and other parts of the Empire (its old function), and police work at home—support of the civil power. The Expeditionary Force, so far as I have been able to gather, has ceased to exist. The great force for which the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, was responsible, and which, before him, Lord Haldane played such a great part in building up, no longer exists in anything but name. I do not know whether the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, is going to reply for the Government, but if he could speak as Minister of War and tell us what is the Expeditionary Force at the present time, it will, I am sure, be very interesting to every one.

But as regards the Army for European uses, as far as I can understand we are back to pre-South African War days. An excellent police force, but as regards sending it to support an ally or attack an enemy anywhere where it is a question of engaging against a first-class land force, there can be no such thing. I am told furthermore on very high authority—I also have seine access to high authorities, like the noble Lord who preceded me—that the best military opinion of to-day and the best civilian opinion amongst those who have studied military matters are united in believing that we ought to be going ahead far faster in mechanising the Army. I believe my noble friend Lord Marley has made this point in your Lordships' House on several occasions. We are still clinging to old-fashioned methods in the Army and depending too much on the old-fashioned type of infantry marching battalion, and the future queen of the battlefield, the infantry, I am told, will be a kind of mounted infantry using motor transport. If that is the case, surely it is time that there was a complete re-direction of policy, and this, I submit, can only be brought about by the kind of organisation for which the noble Lord and Lord Hutchison have pleaded.

May I put to your Lordships a concrete case of difficulty that is bound to arise as things are to-day? I want your Lordships for a moment to suppose that we have gone to war, as a Member of the League of Nations or in any other way, and we are at war against a first-class European Power. I mention no names, as the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, did. I assume we are at war with a European Power of the first order. We have a certain Air Force, and the demands on that Air Force must be tremendous. There will be demands at once from different quarters for aeroplanes, pilots, and machine-gunners for seven purposes, which I will name. Firstly, the defence of our cities, including the capital, of our aerodromes, harbours, etc., the main question of the defence of our nerve centres, arsenals, and so on. Secondly, there will be a great demand for aircraft for the battle fleet of the Navy. Thirdly, there will be a separate demand from the Navy for aircraft for the defence of convoys and merchant shipping generally, both against air attack, which I suggest will be a very serious menace in the future to merchant shipping, and against submarines or enemy raiders. That is a separate and distinct demand for aircraft. Fourthly, there will be a demand for a very efficient Air Force, for spotting, fighting, and so on with whatever Expeditionary Army we can scrape together to send anywhere. Fifthly, there will be the true strategical demand to attack the enemy's nerve centres—his aerodromes, his lines and junctions of communication and so on. Sixthly, there will also be a distinct demand for the defence of our own coasts against naval raids, landings, bombardments and sporadic raids. Seventhly, there will be a demand for strengthening the Air Force of the overseas garrisons.

Now there are seven pressing but distinct demands for aircraft, not always for the same kind of aircraft I agree, but very largely the same kind of aircraft, and above all for pilots and machine guns. Who is going to decide how these demands are to be met? Will the Committee of Imperial Defence decide? Imagine the Committee of Imperial Defence meeting together. The Minister for Air in the last debate on this subject described the Committee of Imperial Defence as "a consultative and advisory body" which consisted for practical purposes of the following: 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 with the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury. All these are ordinarily summoned. Other Ministers and other persons, including representatives of the Dominions, frequently attend. Can we imagine this Committee meeting to decide between competing demands for aircraft? They would not have the knowledge to do it, apart from anything else.

Well then, will the Chiefs of Staff Committee meet? There you have the "pull-devil, pull-baker" between the three competing Services. That is unthinkable. Will your Cabinet or War Cabinet meet to decide this pressing question of the allocation of aircraft? I suggest that that would be absurd also. Or would you have a political dictator? Will you set up a political dictator in this country for war purposes and give him the duty of deciding between these competing demands for aircraft? A political dictator cannot possibly have this knowledge, as things are, because no one person has the strategical knowledge to solve that particular problem at present, and you will not get such a person in any case. All you can hope for is to train up a Combined Staff, working together, getting to know each other, studying together, and developing and evolving a common doctrine of Imperial Defence. I suggest that such a Staff will not be forthcoming until you have one supreme political head over it.

With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, said about supply, this of course very largely applies also. We had the greatest difficulty in allocating aircraft engines between the fighting forces at the beginning of the War, and we may have the same difficulty now if we are going to engage in a great expansion of the Air Force. But I suggest that the main thing we need is a combination of the three Staffs into one General Staff for strategical study and preparation, and over that Staff must be somebody holding a position similar to that of a Minister of Defence. I have attempted to suggest strategical arguments for this reform which has been proposed by the noble Lord, and I have already mentioned tie political arguments which my noble friends support, and for all these reasons we support the Motion of the noble Lord.


My Lords, I did not intend to intervene, but so much has been said, especially by the noble Lord who has just sat down, regarding the Committee of Imperial Defence, that I think it is due to your Lordships that I should say a word as to what took place before the War, not in relation to the very high compliments that my noble friend paid me, but as to the organisation which was set up before the War and on which most important questions were decided at the very commencement of the campaign. I am not going by any means to suggest that the action taken at that time is now vital to the country, nor do I feel sure flat can go the whole distance with my noble friend Lord Mottistone as to the best means of modernising the particular Council that we require. It will hardly be credited that up to the year 1903 there was no consultative committee of any sort or kind in this country as between the War Office and the Admiralty—of course we had no Air Force then. There was no body which could decide what were to be the functions of these forces in case of war, and it was not until Mr. Balfour became Prime Minister that Lord Selborne, who is not able to be here to-night, made representations jointly with me to the effect than we could not continue to hold our positions as heads or' the Admiralty and of the War Office, respectively, unless some step were taken to bring the two Services together in one Council, to decide what points could be held, what points could be attacked, and what would be the working arrangement as between them.

I am only going to take one point within my personal knowledge which greatly affected the War and which was due to the action of that Committee. Mr. Balfour, having established it, himself took the chair. The large body of Ministers of importance, not actually connected with the two Services, to which Lord Strabolgi alluded just now, and on which he played, saying that was hardly a Committee which was likely to take strategical questions into consideration with great advantage—that body did not exist. What existed was this small Committee, with the Prime Minister as Chairman, consisting of the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty, and any Minister who might be affected at the moment was called in. Otherwise, the Committee was entirely expert.

And this actually happened. Lord Kitchener had never been a member of. that Committee; he had always served abroad. He had no knowledge whatever of a most important decision which, after great consideration, had been come to by the heads of the two Services and had been agreed to by His Majesty's Government. That was that, granted we ever had to take part in a Continental war, and provided the Navy had been mobilised, the whole six divisions which were then being formed to go abroad should be sent abroad no matter what number of adversaries we had to meet. Lord Kitchener declined to send the last two divisons, and I can give your Lordships the day and hour at which that decision of the Committee of Defence, which had been confirmed by the Cabinet, was brought before Lord Kitchener. He still said: "I cannot give way." I remember its being said to him in my presence: "If you do not yield to that decision you will regret it to the last day of your life." Within twenty-four hours he gave the order for these two divisions to go, and these two divisions, I believe it is universaly admited by military men, were able to save the remainder of the force during the retreat.

I only quote that because I think the co-ordination that existed at that time, and the decisions which were founded on the military opinions given quietly in times of peace, had a great effect on the campaign. But that is by no means to say that we have, at this moment, got what we require in the Committee of Imperial Defence. A further question arose, which my noble friend who served in the Munitions Department has put so admirably to your Lordships that I need not mention it at any length. A further question was put before Lord Kitchener on that same occasion—namely, that munitions for the war could not be provided by any one single existing Department; it was absolutely necessary to have a Department of business men outside. I regret to say that Lord Kitchener did not take that view, and those who served in the Cabinet which was formed by Mr. Asquith a few months afterwards will recollect that before the Conservative Party joined in that National Government one of the questions most pressed was the necessity of having a Munitions Department to provide and co-ordinate all the production of the country. What I put to your Lordships is this: the time has come, I think, to reconsider the arrangements which held good in 1914 but which do not hold equally good at the present day.

In the first place, I hardly think my noble friends below me will deny that Cabinet Ministers are too busy at this moment, especially the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, to make it possible for them to give the time they could have given even twenty years ago to detailed matters outside their own Departments. Secondly, the Air Force has come into existence as a completely new and almost dominating factor in the situation. Thirdly, the state of the great industries, especially of the heavy industries, the steel industries, in this country is not what it was twenty years ago. If you want them in case of war you have got to feed them in time of peace. That cannot be done unless there is one authority which can to a large extent superintend how Government orders for these three Services should be given. I am by no means certain that that can best be done by a Minister of Defence, but I think that some change and some advance to prevent these ramifications between Departments on which my noble friend has said something is absolutely necessary. We are running the gravest risk if we do not in some form undertake it.

I was sorry that my noble friend thought it necessary to talk of tens of millions of pounds of expenditure being needed. I have none of the information necessary to enable me to give an opinion upon that, and still less is it my desire to bank on such prodigious figures or necessities at the present moment, but one thing I am quite sure of and that is that the Army, as its numbers are today, is too weak. The noble Lord opposite said it had gone back to pre-South African days. I thank him for the phrase. It exactly represents, I fear, what is the position. But if the Army is to be so weak, and if the auxiliary forces are to deal with the tremendous issues in the air, it is absolutely necessary that their position should be reinforced and stabilised so that they may become fit to take their part in national defence, which I venture to say they are not at the present moment. I ask your Lordships' consideration if I have ventured to speak strongly on such a point as the strengthening of our national defences, but I have done so with absolute conviction. I had to deal with that matter for twelve years in the War Office. Things have altered greatly and the arrangements then made may now require alteration. I must say I should deeply regret it if, with the tremendous pressure of foreign affairs, of Indian affairs and of home difficulties, we neglected to take the precautions which are absolutely necessary for the defence of the country.


My Lords, I had some connection a few years ago with the machinery as it exists at the present time for the organisation of national defence, and perhaps your Lordships would, therefore, allow me for a few moments to take up your time. I agree in a great measure with much that has been said by every speaker who has addressed your Lordships this evening. I listened, I need not say, with the greatest interest to the speech of my noble friend Lord Mottistone, who has made this subject his own, and who introduced a touch of amusement into his speech which gratified us all. If I had to criticise my noble friend's speech in any degree it would be to express doubt whether it is wise, at the present time, to speak of war as if it was so very imminent. I do not believe it is imminent, and I do not think it does any particular good either in this country or elsewhere to talk as if it was imminent. I am sure my noble friend will forgive that criticism. I make it all the more confidently because I think the reform he suggests, though perhaps I cannot go quite the whole length that he goes, is as much called for in time of peace as it is in time of war.

It is only in time of peace that I have had experience of the machinery which exists at the present time and I am satisfied that a change is required even in time of peace. Even if we were looking forward to no crises of any kind, we are merely taking the ordinary precautions which any wise country and wise Government would take in respect of matters of defence. I am not quite sure whether my noble friend desired to merge the three Services in one office.


Oh, no. May I make that clear? If I did not do so, forgive me. I tried to make it clear—no doubt I failed—that I do not want to set up a brand new office at all with all the others under it with under secretaries. Quite the reverse. The great offices will remain as before in my plan, and all that will be done will be that instead of the Prime Minister technically being the head there should be one man with a whole-time job, call him what you like, to co-ordinate the whole.


I am much obliged to my noble friend, and all the more gratified to hear what he has just said because it makes me able to agree with him even more thoroughly than I feared I might have to do. I think it would be a mistake to merge the three Services in one office. The details would be overwhelming. The traditions of the Services must be respected, and, moreover, there is a danger if you merge them all in one office that the interests of a particular arm or a particular Service would not have a fair deal. The whole influence might be concentrated on one side rather than properly distributed amongst the three, and that would not be in the interests of the country and of the public service. I should be against going as far as that, but, as my noble friend says in his Motion, there is a necessity, a call for a greater measure of general direction in respect of the administration of the three Services, and, as every noble Lord has said who has addressed your Lordships this afternoon, that is at present sought—I use the word advisedly—to be achieved by the Committee of Imperial Defence. It is there that what little experience I possess comes in.

I was a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence for many years. I believe that Committee is the right method if it is properly pursued. I believe the Committee of Imperial Defence is almost the only method of producing that kind of co-ordination for which my noble friend seeks your Lordships' support. It has immense advantages. It is not merely that the Committee deals with the three Services both on their political and their technical sides, but it also has access to every other Department of the Government whose co-operation is required—the Board of Trade, for example, the Treasury, the Dominion Office, the India Office, the Colonial Office and, as I am reminded, the Foreign Office. The heads of all those offices have to take their share in the full co-operation which is necessary to produce a thoroughly effective defence organisation. That can only be achieved by the elastic method of the Committee of Imperial Defence.

I was very glad, if I may say so, that my noble friend Lord Midleton spoke just now, because no one is better qualified to tell your Lordships the early history of the Committee of Imperial Defence than my noble friend, and he reminded the House how it had grown into being; but he did not perhaps tell your Lordships how elastic it is. As your Lordships know, the Committee of Imperial Defence consists of those persons, and only those persons, whom the Prime Minister summons to serve upon it, and it changes in accordance with the interests of the case. Of course the heads of the three great Services are always there. The heads of the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Force are always there, but also, if any other persons can be of use, the Prime Minister can summon them and they are for the time being members of the Committee. Therefore you have the opportunity of consulting every influence which can be of the slightest use in producing the best result.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said just now, I think, that he distrusted the Staff which was provided for the three Services. If I misinterpret him, I apologise. That may be so, but at any rate the system of the Committee of Imperial Defence made a great step in advance in the co-ordination of the Staffs of the three fighting Services, because, as my noble friend whom I see on the Cross Benches knows well—for he served in the same Committee as I did—the Chiefs of the three Services sit in the Committee and form a Sub-Committee, as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi said, and the joint brains of the technical heads of the three Services sit together and advise the Committee. Whether that ought to be carried still further is a question. I think it is quite possible that it ought to be carried a little further. But as far as it went it was a great advance and it was on the right lines. That is the main thing. If you are going to improve on what exists be sure you are on the right lines, and those are the right lines to produce that co-ordination of the Staffs which is necessary.

But where I agree most thoroughly with my noble friend who is responsible for this Motion is that the business of working the Committee of Imperial Defence is a one-man job. The work is multifarious, complicated and laborious, and cannot be done except by a Minister whose attention is entirely devoted to it. Just consider the sort of thing that has to come under his consideration. Of course the fundamental policy of defence is a matter for the Cabinet to decide, but when they have decided it, it has to be carried out. It cannot be carried out by the individual fighting Services, because it extends over all three. There must be some body responsible for carrying into effect the Cabinet decision extending beyond any individual Service, and that body can only be the Committee of Imperial Defence, and so far as a Minister is required at all in a committee confined to administration he is the Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence. Therefore all the policy of defence really ought to come under the control and administration of a single Minister.

He has to consider the provision of ports, the provision of coaling stations, the provision of defence in all parts of the world. He has Imperial considerations, he has foreign considerations, lie has Dominion considerations—all these things have to be under his care. In much smaller matters, though very important, he is called upon to intervene. Supposing there is a difference of opinion between two of the fighting Services—there very often is—some one must settle it. The Secretary of State for War cannot settle it, the First Lord of the Admiralty cannot settle it, the Secretary of State for Air cannot settle it. What in fact very often happens is the appointment of a Cabinet Committee ad hoc to deal with it. That is not a very satisfactory method. You want a Minister who knows all about the subject to act as arbitrator—or may I prefer the word "conciliator"?—as between the three Services, and the only man is the Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence.

The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, and other speakers have put it as a matter of obvious fact that the Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence has always been the Prime Minister. That is not so. I know of one other—I am afraid he was not very competent—who was Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence, namely, the humble individual who is addressing your Lordships at this moment. Although I did occupy that office, I hope with some success, yet I dare to say that it was a far better arrangement than the Prime Minister being Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence, because the Prime Minister has no time, not an atom of time, to pay attention to it.

The greatest obstacle to administration and policy at the present moment—I am not referring, of course, to the present Government, I mean under the present system—is that the Prime Minister is hopelessly overworked. He has no time really to consider what policy ought to be. Everything has to be done from hand to mouth. There can be no reform of our administration until we relieve the Prime Minister of some of his work. All that will happen if we go on in our old way is that the work which the Prime Minister must necessarily do now, without any kind of reflection upon any particular individual, will become slipshod and may end in completely breaking down the health of the Prime Minister. That necessarily follows if you throw upon him the kind of work which is thrown upon him at the present time. Therefore the idea that you can add to his labours the proper wielding of the office of the Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence is, I assure your Lordships, quite out of the question. It cannot be clone. You must have a Minister specially charged with the duty, a Minister who shall be responsible to the Cabinet, and, let me say, responsible to Parliament, for the decisions of that office, just as any of my noble friends who sit on the Front Bench are responsible to Parliament for the administration of the offices which they so admirably hold at the present moment.

Therefore I deprecate the use of language which seems to say that the Chairmanship of the Committee of Imperial Defence must always be held by the Prime Minister. I believe that to be quite wrong. I should like to say that I do not care what you call him—you may call him the Lord President, or the Lord Privy Seal, or the Chancellor of the Duchy, or you may create some new Minister without another laborious office for the purpose—but that is the direction in which you ought to move. For these reasons I think I agree altogether with my noble friend in this Motion. I do not think it is a question of making headlong preparations for a war which I verily believe is not going to come. It is in order to produce good administration both in peace and in war and depend upon it there is nothing warlike in what I have said. Nothing can defend inefficiency. The only direction in which to secure efficiency in the Defence Services is to work upon the lines which my noble friend has submitted to your Lordships.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Mottistone has brought before your Lordships a Motion which deals with a matter of very grave national importance, nothing less than the safety of the country. We have had in support of that Motion four speeches, including his own, and I could not help thinking as I listened to those speeches that the speakers who combined to agree with the Motion differed profoundly in their conception of what the Motion meant. My noble friend Lord Mottistone himself began by announcing that we live in a state of emergency, that a large measure of rearmament was immediately called for and that, in order to meet that crisis, certain definite steps should be taken. A proposal for rearmament naturally appeals to the head of any Service Department as being a very pleasant thing, because it makes the position of his particular Service more secure. But my noble friend will forgive me if I do not pursue him into that discussion, for two reasons.

The first is that on one day next week we are to have a discussion on the whole subject of Imperial Defence on a Motion which is being put down by my noble friend Lord Lloyd, and I think we have quite cough to discuss here on coordination without trespassing upon the field which my noble friend Lord Lloyd has marked out for himself. The second reason why I would ask his indulgence if I do not follow him into that topic is that, although I have read and re-read his Motion very carefully, both before and after his speech, I cannot find in it a single word that has any relation to the question of rearmament or to the necessity of having anything of the kind. The Motion deals with the urgent need of close co-ordination and invites the House to decide how to achieve that end by appointing a Minister to direct the policy and method of supply of the three Services. There is nothing whatever about rearmament, and rearmament is therefore a topic with which I do not propose to deal.

But my noble friend was anxious to disclaim in the most definite terms anything in the nature of a proposal to set up a Minister of Defence. I gathered that he did not desire that his new Minister should have any expert Staff provided for him. On the other hand, the noble Lord who speaks to-day for the official Opposition announced that they were proposing to support the Motion, although they differed altogether from my noble friend Lord Mottistone on his thesis on rearmament, because, in their judgment it was urgently necessary to have a Minister of Defence with a Combined Staff who would either supersede or override the existing Ministers with the existing Staffs. I have often heard that at Geneva there is a blessed means of solving all difficulties. You find a "formula," about which everybody agrees although everyone interprets it in a different sense, and in that way you say that you have reached complete agreement. It seems to me that the Motion which my noble friend Lord Mottistone is moving, and which the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and his Party are supporting, would be an admirable specimen of Geneva methods. I do not want to deal at any length with the proposal to appoint a Minister of Defence, because the mover of the Motion disclaims any desire to do so.


Forgive me, may I make it quite clear? Do not let us argue at cress purposes. What I ask, and indeed urge, is that there should be a man appointed with the whole-time job of looking after defence. Whether you call him a Minister of Defence or anything else does not matter; he should have the whole-time job of being the Chairman of all the three Services. That is what I ask; nothing more, nothing less; but it is a perfectly definite issue.


I do not care about names, either; I care about realities. But my noble friend is suggesting that you shall appoint a Minister who shall have supreme control over the three Services, with power to override the decision of the Ministers responsible for those three Services, and with powers, presumably, to have an expert Staff drawn from the three Services—because I do not suppose my noble friends would wish a politician to be given supreme control of all strategic problems—to advise him as to the policy Which each of these three Services is to adopt, and therefore with power to override the decisions of the responsible Staff in each of the three Services. All I can say to that proposal is that there is indeed a matter in issue, because that is a proposal which I cannot imagine anybody accepting when all its implications have been worked out. Just think first of all of the position of the unfortunate Staffs of the three Services.


That is not my proposal.


I am sorry I do not seem able to understand, and I am sure it is my fault, what it is that my noble friend is suggesting. I thought he made it quite clear, when my noble friend Lord Salisbury asked him the question, that all he was proposing was to appoint a particular man to be Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and that he was not proposing anything in the nature of a Minister of Defence. Then, when I accepted that and was proceeding on that hypothesis, he interrupted me to say that he was proposing that someone, who is to be called by any name you like, should have the power of deciding on the policy of each of the three Services. If I do not understand what it is he has proposed, he must forgive me if I do not give him a satisfactory answer as to the nature of the proposals.


I apologise. Can I make it quite clear? The present plan is that the Prime Minister is Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence; with one short interval, it has always been so since the Committee's foundation. I say that this is a bad plan, because the Prime Minister has not got time to carry out that duty. I think that we ought to find a man who will give his whole time to this business of being Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence and nothing else. The question of how much staff he is to have is a minor detail. I want the noble Viscount's assurance to-day that we may have a Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence. That is all.


I shall presently give the reasons why I cannot give that assurance. My noble friend proposed to replace the Prime Minister by a Chairman of the Committee of imperial Defence, who would devote his whole time to that Office but as Chairman would have the same rights and duties as the chairman of a committee normally has, and which the Prime Minister possesses as Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence. If that is his proposal, it is nothing like a Minister of Defence. The Prime Minister has no possible power to override the decision of the members representing the three Services, and has no possible power to direct what the policy of the three Services shall be with regard to naval, military or aerial preparation, as the case may be. He is, as was stated, the chairman of a committee, and the only body which has any control over policy, to decide on what lines defence should be developed, is—as I think my noble friend Lord Salisbury pointed out—the Cabinet, and nothing but the Cabinet. If there is a dispute between the different Services on any matter of strategy or high policy, and if unfortunately they are unable to compose their differences, the matter is brought before the Cabinet, and it is the Cabinet which will decide. Commonly in such a case, as my noble friend pointed out, there would be a Cabinet Sub-Committee which would investigate, hear both sides, and then present a Report to the Cabinet; but the Cabinet and no one else can decide such a dispute. The Prime Minister could not decide it, any more than a member of the Cabinet.

Therefore my noble friend's proposal differs toto cælo from the proposals which Lord Strabolgi supports, because he wants to have a Minister of Defence, who is to be the head of all the Services, with a Combined Staff, and in fact there is to be an amalgamation. I do not think I am putting it too high when I say that in fact there will be an amalgamation of the three Services, naturally with subdivisions below the common head of them all, but with the three Services working substantially as one body. If that proposal is to be the one, all I can say is that it is one which has been considered and rejected by a series of Committees from 1918 downwards. I do not say it because he is here, but one of the most conclusive was the Sub-Committee over which Lord Salisbury presided in 1923. I cite that particularly, not only because of the very powerful assistance which my noble friend had in framing the Report, but also because the specific reference to that Committee was to enquire into the co-operation and correlation between the Navy, Army and Air Force from the point of view of National and Imperial Defence generally, including the question of establishing some co-ordinating authority, whether by a Ministry of Defence or otherwise. There were certain other references which are not relevant, and the Report on "Co-ordination of the Services'' was as follows: It is undesirable and impracticable to supersede the Ministerial heads of the three fighting Services by making them subordinates of a Minister of Defence; the alternative plan for an amalgamation of the three Service Departments is equally impracticable. Then there were some very useful suggestions for co-ordination, with which I am not dealing at this moment.

The same conclusion was reached by the May, Mond and Weir Committees in later years. I do not suppose, when one goes into the merits of that question, that anyone would imagine that you could really work the three great Services by having some super-head over each of them, who will have the right to overrule the decision of each of them, to take away authority from each of them, and to decide contrary to the views of the expert advisers who are the responsible practical heads of each of the three Services. But it does not begin to deal with the point which Lord Mottistone makes, and I have only referred to it in order to clear it out of the way. I have only one other criticism with regard to Lord Strabolgi's speech. He said that we were getting very poor value for our money, to-day, because, he said, our Defence Services were costing more than those of any other country in the world, except the United States, and yet we were not getting as much as we wanted, and we were inferior in this respect or that to one or other of the other countries.


I did not say we were inferior to other countries, but my complaint was that we were vulnerable.


The noble Lord's complaint was that we were vulnerable. The answer is that in making his calculation the noble Lord completely ignored the fact that other countries were getting their labour practically free, because they have got conscription. If they had to pay the same rates as we pay our Services the figures would be completely different, but the fact that those serving in the forces of foreign Powers have to make a free gift, or substantially a free gift, of their labour, for the term or one or two years, whatever the period may be, is an enormous contribution in kind to the cost of the Services, and is an enormous strain, of course, upon the wealth of each country. It is only by ignoring that fact that you get such a fallacious result as that which the noble Lord has put forward.

Then the noble Lord went on to deal with various criticisms of strategy, with regard to which I do not desire to follow him, except to say that the three Services are not preparing for a different kind of campaign, but that each is considering more than one possible kind of campaign. It would be more than foolish, and I venture to think would be considered to be very wrong, with an Empire like ours, if we should frame the whole of our defence plan as if only one kind of risk was likely to assail us. The noble Lord went on to say that there were seven different kinds of aircraft, and he asked who was to decide which would take precedence. He does less than justice to the present administration of the Defence Services if he supposes that that kind of problem is not being considered long before war breaks out, or if he supposes that we have no plans to deal with that matter, and that no plans will be worked out long before any question of putting them into effect arises.

I will, however, leave that, which is not the real proposal, and come back to the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, that there shall be a permanent full-time Cabinet Minister, whose only duty shall be to preside over the Committee of Imperial Defence. I am not sure whether the noble Lord quite realises how far we have gone in coordination since the days of his being in the place which I now have the honour to occupy. When he was there, there was a Committee of Imperial Defence, and he set up what has been called a "high level bridge," consisting of the heads of the Services, the Army and Navy, and their advisers, and the Prime Minister. I find that that Committee only met four times during the whole period of its existence, but I have no doubt it was a useful plan.


I must interrupt the noble Viscount, and say that I know the Committee met twice a week, for I sat upon the Committee forty or fifty times. Matters were considered, under Mr. Balfour's chairmanship as to the use of the forces in every part of the world, certainly on forty or fifty occasions.


I was dealing with the "high level bridge" set up, as Lord Mottistone has told us, in July, 1913, during his occupancy of the Secretaryship of State for War. I was not dealing with whether Lord Midleton met Mr. Balfour or other of his colleagues. He must constantly have done so. I was dealing with the particular organisation set up by Lord Mottistone. I think there is a misunderstanding between us.


The noble Viscount said that the Committee to which he was alluding met only four times.


I am very sorry if the noble Earl misunderstood, but I think that if he looks at the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow he will see that I am accurate. That organisation was no doubt very useful at the time, but we have gone a long way since those days in 1913. Not only have we got a Committee of Imperial Defence dealing with matters much more constantly in Sub-Committees than in those earlier days, but we have got a Cabinet dealing with matters, according to my information, much more by Sub-Committee than it did in those days, for the good reason that in those days, although there was a Secretariat for the Committee of Imperial Defence, there was no Secretariat for the Cabinet. Now that we have got a Secretariat as an almost indispensable part of our Cabinet organisation it has become, as I am informed, much more common to deal with matters by Sub-Committee, of which records are of course fully kept, than it was in those earlier days when Ministers had to rely so much on their own memories.

But in addition to that the Chiefs of Staff Committee, to which allusion has been made, has been set up since those days, and the Chiefs of Staff Committee has become an integral part of our organisation for defence to an extent which was not dreamt of twenty-two years ago, and which indeed has grown even within my own political knowledge of Cabinet government. To-day the Chiefs of Staff have a special responsibility assigned to them under their warrant to deal with matters of Imperial defence policy in collaboration. They have the responsibility of advising on any subject which is referred to them. It has to be referred to them by the Prime Minister, and it is a matter of our common routine. Whenever any question of defence policy comes up the first thing that is done is to ask the Chiefs of Staff to meet and to present us with a joint report showing what the strategic implications of the particular point are, and showing what their view is as to the proper way to deal with it. And I can assure your Lordships that the effect of that is that in almost every case we get a unanimous report from the three professional heads of the three Services, which deals with the problem, whatever it is, not from the angle of one Service to the exclusion of the others, but from the angles of all three Services combined, so that we are able to get a comprehensive view on the best professional advice which is possible for us to obtain of the problem with which we have to deal in its political aspect.

That is every-day practice, and it works in practice extraordinarily well. That makes any question of difference about strategic questions very unlikely to arise, and does ensure in practice that strategic questions are considered, not from the point of view of one or other Service independently, but from the point of view of the three Services combined. In addition to that, we have subcommittees of the Chiefs of Staff Committee on which their senior advisers meet. One of them considers always problems of oversea defence—such matters as the defence of our ports overseas, another deals with what is called home defence, which is primarily concerned with the defence of our home ports; and there are on other occasions other subcommittees to deal with particular problems. But the point which I want to make clear, and which I do not think can be present to the minds of those who served in one of the Service Departments in pre-War days, is that all strategic questions in which more than one of the Services is involved—and there is hardly a strategic question about which that is not true—are referred as a matter of course, nit to one or other of the Service professional heads, but to the whole of them to consider together and to give a combined view of the strategic position. It is in the light of that combined view that the Committee of Imperial. Defence, and in the last resort the Cabinet, are enabled to reach their conclusion.

Then, apart altogether from matters of policy, there is also the question of supply. My noble friend Lord Mottistone described in eloquent terms the great achievements of the Ministry of Munitions, of which he was at one time, I think, the Vice-Chairman. The Ministry of Munitions was a wonderful organisation, and produced most remarkable results. But I really do not see how a Ministry of Munitions would help us very much in time of peace. The reason why the Ministry of Munitions was not only an essential part of the machinery of production but also was able to achieve such marvellous results in the realm of production, was that the Ministry of Munitions was in operation at the time when the whole industrial effort of the country was under Government control and concentrated on war. You had demands for immense quantities of every kind of store to be provided for military purposes—using the word "military," of course, in its widest sense. Accordingly, with thousands of shells, thousands of guns, warships, aeroplanes, every kind of store for the comfort and help and support and arming of the troops to be provided, it was essential to have one body which should prevent the, dreadful competition and confusion which arose at the beginning of the War, when each of the three Services was competing to get its orders supplied first. Also it was possible for the Ministry to make its own terms and to place its contracts where it thought most desirable because it had in effect the priority of orders over anybody else, and it could in effect insist that those factories should produce that particular class of goods which was most required in the national interests.

That is not true in time of peace. In time of peace our difficulty is not that the Services are competing against one another in order to try to get their orders rapidly filled. In time of peace our difficulty is that there are so few military, naval and aerial orders from the Service Departments for the factories that it is no longer worth while for our factories to cater for Service requirements; and the consequence is that there is a falling off in our capacity for industrial expansion which must give the very greatest concern to those who are responsible for the defence of the country. It is a matter which certainly attracted my attention almost in the first week after I was in office, and has been under my constant care ever since. I do not pretend to have found a complete solution, but it is a matter which must of course appeal to anybody who is responsible in any way for defence that at present, with the very small amount of orders which are available, it is extremely difficult to get the skilled men and the necessary machines and patterns, and so on, available for the expansion which would undoubtedly be required if war broke out.

But on the side of supply—I am afraid I do not quite know how perfect it was in 1918—we have now set up a series of organisations which do in practice produce the most excellent co-ordination between the three Services. They were largely set up, I think, in response to the Committees which were created in 1922 and 1923—that of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and that of Lord Weir and the late Lord Melchett in association with Lord Weir—which made a series of suggestions for improving coordination which have been carried into effect. We have to-day a Contracts Coordinating Committee by which all the three Services co-ordinate any question of contracts for goods which any one of them may require. We have sub-committees—I think there are ten or eleven of them—of this Contracts Co-ordinating Committee which deal with particular items—mechanisation, transport, boots, textiles, whatever it may be which is the subject of Service requirement. In addition to that, we have always working the Man-Power Committee, which was set up to ensure that the best available use shall be made of our man-power if ever, unhappily, the necessity should arise to call upon it, so that we shall not be taken unprepared.

We have the Principal Supply Officers' Committee, which was set up under the presidency of the President of the Board of Trade, whose duty it is to concentrate on this very matter of the production of goods for Service requirements and the expansion of orders in time of war. It operates through two different organisations. There is first of all the Board of Trade Supply Organisation, which deals with the supplies of raw materials of all kinds which, your Lordships appreciate, would have to be brought in from all over the world, and in regard to which we want to be sure that we are in a position to get the vital substances, and get them in a sufficient quantity.

Then there is what is called the Supply Board, whose duty it is to concentrate upon production—that is to say, not on the provision of raw materials, but on manufacture. That Board is one which is peculiarly concerned with that problem of industrial expansion to which my noble friend called attention, and on which he rightly put his finger as the most vital problem we had to face to-day. Because we have felt that that problem cannot be dealt with by a Committee sitting merely from time to time with a Chairman who is over-worked, we have only recently decided there shall be a Supply Board with a permanent whole-time Chairman and a permanent whole-time Secretary, whose duty it shall be to keep constantly under review the question of which factories are available, what quantities of goods are necessary, and what requirements are likely to arise; and we are in process of working out as far as may be the factories most likely to be able to supply these requirements.

I do not pretend that merely because we have got these Committees we have solved the problem, but I do assert quite confidently that by the provision of these Committees, and by the provision of this whole-time personnel, we are doing all we can think of to see that the problem is kept in review and, as far as possible, to reach a solution. I do not pretend that in a democratic country like our own it is as easy to arrange for industrial expansion in that sense as it is in an autocratic country where the Government can decide in advance what everybody shall do, or shall not do, and where orders can be given to all the industrial population in the country which they are bound to obey; but in so far as is compatible with our Constitution, at any rate in time of peace, we are endeavouring to deal with the problem in what I believe to be the most practical way. I cannot help thinking that the whole-time Chairmanship to which I have alluded will go a good way to relieve the anxiety of my noble friend Lord Mottistone, because, so far as that particular branch of the question is concerned, which is to my mind probably the most difficult of all, we have actually got a full-time responsible person and a full-time responsible organisation watching it and taking care of it. I do not want to go through all the other sub-committees. I think there are probably forty or fifty in existence, all of which are dealing with one or other of the branches of preparations for war and the maintenance of the efficiency of the different Services, and all of which are responsible to their Committees and ultimately to the Committee of Imperial Defence, where there is again a Co-ordinating Committee which passes on the information as it becomes available to the proper quarter in case it is ever needed.

With all that preparation, the only issue that seems to be left is the question whether or not you want a whole-time Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence. My noble friend said he wanted one because you must get the best brains in the country at your service. I can assure the House we have no difficulty in getting the best brains in the country, although we do not always make a great parade of that. Only to-day, when I came down to your Lordships' House, I came after having taken the chair at the annual meeting of our Chemical Defence Committee, on which we have probably the ablest scientists available in England to-day working on the problem of chemical defence. My noble friend made merry about the difficulty of getting a supply of gas masks for some experiment in air defence about which he told us. It so happens that that was one of the problems we were actually discussing just before I came here, and I am glad to say we are making a very marked advance—I do not say we have reached perfection—in the direction of being able to produce the right sort of respirator or gas mask at a reasonable cost, and meanwhile of being able to assure ourselves that, first, the Services, and then those employed in essential services, and finally the great mass of the population should be able to have gas masks if the necessity actually arose. With regard to the particular case that my noble friend mentioned, if there was only one gas mask available, I imagine the reason was that it was only provided for experimental and instructional purposes, and it was not contemplated at this stage to issue a great number of gas masks while the problem of getting the right kind of respirator which meets all the different technical requirements is still under consideration and under improvement.

I only use that illustration because it attaches itself so closely to what my noble friend had to say. There is no difficulty in getting the best men in the country to give advice, either on industrial or chemical problems. Whenever they have been asked, they have been most generous and most helpful. In all these circumstances, we do not think that a change in the Chairmanship of the Committee of Imperial Defence is really going to be of any great advantage. There was a time when my noble friend Lord Salisbury, as he said, presided, and presided, as I am sure he did, with marked success. That was because he always presides with marked success whenever he undertakes that duty. I think it was Lord Strabolgi who said that the Prime Minister never had time to attend the meetings of the Committee of Imperial Defence.


I did not say that.


I think I have been at every one of the meetings during the time I have been in office, and I do not think there have been more than one, or possibly two, at which the Prince Minister has not been in the chair. No doubt he is over-worked; I accept that. I think we are all over-worked, I am sorry to say; but the Chairmanship of this Committee is one of the duties to which the Prime Minister gives a very high order of priority, and it is one to which he devotes very close attention. In his absence the Lord President of the Council normally takes the chair, and is available with his assistance, and as he is always present at the meetings he knows exactly what is going on. In regard to the method of improving coordination, we are grateful for any suggestions. We have a completely open mind f or any suggestion which seems likely to be useful, and if I do not accept this particular proposal with that enthusiasm which I am sure its mover thinks I should, I would like to assure him that it is not from any obstinacy or any lack of desire to appear grateful for any contributions, from whatever quarter we may be able to receive them, but only because all those who are best able to advise us on this matter do not take the view that the particular change which he advocates of having a permanent Chairman would really make for an increase of efficiency or for any improvement on the practice that prevails to-day.


My Lords, may I interpose for one brief moment to correct an impression that seems to have been formed by Lord Mottistone that at some time or other I have beets in favour of the abolition of the British Army? We have had our differences at different times in regard to aeroplanes, and these are now happily composed, but I can assure him that the only proposition I have ever made is that of the money voted for the Defence Services half should go to the Air Force. I think this debate has served a very useful purpose. I do not think there are nearly enough debates of this character. We are to-day confronted with probably the most terrible peril which this country has ever had to face in the whole course of its history. There is growing up on the Continent a military force far superior in strength, far superior in offensive quality, full of aggression, which may take at any time a hostile attitude in regard to this country. It may be that the development of the bombing aeroplane may largely change the whole face of Europe. This country has withstood the Armada of Philip the Second of Spain, it has foiled the attempts at invasion by Napoleon, but it is not known, as far as I cart see, how an invasion in the air can be properly intercepted.

The proposition of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, to my mind has many advantages. When I came here this afternoon I came with the intention of voting against, or speaking against, his proposition. It seemed to me rather obscure as it appeared on the Notice Paper, but I am entirely in favour of his proposition if, as I now understand, it means that there should be a political supreme war chief sitting in the Cabinet and also sitting with the heads of the three Defensive Services. I do not think the question of the defence of this country receives nearly sufficient attention. If we had a powerful personality as supreme war chief in this country I think the whole question of the defence of this country would be presented to the minds of the working classes. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, who spoke this afternoon, seemed to think it was not a good thing to talk about war or the possibility of war. I am afraid I hold entirely different views. We do not live in the days before 1914; we live in the terrible times of to-day, when three or four men sitting in a room, with complete control of a highly gifted and valorous people, can decide at any moment to spring an attack on any of their neighbours.

It is difficult to know here what are the exact dimensions of the German forces. I have been at great pains to ascertain, and I say with full responsibility that at the present moment Germany has 10,000 bombing aeroplanes of long range and high speed capable of carrying something approaching a ton of high explosives. That is a terrible danger to this country, and I am of opinion that the only way it can be met is by letting any possible enemy know that he will get as good as he gives. That is the only way you can meet a menace of that kind. When I read, as I do, that the proposition of the Government is to provide another 500 or 1,000 aeroplanes, it seems to me to be childish in itself and quite useless for the purpose of the defence of this country. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, when he says we may have to spend £100,000,000 on defence. I think myself it may be £100,000,000 a year. We must never forget that in this country we probably will have to spend £5 for every £1 spent in Germany. Nearly all their labour is free. Even if the labour is conscripted the money the men receive is infinitesimal.

I urge that this question should be considered not only in this House, not only on this occasion, but frequently throughout the country. The lack of knowledge that I find exists in this country is appalling. I have spent the best part of the last two years trying to enthuse the people of this country in a campaign for the enlargement of our air defence forces. So far, I must confess, I think I have met with little success. I am glad to think that noble Lords like Lord Mottistone are now throwing their full weight into the campaign, and if we have the support of noble Lords like Lord Mottistone and others for this campaign, I have a feeling that it will have the happiest results, and that it will be brought home to the working classes throughout the country that these days are not the days of 1914 but are the days of 1935 and 1936, when, at any moment, a surprise aerial war may be waged against this country.


My Lords, I must thank the Leader of the House for the very full answer he gave, but it became apparent at the end of his speech that he and I are completely at variance. He may be right and I may be wrong. Naturally I do not think I am wrong. It is impossible for me to withdraw this Motion for, after thinking it over not for weeks but months, I came to the conclusion, after having consulted men of every form of political thought and business experience, that we should never put our defences in order unless there was, as the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, said, one man to give his whole time to it. It does not matter what you call him, whether you call him Minister of Defence or Lord President of the Council. The present plan, by which the man who is nominally the Chairman can only give scraps of time to the matter, is bound to lead to waste and inefficiency at what, I submit, is a critical time.

The Leader of the House and others have said that it was a mistake to talk about war. I am persuaded that by taking wise decisions now we may avert the danger of war, for if the great country which we are is known to be quite prepared, that fact is a great guarantee of peace. I do not go quite so far perhaps as the noble Viscount. Lord Rothermere, but if you take what he has said into consideration, together with the already announced policy of His Majesty's Government, which is in fact a one-Power standard in the air, it will be seen that I was not exaggerating when I talked of art expenditure of tens of millions of pounds. If Lord Rothermere's figures are even approximately correct, the efforts to get a one-Power standard will mean a vast expenditure of money not spread over a series of years but beginning at once. I would respectfully urge the Leader of the House to reconsider the matter, for if he does not I must divide the House and ask, with, I understand, the support of all my noble friends behind me and of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, with his unrivalled experience, that we shall have a whole-time man of eminence and authority as Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence. If the Leader of the House says "No" to that, I must divide the House. If he says "Yes" I will withdraw my Motion. I hope he may even now agree to what seems to me so eminently reasonable a proposal and one which every business man will say is vital to the elaborate organisation which the noble Viscount has so well described.


My Lords, I do not know whether your Lordships would allow me, most irregularly, to make an appeal to the Government, only speak with the leave of your Lordships. I have already addressed you at most unrighteous length. But, if my noble friend the Leader of the House would say that the Government would consider whether it

Resolved in the negative and Motion disagreed to accordingly.

would not be possible to proceed in the direction of the Motion of my noble friend Lord Mottistone, I think probably the whole House will agree. It is very difficult to defend a system under which a Minister, however powerful the Prime Minister may be, can devote only a fragment of his time to this important matter. All I would venture most respectfully to ask is that the Government should promise to take the matter into their consideration. In that case, so far as I am concerned, I should not wish to show ally hostility to the Government, for I fully believe that in the main I agree with them.


My Lords, of course I should be willing to take the matter into consideration. This problem of defence is a matter which is constantly under consideration, and most assuredly what has been said will, I know, be considered by those responsible; but I do not like giving a pledge like that which has been suggested, because then I might be open to the charge of misleading the House. If I say the suggestion will be taken into consideration, I cannot say that it is likely to be adopted, because I know that the advice which we have received from very responsible quarters—quarters to which we are bound to look for advice—does not agree with the proposal which is before us. If my noble friend is satisfied by my saying, as I candidly can say, that we will consider it, I gave him that assurance, but I do not want him to think that, when I say that, I personally believe it is likely we shall be able to change our mind.

On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 9; Not-Contents, 23.

Exmouth, V. Cozens-Hardy, L. Mottistone, L.[Teller.]
Rothermere, V. Marley, L. Sanderson, L.
Merthyr, L. Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]
Askwith, L.
De La Warr, E. Ullswater, V. Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Lucan, E. [Teller.] Hawke, L.
Munster, E. Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.) Marks, L.
Plymouth, E. Palmer, L.
Stanhope, E. Daryngton, L. Rennell, L.
Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.) Runciman, L.
Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller] Stonehaven, L.
Hailsham, V. Templemore, L.
Halifax, V. Hampton, L. Wolverton, L.
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