§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY rose to call attention to the organisation in the Government for the direction of the Defence Services; and to move for Papers. The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I make no apologies to your Lordships for bringing this subject under your special notice, because it is indeed, as we shall all admit, of great importance—the proper machinery for the control and management of our Defence Services, not merely at the particular moment at which I am speaking, which may perhaps be called a crisis, but always, as a permanent arrangement. And there is no assembly in the world where the subject could be more properly discussed than your Lordships' House. I think I am correct in saying that, besides my noble friends on the Front Bench who are at present managing the Defence Services, there are at least five ex-Ministers who have had similar control, and there are, besides that, four noble and gallant Lords who have been members of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and who know from inside how that organisation works. Therefore there is a wealth of talent in your Lordships' House which ought to be placed, as I venture to think, at the disposal of Parliament and the 808 country when we are engaged upon settling this very important matter.
§ I am not going to waste your Lordships' time in discussing the merits of what is called a Minister of Defence, if for no other reason than because it appears to be universally agreed now that a Minister of Defence, in the sense of a Minister over the amalgamated Services of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, is a wholly impracticable proposition. Therefore I turn, as you would naturally expect me to do, to discuss what is the existing system, and what are the defects in the existing system, of the management and control of our Defence Services and our defence arrangements. The Committee of Imperial Defence as it exists to-day was established, as your Lordships are well aware, a very long time ago, before the War, under the inspiration mostly of the late Lord Balfour. It was, of course, suspended during the War, but was resumed afterwards and was then the subject of the most careful scrutiny by a Committee, which was a Committee of the Imperial Defence Committee itself, which sat in 1924. They were presented with this organisation as it then existed. It was in many respects admirably equipped for its purpose. It was all-embracing in the sense that it had the capacity of bringing to its assistance all the relevant Departments of the State, and indeed organisations outside the actual Government of the country, and was so organised that it was elastic.
§ If it was in any respect deficient in information, then under its organisation it could include all that was required, because the system was this. There was no member who was absolutely ex-officio a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence except the Prime Minister. He was the only absolutely fixed point. By his direction other heads of Departments were called into counsel, and with them certain technical experts, military, naval, air, and Treasury experts, all of whom were gathered together in this one Committee. Indeed, the elasticity went so far that on those great occasions when we were visited in this country by our Dominion Ministers, and subjects were under discussion in the Committee of Imperial Defence which were of importance to the Dominions, the Dominion Ministers were summoned to the Committee so that they might throw their 809 information and their experience into the common pool and so that the best information and expert opinion might be available. As I say, you could not have, so far, a better system. The remarkable thing is that, good though that system was, when we come to the year in which we speak it is found that it has not been altogether a success.
§ I dare say your Lordships will remember that we had a debate in this House in the present month, a few days ago merely, on February 11, in which the condition of our defences and of our Defence Forces was scrutinised by your Lordships' House. Notably a speech was made by the noble Lord opposite, Lord Strabolgi, in which he stated very moderately and temperately, but very conclusively, what the failure had been to have our Defence Forces in proper condition at the proper time. I am not going to repeat what the noble Lord said. I should not say it nearly so well as he did, but I may summarise it by saying that he found, from the information which he had received and laid before your Lordships, that the Army was ill-equipped, that the ships were obsolete, and that aircraft were deficient. That is a formidable result after all these years. I think the country and Parliament are well advised in looking closely into the machinery which was responsible for that result at the present moment.
§ Why was it that this wonderful organisation which I have ventured to sketch to your Lordships, with its all-embracing scope, with its wealth of information and expert advice, failed to produce anything better than what was described by the noble Lord opposite on February 11? We all waited with great anxiety to hear the reply of the Government in the person of my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, and he did reply very candidly. He did not admit that the Committee had been negligent. On the contrary, he gave some astounding figures of the number of times that the Committee of Imperial Defence had met, and other organisations of the Government, Cabinet Committees, the Cabinet itself when the question of defence had been the principal subject on the agenda, and so on. He ran into figures which I hardly dare repeat, they were so large. I only say that in order to show that the matter 810 had not been neglected and yet the thing had failed; yet this result had come that the noble Lord opposite was able to say, uncontradicted, that the Army was ill-equipped, the ships were obsolete, and the aircraft were deficient. That is a very formidable thing.
The indictment was much heavier, because I did not quote myself at all. I quoted a member of your Lordships' House on the Army, Lord Allenby. I was only quoting from Lord Allenby's written statement.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I was quite aware that the noble Lord had said so. I knew he had great authorities to back him. I said "on information he had received," but I am obliged to the noble Lord. I was saying that the First Lord of the Admiralty did not deny this. I do riot want to lay too much weight upon that. He perhaps was reserving himself for another day to deal with the detail, but he did not deny it. He did use these very remarkable words:I think it will probably be the opinion of this House as a whole that we have delayed too long.That is truth, my Lords. I need not say my noble friend speaks the truth; we have delayed too long. That is a formidable conclusion, because great countries with great responsibilities must not delay too long. Too long sometimes means too late. Your Lordships will feel the anxiety with which all of us must have watched the development of this question in recent months, and must perhaps have hoped that the First Lord of the Admiralty would be able to deny what the noble Lord opposite had said, but he himself said to us, "We have delayed too long."
I think I know how that "too long" arose. Your Lordships are aware that after the conclusion of the Great War those who were responsible had to consider what was the most urgent object for the country to pursue. They said: "There is no probability whatever of a great war breaking out again within a certain period, and there is great urgency in putting the finances of the country in a sound condition and in restoring the country's economic position." Therefore they concluded—and I think, if I may say so respectfully, rightly concluded—that, having this prospect, at any rate for a considerable period of years, when no 811 great crises would arise, they should devote their attention more to the economic side than to anything else. That was what they did. There was a period of years during which it was expected there would be freedom from war, and it was said that so long as we had that margin within which we might expect a peaceful condition of things—when I say "expect" I mean when we might expect with great confidence a peaceful condition of things—then we could devote ourselves and the resources of the country to this urgent matter of restoring its economic position.
Although a limit had been always contemplated within which this security might be assumed, yet, as time went on, no one seems to have observed that we had passed out of the secure period, and that there was no longer that confidence for the fixed interval on which we might confidently rely during which there would be no foreign complications of a serious kind. So, although two or three years ago at least there ought to have been a complete change of policy, there was not. Nothing was done. I may say with humbleness that I was in a measure responsible for the earlier phase. I was one of the Government upon whose authority and responsibility this was done. But I must say we are all conscious now—I am sure the First Lord of the Admiralty is conscious and that my noble friends here are conscious—that two or three years ago there ought to have been a change. What ought that change to have been? There ought to have been a great increase in our armaments. I admit that. But that is a matter which I do not imagine we are going to discuss in detail this afternoon. What I want to inquire is why this 'mistake was made, why we allowed ourselves to slip from the period of security into a period of comparative risk without, so far as the Government were concerned, noticing it.
Here was the Committee of Imperial Defence whose business it was to take care of this very thing, whose business it was to have regard to the position of the Defence Forces. The Government, of course, had their policy. The Cabinet decided what strategical necessities there might be, and we had the Committee of Imperial Defence which was well equipped to give information and advice. Yet nothing was done. There seems to 812 have been, as it were, a gap between the Government in Downing Street and the Committee of Imperial Defence in Whitehall Gardens, Although the Committee of Imperial Defence had every opportunity and, as I say, every equipment to find out the truth, to emphasise the necessities of the case and make recommendations, it never seems to have got across to the Government in Downing Street. Why was that? What was there that was defective? What was there lacking? What was lacking was this, that the recommendations of the Committee of 1924 were never carried into effect. The Committee of 1924 recommended that there should be a Chairman—an operative Chairman and a real Chairman—of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and after the first few years, as I shall show in a minute, that was never carried out.
May I say a word about this Committee of 1924? I know something about it, because in the Report which it rendered my name is printed first, but I hasten to assure your Lordships that was merely because I occupied the titular place of the Chairman of the Committee. There were many more important members of the Committee than myself. Lord Balfour was himself a member of the Committee, Mr. Neville Chamberlain, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, the late Lord Curzon, the Duke of Devonshire, Lord Derby, my noble friend Lord Peel, Sir Samuel Hoare, Mr. Amery and Lord Weir, who, as your Lordships know, is a great authority on these subjects. These were gentlemen in whom most people had great confidence. These were the members of the Committee, and they made these recommendations for the future of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I am going to trouble your Lordships with a few—a very few, I hope—quotations from that Report. The Committee recited what the position of the Committee of Imperial Defence had been up to that time and then stated what was required to make it thoroughly efficient.
I will quote from page 16, paragraph 36, of the Report under sub-paragraph (3). This is what the Report states:Under the existing system the Committee of Imperial Defence, an advisory and consultative body, inquires into and makes recommendations in regard to the issues of defence policy and organisation 813 which are brought before it. The power of initiative lies with the Government Departments and with the Prime Minister.Your Lordships will notice the word "initiative" in that paragraph. That is what the Committee really dwelt upon—that immediate initiative did not lie with the Chairman but with the Prime Minister and the Government Departments. La the next sub-paragraph the Report went on:This system, though invaluable up to a point, does not make any authority, except the Prime Minister"—your Lordships will please watch these words—who can only devote a small part of his time and attention to defence questions, directly responsible for the initiation of a consistent line of policy …They stated that that was the system. Then the Committee go on to say in sub-paragraph (5) of paragraph 36:While, therefore, the existing system of Departmental initiative will continue"—there was no desire to interfere with the ordinary working of the Departments—the responsibility for the wider initiative referred to above in paragraph (4) will"—in future; I put in those two words, as that is the meaning—also rest with the Chairman of the Committee of imperial Defence acting under the general direction of the Committee of Imperial Defence and with the assistance of the three Chiefs of Staff.What is clear is that they found that the initiative has hitherto laid with the Prime Minister and the Departments; that that was wrong; that there was a much more important, wider initiative which also lay with the Committee and notably with its Chairman, and that the Chairman ought to work in close collaboration with the three technical Chiefs of Staff. That is what the Committee said. If your Lordships will allow me to quote one further passage you will see what were to be the functions of this Chairman. The function of the Chairman was, of course to preside over the Committee. He had to act as a liaison officer, if I may use the phrase, between the Committee and the Cabinet. The Report then goes on to say that the functions of the Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence would be:Assisted by the three Chiefs of Staff as laid down … above, to keep the defence situation as a whole constantly under review so as to ensure that defence preparations 814 and plans and the expenditure thereupon are co-ordinated and framed to meet policy, that full information as to the changing naval, military and air situation may always be available to the Committee of Imperial Defence and that resolutions as to the requisite action thereupon may be submitted for its consideration.Those were the functions of the Chairman and your Lordships will observe that every one of those obligations which were thrown upon him meant work, heavy work.
The wider initiative was to lie with the Committee and with him as leading the Committee. He was to be the liaison officer with the Cabinet. He was to co-ordinate all plans of defence in order to carry out the policy of the Cabinet and furnish them with information, and to watch over all the problems so that we should not be caught tripping or caught asleep as I am afraid we have in fact been caught. But that depended upon there being a real Chairman, an operative Chairman. I know something of the work of the Chairman because for four months I was Chairman, and then the Government changed and the Labour Government took office. I must do them the justice to say that they followed our example. They appointed a specific Chairman. But after the Labour Government fell and the Conservative Government returned the Chairmanship was merged in the office of Prime Minister—the Prime Minister who, the Committee had already found, could only devote a small part of his time and attention to defence questions. Depend upon it, my Lords, it was there lay the defect which prevented the proper working of the system of the Committee of Imperial Defence. Instead of having a Minister who was in the office all day and every day, who looked at all the papers as they went through, who had what I may call the imponderable knowledge of the subject which came from constant familiarity with all the papers and all the persons involved and engaged in it; instead of that there was the occasional visit of the Prime Minister when the Committee sat, with perhaps a few words with the Secretary before the Committee began business. That was not the way to do it.
I am quite sore that if we are to restore the efficiency of the Committee of Imperial Defence, if we are to give an 815 opportunity for all this information and expert advice to be laid before the Cabinet, it can only be done by having once more an operative Chairman of the Committee. He will guide the Committee as to what are the wishes of the Cabinet and he will guide the Cabinet as to what is the meaning of the resolutions of the Committee. I want to be quite fair, so may I just say that I quite understand why the Prime Minister undertook the Chairmanship of the Committee, although I venture to think it was quite wrong. It was thought to be so important a post that the Prime Minister ought to undertake it. It was thought that the only way in which the Prime Minister could be, as it were, thoroughly familiar with all the details of defence, which was of vital importance, was that he should be Chairman himself. But it was founded upon a wholly false logic. The only way in which the thing can be done efficiently is to have a man who can devote his whole time to it. There is that tremendous point. And there is a further point. Your Lordships will have observed in what I read just now that the Chairman was to work always assisted by the three Chiefs of Staff. He was to be closely associated with them always.
I shrink from wearying your Lordships by repeating what everybody knows, but the three Chiefs of Staff—that is the military chief of the Army, the naval chief of the Navy and the corresponding chief of the Air Force—meeting together were, as it were, the whole Staff capacity of the country united in one small Committee so that their knowledge, experience and their skill could be pooled and placed at the service of the country. I venture to think that an admirable arrangement. Then the Committee established in 1924, which I myself described, reported that the Chairman should always work in the closest co-operation with the Chiefs of Staff. That was the system. But how could the Prime Minister work with the Chiefs of Staff? He was engaged in thousands of things, in running the whole business of the country. Every day he had to supervise the foreign policy of the country; above all it was his business to know all about and take a prominent part in directing that. He had the patronage of the Crown. He had the very important obligation of personal attendance on the Sovereign. All these 816 things the Prime Minister had to do. To keep in close relationship with the Chiefs of Staff was physically impossible. It could not be done. That was the system which the Committee suggested, and it was that system which I very much regret was not carried out at the time when that Committee reported.
May I just say one further word? The great importance of having a special Minister is this. If he is a man who can be trusted, everything which is of importance in defence is brought under the direct cognisance of the Government. His business it is to think out what ought to be done—not actually what ought to be done in the particular Services, but what ought to be done in the joint Services; what their wider policy ought to be—and to insist upon it in the Cabinet. I do not mean to say that one Minister can insist on having his way, but he can press things upon his colleagues in a way in which no outsider can. And of course, if it were absolutely necessary—though I do not imagine for a moment that it would be necessary—he could press it to the point of resignation; if, for instance, things were allowed to lapse; if things were as slack as I am afraid they would have become if it appeared that the Army was ill-equipped, the ships obsolete or the Air Force deficient. Then the Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence would be the man who would say to his colleagues: "You must do something; I cannot be responsible any longer unless it is done." That is the way in which things are driven through an overworked Cabinet who have other things to think of.
I am quite sure that my noble friend on the Front Bench will feel the truth of all I am saying, but it follows—and this brings me to the last point in the observations that I am going to make to your Lordships this afternoon—that this Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence must be a Parliamentary Minister. A permanent official, however skilful and however trusted, is not the man, because he cannot insist. He is a servant, not a master. Indeed, although, as I say, resignation is an ultima ratio, he cannot resign. He can do nothing if his advice is not taken. A permanent official therefore is not the man. Moreover, a permanent official is not responsible to Parliament. If he makes a mistake he cannot be called to account, 817 either in another place or in your Lordships' House. If he is called to account in the sort of indirect, way in which we deal with permanent officials, he cannot defend himself. Suppose you had a Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence who was a permanent official, and he gave wrong advice to the Cabinet and mischief resulted. When the thing came to be discussed in Parliament, are the Government to say: "We followed the advice of this eminent gentleman, and he has let us down"? Of course they would not, say that; they would be obliged to pretend that it was all their fault, according to the convention under which we work our public life. My Lords, it is impossible that a permanent official should be the Chairman of this Committee.
For these reasons I have come to the conclusion—if I may humbly say so, a conclusion not made for the first time now, but made ten years ago when this Committee of 1924 sat—that the Chairman of the Imperial Defence must be a responsible Parliamentary Minister. I hope that that is the conclusion of the Government; I hope it is the conclusion of your Lordships. It is for that reason, and also because of the exigency of the present moment, that I have ventured to trouble your Lordships this afternoon. I beg to move.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, it is some years since I ventured to address your Lordships' House, but I do so to-day in view of toe importance of the subject under discussion, as one who—as the noble Marquess has just said—was one of the servants of the Crown in those days and saw the setting-up of the Committee of the Chiefs of the Staffs from the, inside and not as a Minister. I feel, therefore, that it is almost my duty, who served on the Committee for six and a half years and was Chief of a Staff for twelve years, to place before your Lordships my experience of its working. This seems to be especially appropriate coming from one who was Chief of the Air Staff, because, as I do net think your Lordships will deny, the setting-up of the Salisbury Committee which produced the White paper, which was in 1923, was due to the great development of air power.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
The great development of air power and of a force which knows nothing of land fontiers made the question of co-ordination between the Services a matter of much greater difficulty than it had been before. I hope that at the end of this debate the noble Lord who replies for the Government will be able to say, as was, I think, said the other day in another place, that this debate has been useful. So far as I am concerned I only hope to add, if I can, a little to the solution of a very difficult problem. I am dividing my speech into my experience and what I think should be done in the future. Before I begin to touch on that, I should like also to refer to the debate that took place on February 11 on a Motion by Lord Strabolgi. The noble Viscount who replied for the Admiralty was comparing irresponsible and responsible advice. My memory is not better than that of anybody else, but what I am going to say this afternoon was what I said during the eleven years in which I was Chief of the Air Staff, and responsible. Now, I agree, I am irresponsible, but I hope I have not forgotten.
The noble Lord who replied for the Admiralty said in his speech:If we go hack to the Middle Ages we find that at one of the Lateran Councils the cross-bow was solemnly outlawed as a weapon hateful in the sight of God.I do not want to go anything like as far back as that with regard to the pressure of irresponsible opinion. I do not even want to go back to the days of the controversies of the wooden ship and the iron ship. I will only go back to periods in my own lifetime, to the setting-up of the Air Ministry; for I feel, and I think your Lordships will agree, that without the pressure of outside opinion the Air Ministry would not have been set up, and I should not have been addressing your Lordships to-day. Another point which I cannot help noticing, having felt it myself, is that when any man takes up on a committee or council a position of corporate responsibility, he always seems inclined to be a little slower to move than others. It has always been so; and I think it is a good thing to 819 refer to the question of what should be done in the future. There are only four ex-Chiefs of Staff in your Lordships' House, and I regret most sincerely the absence of the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Beatty—
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
—and I hope soon he will be able to resume his place, and give us the help of his invaluable advice on these great questions. I am glad to see here two other noble Lords who at different times were colleagues with me as Chiefs of Staff. As I have said, my experiences come before my proposals. I remember very well that in 1919 Mr. Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for War and Air, was very uneasy at the differences which were growing between the three Services, and he set up, I remember, what was called a high level bridge, with Under-Secretaries of State and the Chiefs of Staff. I think the records could show that it held only two or three meetings, and then it stopped, partly, probably, because Mr. Churchill moved on to another office, and partly, perhaps, because in those days very few were interested in the Defence Services. You could get very little interest shown in the great problems that demanded to be solved. Everybody was keen on demobilising and reducing expenditure, and there was also a feeling that other matters, such as the economic crisis, industrial unrest, and so on, were more pressing. Anyhow, that ceased.
Then I had something to do, and a very small part to play, in the discussions that went on in what, in those days, was called the Salisbury Committee, from which evolved the Chiefs of Staff Committee and many other recommendations. I seem to remember very well, too, that there were great differences of opinion when the discussions were going on, and if I may quote from the Report in the same way as the noble Marquess—but an earlier part—I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the extreme differences of opinion found by the Salisbury Committee. In paragraph 17 of the Report, they say:Apart from this, when the Committee came to examine the question of the protection of maritime communications in the narrow seas, they did not find the same measure of agreement … On the contrary, this part of the inquiry revealed wide differences of professional opinion. 820 … The more closely the inquiry was pressed in matters of detail the wider the differences appeared.That was the state of affairs, as stated in a sentence in that Report, and I conclude that it would not have been put in unless it had been found that the differences were very acute. In fact it was the coming of the air which brought these things to a head. At the same time there was not much interest taken in the Services.
Then I remember that when the discussions were going on with regard to setting up the Chiefs of Staff, with individual and collective responsibility, I made a suggestion that each Chief of Staff should sign Vote A of the other Services. The reason I made the suggestion was because I was then frightened that each Chief of Staff would only be allowed to discuss his own subject. My suggestion was not accepted (it may be for good reasons) but it will show your Lordships what was in my mind in those days—namely, that there was a great chance that we should only discuss our own Services. I believe that at the beginning not even the Chiefs of Staff were altogether welcome. People in corporate responsibility do not altogether like innovations. I am aware that it is very hard to know what is passing in another man's mind, but I feel that there was a feeling, as I have said—certainly in my mind—that it was not always advisable to raise subjects which were then a long way off, but becoming real—grave subjects about another Service that would provoke a grave conflict. I know that that remark which I also put in a letter the other day has been rather resented, but I feel that it was my duty to say it. Although on the Chiefs of Staff Committee I have had keen discussions with noble Lords who sit on my right, and we have discussed many subjects, I feel that there are still many subjects which we did not discuss. I wonder very much if the subject that I have quoted out of that Report has been fully gone into in these thirteen years.
Your Lordships must remember also that in those early days of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, it was a delicate plant, but it improved, I think, and got stronger and stronger, and they were able to work together. I can recall many conflicts that I had with the noble Field Marshal on my right, and yet we could go on discussing many important points 821 while there are still a good many not discussed, as I thought, in those clays. The Government had also laid it down that there was to be no war for ten years. Therefore it was very hard to get any Minister interested in a question about sea communications and air communications, seeing that there was to be no great war for ten years, and that the important question was the reduction of taxation. I am not complaining, but only saying that one reason why the Chiefs of Staff did not do more was because of that lack of interest. But time was getting short and the question of the air was corning. I take it we should not be talking here to-day except for the feeling which many of you have of the danger from the air. I think that is at the back of a large number of your Lordships' minds.
I must refer to a statement made in this House some time last May by the noble Viscount who sits on the Woolsack, when he was Leader of the House. He said there were almost unanimous reports received from the Chiefs of Staff. I do not doubt it, but surely when one sees in the Press the various divergent letters even in their own Service publications, and hears of all the discussions that take place on every Staff, in every Staff College, in every mess and everywhere where officers gather together—if this is not reflected at all in these reports it is curious. It is not proper or right that I should elaborate what are the great points which I think were not discussed in my day. Of what has been discussed since I have no knowledge except what I see in the Press and hear from my friends. But I wonder again if even that one subject has been settled, in view of what Lord Strabolgi mentioned the other day in regard to sea communications in the Mediterranean.
I want to say that I look upon the Chiefs of Staff Committee as the kernel of the problem: that is the most important thing. I say that that Committee has done an enormous work. I say that many questions that have cropped up, like Shanghai and other emergencies, could not have been settled without the Chiefs of Staff Committee. I think that Lord Rawlinson said that it was the greatest step forward this country had made in defence. Day by 822 day it has done good. I think the Committee could do more if it had that permanent Chairman added to it. I know quite well it may be said, as I saw in The Times this morning, that each Chief of Staff would come with his brief and fight to the end. I agree in a way, but there are some things that should be fought to the end and so presented that the Minister who presides can put the pros and cons to the Government, so that the Government can take the responsibility instead of their being whittled and whittled away until the point is never really met. I am not saying for a moment that big points are not settled. I know a very big one that was settled, and others may be; but in my experience that was not done. I am only too keen to see points of disagreement sometimes really settled, and not burked and hidden. Nobody knows better than I, after twelve years of being the Chief of the Air Staff, the importance of trying to get agreements. I am very keen for it; but there are times when this is a danger, and it is a danger now. It is a danger in these days if we do not realise what we are now so busy about.
I would like very shortly to support the noble Marquess. I am one of those who are against any great scheme being introduced in this country. I do not think we are ever good at that. I think that developing step by step, and a small step at a time, is the best thing to do. I am perfectly certain that any big scheme for a Ministry of Defence is not right. I would like to see the existing machinery improved. I would like to see what was laid down in the Salisbury Report carried out, and that under the Prime Minister there should be a whole-time Chairman. But I would like him to preside not only there but at the Chiefs of Staff Committee and at the Committee of the Principal Supply Officers, which I look upon as the second great Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I am not at all certain that manning ought not to come into it. I am told sometimes that we are not dealing with these questions by priority. I say that with regard to manning I do not know how else you can deal with it when there are not enough to go round. I want to emphasise again that the Chiefs of Staff Committee is the kernel of the problem. I am not out in any way to destroy it; I am out to strengthen it. I 823 think it is the best thing there has ever been, and I feel that the next step is due.
May I just touch on staff? I think the existing staff of the Committee of Imperial Defence should be the staff of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. I would prefer to call it the Secretariat. I would like to see it strengthened with four or five officers of Brigadier's rank, and appropriate ranks in other Services, but I would like to see on it two or three civil servants of the same rank who have passed through the Imperial Service College. It is one of the great advantages of the Imperial Service College that the civil servants go there. I think the staff would thereby be strengthened. They would be, so to speak, the staff of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and of the Minister. I think one of the duties of this Minister would be sometimes to hear outside opinion. I know the Committee of Imperial Defence do a great deal, but sometimes, when these controversies are on and somebody has made a particular matter his life's hobby, as I have seen Admiral Richmond and General Fuller do, I think it would do no harm for that man to be sent for and to be seen by the Chiefs of Staff and asked his opinion on various points. From my experience also that has very often stopped opposition, even if you get no good advice. But you may get good advice, and I beg the Government, in formulating their scheme, to see that that is encouraged more and more. I do not want to go into further detail, but I would like to say that time is short. I look upon the situation as important, and I hope that the noble Viscount who will reply will not regard anything I have said as harmful. I know that advice, when it is not asked for, is generally unwelcome, but I feel it my duty to put my experience and my recommendations, however badly I do so, before your Lordships.
My Lords, I am sure I am voicing the opinion of all your Lordships in thanking the noble and gallant Viscount on the Cross Benches for the contribution he has made to this important debate. I would only add that I wish that on this occasion we had been sitting in secret session, and that he had felt more at liberty to give us some details of the experiences that he related to your Lordships. I will not, of course, attempt to comment on anything the 824 noble Viscount has said, because I believe the indictment he has made, joined to that of the noble Marquess who introduced this Motion, is most formidable. But I would allow myself to say this with regard to what fell from the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard. He said we must in these matters proceed a small step at a time. That I personally think is self-evident, because the matter is so complicated and intricate. But I am sure he will agree with me that a false step would at the present time be most injurious. Small steps at a time, yes, but steps in the right direction; and from what I have been able to understand from the statement made by the Prime Minister in another place, a few moments only before the noble Marquess introduced his Motion, we are about to embark on a course that is several steps in the wrong direction.
I shall ask for information on this point from the noble Viscount who will speak in a moment or two for the Government. May I, on behalf of my noble friends begin by extending a welcome to the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, who has now joined your Lordships' House and who. I am sure, will be a great adornment and acquisition to our debating strength? May I at the same time take the opportunity—I think it is appropriate—to thank, on behalf of my noble friends his predecessor the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, for his unfailing courtesy to us and for his readiness to give information to the Opposition both while he was Air Minister and Leader of the House. I know my noble friends will bear me out in that.
I know I am speaking for my noble friends when I say that I thank the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, for introducing this Motion, and thank him also for the tremendous indictment he made of the Government in previous years. I do not think the noble Marquess, when he was speaking, was seized of the reply which the Prime Minister made to-day in answer to a private notice question put by my right honourable friend Mr. Attlee. A statement was made by the Prime Minister which I only saw in summary in the Exchange Telegraph Company's report on the tape, but in a way it answered one or two of the points which the noble Marquess raised. I think he will agree when he sees the statement in full, failing a more adequate explanation from 825 the noble Viscount the Air Minister, that the picture the Prime Minister drew in another place is most unsatisfactory. I shall endeavour to show why that is so. Apparently a Deputy is to be appointed to the Prime Minister as Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence. He is apparently not to be the permanent Chairman, but only to be Chairman when the Prime Minister cannot conveniently preside. He is to have certain rights, such as calling together the Chiefs of Staff Committee when, he desires to do so, and he is to have the assistance of three officers, one from each Service, who will remain on the staffs of their respective Ministries. They are not going to 'De seconded, they are not going to be, independent, they are not going to be, following the proposals of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, additions to the Secretariat of the Committee of Imperial Defence. They will remain at Adastral House, the War Office, and the Admiralty, and continue on their staffs.
Furthermore, this unfortunate Minister who will have no real appointment, who will be a sort of shallow pretext, a camouflage of the system which was, as I think, so shattered by the noble Marquess in his speech in introducing the Motion, will also have the duty of presiding over the Principal Supply Officers Committee as well. That in itself, unless there is some other explanation from the noble Viscount, damns the whole thing as I shall endeavour to show. I am speaking in the presence of noble Lords of great Service experience, two Field Marshals, the Air Marshal who has just spoken, the Paymaster-General, and other noble Lords present at this debate, and they will not gainsay that the danger always in a Defence Ministry is that the details and the burden of administration tend to swamp and obliterate the creation and working-out of plans in advance. That has always been the trouble, unless you separate your planning or strategical department, thinking out great questions of policy, from the departments responsible for manning, training, discipline, and supply, and the general day-to-day preparations.
I had a little personal experience of this under the leadership of a very gallant officer who is now a member of another place when we formed the Plans Division at the Admiralty in 1917, when this country was nearly in sight of complete 826 defeat. Mr. Churchill attempted to make a General Staff at the Admiralty, following the example of Lord Haldane at the War Office, but he did not grasp this necessity of separating the two great functions of planning or thinking-out policy ahead from administration. The result was that, with the best will in the world, Mr. Churchill's General Staff at the Admiralty was not a Staff in the real sense of the word for thinking out future plans and policy; and the only officer at the Admiralty, until the Plans Division was formed, who was not immersed in day-to-day operations or day-to-day administration, was the First Sea Lord himself. Then we formed the Plans Division, and that had strict orders not to engage in day-to-day administration or operations or anything of the kind, but only to consider future problems. That Plans Division has continued and survived, and it is now referred to in the Prime Minister's statement in the House of Commons as one of the three Joint Planning Committees.
When Lord Haldane went to the War Office he understood this principle, and he did separate the two divisions of the Staff accordingly, and that was the practice of the great masters of war-craft in Germany when they built up the great war machine prior to the series of wars that created the German Empire. It was so thoroughly understood in Berlin that they physically and geographically separated the two departments in different areas of the city, one dealing with day-to-day administration and all the burden of technical detail, and the other dealing with future plans and policy. You have that system now in the three Services themselves, and you have the germ, the beginnings of it, in this Joint Committee of the three Planning Committees of the three Services. But you have no proper head for such a body.
You again had an attempt to do it in the Chiefs of Staff Committee but, as the noble Viscount has pointed out, the Prime Minister could not give proper attention to it. The Committee of Imperial Defence could not give proper attention to future policy. You have never really in your scheme of defence had a properly staffed department, which is tremendously important, thinking out future policy and plans, and the result is the present state of affairs. You have had one man responsible, and that has 827 been the Prime Minister of the day. As the noble Marquess has pointed out, the Prime Minister has been overburdened. We have had two Prime Ministers in the past thirteen years. They have alternated with one another, and they have always kept in close touch, whether in Opposition or in office, but they have had too much to do. The result is that this most difficult and delicate task of looking ahead and trying to shape your defensive measures and co-ordinate them with your policy has been neglected. It has been neglected, and there is no use trying to deny the fact any longer. I was hoping that a Minister would be appointed separately and independently and permanently, as long as the Government lasts.
I entirely agree he must be a political Minister. He must be able to answer in one or other House of Parliament as permanent head of the Committee of Imperial Defence and as permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. But for heaven's sake do not make that same man responsible for supply. Do not make him into a peacetime Minister of Munitions, otherwise he will become immersed in those voluminous and tremendous details of trying to make preparations for transforming the peace industries of the country in case of emergency, in all the questions of materials and supply for the three Services, and so on. I regret to say that the present Prime Minister himself does not understand this necessity of separating the two functions of planning and preparations in advance from day-to-day administration. The proof of that is in the answer to a question that he gave when we had a debate initiated, I believe I am right in saying, or at any rate contributed to, by the present Paymaster-General in the House of Commons in 1928 on the question of a Ministry of Defence.
The present Prime Minister, who was then Prime Minister, in March, 1928, in, of course, opposing the creation of a Ministry of Defence, gave, amongst other reasons, this as one of his principal objections. He said:Even in peace time the work of supervising these three Departments would be a very heavy burden for a single Minister.Of course it would. It would be an impossible burden, an utterly impossible burden, and that was never the intention of the Paymaster-General when he was 828 in a position of less responsibility and greater freedom, or of the noble Marquess, or of Admiral Sueter in the House of Commons, and others who have argued for the need of a Ministry of Defence. It was not an idea of an Admiralty-cum-War Office-cum-Air Ministry to try and deal with all the multitudinous details of administration. The whole idea was to have a combined General Staff with a Minister at the head of it engaged only in thinking out the problems of defence.
Now we are going to have this camouflage. I do not wonder that it is a camouflage. In June last year the Prime Minister announced in another place that he did not intend to appoint a Minister without portfolio to co-ordinate defence policy. He did not intend it then; he does not intend it now. An honourable friend of mine in another place, who has heard the Prime Minister's answer and has given some study to this matter, has written me a note to-day. I have had it handed to me during the progress of this debate. He sums up the whole position in this way: "The old gang has won all along the line." I am afraid that has happened. My hope is that the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, will be able to put a better complexion on it; hut from the statement I have had sent to me as to what the Prime Minister suggested in the House of Commons the position will be not better in the future but it will be worse, because the step taken will be a false step, and a false sense of security and reassurance will be given to the public.
The noble Marquess was good enough to refer to certain remarks I made earlier in this Session, and he drew attention to the statements which I quoted—not my own responsibility—for the deplorable state of our present Defence Services. I do not know why they are in that state. We have plenty of money for the purpose. The various Governments have had £2,000,000,000 since the end of the Great War. I really do not know where the money has gone to if the state of our defence is so appalling as we are led to believe it is. The last time I drew attention to this almost astronomical figure of expenditure the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, who wound up that debate, said that we pay our soldiers and sailors and other warriors more than other nations, 829 and that that accounted for the enormous expenditure. We do pay our men better than certain other States, and that does account for some of the expenditure, but it only accounts for a fraction of it. The Estimates out, the 1935 Estimates, of total Votes for the three Services, including the Supplementary Estimates, came to over £131,000,000, of which the total pay, including that of non-effective services, such as pensions, half-pay and everything else, only came to £24,700,000—£25,000,000 in round figures out of £131,000,000. That does not account for it all. There was plenty of money for every kind of warlike stores, equipment, aeroplanes and so on. I do not know why the defences of the country are in the weak state in which we are told on the highest authority they are. If it is so, then I say a very heavy responsibility rests on two men and those are the present Prime Minister and his predecessor. Those two have been in office, in the most powerful position of all, for thirteen years, and theirs is the responsibility.
I wish to make a certain observation very seriously indeed with regard to the staff that this Deputy Minister, whoever he is, is going to have. You appoint somebody, I hope, to think out the very intricate problems of the present time, to report to the Cabinet and bring his troubles to the Cabinet when he cannot solve them himself, and also obtain approval for great questions of policy. He must have, I submit, an independent staff. It can be the Secretariat of the Committee of Imperial Defence, for which the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, spoke; but the members must be officers, I submit, who are seconded from their Services and who will be senior officers with considerable service behind them, graduates, I hope, of the College of imperial Defence. They must be officers who will look to that kind of Staff work as their future careers and who will not have to depend for their promotion and employment on their own Services. You put these officers sometimes in a delicate and difficult position. I would suggest that you want something like the Political Service in India. When an officer of the Army is seconded for the Political Service, he does not, except in emergency, go back to the Army at all. That is his future career. In this you want officers of the rank described by Lord 830 Trenchard who will be permanently on the Secretariat of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and will be the advisers and assistants of the Cabinet through this Minister, who should be the permanent head and the Chief of Staff for the Committee. That apparently you are not going to get. I would beg of the noble Viscount the Air Minister, when he replies, to elaborate if he can what the Prime Minister said in the House of Commons, and if possible give some assurance on this point. Otherwise you do not give this Minister a chance; you only revert to the present state of affairs.
I must, if I may, reinforce what the noble Marquess who moved this Motion said about the present state of affairs. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the results of the present system once more in a rather different way. When the former Foreign Secretary, Sir Samuel Hoare, resigned, he made a remarkable speech in the House of Commons in which, in excusing and apologising for the Laval-Hoare peace terms, he declared that no other State Member of the League, despite the threats and vapourings of certain people in Rome, had moved a ship, a soldier or an aeroplane. That, of course, was true, and that is a terrible indictment of all the Governments concerned including our own. Surely it was our declared policy that we were relying as far as we could on a system of collective security, that we were hoping to build it up. I would have thought that it was elementary, if that was the case, that certain conversations should take place with the other States Members of the League in case of the need of the military machinery, the coercive machinery of the League of Nations, being required. Apparently that was not done.
An answer was given yesterday in another place by the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who was asked whether—I am summarising—preparatory conversations took place, and the answer was—No; that every nation had a national responsibility to aid in the scheme of collective security, etc. Then, when we were threatened last December, at any rate in the officially controlled newspapers in Rome, with all sorts of dire consequences if we dared to continue in our obligations under the 831 League, and only then, did conversations take place with Spain and Turkey, Yugoslavia, Greece and France. That is a terrible state of affairs. That should have been done before. If it be said that that meant disclosing confidential plans to possible aggressors who are still States Members of the League, I submit there is nothing in that at all. The sort of plans I have in mind do not go into technical details at all. Our force available is known to everyone, and a very good idea of the force of other nations is available as well. But not to have had preparatory explorations between the technical staffs of all the States Members of the League is, I submit, a terrible state of affairs and indicates gross neglect. That is the kind of thing the Minister I have in mind should undertake as one of his jobs.
There is one other example of the appalling state in which we find ourselves. I see the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, on the Cross Benches. I should very much like to hear from him, if not to-day then at some other time, whether any preparations were made in his time for the defence of Egypt from the westward. It may have been talked about, but preparations were not made because we are feverishly making them now. It is a fact that we are quite hurriedly now extending the railway along the Mediterranean coast to defend Libya and we are now hurriedly enlarging the harbour at Alexandria. I am told that the Italians had ready a completely mechanised division in Libya and furthermore that that division could at a pinch cross the sands. We had nothing with which to meet it except one mechanised brigade, which, on the authority of a member of your Lordships' House, the noble Viscount, Lord Allenby, whom I quoted in the last debate, is equipped with out-of-date tanks and other weapons. We were caught by surprise with regard to any threat to the western frontier of Libya. Why should we be caught by surprise? If we had been involved in a Mediterranean war it would have meant not only defending the trade routes referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Allenby, but there would have been also the question of the defence of Egypt from the west. Either plans were never considered, which is a terrible indictment, or if they were considered they were not acted upon, which is also an 832 indictment. I have ventured to put certain questions to the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and I hope he can give us a better picture of the position than the Prime Minister did in another place.
I am speaking on behalf of my Party and I want to make it perfectly clear that we deplore all this talk of war and preparations for war at the present time. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, said he was told after the Great War that we could rely on ten years peace. Apparently the Government cannot now rely upon ten months peace. That is a dreadful state of things after nineteen centuries of Christianity. But while we have Defence Forces—here I am speaking with the authority of my leaders, including my noble friend in this House—we do wish them to be efficient and we want to avoid unnecessary expenditure and overlapping. We believe that they can only be brought into a proper state of efficiency by some better method of co-ordination and some better method of organisation. And, my Lords, there is a very large political question concerned. We are faced by a certain question. Is it possible that democratic Governments can make preparations in case of emergency and war as efficiently as the dictatorship Governments? That is the test before this Government, which has another two or three years of office before it. I believe they can, and that democratic Governments have an immense advantage over dictatorship Governments. If they govern properly, and if their policy is sound and acceptable to the people, they carry a united opinion behind them which dictatorships can never know.
That brings me to another aspect of the attitude of the Labour Party, and I would commend this to noble Lords who adorn the Government Bench. The great majority of the Labour Party are prepared to support this country in war for its defence if that war is in harmony with our obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations. In other words, action or preparation for action must be in support of the system of collective security. Since 1914 there has been this tremendous change in the country, that you have now a great Labour political movement. Unless you can carry the Labour political movement and the Labour industrial movement with you you will not get that united opinion which 833 one would hope you would have in case of a terrible emergency in the future. You will only get that united opinion if you really try to build up a system of collective security and if your defence preparations are based on providing means for this country to play its part as one State Member of the League. The speech of the noble Marquess—of course he was not dealing with this matter—had one defect and that was he spoke only of Imperial defence. If you attempt to embark on any war in the future you can make what preparations you like but if you have only the old Imperialistie aims you will not carry a united nation with you.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (VISCOUNT SWINTON)
My Lords, as the Government have come to very definite conclusions and are proposing to take decisions in regard to the matters raised in this debate, I think it probably will be for the convenience of your Lordships if I intervene now and place before your Lordships as clearly as I can the reasons winch have led the Government to come to those conclusions and to explain the action we propose to take. I feel that that is the more necessary in view of the curiously erroneous accounts of our intentions which have just been delivered by the noble Lord opposite, though I take note, and thankfully take note, that he commits the Party for whom he speaks to support us in making good all our deficiencies on condition that we are true to our policy of support of the League of Nations. We shall be true to that policy, and we shall look to the noble Lord and his Party with confidence to give us that support, which I am sure they will give, in what is really a national necessity.
The noble Marquess who introduced this debate, and to whom the Committee of Imperial Defence owes a great deal, has, I think wisely, differentiated the question of the organisation of the Committee of Imperial Defence as an instrument for continuous and current work from the detailed plans which we shall have to lay before Parliament in the course of a week or two in a White Paper and which will be debated fully in both houses of Parliament. These proposals which we shall present to Parliament were regarded as far too important to be considered merely by the Service Departments in the way that Estimates are considered in normal 834 times. We felt that in framing these proposals we had to do that which, indeed, can ordinarily only be done in war: that these proposals should be the considered proposals of the strongest Committee of the Cabinet which could be chosen, sitting day after day on every aspect of these proposals—after an enormous amount of preliminary work by the Chiefs of Staff together—working with the permanent head of the Foreign Office, the permanent head of the Treasury and the Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence. These proposals, when they come, will represent the considered view of the Cabinet, prepared by the Cabinet sitting, as it were, continuously in commission.
Such a comprehensive and exhaustive review is obviously impossible as a normal procedure, but that work which we have had to do in that way—and, indeed, all our experience of the last six months—has emphasised the need for some change in our co-ordination machinery. That is no new problem to many of us; it has long exercised our minds, not merely as a matter of expediency but on the sheer merits of the case. The discussions which have taken place and the suggestions which have been made in recent months, while they have certainly not opened our eyes to a problem with which we were not well acquainted before, have none the less been very valuable to us—many of them—in helping us to arrive at a decision. I am also very glad that my noble friend said that there was no question of establishing a Ministry of Defence. He did not pause to argue it; nor do I, except for a single instant and in a couple of sentences. It would be an impossible system even in peace-time, for, whatever you do, the Service Ministers must remain responsible for their own Service Departments. That is constitutionally necessary, and it is necessary if businesslike administration is to be secured. It would, I believe, be quite impossible for a single Minister to undertake the vast work which each Minister of the Service Departments has to discharge in the coming months and years. But it would be equally impossible in time of war. The same argument would apply as now, that they would have plenty to do, but the supreme direction of the war and the whole of the policy in war must rest day after day with the Prime Minister 835 and the War Cabinet of the day. Therefore that is not in question here.
The way in which my noble friend posed the question—and, I think, rightly posed it—was whether the system which Lord Balfour originated and which has been developed so extensively since is working to the best advantage, or whether it can be improved for the continuous work which is going to become more and more important than ever in the future. But may I just say in passing that the argument that my noble friend adduced, the argument that we have fallen behind in meeting the necessities of defence, was not in itself an argument against the Committee of Imperial Defence as at present working? I am in agreement with much that my noble friend said, and, as I will show later, with his conclusions, but I do not think that is really a fair argument in this case, and I think there are much stronger arguments—if I may say so—on which to found it. After all, the reason why we are behindhand in matters of defence to-day is not because successive Governments have not known the facts about our defences. It is riot because—and I think this should be said in fairness—the successive Chiefs of Staff have left the Governments under any illusion as to the position.
Indeed, my noble friend said: "When I was a member of the Government I shared my responsibility, because there was a ten-years' rule, and we were told that there would never be a war for ten years." But that was not a decision of the Committee of Imperial Defence. That was a considered decision of the Government of the day, taken in consultation with the Foreign Office, a decision which, as he will remember, was brought up for review and was in fact reviewed year by year, and was an instruction given by the Cabinet to the Committee of Imperial Defence and the Defence Departments. In the same way, in the years that followed, rightly or wrongly, it was the considered policy of successive Governments, when they thought international disarmament might be obtained, to refrain—perhaps wrongly—from repairing deficiencies. But it was not any lack in the machinery or in the working of the machinery of the Committee of Imperial Defence which led successive Governments to take those decisions. Be they right or wrong, they were decisions taken by the Governments of the day in full 836 knowledge of what the state of our defences was.
But, my Lords, I think there are more cogent arguments on which I can completely agree with the noble Lord in his conclusion. Let me say at once that the Prime Minister has decided—because more and more in these past months he has been forced to the conclusion that he himself, with all the work which is coming upon him, cannot do that job which in these days he has to do—that it is necessary to delegate to another Minister much of his work in connection with the Committee of, Imperial Defence, and to charge that Minister with special duties. I will explain as briefly as I can—and if I occupy your Lordships for some time it is because I feel it is necessary that I should say as plainly as possible—just exactly what our plan is and how we hope it will work.
Lord Balfour, to whom this country owes many debts, and none greater than the conception of the establishment of the Committee of Imperial Defence, created the Committee of Imperial Defence, as my noble friend has said, as a body centring round the Prime Minister. It is essential that, whether the Prime Minister has a Deputy or not, it should centre round the Prime Minister, and that the Prime Minister, the head of the Government, should never lose his interest in and his contact with these tremendous defence problems. Not the least reason is that, as my noble friend said, the elastic constitution of the Committee of Imperial Defence passes outside the bounds of this country and embraces Dominion Prime Ministers when they are here, and even their representatives when they are not. Then came the War and the developments which came after the War, which showed that there were far wider problems, and more manifold problems, than the Committee had had to deal with before. Great developments took place, and if there is any man to whom the Committee of Imperial Defence, and all who have served on that Committee, are deeply indebted, besides Lord Balfour, I am sure I am expressing the feelings of every one who served on that Committee when I say it is Sir Maurice Hankey.
Your Lordships will remember that there stand on record the words of Lord Oxford and Asquith in his tribute on a great occasion to Sir Maurice Hankey: 837No one knows as well as I do how much we owe to you for our (ignorantly derided) pre-war preparation, nor the extent and value of your daily, and almost hourly, contribution during the first two and a half years to every measure in all spheres that was thought out and done. I know that you have continued to the end, under constant strain which cannot be measured, to render the same invaluable service. I should like you to know that in my judgment you have been in a true sense what Carnot was called, 'The organiser of victory'.Lord Oxford wrote that at the end of the War. Sir Maurice Hankey has gone on in the service of this country, and every year has added to his knowledge and to our debt to him. He has trained many men, officers of all the Services, in his way; but there is no second Hankey and it is essential that the position, strength and effectiveness of any organisation shall not be dependant upon a particular man or men. We must be sure that this organisation is going to work, whoever be the people for the time being upon whom will fall the duty of working it.
I am not sure if it is appreciated—perhaps it is in this House, but I am not sure it is outside—how wide is the field of work which the Committee of Imperial Defence covers, and I feel that some brief review is necessary to see what is needed of the organisation, how it works, and what is required of the new Minister. First, there is that mass of work in planning and ensuring that the whole of the Government administrative machinery, which must come into force should a war come, and which is vital, should be up to date and ready, so that it can be put into force forthwith. Your Lordships will remember how one system after another had to be improvised and developed in the course of the last War. When the War was over it was realised that these matters could not again be left to chance or to be worked out on the fading memory of those who had some experience of them. Plans have been put in hand for formulating and planning cut the whole of that field of administration, and those who have been connected with the work of the Committee of Imperial Defence will testify how thoroughly that work has been done. This work covers, for example, man power in all its aspects, questions of trade in warfare, war risks insurance, food supplies, oil supplies, censorship, war emergency legislation, 838 and orders for action in every Government Department—what we call the War Book.
Those are no panic measures. They are necessary insurance, and I say further that preparation of this kind, as of the strategic kind, is the greatest deterrent and preventive of war coming, and nothing matters so much as that. Therefore I have only thought it right that I should give a complete picture of the work of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and of that very wide side of its work which is admirably done, to-day, by men drawn from every Government Department. That side of the work is thoroughly in hand and kept up to date, and is in very many respects ready to function at any time. Secondly, there is the whole industrial side: plans for the mobilisation of industry in war. I do not want to anticipate, to-day, what will be in the White Paper, or the debates on defence plans. I think it is sufficient to say this, that plans must be ready which will not merely allocate industrial firms to the particular kind of production that would be required of them in war time, but the plans must be carried sufficiently far to ensure that those firms will be able to turn over to war production rapidly and effectively. I well remember that that was a phase of this planning upon which Lord Milner very often laid considerable stress.
Much planning has been done by the supply organisation of the Committee of Imperial Defence—Service Departments, the Treasury, the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Labour, working together with a special staff. Of course, and this is elementary—I mention it because of something which Lord Strabolgi said—in framing this organisation every care has been taken to avoid overlapping with supply departments of the Services, which must be responsible for their own contracts in peace time. But it is an essential counterpart of that to ensure that the Services have and keep to their respective fields of supply, and if necessary decide questions of priority between them, and deal with common sources of supply. I shall not elaborate that to-day, but it has become very clear to us that that organisation has to be greatly strengthened, and it is desirable that this supply organisation should be under a Minister who can take supreme charge of 839 that work. I agree entirely with Lord Trenchard, and am against Lord Strabolgi, that that man must be in charge of the Principal Supply Officers committee, and should be the Minister to whom the Prime Minister delegates responsibilities.
I have explained how the plans which will shortly be put before your Lordships—the plans and programme—have been prepared by a Cabinet Committee. We felt that that work is so important, that it is so necessary to keep these plans under constant review and to follow up the work that is done, that that Committee will be kept in being. The Prime Minister will remain Chairman of the Committee, but the new Minister will act as his Deputy on that important Committee whenever the Prime Minister is unable to attend. When one speaks of the appointment of a Deputy Chairman it does not mean that the Prime Minister will attend one day and his Deputy another. Of course the Deputy will attend every meeting. What will happen is that if the Prune Minister is there, the Prime Minister will preside and the Minister will sit by his side, but if the Prime Minister is not there, the Minister himself will preside.
Lastly, and most important of all, I come to that side of the work round which the debate has mostly centred—the strategic side, General Staff policy in its widest sense. Here the organisation as it exists to-day is the Prime Minister, the Committee of Imperial Defence working to the Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff Committee which, I entirely agree with Lord Trenchard, is the key to the whole position and the whole organisation—that Committee for which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, himself was so largely responsible. Under and working to the Chiefs of Staff Committee you have the Joint Planning Committee, consisting of the directors of plans in the three Services. But those directors are working together just as the Chiefs of Staff work together on the Chiefs of Staff Committee.
To arrive at a right judgment it surely is necessary for us to understand what that organisation is, why it exists in that form, and how it works. Only so can we see haw it should be strengthened. For I am sure your Lordships will agree that it is just as important to maintain in the organisation of the Committee of Imperial 840 Defence that which is working well as it is to improve, or change, or add. Lord Salisbury emphasised the great amount of time which the Prime Minister must give to the work if the organisation is to function to the best advantage. In any case, as I have said, the Prime Minister must always be in touch with that work. I hope that he will always preside at the Committee of Imperial Defence, when it is considering an important question of policy. He will retain his position as Chairman, but he feels, as indeed we all do, that it is essential that there should be another Minister free from all departmental work who can, in relation to the Committee of Imperial Defence and all its activities, act as the Deputy for the Prime Minister and devote the whole of his time to this work.
I have indicated the work that the Minister will undertake in connection with supply and as Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet Committee, for following up the policy and programmes which we shall announce. I wish to state with equal precision what that Minister's function will be in relation to the Chiefs of Staff. But before I do that let me say one word about the Chiefs of Staff. I think it is very necessary to do it, because I entirely dissent from the suggestion thrown out by the noble Lord opposite, and I entirely agree with the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard. The Chiefs of Staff have a dual function. They are the departmental heads of their respective Services, and in that capacity the advisers to their own political chiefs. They have also the vital work of acting together on the Chiefs of Staff Committee as a combined General Staff. No one but Chiefs of Staff can fill those two functions, whether they work to their own Ministers or the combined work on the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Individually and collectively they, as the heads of their Services, must be the men to advise, and theirs must be the responsibility for execution.
I believe it would be quite fatal to adopt the suggestion that the noble Lord opposite threw out that you should have the Chiefs of Staff working on the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and that parallel to it you should have some other Committee of officers, who indeed are to be so divorced from all sense of responsibility that they are never in any circumstances to return to their own Services. It would 841 be wholly unworkable. And what a hopeless way, if I may say so, to approach the problem! if the Committee of Imperial Defence is going to work, it is going to work because everyone in the Services has a will to make it work. It is perfectly hopeless to start out with the conception that if an officer has served as part of the combined Staff of the Committee of Imperial Defence, he is going to be prejudiced hereafter in his Service. That is an absolutely fatal outlook. But of course that does not preclude the Minister and the Chiefs of Staff hearing the views of responsible men who, as Lord Trenchard said, may have devoted an immense amount of time and study to some aspect of the problem. I should not only say that that was a reasonable thing to do; I should say that it was quite the obvious and right thing to do.
But just because you cannot put anybody in the place of the Chiefs of Staff, with their supreme responsibility individually and collectively on the Chiefs of Staff Committee, it is the more essential that we should ensure that problems which concern more than one Service shall be fully and frankly faced and considered with what I may call a "combined mind." On many subjects and occasions this work is thoroughly well done to-day. I think, not to-day but elsewhere, less than justice has been done by some speakers and writers to those who have held in the past and hold to-day the posts of Chiefs of Staff in the three Services. And I am sure that anyone who has watched from the inside the workings of this organisation in the last ten years or more will be struck by the increase in co-operation and the spirit of cooperation that has come about throughout the whole of the Services.
A Committee sits to-day consisting of scientists, of civil servants, of Ministers and of Service members, to deal with problems of air defence and research for air defence. It would obviously be improper that I should say—nor should I be asked to say—anything of the details of their work. But this I can say, that I have never seen better team work in my life than the work that has been done there. There is the utmost willingness in each Service to join in carrying out whatever experiments are necessary. The best that everybody can give is put into the pool, and each and every Service is 842 only too ready to carry out whatever experiments individually or collectively are necessary. As Lord Trenchard himself said, example after example could be taken of how, when some crisis had come upon us, the Chiefs of Staff, often at short notice, have been called upon to prepare plans and have produced plans which could not have been produced if there had not been, not only the will to co-operate but the practice of co-operation working there thoroughly in the past.
But there must be no risk of failure or of our not getting the best. I want to speak as frankly as others have spoken. Are there not two risks that we have to guard against? The first is the risk that in this combined Staff work men may sometimes come to it with sectional and preconceived views. The second is the risk lest there should be any failure or disinclination to face up to a situation in which there might be a difference of opinion. I think few would deny that sometimes in the past there has been a tendency perhaps in the earlier days for convictions to crystallise before the combined thinking had completely taken place. There may have been sometimes a little tendency to adopt the spirit which was, I believe, expressed by one distinguished divine who, when he was arguing with another of a different communion the respective merits of their faiths, said: "We, each of us, serve the same Master, you in your way, I in His." The difficult case is not the case where there is a great deal to be said on the one side and very little on the other. The difficult case, as we all know who have been engaged in this work, is where there is an enormous amount to be said on both sides. The worst way you can approach that kind of question is to approach it in the spirit of thinking that you have on your side all the knowledge, and that there really is nothing to be said on the other side at all.
Our aim—and we have got to succeed—is to ensure against both these risks, to ensure that the experience of all three Services is brought to bear on combined Staff work to give the best results. As I say, the will is there and the capacity, growing all the time, and it owes a great deal, that will and that capacity in the Services, to the work of the Imperial Defence College. I do not know who was responsible for starting that College. 843 It may have been the noble Marquess, I do not know, but, whoever it was, he did a very great work. Now, for ten years, year after year, the best men, the men who are likely to come to great Staff positions or great commands in the different Services, officers from the Dominions as well, the best of our younger civil servants, have come together and worked together on these combined problems. It is absolutely invaluable, and that knowledge and experience and that spirit is permeating the whole of the Services to-day.
It will be the duty of the new Minister to ensure that the combined Staff works to the best advantage. I conceive that it is no part of that man's duty to dictate policy but to ensure that every problem and every aspect is fully considered, and that difficulties and differences are frankly faced. He should evoke the best that each Chief of Staff can give, secure agreement if it be genuine agreement, and where there is a genuine difference of opinion which cannot be reconciled, then he should present the whole case fairly to the Committee of Imperial Defence and to the Cabinet. I believe it may be much easier for Chiefs of Staff to agree and indeed for Chiefs of Staff to differ—and there are occasions when they ought to differ, when you do not want the kind of compromise which is the least common denominator of agreement—under the guidance of a wise and unprejudiced Chairman. I believe their constant relationship to such a man will make their position easier as between themselves, and vis-à-vis their own Services. The man who assumes these duties will be no formal Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence, for he will have the duty of personal consultation with the Chiefs of Staff together, including the right and the duty to convene them under his own Chairmanship whenever he or they think it desirable.
But there is yet one more risk to be guarded against. It is the risk of which Lord Salisbury spoke in regard to the Prime Minister not having enough time; the risk of overwork, and consequent lack of time to consider adequately long-range problems. I think it is very necessary to fortify the combined work of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. The Joint Planning Committee, the heads of plans in each of the Services, must be an integral part of the combined Staff. The 844 fact that they are executive officers in charge of plans in their different Services makes them the essential men for this work. For example, very often in the last six months, they have had to act together very quickly. Only the knowledge that their departmental and executive work gives them has enabled them to do that work, and do it with the necessary speed, and no three men ever worked better together than members of the Joint Planning Committee are working together at the present time. But the fact that they have executive duties of their own, which give them the necessary experience to form the Joint Planning Committee, means that they have less time for long-range policy. Yet it is on that long-range policy when time to think out every aspect is so important.
We have therefore felt it necessary to reinforce this part of the organisation, and it is proposed that the Joint Planning Committee should be reinforced by an officer selected train each Service, who must be a graduate of the Imperial Defence College. The bulk of the work of these men will be joint work together for the Joint Planning Committee and the Chiefs of Staff Committee. In addition, the Joint Planning Committee is to have a whole-time secretary.
There is one thing that the noble Viscount has not made quite clear. He spoke several times of a combined Staff, which is a new term in this controversy. Does he mean that these three officers he has just mentioned will work together permanently, or will they simply come together ad hoc as required?
§ LORD LLOYD
I may not have followed my noble friend quite clearly. We quite understand there is to be somebody of Ministerial rank who is to deputise for the Prime Minister as head of the Imperial Defence Committee. That is quite clear. What I am not quite clear about is, is such a person to be head of the Chiefs of Staff Committee? If not, who is to be the head of it?
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I certainly have not made myself clear. Of course, that man is going to be head of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. I thought I had made it plain that the Chiefs of Staff in Committee would work to that Minister, that he would be in touch with them all the 845 time, that he would have the duty of seeing that these Chiefs of Staff in Committee considered every problem as it ought to be considered, that he would be their Chairman, not necessarily sitting every time they sat—there are many occasions when they should sit by themselves; that would be a matter for his discretion—but he should be their Chairman, working to them the whole time, they in contact with him, he with them, he their interpreter in the Committee of Imperial Defence. That is the essence of this proposal. I have spoken, it is true, of a combined Staff. Perhaps I have used a technical term. I should not have used. But I have used it because there is in the mind and intention of all of us that all those who work on this joint planning, the Chiefs of Staffs sitting in Committee, the Joint Planning Committee working to them, these new officers from the Imperial. Defence College who will be working together, reinforced, if need be, as experience shows to be necessary in the future, will give us what we do need, which is a great General Staff in the truest and fullest sense of the word.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
May I ask one question? Will the three General Staff officers who are going to work together after going through the Imperial Defence College take their instructions as to what they are to study from the Minister and report to the Minister or will they have their instructions and report severally to the Chiefs of Staff?
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
They report to the Chiefs of Staff, to the Joint Planning Committee, and to the Chiefs of Staff Committee.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
No; I am glad that point is raised because I think it is important that that should be so. Of course things do not work quite in watertight compartments as my noble friend knows. Ministers have the confidence of their staffs, and they see all 'papers, but we must approach this in the spirit that you are going to get the corporate best out of this system. Just as the Chiefs of Staff themselves must be the responsible people for giving the advice to the Minister and for sitting with him, so the subordinate staff which works in this 846 scheme must work to the Chiefs of Staff. But observe, one of the advantages of having these problems, if I may put it vulgarly, so to speak "devilled" out by these Imperial Defence College officers, will be that when there is a problem which has to be considered that problem will be worked out in its details by these General Staff officers bringing, with their combined training in the past, the combined mind to work upon it in the very first instance.
In order that I may make it very clear—I do apologise for the length with which I am addressing your Lordships, but it is a pretty big subject—I will summarise the duties of this Minister. He will be Deputy Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence and responsible to the Prime Minister for all its activities and operations. He will be the Minister to whom the Chiefs of Staff Committee will continuously work He will be charged specially with the duty of ensuring that all the questions of combined Staff policy are fully considered in all their aspects and that decisions are taken by the Committee of Imperial Defence—I ought, more technically, to say, that recommendations are made by the Committee of Imperial Defence and decisions taken by the Cabinet on all questions of policy. Thirdly, he will be in supreme charge of the emergency supply organisation and the industrial planning. Fourthly, he will be the Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet Committee which has framed the defence plans and programmes, and which will be kept in being to follow up those programmes and to keep them under constant review.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
That is the programme and the plans which will be presented to Parliament for the future policy. Finally, it will be his duty, in the light of that experience, to make to the Prime Minister any recommendations which seem to him wise for improving the organisation and efficiency of the Committee of Imperial Defence. As a Service Minister I welcome wholeheartedly the whole of these measures. I believe they will help the Service Ministers and the Chiefs of Staff both individually and collectively. I submit that they are on the right lines, the lines of developing and fortifying what has 847 proved itself in action, and the Minister himself will then be able to see what further improvements or modifications can most usefully be made in the future. I am afraid I have spoken at very considerable length on this matter, but I hope with reasonable clarity. I did feel that I ought to make abundantly plain to your Lordships exactly what it is we propose to do and why we are taking the course which we propose to adopt.
§ LORD MILNE
My Lords, this is the first time I have had the honour of addressing your Lordships' House, and I would ask for that indulgence which you accord to a beginner. My sole reason for venturing to intervene in the debate is that I was Chief of the Imperial General Staff for seven years, and for two and a half years I was Chairman of the Committee of the Chiefs of Staff. I had come to urge on His Majesty's Government the views which were expressed by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, but I think I may now cordially congratulate His Majesty's Government on the action they are going to take and which has been so clearly and satisfactorily explained by the Secretary of State for Air. I think I may say that this action will put right every one of the difficulties that we suffered` from on the Chiefs of Staff Committee, where we did feel that we sadly lacked the advice and the guidance of somebody who was in touch with the Cabinet, somebody to whom we could go and express our views and who, in turn, would express our views to the Cabinet. We were always supposed, of course, to rely on our own Ministers; but your Lordships will remember that those Ministers are not members of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, so that very often, I am afraid, our views were put on paper, solemnly sent in, and, possibly, very often disregarded because there was nobody really to express them clearly to His Majesty's Government.
I hope that this Minister will always take the chair if possible at the Chiefs of Staff meetings, because it is a most invidious position for a Chief of the Staff to be in. He is selected to be the Chairman of a Committee of three Chiefs of Staffs, he is asked to be an impartial Chairman, and, naturally, he has his own strong views to press on everybody. The 848 situation is quite impossible, and I venture to urge on His Majesty's Govern-merit that it is most important that the chair should be taken by a Minister of the Crown. We have been accused of shelving difficulties. I do not think that is quite a fair statement. Difficulties have never been shelved. We have had to compose them, because we often felt that if we were unable to give a unanimous opinion that would be rather a reason for shelving the difficulties elsewhere.
I think the most important decision that we have heard to-night is the decision that a Minister is to be appointed to take charge of perhaps the most important duty that this country has to carry out if it is to be ready for war; that is the duty of industrial mobilisation. Every other great nation is making an intensive study of industrial mobilisation, and they go so far even as to render to their Parliaments an annual report of what is done. War is changing rapidly, and the methods of war are changing. I am certain that in the future the mechanic in the workshop and the machine will replace man power in the field, in the air and on the sea. As a nation we have got to study and work up the organisation of the manhood of the nation in order to fit it into its place in war, and also to prepare industry for the place which it has got to take. There are two great Committees. One of them I have not heard mentioned. The Committee on Man Power is just as essential as the Committee on Industrial War Supplies. The War Supplies Committee at the present moment is presided over by the President of the Board of Trade, but it is an extraordinary thing that the President of the Board of Trade is not a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I feel that the decision that has now been taken, upon which I most cordially congratulate the Government, that there should be one Minister charged not only, I hope, with the making of plans, but with the carrying of those plans into action and of preparing this country for industrial mobilisation in war, is one of the greatest steps forward in defence that has been taken in this country for many years past. I will not detain your Lordships longer because I feel that we have heard this evening of a really great step forward in national defence.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I never thought it would fall to my lot to congratulate the noble and gallant Lord on making his maiden speech in your Lordships' House. I had the great privilege of serving under him for a short time in the War, and I had the opportunity then of appreciating the qualities which placed him in the great position in which lie was able to give such distinguished service to the country. I know I shall be expressing the mind of your Lordships when I say in formal phraseology that we sincerely hope that the noble and gallant Lord will in the future take a full part in the debates in your Lordships' House.
I am sure we owe a deep debt of gratitude to the noble Marquess for bringing forward this Motion this afternoon. It touches a subject of the highest importance, and it is one that can perhaps be better debated in your Lordships' House than in another place. I feel sure that this debate will go far through the country to give more confidence to that portion of public opinion which is anxious, and probably not unduly anxious, as to the future which is in store for us. May I say with what interest T listened to the speech of the noble Viscount who spoke for the Government. I think we are indebted to him for the wide and comprehensive survey which he has given us of this very important matter. I am glad that the noble Marquess and also the noble Viscount have put on one side the question of a Ministry of Defence. As we know quite well that has been in people's minds, but on investigation it has been shown that a Ministry of Defence would not serve the purpose for which it would be intended. This system of co-ordination is a system which I have always advocated, and I welcomed the earlier stage of that coordination between the three Services which is in existence at the present moment.
The noble Viscount, will have a further opportunity of giving us details of this great scheme—and I call it a great scheme—which the Government are undertaking at the present moment. I think the noble Viscount has made it clear that the new Minister who will be charged with such responsible duties will not—I do not like to use the word interfere, but will not impinge upon, if I may use that expression, the authority 850 of the Service Ministers themselves. We all recognise very clearly that the responsibility of the Service Ministers is of the highest importance, and it would be highly dangerous to do anything which could possibly impinge on their authority. The development of this scheme is of the highest importance because of the plans which I understand are in the minds of the Government for the extension of our Defence Forces and the allocation of very large sums of money. The setting up of an authority of this description will go far—in fact it will go the whole way, I believe—to make public opinion feel that defence interests which are of such great importance are in the hands of the most competent authority in the country, that their plans will be well laid and that the money will be well spent.
The scheme which the Government have undertaken is in no sense a panic measure. They have not been brought to consider this proposition because of disturbing events with which we are surrounded at the present moment. It has been in being for some considerable time and has now developed in its full form, and it will, as I say, go far towards satisfying public opinion in this country. It is quite true that the political situation at this moment is dark and gloomy, but I venture to think that the recognition by Great Britain of the necessity of setting her defence organisation in order will go far to steady public opinion throughout the world. My noble friend who sits below me suggested that the country was led to consider that there would be no danger of war for some considerable time, and that therefore it was necessary to turn attention to other matters. It is very seldom that I venture to differ entirely from the noble Marquess and I go far with him in what he says, but when he came to later years and was inclined to suggest that this was a somewhat belated move on the part of this Government, then I find it necessary to join issue with the noble Marquess if I may use that polemical expression.
I think he should remember that in 1931 when the National Government was returned we found ourselves in a position of acute financial crisis. It was impossible then for the most ardent Service Minister—and I can assure noble Lords from my own experience, as I was one of them, that we were not lacking in bringing before our colleagues the necessities 851 and what one might call the deficiencies which existed at that time—to do other than recognise that financial considerations were such that we had to put on one side other considerations which we considered of great importance. In 1932, as the noble Marquess will remember, there was the Disarmament Conference. That was a sequel to tireless effort for many years to bring about disarmament. That year, therefore, was not the occasion for Defence Ministers to come forward to urge the requirements of those Forces which they represented and to ask for the expenditure of more money. I think that the noble Marquess will recognise also that at the same time there was a strong wave of public opinion in this country which moved in the other direction, and I feel sure that any Government who had then started a plan of rearmament would have found it very difficult to weather the storm. That may be a part of the difficulties of what we call democratic government, though I sincerely hope that we shall always have democratic government.
The noble Lord who spoke for the Opposition has referred to that point and I should like to take the opportunity, if I may, of expressing to him my gratitude for the kind words he used in regard to myself. But I agree with him that this may be a testing-time, and I sincerely hope that democratic institutions will show that they can carry out, with the same precision, the same goodness and the same skill, the duties which are carried out by the Governments which come under the auspices of dictators. The noble Lord said another thing with which I feel strongly in agreement, and that is that we are developing our defensive forces for defensive purposes. Their aim is not against any single country in any part of the world, but we are determined, by this organisation and this recognition of our duties, to play our part as a Member of the League of Nations. I feel that, through the change which has come over public opinion, we shall find that a great change may come over the situation as it is at the present moment.
But let us remember what it was that changed public opinion. It was the Germans leaving the Disarmament Conference and commencing to rearm. It was then that public opinion demanded to know the state of our defences and called upon the Government to do what they 852 could to restore our forces to the position in which they ought to find themselves. What occurred then? We found that the German nation were capable of expanding with a far greater celerity than had been supposed possible. We can remember what my right honourable friend Sir Austen Chamberlain said, in very clear phraseology: that public opinion received certain violent shocks, and that one was when the Prime Minister told the country that he had been misled in regard to German rearmament. My Lords, the Prime Minister was not misled. Every piece of information that it was possible to give him was imparted to him, and in the recent visit that I took to Germany I found that all the information that I was capable of giving the Prime Minister was correct and that the alarm which was spread about the country at that time did not at all represent a proper appreciation of the real state of affairs.
But in what we are doing now in restoring our defences and in building up an organisation for the purpose of that great co-ordination which we all have in view, we are not before our time, and I most sincerely hope that in this work of co-ordination we shall be able to do that to which the noble and gallant Viscount has referred: to bring together all the forces of commercial production in this country and place them on a basis on which they will be able to carry out all these duties. As I have said, there was no surprise as to what the Germans had done. As to training, I need not venture to trouble your Lordships now, because that is not the question that we are discussing. The question of commercial production, however, is one of the highest importance, and under the system which the German Government operate now commercial production can be accelerated to an extent which it is impossible to gauge. I can only say that, unless we can co-ordinate our production in the same way here, we shall find that it lags behind.
Moreover, I have only taken one instance of commercial production. Germany is not the only country where commercial production can attain that celerity which modern science and modern invention can achieve. It is the primary duty of the co-ordinating organisation which we are setting up to rise to the occasion under our democratic institutions, without any pressure from the Government, and 853 attain that proper celerity for carrying out our obligations and for supplying our Forces with the material which they require. That is the reason u by I subscribe most heartily to this doctrine of co-ordination, and sincerely hope that this organisation which is now being set up under the Government will achieve the full success which it properly merits.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
My Lords, venture to congratulate the noble Lord who made the speech from the Government Benches to-day on a singularly able and lucid statement, which is evidence that the Government have given very earnest and prolonged thought to a matter which is very much in the public mind: whether, if the situation becomes more acute, we shall be adequately organised and equipped to deal with it. But I am going, in the light of some special experience which I had during the War, to press him even a little farther as to the exact nature of what I think he called combined Staff emanating from the Imperial Defence College which is going to be associated with the Committee of Chiefs of the Staff, the Committee of Imperial Defence, and the Minister. I am not sure that that is not going to be the crux of the whole problem. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, indicated with his usual frankness certain difficulties which inevitably arise when the heath; of the three great Service Departments have to discuss problems of general strategy together, problems possibly involving differences of view between the three Departments, the allocation of public funds, and the utilisation of resources of all kinds. These differences are inherent in the problem. The noble Lord, Lord Milne, said that those difficulties were sometimes evaded—the word he used was "composed." What was meant by the word "composed" I think he left to our imagination!
During the War we were confronted—and I had some experience at the very centre of affairs—with a problem not wholly unlike that which is going to confront the Government in getting unity in general strategic policy, unity in policy between land, air and sea; because, unless that policy is properly co-ordinated, unless in fact it represents a single policy, we are not; only going to spend a great deal of money uselessly, but we may not be able to use what we have effectively if and 854 when the crisis comes. During the War, the problem was not quite the same but it was not very different: that of getting unity in policy between the Allied Armies. The difficulty arose from the fact that you had three or four great armies on the allied front, each of which was heavily preoccupied with the problems of its own front and with public opinion in its own country, and the leaders, either the Commanders-in-Chief or the Chiefs of Staff, found it very difficult to view the War as a whole. It was inevitable that they tended to adopt the standpoint of the front on which they were engaged.
The greatest single advantage possessed by Germany during the War was unity in the command, because the command which Germany established very rapidly over the Austro-Hungarian Army enabled it to build up immense reserves of troops and material which it could use in any part of its whole far-flung line exactly as it chose. It had not to consider the different points of view of the sectional armies. Now, until we established unity of command, it was never possible for the Allies to do the same. That was the principal reason why the Allied operations were so ineffective in attack as opposed to defence. The problem of bringing about that unity in command was solved gradually by a process which began with the well-known, but not always popular, Joint Allied Conference at Versailles, of which General Foch was the head on the side of France, Sir Henry Wilson was the head as representing Great Britain, General Bliss for America—and I forget the name, for the moment, of the Italian General. While that body was criticised, there is no sort -of doubt that it was through that Joint Staff that the preparation vas made, not only for eventual unity of command, but also for the triumphant victory of the autumn of 1918.
The central difficulty was the problem of the placing and utilisation of the reserves. Inevitably while the three separate armies were under separate commanders, and those commanders were each responsible to his own Government at home, their strategic ideas were immensely influenced by the desire to have all their reserves at their own disposal. That was inherent in the system and it was only when that Joint General Staff began to work together 855 that the supreme importance of having a large mobile reserve that could be moved to any part of the line began to assume the supreme importance which in fact it had and made victory possible in 1918. The crisis of March, 1918, forced first co-ordination of the armies under General Foch and afterwards his appointment as Commander-in-Chief, and General Foch was then able to win the war in the autumn of 1918 because he was able to use the whole allied reserves as the instrument for counter attack on lines worked out by the Joint Staff at Versailles. That Staff had no executive duties. Its function was by combining the points of view and experience of Italy, the United States, France and Great Britain, to think out the problem of war as a whole and produce proposals which in turn were sent to the Chiefs of Staff, to the Commanders-in-Chief, and to the Heads of the Governments; and it was on the basis of these collective documents that we began to get both unity of command and unity in policy.
I venture to think that in that nucleus of what I think the noble Lord called a combined Staff you may find the means of reconciling the differences between the three Service points of view and getting a single strategic conception of defence policy. To do this, however, it is essential that the Minister who is head of the Committee should have quite clearly the power to refer to this combined Staff any question upon which he thinks joint thinking is necessary. The way to resolve difficulties between the great heads of Staff is to refer the question for independent consideration and report by the combined Staff, and then let that report go in the first place to the Chiefs of Staffs and, if they cannot agree about it, through the Minister to the Committee of Imperial Defence or the Cabinet. Unless you get a joint thinking body to which you can refer those questions on which a combined view is essential, it will be very difficult to get unity of opinion between the three Services.
I venture to hope therefore that what Lord Trenchard suggested, that what he called the secretariat should be strengthened, and that what the noble Viscount who spoke for the Government said was going to be a nucleus should be enlarged, and that it should be quite understood that that Joint General 856 Staff can consider and report on any matter on which in the opinion of the Minister it is important to get a combined view of the problem. If you do that I think you may obtain one of the most useful instruments for obtaining strategic unity in policy between the combined Services.
§ LORD LLOYD
My Lords, as the hour is getting late I do not propose to make the observations I had intended to make in support of the Motion moved by my noble friend, or to voice again the anxieties which many of us have felt during recent years with regard to the ever-growing commitments accepted by the Government and the ever-reduced capacity for fulfilling commitments. Nor will I attempt to follow my noble friend in his interesting remarks as regards the thinking body to which he referred. If I were to do so, I think I should have said briefly that I did not think it was so much thought that was lacking as that the action taken upon that thought has been wanting. Suffice it to say that I for one only want to add my word to the warm congratulations offered to the Government for the statement made by my noble friend who has announced the Government's policy. I sincerely trust that it will be followed by prompt action, and I shall await with great interest the further pronouncements to be made in another place in a few days.
§ LORD MELCHETT
My Lords, I wish to detain the House for a few minutes only, but I think it is important to stress the industrial side of this question. I was very glad to hear from the noble Viscount the remarks he made about the industrial duties of the Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence. They seem to be of the very greatest importance, because the next war, rather like the last war, will not be really won by military forces. The problem will be very like the problem which we had before—namely, to what extent and how effectively we can mobilise the industrial side of the nation to produce the necessary material to carry on the strife. That was the problem with which we were faced almost immediately at the beginning of the last War. The present position of potential industrial mobilisation is far from satisfactory, and while I listened with a great deal of interest to the noble Viscount's explanation of the Government's essays in what I may call the 857 rationalism of the industrial services there is still an enormous job to be done.
The noble Viscount is of course far better informed than any of us can be as to the work which is going on at the present time, but I would like to stress the point that was made by the Chairman of the Imperial Chemical Industries in his evidence before the Arms Commission as to the importance of having more than a shadow Ministry. It is not merely a question of dealing with the fringe of this matter. There is an enormous amount of work to be done, and I would appeal to the Government not to keep the industrialists of this country at arms' length on these questions. It is not enough to Have a few permanent officers who will get in touch with the big industrial concerns to find out what they are doing, or possibly to suggest that they do something more. This is a thing that requires very active work from the Minister himself who is going to act as Deputy Chairman of this Committee. It is just as important a side of his work as the three Defence Services, but while practically the whole of the debate this afternoon has been in connection with the rationalisation of these Services, very little has been said about the equally important side of industrial rationalisation for the emergency. I hope that the Government will take really effective steps to see that those industries and those industrialists who really can help them are brought together.
In conclusion I would like to make this point. I am sure the Government do not, and I hope the public will not, imagine that industrialists in this matter have a selfish point of view—merely the idea of trying to make a little more money. Everybody knows nowadays that industrialists do not make money out of war. The dislocation that follows war is disastrous to industry. The thing that matters to industry is to have peace. And we do riot mind as industrialists what has to be done: we would much rather he removed from any possibility of being accused of making undue profits from the nation from any supplies we have to give to-day. The real point, however, is not the supplies that have to be delivered at this time, but the question of organisation for war supplies, and that is an entirely different problem. But I hope that the Government will not on 858 that account or any other be afraid to get into really close touch with the industrialists, and will credit them with as much patriotism as any other section of the nation in this matter.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I am not going to inflict upon your Lordships another speech, but I do desire to join my noble friend in thanking the Secretary of State for Air for his statement. I must say there was no part of it which seemed to me open to any criticism. I agree with almost every word of it, and I may say that I take it as a special compliment, if I may, to myself that an old colleague should have treated me so kindly in his reply. I should like, however, just to say one word about one other individual. IL was so glad to hear my noble friend speak as he did of the services of Sir Maurice Hankey. Sir Maurice Hankey is a very old friend of mine. That is not important; what is important is that he is one of the greatest public servants this country has ever had, and I was very glad indeed that my noble friend took an opportunity of saying so.
As regards the debate, everything has followed the lines which I should have wished. May I correct one possible misapprehension as regards my own remarks? I had no desire in what I said to divorce the Prime Minister from the Committee of Imperial Defence. By all means let him occupy the position which my noble friend suggested he should; that is to say, attend upon great occasions. So long as the operative Minister, the actual working Minister, is another Cabinet Minister, that is all that is required. As to his title, he may be called Deputy Chairman or anything else, according to the fancy of the moment. I remember that in early days, when I took an interest in education years ago, the Minister of Education, one of the most important Departments of the Government, was called the Vice-President of the Committee of Council of Education. That was his name, but he was not vice to anything. He was the Minister. I do not mean to say that the Deputy Chairman would thrust out the Prime Minister altogether—not at all. But he would be the operative Minister, I take it from my noble friend's statement. I thank your Lordships most sincerely for the kind way in which you have received this debate, and I will ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (VISCOUNT HALIFAX)
My Lords, as your Lordships are aware, there is a Royal Commission at a quarter to eight, and therefore your Lordships no doubt will adjourn during pleasure until that time.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed.