§ Debate again resumed (according to Order) on the Motion of Viscount Swinton to resolve, That this House approves the defence proposals of His Majesty's Government which are outlined in Command Paper No. 5107 (Statement relating to Defence), and on the Amendment moved by Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede to the foregoing motion, namely, to leave out all the words after "That" and insert "as the safety of this country and the peace of the world cannot be secured by reliance on armaments but only by the pursuit of a policy of international understanding, general disarmament and economic co-operation so as to remove the 177 causes of war, this House cannot agree to the proposals for rearmament now adopted by His Majesty's Government; such a policy can be no guarantee of security, but by drawing this country into the disastrous international competition in armaments is calculated to inflame public opinion and increase the danger of war; and in depleting our national resources by a heavy expenditure for destruction, the urgent need for social and domestic reconstruction by which alone the well-being of the nation can be secured must be seriously and adversely affected."
My Lords, on the third day of this debate I do not propose to take very much of the time of the House, but there are one or two points of very great importance to which I wish to call your Lordships' attention. I think your Lordships will be prepared to admit that the attitude of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby—that attitude which prompted him to resign the position which he held in your Lordships' House with so much ability and distinction, whether you agree with it or not, is completely logical. I cannot, however, say that the attitude of the official Labour Party on the other hand has any logic in it at all. With the possible exception of the League of Nations Union the official Labour Party are the most bellicose body in the community. They have been ready first of all to engage in a war with Japan over the Manchurian question, and they have been prepared to resort to the most extreme forms of military sanctions against Italy; and they have, I think, all along shown that they have been prepared to will the ends of their policy without providing the means to give it effect.
It is an established axiom that foreign policy is the basis on which defence has to be built, but I do not think it is sufficiently realised that a great change has come over the whole question of foreign relations in this country during the last twenty years. Before the War the democracy had inherited what I may call the dynastic conception of foreign affairs. Secret diplomacy was a closed subject which ordinary mortals were not supposed to be intelligent enough to understand, but which was sacred from any form of interference. The people were told when the issue was past praying for 178 and the time had come to fight. In fact, the professional diplomat got us into a mess and then called in the professional soldier to get us out of it. I think you have a perfect example of that archaic and undemocratic habit of mind in a speech which I saw reported this morning in The Times. The Secretary of State for War has laid it down definitely that it is the absolute right of the Government to be prayed for by the Dean and Chapter of Liverpool Cathedral. Mr. Duff Cooper goes on to say:Who are these ignorant clergymen who presume to give His Majesty's Government advice upon foreign affairs?He ends by comparing himself, very justly I think, with Henry II, who was one of the most autocratic of our Plantagenet Kings.
Turning away from the Middle Ages to the brave new world in which we live, it is clear that since the War we have tried the experiment of open diplomacy and the result has been that an intelligent and enlightened public opinion has been created. No doubt that public opinion has been stimulated very much by the fact that instead of only a professional Army fighting in any war that may ensue from the policy of the Government, all the people in the country will be involved in any conflict that may arise. Up till quite recently, although there was an intelligent public opinion, the public did not realise that they had the power to influence foreign policy. Realisation of that fact was given them by the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, when he held his famous ballot, and the public saw that they had been able to deflect the policy of the British Government very violently towards the League of Nations. A few months later public opinion was successful in destroying a Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, a thing that had never happened before in the history of this country.
It has now, therefore, become clear that future Governments will not be allowed to fight wars unless they have the public opinion of the country behind them. Pacts, treaties, and diplomatic arrangements of all sorts must take into account that they may be ultimately faced with a hostile public opinion which will make all out-of-date documents and treaties of that sort impossible to carry 179 out. A modern and democratic Government must be more sensitive to this public opinion and must be prepared to scrap treaties under Article 19 of the Covenant the moment they feel a treaty no longer represents the opinion of the people. Apart from these facts, there remains, however, the basic justification for rearmament, which is that we may be attacked ourselves and, more important still, that we may be attacked for carrying out the instructions of the League of Nations. Until such time as the noble Lord, Lord Davies, or perhaps it would be wiser to say his executors, have definitely established an International Police Force, it seems to me that collective security means that Great Britain is for a long time to come going to act as the special constable of Europe. I, personally, think it is our duty to act as the special constable of Europe, and I have a suspicion that the Labour Party want us to do so too, but at the, same time for some reason they want to deprive the special constable of his truncheon.
The issue that your Lordships' House has to decide this afternoon is not really rearmament at all, on which we are all mainly agreed, but the direction that that rearmament should take. I am afraid, speaking from these Benches, I do not share the Socialist belief in the wisdom of Government Departments. In fact, I think there are not enough individualist civilians on the Committee of Imperial Defence. Government officials as a rule are lacking in two qualities: one is imagination and the other is audacity. As a rule also they are blind to the tendencies of the future. It is a little ominous, although there may be other reasons for it, that Mr. Winston Churchill, who is one of the few persons in the country possessing these qualities, should not have been appointed Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence.
I was very much struck in a recent debate in your Lordships' House with a remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, when he said that he was afraid that all this vast expenditure which is going to be undertaken would be used for preparing for the last war rather than for the war that may come. My father, who was considered a great expert on defence and who was for many years a member of the Committee of Imperial Defence, left among his 180 papers a memorandum which I found the other day, written in 1917, one sentence of which I shall venture to quote to your Lordships:When contemplating war with Germany prior to 1914, the War Offices and Admiralties of England and France had thought of previous wars, and had adapted their prospective methods of warfare for physical conditions that had passed away.There is a great danger that we may be about to do exactly the same thing and repeat the error.
For instance, there is a natural temptation to prepare only against Germany because she happened to be our enemy in the last War. Well, it is a common experience—and that experience has been exemplified by the sudden emergence of our difficulties with Italy—that it is usually the unexpected that happens. It would be a perfectly easy task for the Government to test the efficiency of the Committee of Imperial Defence. If they would look back for a moment at the question of Malta, it would be very interesting to know whether the Committee of Imperial Defence considered the question of Malta, whether they reported that we could not hold Malta, and whether they suggested, at Malta, the construction of a bomb-proof port. The Government no doubt would have been quite justified in turning down any such suggestion made by the Committee in view of the remote danger of any complications with Italy, but that does not apply to the Committee of Imperial Defence, whose business it is to contemplate all eventualities. The Government therefore have at their disposal very easy proof of the value of the Committee of Imperial Defence.
If we turn to this country, there are two or three defence problems which are of urgent importance. Firstly, how to protect from aeroplanes the convoys that carry our supplies. It is essential that the Government should make up their minds once for all whether they are going to provide each convoy with an aircraft carrier and sufficient aeroplanes to protect it, or whether they are going to lay in storage in this country sufficient for at least one year's supply of wheat and petrol. They must decide one of these things, and decide it very shortly. The second point is how we are going to protect our petrol. It is essential that the Government should examine where 181 these petrol stores are placed, whether they are all placed together so that they make a very easy mark for any attacking aeroplanes, and also whether it is not possible to create a large number of underground storage places which would make petrol immune against attack. These are questions which have not been dealt with in this debate, and I consider them more important than most of the questions that have been dealt with.
Then there is the question of how to protect our ports. There should be at least one bomb-proof port constructed in this country, where large liners can be unloaded and where the three or four capital ships on which our supremacy depends can lie in safety. The fourth point we ought to consider is how to protect our aerodromes. There, again, there ought to be at least one large bombproof aerodrome where we can house safely the several hundred aeroplanes which I imagine will constitute what one might call the reprisal force. Any soldier will confirm that the bombing of enemy towns in exchange for the bombing of our towns cannot produce a military decision, and it is not worth doing unless you destroy first the reprisal force. It is perfectly easy to construct a bomb-proof port and a bomb-proof aerodrome—nothing would be easier in the world—and I presume that the Committee of Imperial Defence has reported on these things to the Government. They could, not be built in secret, and I must say it makes one very uneasy to see no sign of any of these things being done. I hope the Government, naturally without going into any details, will reassure us this afternoon that steps are being taken to deal with these points which I believe are vital to the security of the nation.
§ LORD CONYERS
My Lords, I would like to refer to the larger issues which have been raised in the course of this debate, but as I do not wish to trouble your Lordships for more than a few minutes I will confine my remarks to one particular aspect of the question. As I have not addressed your Lordships' House before I would ask for that indulgence which is accorded to noble Lords who address you for the first time. The particular subject to which I desire to make allusion is the Territorial Army, which in future may be called upon to take an important part in the defence 182 scheme of the country, and which I think in the past has not received the credit and the appreciation that have been its due. For some years the Territorial Army has existed under considerable difficulties, with the result that at the present time it is deplorably below strength, and this in spite of the fact that it is one of our greatest national assets. The Territorial Army is a most efficient, effective and extremely enthusiastic force, composed chiefly of men who are experts in their particular trade or business. I think, therefore, that the value of the Territorial Army to the country is incalculable.
For some years also the Territorial Army has lacked that encouragement which is cheap to bestow and yet is often so much appreciated by the recipient of it. In fact one may say that the first encouragement it has had for many years was contained in the speech delivered in another place only a fortnight ago by the Secretary of State for War, and I am sure that the concessions announced at that time will within a year produce a very great increase in the number of men recruited for the Territorial Force. Recruiting for the Territorial Army presents problems which are not experienced by the Regular Army. To mention only one example, it is necessary often to enlist not only the services of the man but also the sympathies of his employer. It is true that many employers often go to considerable inconvenience, and in some cases indeed incur expense, in order to allow their men to take part in the annual training, but, unfortunately, some other employers are the reverse of sympathetic. I think those of the larger employers of labour who are not in sympathy with the Territorial movement should be approached directly and individually by the Government. That would very likely have the effect of inducing them to take a more sympathetic and a more appreciative view of the Territorial Army.
I hope that the time may come when men who join the Territorial Army may receive preference in employment and in other ways, and when a greater distinction may be made between the man who is willing and able to serve his country and the man who, though willing, is not trained and therefore unable to do so. I think that the offer to employees who are willing to join the Territorial Army made by the noble Viscount, Lord 183 Rothermere, was a very valuable one, and one which is likely to be followed, at any rate to some extent by other employers. In fact one hears already that the heads of businesses are looking into this question. This is an excellent way of getting men to join the Territorial Army because it ensures to the man who joins both the support and the approval of his employer, whilst it also ensures that the man is given a holiday throughout the period of his training. The question of the Territorial soldiers' holiday may seem rather insignificant but it very deeply concerns recruiting, Admittedly it is often impossible, and may always be impossible, for some of the men who join the Territorial Army to give up the necessary time required for their training; but I know that many men are able to spend their entire holiday in a Territorial camp and they have a very good time and thoroughly enjoy it.
At the same time one can understand that in the case of, say, a married man who spends a great many of his Sundays and his entire holiday in the summer or autumn doing his training, his fulfilling of this patriotic duty is not always appreciated by his wife and family. Although it is important to fill the Territorial Army with the best possible material, one sometimes wonders whether, if recruits are not forthcoming in sufficient numbers, it might not be wise to lower the standard of physical requirements for the Territorial Army in view of the fact that men who are not up to the physical standard improve greatly in that respect even after a week's training in camp. I would venture to urge His Majesty's Government to consider favourably the recommendations forwarded by the county Territorial associations. These associations are in close touch with the Territorial movement, they have very valuable local knowledge of the conditions and the requirements of the units in their counties, and their recommendations and suggestions are sound. I thank your Lordships for the indulgence you have shown in listening to my remarks, and, in conclusion, I would remind the House that although the Territorial Army may be, as we are told, the army of the future, yet it will always remain the citizen army in so far as it is the good citizen who comes forward to join the Territorial Force and 184 becomes in a short time a good soldier, and good soldiers make good citizens.
My Lords, I think your Lordships would agree with me in congratulating the noble Lord who has just spoken on his first speech and in hoping that we shall have many another from him. Now, we are shortly to vote on the Amendment of my noble friend, if I may call him so, Lord Ponsonby. For the words of his Amendment and for the general body of doctrine held by the noble Lord, I have nothing but execration, yet I am bound to admit that of the speech with which he moved the Amendment one may say, as of the traditional egg of the curate, that parts of it were excellent. I think I should like in particular to agree with his proposal for the segregation and incarceration of international jurists when trouble is afoot. I feel sure that they are at least as dangerous to the public weal as any militant Scottish theologians of the seventeenth century. However, the noble Lord, I think, has repeated what he has said before, that force never settled anything. I really should have thought that it had settled one or two things in the past; for example, that Louis XIV should not be the master of Europe, nor Napoleon nor the Emperor William the Second. In each of those cases the decisive force was our force and no other. I cannot but hope that our forces as reorganised by the proposals now before the House will be able to be used in the future for prevention and not for war. Finally, I would say with regard to the noble Lord, that I have known him for many years and I know that he advocates his opinions with a consistency and courage to which I should like to bear witness.
If I follow the noble Lord and one or two other speakers who have touched on the political side of the position in Europe, which is really inseparable from the defence side, I am well aware that I must walk warily. Nevertheless the position this week is not quite the same as it was last week, and I definitely think that here from these Back Benches one may without detriment and perhaps even without folly tread ground which angels such as the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor or the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, cannot tread. I should like to follow up what was said by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, last week. He said that the root 185 of the problem was security to France. Our policy coupled with these proposals will give that security for all the legitimate fears of France and for all the legitimate aspirations of France. It is perhaps a strange and whimsical thing that one of the consequences of Herr Hitler's action is that we are relieved from a, contingent liability to protect Germany, but we are not in policy or in honour relieved from our contingent liability to protect France and Belgium. Our policy and our assurance against aggression remain, but the aggression in question must be a real aggression and not a slight or a theoretic wrong. I cannot but think that the position of France is much stronger than it was, with the Rhine Frontier on the right, the enormous fortifications in the centre, the increase in the Belgian fortifications. That position is surely much stronger than in the past, and when on the top of that there are our assurances and the greater strength which the defence proposals now before your Lordships' House will give her, I cannot myself believe that looking east she need be afraid.
I personally believe that the danger point in all these matters is not the west of Europe but the east, and on that I will only say two things. The first thing is that to my mind it is quite unthinkable that we should ever be led into war because of the commitments of some other country to Russia, but as sometimes the unthinkable does come about it may be well to mention the point. The second point I wish to make is that I am perfectly certain that the German fear of Russia is not simulated. It used to weigh on Bismarck. It was the prop of his whole policy. And is it so very unreasonable? In the past, up to the end of the seventeenth century, Europe lived under the shadow of a darkening cloud and a growing menace from the southeast of Europe, and unhappily that menace grew and grew largely because of the division of the Western Powers. They were threatened by a Power the enemy alike of Christianity and freedom, and unhappily Europe never successfully united against that. Is it so unreasonable for those in Germany to have in their minds a similar danger from the north-east? I cannot think that such a consideration is one that could be dismissed as fantastic.
186 Some may ask what is the use, in considering defence, of an accommodation when you have the example of a broken treaty before your eyes? I protest against that idea. I would indeed not lessen the preparations necessary by one ship or one gun or one plane on account of any treaty with any one, but it is surely to the last degree impolitic not to make an arrangement when you have the power. Of course, if the arrangement is automatic and reciprocal—so many ships against so many ships, so many planes against so many planes—you have the remedy in your own hands. If you find others are breaking it you are relieved and you can do the same. And I have sufficient belief in our Secret Service to think that no secret preparations could be concealed. But I do protest against the idea that we are never to enter into relations with any country, however necessary may be the continuance of our preparations.
We must all be conscious of how very difficult the policy, internal and external, of Germany makes it for those who would willingly be her friends. That is before our eyes and thinking of it, if it be not irreverent to say so, the words come unbidden into my mind:" If they but knew the things that were to their peace." It is indeed difficult to compare their official attitude with the sentiments of the many kindly and sensible people whom so many of your Lordships know, but when we consider this we cannot be entirely ignorant of the origins of the present prevalent feeling throughout the country.
My noble friend Lord Stonehaven said the other day that he ascribed our difficulties to the Versailles Treaty. A great deal of censure has been passed on the authors of that Treaty, and I think sometimes rather futile censure, because I very much doubt if the statesmen of Europe at that time, after the terrific wrack and destruction of the War, after the apparent subversion of the whole basis of civilised life, would have been allowed by their countries to do anything very different. We must remember that the only check then on the passions of Europe was the somewhat clumsy intervention of an undiscerning theorist. I do not believe it was the Versailles Treaty, but it was the things that happened afterwards that were responsible—the occupation by 187 black troops, the encouragement of Separatist movements, the episodes in Silesia, the Ruhr, the long insistence on an impossible tribute, and the two terrific economic depressions—because there were two—in Central Europe, that were responsible for the present situation; and, above all, the feeling that you could get nothing by asking but only by taking according to the measure of your strength. Locarno is gone, and we trust that there may be another and a wider settlement. We may be proud of the action which in the last fortnight our Ministers have taken. Whether they could have done better can only be known, I should imagine, to those who consumed the midnight sandwich at the Foreign Office, but we do know that with perfect disinterestedness and with inspiring energy and assiduity they laboured for the peace of Europe and the peace of the world.
These preparations for defence bring with them a double problem: we have to make a new order in Europe, and keep it when it is made. For both those ends, security at home and a force with which we can strike if need be are equally necessary. I trust that our present efforts may not fail, but if they should fail, I would not yield to despair. Diplomacy would not necessarily be impotent. After all, in the nineteenth century the Vienna settlement gave thirty-nine years without anything that can be called a European war, and ninety-nine years without a general war. Diplomacy may still be active, following the old channels, and may still do much, and, if the worst comes to the worst, other combinations are possible than those to which we have been accustomed. But I will not contemplate the worst, and I trust that, if we do pursue our policy with combined strength and moderation, it may be said of us, in the words of Mr. Pitt, that "England has saved herself by her energy and will save Europe by her example."
THE EARL OF AIRLIE
My Lords, I hesitate to intervene in the debate, and I do so not without a good deal of trepidation when I view the importance of the question which lies in front of your Lordships to-day. I have heard the wish expressed in your Lordships' House from time to time that—I cannot perhaps any longer say the younger generation, but that the less distinguished members of your Lordships' House might occasionally 188 enter into your debates. Encouraged by this wish, I have ventured to do so even though the matter is of vital importance. In addressing your Lordships, if I might be so bold as to say so, I speak in the manner of a convert. Unlike some, I cannot align myself with the criticism that has often been levelled against His Majesty's Government in regard to the disarmament policy which they have followed and been forced to follow during the last two or three years. If we pause to consider for a moment, who else but ourselves could have possibly led or tried to lead the world along this difficult path? Who could possibly deny that it was our privilege and our right, as one of the leading nations of the world, to do so? Now, seeing that every avenue has apparently been explored and every effort made towards accomplishing this end, even though we shall continue to go on to the best of our ability, we find that we are forced to take what must be considered by every soundly-thinking man as a retrograde step. In that I agree most humbly, if he will allow me to do so, with the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, whose earnestness one cannot help but admire and respect, even though one is unable to go the whole road with him.
While I wish to appreciate and support fully—as I hope to do later if they are brought into the Lobbies of your Lordships' House this evening—the proposals which are embodied in the White Paper which has been before your Lordships during the last two or three days, there are one or two points which I should like to emphasise, some of which have been touched upon but perhaps a few have not. We must note, and I believe we must approve, the factor which governs generally these proposals which are in front of us—namely, their elasticity, the manner in which they have been designed and brought together to meet the needs of either expansion or reduction as the situation requires. But while we admit to the full—and I do so—the fact that the machinery is there, or, may I say, will be there, I have in my mind that I should like a little more assurance, like the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, who touched upon this point, in regard to the time factor. Can this machinery and these proposals be brought into operation to meet a need at really short notice? What I mean by really short notice is within perhaps a year. 189 I notice in the White Paper that this point is touched upon in words something like these, that His Majesty's Government realise that there is much to do but limited time in which to do it. My anxiety is what their idea of limited time may be.
I do not wish in any way to be an alarmist, but the view that this is a very possible danger is held by many in this country and by many who are fully qualified to know. The anxiety lies not in the belief that the peoples of the world wish to go to war within a year; nor even that the leaders of the people wish to go to war within a year. It lies in the possibility that the internal and economic situation in some country may force that country to go to war—force them, to use a vulgar phrase, to burst, internally or externally, and there is no doubt which of these two evils will probably be considered the more preferable. These economic factors which I have mentioned are not easily controlled, however good the intentions of the people of a country themselves, or their leaders, may be. That is the reason why I am anxious. You have had an example only during the last year of a country which, owing to its internal economic situation, was forced to take aggressive action and to do something which in other circumstances I do not feel they would have had to do. From what one hears of financial matters all round, it is not impossible that this situation may arise again, and if finance is operating in that quarter it is not idle to suggest that perhaps a year is not too far to look ahead.
I frankly admit all the difficulties that rise to oppose any action for speeding up these proposals. I admit that money hastily spent is ill spent. I admit that we must be absolutely clear that what we spend is well spent and that we are only going to spend money on what we need. And I admit the difficulty of preventing the dislocation of trade and industry involved in speeding up these proposals. But even so, with all these difficulties I do not feel that they should prevent necessary action if the danger really does lie there. Perhaps I and those who think like me are over-anxious. I trust that we are. Although I do not expect an answer on these lines, I feel that it may have done no harm to emphasise this point once again.
190 I have listened with great interest and read with great interest all the speeches of the noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. Although I am not qualified to speak of these things in any way, I must confess that I was impressed by the points made in the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, more especially when he referred to the Fleet Air Arm, and asked whether the numbers of our aeroplanes accompanying the Fleet were sufficient when compared with those of other nations. I cannot speak with authority, but I trust that this matter is being fully gone into, as no doubt it is. Then I would most deferentially like to associate myself with the noble Earl, Lord Cavan, more especially on the point which he raised with regard to the improvement of the physique of the youth of this country. That is indeed a vital question. The noble Lord gave us figures, and told you that there was no dearth of recruits who wished to join the Army, but that over 50 per cent. were unable to be accepted. He has, of course, more ready access to figures, but I have always heard the number accepted quoted as nearer one in three. That really is a disastrous state of affairs, and one which calls for urgent and large dealing by His Majesty's Government. Other nations are dealing with it, Italy and Germany are dealing with it, and we must do the same. I do not refer to this question only from the point of view of recruiting, but I do so because it is a question which vitally affects the life of the nation.
Your Lordships will have noticed that the noble Earl also stated that he did not agree with the lowering of the standard of recruits. I agree with him, but I am wondering whether it would not be possible to form some scheme by which those who were not quite so fit could be taken into the Army, and categorised as such, and in two years time, after they have had all the advantages of drilling, good food, games and companionship, and all that goes to make life in the Army so splendid, be re-examined. I am willing to wager that 20 per cent. at least of those men would then be found fit. Supposing they did not pass the test, after all what harm would have been done? Would you not also have furnished something in the nature of a great reserve? The other point which the noble Earl raised was one which he said would 191 reduce the Opposition Bench to shivers—or was it to giggles? It was the question of putting our soldiers back into full dress.
THE EARL OF AIRLIE
The noble Earl said in his speech that he felt that perhaps not sufficient attention was paid to the psychological effect which full dress had on the minds of men who are about to enlist. I also believe that that psychological effect is not fully appreciated. I know it is called all nonsense and "nursery-maid stuff," but I believe that it goes deeper than that. It is not a point which I wish to stress, but you cannot get away from the fact that a uniform goes to the root of matters, and is really a representation of all that has happened to a regiment in its history. It stands for some specific thing; it gives pride to a man in his corps and unit, and lastly in himself, to which nothing can be compared. I cannot explain it, but it is a factor not to be laughed at or entirely ignored.
May I say one word with regard to the point raised by Lord Salisbury when speaking in relation to the reserves for the Army? He mentioned the Militia. For a long time I have felt that there was a possibility of something in the nature of a resurrection of the old Militia, though, as he said, it was never entirely buried. That is a view which I believe is held by quite a number of serving officers of high rank, and if you take what has happened in the last six months I think it has also helped towards converting people to this idea. Your Lordships know of the number of troops which we have been forced to send to the East during the last six months. The country is pretty empty of men, and supposing something happened nearer home, where would we go to for reserves?
Supposing we called up the Territorial Army, and supposing things then blew over, as they have a habit of doing. Then we should have had nothing but dislocation of trade for no purpose. Yet if we could evolve again some idea of the old Militia I believe it might meet the need of the present day. I admit that agricultural insurance might probably make difficulties. I know that the recruits for the Militia in those days came a great deal from the country—the seasonal 192 worker and the part-time man—but I think if something were started on the lines of the Militia and proved successful, it might be extended. One word with regard to the Territorial Army. It is a great pleasure to be able to say that those bounty increases which have been promised during the last few weeks have had an enormously good result. In Dundee and elsewhere I am told that recruiting is such that there is every chance of the numbers being brought up to strength. A new company started in Dundee has already fifty out of sixty men, and two officers out of four.
The last point which I want to make is one which lies more in the future. It is possible, from the last conversations or those which take place at some future date, that the world may take on a more peaceful and quiet attitude. It may be that out of all this turmoil better times may come, and that then again there may be demands for disarmament. It may sound strange from the lips of one who advocated disarmament if I say that I do trust His Majesty's Government will not pursue that policy of disarmament again in too great a hurry, until the world shows itself willing by deeds, and not by lip-service only, to pursue this path. I am convinced that the greatest hope for the peace of the world lies now—since, alas! the rest of the world does not appear to be ready—in a Britain armed sufficiently to carry weight in the counsels of the world. On the Government, if such a situation does arise, much pressure will be brought to bear from many sides, and the temptation will be great, but I hope His Majesty's Government will not yield to it until they are satisfied that it is a policy which is whole-heartedly and truly accepted by the world.
My Lords, the events of the past ten days have certainly not done anything to make one believe that the proposals of the White Paper on Defence should not be carried out. In fact, if I may be allowed to do so for a moment, I should like to follow along the same dangerous path which was trodden so skilfully and so carefully by the noble Lord, Lord Rankeillour, and to say with what a sense of relief I saw the Foreign Secretary's statement yesterday in the House of Commons that the points which had been submitted by way of proposals to Germany are only proposals, 193 and not an ultimatum. I feel that there will be a great many people in the country who will agree with that, and I should like to congratulate the noble and learned Viscount, the Leader of the House, on the speech he made last night in which he emphasised that point. But I think that I may also be permitted to say that there are certain matters which have emerged from the discussions which have taken place during the past fortnight which ought to have public statement in this House.
If one examines what has happened, I think that one can say without any danger of causing embarrassment to the Government that there are three or four major results which have accrued from these discussions. In the first place, I think it will be agreed that this country would not be prepared to go to war on account of the military occupation of German territory by German subjects. Secondly, I think it will be agreed that at any rate a great many of us intensely dislike the Franco-Russian Pact, and we would certainly be very definitely opposed to going to war on account of that Pact. It may be said that we should not criticise a Pact made by a friendly country, but in this particular instance that country is a participator in the Locarno Treaty, under which we hold grave responsibilities. Then I think it would be agreed that our Government should pursue with every means in their power the examination of any peace proposals put forward by Germany, and do all they can to induce the other Powers to do likewise, and to obtain results. There is one other point—and I speak purely personally on that—but I do hope that when a Conference takes place the whole question of the Covenant of the League of Nations will come under consideration, and that some revision of it will be made to bring it more in consonance with the conditions which exist to-day.
I have been asked not to detain the House very long, and so I will turn to one of the other points which I regard as of extreme importance, and one to which no reference has been made in this debate or the debate which took place a short time ago. In paragraph 39 of the White Paper on Defence I find this:The Royal Air Force also has responsibilities in the general scheme of Imperial 194 defence. With our wide Imperial responsibilities the ability to reinforce the threatened area in sufficient time and in sufficient strength demands the location of air units at convenient places on the strategic air routes. The Government propose an increase amounting to approximately twelve squadrons for this purpose.Perhaps it was with due consideration that nothing was put in the White Paper regarding the possible co-ordination of our Air Force, especially these particular additional squadrons that are going to be created, with the Empire Air-Force. Obviously twelve squadrons are quite insufficient to cope with all the defence that is necessary in connection with the Empire to-day. Therefore I can only assume that the Government have been in communication with the Dominion Governments and possibly some of the Crown Colony Governments, with regard to co-ordinating air defence, and I hope that when the noble and learned Viscount replies to the debate he will give your Lordships some indication as to what has happened in this connection. I should have liked to hear that there would be interchange of Staff officers and pilots between the different Forces. I can imagine no better training ground for our officers and pilots than the wide expanses of the Dominions, with their varying climates and conditions, and Dominion officers and pilots might learn our conditions here and in Europe. I feel sure that experience of that sort would be most invaluable in the event of war.
Since the Statute of Westminster was passed the Dominions really have far greater responsibilities in regard to their defence of their territories than they had before that Statute came into force, and I can conceive that they would be only too ready to co-operate with the Imperial Government in any measures that were likely to protect their own territories, and at the same time protect Imperial interests. I would suggest that a very good way also of securing this would be to have senior Staff officers from the Dominions sitting on the Committee of Imperial Defence, coming to this country for fixed periods and giving their valuable and expert advice on the conditions which exist in their parts of the world. Probably it would be necessary for the High Commissioners to sit on the Committee as well—I am not quite sure whether they do so or not already. But I would suggest that the whole Empire 195 should take a really practical interest in Empire defence, and I should like to bring to the notice of those of your Lordships who have perhaps not already seen it the remark made by Mr. Menzies, the Attorney-General of Australia, on landing here. He stated a few days ago:So long as the Empire is subject to a single King-Emperor no part of the Empire could remain neutral in time of war, though each part may reserve its discretion as to how far it will go.That is the point I wish particularly to bring to the notice of the noble Viscount who will reply, and I do hope that in that reply he may be able to give some indication of what His Majesty's Government are doing in co-operation with the Governments of the Dominions and the Colonies.
My Lords, if I intervene in this debate for a few minutes it is because there has been a wholly inadequate amount of criticism of the Government's White Paper. My noble friends have criticised it, but everybody else can only be said to have offered alternatives, additions, or improvements. On the other hand, I wish to criticise it from the first page to the last as being utterly damnable. I should like to criticise it on financial grounds because up to the present it has always been admitted by everybody that armaments should not be financed by loans. Our Party when it was in power was criticised for failing to balance its Budget. What is this except failure on the part of the National Government to balance its Budget? It has spent consistently more money every year on armaments since it has been in power, and yet it finds it now necessary to spend a huge additional sum to complete re-armament. If this was necessary it should have been done, I maintain, from a financial point of view, yearly when it fell due. If that has not been done, somebody is responsible and somebody has something to answer for. In point of fact I consider it has been done. We all know that immense sums have been spent on armaments consistently and continuously since the War. Since the Labour Party went out of power, leaving, if I may say so, a very agreeable atmosphere of peace in Europe and of respect for British good intentions and loyalty to our foreign neighbours, it has been found necessary annually to augment our armaments.
196 It has been promised by the Government that there will be no profiteering in this matter. I have not gathered from, any speech by any Government spokesman exactly how this is going to be prevented. An inspection of the shares of big armament firms during the last few months would lead one to suppose that the gentlemen in the City who understand these things hardly expect to be done out of their profits. The increase in armament shares is such that, unless an enormous amount of profiteering is going to take place, someone is going to lose a lot of money, and it is very rare that the people who buy these shares lose money. I hope they will, but I have not yet heard how profiteering is to be prevented. I should also like to hear a little more about the Commission which is inquiring into the private manufacture of armaments. Has that Commission been quietly interred? It is obviously hardly the moment for it, from the Government's point of view. I would like to suggest to the Government, as I suggested the other day when I spoke in your Lordships' House, that the public manufacture of armaments would he a very considerable economy to the State. The trade unions are also somewhat disturbed about this Defence Paper. They see suggestions for watering skilled labour, which will weaken their position, and while this weakening of their position might be pleasing to certain members of your Lordships' House, I cannot think that His Majesty's Government are quite so reactionary as to welcome any such thing.
My noble friend Lord Ponsonby touched most ably and eloquently on the utter futility of armaments from an external point of view. I should like to reinforce that. As the noble Lord said, we all know that British armaments are for everybody's good, and other people's armaments only are dangerous, but that is a point of view which is not shared by other than Englishmen. It may be true or it may not be true, but it is not yet possible to earmark armaments. The cannon has not been invented which will only fire at a German, or a Russian or a Frenchman, and no one can be certain in which direction it is going to fire. That kind of argument will not do; it is no good. We have heard a very limited amount in almost every speech, and also 197 in the White Paper, about collective security. It is a sort of sacred phrase pronounced like a grace before meals, and then people get down to the real business. There is nothing about collective security in the White Paper after the third page, beyond a slight reference further on. The whole thing refers not to armament for collective security but to armament for national security. If the Government were dealing with collective security, why did they not ask the other Members of the League of Nations what they considered it necessary that we should have to play our part in protecting them and ourselves? No such inquiry has ever been made, and I imagine it is not likely to be made, because I do not really believe any Government is rearming for collective security.
The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, mentioned that our increased Forces would give a sense of greater security to France. I can hardly believe that that phrase, falling from the lips of the noble Marquess, can have been very reassuring to any Frenchman, particularly as it was immediately followed by an eloquent eulogy of German organisation and German enthusiasm for the present Government in Germany. I am not going into the German situation, because it does not seem to be germane to the present Motion, although many noble Lords have talked about it and have not been called to order. I may say I was more horrified and disappointed with the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, than with any of the speeches made by occupants of the Benches on the other side. It is really a distressing thing to find one whom you have regarded almost as a god, someone you have admired so much, and whose policy you have thought you have supported, saying anything in favour of rearmament. That to me was a horrible shock. I am sorry the noble Viscount is not in his place.
In point of fact over all this debate there seems to have hung a curious air of unreality. I have heard noble Lords, all of them experts on their own particular topics, get up and talk gleefully about speeds and ratios and latitudes and comparative ranges and the rest of it. Noble Lords seemed occasionally to forget they were talking about instruments of mass murder. That is a point which I think can be very easily forgotten when talking 198 about these things, and that is why I mention it, because it is good to remember that these things we are talking about are meant to kill men. The greatest sense of unreality comes, in my opinion, from the fact that I do not believe this is a Defence White Paper at all. I personally regard it as the Government's unemployment scheme. Having failed to cope with the unemployment problem in England, and having been unable to persuade their supporters to give generous support in any other way, they have had now to hand out vast sums to the big industrialists from whom they draw their support. This is the only way, in my opinion, in which they have found it possible to cope with unemployment. It is, of course, equally a form of inflation, and may I suggest to the Government that they will inevitably find that such inflation will raise prices and will have a deleterious, if not disastrous, effect on our already enfeebled exports?
They talk about recruiting. A certain distinguished member of another place said yesterday that certain misguided people appeared to think that because they disbelieved in war they must oppose recruiting. I am one of those misguided people. There seems to me to be a very close connection between the two. I am sorry if members of the Government do not see it, but I think the English people, so often far ahead of their Government and clearer sighted, will see it, and I venture to think you will not get the manpower to back up this scheme. And I hope you do not get it, because, apart from anything else, not only do I not wish you to get it, but I myself have been horrified lately, and we have all been distressed, by the recent losses suffered by the Air Force.
Members of the Civil Aviation Force of this country assure me that these losses are entirely unjustified, that Air Force pilots are made to do work which their training does not enable them to do safely. One has heard reports of the same thing from Germany. I have seen it stated—I do not know and I will not guarantee it, naturally—that since the Hitler régime and the rearmament of Germany the mortality amongst German air pilots has been heavier than it was during the War. If that is going to occur here following upon this large increase in our Air Force I consider that the Government should have very uneasy 199 consciences. I should consider them as guilty. The noble Earl, Lord Airlie, mentioned the physique of the recruits. I also mentioned the same thing on an occasion when your Lordships permitted me to address you a few days ago. But why limit this improvement of physique to those that you can or hope to take for the Army? Why not make it possible for every man to be accepted for the Army? Why starve your population?
To me it is a tragic thing to see this amount of money being thrown away on entirely unproductive expenditure. This money is so needed to clear our slums, to cleanse, restore and rebuild our country. I consider it—and I know that there are members of the House, possibly not only on this side, who consider it—definitely dishonest that the Government have refused to disclose the actual amount that they are going to raise for this purpose. I consider that it is an insult to this House and to another place, too, that we should all have been kept in the dark as to the actual amount required. I think we have a right to know the amount. The Government, I suppose, are afraid to tell us. There have been various computations as to the amount, but it runs in any case into hundreds of millions. I could weep when I think what could be done with those hundreds of millions if they were spent to improve our country and our people.
I think I heard a happy murmur of the word "conscription" down there, unfortunately from this side of the House. I should like to hear it from the other side of the House because then I should have every hope that shortly we should exchange sides. I have tried to criticise the Government proposals shortly. I have endeavoured to show your Lordships that there is, certainly on this side of the House and in the country, a very large feeling against the Government's proposals. We shall not have another occasion of speaking upon or discussing this subject. In our opinion it is a bad scheme, it is an expensive scheme, and it is unlikely to be productive of anything but war.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
My Lords, I am not very clear what it is your Lordships are expected to do if you approve of the Motion which has been moved from the Government Benches. The White Paper, as I see it, deals with 200 three main subjects. In the first place, it contains justification for an increase in national expenditure on armaments; in the second place, it proposes certain reconstruction and reorganisation and the appointment of a Minister of Co-ordination; and in the third place, though rather on slender lines, it gives some indication of the policy for which armaments are going to be used. I regret to say that I am forced to the conclusion that the expansion of our forces is necessary. The increase this year is very considerable. It amounts to no less than £36,000,000 in a single year, and will have a very considerable effect on the Income Tax and Super Tax and certainly will be followed by much larger expenditure in the years to come. The increased expenditure on the Air Force alone is estimated at £20,000,000, and that certainly will be extended in future.
Still, if the estimates were brought before this House, reluctant as I should be, and convinced as I am that competition in armaments must produce war, but hopeful that the policy of His Majesty's Government or some other Government may find some way through the political troubles which produce war, I would vote for the expansion of armaments and for the expenditure of that additional sum. But when it comes to the other proposals of the White Paper it seems to me that they are inadequate, ill-considered and on the whole ineffective, and I do not feel at all inclined to vote for them. Let me deal first of all with the question of organisation, and especially with that aspect of the case which was dealt with by my noble friend Lord Salisbury in the speech he made a few days ago. He pointed out that the proposal in the White Paper contravenes the essential proposal made by the Salisbury Committee about twelve years ago. The essential aspect of that scheme was that the Chiefs of Staff Committee should have a responsible Chairman and that that Chairman should have initiative. As I see it, as so often happens in matters requiring executive decision on the part of the National Government, you have got confusion. You have a compromise which simply will not work.
It reminds me very much of the attempt which was made in a critical stage of the War to solve the problem by the blessed word "co-operation." Your 201 Lordships will all remember that Marshal Foch was appointed to co-ordinate the strategy of the Allied Armies. That idea hopelessly broke down because he found himself quite unable to deal with the different points of view of the Allied Armies, and it was only when, not so many weeks later, he was appointed. Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies that you began to get effective results. How is my friend, if I may use the word, Sir Thomas Inskip, a very remarkable man but without any experience of the kind, going to be able to deal with the Committee on which are going to sit the three Chiefs of Staff of the three great Services, each of them absolutely convinced of the lightness of his own view and each of them backed in the Cabinet by his own Cabinet Minister? How is it going to be done? That is not all. Take the single question, the most important and difficult question, of the relationship of the Air Force to the Army and the Navy. The Air Force is a Service which is separable both from the activities of the Army and from the activities of the Navy. Much the most acute question, as everyone knows, is the relationship between these three Services. The man who is Minister for Co-ordination of the Defence Services will have to deal with that. We have had already in this House a demand for the expansion of the Naval Air Arm. Is it not perfectly obvious that you are going to have two Air Forces, and that you are not going to get co-ordination but enormous expansion and enormous expense?
I will read the words used in this document as to how the Minister could co-ordinate Defence:
" In any event, and for purposes of coordinated planning, the existing Joint Planning Committee, which consists of the Directors of Plans in the three Service Departments, will be supplemented by three officers drawn respectively from the Navy, Army and Air Force, who will be graduates from the Imperial Defence College.
" The three new officers will hold official positions on the staffs of their respective Departments. Their work in their own Departments will be chiefly that of obtaining the necessary material for the preparation of joint plans. But their main work will be on collective plans prepared by the Joint Planning Committee for submission to the Chiefs of Staff Committee."
In other words, they are simply going to supplement the existing machinery 202 which has already broken down and has produced the necessity for a Minister.
There is only one possible way in which this problem can be solved, and that is that as a result of our experience the head of the Joint Staff Committee must be the permanent head of that Committee and he should have an independent thinking staff to report to that Committee—an independent thinking staff which has no executive responsibilities. It would be fatal to interfere in the slightest degree with the executive responsibilities of the Chiefs of Staff or of the separate Ministers, but it is vital that there should be an independent thinking staff which thinks jointly and can produce plans independently worked out for submission to the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Ministers. Unless this is done the whole thing will be camouflage and will break down hopelessly. I do not think, therefore, that this is a very good plan of organisation. It is plain to those who have given most study to the problem of organisation that it will not in point of fact produce that effective co-ordination without which we shall not get either reasonable economy or the expenditure of money on preparations which will be effective if and when the crisis comes.
Now I come to the third topic of the White Paper, which is policy. I do not propose to say more than a word or two upon the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Ponsonby. I am afraid that I disagree as much with him as I disagree with those who believe that merely by competitive armaments you can prevent war. The fundamental problem in the world to-day is that peace, using the word in its widest sense, can only come from government, from the institution of government which can legislate and enforce the law and amend the law. You are not going to have permanent peace until you reach that stage. The essence of government is that it has force behind it. Otherwise you have anarchy in which war is inherent. I do not think that the policy of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, would in practice have any other effect than to promote war just as the policy of unlimited competition in armaments would provoke war because military tension becomes such that the military time table takes charge and any accident, any fool or any knave can start something in 203 some corner of the world which lets off the whole thing all over the world.
The Government in this document say that the policy behind which these extended armaments are going to stand is an unswerving support of the League of Nations. I am not sure that those words fill me with much confidence. I have a recollection that there was an immense swerve about last December when that unswerving policy became something very different from what had been presented to the electorate in the preceding month in the General Election. I think it is relevant to ask the noble and learned Viscount who is going to reply for the Government a specific question as to what is the real meaning of the White Paper. What is in my mind is what has been said by M. Flandin and M. van Zeeland. They say that we have entered into a definite alliance with France and Belgium. I would like to read a few words from their speeches. M. Flandin said—I am quoting from The Times—
" This decision marks a decisive phase in Franco-British relations since the War. It means the successful end of a persevering effort and the establishment of a conception of complete mutual support under the threat of war. Even if the Locarno Treaty gave way to a new treaty of mutual assistance to-morrow, this mutual guarantee would be inserted in it."
It is a military alliance according to M. Flandin. Then he went on—I have looked up the original text in Le Temps—
" That is by reason of formal undertakings included in our new agreement."
This is what M. van Zeeland said:
" Whatever happens the three Powers, France, Belgium, England, will conclude a pact of mutual assistance between themselves and this agreement will contain arrangements which will ensure, in case of need, prompt action by the signatories, and also the technical agreements designed to ensure effective execution of the engagements entered into."
If any of your Lordships read The Times on Saturday you will no doubt have noticed that The Times correspondent described the sense of relief which passed over the French Chamber and nation when they realised that at long last they had a military alliance with England. I think this is a matter on which we may inquire whether that is a correct interpretation. If it is not correct, it is vital that it should be made clear at once that it is not a correct interpretation. 204 Therefore I ask the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, whether he can give an assurance to-night that that interpretation which appears to have been put upon the arrangement by M. Flandin and M. van Zeeland is not correct, and that if we do succeed in coming to an arrangement with Germany this military alliance is one we are not bound to continue.
May I say a word or two very briefly on that point? The Locarno policy has broken down because it is inherently inevitable that it should break down. It is inherently inevitable because there is discrimination against one of the signatory Powers. It is not International Law in the ordinary sense of law. It is a contract. It does not contain those elements of law which are characteristic when they are engaged after full debate by sovereign States. It is inherent that the Locarno Treaty should go. I admit that the method by which Germany has done it has caused immense difficulties to this country. The crudeness and the violence with which Germany has done it has put this country in an extremely difficult position. It is perfectly clear that one of the most obvious difficulties in establishing friendly relations with the great German people is the policy of the existing Government in persistently persecuting Christians, Jews and other minorities. I am fully conscious, and I do not hesitate to say, that those are immense difficulties in the way of the realisation of the policy which Herr Hitler initiated in his speech a few years ago and now seeks to achieve.
But let us look at this matter with some sense of perspective. France now has a military alliance with Russia. Russia, as the noble Lord, who is naturally well informed, says, has an Air Force that is rapidly approaching a strength of five thousand pilots, and she intends to have five hundred thousand pilots before she is finished. She is potentially the greatest military Power in the world, she is rapidly expanding, and there are no limits to her expansion. The Czechoslovakian Army is a very formidable force; so is the Army of Poland, and so is that of Belgium. So is that, needless to say, of France, which is the greatest Army in the world. As M. Flandin said, hopefully and cheerfully, "the Stresa Front was restored in England "—restored, apparently, by bringing Italian 205 troops to the Rhine!Germany, whatever you say, is immeasurably weaker than she was before the War. Then she not only had the resources of a much larger area, but could also draw on the immense Austro-Hungarian Army; she had an extra 45,000,000 people at her disposal as well as her Turkish and Bulgarian allies. At the end of the War she was denuded of the whole of her Western frontier fortresses; they are now in the hands of France. She is entirely cut off from East Prussia and a large part of Eastern Silesia; she has had a great deal of territory taken away. The only friends she now has in Europe are small and obscure Powers.
The balance of this combination is overwhelmingly on the side of France: Russia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Poland, France and Italy as against a diminished Germany. Why should we have a military alliance with that combination; a military alliance which, unless it is formed with the utmost care, will mean that we are going to be taken into war at somebody else's discretion? Once you have these military conversations, once you make these arrangements, you cannot get out at the last minute. We had experience of that in 1914. I therefore view this White Paper with the greatest alarm. We are entering into commitments which we may regret for the rest of our lives; commitments which in the last War meant a million British lives and which in the next war may well mean two million. I therefore have the gravest hesitation about expressing tonight any wholehearted support, either for the proposals themselves or for the foreign policy which it now seems to be the purpose of this White Paper to support.
I would only say one final word. I do not know how many of your Lordships read what I thought was the most sinister speech delivered during the meeting of the Council of the League of Nations: that of the representative of Russia. I have nothing to say against Russia; I am convinced that Russia honestly desires peace. But anybody who knows the philosophy of Communism and who has talked with people who are familiar with Russia knows that the Russians are convinced that there is an irreconcilable conflict between Capitalism and Communism, and that their policy must inherently be to keep 206 the Capitalist world divided as being the best security for Russia. I would ask your Lordships to consider very carefully whether these engagements into which, I think somewhat lightheartedly, we have entered may not, if they are carried through, mean the end of the British Empire. When you ask the Dominions to endorse or to go with us into these lighthearted commitments, you may establish a strain from which the Empire may never recover. I have asked a question which the noble Viscount may not be able to answer, but which seems to me to go to the root of the question, whether we have or have not entered into what M. Flandin and M. van Zeeland regard as a military alliance which will subsist whatever arrangements may be come to with Germany. If that is so, it seems to me fatal. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to satisfy the House that it is not so, and that if we come to the discussions which I hope will emerge from these conferences and try to build up a system in Europe based on mutual guarantees, we may be sure that nothing in the nature of a military alliance with any European Power will be contained within it.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, during the three days over which this debate has stretched, a vast and wide variety of topics has been discussed, a number of questions have been propounded, and a number of suggestions have been brought forward. I propose to answer, or to try to answer as far as I can, those questions which have been put to me. I can only assure noble Lords that if by chance I cannot give a full answer to any of the suggestions which they have made, the whole of this debate will in any case be most carefully read and considered by my right honourable friend the new Minister, as well as by the heads of the respective Services, and that the suggestions which have fallen from one side or the other of the House will receive the most careful and sympathetic consideration.
There is one question, the last which has been put to me, with which I want to deal at once. This White Paper which your Lordships are asked to approve was produced some weeks ago, before the action by Germany which resulted in the crisis of the last two-and-a-half weeks. 207 Since that occasion on March 7 our representatives have been engaged in negotiations designed to protect and maintain the security and peace of Europe and of the world. They have been engaged in those negotiations in a situation of the utmost difficulty and delicacy. The noble Marquess who has just sat down has summarised to your Lordships a translation of the speeches made by the French Foreign Minister and, I think, by the Belgian Prime Minister. I have not had the opportunity of reading or considering either of those statements. I am not quite sure whether I fully understand them from his summary. That is, of course, no reflection on my noble friend, but naturally a statement of the kind to which he alluded must be considered in regard to the whole text of the speech in which it is contained.
I cannot think that I should be contributing to the success of the negotiations on which we are engaged, or that I should be acting in the interests of this country or of world peace, if I were to attempt to-night to express any view on statements so made, under conditions at present existing. This at least I can say, and I think this perhaps ought to be said. The whole of the obligations which we have undertaken, so far as they exist at all, are set out in the White Paper. There is no secret understanding of any kind outside that document. Having made that statement, I think your Lordships will appreciate, and I hope my noble friend, if I may so call him, will agree, that in the circumstances I should be wiser to leave the matter in that condition.
Although the debate has ranged over so wide an area, at the conclusion we come back, so it seems to me, to one essential question: Does this House accept, not in every detail but in broad outline, the policy of the Government as set out in the White Paper, or does it on the other hand prefer the policy of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, as set out in his Amendment? The noble Lord who moved the Amendment stated a view which he has expounded with obvious sincerity and complete conviction on more than one occasion in your Lordships' House, but he will forgive me, I hope, if I say that it seems to me to be a policy of utter despair. The noble Lord professed to find some inconsistency between 208 the declared purpose of His Majesty's Government to support the system of collective security and the other purpose, equally plainly declared, to have an adequate force to meet the essential needs of Imperial defence. For myself, I fail to appreciate any inconsistency between those two positions, and I hope to satisfy your Lordships presently that I am right.
But the noble Lord equally repudiates both of them. He tells us that he rejects the system of collective security because, unless it is universal, it is dangerous and ought not to be attempted, and it is impossible to make it universal; but he says at the same time that any armaments for our own defence he regards as futile and as wrong. What does that logically and necessarily involve? The noble Lord sees with gloomy eyes our whole system of civilisation collapsing. He sees the rest of the world preparing to make themselves strong enough to prey on the nations weaker than themselves. His contribution to meet that emergency is to say that this country declares that it is unwilling to take any steps to defend itself, and that it refuses to make any attempt to create a combination of nations strong enough to support peace and to deter the aggressor against the outbreak of war. If that is the only contribution which can be suggested for the amelioration of the condition of the world, then indeed the noble Lord is justified in his prophecy of despair.
I will turn from Lord Ponsonby to the noble Marquess who leads the Liberal Party. He gave, if I may say so, a remarkable display of Parliamentary dexterity. For twenty-five minutes out of the thirty during which he spoke I was left in complete perplexity on which side of the fence the noble Marquess would ultimately come down. I did not know whether he was supporting us or supporting Lord Ponsonby, and only in the last five minutes did I ascertain from the noble Marquess himself that he was going to stay on the tight-rope until he got to the end, and decline to come down on either side. He would not vote for Lord Ponsonby because he profoundly disagreed with what the noble Lord had said, which seems to me a good reason for that attitude, and he refused to vote for the Government, partly because he did not know how much it was going to cost.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
No, I never said that I regarded the amount to be expended as a reason for voting against the Government.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Of course I accept what the noble Marquess says. The other reason was that, as we had stated our programme in very general terms, he was afraid that if he voted for it he might be held to have committed himself to some detail of which he did not approve. I cannot help thinking that if we had set out every detail he would equally have said that he could not vote for us, because, although he agreed with our general policy, we had included a detail which he could not accept. I know that sacrifices have to be made to achieve apparent unity, but I cannot help feeling some little disappointment that that great Liberal Party, which the noble Marquess represents with so much distinction, should in difficult and critical days such as those we live in to-day, as he himself recognises, be unable to make any constructive contribution to solving our problems, and have to content themselves with saying, like Gallio, they care for none of these things.
I pass to the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, and I should like to express on behalf of myself and my colleagues our gratitude to my noble friend for the very generous support which he was good enough to give to our proposals. The noble Marquess was in a particularly good position to form a judgment, because necessarily he had had inside knowledge of some of the problems with which we had to deal, and I think it is not an unsatisfactory reflection, and not an unfair reflection, to say that the better the position in which speakers have been to judge the merits of our proposals, the more enthusiastically they have been able to express themselves in their support. So far as the noble Marquess is concerned he truly said that my noble friend Lord Swinton, Secretary of State for Air, had found when he came to the Ministry a good basis on which to build. I should like to add what the noble Marquess was too modest to say for himself, that we who were his colleagues know that the gallant efforts he made to maintain the efficiency and organisation of the Air Force at a time when its possibilities were less generally appreciated than they 210 are to-day, contributed in no small measure towards easing the task of the noble Viscount.
Then I come to the noble Earl, Lord Midleton. He brought to our support the experience of many years distinguished service in the War Office, and I am glad to be able to say to him, in answer to the question which he put to me, that I agree with him whole heartedly that it is of essential importance to maintain the status and position of the heads of the three Services, and that by the appointment of the new Minister it is not intended to diminish or depreciate that position. For that reason, among others equally convincing, the new Minister is not a Minister of Defence set over three colleagues, but a Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, appointed to preside in the Committee of Imperial Defence, appointed to discharge certain duties which are set out in the White Paper and about which I shall have something to say, but who is not appointed in order to override and suppress the individual work of the three heads of the great Defence Services of this country.
There followed a number of speakers—my noble friend Lord Howe, my noble friend Lord Lloyd, the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, those two distinguished ex-members of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, Lord Cavan and Lord Trenchard, and a number of other noble Lords who addressed a series of questions on matters of detail. I hope they will forgive me if I do not deal with them in the order in which they were propounded, but try rather to group them together in the interests of time and cohesion in my final reply. The first question with regard to which I was interrogated was with regard to the retention of over-age ships, particularly cruisers and destroyers. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, in particular, and I think also the noble Earl, Lord Howe, suggested that, since we ought to have seventy cruisers, and since we have not got as many, we ought to make use of what is known as the escalator clause in the London Treaty and keep some of our over-age cruisers in existence. I cannot help thinking that that argument loses sight a little of what the London Naval Treaty actually provides.
Article 21, which is called the escalator clause, allows the signatories of the Treaty to escape from certain of its provisions 211 in special circumstances, which are defined in the Treaty as a threat to national security by reason of the building programme of a Power which is not a party to the Treaty. In notifying its intention to make use of this clause a signatory Power must specify the nature of the increase it contemplates, and the reasons for making it. Cruisers are primarily needed for the protection of trade from surface raiders and for various duties with the Main Fleet. Abnormal building by a foreign Power of vessels in the cruiser categories might justify the invocation of this clause, but since the conclusion of the Treaty no such building has taken place. Thus the Admiralty are advised, and hold, that there are no grounds on which we could invoke this clause, either to retain or build more cruisers. The fact that we need seventy cruisers is beside the point. That fact was well known, and was stated by the Government which signed the Treaty, together with the reasons which led them at that time temporarily to accept a lower number.
We were asked some questions as to the rate at which cruisers were to be completed. Assuming that the five cruisers of the 1936 building programme, which are referred to in the White Paper, are completed during 1939, we shall reach a total of sixty-three cruisers during that year. The subsequent expansion of cruiser numbers will depend upon the rate of construction in the 1937 and later programmes, and it is not possible to announce these programmes at the present time. The noble Earl, Lord Airlie, whom we were all very glad to welcome back to our debates, asked some questions as to whether in a year's time we should be in a satisfactory position. It is quite obvious that, especially in naval matters, you cannot remedy a position or radically alter it in the course of a year. Our programme is laid out on much longer lines, and could not be completed in a year's time. But naturally every month that elapses from the time when the programme is accepted is a month nearer the ultimate ideal at which the programme aims, and beyond that it is not possible to say at what particular moment you would regard the position as altogether satisfactory.
So far as the destroyer position is concerned, a statement was made in another place on the Naval Estimates, but shortly 212 it is this. We have about ninety underage destroyers built and building, excluding the 1936 programme. In addition, we have about 110 other destroyers, all of which are fully efficient for antisubmarine work. These destroyers are larger than the majority of those used in the late War, and are far better equipped for anti-submarine work. Under the London Naval Treaty the destroyer strength we are allowed in December next is 150,000 tons. This allowance was only accepted on the direct assumption that there would be a general reduction in foreign submarine strength, and it must be a matter of consideration during this year whether we can in fact afford to reduce to this strength, or whether the retention of additional vessels will be necessary by making use of the appropriate provisions of the London Naval Treaty. It is the policy of the Admiralty to increase the proportion of under-age destroyers in our total destroyer strength to approximately 75 per cent., and such steps to this end as are consistent with our other commitments are being taken. The position in respect of destroyers will, in fact, before long be better than in any other class of ship. Assuming that we continue to lay down one flotilla a year, three years hence we shall have twelve flotillas of post-War design completed and one building, which will mean over 100 vessels, in addition to four or five over-age flotillas which can reasonably be expected to last for a number of years to come.
In that connection I should like to add that it is a complete mistake to assume, as I think my noble friend Lord Lloyd was inclined to assume, that our overage destroyers have been worked to death, or are otherwise unserviceable. Naturally, they are less efficient than modern vessels, but apart from this they are fully up to local defence or antisubmarine work, and it is true to say that we are better off to-day in destroyers for anti-submarine work than when the War broke out in 1914. Of course it is not only destroyers which are used for anti-submarine work. The Admiralty have forty sloops built or building, which are specially designed for that purpose, and which the noble Earl, Lord Airlie, will be glad to know are specially designed for rapid construction in case of emergency. In addition to that, there were provisions made in the last Estimates for 213 twenty trawlers for that kind of work, and they are now part of our permanent strength. It is proposed to develop a new type of motor boat for naval service. A further statement will be made when the 1936 building programme is laid before Parliament.
Then questions were asked about the position of our merchant shipping, and I venture to think that the Government have no ground for being ashamed of their record in regard to merchant shipping. Last year we provided a subsidy of £2,000,000 for the year 1935. Only this afternoon your Lordships passed the First Heading of a Bill to continue that subsidy for 1936. In addition to that, provision was made for £10,000,000 to be lent for the building of new, and modernisation of existing, cargo ships. The subsidy has fulfilled its purpose in improving the position of the British tramp shipping industry, which was menaced by foreign subsidised shipping. Then, in addition, we have taken our share in encouraging and facilitating the rationalisation of the express passenger services between this country and the United States, and the financial assistance given in pursuance of those arrangements to the Cunard-White Star Company have reached a happy conclusion this afternoon. Again, there are communications which are proceeding with Dominion Governments and foreign countries with a view to concerted measures to place mercantile shipping on a better economic basis.
My noble friend Lord Lloyd gave some rather alarmist figures as to the decline of the proportion of the British Mercantile Fleet in the world position. The figures he gave do not quite agree with the official figures. He told us that in 1901 British tonnage was 50 per cent. of the world tonnage and in 1934–35 it had gone down to 24 per cent. Our figures are that in 1901 it was 50 per cent., as he said, but in 1935 it had gone down, not to 24 per cent., but to 32 per cent. A relevant fact which I think is very important in this connection, when we are dealing with the submarine menace and the danger of being cut off from foreign or Dominion supplies, is that that diminution has not taken place by reason of a diminution of the gross British tonnage, but by reason of 214 the very large increase in world tonnage. In 1901 the world tonnage was 30,000,000; British tonnage was 15,000,000. Last year the world tonnage had gone up to 65,500,000; British tonnage had gone up to nearly 21,000,000. When you are considering how far you are in clanger of starvation, you must remember that in the Great War our ships had to do a tremendous amount of service for our Allies who were unable to obtain any mercantile tonnage, and if there is available an increased or equivalent amount of British tonnage such as there was in 1914, and in addition a very much larger quantity of neutral tonnage, the position is not worse but better than it was from the point of view of our own safety and our own supplies.
As regards the position of oil fuel supplies, the availability of tankers for British Empire needs has been kept in close scrutiny for some years by a Subcommittee of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and they are satisfied that, under any set of conditions which may be reasonably predicted, the supply of tankers will be sufficient. In these circumstances, I am obliged to the noble Lord for affording me the opportunity of assuring the House and the country, if that be needed, that the condition of our Merchant Navy, in view of the needs of the country in peace and in war, is constantly under the careful watch of the Government, and that it is far better than some figures which have sometimes been published might lead us to believe.
With regard to the question of food shortage, I do not want to go at any great length into figures, but in the four years of the National Government the food supply of this country has gone up by just under 15 per cent.—14.7 per cent. to be accurate. Although we do not expect, or try, to produce all our own necessary food, because that would involve an impossible cost to the consumer, on the other hand we have not been neglectful of that side of our obligations. The noble Viscount, Lord Esher, in the speech to which we enjoyed listening this afternoon, proclaimed it was time that the Government made up its mind, to use his phrase, once and for all, whether or not we are going to have aircraft carriers with every convoy, or a year's supply of wheat and petrol in this country. I desire to say at once that the Government view 215 is we should not make up our minds once and for all on any of these topics. The whole position of aircraft, its capacity, its range, its speed, the methods of dealing with aerial attack—all these matters are not static, but are essentially fluid. The noble Viscount is absolutely right when he says that these are matters of grave importance which demand the attention of the Committee of Imperial Defence, but he will forgive me when I say that I do not think, on reflection, he will continue to believe it is a problem which can be decided, or ought to be decided, "once and for all," but rather it is one that ought to be kept constantly under review.
Then we were asked a very important question as to the protection of merchant shipping in time of war and in case of aerial attack. That again is a problem about which we were asked: Is it an Admiralty preserve or is it an Air Force preserve? It is not a preserve of either of these Services. Substantially, when convoys are out in the open sea, it is usually a matter of routing, to some extent a matter of escort. When ships are in harbour, it is substantially a matter of air protection. When they are approaching their destination and reaching the narrow waters before they enter port, it becomes a problem partly to be dealt with by convoys and escorts, partly to be dealt with by aeroplanes attacking enemy air bases, partly again to be dealt with by aeroplanes operating in some cases from carriers, in others from shore bases; and the elements of the problem are constantly altering. Your Lordships have heard, in the speech in which this Motion was introduced, an explanation from my noble friend Lord Swinton as to the profound effect which the developments in range, in speed, and in power of new types have had in the consideration of our defence policy and defence requirements, and there is no reason to believe we have reached finality in these matters. One of the duties of the Minister for Co-ordinating Defence will, no doubt, be to consult with my noble friend the Secretary of State for Air and with my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty to find, in collaboration with them and with their expert advisers, how, from time to time, the precise difficulties of the problem can best be dealt with; but that they are being kept under constant review is a matter within my own personal 216 knowledge, and on which I have no hesitation at all in giving your Lordships the fullest possible assurance.
Then we were asked about the Fleet Air Arm. My noble friend Lord Howe made a calculation which showed that we had 217 aircraft going with the Fleet and that certain other nations would shortly have twice as many. My noble friend will forgive me if I say his figures are wrong, because the 217 aircraft are the quantity provided for in the current Naval Estimates alone, whereas the White Paper expressly states this will have largely to be developed and increased. The final strength of the Fleet Air Arm has yet to be fixed, but it is quite certain it will be a great deal larger than that. There is another consideration or word of caution I should like to suggest. We altogether demur to the view that our duty is confined merely to calculating how many ships of one kind or another, or offensive forces of one kind or another, any Power can have, and then saying that we have to build up our own to that quantity. That is not our conception of our duty at all. We have to pay regard, of course, to the possible dangers which the Navy will have to meet and cope with, but when that is taken into account we have to regard the Navy as a whole, to make the best use we can of our available resources, and to assure ourselves that the Navy as a whole is best equipped in a way that is best calculated to deal with these possible dangers.
I was asked as to the rate of modernisation and rebuilding of some of our larger ships. I understand that the battle cruiser "Renown" is being taken in hand for modernisation during the current year. She will be the second capital ship to undergo the full process, the first being the "Warspite." In addition to that the "Barham" and "Repulse" have undergone a process of partial modernisation. The rate at which new capital ships are built to replace the older ships and the rate at which the older ships will eventually be fully modernised, must of course be related one to the other. But apart altogether from modernisation, the Admiralty are working to a definite refitting programme which shall ensure that our capital ships are kept serviceable. Two battleships are being taken in hand this year for major repairs under this programme. I 217 was asked a question as to the actual position of some of our battleships at the present moment. To that I can only say that, for reasons which I am sure my noble friend who asked the question will appreciate, it is not regarded as being in the public interest to give an answer to questions of this kind, and I should be setting a precedent in an undesirable way if I were to give such information.
Questions were asked about personnel. This year there is an increase of 6,000 which is required to man the Fleet up to March of next year and to provide for men under training. The time taken to train a boy before he goes to sea is one year, a special service ordinary seaman six months and a stoker, second class, five months. A boy can become an able seaman in approximately two and a half years after he goes to sea, and a special service ordinary seaman about one year after he leaves the training establishment. Then these men are available to specialise in gunnery, torpedo service and so on. Comments were made upon the shortage which was alleged to exist during the emergency of last summer, but your Lordships will understand that that shortage existed because the Navy was asked to do something which it was never expected it would be asked to do—namely, to bring various flotillas and vessels into full commission from the reserve without calling up any of the reserves, and it did that with very marked success and in a way which reflects credit not only on the Admiralty but also on the officers and men who have been manning the Fleet. An invitation was issued in connection with the emergency to time-expired petty officers and men to re-engage for periods of three to five years, and the question I was asked was the number who responded to that invitation. It was actually 630 petty officers and men.
Next I come to the Territorials. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, suggested that we should make it compulsory for employers to give a fortnight's leave to members of their staff who joined the Territorial Army. The noble Lord went on to answer his own suggestion, because, of course, the effect of that would be that employers who were not patriotic enough to do it would just not employ Territorials. My noble friend Lord Conyers, in a very interesting maiden speech, instinct with real knowledge and sympathy 218 for the position of the Territorial Army, pointed out that it is not only the employer who has to be considered in this regard. I was rather disappointed that he said nothing had been done for the Territorials until this last month for four and a half years. I thought I had been doing my best to encourage them, and I am sorry that I was not more successful. I can only say that my financial resources were much more meagre in those days than they are to-day. As to the Territorial county associations, to which the noble Lord referred, their suggestions are most carefully and sympathetically considered, and, as I have no doubt my noble friend is aware, we have an Advisory Council, one of whose duties is to consider suggestions and see that they meet with proper consideration.
I pass to some questions with regard to the new Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. I was asked whether Sir Thomas Inskip would have an independent professional staff. My noble friend Lord Crewe said that he regarded that as a very important matter. As to the question whether he will have one or not, the answer is that it will be one of his duties to make such recommendations as he thinks fit for improving the organisation of the Committee of Imperial Defence and the position and efficiency of his own office, and if he should make that recommendation I have no doubt that it will receive most careful and most sympathetic consideration. At present the staff consists only of a civil servant of the rank of principal assistant secretary and a private secretary, and, of course, the secretariat of the Committee of Imperial Defence; but I would like to add, not as in any way prejudging the conclusion which my right honourable friend may ultimately reach but in order to dispel certain misconceptions which I think exist in the minds of some of your Lordships, that the whole argument on which the noble Marquess based his case seems to me to rest on a complete misconception as to the present relationship one to another of the Chiefs of Staff and the present work of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.
It is not in the least true to say that the members of the Chiefs of Staff Committee are each there trying to urge the competing claims of their own Department, gingering up the respective heads of their Services to back up their rival views in the Cabinet, and that the 219 Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence will find himself in a hopeless position if he has to adjudicate between these competing claims. That is not in the least how it works in practice. I am quite sure that what my noble friend Lord Cavan said last week, as to the happy coordination and co-operation which existed on that Committee, is even more true to-day than it was when he served on the Committee. I have myself seen how that Committee works, and I can testify to the fact that as questions are propounded to them by the Prime Minister, or by the Committee of Imperial Defence, they address themselves to those problems not in the least with the idea of trying to aggrandise their own Department or to depreciate the other two Services, but with an honest intention to reach the right answer from the point of view of the country. It is a very remarkable fact that in a very great majority, almost in an, overwhelming preponderance, of cases, the answer which they are able to give is not only a definite answer but a unanimous answer representing the combined view of all three.
I heard someone mutter: "If that is so, why then have a Minister?" The answer, I think, almost suggests itself. We are not appointing a Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence because these Chiefs of Staff have proved themselves unable to work together. We are appointing a Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence because experience has shown, especially in critical days like those which we have been passing through for most of the last year and which unhappily do not seem to have altogether disappeared just yet, that it is an impossible strain to place upon the Prime Minister to expect him to do the work that he ought to do as Prime Minister and at the same time to do the work that he ought to do as Chairman of Imperial Defence. It is in order to relieve him of some of that burden and, therefore, to enable the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence to devote much more time and attention than is possible under existing conditions not merely in answering the problems which arise from day to day, as unhappily they are apt to do, but also in planning a long-range programme forward, in propounding a long-range policy, in calculating the possibilities of the future and the lines on which development ought to 220 take place—it is to enable him to have time to devote to that kind of purpose that we have thought it desirable to choose such a Minister, and not in the least as any reflection at all or as any admission at all that there has been any failure on the part of the Chiefs of Staff Committee in the past.
My noble friend the Marquess of Salisbury, who speaks on this subject with a special knowledge, expressed anxiety as to whether there was some intention to diminish the importance of the new Minister as compared with the original suggestion in his Report. He based his inquiry partly at least on the fact that he was not sure that the Minister whom the Prime Minister had chosen was the one he would regard as most suitable for the purpose. As regards that I have had perhaps better opportunities than almost anybody to appreciate the value and ability of Sir Thomas Inskip. For six years I was Attorney-General and he was my Solicitor-General, and that, as your Lordships will appreciate, involves the very closest co-operation. During the whole of that time we worked in the very closest harmony, and I am quite sure that I am safe in saying that in the choice which the Prime Minister has made he has found a man who will not only devote himself, as you all know, with enthusiasm and with sincerity to the responsibilities of his new office, but also a man who by his tact, by his common sense and by his sincerity is far more likely to make a success of that office than almost anyone else whom this House or the other House could produce.
A question was asked by the noble Marquess as to whether there was some subtle significance in calling him Deputy Chairman. I assure your Lordships there is nothing of the kind. The only reason he was called Deputy Chairman was that we thought it important, in view of the position which the Prime Minister would have to take should unhappily war break out, to ensure that he should remain the Chairman in touch with the actual doings of the Committee in peace as he would have to be in war. It was not in the least intended to diminish the responsibility of Sir Thomas Inskip in the office to which he is appointed. Equally there is no sort of possible suggestion that he is not to have the right to employ his own initiative or that it is not to be his duty to employ his own initiative. He is to be 221 Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. It is not contemplated that he should normally attend all meetings, because a great number of meetings are on matters which can be better discussed by technical men among themselves and on which they will have no difficulty in reaching agreement without his help. But when great broad questions are to be dealt with, involving wide political and foreign policy issues, when there are meetings at which he thinks it to the public advantage to be present, or when he is asked to be present, he will be perfectly ready to attend. He will undoubtedly be President and Chairman and not the equal of the Chiefs of Staff who are in a totally different position. I hope that what I have said will go some way at least to mitigate the anxiety which my noble friend has expressed.
Then we were asked about the concealment of oil tanks in a very suggestive speech from my noble and gallant friend the Earl of Cavan. That is a matter which has been and is being fully and very carefully considered by the Admiralty, and they are not dissatisfied with the progress they have made, although I quite admit that they do not suggest at this moment that they have reached a final and completely satisfactory solution. Questions were asked also as to the physical ability of our recruits as shown especially in the Army Returns. I agree very largely with the suggestions made in your Lordships' House. It is very disquieting to see the large proportion of our young men who are unable to pass the test for the Army, but I am glad to say the figures are not quite so bad now as they have been. There has been a steady improvement in the men served with notice papers. Ignoring those summarily rejected, the proportion ultimately rejected was 52 per cent. in 1933, 46 per cent. in 1934 and 38 per cent. in 1935. So there is a steady improvement which I only hope will continue. But it is not only from the point of view of the Army that this question of physical fitness has to be tackled. It has to be tackled from the point of view of the whole fitness of our civilian population, and it is from that point of view that the Board of Education are taking active steps to see if they cannot reach a real improvement not only in Army recruits but in the general health and well-being of the youth of the nation at large.
222 The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, asked some very important questions about Army Reserves. It is, of course, true that Army Reserves are needed not only to fill up the battalions at the moment of war. They have, as the noble Marquess truly pointed out, to provide for the wastage which is likely inevitably to occur before post-mobilisation recruits become fit for service. That is a side of the problem which is constantly under review. Any temporary deficiency in recruits is serious not merely because of the immediate effect on the strength of the Army but because of the effect upon the reserves available for the next twelve years. In fact the Section D Reserve has been and is being used to the full, and that helps of course to remedy the deficiencies. So far as the technical arms are concerned, we have what is known as the Supplementary Reserve into which men pass directly on account of their technical qualifications. It is divided into various categories according to the services which are required. These Supplementary Reserve establishments are not at the moment adequate to fill all our requirements, but they are steadily being increased to meet the expansion of the various technical services.
I do not think I can usefully say more about this than to quote what I said in a debate on this subject in your Lordships' House in December of 1934, when I spoke on the question of the Militia and the Army Reserves. I said then:
" The whole scheme on which the Array plan is now based consists in so regulating and adjusting the comparative war strength and peace strength as to ensure that, given normal recruiting, there will be available in the existing Army Reserve—the people who have done their service with the colours and are still on the Reserve—sufficient men not only to bring the battalion up to war strength but also to supply the wastage which will normally arise during the first months of a campaign."
My noble friend went on to talk of the Militia, a subject which I know has long been very dear to him, and what he said was reinforced by my noble friend the Earl of Airlie. I understand that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War has already put himself in communication with the noble Marquess and that there has been arranged between them, or there is in course of being arranged between them, a discussion in which the whole problem can be carefully 223 gone into and considered. It would be a poor compliment to the value which we place on the advice of the noble Marquess if I were to pronounce a decision before that discussion has taken place.
I am sorry to detain your Lordships so long, but many questions were asked and they have to be answered. Certain suggestions were made as to the impossibility of any defence against air attack. One noble Lord said it was impossible to have defence against aeroplanes because the attackers would fly so high, and another noble Lord said it was impossible because the attackers would fly so low. I am not going to adjudicate between those two rival opinions. I am not going to tell your Lordships that there is an absolute defence against attack by air which has been discovered and upon which we can rely. It would not be in the public interest that I should say how far we have gone towards it, but this I can tell your Lordships, that for more than a year past there have been in existence two Committees which are considering that matter. They consist not only and not mainly of Air officers, but embrace some of the ablest civilian brains in the country, of men who have been willing to give their whole-hearted and most valuable assistance to considering this problem in all its aspects. These Committees are not only doing useful work but are not unhopeful of reaching a fruitful conclusion. I hope they may.
Then there was the suggestion about more auxiliary air squadrons from my noble friend Lord Trenchard. I am told that the Air Ministry would like to have a larger number of auxiliary Air Force squadrons. Wherever it is possible, they are encouraging their formation, but at present there is naturally difficulty in the provision of ground personnel. My noble friend Lord Scarsdale asked about precautions against air raids, and suggested co-operation between the Territorials and the civilian service. That cooperation and co-ordination is already being worked out, and the Army will take its share in the defensive organisation. As to equipment, I find that already all permanent staff instructors have been put through Command courses, so that they are ready to start instruction directly the equipment is available, and there is every hope that ample stocks 224 will be available to issue to the Territorial Army during the next training season.
I do not suppose I have answered all the questions, but I fear I have come very near to exhausting your Lordships' patience in the attempt to deal with them. At any rate, I have tried to give your Lordships as frank and as full answers to these specific matters as it is possible for me to give. But when I have answered these questions, I come back again to what, in my judgment, is the crucial matter on which your Lordships' House will be asked in a few minutes to pronounce: who is right in essential policy, Lord Ponsonby or His Majesty's Government? We agree with Lord Ponsonby when he says, if I may quote his own words, that permanent peace can be secured
" only by the pursuit of a policy of international understanding, general disarmament and economic co-operation so as to remove the causes of war."
I agree that that must be the objective which we keep steadily in view. I agree that any policy to make ourselves stronger in defence cannot act as a substitute for that main objective. But when the noble Lord goes on to say that since that policy, as he thinks, seems almost impossible of attainment, all we can do is to sit back and watch the world drift down, down, over the cataract into the abyss of absolute destruction and suicide, then, my Lords, I part company from him.
I believe with the noble Lord that merely to go back to the pre-War days, the balance of power, alliance and counter-alliance, is no solution of our problem. I believe, as I know the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, so earnestly believes, that the ideal which the framers of the Covenant of the League of Nations saw is an ideal at which we must continue to aim. It has not come to pass just as those framers thought it would. They envisaged a great League of Nations which would gradually become all-embracing, in which the rule of justice would take the place of the rule of force, in which all nations would be bound together to eschew war and to substitute peace, in which no nation would be mad enough or bad enough to attempt to go to war, because it would be hopeless: it would find itself outlawed from the world and engaged in aggression against the 225 whole of civilised humanity. They saw a day coming when, as the security engendered by the League grew stronger, as the prestige and authority of the League grew greater, men of all nations would lay aside arms which had lost their meaning and their use; and when security would bring disarmament and disarmament would increase security. Unhappily that ideal has not been achieved. That all-embracing League has not been created. None the less, His Majesty's Government do believe that in the system of collective security lies the most hopeful alternative which has yet been discovered for getting rid of the senseless, cruel and useless method of war, which never solves any dispute and which brings loss and disaster to victors and to vanquished alike.
But we believe, too, that under existing conditions it behoves all who hold that creed to be prepared to make their own contribution to securing peace in the world. We believe, too, that meanwhile it is essential that in this great League of Nations, which we know as the British Empire, and which to us at least is the best hope against that cataclysm which Lord Ponsonby foresees, the best hope for the maintenance of civilisation and the preservation of liberty and justice in the world, it is essential that we, the people of this country, should be prepared to defend that Empire and to protect our subjects, to keep the King's peace in the King's Dominions, and to do our share in maintaining peace in the world. We believe that that policy is a policy which has the support of the overwhelming mass of the people of these islands. We believe that those people are willing to bear the burden and to make the sacrifices which that policy may entail. We earnestly trust that that policy may commend itself to the wisdom and experience of this great Assembly. It is in that hope that we ask your Lordships to-night, by an overwhelming vote, to express your confidence in the policy of His Majesty's Government.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
My Lords, the very eloquent speech which we just heard is really a fitting termination to this three days' debate, but I think I have by our Standing Orders a right of reply. If I were conscientious and inconsiderate I have gathered 226 enough material during these three days of debate to be able to make a speech that would make your Lordships all very late for dinner, but I intend to be considerate and even merciful, and I only want to detach one passage from one speech to which I think it important to reply. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, whom I regard, whoever may hold the position for the time being, as the Leader of your Lordships' House, was good enough to refer to my remarks in a way for which I want to thank him, although, of course, he made the necessary qualifications. The noble Marquess said that the cause of war was not economic, but was moral, and it is on that point that I want directly to oppose him. If I thought that it was our immorality that caused war I should indeed despair of putting an end to war.
I do not speak to your Lordships, and I do not go about the country speaking on this question, trying to persuade people to be good. That is not my task at all, and it would be rather a hopeless task. I am wont to criticise and attack His Majesty's Government, but on this question I do not regard them as particularly immoral men. That is not my complaint at all. If I thought that the innate combative instinct and inherent passions in people were so irrestrainable that they had to fight one another, it would be centuries and centuries before war could be abolished; but I believe nothing of the kind, I believe this is just a matter of stupidity, and I go about trying to warn people against being so stupid. We hear a great deal of the high aspirations of Governments, and of the great men that are brought forward to negotiate for us in the diplomatic field. I do not want to interrupt them, I do not want to criticise them while they are at work, but sometimes we must feel that there might be a little more wisdom and sanity in what they recommend.
Only to take one instance of what is going on at the moment—only one proposal that has been made—does it not strike one as absurd that in the present circumstances one of the suggestions made is that Italian soldiers should keep the peace between France and Germany? It is stupidity that is our great barrier, not our immorality, I do not know whether our morals are improving during the centuries—we are all very much of a muchness—but I do think that the 227 methods adopted, the channels taken towards a better world, are so often badly chosen through not being carefully thought out, and it is because I think that this White Paper in present circumstances is likely to inflame public opinion all over the world, defeat the aims of pacific diplomacy, and encourage that competition in armaments that I regard as the high water mark of imbecility, that I allow my Amendment to be put to your Lordships.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.