§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved by Lord Addison on Tuesday last—namely, That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the situation in the Far East, to the passage of German ships through the Channel, and to matters affecting the conduct of the war.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Addison, for initiating a debate in your Lordships' House dealing with matters in which the nation and the Empire are so deeply interested at this moment, and giving us the opportunity of discussing those matters at the same time as they are being discussed in another place. Any remarks which we have the privilege of making in your Lordships' House are naturally in the nature of suggestions, and I should like to say at once that I do not feel competent to make criticisms, because in that word there is always the suggestion of something adverse, and perhaps even hostile, in the comments. First of all perhaps you will allow me to pay my tribute to the noble Viscount who now leads this House. He follows a great and honoured tradition. I am sure that in the position which he now occupies he will add to what he has already done, and that his career will be a very successful one. Your Lordships, I know, certainly wish him that. And that does not prevent me from saying 78 how much I regret that my old friend Lord Moyne has laid down a post which, your Lordships will agree with me, he has held with great distinction, with great credit to himself, and also with great value to your Lordships.
We all feel that the new proposals which have been put forward by the Government have been received with great satisfaction on all sides. They have also shown very clearly that the Prime Minister, to whom we owe so much, is receptive of all those ideas and suggestions which the duly accredited representatives in another place and also your Lordships may make to him when they feel it right to do so. And I do most certainly feel that these debates show the tremendous strength inherent in this country and in the system for which we are fighting. No debate of this description could take place in any of those countries with which we are at war, because, first of all, it would not be permitted, and, if it were, it would be completely valueless. But, as I have said, in the suggestions that we may make there is not intended to be a note of criticism; we simply make them with the idea that they may be of some constructive help to the Government in the tremendous task imposed on their shoulders.
Sometimes when we read the newspapers we see letters which suggest that any criticism, or even any suggestion, shows an attempt to discredit the Government. Although that opinion receives expression in the public Press, I think it is held by very few people. There is, I am certain, a remarkable unity, not only in this country but also in the Empire, in the desire to do everything we can to assist the Government in the task they have before them. Moreover, I am sure that the Prime Minister of all people is the last person who would seek to stifle debate. He has had a long experience of democratic government, and he will take everything that is said in the knowledge that its object is to assist him in carrying the burden which now rests upon his shoulders. Speaking for myself, I cannot but feel great satisfaction and great pleasure in the establishment of what is called the War Cabinet. It is easy to say that during a war any Cabinet is a War Cabinet, but I feel that in the establishment of the War Cabinet there is a difference from the 79 policy which has been pursued up till now. The principle of a War Cabinet is a small body of eminent men concerned continually with the problems of the conduct of the war, and each one of its members should be untrammelled with the responsibilities of a Department. Of the War Cabinet of the last war, to which we owe a great deal—I would go so far as to say it was one of the important factors that eventually brought about our success—it would not be true to say that its members were all untrammelled with the responsibilities of a Department.
It is even in this case to-day impossible to apply a rigid rule. Mr. Attlee, representing as he does a great office, has been appointed Deputy Prime Minister for a certain definite purpose. He may be occupying a somewhat anomalous position at this moment in relation to the Leader of the House of Commons, but we do understand that his position has been determined by the Prime Minister on account of the very definite desire of Mr. Churchill to associate the Dominions with the War Cabinet. This is a vital point, and one which we cannot over-emphasize. The war which was waged against Napoleon over one hundred years ago was fought by Great Britain against France with whatever Allies we were able to collect, and there is no doubt that, even as at one stage in this war, we waged that war by ourselves. This Alliance, such as it was, defeated Napoleon eventually at the Battle of Waterloo. In this war we are fighting as the British Empire—as what is called the British Commonwealth of Nations—and I am not sure that this fact is fully appreciated by everyone.
There is still a sort of idea that there is a difference of outlook in the Commonwealth of Nations, but your Lordships will agree that the outlook is really identical not only in this country but throughout the whole broad expanse of the Commonwealth. Australia is now definitely in the war zone and is threatened by the fact that the mastery of the Pacific has, for the time being, passed to the Japanese. Nevertheless the Australian people, who have conscription for home service, and have made tremendous contributions to our war effort in the Middle East and the Far East, do not, in my judgment, receive the full 80 measure of recognition which they undoubtedly deserve. No stone should be left unturned to show the full appreciation that we feel for the efforts they have made. This certainly applies to our other Dominions also, and I should hope that the Administration of this country will never lose an opportunity of assisting the great Dominions in our common cause and of seeking their invaluable advice in the tremendous problems we are called upon to solve. It is not an extravagant suggestion to put forward that, perhaps sooner than we think, from a base constituted in Australia, and with the assistance of that development of strength that we see increasing day by day, we shall be able to regain our position in the Pacific and drive the Japanese out of those countries which have been invaded.
To return to the principle of the War Cabinet, I should like to see in it, as I have said, as few Ministers as possible trammelled with the duties of Departments. We have always to except the Foreign Secretary, because his duties deal mainly with the problem of the conduct of the war; but I am wondering why we have the Minister of Labour in the War Cabinet. Mr. Bevin, to whom we are deeply indebted for all he has done, and for the efforts he has personally put forward, is occupied, day in and day out, with so many problems of such vast magnitude that I do not feel he is capable of bringing to bear on that War Cabinet the necessary support and assistance required for the day-in, day-out conduct of the war. I believe that in expressing my satisfaction that a War Cabinet has been established I am expressing the views of all and sundry in this country. We do admire the Prime Minister for all he has done. We admire his courage and we welcome his stimulating and invigorating addresses, but it is quite impossible for one man, however gifted he may be, to carry on single-handed and without the co-ordinated support of a War Cabinet, the great burden which rests on his shoulders. We all naturally recognize the magnitude of his task.
I would venture to say that the whole conduct of this war up till now has shown to a very large extent a lack of appreciation of the magnitude of the issues that are involved, and I feel that one can say there has also been a lack of planning and of foresight. One very definite 81 reason for saying this is the unprepared-ness in which we found ourselves at the beginning of this war. We know quite well that it is very difficult to switch over from one system of progression to another, but after all, we have been at war for two and a half years, and one must still feel that there is not that coordination, that unity of effort and of direction at which we must arrive if this war is not to go on for a very considerable time. We are still on the defensive. I certainly do not lose sight of the great exploits which have been performed in Libya or of the offensive which the Royal Air Force are continually carrying out in the bombing of the enemy; and in making any suggestions—perhaps we are presumptuous to do so—we know our limitations because we are not aware of the facts. Any suggestions that I bring forward are, as I have said, put forward with the idea of assisting and helping the Government in the great efforts with which they are faced.
There has existed an anxiety which I feel to a certain extent has been allayed by the proposals which have been put forward. This anxiety not only existed here, it has existed all over the Dominion?. It was certainly balanced to a very large extent by the great confidence which we have in our leader, the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister in fighting phrases has defined our attitude. He foresees our difficulties, and he does not minimize them, but he does suggest to us that in the future—and I hope he means the near future—by the development of our potential strength, we shall see great changes and shall find, perhaps sooner than we think, a change in the whole situation. Instead of being on the defensive we shall be able to take the offensive, and bring our enemies to their knees. But these statements and addresses that the Prime Minister has given to the world have been accompanied by a sequence of disasters, some of which, perhaps, have been mitigated by certain facts that have come to our knowledge.
First of all, we placed our reliance entirely on France. Reliance on France amounted to what I would call almost an obsession with the Government. We faced Dunkirk, we faced Norway. Both those big disasters were relieved solely by the heroism and the sacrifice of our fighting men. Later there was Hong Kong, and 82 some of us wonder why we held on to Hong Kong, why the view could not be taken, which seems to me to have been obvious, that Hong Kong could not be held. Later on we came to Singapore, and I have no doubt we shall hear more about that fateful incident, if we can call a battle of that kind an incident. But we must remember that that disaster has entailed the surrender of no fewer than 60,000 men. One does feel that by some prescience, by some looking forward, those disasters might not only have been mitigated but might have been obviated altogether. I wonder whether in this country we are still not too much in the habit of taking things for granted. The mastery of the Pacific has passed from us. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, on Tuesday, told us that the reason for that was that the French had failed us in Indo-China. I wonder whether, when we have considered our Allies and the assistance that we might be able to count on, we have not trusted too much to luck, too much to the value of that assistance, and have not gone into all those details which I feel would have shown us the pie-carious position in which Singapore remained, and in which so much of our Empire, that it is our duty to defend, was placed by a lack of foresight and by a lack of definite policy.
I say all this to emphasize the importance of the establishment of a War Cabinet, because I believe, if we have a body of men who can consider all these points from day to day with the Prime Minister, he would receive that assistance in the direction of the war to which we all attach so much importance. The Prime Minister, as I have said, never minces matters, and he has told us we have to look forward to further blows. That, of course, is inevitable, and we naturally expect them, but I think we shall find that when the country is aware that there is a body of men sitting solely concerned with the conduct of the war, we shall be able to receive those blows as they come and to know also that they are being dealt with in a proper manner.
Another question to which I would like to refer briefly is that of the Minister of Defence. I think your Lordships will agree that there is no person who can possibly fulfil the duties of Minister of Defence other than the Prime Minister. In a debate some long time ago in your 83 Lordships' House, in which I had to express the views of the Government with regard to a Ministry of Defence, I ventured to lay down the proposition that the only person who could properly fulfil those duties was the Prime Minister. On account of the fact that the new proposals will relieve the Prime Minister of certain duties, I have some amount of confidence that he will be able to turn his valuable and instructed attention to presiding over the defence proposals and interests of the country. By reason of the position which the Prime Minister, holds as head of the War Cabinet and also as Minister of Defence, I think that we can have a certain confidence that the conduct of the war will be carried on under most valuable and most searching scrutiny. I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister, who said in terms that could not be mistaken that he was proposing to maintain his position as Minister of Defence, will maintain that attitude. I am glad to think that the suggestion that he should have a deputy, or that somebody should act for him, has been put on one side altogether.
My noble friend Viscount Swinton, in a striking phrase, expressed the real necessity of the case. We want what my noble friend called a Great General Staff. Having been a Service member myself, like my noble friend, I think we want a Staff which can occupy itself entirely with the co-ordination of forces in the war effort. I think your Lordships will agree with me when I say that many of our difficulties and many of our disasters, and the position in which we find ourselves at the present moment, are due to a lack of co-ordination which not only exists in our Armed Forces but also in the whole administration of this country. I feel that what is required is to establish that coordination. No one paid a more eloquent tribute to the suggestion than my noble friend the Earl of Cork. It seems to me very unfortunate that in the last seven years—I have not been actively engaged in this matter for the last seven years—more co-ordination between the three Services was not brought about when we were threatened, as obviously we were threatened and as we all know we were threatened, with the tremendous dangers in which we find ourselves at present. It is right that the Services should be autonomous, but we know quite well that it 84 is impossible in this war to do without co-ordination of the three Services, and I am sure your Lordships will agree that the fact that Courts of Inquiry are sitting at this moment shows that there is still a lack of co-ordination. Instead of there being a policy of co-ordinated administration there are still questions to be asked as to why one particular Service did not fulfil this requirement, or why another particular Service appeared to fail in what it should have done.
There is one word I would say about organization. I think your Lordships will agree that our war effort and the direction of organization are by no means perfect. I would not like to over-emphasize the element of complacency that exists in this country among people who, I am sure, are not anxious to be complacent but who do not really know how they can contribute those services which would be useful to the country. It is true, as I have said, that it is difficult to switch over from one system to another, but I would suggest that one of our difficulties is the element of centralization which, instead of decreasing, appears to be increasing. There is centralization in Whitehall, where we see increases of organization and increases of staffs which do not give one that confidence which one would like to feel. We have established regions in the country, but it seems that every official has to come to London to try to obtain a decision which he finds it very difficult to get. He usually returns to the country having been put off with phrases but with no satisfaction of the demands he had been making. Although I am not in favour of Committees—I have had too much experience of Committees in my public life—I hope that the Government can find some means of looking into this question of organization on which so much depends.
We read articles in the newspapers and we read letters expressing dissatisfaction. We have endless stories of our own. Some of them may probably be exaggerated; yet they show that there is an inherent difficulty in this country in reaching decisions. If in our organization of administration we could hasten decisions, I think a great step would be taken towards achieving that success which we all desire. It would seem that most of these Departments are at war with each other. There seems to be no understanding between different Departments. They seem to be 85 hampering each other's efforts. It is usual and customary, as it was in peacetime, to blame the Treasury, and I do feel that if the Treasury could relieve the general public in every direction of those innumerable forms that take up most of the time of the working staff of any business and reduce them to some manageable proportions, it would be an advance. Then there; are the vexatious imposts put on the people of the country. There is the lack of a wage policy, there are various inequalities which one feels it would be quite easy to remove. It is due to these things that so much of the attention of the people of this country, instead of being directed to the war effort, is diverted to these vexations, these inconveniences which realty are of very small importance but which do hinder us in the great efforts which we are seeking to put forward.
There is one word I would say on another subject in regard to which I know the difficulty of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, and of the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, who is going to wind up this debate. I should like to take this opportunity of saying how deeply grieved I am that the noble Viscount, Lord Wolmer, to whose maiden speech here as a Minister we were looking forward, is unable to be present, and I am sure we all deeply deplore the cause. What I want to say a word about is the position in Ireland, although I quite understand the reticence which is exercised over that question. The fact is that there is a German Legation in Dublin and there is an Italian Legation in Dublin, and we know quite well that the staffs of both have manufactured a network of spies and agents all over the country. I view these matters, and I know that the majority of your Lordships do too, in terms of the lives of our gallant fighting men, and I feel that by reason of the fact, which your Lordships know, that the ports are not in our hands a great loss of life and shipping has accrued. And this is by reason of the action of a people who claim to have so many of the ideas which are in our minds, who claim to be a civilized nation anxious to move along the pathway of progress. When we consider it in these definite terms, which mean so much not only to us but to the relatives and the dependants of these people, I feel that something should be done, that 86 perhaps something in the nature of a definite strong appeal to that country should continue to be made.
As your Lordships are no doubt aware, the newspapers are forbidden to publish the weather reports. And yet we know that the wireless station installed in the German Ministry conveys all the weather reports and many other details besides, details of what goes on in this country and in Ireland, daily to Berlin, with consequences which we have been able to see. There is that sinister phrase which your Lordships have read so often: "Sunk off the north-west coast of Ireland." Every one of us knows exactly what that means. I do not wish to pursue this subject, but I-want to urge upon the Government in whatever way they think best to try to make a change in the system which is being carried on, and which I feel is a drawback and a danger to our own war effort. I thank your Lordships for your kind indulgence in listening to me to-day. I would only add that I rely upon the War Cabinet as a new departure, and I look to its success with every confidence.
My Lords, I am sure we have all listened with interest to the speech which the noble Marquess has just made. As a former Secretary of State for Air he is entitled to give his opinion on the conduct of the war, and his views merit the consideration of your Lordships. I was particularly glad to hear what he had to say about the Dominions and about Australia and New Zealand. I think myself that they have hardly been sufficiently considered in the conduct of this war and I hope, as does the noble Marquess, that these two countries may presently become bases for operations against Japanese invasion.
Now I propose to say a few words about the changes in the Government which have recently taken place. I think the Prime Minister is to-be congratulated on these changes. It seems to me that they are certainly a step in the right direction. Many of us felt that the Prime Minister was carrying too heavy a burden on his own shoulders, and he himself has admitted that he found the task of leading the House of Commons, and at the same time carrying on the duties of Minister of Defence, was too heavy to be borne. Well, the war has now assumed gigantic proportions. I am not quite sure that I 87 agree with the noble Marquess in one thing, and that is that there should not be a Deputy Minister of Defence. That may not be necessary now, but I think that as time goes on it may be found that the Prime Minister may require some assistance in the duties of this great office.
In this House we are naturally interested in the changes that have taken place here, the most important being the appointment of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, as Leader of the House. I think it happens that I am one of the few members of this House who were here in the time of the late Lord Salisbury. As your Lordships will recollect, with the Leadership of this House he combined the office of Prime Minister and also that of Foreign Secretary. He was the last member of this House to hold the office of Prime Minister. Yes, I think the late Lord Salisbury came after the late Lord Rose-bery, and I think it very unlikely that any member of this House in the future will hold the office of Prime Minister. Judged by any standard, the late Lord Salisbury was a great man and his greatness does not wane with the passing of the years. I have been a fairly regular attendant at the sittings of this House during the time the present Lord Salisbury was its Leader, and though, like some others of us in this quarter of the House, I was opposed to him in politics, I have very pleasant recollections of his ability as Leader and of the unfailing kindliness which he always showed to his political opponents. I think we all join in congratulating the noble Marquess on the success which his son has achieved. If I may say so I think the noble Viscount has shown what one may term an hereditary aptitude for the duties of Leadership of this House. I noted that on Tuesday last another grandson of the late Lord Salisbury, Lord Wolmer, took his scat on the Government Bench, and like the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, I am very sorry indeed to hear of the cause of his absence to-day.
I would like to say one word about the office of Secretary of State for the Dominions. The last time I spoke in this House, about a month ago, I ventured to express satisfaction that this office was held by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. I see no reason to alter the opinion that I then expressed. For one thing I have observed that our kinsmen from overseas—frequently, as your 88 Lordships are aware, sturdy democrats and forthright men—do not as a rule object to the society of members of this House, nor are they averse from hobnobbing with bearers of historic names. But what I regard as more important than that is that the noble Lord has established excellent relations with the High Commissioners and with representatives of the Dominions and has become well acquainted with the work of his office. It is true that the new Secretary of State is a member of the War Cabinet and that, no doubt, will be approved of in the Dominions. I think, however, that that change should have been made two years ago. I should have thought it better for the Dominions and for this country if the noble Lord had remained at the Dominions Office and had been included in the War Cabinet. That would certainly have been a better arrangement for this House, and I agree with other speakers in this debate who have expressed the view that the War Cabinet should be directly represented in your Lordships' House. After all, in the times in which we live, debates such as this, on the conduct of the war, are of some importance. It so happens that we have in this House men who have spent their lives in the Services—for example, Lord Cork, Lord Trenchard, Lord Milne and Lord Chatfield, to mention only a few—and I think it would be fitting that some member of the War Cabinet should be here to reply to these debates. Before I depart from the subject of the alterations made in this House, I should like to associate myself with what other speakers have said about the noble Lord, Lord Moyne. In difficult times he has proved a very capable Leader of this House, and we are all indebted to him for the courtesy which he has shown to all those with whom he has been brought in contact.
I referred just now to the late Lord Salisbury. I remember very well the indifference—I might almost say the contempt—with which he was wont to express himself with regard to another place; he seemed to think that this House was superior to the House of Commons, and I do not think, therefore, that he had a very high opinion of the House of Commons. I doubt whether the present Prime Minister has a very high opinion of the House of Lords. That may perhaps be attributable to the part which he took some thirty years ago in the campaign 89 against this House; it may be that the recollection of "old, unhappy far-off things and battles long ago" may influence his mind in that direction. At any rate, I have observed that, when a Government post is vacant in this House, it is always filled by a former member of the House of Commons, or by a Peer who has served for some years in. the House of Common?, or by a person of distinction in some other walk of life. In only one instance since Mr. Churchill took office has a Ministerial post been filled by an hereditary Peer who has not served in the House of Commons. I think I am right in saying that, under the Constitution, one Secretary of State must be a member of this House.
Two? I think that at the moment we have only one, and in that case another Secretary of State should be appointed here. That, however, does not affect my argument. We live in an age of records, and this House has row assumed record dimensions; there are now no fewer than 792 members of this House. It may appear, therefore, that the odds against a member of this House becoming a Secretary of State would be about 800 to T, but as a matter of fact I think that they are much longer. In normal times there is a better chance of becoming an Under-Secretary of State; I would put the chances at 200 to 1. Since Mr. Churchill became Prime Minister, however, the odds against an Under-Secretary of State have lengthened to about 800 to I, and the odds against an hereditary Peer without House of Commons experience becoming a Secretary of State are any price you like to name. It is perhaps interesting to note that a good many new Peers have been created since the present Prime Minister took office. There have been twenty-five up to date, and, with the reconstruction of the Government which has lately taken place, there will shortly be another batch of recruits.
I admit, however, that this is a matter of domestic concern, and of very secondary importance compared with the great issues which we have been discussing in this debate, and I will turn for a few minutes to some of the more pressing matters which have been raised. I find myself in agreement with much that I 90 was said by the noble Lord, Lord Addison, when he opened the debate, and in particular I agree with him that the policy of long-range bombing requires revision. If France had not fallen, and if Germany had not conquered most of Europe, thus enabling her to transfer war factories to places where we could not get at them, I have no doubt that bombing might have had a tremendous effect. As it is, the distances are very great, the Germans have developed considerably their measures of defence, and the net result has been far short of what we had hoped. I think it has been an eye-opener to this country that the German warships could sail up the Channel at twenty to thirty knots after some 4,000 tons of bombs had been dropped in their neighbourhood, many precious lives lost and many of our planes destroyed. If revision is carried out—and I think, from what Sir Stafford Cripps said in another place yesterday, that something of the kind is under review—I suggest that some of our bombers could be usefully employed by Coastal Command, acting in close co-operation with the Navy.
There is another point which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Addison, and which has been referred to by several speakers in the debate. That point is the need for greater co-operation between the three Services. That matter was dwelt on ay the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Cork, by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry. All these noble Lords spoke with far greater knowledge of this matter than I do myself. First of all, I should like to;ay that I have a tremendous admiration or the Royal Air Force and for what they have done. More particularly in the Battle of Britain their conduct was magnificent, and by what they did in that battle they saved the country. Since then they have been doing great work in helping o guard our country from invasion. I appreciate that it would be unwise to do anything which would damp the ardour or impair the esprit de corps of this fine fighting Force; at the same time, I do lot think it reasonable for the Royal Air force to claim that they alone of the three Services have a completely independent role to play.
I should like to refer to a statement lade in the very interesting speech by 91 the noble Earl, Lord Cork. He advocated a Combined General Staff for operational purposes, and he said:All our efforts should be directed to one common end, and we shall be nearer attaining that end if we have one authority giving directions.With that I cordially agree, and I would ask your Lordships to consider what has been done in the Far East with regard to the appointment of General Wavell. General Wavell has under his command the three different Services of our own, the three different Services of the Dutch Empire, and also the American Naval and Air Services. I think that that has been an excellent arrangement. I cannot see why such a system of unified control cannot be applied to other theatres of war.
In Libya General Rommel has operational control of a considerable section of the German Air Force. In Germany, so I am informed, the Luftwaffe is a separate Force, but it is under the High Command as regards operational control. In Libya, as far as we can tell, our system of co-operation appears to work pretty well. Perhaps that is partly because it is so far removed from Whitehall, and the nearer you get to Whitehall the more chances there are of Departmental friction becoming acute. Even in Libya, however, I think that the opinion is held by some people that it would be better if there were unified control of the Services. After all, in the kind of warfare that is fought in Libya, and indeed I think in all modern battles, it is the case that bombing planes are indispensable. Bombing planes, and especially short-range bombers, can I think be rightly described as flying artillery, and on the battlefield, it seems to me, they should be used accordingly.
I am going to quote again from the speech made on Tuesday by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Cork. Speaking of the three Services, he said this:We do not really belong to different Services; we belong to three branches of the same Service, the Fighting. Service of the Empire.To weld these three Services closer together seems to me to be the pressing need of the moment, and now that he is set free from other duties I hope that the Prime Minister will be able to turn his attention to this matter, for I am sure 92 that in so doing he will tighten up the war machinery of this country.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I ask your Lordships' leave to say a few words in this debate, and I can assure you I am not going to detain you at any length. But I must begin by thanking the noble Lord who has just sat down for his extremely courteous references to myself and my connexions from one generation to another. I am very much obliged to him. I can only hope that you will not have too much of the family. Of course, I feel very strongly, most especially strongly, what nearly every noble Lord who has addressed us has said in this debate, of our gratitude and obligation to the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, who has so recently ceased to be Leader of the House. To his courtesy and his consideration we can all bear witness. What penetrated him was his knowledge of the spirit and atmosphere of your Lordships' House—that imponderable quality which all of us know very well in practice but which is very difficult to describe.
With regard to Lord Moyne's successor, I am rather hampered in making any observations. I will say this, that I am quite sure that he fully appreciates the quality of Lord Moyne's leadership which I have described, and also I think I may mention one other point. Your Lordships are well aware of what the Prime Minister has said over and over again—the importance of not minimizing the difficulties in which this country stands, of not trying to represent that they are less than they really are. He is imbued with a sense of what The Times, in a remarkable article yesterday, called "the stark reality of things." I am quite sure I may say this much, that the noble Lord who now leads your Lordships' House will never minimize the stark reality of things, and I think he showed that in the speech which he made on Tuesday.
I would like to say one word upon the reconstruction of the Government. I do not propose to dwell upon the point which the noble Lord, Lord Denman, has mentioned, the want of representation in the Government of members of your Lordships' House—not that I desire to differ from him, but because in these days it does not seem to me that we ought to dwell upon these personal matters. We are in such a position that we require to 93 have the best we can get wherever they can be found. As I look round I recognize that there are many members of your Lordships' House who belong to the very best, and the more they can be employed the better it is for the country. But it is not a question of whether they are in the Lords or Commons, or indeed come from outside either House of Parliament. Let us in these days have the best we can find. That is the feeling I have.
But the principal aspect of the reconstruction which has taken place, and to which I would like to draw your Lordships' attention, is that which was dwelt on so very well by my noble friend who sits besides me in his speech just now. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, spoke of the relief in the burden on the Prime Minister. What a burden it is! There was a speech made on Tuesday by a noble Lord, who I think is not present at this moment, to whom we always listen with great respect, the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. Lord Ponsonby spoke of the eloquence of the Prime Minister. He said, what is perfectly true, that he stands head and shoulders above his contemporaries. But he seemed to think that that was the sum total of the Prime Minister's claims upon the country. I do not think he really thought so, but that was the sort of impression left upon one's mind. That is very far from the truth. As I cast my mind back upon the last two years, I confess that I am lost in admiration of what the Prime Minister has accomplished.
Just think of the events which he had to control. Just think of the position in which this country stood upon the collapse of France, how he held us together, how he held together all those who were prepared to resist Germany. I think he showed a moral courage which is almost unequalled. In the same way in dealing with what is called the Battle of the Atlantic, in saving this country from the attack on our food supplies, which might have been fatal—all that required a stability of mind and a moral courage for which we ought to be profoundly grateful. And then in the acts of statesmanship for which he has been responsible—the creation of the second front in Libya as a great strategic move, the welcome of Russia at the critical moment, and, above all, the great policy of common action with America. Those are three things— 94 they are not exhaustive. I might, if I had time and your Lordships had patience, go much further; but those are sufficient to place Mr. Churchill in the front rank of the statesmen of this country, not only of the present day but of many generations. I must say that to speak of him as a mere rhetorician, although he stands very high, is a complete misunderstanding of what we owe to him in this country.
I welcome, as did my noble friend Lord Londonderry, and I think the noble Lord who has just sat down, the reconstruction of the Government from the point of view of efficiency. I think the collection together in the War Cabinet of a few Ministers wholly, or nearly wholly, devoted to the conduct of the war, is a very important improvement. It must be a tremendous relief to the Prime Minister to hand over the leadership of the House of Commons to another eminent statesman. To have this division of the various Departments of the Government in blocks subject as it were to a superior Minister, is a great improvement. It is an evolution in the right direction. To separate various things like the Home Front, production, and labour, all subdividing the office of the Prime Minister, so that they may all have proper attention—that is an evolution that ought to have taken place a long time ago. It does not in itself belong to this war. For a long time back the office of Prime Minister ought to have been subdivided, as it were. There ought to have been Deputy Prime Ministers to take great provinces of the work out of the hands of the Prime Minister and relieve him of part of his burden. That appears to be a very great improvement. There remains, of course—what both noble Lords who have addressed your Lordships this afternoon mentioned—the Ministry of Defence. That, by itself, is a very heavy burden. When you think of the multifarious problems connected with it, I hope the Prime Minister will be able to bear it. Certainly he has a much better chance of bearing it when he has been able to lay aside the immediate obligations of the Home Front, labour, and production.
I should like to say one more word. As one watches this evolution, one cannot help a feeling of dismay that it should have taken us so long to bring it about. I wonder whether we shall ever, as a country, get out of the habit of being taken 95 by surprise. Just think how we entered into this war, this colossal crisis. Some noble Lord just now said we had been expecting it for twenty years. We may have been expecting it, but we did hardly anything to prevent its consequences or its operations—not at all. We entered into the war almost naked of many of the things which are essential. We had no armaments to speak of, we had no military intelligence. At the end of the last war we stood ahead of every country in our military intelligence. When this war broke out there appears to have been nothing. I may be wrong.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
If we can only find the right man, I would not say I should join my noble friend in hanging him, but I should be very glad if someone were punished for our want of preparation at the beginning of this war. Just as we were short of armaments and short of intelligence, so we were short of an efficient organization. We seem almost to have forgotten the experience of the last war. We started, if I may use a colloquial phrase, almost from scratch to learn again all the lessons which we ought to have appreciated and digested in the last war. So here we are, after two and a half years in a tremendous struggle, back to the situation which we reached with infinite toil at the end of the last war. I cannot but be terribly afraid that one of these days we shall not be able to get back. This time, with all the opportunities which we still have, and the immense courage and resources of our people, I am, to the last degree, sanguine of the result, but I earnestly hope that we shall leave nothing more to chance.
Some noble Lord used the adjective "ruthless." Let us be ruthless in those whom we employ. Let us get rid of every inefficient person. Do not let us be hampered by political interests and Parliamentary devices and all sort of things which in peace-time we Englishmen—and Scotsmen too!—rejoice in. Let us get nothing but what is first-rate. All the inefficient people in public offices and through the Services—let us get rid of every one of them. Ruthlessness is the only thing we can practise in the situation in which we stand, and I welcome the reconstruction of the Government because 96 it seems to be a very long step in the right direction.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, this debate is taking place mainly because of the reconstruction of the Government. For many months past we have been constantly assured that the composition and machinery of the late Government were all that could be desired, and. that there was no intention whatever of making any changes. Events in Malaya and at Singapore have revealed, on the contrary, that both the composition and the machinery of the late Government were very faulty, and the extremely far-reaching nature of the changes which have been made are evidence of how very faulty they were. In fact the reconstruction which has taken place might be described as a "major operation." In the familiar words of the communiqué, "From this operation all but six of our Ministers returned safely." The next-of-kin of casualties have no doubt been informed!
If six Ministers have left the Government, it would be logical to suppose that they are the six responsible for the events in Malaya which led to the reconstruction of the Government. If we examine who these Ministers are, it might, perhaps, be just possible that the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, and the late Secretary of State for War, Captain Margesson, from the nature of the offices they held, might be considered to be responsible in some degree. I myself do not make that suggestion for one moment. But the other four Ministers—Mr. Greenwood, Colonel Moore-Brabazon, Lord Reith, and Lord Beaverbrook—in what way can it be suggested that they were primarily, or even partly, responsible for what has taken place? Moreover, the prime responsibility for the conduct of the war is a charge upon the War Cabinet, so we can reduce the matter still further and say that of those Ministers who have left the Government those primarily responsible must have been Mr. Arthur Greenwood and Lord Beaverbrook, which, as Euclid used to say, is absurd. Therefore we are led inevitably to the conclusion that those who were responsible, as they have not been ejected, must still be in the Government. If that is so, to what purpose has this reconstruction been? It seems to me we have burnt down the house without even having roasted the pig, and to tell 97 the truth I think both in Parliament, in the Press, and in public opinion, the changes arouse only very tepid enthusiasm.
This is, however, dealing in personalities, and the men in the Government exist to evolve policies and to initiate ideas and action. Our difficulties are not going to be solved by replacing Mr. Brown by Mr. Jones, while Mr. Jones replaces Mr. Robinson and so on. In this connexion may I say that the wanderings of some of our Ministers certainly give a feeling of lack of confidence? They appear to be deprived of that steady reliance which should be placed in them. One starts at the Ministry of Aircraft Production, he then proceeds to the Ministry of War Transport, from there he goes to the Board of Trade, and he has hardly had time to hang his coat up at the Board of Trade before he is back at the Ministry of Aircraft Production again. Then we have a Minister who starts at the Board of Trade, he is very quickly moved to the Ministry of Supply, equally quickly he returns to the Board of Trade, and then he is moved back again to the Ministry of Supply.
Among the Ministers who have been brought in from outside political ranks Mr. Oliver Lyttelton was brought in and appointed to the Board of Trade. We are told he is a man, as undoubtedly he is, of great: business experience and ability, and he was singularly well placed at the Board of Trade where he was to be charged with carrying out the rationalization of industry and business. Hardly has he arrived at the Board of Trade before he is sent to the Middle East as Minister of State on some rather vague, not very clearly defined mission. Now that spring is near, we are assured by the experts that the storm is likely to break in the Middle East very soon; and that is the moment which is selected for bringing Mr. Lyttelton home—at the time when he must, by now, have gained a great deal of extremely valuable experience which would probably stand the country in good stead when the storm does break in the Middle East. This is the moment when he is brought home to assume certain rather vague and unspecified duties in connexion with production. I do not know if it is intended to send another Minister to the Middle East to take over Mr. Lyttelton's duties, but if so it is quite clear that that Minister, whoever he may be, will have very little 98 time in which to acquire any experience of the situation out there before he may find himself confronted with very stern days indeed.
But, my Lords, changes of personnel unaccompanied by changes of ideas or machinery give no promise of better things. It has been the higher policy and the higher strategical direction of the war which has been at fault, and changes of personnel without changes of ideas and machinery will not remedy that. The country has been led to admire one set of Ministers after another which has been presented to it, and I think the country's capacity for that type of admiration is almost exhausted. The country is looking this particular gift horse very carefully in the mouth, because now it is very generally realized that one thing is certain about the war, and that is that you can no more win a war by losing every battle than you can win a round of golf by losing every hole, and there are only eighteen holes. It is results alone which are going to convince the public that better things are to come from this change of Government.
There are two matters which I should like to mention to your Lordships in connexion with the Ministry of Defence. Having regard to the personality of the Prime Minister, his great study and great knowledge of the arts of war, it seems to me that it is inevitable that he must combine the posts of Prime Minister and Minister of Defence; but there may be some misapprehension on one particular point in the minds of the public. I think it is sometimes felt that the influence of the Minister of Defence is such that perhaps the members of the War Cabinet do not enjoy all that access to—or shall I say advice from?—the Chiefs of Staff and the Service Ministers which would be advisable to enable them to decide upon the great matters brought before them. The noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, in a recent speech in your Lordships' House, if I remember aright, advised, or seemed to be inclined to advise, that the Service Ministers should be brought back into the War Cabinet. I believe that to be a complete misapprehension. My own belief is that the members of the War Cabinet have full and unrestricted access to the Chiefs of Staff and to the Service. Ministers and have every opportunity of consultation with them and of receiving their advice. But if a misapprehension 99 does exist upon that point, I think it would be very much in the public interest to have that fully cleared up.
As to the idea of a Ministry of Defence—and it was an idea which I myself joined in advocating before the war, but we learn as we go along, some of us—it seems to me that perhaps an essential weakness in the conception of the idea of a Ministry of Defence is this. As I understand it, in Germany the three fighting forces are combined into some entity called the Wehrmacht. I regret I do not know the structure or the organization of the Wehrmacht as well as I should like, but I understand that while the three Services are autonomous they are combined into this entity called the Wehrmacht. It seems to me the Wehrmacht is the essential complement of a Ministry of Defence. If you have a Ministry of Defence it is essential to have this other conception of the combination of the three forces composing the military might of the nation.
Some reference was made in the debate on Tuesday to the desirability of having a Combined General Staff. However desirable that may be, it seems to me quite clear that you could not suddenly introduce that in the middle of a war, because such a Staff obviously would require very long and careful organization, and would take a great deal of time in order finally to work together and settle down. The idea of a Combined General Staff would follow automatically from what I am compelled, for want of knowledge of an English equivalent, to describe as the Wehrmacht, and I think that probably the proper set-up for a Ministry of Defence is such a Ministry with the Wehrmacht and the Combined General Staff which follows from that organization. Perhaps the difficulties we have been encountering with regard to a Ministry of Defence are due to the fact that that organization has not been adopted. We have adopted one thing and not the other two.
There is a further point. I noticed the Prime Minister said quite recently that he enjoys no powers as Minister of Defence that he is not able to exercise as Prime Minister. I think there are people who would ask, if he is not able to do anything as Minister of Defence which he cannot do as Prime Minister, what is the point of his being called Minister of Defence, I do think that it may cause 100 certain misapprehensions in the public mind, particularly as regards the Service Ministers. Let us take, for instance, the First Lord of the Admiralty. The First Lord of the Admiralty makes statements upon the Naval Estimates. He is making one to-day. Those statements have an admirable effect upon public opinion. They support and sustain public opinion. But in between these statements upon the Naval Estimates the public only hear of the First Lord as opening warship weeks, or broadcasting perhaps an appeal for some naval charity, or speaking at some public function or banquet. When a naval event takes place which very much perturbs the public mind, like the loss of the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse" or the escape of the "Scharnhorst" and the "Gneisenau," the First Lord of the Admiralty is silent. The matter is dealt with by the Minister of Defence. One can well imagine that if interrogation of the Prime Minister is pushed beyond a certain point it very rapidly becomes a matter of confidence, whereas interrogation of one of the Service Ministers can proceed further without any question of confidence becoming involved.
Though I am bound to refer to two naval reverses, I should like to say that we should remember that the Navy frequently has great successes as well as great reverses. I think it would be a great satisfaction to the Navy to hear its own political head announcing successes as well as taking the brunt of any reverses which may have been en-countered. There is just one word I would like to say about the escape of the "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau." The matter, of course, is subject to inquiry at the present moment and therefore it would be improper to say very much, but I deprecate any idea that this affair is going to be used to stir up ill-feeling between the Air Force and the Navy. I think probably that idea has been exaggerated, and I am sure there can be no wish on the part of anyone concerned to do such a reprehensible and deplorable thing.
But there are two other points about it that I would like to mention. There was a speech made at the week-end when that affair happened which may have been made with some official encouragement, in which it was said that when the full story came to be known we should all 101 glory in the courage and the heroism displayed by the officers who carried out the attacks. My Lords, I think it is in doubtful taste to try to gloze over a matter which has roused great perturbation in the public mind by riding off on the courage and the heroism of men, some of whom, it may be found, sacrificed their lives in a hopeless endeavour. There was another speech the following week-end with regard to this matter, in which it was suggested that the public ought to be saying "Well done" to the Navy. I think that is very astonishing indeed. The public have a soft corner in their hearts for the Navy and will be very ready to say "Well done" when in fact they have done well, but that was a very strange moment to suggest that "Well done" should be said to the Navy.
Then the noble Lord, Lord Cecil, in dealing with this matter on Tuesday, quoted a statement attributed to the Naval Staff that in some respects it is rather better to have these ships where they are than at Brest, and that the situation in the Atlantic has been rather eased by the movement. I remember that when the occupation of Norway took place, it was stated then that it was the considered view of the Admiralty that we had greatly gained by what had occurred in Norwegian waters in a strategic and military sense. Putting together those two statements attributed to the Staff, I can only say that the gallant sailors who constitute the Naval Staff have got a most remarkable facility for seeing a silver lining where the layman can only see a very dark cloud indeed. It may be as well that they have that spirit, but there it is.
Now, if I may, I would turn for a moment to events at Singapore, the events which have led to the reconstruction of the Government. Very far-reaching lessons are to be drawn from those events. I speak of them in no spirit of recrimination, but because the most important thing about a defeat or about a reverse is to draw the proper lessons from it to enable you to avoid a similar event again. I read, as many of your Lordships must have done, with the greatest sadness a most painful article published in The Times on this matter, an article which I think must have required great courage on the part of the editor of The Times to publish. If what is said in that article is true, there is a 102 great lesson to be drawn from it. The writer said:… lack of dynamism, of aggressive energy, characterized the upper ranks of the civilian administration.He also said:The Government has no roots in the life of the people of the country … the bulk of the Asiatic population remained spectators from start to finish.And the writer of the article went on to say:One good push has sent the structure crashing to the ground.I think there is one great lesson to be drawn from those statements. When Napoleon was overrunning Europe his Armies carried with them great liberating ideas. He was not merely a conqueror; he was not merely overrunning Europe, his Armies carried great liberating ideas with them wherever they went. To-day Germany is overrunning Europe, but her Armies take no liberating ideas with them. In the Far East the position is different, for wherever the Japanese Armies go they take with them what is a liberating idea in the Far East—the idea of liberating the coloured races from the white—and it will be as well to bear that in mind, that they do take that great liberating idea with them.
That is a lesson that we have to learn and it is a severe reflection upon the past history of our Colonial policy. I cannot but reflect that until recently the Colonial Secretaryship has never been one of the great prizes in a Government. Since it was held by Joseph Chamberlain it has never been held by a man of supreme international or domestic repute. Debates have taken place, perhaps once or twice a year, in a somewhat thinly-attended House upon Colonial questions. Now we have a new Colonial Secretary in the person of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. He gives us great hope. He has always shown great courage. He has great independence of mind, immense application to a task. But there is a higher quality than those required—the ability to conceive and to frame and to drive through a new Colonial policy based upon new conceptions. If he does this we shall conserve on a basis of justice what has been won for us in the past by great explorers and Generals and Admirals, and consolidated for us by a great race of administrators; but otherwise it will slip from the nerveless grasp of men unworthy of such forbears.
103 May I, in conclusion, say one won about one aspect of the Home Front and that is production; production upon which victory depends? We have only recently had the lamentable story of the White Paper, and a debate in your Lordships House which turns out to have been a completely farcical procedure. What is the position at this moment? Here is this matter of production for which prewar Governments and pre-war member: of those Governments cannot be blamed The organization of production is a matter which we have had in our own hands since the outbreak of the war. The Prime Minister inherited a legacy of neglect and lack of foresight in so man) other respects, but production is something which we have had the power to handle ourselves. Spring is at hand. Germany has not been idle during the winter. The inhabitants of the conquered countries and the industries of those countries have all been pressed into the service of their German masters. German production has been proceeding at a rate such as has never before been achieved. When the storm is about to break, we here in this country have still got our production unorganized. We produced a Ministry in February; it lasted only a few hours, and now we are going to bring home a new Minister, charged with vague and unspecified duties in regard to this question, who will hardly have time to grasp the business in hand before the storm is upon us. The position is most unsatisfactory, and it is our own fault.
This question of production is intimately linked with the question of morale. Morale of the Home Front gives you a direct key to the figures of your production. This war has taught us one great lesson: that people will fight for an idea. So often when I look at the whole panorama of this war I feel that it is divided into professionals and amateurs. The Germans, the Japanese and the Russians are fighting like professionals. The Italians and ourselves are fighting too, but like amateurs. And it is a question of ideas. Rightly or wrongly the Germans feel that they have a great idea; that they have a great destiny in Europe. The Japanese similarly feel that they have a great destiny in the Far East and that they are fighting for a great idea. And the Russians also feel that they have an 104 idea, that they are fighting for a country which they have made and which belongs to them; and when people have an idea like that to fight for they fight like tigers. We have yet, in this country, to create and to give to our people an idea of that nature for which they will fight as do those other countries. Unity and resolution we have. Let our Government convince our people of the urgency of time and give them the idea that they are looking for, and then we shall generate an irresistible force.
If I have uttered any words of criticism, my Lords, it has been to me an ungrateful task to do so. I am not one of those who wishes to find, in the words of the Prime Minister, "his war work in criticism." I realize the immense burdens upon the Government. Much of the criticism of the Prime Minister has been very captious. He has been struggling with the very things against which he warned the nation. He is an immense international figure. All great men have the defects of their qualities. We have to take them as they are. You cannot clip or prune a man of the stature of the Prime Minister into the shape you want him, as you can a box tree or a yew hedge. Well, he has met criticism in a truly democratic spirit by reconstructing his Government in deference to what has been said on that subject, and if an advance can now be made along certain lines, some of which I have ventured to indicate, he can count upon the nation's response when he calls to the nation to bend to the oar, to drive the road and bridge the ford in a spirit of true self-sacrifice and resolution which will carry us through to victory.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
My Lords, we have just listened to a very able speech from the noble Lord, Lord Winster. The only remark I wish to make about it is that I am afraid I cannot agree with what he said at the end of his speech, that the people of this country would not fight so well as the Germans and the Japanese until we had a proper idea of what we were fighting for to give us the necessary inspiration. I hope that I did rot misinterpret the noble Lord, but surely we have the greatest inspiration and incentive that we can possibly have. We are fighting for our own self-preservation and for all those things which we hold dear in our national and imperial 105 life. I do not think that the noble Lord did justice to his countrymen by that expression of opinion.
The debate that we are engaged in is, in effect, very much the second part of the debate on the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Denman, three weeks ago. On that occasion I made a speech which, perhaps, was, in some respects, of a slightly challenging nature, and I was unfortunately unable to be present when I received some castigation the next day. The reasons for my absence were entirely beyond my control. If I rise to speak to-day it is partly because I should like to remark on the criticisms which were made. This I feel it is my duty to the House to do. Since that last debate three important events have occurred. We have lost Singapore, the German battle cruisers have escaped, and the Cabinet has been reconstructed. As regards the reconstruction of the Cabinet I am like the rest of us, for we all feel that the new Cabinet must be given a fair trial. We can only hope that they will bring us, and themselves, more fortune than their predecessors were able to command—in both our interests. It would be dishonest for me, however, to say that I feel that this reshuffle of the pack is really going to get us over the strategical weaknesses in our administration. We all know that a National Cabinet is absolutely essential for the prosecution of the war; we must have a Cabinet composed of men of all Parties, whose names are known in the country and who have the necessary ability to keep us together, to maintain unity, to prevent the political Parties from indulging in strife, and to prevent the strife which inevitably ensues from those Parties in the country.
At the same time, if you have to form a Cabinet which is constituted mainly with that home administrative purpose in view, it will be exceedingly unlikely that such a body will also be constituted as the best possible means of conducting our military affairs. Take, for example, the Deputy Prime Minister, the new Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs. If anything happened—temporarily, shall we say—to the Prime Minister—which God forbid!—as I understand it, the Deputy Prime Minister would take over his duties as Minister of Defence. If I am wrong I hope that I shall be corrected, but I believe that that is the case. Would any of us really feel confident that 106 the Deputy Prime Minister, with all the ability which he has in political affairs, and with the great name which he has made for himself in the country, is a man to whom we should look, perhaps for a month or two, with confidence to take over the tremendous responsibilities that the Prime Minister now holds in his hands? I do not think that it is possible to believe it.
I criticized the other day the duties which the Prime Minister undertakes. The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, whom, particularly as he has now become Leader of our House, I must treat with due respect, said that I had attacked the Prime Minister, but I do not think that that is a fair expression of opinion on what I said. I yield to none—not even to the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury—in my admiration for the Prime Minister; I agree with all that has been said as to the immense debt which the country owes him for his courage and for the stimulation which he has given to the whole Empire in the conduct of the war. I can regard nothing as more disastrous than that he should leave his post, and I only hope that I shall see him one day leading the country to victory. In view of what Lord Cranborne said, I take consolation from what was said by the Prime Minister himself in another place last week. The Prime Minister said that if Parliament thought that it could make arrangements that would lead to the better conduct of the war, it was not only its right but its duty to do so. I am sure that we all feel that it is right for us, if we feel that we ought to do so, to criticize not individuals but their work and the organization which is set up; equally, we should never forgive ourselves if we had not the courage to say what we thought until it was too late. After all, Parliament is a safety-valve, and what we are doing now is to lift it a little.
I still hold the view which I expressed before with regard to the organization which has been set up, and I am sure that it is a great mistake for the Prime Minister to be the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. The Chiefs of Staff Committee is a purely military body, which the Prime Minister described very well in his recent speech in another place. The great value of that Committee is that it can give purely military advice. In 1936, When a Minister for the Co-ordination of 107 Defence was to be appointed, I was Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and I particularly asked that he should not be made our Chairman, as was originally intended; and so the instructions for the Minister were altered, and he attended as Chairman only when asked to do so or when he thought that he could convey the political mentality of the Government to the Chiefs of Staff before they had to solve some difficult military problem.
If the Prime Minister takes the chair of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, in effect it brings the impact of the political mind on to military considerations too soon. The Chiefs of Staff can give purely military advice, and that advice can be accepted or rejected by the War Cabinet according to political or other considerations. If the sole decision of questions of strategy lay with the Prime Minister—if, in effect, he himself constituted the War Cabinet so far as strategy is concerned—it would be quite possible for him to preside over the Chiefs of Staff Committee; but the Prime Minister has told us that, so far from that being the case, the conduct of the war lies with the War Cabinet and not with himself alone. If a separate Minister or Vice-Minister of Defence is not to be appointed, then the strategical considerations and the conduct of the war should be vested in the War Cabinet itself, and the Ministry of Defence should be vested in the War Cabinet and not in any individual, or, better still, in some specially selected members—very few—of the War Cabinet, who would deal solely with strategical affairs, with, of course, the Prime Minister in the chair.
I think that the Chiefs of Staff are kept a great deal too much in the background. The majority of people in this country do not even know their names. I did not, as the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, imagines that I did, say the other day that they are badgered into submission by the Prime Minister. I did not say anything of the sort; if he had that idea in his mind, he must have got it from somewhere else beforehand. I certainly never suggested that the Prime Minister badgers the Chiefs of Staff. I do not think that he does, but I do not know. It is undoubtedly a fact, however, that, under the umbrella of one-man responsibility, one does not know whether the Chiefs of Staff give good 108 advice which is rejected or whether they give bad advice which leads to disasters. When we have disasters, there is no way in which the country can know whether it is the fault of the political heads of the State or whether it is due to their advisers giving bad advice. Equally, if we have successes we do not know whether credit is due to the experts. I think that that is a great pity. There is always a tendency, if the public is uncertain on those points, to try to look for scapegoats.
I do not believe in looking for scapegoats. In a long administrative experience of thirty years in command of ships and Fleets and at the Admiralty, I formed the opinion, and acted on it, that if a man makes a mistake, or one or two mistakes, from inexperience, as opposed to negligence or lack of judgment, it is much better to leave him where he is to profit by the experience which he has gained rather than to make a scapegoat of him and to put a new man in his place who has not got his experience and who will very likely only repeat the same mistake in a few months time. It is exacty the same surely in Ministerial life as well. Can it be considered to be a successful method of conducting the war when you have five Secretaries of State for War in a period of thirty months? It is really the negation of democratic Government. We all know, if Secretaries of State are any use at all, which we must presume they are, that no one can go to a great Department of State without taking at least six months really to get the hang of all the problems that are going to concern him, and to get to know not only the people in his own buildings but the people outside over whom he has control. It is not until after that that he really can bring such administrative ability as he has to bear upon that Department of State. How, then, can you have efficiency in government when Ministers are changed about in the way they are?
One feels sorry when one looks at the Government Bench to think of the Sword of Damocles that is hanging over their heads. One day one of them comes and addresses us here and tells us how, after eighteen months' hard toil, he has decided on certain important measures in order to rebuild our cities; and the next day he is gone. The Minister of Production comes and tells us of all 109 the plans he has for really producing aeroplanes and tanks in vast numbers, with an enthusiasm which inspires us, and he also disappears. I cannot believe that that is really a very wise state of affairs. I am afraid it brings us into ridicule both abroad and with our Allies.
There is one personal reference I should like to make, a reference to what the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, accused me of in the last debate. He said:Your Lordships will remember that Lord Chatfield, in effect, said there was no defence against Japan, and that is why he thought it such a great mistake to bring to an end the Japanese alliance. That is why. in effect, he really favoured a policy of appeasement of Japan.Well, those are the most extraordinary statements that I ever heard. Actually I said nothing of the kind, nor could anyone really read into what I said any such interpretation. What I did say was that if we had to determine the Japanese alliance, which might have been quite unavoidable, we had created a new enemy ten thousand miles away, and it war, our duty to watch and prepare to fight him. That is what I said, and it is very different from what the noble Lord accused me of saying.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (VISCOUNT CRANBORNE) (Lord Cecil)
I most willingly withdraw if I said that.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
Thank you very much; it is very kind. I accept that with the greatest good will. After all, we must remember that the Government have told us themselves that we had to accept great humiliations in the last two years to avoid precipitating Japan into the conflict, and if anyone thought that that, which was appeasement, was wrong, he should have said so before. Anyhow, if anyone thought it was a mistake in the last two years to appease Japan, he must be enjoying the fighting now going on.
Now I should like to fire a broadside at the noble Lord, Lord Addison. He fired some exceedingly unpleasant torpedoes at the Services, and particularly singled out, in the speech he made the day before yesterday, the leaders of the Army. I think that was very unfair. What he said was: 110I am afraid there are many men in Commands who are very much hide-bound and hampered by old traditions.… It is not in keeping with the British character … that we should look to our enemies for new and ingenious methods of warfare and for the effective use of the different Services.I think that is a very unjust statement. It is astonishing how short memories are, and how people forget that, after all, it was not till six months before the war that anybody in this country wanted an Army at all, and that we started this war with the smallest Army in the world for our great responsibilities, and by far the smallest Army in Europe. How can the noble Lord imagine that you can produce out of a very small Army such as we had the experience that is necessary to produce leaders equal to the great military leaders of the Continent? It is obviously quite impossible to do so.
Those great military leaders of the Continent are produced by handling in peacetime enormous forces, by testing them in innumerable exercises, in finding out what they can do and what they cannot do, what it will be too risky to effect, and what is a safe risk to take. And so they test not only their minds and their personnel, but they test their machines, and those machines they are able to alter from year to year in preparing for war. But we had none of those things. Anyone who entered the War Office might have looked up at the portal to see the words, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here," because the Army was not wanted. And then the moment the war starts what do we find? Everybody blames the Army because we have not got Clausewitzes and Napoleons to command it. I think the Army have been wonderful, considering the scandalous way that they were treated by their countrymen in the last ten years.
Having said that about the sister Service with great pleasure, I should like to say something about what the noble Lord said in the previous debate about my own Service. He made two remarks, neither of which I think was justified. The first was about the loss of the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse." He said:It depends on what cover was sent with them; but surely the disaster was due to the use of the ships after they had got there.Now that, I feel, is an unfair reflection on the Admiral who was in command. After all, we have not had an investigation of that disaster, a Court Martial. We 111 do not really know the facts, but I cannot imagine any Admiral who could have been placed in a more terrible position than Admiral Phillips was placed in when the Japanese advanced on Malaya on that unfortunate morning. You can imagine the request of his military and air comrades to go out and do something, because they were going to be in for it. I do not believe there is any Admiral in history or in the present day who would not have gone out, who would have sat in port and said, "No 1 am going to remain at anchor." It was not his fault that he lost his ships, as far as I can see.
If it were necessary for political reasons, as the Prime Minister has told us now, that the ships should be sent out to try and stop the Japanese from coming into the war, I am afraid it had the opposite effect. If it was necessary to send those two ships unescorted, unprotected, then they might perfectly well have been ordered to remain a force in being and to stay in harbour and take no risks. They would thus have acted in exactly the same way as the German Fleet acted in the last war when, by remaining in port, they retained the Grand Fleet for four years in the Firth of Forth, thereby immensely hampering our production and other efforts. If they had been ordered to go out there and remain in being, it would have been a perfectly practicable step, and the Admiral would have been ordered not to risk the ships on any account. That has happened in history on many occasions. He could not have had these orders, otherwise he would not have disobeyed them. When you put the Admiral in that unfortunate position, I do not think it is fair for the noble Lord to place the blame on his shoulders in the way he did.
§ LORD ADDISON
I should like to correct the noble and gallant Lord. I deliberately did not put the blame on the Admiral. I did not say he was responsible for taking the ships out without adequate air protection, and if he will re-read my speech I think he will see that.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
I am very glad to hear that the noble Lord did not mean to impute blame to the Admiral, but I could read nothing else into his words. I naturally accept his statement, and I 112 presume he does place the blame on somebody else out there who is unnamed. The other statement made by the noble Lord to which I take exception was:One lesson seems to me to emerge from this painful experience, and that is that the Japanese Naval Staff were really ahead of us in the widespread utilization of aircraft carriers. They seem to have had a great many more in comparison with us. and to have foreseen their utility much better than we did. I hope we shall learn from that.These are not the facts of the case at all. The aircraft carrier was invented by the British Navy after the last war, and the only reason why we had not more aircraft carriers was that we were not given the money to build them and because of the London Naval Treaty. Despite that fact we had, when the war started, the "Ark Royal"—that is one new aircraft carrier—and four old ones—five altogether—and five new ones building, which I personally laid down as soon as the London Treaty came to an end in 1937. We had ten aircraft carriers built or building, and the Japanese had not more than half that number at most, if half. Therefore it was not the case that the Japanese Naval Staff were more intelligent than the British Naval Staff. The British Navy have a very great idea of the importance of the air in naval warfare, and have always shown it. One of the things they did was to struggle to get aircraft carriers. I had to fight very hard for the aircraft carriers I have mentioned, because most people thought they were too vulnerable and would be easily sunk at the beginning of the war. The old ones, unfortunately, have been sunk. We have lost three or four of them, but the ones that remain are better and more modern ships.
I said we were handicapped in the matter of aircraft carriers by the London and Washington Treaties. I should like to refer to what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, in the previous debate. He said that he disagreed with me that the Naval Treaties had been a handicap to this country. He thought they were a far greater handicap to Japan. He forgets that when the ratio—10: 10: 6—was decided on at the Washington Conference it was based on the existing strengths of the United States, British and Japanese Fleets, Therefore, in effect, this ratio was no more unfair to one nation than to another. Why the Japanese objected to the ratio was not 113 because it was an unfair balance of strength, but because it affected their prestige. It is prestige that has been at the bottom of the whole trouble about quantitative disarmament in the past. The worst of the Washington Treaty, which I do not blame very severely, was that it started the disarmament landslide. That disarmament landslide started the ten years' holiday and all the other rules which were brought in. It was notorious that it atrophied the rearmament firms and led to a change in the administrative treatment of the Fighting Services compared to what ought to have been there in every respect. The Washington Treaty had one very great safeguard. It provided that when the ten years came to an end the United States and Great Britain were each to lay down ten capital ships between the years 1931 and 1937. During that period Japan was to lay down six. By the London Treaty the whole of that was swept away by the signature of a. few pens. What would we not give now if these twenty ships for the United States and our own Navy were in existence over and above what we have to the Japanese six If we had had that superiority in numbers the war with Japan might never have started.
The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, was not right—I speak with great respect—in saying that the Japanese were anxious to get out of the Treaty at the end. The Japanese did not withdraw from the 1935 Conference because they were dissatisfied with the proposals that were made about ratios so much as because they wanted to introduce a system which was called the Common Upper Limit, which was a system that laid down, as the noble Viscount on the Woolsack will so well remember, that there was to be a limit above which no nation could build ships, but up to which anybody could build regardless of their imperial or national responsibilities.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
May I say that that point was incidental? My main point was that the whole of the noble and gallant Lord's speech relating to the Washington Treaty indicated that the Treaty imposed restrictions upon our building. He did not even mention that there was any corresponding restriction on anyone else. If he reads his speech through again he will see that he gave a wrong impression of what was a measure 114 for preventing a race for armaments in general.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
I am sorry if I gave a wrong impression, but, in view of what has passed between the noble Viscount and myself, the House will now have been put in full knowledge of the facts. I must not keep the House longer, but I must say a word about the escape of the German battle cruisers. I should like first of all to say how greatly I admire the magnificent effort that was made by the Royal Air Force during the last year to keep these ships in port, which they absolutely succeeded in doing, and to destroy them altogether, which I know nobody could be more disappointed than they that they were not able to do. Few people understand how difficult it is to prevent ships escaping from port. There is nothing easier than for a fleet to get out of harbour, undetected, in the dark or in bad or misty weather though you have air reconnaissance to help you. Those who have clone exercises at sea will know that you cannot see for any great distance, even with aircraft. I have been able to see aircraft at greater distances than the aircraft could see me in my ship.
What we have got to realize, although the matter is sub judice and we cannot discuss it, is that the Germans learnt the lessons we taught them. We taught them lessons in the Mediterranean which were never believed before the war, but which we always held in the Admiralty, that we could pass convoys through the narrow Sicilian Straits provided we had proper air protection and provided we had proper escorting vessels. We have been able to do that in this war with enormous success and on most important occasions. They also learnt that when you try to do the other thing, and move your ships against land aircraft without proper air protection, you will probably lose them. So, profiting by these two lessons, they moved these ships up the Channel with an immense umbrella of aircraft over them and destroyers and motor torpedo boats escorting them. That we should be able to stop that force merely by air attack was improbable, and we failed. The conditions may have been difficult for our gallant airmen—I think they were—but I do not think, myself, we had a really good chance of stopping these ships in the circumstances.
115 The lesson I learnt—and I learnt it a long time ago—is this: If you are operating under certain conditions at sea—that is to say if you have against you a force composed of certain units, battleships, with air protection, cruisers and destroyers—you can only meet that force on a proper footing by having a similarly composed force of your own. The only way you could have stopped for certain those two battle cruisers reaching Wilhelmshaven would have been for the Admiralty, had it been possible, on the particular day to assemble a similar force of capital ships, of air cover, of destroyers and motor torpedo boats to meet them. That was the only chance you had in the circumstances if you wished to stop those ships getting through and carrying out what they intended to do.
I must say I disagree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, said the other day, that air dominates strategy. I think that is a dangerous expression, if I may say so with all respect to my noble friend. The Army and Navy, he said, in narrow waters could not light without air cover, without air support and without air superiority. That is perfectly true, but neither could the Air Force fight without naval support to bring them their fuel, their munitions and their personnel, and without Army support to protect the aerodromes from which they are operating. It is not a question of dominating. That is a mistake. I might easily say that with our island Empire the sea must dominate our strategy, but I would not say that. I say that what we want is that all three Services must dominate strategy. After all, is the air dominating the strategy in the Russian campaign going on at the present time? Is the air dominating the strategy in the Atlantic battle at the present moment, or even in the Pacific? It cannot be so. What you want is that all three Services should combine, and it is the greatest mistake to imagine that one Service can do more than others.
Unity is what we want. I fought for it in the Service for years, and I have always been happy if I could pay a tribute to the sister Services even more than to my own. I am sure that is the spirit in which those of us who are too old to fight want to operate during this war. I am afraid that the word "dominate" also brings in those unfortunate feelings 116 expressed in the oratorical and literary conflict that we see going on in the newspapers. It has already started. I am sorry to hear there is going to be an agitation to try and get the Navy to have more command of the Air Force. I would not support that myself. I consider that the organization as it at present exists is a good one. I do not say it is perfect. I fought for the Fleet Air Arm for three years. Eventually I got it, and I do not think the country would wish the Navy to lose it again. I also tried to get the Coastal Command, but that was refused. When the war started the Navy got operational control of the Coastal Command, which is the really important thing. The original view was that to have operational control you should also have control of the maintenance and supply of your aircraft. That can only be done by putting the Coastal airmen into dark blue uniform, and to do that in the middle of a war would be to my mind highly dangerous and undesirable. Therefore I hope this agitation will die down.
I will not detain your Lordships much longer for I have been too long. I only desire to add this. It is not a question nowadays of ships or aircraft, but of ships and aircraft. Our great danger lies on the sea. What is our naval production? Surely we should know something about it. We have great naval dangers. The German battle cruisers will be out sooner or later. The new German battleships are very big ships, bigger than our own because they were built beyond the limits allowed, and they are highly modern. If those ships get out into the Atlantic they can either combine or separate. Nothing will be more difficult than to bring them to book with our depleted Navy, with many ships already sunk. I feel that people do not realize that the only way we can lose the war in a day or in a week is through the Navy. We may want tanks and aircraft to win victory, but you can lose the war by not having enough ships. What, then, is the programme? What is the present state of our naval programme? I feel we should be told something about it. We are often told we are building so many tanks and so many aircraft; we hear many expressions of satisfaction about these programmes; but about our naval programme we hear hardly anything at all.
Possibly, even if we have to have a Secret Session, we should be told something 117 about our battleship construction. I left three and a half years ago seven battleships under construction and five aircraft carriers. What is the state of those ships to-day? So far as I know only three are completed. Where are the other two that were laid down or ordered in 1939? All these matters were put in the Navy Estimates and they are not secret. What is the state of affairs today? Surely we should be told so that the country can have some confidence in our naval position, and see when there will be an opportunity to regain our position in the Pacific. I will not detain your Lordships any longer as there are other noble Lords who want to speak. I thank you for the attention you have given me.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I must apologize for addressing your Lordships' House again on this question of the air, but force of circumstances has brought it about. I am the only senior officer in the Air Force in your Lordships' House. Many of your Lordships perhaps in your younger days have had great experience in the Army and the Navy, but there is no one in this House who has had long experience in the Air Service. I apologize for taking up your time once more. Before I begin to deal with the Motion I want to say one word about a statement of the noble Lord who put that Motion down. I want first to say as publicly as I can, before I make any further remarks on the air, that I have never said that the Air Force can win the war by itself. I have never said that. I have never said that the war could be won without the Navy and the Army also.
The noble Lord who has just spoken disagrees with me about the use of the word "dominate" in relation to strategy. To dominate strategy is a very different thing from winning the war. I do feel that the Air Force does dominate strategy because it has got something which nothing can alter, which the Army and the Navy have not got, and that is gravity. I have found myself well supported in that view whenever I have put it forward, but that does not mean that I think that the Air Force can win the war alone. I read the other day in a pamphlet, issued apparently by the Ministry of Information, that strategical bombing cannot win the war. It also said in this pamphlet issued by the Ministry of Information, without any signature, that the war cannot 118 be won without it. It was interesting to come upon that pamphlet.
I will come now to the statement made by the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, who put down the Motion which we are now debating. I will not follow the noble Lord in his research among speeches, in which he cuts out sentences, leaving out the context, instead of giving his attention to the crossword puzzles that the noble Lord used to study in The Times, or perhaps I should say the Daily Herald. He has now given up his time in the train in order to find a point in a speech of mine, and he has taken out a sentence from that speech and left out the whole context.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
You cannot stop at a full stop. If the noble Lord had read the whole paragraph of the speech he would have seen that I said that what happened at foreign aerodromes had no relation to the defence of aerodromes at home. However, I feel certain that in this sort of argument the noble Lord will always win. I will come to the main point of his speech. I hope the noble Lord will correct me if I misinterpret him. I understood from his speech that he is advocating that the Coastal Command of shore-based aircraft be definitely turned over to the Navy, but I would like to tell your Lordships that I know that Coastal Command is, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield, said, definitely under, and has been for a long time under, the operational control of the Admiralty. All plans made in emergency are, I imagine, concerted, agreed and approved by the Admiralty at all stages. I think at every stage in the chain of Command naval officers sit with their Royal Air Force opposite numbers. There are Combined Headquarters. But this apparently does not satisfy the noble Lord. He still wants closer co-operation.
I have heard that expression used hundreds of times in your Lordships' House, in another place and elsewhere. Always the cry is for closer co-operation, and that implies that co-operation is not close. What ground has the noble Lord for saying that. I agree that co-operation cannot be too close, but what grounds are 119 there for saying it is not close? Is it because of some of the setbacks we have had? I feel from the general tone of his speech that he wants to break up the Air Force and hand over the Coastal Command to the Navy. Probably he would agree with the statement made only yesterday that the Army should have their own Air Force and would agree with one of the numerous late Secretaries of State for War that he had pressed for this when in office. I heard a statement made yesterday by an ex-Secretary of State for War that he pressed hard for the Army to have its own Air Force before this war. Would it not have been better if he had spent his energy in providing the tanks and the equipment for the Army that, as we know, went overseas so badly equipped, instead of attacking another Ministry? To return to the Coastal Command, I say that if Coastal Command was put under the direct complete control of the Navy and separated from the Air Force, good relations and co-operation would be much harder to maintain between the two Services. You would deprive Coastal Command of the experience of the officer commanding this Force and of his staff, and you would knock out the linch-pin of that co-operation which exists to-day through Coastal Command between the Air Force and the Navy.
I will try to explain what I mean. I have been to many aerodromes and I have seen on one aerodrome a fighter squadron under Fighter Command, a bomber squadron under Bomber Command, a Coastal Command squadron under Coastal Command and an Army Co-operation squadron under the Army Co-operation Command. They were all on one aerodrome for geographical reasons, to suit the geographical situation of this island and its difficulties. If Coastal Command sent out machines to attack a German convoy going up the Dutch coast and more assistance was wanted from the main force it would be easy for Bomber Command on its own aerodrome to help. Or suppose one of our convoys going up our side of the Channel was attacked by the German Air Force and Coastal Command wanted more help from the Fighter Command, they could call on Fighter Command. If you had them as separate Services you would have separatism run mad. The whole thing would break down. I have tried—not very well, I 120 am afraid—to explain this rather difficult point.
The noble Lord, in his speech on Tuesday, said that our recent experience showed that Service separatism had gone too far. The noble Lord quoted as an illustration the attack on a convoy which passed through the Sicilian Straits. Perhaps I had better quote his exact words. He said:May I take one or two illustrations? The attack on the convoy which passed through the Sicilian Straits when the 'Illustrious' was damaged and the 'Southampton' was sunk, was mainly due to insufficient air protection. We heard a good deal in the bulletins which were issued in subsequent days about the bombing of Sicilian aerodromes by the Royal Air Force, but I suggest that it might have been more serviceable to the convoy if those aerodromes had been bombed beforehand instead of afterwards. That is to say, there was not the co-operation there ought to have been.With regard to that particular case in the Sicilian Straits I am quite certain that this operation was planned and worked out by the Navy, and it might well be—though I have no information from the Navy—that the Navy thought that the aerodrome should not be bombed beforehand, because that might have alarmed the enemy and have drawn the attention of the enemy to something that was going to happen. Yet it is said that this is want of co-operation—that vague statement that everybody makes. I say cooperation is close and that such acts are not due to want of it.
In his second instance the noble Lord implied that it was want of Air Ministry co-operation that provided the Navy with out-of-date Swordfish. What has the Air Ministry to do with this? It is well known that the question of equipment of the Fleet Air Arm has been a matter in which the Admiralty for many years has been consulted. It was laid down back in my time before the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield, got the Fleet Air Arm back entirely as a naval service, that types of machines should be suggested by the Admiralty.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
That is done by the Ministry of Aircraft Production. It is of no use thinking in these days that the Navy can be completely self-contained with its Fleet machine, its torpedo machines, its bombing machines, its long-distance reconnaissance machines, 121 and its local air forces, in sufficient quantities that there would be no need to call on the Air Force for assistance from its fighters or bombers. Also it is no use thinking that the Army can be a self-contained Service with its own ships, with its own Army fighter machines, bomber machines and reconnaissance machines. Nor can the Air Force be self-contained with its carriers, its protecting ships and so on. In war there will be for many years to come, if not for all time, opinions given on how the different Services should be used, on how the various arms in the different Services should be used and with what numbers of personnel and arms the different Services should be provided—whether they be bomber machines, or torpedo machines, or fighters; whether big ships should be built or small craft, big carriers, or small carriers, or more submarines; whether tanks or cavalry. I would like to say that these discussions make for efficiency These questions and arguments in the Services and in the Government make for efficiency. There are bound to be these arguments, and you would lose a lot of this efficiency if you tried to make each of the three Services self-contained. It is impossible.
Later on the noble Lord repeats: "Separatism has been carried too far." Yet the logical conclusion, if the noble Lord had his way, would not be a question of separatism being carried too far: it would be a question of complete separatism. I feel very strongly on this point. We are moving in very grave clays, and I feel that these attempts to sow controversy by people outside the Government and outside the Services, who have not full information, are liable, if not kept to the broadest lines, to do a great disservice to all. In this connexion I am referring particularly to the continuous attacks made upon the autonomous organization and on the bombing policy of the Royal Air Force. It will be a bad day for this country if anything is done—because of the setbacks and disasters which we have survived—to sever the existing co-operation between the Army and the Navy and the Air Force by splitting up the Royal Air Force.
I would like to say that nothing but harm can come from the continuance of this controversy in such parlous fashion as it is appearing in what is called the popular Press. I would like to emphasize this 122 a little. Owing to the shortage of paper, the newspapers cannot publish the speeches of everyone or even the full speeches of a few. Even the Prime Minister's speeches have to be cut in the popular Press, and for this very reason it seems more than a pity that his great speeches in Parliament cannot be broadcast to the nation and to the world. Certain newspapers like The Times, the Telegraph, the Manchester Guardian and the Scotsman, which have more space, do try to publish more than one point of view, but the popular Press, which has a great circulation and less space, only publishes one side of this question and that side appears always to be the critical side. The result is that all the Services, with the millions of men in the Navy and the Army and the Air Force and their relations, see continuous paragraphs of criticism of the higher direction of the war.
They certainly see praise of individual fighting men, but, speaking as I can, I think, for a certain number of officers and men in the Services, I would say that the majority of the men do not want to see so much personal praise. They would rather see recognition of work well done by a unit as a whole or a Service as a whole. They would rather read that a squadron or a regiment, a Fleet or a Service, as a whole has done great work and has been of great use to the country in winning a great victory or saving a great defeat. How seldom do we see that. How much more often do we see great prominence given to statements, such as those which were made recently: "Our bombing attacks upon Brest had been useless." I did not notice that equally great prominence was given to the statement made by Ministers and others that the ships had been detained in Brest for over nine months. I think that the Service men do not want to read so much praise of individual deeds of gallantry, and then to read at the same time bitter criticisms of the organization of their Service and the implied criticism of their leaders with regard to organization and policy.
Though individuals in the Royal Air Force are praised, the Service men feel much more that their Service is blamed as a Service for every setback and defeat we have had, from Norway down to Malaya and Singapore. They do not so much resent it, but they feel it very much. The 123 Air Force did great work in 1940. They did great work only yesterday. They have been doing great work day after day as a Service; and the organization has done great work. But they have been criticized, as being responsible for every disaster which I have mentioned. This continual criticism of the higher direction of the war will undermine the morale of the Services and of the people. No amount of personal praise for actions of individual courage will counteract the damage done in continually hitting at those at the top. It seems to me that everyone in the most junior ranks of the Services is praised, and everyone above those junior ranks is criticized.
When I go round and talk to pilots and I have to congratulate them when they have had their first honour given them, the D.S.O. or the D.F.C., I commiserate with them. I say to them, "I suppose I ought to congratulate you. You were a hero before you got your honour, you are a hero now you have got your medal (or may be two medals), but when you begin to add more medals, or have a step up in rank, or even two steps, and still more medals, apparently you will be more criticized." With each promotion they get more and more criticism, and so they come down from being heroes. We have got into the way of praising only the juniors, and the older ones in the Services want as much help as they can get. Recently that great man who won back Abyssinia for the Abyssinians and brought about the destruction of the Italian Army there, who in fact carried out a most successful campaign, has returned to this country. But what has been said and done? I have not seen great headlines in the popular Press relating to that General. I sometimes wonder how you can ever get the lower ranks to have confidence in the higher ranks.
But I am taking up too much of your Lordships' time and there is another subject upon I wish to touch for a few moments. That is the German Air Force. It has been repeatedly said that the Germans do not have the same system of organization for the Luftwaffe as we have for the Royal Air Force. I wrote in the newspapers the other day that the German system of organization was practically the same as our own only, if 124 anything, more autonomous. Since then I have received proof of this in the German official communiqué issued after the escape of the German warships from Brest. This shows that the German Air Force on that occasion was not under the command of the Navy. This is what the German official communiqué of February 14 says:On February 12, German Naval Forces were in action against British Forces in the course of operations in the Channel as well as in the Western North Sea.It goes on to refer to the command of the Naval Forces under Vice-Admiral Ciliaz, and then continues:The operations of our Naval Forces were supported by strong units of the Luftwaffe under Field-Marshal Sperle.A similar communiqué was issued with regard to the fighting in North Africa, in which it was stated that Field-Marshal Kesselring was in command of the Air Force in the Mediterranean area.
I should like to repeat, therefore, that in many respects the German Air Force is modelled on our own organization, but that it is, if anything, more autonomous than our own. The only flying units allotted to the German Army are of a reconnaissance character. One short-range tactical reconnaissance unit is allotted per Army Corps or Armoured Division, and one long-range unit may be allotted to an Army. When affording close support to the Army, long-range bombers, dive bombers and fighter units always work under Air Force Command; in no campaign has the Luftwaffe been placed under the command of a General or an Admiral.
I now turn to the question of bombing. Time does not permit me in this debate to go into all the various problems involved, but I hope that one of your Lordships will put down on the Order Paper a Motion which will enable us to debate the subject, "Is bombing worth while?", so that others like myself, who believe that it is, can give their views. The noble Lord, Lord Denman, said he thought that bombing was no good.
I did not say that bombing was no good. I said that it had not led to such results as we had hoped for, which is a very different thing.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
I accept the correction; I misinterpreted what the noble Lord said. The point that I am 125 trying to make, however, is that the bombing of Germany has not been carried out with intensity, relentlessness and determination. I admit that. It has been diverted. Why? The Government led us to believe that it was going to be carried out with great intensity, but up to the present we have not used the Bomber Force to the extent to which I hoped to see it used. I think that probably more than half of the relatively small Bomber Force—relatively small compared with the whole of the Air Force—has been used, I do not say unjustifiably, to help the Navy in mine-laying, in attacking ships and in attacking ports none of which hits the German nation or their power to sustain the battle against Russia or in Libya. This very large percentage has been used for purposes which have nothing to do with the bombing of Germany.
I read the great speech made by President Roosevelt in America the other day. He said:Look at your map, look at the vast area of China … look at the vast area of Russia … look at the British Isles. Australia, New Zealand, the Dutch Indies, India, the Near East and the Continent of Africa. Look at North America, Central America and South AmericaThose words should be studied, because they are the key of the situation. Here is Russia fighting this terrific fight, and succeeding more than anybody ever thought possible, against the vast machine of the enemy that we have got to beat—Germany. We have to help Russia. We try to send our supplies to Russia through the perils of the sea, and it may be that we may lose ships, aircraft, tanks and so on on their way to Russia. Could not we help "Russia more, and would not our help be of greater value to them than even these supplies of materials, if we relentlessly, determinedly, regardless of cost, continuously hit Germany behind the German Armies which are lighting the Russian Army, hitting their supplies and interrupting the life of the nation? The whole Air Force know that they can do it, and are pining to do it. Let us hit the Germans behind the German Armies which are fighting against Russia now, so that the great German Army has to face the Russian Army attacking in front and our bomber force attacking relentlessly in the rear. It is the sole weapon that can get to the heart of Germany; there is no other weapon that can do so.
126 There is another point to be borne in mind in this connexion. Shipping is one of the keys of the situation for supplying all the theatres of war with goods and reinforcements, in order that they may take part in the war. Shipping is very scarce, as we all know. The bombing of Germany requires no shipping; it is the only offensive operation which does not require ships. Think of the enormous advantage of that, and think of the man-power saved in making those ships! Moreover, do not let us forget the moral effect. Every writer who has come from Germany, and every report that has come from Germany, show that the Germans do not like it when we do it, and, if we did it consistently and relentlessly, they would like it less. It has been said "Bombing here did us no harm; we did not feel it." It is ten months since we were bombed, and memories are short. I would ask any of you who were in it to remember the bombing. Although it did not affect our morale one little bit, the German mentality is different from ours. But, as I have said, this question of bombing requires a great deal more attention than the few words I have been able to speak on it. There arc many other reasons why it could still succeed in helping the Navy, the Army and all our Allies to win the final victory.
There is one further point that I wish to make. When the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, spoke about a Combined General Staff, I agree with a great deal of what they said. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, spoke as an ex-Secretary of State for Air, and Lord Cork and Orrery as a naval officer. I feel, however, that it is too widely and loosely assumed that no such Staff is in existence. The system of the Chiefs of Staff Sub-Committee of the War Cabinet, initiated by Lord Salisbury's Committee on National and Imperial Defence nearly twenty years ago, and extended by others, provides a large nucleus of a very good Combined Staff of the three Services, working permanently together not only with each other but with representatives of other Government Departments concerned in the conduct of the war. Much that I have read convinces me that it is not generally recognized that that Combined Staff exists at all. Moreover, the present system embodies a principle of 127 essential importance, in that it does not attempt to divide the responsibility of planning from the responsibility of execution. I would emphasize that point most strongly. Some noble Lords—Lord Strabolgi, I think, for one—want to separate them, but I think that it would be fatal to do so. What some people seem to wish us to do is to set up a little Brains Trust, insulated from hard realities and direct responsibility, like that which surrounded the unfortunate French General Gamelin before the fall of France.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I have always insisted that the Great General Staff must be responsible to the Chiefs of Staff acting in their corporate capacity; I have always flatly refused to accept any divorce between planning and responsibility for action. The two must be together.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I have said that they cannot be divided. I was referring only to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and I agree with the noble Viscount on this matter. The man who makes the plans must have the responsibility for putting them into effect, and that is the noble Viscount's point. I agree that at the present time the system is not perfect, nor has it always been properly used in this war, as far as I can gather. The system of the Chiefs of Staff Sub-Committee of the War Cabinet, which was initiated by Lord Salisbury's Committee on National and Imperial Defence nearly twenty years ago and extended by others, provides a very good Combined Staff of the three Services working permanently together.
One of the points I feel is that once the plans of the Planning Committee are approved their execution sometimes is liable to proceed in watertight compartments. Operations move so fast nowadays, whether in the air or at sea or on land, that the day-to-day—sometimes even the hour-to-hour—decisions that are essential cannot be made by the heads of the three Services unless they, or their responsible representatives, the Operational Staff Directors, have a common Battle Headquarters, a Battle Headquarters where all the latest information 128 is readily available, and where the situation can be discussed and agreed decisions arrived at, without all the delays that are inevitable if the operations of the three Services are being directed from three different buildings connected by the telephone. The principle is in operation already at the various combined Area Headquarters which are shared by the Navy and Air Force commanders responsible for operations over the sea round the coasts. It is merely a matter of extending it to the centre.
In the event of invasion I cannot see how operations could be centrally controlled without a common Battle Headquarters. I seem to remember that some time after the crisis of September, 1938, it was originally intended to have a combined Battle Headquarters for the three Services. Its original design was based on the old Admiralty War Room in the last war, but has it been fully developed in this? It may be that the organization for the collection of information exists, but does the executive part in the Battle Room or War Room operate? As I have already said, the Directors of Plans of the three Services constantly meet in conference and have their whole-time staffs, I believe, permanently living and working together. But do the Directors of Operations ever meet as a team to direct jointly the operations of the three Services? This is the direction in which we can move.
I have taken too much of your Lordships' time. I feel very strongly that the bombing policy is the one thing that is absolutely necessary to carry on the war. The one thing to help the Russians is to bomb behind the lines in Germany, and not to waste so much effort on laying mines and other diversions which are continually called for. The other thing I feel very strongly is that if you break the Services and make the Services more self-contained you will separate them still more, and you will have still more arguments. Away at the head is the common direction, and I think even the noble Lord who moved this Motion will agree that there is much more co-operation than anybody thinks. You see them sitting in the Headquarters day after day, and hour after hour, and talking things over. The talk of disasters from Norway to Malaya is really done from outside, and not by the senior people who know the working of it.
§ LORD HAILEY
My Lords, there is one noticeable feature in the debates in this House and another place which, though it perhaps does not touch on the major issues of organization for the war, is yet of great interest to those whose main concern is with Imperial policy. Speakers have not failed to comment on the naval and military disasters which have put such an unfavourable complexion on affairs in the East. Again and again they have referred also to the shortcomings of our civil policy. Why is it, it has been asked, that we hear so much of the gallant resistance of the Filipinos against the Japanese. and so little of the fighting or general resistance on the part of the people of Malaya? Is it—I am quoting words which have been used a good deal lately—is it because our Government has "no roots in the life of the country"?
Again, it has been suggested—it was suggested in another place only yesterday—that the general attitude of the people of Burma seemed to show that they had no very great interest whether they were ruled over by us or whether another rule was substituted for ours. These are serious questions. I know that they cannot be answered by any purely dialectical treatment. It would not be an answer if I were to point out that, while we are told on the one hand—your Lordships will remember the occasion—that the people of Malaya would readily have fought for us if we had armed them, we are told on the other hand that they have so little interest in our rule, they are so little impressed by what we have done for them, that they had no concern in supporting us. That is a purely dialectical treatment of what is a very serious question.
The real point is, it has been suggested, that the whole of our policy as applied to these territories needs a new outlook and a radical change. It may be true that there has been a failure in our military policy in not utilizing the services of these populations for recruitment in local forces. There is no doubt in Malaya, among the original inhabitants and also among the Chinese immigrants, good material for recruitment, but this is a failure, if it is a failure, of military policy. It is a failure of that policy which concentrated its attention entirely on the defence of Singapore by sea or by air, and overlooked the fact that it might be invaded by land. The responsibility there lies 130 entirely with the major strategy of the Empire, in the hands of the Committee of Imperial Defence. It is unreasonable, it is more than unreasonable, to suggest that any civil administration, however well accepted by the people—or however personally popular it may be—could improvise a defence at the last minute against a situation so extreme as that with which the civil administration of Malaya was faced. It was no mere question of meeting chance raiders or large-scale brigandage. They had, all unforeseen, to face an invading Army strong enough, well enough equipped and well enough organized to secure the surrender of a defended place and of 75,000 men. It would only be reasonable to say there had been a failure of the civil administration there if it could be shown—it has yet to be shown—that they had shown resistance to any demands made on them for recruiting local forces, or if they had shown apathy in executing those instructions. So much for the military aspects of it.
May I turn now to the purely civil side? Is it indeed true that our Colonial policy has so failed to impress itself on the people of these regions that they feel no identity at all with our interests? Those who make that suggestion are not, I know, thinking merely in terms of acquiescence in our policy or even appreciation of it. They may say that there is an acquiescence in our policy. They may even go so far as to say that there is an appreciation of it on the part of the people of the country. No, they are thinking of it in terms of the resistance of the Chinese peasant to the Japanese invasion, in terms of the heroic resistance of the Greek population at large to the Axis Powers, or in terms of the magnificent total resistance of the Russian people. Can we apply standards such as these, or standards even approaching these, to the attitude of the population in these areas? Let me suggest that it is more reasonable to apply standards drawn from our own experience and the experience of other Colonial Powers in dealing with Asiatic or African populations.
Where you have elements which have a military tradition or aptitude for military service you can secure their recruitment and, having secured their recruitment, you may be confident that if you yourselves have the necessary characteristics, you will secure ample 131 loyalty from them. That is our own experience. It is a heartening experience for us, just as it is creditable to those whom we have admitted as our comrades-in-arms. I make no comparison with what other people have done in the same direction, but they also have had their successes. If I mention one, it is in no way to derogate from our successes, but by way of giving credit to the African population. Even the Germans were able to secure from Askaris in the last war unswerving loyalty in the midst of circumstances which would have daunted many other people and deterred them from their duty. But the service that you can secure, the type of loyalty that you can secure, from military forces recruited from selected elements of the population is something entirely different from what critics of our Colonial policy are thinking of. It does not fall within the standards they have applied. It is something entirely different from the instinctive rise of a population to defend its Government or its institutions, something different from the willingness to go to that extremity of sacrifice that we have seen shown by some peoples, particularly by those whom I have quoted.
After all, the attitude of people such as I have described must be regulated by the fact that their rulers are alien. They may sympathize with them, they may appreciate them, they may be willing, in support of their cause, to undergo additional taxation, they may willingly subscribe to objects which they think will assist them, but they will not necessarily make those wholesale sacrifices on which the energies of the whole mass of the population are engaged. There is only one cause that will produce sacrifices of that nature. It is the cause of the maintenance of national pride and the preservation of national existence. It must be long before such a sense of pride or nationality can evolve in Malaya. The indigenous population resides, for the most part, in a number of States to which they owe primary allegiance. A large part of the population consists of immigrant Chinese and other nationalities, and it must be difficult to encourage any sense of nationality among elements so diverse as these. Everyone with a long-range view of Colonial policy must agree that it is our duty not to thwart the rise of 132 consciousness of that nature Every institution we create, all our administrative procedures, must look forward ultimately to that end. But let me say that we at least have shown ourselves as fully conscious of that necessity as any other Colonial Power. We may at times have been anxious not to hurry the tempo of that advance. We may even at times have been unduly aware of the embarrassment an advance of that nature may cause us, but it is a living part of our tradition, and it is not in the same sense a part of the tradition and policy of any other Colonial Power.
If there is any lesson we have to learn from events in Malaya it is this. There may be many other aspects in which we may have to show a new spirit, many other ways in which we may have to reform our administration—I will not deny that—but the lesson I learn is that we must continually have before us the necessity of encouraging a sense of nationality, national pride, and national unity among these people, and in everything we do we must attempt to give practical effect to that aspiration. I venture to apply also to Burma what I have said in the case of Malaya. We have there the additional obstacle that, while in certain parts of Burma there is a population with a military tradition, there is also over the greater part of the country a population which has so far shown very little desire to take part in the Fighting Services. Indeed, it has—and I do not speak of it in any sense with disrespect—some of the characteristics we have seen in Thailand and Indo-China. We have still to know how far Burma's ambition for political nationality will show itself in a practical desire to maintain its own nationality by making the necessary sacrifices for it.
I shall conclude with one word about India, which has also largely formed part of the discussions both here and in another place in the last few days. It need only be a short word, partly because we debated the subject a few days ago and partly because we heard yesterday that it was possible that His Majesty's Government might be putting forward a scheme which they hope will constitute some solution of the present political situation. One may recognize that nothing but a sense of the gravity of the situation would have induced His Majesty's Government to put forward at this time, contrary to their 133 previous decisions and contrary to that sense of hesitation which some of us share, a scheme for constitutional changes. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance which that scheme may have, but it is permitted, perhaps, to make two observations as to features which it must now possess.
It must be a definite scheme under which communities whose interests are at present conflicting may feel they are able to adjust these differences. No mere declaration of our intentions or of our objective, however restated or on however high an authority it may issue, will have any effect now. There is a second point. Any scheme put forward must recognize our obligations to the great minorities. That is not merely a question of moral justice, it is a question of political necessity, for if a minority has to come now into negotiation under any feeling of compulsion then the mischief that results may be even more grave, more injurious to our war effort than the continuance of present political differences. If His Majesty's Government are able to devise a. scheme—it is not impossible—under which the minorities feel that they can come into negotiation as free parties and under no form of majority compulsion, then that scheme may succeed, and we shall be justified in overlooking and putting aside some of the hazards, some of the anomalies that it must necessarily involve.
We must break away from constitutional orthodoxy, and we may have to realize that the political organization of India may, as a result, take a shape that we have not hitherto envisaged. But if we have to face that necessity—and we may have to face it—then our justification will lie in the compelling necessity of the present situation, and the events will justify us if we commence to bring about this, that Indians at large shall not only think, as we believe they do think, alike with us on the menace which now confronts them, but shall be ready to act with us wholeheartedly and march with us without reserve along that arduous and difficult path which we must travel before we can achieve our final purpose.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
My Lords, I would like to begin my remarks by expressing my thanks to my noble friend Lord Moyne for all his kindnesses to me during the time he so 134 splendidly led your Lordships' House. I would also like to congratulate the new Leader of your Lordships' House, and to express the certain hope that he will lead it with the same eloquence and charm as his father did. I confess to having a confused mind after listening to all the speeches that have been made this afternoon. I venture to think that if I had not listened to them perhaps I would have been able to expound the views I wish to put forward more clearly. I hold the view that in the very grave situation in which our country finds itself, we are justified in criticizing where we think criticism should be directed. It is all very well to say do not criticize this, and do not criticize that, because you will interfere with the war effort. If you have just criticism to make, criticism that is well-founded on experience and facts, then by making it you may induce a change in certain aspects of the conduct of the war, in our organization, that will produce the results which, as we know, were produced in the last war after continued criticism.
With those preliminary remarks I want to state that with regard to the escape of the German ships up the Channel I have nothing to say, because I know nothing about it, and there is a Court of Inquiry sitting on it. But when I come to refer to what has been happening in Singapore and Hong Kong there I am on ground which I know something about. What has happened there beats me altogether. I know for a fact the War Office were informed before the war that no suitable defence on the landward side of Malaya existed. An officer came home from the Staff in Malaya and put those facts before the War Office. Memoranda were written by myself and others on this particular subject, yet so far as I can make out from reports, very vague reports that I have got, nothing was done. It may well be said by those in authority: "Of course, we always expected to defend Singapore from the sea." Surely it is always the unexpected that happens, and if we had taken note of the previous tactics of the Japanese when they attacked Port Arthur, we would have known perfectly well that the route they would take would be a land route. There were much more disturbing signs showing that was the line they were likely to take, for we discovered all down the coast that 135 many of the Japanese fishermen were ex-naval ratings who were obviously there for one purpose. How is it that the defenceless state of Malaya should exist when those facts were known? Have we no General Staff, or what has happened to it? It disturbs a mind like mine that has been accustomed to the higher training of war, to think that these things should be.
Then, when the retreat took place from the mainland of Malaya into Singapore itself, surely an appreciation of the situation there must have told military commanders that they could not possibly hold that place, unless they had suitable air support and air bases from which to operate that air support. If that was so, why were troops not evacuated from that place? Why were not stores, and valuable stores, taken away from it? Why was the 18th Division sent in at the last minute when what was wanted was not troops but aeroplanes, and aeroplane bases to work from? Was it not known, and well known, to the authorities at home that white troops cannot do navvy's work under the conditions in Malaya and Singapore? With temperatures of 83 and 85 it is physically impossible. The ordinary Malayan labourer disappeared, and the only labourers the military could lay their hands on were a few Chinese. The result was, as I have heard, that there were cases where troops had been worn out doing work which they could not physically do under the conditions of the climate out there. Surely that must have been foreseen. Why an appreciation of the situation was not arrived at in time I cannot conceive. I only hope that a thorough and expert inquiry will take place into the facts, and there should be a proper method of dealing with those who were to blame.
I am not saying for a moment that Singapore could have been defended because, as long ago as 1923, in another place, we pointed out to the Government of the day that it could not be defended, and we divided the House twice on the subject. I remember Mr. George Lambert, who was long associated with the Admiralty and therefore had the Admiralty point of view, made a very strong speech on that point, saying that if a sudden attack was carried out by Japan Singapore could not be held because of the long distance over which re- 136 inforcements must be sent. That being the case, surely some better arrangement should have been made for defence if it was the intention to defend Singapore. Something is wrong there and people want to know what has happened.
Then again, ought not Hong Kong to have been evacuated? I do not know what happens in modern war, but in my, days we had plans to meet eventualities all over the world. Those plans made it clear that you could not defend a certain place unless you had certain conditions. If you lost part of the hinterland you could not defend Hong Kong. Then why was not an effort made to remove the troops, who would have been of such great value elsewhere? I just cannot understand it. I will not talk of Burma and India, because they will be dealt with in due course, but I should like to say in passing that I hope that the splendid speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, particularly the last part of it, will be very carefully studied by His Majesty's Government.
There is a point about Malaya which applies to all Colonial possessions, although of course Malaya is not a Colony but a Federation of Independent States. I want to ask whether our Colonial Government out there are suitable for the preparation of defensive measures. How far for years have they refused to do what they have been asked to do? It seems to me the buck has been passed from Malaya to London and back from London to Malaya. If you are going to defend a territory there must be only one commander. If you have a dual command, one command for civilians and another for military personnel, you cannot do what you want to do. When there is a state of war you must appoint a Military Governor. I cannot help thinking that if that had been done in Malaya it would have been of great advantage to the defence.
Now I turn to a subject which, for years, ever since the last war, I have been bringing forward, with, I am sorry to say, very little support, although the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, when he was in another place, used to support me. I refer to the question of a Grand General Staff combined with a Ministry of Defence. In 1928 in the other House, in 1934, 1936 and 1939 in this House, I tried to press the point. Who is the Minister of Defence? Is it an office, or what 137 is it? The Prime Minister does not kiss the King's hand on appointment. It seems to me a sort of description of the duties of the Prime Minister. I think it is right that only the Prime Minister can be the Minister of Defence, but is the help he is getting on the technical side from the Committee of Chiefs of Staff good enough? When the Chiefs of Staff sit together, who presides?
§ LORD CHATFIELD
I do not wish to interrupt the noble Lord but perhaps he would allow me to explain. The Chiefs of Staff are selected by the Prime Minister and the Chairman is selected by the Prime Minister periodically. He presides for quite a long period and when he goes he is succeeded by someone from another Service. The Services take it in turn.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
I well remember that Sir William Robertson used to complain of the burden it was to go along every morning to the War Cabinet and report there. If the Prime Minister is going to have a considered view of the strategical movement of troops or ships and make up his mind what orders he is going to issue to the various Services, he ought to have a Staff to work out problems, with a Chief of the Staff to give him advice as to what he ought to do. You must remember that you may not always have a man so efficient in that way as the present Prime Minister, and you certainly want machinery of this kind. Moreover, if you had such an office the Chiefs of Staff would be relieved of a good deal of work that they ought not to have to do. They could then look after their own affairs in their own Services.
There is one other small point I would like to mention which is interesting. There is such a thing as the patent of Admiralty. I always understood that the Board of Admiralty was subject in regard to the Fleet to the King and not to any Prime Minister. Possibly in war time they may have to work under the Prime Minister. At any rate, it is not so very long ago that in your Lordships' House we again begged the Government—I think it was in March, 1939—to have an organization set up to assist the Prime Minister as Minister of Defence in coming to decisions on strategical problems. I was interested to hear that when the 138 noble Earl, Lord Cork, lectured to the Imperial Staff College, he had a good many supporters for the idea. He was more lucky than I was., I lectured to the Imperial Staff College for three-quarters of an hour, and when I asked if anyone agreed only one hand was held up. I was also interested to note that the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, had slightly altered his opinion since the days when he was Leader of your Lordships' House.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
If my noble friend will read the speeches I have made on the subject of the Ministry of Defence, he will find that I have been perfectly consistent in everything I have said.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
At any rate we have more supporters now for the view that we ought to have a Grand General Staff. It is only in that way, I believe, that you can get real coordination of the three Services. I was rather amused at the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, when he said why cannot we get away from always being surprised. He asked if we had forgotten all the lessons of the last war. Have we, somehow or other, just thrown everything aside and started de novo from the very bottom? And it seems that, in fact, in some cases that has been done. The other day it was announced that personnel in the Army had been badly placed according to their capacity, and it was decided to set up trade testing boards and things like that, to get various people into their proper places. Goodness gracious, at the end of 1917 and the beginning of 1918 we worked out a most elaborate scheme for trade testing every recruit that came into the Army. We had five million cards filed. Every man was trade tested. We knew where all the experienced, fine electrical workmen and every other kind of workmen were to be found. As I say, the testing was carried out when the men were recruited. Why could it not have been done at the beginning of this war?
The Americans adopted our scheme and improved upon it in 1918 under Major-General McCain, the Adjutant-General of the Army in Washington at that time. He adopted our scheme and brought in Professor Swan and Professor Scott to help him. They worked out a most elaborate scheme for trade testing recruits. This matter was regarded over there as so important that it was later taken from 139 the hands of the Adjutant-General and put under the Chief of the General Staff. They said it was not merely a matter of administration but of construction. I cannot believe that the records of all the facts and all the arrangements which were left behind in the War Office do not exist to this day. And yet they seem not to have been dug out and acted upon. It is only now, after two and a half years of war, that a start all over again is being made in connexion with this matter.
§ VISCOUNT COBHAM
Does the noble Lord forget that it is not the War Office that is responsible for recruiting but the Ministry of Labour?
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
I am obliged to the noble Viscount. Now I want to touch upon another controversial point and that deals with what they call the Independent Air Force, whether it ought to be part of the Army or allocated to the Army or how should it be dealt with. I feel, on that subject, that you cannot change a system in the middle of the war. The Air Force, as at present constituted and trained, has, I think, done Wonderfully well. A force has been produced which could never have been produced if it had not had the driving force of its own commanders and everything else. I believe what is happening now is that the allocation of air to the Army is being carried out with the closest co-operation, provided always that existing air grounds and aerodromes are available. After all, the Air Arm has got to come to the ground; it cannot stay in the air for ever, and that is one point that the public seem to be misled about. The question has been repeatedly asked why our Forces on certain occasions did not have adequate air support. In many cases—in Crete and in Singapore for example—they had not any aerodromes to operate from. To say that you ought to change your system because of that is, I think, stupid. Therefore I hope that the Government will leave the air alone and press this close co-operation of the three Services by means of a Grand General Staff. If we start to fall out about it now we shall get a worse result than we have got to-day.
The last matter with which I wish to deal relates to the War Cabinet. I have often discussed the former War Cabinet 140 with the gentleman who was Prime Minister in the last war, and I have read about it as much as I could from the writings of people who knew. If my noble friend Lord Hankey were here, he would probably, if he were allowed, be able to tell a very great deal about it. But the fact remains that the present War Cabinet is not the same at all as the War Cabinet of Mr. Lloyd George. The reason is perfectly clear. It is partly a delegate War Cabinet, in other words it represents Parties. That disadvantage did not exist before, and I think that is one of the reasons why the War Cabinet to-day consists of seven. It is too large a body. Nevertheless, I think that the present War Cabinet is a great advance over the one that it succeeds.
The personnel includes some notable figures, and I think that these are quite able to give the necessary statement of what it is proposed to do, and to decide what should be done. At any rate we have got to give the new War Cabinet a run and see what they can do. We only hope that the Prime Minister will—and I am sure that he will—do everything he can to lighten the burden upon his own shoulders, because he has got to direct most of his effort towards the handling of the war and if he is going to mix himself up in other questions—well, I say he simply cannot do it. I am rather afraid, too, that Mr. Bevin, although he has done wonderful work for Labour, is too heavily burdened really to have the time to dig into and delve into the various papers that are bound to come before the War Cabinet. I hope that before long the War Cabinet will produce good results.
My next remarks are on another topic. We had, not very long ago a statement from Lord Beaverbrook on the question of production. I am very sorry that he has left the Government, but he may yet be able to do a good job in synchronizing work in America and bringing it over here. The production of tanks, guns, aeroplanes and everything else is really no good unless you can put that production into the right place at the right time. It is no good having troops with arms unless they use those arms. I think that a vigorous offensive spirit ought, if possible, to be generated amongst all our troops. There is a tendency for them to become bored. If some system could be evolved by which 141 they could use their arms, either across the Channel or elsewhere, it would brighten up the Army, put the desire to fight into their hearts, and be of advantage in every way. To do that, however, we must have ships and yet more ships, and not only for the Navy but for the Mercantile Marine. There seems to be some difficulty about the allocation of shipyards in this country. Only the Ministry of Shipping can say what the problem is, but it is one of the production problems which face us today, and it may be that we shall have to build more yards, as we did in the last war. At all events, that question demands very close study by experts.
The last word that I have to say is this. I think those in authority have attached too much importance to youth. Youth is certainly desirable for action in the field, but there are brains in some of the older men who have had experience which ought to be used. In working out the problems of what to do, where to put troops, and where to fight, we can make use of the older men, who are quite fit to do that work, whereas the younger ones can carry out their work in the field. We have been paying too much importance to youth, and it has led us to drive away many useful people who could do as well as, if not better than, some of these younger officers and men.
§ LORD NATHAN
My Lords, let me begin by joining my voice with that of those who have expressed their appreciation of the many courtesies of the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, as Leader of this House, and their congratulations to his successor. The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, spoke with a good deal of emphasis, and I think with some justifiable emotion, about the way in which the Staff and senior officers of the Air Force in particular—but his remarks were, I think, of application to the Forces generally—had been overlooked in public appreciation, He said that the outward and visible signs of glory and popular approval had been bestowed rather upon the junior than upon the senior officers. I think that there is much truth in that, and that up to a point it is a grave matter. It is a failure in our layout for the war, and in relation to national morale in connexion with the war, that so little is known about, and consequently so little enthusiasm is felt 142 for, the rather amorphous and anonymous General Staffs of the three Forces and our principal leaders in the field. What is the reason? The reason is that their names are scarcely known. In the newspapers and on the wireless the names of officers of the Royal Air Force who have performed gallant deeds are reported, and they become rapidly familiar to large numbers of the public, but with the senior officers it is otherwise.
It is a grave matter, for this reason. Of course people are sustained in their spirit by loyalty to an idea; of course they fight for a flag; but they are equally sustained by loyalty to individuals, and, so far as the Armed Forces at home are concerned, there is no name in any of the three Forces that is conspicuously known to the people, whether within or without the Armed Forces. Your Lordships, of course, are familiar with the names of the Chiefs of the Staffs of the three Forces; but go out into Parliament Street and ask the casual passer-by the name of any one of the Chiefs of Staff, and you will find that not one in ten thousand will be able to tell you. Go into the Services Clubs to-day, where men and women of the three Forces assemble, and ask them casually who is the Chief of Staff of the Navy, and in most cases you will find that they do not know. Ask them who is the Chief of Staff of the Royal Air Force, and you will find that the name is utterly unfamiliar to the public and to members of the Forces. Go to men—I have done it myself—who are actually serving in the Army in this country, and ask them who is Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Forces, responsible for the defence of these islands in the event of invasion, and not one in a thousand will be able to tell you; and, whilst the proportion among officers is not so small, it is still lamentably low. I have asked Commanding Officers "Should I be correct in saying that not one in a thousand men know the name of the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Forces?", and they have said "You will be correct if you say not one in ten thousand."
It is imperative that these names should be made better known, that the names of Sir Alan Brooke, Sir Charles Portal, Sir Dudley Pound and Sir Bernard Paget should be well known to the general public and to the Forces which they lead. Their 143 names are at present entirely unknown. Many of your Lordships will remember that at the time of the Boer War many of us who were youngsters used to wear buttons bearing the name and photograph of Redvers Buller, Roberts or Methuen. They stir a chord in me even at this moment. In the last war, the names of Haig, French, Rawlinson and Home were familiar to everyone in this country, even the youngest. The name of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, was familiar to all classes of the community, old and young alike, in the last war. There is no one who has taken their place in the esteem of the population now, and it is a matter of real importance that these personal loyalties should be established, so that youngsters in particular, who go far to create an opinion in the homes of the people at large, may feel that they have a personal interest in those who are entrusted with the actual conduct of the war. I wonder how many casual passers-by, asked the question outside within the next half hour by any of your Lordships, could say who was Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet; yet the name of Jellicoe was a household word in the last war. That is not the theme on which I had proposed to seek the indulgence of your Lordships, but my mind has been directed to the subject, which is one about which I had long intended to speak, because of the remarks of the noble and gallant Viscount.
We have had a good many substantial successes in the last two years. A catalogue of successes could in fact be prepared, although that fact is too often overlooked by reason of more recent failures. We have long been warned that we shall have to suffer further discomfitures here and there. The people of this country can be trusted to face the malignities of fortune with calmness, provided that they feel that the machine of government is compact, that it is in firm hands, and that those in power are pursuing, together with our Allies, a planned and' concerted strategy. The Prime Minister has, in my belief, by his reconstruction of the Government, ensured that essential support, and I believe it to be now generally felt that the machine itself and the method of its working, as explained by the Minister, are well designed for their purpose. I have little to say on the reconstruction of the Government 144 except that to have combined the representation in the Cabinet of the Dominions with the second post in the Cabinet seems to me to have been a real masterstroke of statesmanship.
I want to say a word with regard to the position of the Prime Minister. It seems to me that any Prime Minister, and this Prime Minister in particular, must inevitably hold at the same time as the office of Prime Minister that of Minister of Defence. But I submit that it would be in keeping with the rightly and admirably pugnacious character of the Prime Minister, and would keep to the forefront the spirit of aggression which we must cultivate if we are to win this war, if, instead of the rather passive title of Minister of Defence, the Prime Minister should adopt the more active and more resonant name of Minister of War. That would be more in keeping with the spirit of the times. I think the Prime Minister is mistaken if he has thought that, as far as the generality of the people are concerned, he has at any time enjoyed less than their whole support, but it is important that he should not only have that support but should be known to have it, and known not only here but everywhere. I believe the result of the debates both in this House and in another place will have given to the world overt evidence of the unambiguous and unqualified support that the Prime Minister and his Government now enjoy. And if these debates serve no other purpose but that, they will have been very well worth while.
The people have chosen the Prime Minister for their hero. This is much the same line of thought as that to which I addressed myself previously in regard to those commanding in the field. In times of war every people needs a hero. It would be ill-service to the national cause if anything were done to undermine this confidence or, what is perhaps equally important, the confidence of the Prime Minister in himself; for no man can go tiger hunting if he feels that he has to be looking over his shoulder all the time. The Prime Minister need not fear that. I am led to these observations by a speech which some of your Lordships heard yesterday by a distinguished American, Mr. Averell Harriman, when, speaking as a distinguished citizen of the United States, and with the knowledge gained by him in journeyings in many parts of the world during the war, in conversation 145 with people drawn from many countries, he made it clear that the name and personality of Mr. Churchill mean much more to the war effort than the name and personality of the Prime Minister of Great Britain. It was the name and personality merely of an almost legendary hero, as he put it. And even in Germany it was becoming clear that among the non-Nazis "Churchill" means hope. We must do nothing to dim that hope; it is a prime duty that we have in this country to keep that hope bright.
Had the hour been earlier, I should have liked to address some inquiry to the noble Viscount opposite as to the view which he takes in his capacity as Secretary of State for the Colonies as to what Colonial policy should be in the world which we now have to face. It is a matter to which he probably has had but little time to give attention. I could scarcely have expected the answer to-day in any case, so I will not even to-day put the question. I had also hoped, though there are others far better qualified than myself to speak upon the subject, to have asked what the Government's intentions were with regard to India; but it is understood, from a statement made yesterday by Sir Stafford Cripps, that His Majesty's Government will shortly make a pronouncement upon that subject. That will suit your Lordships' convenience better, and it may indeed in the public interest be safer that no more should be said about that until the statement of the Government is ready to be made public.
I wish to draw attention to the absence from the Cabinet of any Minister to perform the functions formerly fulfilled by the Minister without Portfolio. While we-are speaking, and rightly, about the situation as it may arise in India and in the Colonial territories of the Crown, it would be ironic if our minds and energies were directed to the improvement of conditions elsewhere while remaining inert as to the situation in this country itself. The functions of the Minister without Portfolio were not, it is true, related, strictly and directly, to the conduct of the war, but rather to the situation that would arise after the war or, as I prefer to put it, after the cessation of hostilities, for there is, at least in the view of some, a difference between the two. People here at home want to feel that the Government 146 are thinking of their future, that steps are being taken to ensure that injustices and maladjustments that existed in the past are really going to be ironed out for the future, that the Government are thinking and working out plans now for the smooth transition from war to peace; for, believe me, the transition from war to peace will be no less difficult and will create no fewer dislocations than the transition, hard as it has been, from peace to war.
I have heard men of vast experience in government and administration declare indeed that our troubles will only begin when the "Cease fire" sounds. It is essential that some place be found in the Government for a Department—I am not now speaking of the War Cabinet—which will be working on, and, what is equally important, be known to be working on, those vastly difficult problems of national welfare, rehabilitation and resettlement with which we shall be confronted immediately hostilities cease. I do not know whether the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack will be in a position to make any intimation upon this subject to-day, but I trust that, without any long interval, some definite statement can be made to show the people of the country that those important functions will be entrusted to some Minister of the Crown.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT SIMON)
My Lords, after this long debate, opened on Tuesday by the Motion of the Leader of the Opposition and continued to a late hour to-day, I may safely claim that the discussion has been one which is worthy of the House and which shows that this Chamber can maintain its great historical traditions. Speeches have been made of the greatest weight and importance, and if now I deal but briefly with the matter, I know that will be excused both because of the hour and because it is my unhappy lot to take the place, at the last moment, of my noble friend and colleague the Minister for Economic Warfare (Viscount Wolmer), who is kept away, as your Lordships know, by grave anxiety for his father.
I said that the debate had been worthy of your Lordships' House, and my noble friend Lord Denman, who spoke earlier in the afternoon, made some observations on the part which this House, and some of its members, now took in the actual and immediate functions of executive government. I had better mention in 147 passing an error into which he, not unnaturally, fell. It is not the case today that there is a constitutional provision that two Secretaries of State should be members of the House of Lords. In fact, that never was the form of the provision. Constitutional provision has been made in different forms that there should not sit in the House of Commons more than a certain number of Ministers of particular sorts, and, as in so many things connected with our Constitution, without its being said, it followed as a practical matter that there was a balance left that had to be supplied from the membership of this House. But in the year 1937, as your Lordships will recall, there was passed an Act called the Ministers of the Crown Act, which slightly changed the arrangement, though not to the disadvantage of this House.
The old rule applied solely to Secretaries of State. That really was a very artificial distinction. This House might contain the First Lord of the Admiralty, but he would not count for this purpose at all. The new provision is that the House of Commons must not contain more than 15 of a list of Ministers of the first order who are set out in a Schedule to the Act. Though that is not the same thing as saying that the number of Secretaries of State is distributed between the two Houses, the new arrangement is, on the whole, an advantage. It has done your Lordships no harm, and while I share fully the feelings of noble Lords who have spoken, and would like to see here a larger representation of the Government—and it may be a member of the War Cabinet—still it is right to make that correction so that there should not be any misunderstanding. No constitutional rule or practice has been broken in this matter by the Prime Minister at all.
I shall not attempt to deal—and I do not think I shall be expected to deal now—with a number of the very important points which have been raised. There is, for example, the point just mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan. I do not think he would expect me to undertake to make a statement at this moment as to: the provision which will be made for the future after the war. It has been already t intimated—in any case it may be safely assumed—that a statement on this sub- 148 ject will be made by the Prime Minister at a very early date. In the same way, deeply interested as I am in the subject, I must not offer any observations on future plans for India. Lord Hailey—not for the first time in this House—has made a contribution of the greatest weight and authority, and I should like to assure him that those who have to decide this matter pay close attention to his words. Lord Chatfield, in that most remarkable and informing speech that he made to-day, which must have impressed all your Lordships, made one request at the end of his remarks which I do not think he really could have expected any representative Minister to comply with. He asked what was the present situation in regard to our naval building programme. There are a good many people outside this House, and in another country, who might like to know that, and I certainly have not a single word to say here in public on that subject.
Then my noble friend Lord Hutchison, in his most interesting speech, in common with others of your Lordships, made some observations, criticisms, and inquiries regarding Singapore. It is very natural that he should do so, and I suppose there are others who very much desire further information on that subject. The only proper course for me is to follow the example which the Prime Minister set the other day. I shall not commit the enormity, in your Lordships' House, of quoting the words used in another place, but, for greater accuracy, I have provided myself with a copy, and I gather that the general effect of the Prime Minister's observation was that he, at any rate, for the moment, would not attempt to pass judgment, that this would be an unseasonable moment, and a very ungracious task, when our information was not complete, and that we had more urgent work to do because, whatever may be said about the recent past, we have to face the situation resulting from the great loss of that base, of the troops, and the equipment of a whole Army. We have to face the situation that results from that and from the great new Japanese war which has burst upon us. If anybody has the curiosity to compare the words I have just used with the language of the Prime Minister—which of course I must not quote—I trust they will not find any material difference between the two.
149 In the few minutes that I shall occupy I think I shall best serve the general purpose of the House, and best discharge this impromptu duty of mine, if I say a word about the new War Cabinet and a word about the Minister of Defence. Both subjects are of very great interest to me, and I have in my own way endeavoured to make a study, for some time past, of both topics. As regards the War Cabinet, it is of course quite true, as has been pointed out by more than one of your Lordships, that this new War Cabinet is not composed exclusively of Ministers who are free from Departmental duties. My noble friend Lord Londonderry made that point perfectly clearly at the beginning of the debate to-day. But with great respect, the fact is that there has never been a War Cabinet which consisted exclusively of Ministers free from Departmental responsibility.
Even if you take the case which is most commonly quoted, the first War Cabinet under Mr. Lloyd George, it contained Mr. Bonar Law, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I can assure your Lordships, whatever else may be said, that the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer is not one which is free of departmental responsibility. Mr. Balfour, if I may for this purpose call him by that name, was in fact never an actual member of the War Cabinet in the last war, but he attended so constantly and took so important and influential a part that it would be a mere technicality to treat him as separate from it. He, of course, during the time of which I am speaking, was Foreign Secretary. I am very glad to hear the universal approval which has been expressed in this debate of the arrangement by which the Minister who holds the office of Dominion Secretary should be in the War Cabinet. It is a very significant fact in our constitutional development, and, I hope, is a very firm assurance of the nature of the comradeship which exists between the different communities that fight under the sovereignty of the same King.
I think, therefore, that what has now been arranged is generally recognized by the country as being a great improvement, as one which the country as a whole is very willing to see work, and to which it extends nothing but good wishes. I do not quite agree with the remark made by my noble friend lord Winster, in one small passage of his speech, when he 150 said that the War Cabinet has experienced a very tepid reception. Well, it all depends upon your notions of temperature. I think myself that public opinion is not thus truly described. I think, in particular, that the appointment of Sir Stafford Cripps, not only as a member of the War Cabinet but as Leader of the House of Commons, is one of those bold strokes of judgment and imagination which have had an immense effect upon the confidence of the country. I think that anybody who read the speech which Sir Stafford Cripps made yesterday in the House of Commons will only find his confidence confirmed. So much for that.
Now I come to the only other point on which I would venture to say a word, and it is on the very difficult and highly debatable subiect—it must be highly debatable because it has been so much debated—connected with the Minister of Defence. It seems to me very necessary on that subject to keep clearly in mind the distinction between two quite different questions. One question is, who should be the Minister of Defence, and the other question is, should there be a Ministry of Defence; and those two things are, far from being the same. I confess that I think the phrase "Minister of Defence" does not indicate so much a separate department of government as a description of ultimate responsibility which in time of war must attach to the Prime Minister and cannot attach to anybody else. That I think was very much the view expressed on Tuesday by my noble friend Lord Swinton. It has been repeated in different forms by several spokesmen to-day.
I noticed that the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons the other day, described this as a "title," and that is what it is. I am not discussing what ought to be, or whether there should be a different, or some more elaborate, organization, but the fact of the matter at the moment is that the "Minister of Defence" is what I have endeavoured to describe. There is no separate appointment, as my noble friend Lord Hutchison pointed out, there is no separate seal, there is no separate oath, there is no separate departmental office, and I regard it as a self-evident proposition, which a sensible man should arrive at even without much experience but which in the light of our experience is incapable of challenge, that 151 the man who is Prime Minister must take ultimate responsibility, and must answer to Parliament and to the people for the discharge of that responsibility. He did it in the last war and he is doing it in this war.
I might perhaps be allowed for a moment to refer to what I think actually happened at a critical moment in the last war. When in December, 1916, the difficulties arose which were ended by Mr. Lloyd George becoming Prime Minister in place of Mr. Asquith, one proposal which was mooted before that change was made in the course of what you may call the negotiations, was that Mr. Asquith should remain Prime Minister, and even titular head of the organization which was running the war, but that another Minister should be responsible for the immediate conduct of the war as far as that responsibility attaches to Ministers and not to technical officials. That was considered as a possible adjustment. Mr. Asquith rejected, and in my judgment he rightly rejected, that proposal, not on any personal grounds at all, but on the constitutional and practical ground that the Prime Minister, whoever he is, and nobody else, must himself accept and discharge full responsibility for such a situation. I believe that to be beyond any question both the correct constitutional position and the only practical solution. This matter was very acutely analyzed, if I may say so, in the speech this afternoon by Lord Winster.
Now there is a second question which is quite separate from this, which is the question whether there ought to be created a full-fledged and separate Ministry of Defence. As your Lordships know, before the war—and there is still to some extent in some quarters—there was a school of thought which was supported by very distinguished and influential names which would seek to throw together the War Office, the Admiralty and the Air Ministry into a single Department—to fuse them and give them one single administrative head. There may be smaller countries and smaller wars in which such an arrangement is feasible, but for my part I thought before the war—and I often heard discussions on the subject—and I certainly think now, that having regard to the enormous and inevitable complications in the administration of 152 these three great Services, having regard to the fact that the war is world-wide, an idea of this kind, of a single man taking such a vast range of responsibility upon his single shoulders, is quite fantastic. I notice that the very people who urge that the Prime Minister must be separate from the Ministry of Defence, do not go on to suggest who this hitherto concealed individual is who would be able to undertake so colossal a burden.
It is not that form of forced unity that is really the need, and the speeches this afternoon have made very clear that that is not really the direction in which some intelligent public-spirited minds are tempted to move. The question is how can you get the best co-operation between these Services. I quite agree with the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Cork, that they really arc all performing one overwhelming function of fighting for the country, but what is the arrangement which will secure the best effective cooperation between the Services? An over-centralization is not necessarily the same thing as the most effective co-operation. My noble friend Viscount Trenchard just now made the acute observation that you must be careful, at a time when we are all labouring under the blows of ill-fortune and setbacks, not to translate that very natural sentiment into an unfounded attack upon the extent of the real cooperation which exists.
I must be allowed to add one other criticism—I am sorry he is not here—addressed to the speech delivered this afternoon by my noble friend the Marquess of Salisbury. He expressed in his pungent way the sense of frustration and shortcoming which I suppose everybody feels in reference to preparations before the war. But the noble Marquess is really—with great respect to him—quite wrong in saying that nothing had been done in these matters before the war. When the books come to be opened very much may be found to have been unwise, much may be found to be deficient, but I am sure anyone who inquires into, for instance, the work done by my noble friend Lord Hankey, and all the planning that was arranged in the years before the war, will certainly not subscribe to the proposition that we started with blank minds and a clear sheet of paper. I hope your Lordships will bear with me for a few minutes while I endeavour to 153 state in such clearness of language as I can command, what in fact is the outline of the present arrangements. Before I do so I would like to say most firmly and sincerely, that I do not give this account with any idea that I am describing the perfect and final machine. Things grow. Experience shows that they ought to be altered, and I should think very poorly of the attitude of anybody with responsibilities at this time who treated everything that now existed as a sealed pattern which in no circumstances could be improved as the result of informed criticism or further experience.
But let us see what are the actual arrangements. There is a machinery necessarily elaborate, but a very complete machinery for co-ordinating the work of the three Services. It is not an improvisation since the war started. It has been built up over many years. Improvements have been made in it, modifications have been introduced to suit the better appreciation of the situation to be dealt with. It is convenient to state the matter under these three heads: the framing of policy, the planning, and the conduct of operations, Take these in turn. First as regards policy. The whole structure is built up throughout as a. joint conception with officers of the three Services forming part of the Chiefs of Staff organization. The three Chiefs of Staff have a joint responsibility for devising all defence policy and all important questions are thrashed out. by them. No single phase of the war effort of course nowadays can be regarded as the concern of one Service only.
Take a very simple example, well known to noble friends whom I see sitting below the gangway—the employment of bomber squadrons of the R.A.F. It is necessary to consider first of all the amount of effort that is to be and can be devoted to the different theatres of war; the question of distribution. That is a decision which springs from the strategy of the war in its widest sense, though it is largely governed, too, by the extent of available supplies. Next it is necessary to decide the type of target against which home-based bombers should operate. We have heard again from my noble friend Viscount Trenchard his strong and considered view on that subject. That involves, of course, consideration of the economic position of the enemy; it involves the consideration of the general 154 naval situation, as well as a multitude of technical air considerations. Under the instructions of the Chiefs of Staff all these matters are worked out in detail by the Joint Planning Staffs of the three Services, it may be in consultation with experts from other Ministries like the Ministry of Economic Warfare. Finally, the best scheme and policy is drawn up and is submitted for approval by supreme Ministerial authority.
Here I would make this observation more especially with reference to a highly critical part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield. I can well under stand that great servants of this country, who have devoted their lives, their brains, their skill and their courage to a great fighting Service, may sometimes feel impatient at the fact that the best of their plans none the less have to run the gauntlet of political and Ministerial criticism and judgment. It does not happen, I believe, in Japan, but you must make up your mind whether you want to live under the system of Parliamentary democracy with all its strength and influence, with its power of gathering into a focus the whole sentiment of the country and giving it renewed force and direction, or whether, recognizing that your adversary is a great expert, you will abandon this well-tried method and leave what may well be the finest technical judgment a larger and more final part in direction. It really is a constitutional question, and I think myself—
§ LORD CHATFIELD
As the noble and learned Viscount has referred to me, would he allow me to say that I entirely agree with his conception of how things should be conducted as regards military and political guidance? I have never said anything which would oppose the idea that you must have final political judgment applied to military advice.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am very glad. I know my noble friend from of old and I know how loyally he has worked in combination with his colleagues. I did not mean to speak critically, but rather sympathetically, because I do most thoroughly understand how a man with great expert knowledge may find it a clog on his clear judgment to know that it has to pass to others much less well instructed on the technical side than himself. I say therefore that it must be for Ministers, for the War 155 Cabinet, to decide, and especially it must be so when other than purely military considerations have to be taken into account.
Secondly, there is the matter of planning, and I will be very brief about this. When the general policy or particular operation in connexion with the conduct of the war has been settled as I have tried to describe, then it becomes necessary to plan; not only to plan specific operations but to plan the appropriate distribution of forces, and the provision of resources at the right time and the right place. In fact, there are special sections of the Chiefs of Staff organization, again composed of officers of the three Services, who carry out these tasks up to the point where it is necessary for Commanders in the field to be appointed. There is a point—there may be some dispute as to just where it is to be found—where you pass from the field of planning operations to the field of operations itself. Although I do not claim to speak as being the least bit in the world an expert on this subject, I have, in fact, taken a very close interest in studying it, and I must say that I believe that a conception to which colour is sometimes given, that the present system sometimes leads to rivalries or disagreements between the different Services, is wholly unfounded. I believe that, whatever may be said in criticism of the system, it does produce what everybody wishes to see, unity and informed judgment by experts of the three Services, rather than jockeying for position by one Service as against the other.
Lastly, operations. All operations, whether at home or abroad, are conducted and must be conducted by Commanders. As the House knows, arrangements are not, in all cases, the same; they depend upon circumstances. In the case of a large and independent theatre of war like the Middle East the general system is to appoint a Commander for each of the three Services. They work in cooperation in furtherance of a general policy laid down by the Government. But there is no hard-and-fast rule about that. If it is thought best to appoint one Commander who will be supreme over more than one Service such a Commander is appointed. The instance which, of course, is in everybody's mind is the appointment of a Commander-in-Chief, 156 South-West Pacific, to exercise supreme control over land and Air Forces in that theatre; and there have been other instances on a smaller scale where a single Commander has been appointed. Up to the present, in the Middle East, the system is what I have described.
The home theatre—if I may add this without delaying your Lordships too much—has always presented special features—the size of the area of operations, extending as it does, of course, many miles beyond our coast in all directions, the fact that a very highly developed defence organization has to be built up alongside ever-increasing air operations, and specialized problems connected with the movements of our own shipping. These things have made it desirable to avoid over-centralization in the system of control. But there is complete co-operation. It has been secured and it is working. As I think Lord Chat-field said in his speech just now, Coastal Command R.A.F. works under the operational control of the Admiralty, and I am sure your Lordships will have been very pleased to hear two most distinguished authorities, Lord Chatfield and Lord Trenchard, naturally approaching the subject with the knowledge of their special Services, say that they felt that, though that might not be a very logical arrangement, it was working, and it would be the greatest of all possible mistakes to begin pulling up this plant by the roots to ascertain how it is growing. The truth is that different circumstances demand different forms of co-operation. The essential thing is that the system of command and co-operation should be flexible and capable of adjustment.
As I have indicated, what is quite certain, I think, is that the idea that any one Service to-day is working on its own account for the furtherance of its own ends, rather than for the common good, is quite unfounded, and, indeed, is quite absurd. If I am correctly informed, our system is in many respects similar to that adopted by Germany. At times the German Air Force has co-operated with the Army in furtherance of the land battle in the same way as ours is now doing in Libya. At other times it has operated independently, as in the air bombardment of the British Isles. At times it has cooperated with forces at sea, as, for example, in the Mediterranean at the 157 present time. I doubt whether, when these things are ultimately examined, there will be found to be such a great distinction. I would ask those who have contributed so usefully to this debate, and who have been, as it is right that they should be, bold and fearless in their criticism, fully to weigh the arguments which have appealed to many independent and skilled minds for the substance of our present system, and, above all, to remember what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, that you cannot change a system fundamentally in the middle of a war.
I will, if I may, mention one other thing to which, I think, Lord Trenchard referred. The day-to-day operations of the various Commanders-in-Chief at home are governed by directives issued to them in accordance with the policy that has been laid down Ministerially on the advice of the Chiefs of Staff. I think a daily meeting is held at the Admiralty to discuss current operational matters. This is always attended by the Director of Naval Co-operation from the Air Ministry, and by a liaison officer from the War Office. Naval Commanders at home have, as the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has told us, Combined Headquarters, at which representatives of the Royal Air Force and Military Commands are present, and it is those Combined Headquarters which direct the action of the naval and military Forces in the area and of the local formations of Coastal Command.
My object has been to give, perfectly objectively, a statement of what I understand the present arrangements to be, and I finish this part of the matter by saying, as I said when I began, that I do not for a moment claim—I am very ill qualified to-make such a claim—that this is necessarily to be judged as the best of all systems. But let us at least be sure that we give full credit to the system as it exists. It is not some hasty improvisation dictated by some volcanic genius; it has been the result of a vast amount of technical study, highly-specialized consideration and work for many years; and I think that we owe a great debt of gratitude to those before the war who, although they may not have provided us with all that is necessary to fight, at any rate provided us with a very carefully worked 158 out scheme by which fighting might be done.
I shall not detain your Lordships much longer, but I should like in conclusion to make one general observation. I should like to make an observation on the true relations between the misfortunes and the disasters which have overtaken British arms and the ultimate outcome of the war which we are all resolutely determined to secure. It is sometimes pointed out—I have seen it in the reports of speeches at war weapons weeks, and the like—that in our history the final victory of Britain has often been preceded by battles and campaigns in which we have had the worst of it. Historically that is true. It was so in the Seven Years' War. Our ancestors who rejoiced over the successes of 1759 had been cast into the depths of despair by a series of misfortunes only a few years before. It was so in the Napoleonic War. It was so in the Crimean War. It was so, as some of us remember, in the South African War; and it was certainly so in the Great War of twenty-five years ago. All the same, my Lords, to my way of thinking it would be a very dangerous and misleading attitude of mind to treat the setbacks which we have had to endure as the inevitable and logical march of events, or to regard them as a mere illustration of the French phrase that it is sometimes wise reculer pour mieux sauter.
We have come through great trials, but, as the noble Lord who spoke last truly said—and it was a useful contribution—in the other scale we have to put substantial successes which we have had in the last two years. We can afford to face the stark reality. The setbacks seem to me to be very serious events in the present case, and all the more so because our purpose is not merely to recover the ground which has been lost but to secure, with our Allies, the positive overthrow of the foul Nazi and Fascist system which is threatening the free life of men and women all over the world. It will take prolonged, strenuous, united effort, exceeding anything which we have yet attained, before the situation will improve as we should wish. We know well the fibre and the doggedness of our fellow-countrymen, which will stand the strain. All that our fellow-countrymen demand is that the administration of the war should be equal to their own unshakable resolve.
159 I was very glad to hear the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, in his speech this afternoon, point out how foolish and unjust and short in memory it would be to let these recent disappointments cause us to forget the incomparable qualities of leadership and courage which the Prime Minister has shown, and what he did for the country in connexion with the Battle of Britain, the downfall of France and the Battle of the Atlantic, what he did—perhaps the greatest stroke of pure statesmanship in our time—in his instant recognition, within an hour, of the importance of Russia's resistance, and what he did a few weeks ago to cement the comradeship between the United States and ourselves. These things are not lightly to be overlain by any sense of misfortune to-day. The Prime Minister warned us that further blows arc coming, but he carries the whole country with him when he points out that the overwhelming power which this country and the United States and Russia and China can ultimately develop between them will be more than enough to secure our purpose, and when he calls afresh for unrelenting effort to achieve our incomparable resolve. The contribution that Parliament will make is not doubtful. Let us give him, therefore, our trust and support, and let every one of us do what he can until the day when victory comes.
§ LORD NATHAN
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Addison, I ask leave to withdraw the Motion standing in his name.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.