HL Deb 13 February 1945 vol 134 cc987-1010

2.21 p.m.

VISCOUNT TRENCHARD rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether any progress has been made in considering the best means of strengthening the armed forces in Europe with a view to preventing war before it breaks out, and in particular whether they have considered the part air can play; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, when I read the communiqué dealing with the great Crimean Conference and decisions taken I considered whether I ought to postpone my Motion, but after taking what advice I could I decided that I would venture to continue with it. I want to ask the Government whether any progress has been made in considering the best means of strengthening the power of the armed forces in Europe to keep the peace with especial regard to the part that the Air Forces can play. It was said quite recently that the fear of military aggression after this war must be eliminated at any rate in Europe or else all the great political developments that we have been discussing in many debates in your Lordships' House and in another place will fall to the ground. The preservation of peace I feel is the key to many of the other problems. In the course of a recent debate on a Motion brought forward in your Lordships' House by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, I made a suggestion—a very simple proposal, though to my mind a very important one—but in the reply by the Government spokesman no reference was made to it. I am not complaining of that or making any criticism, because I failed to inform the noble Viscount the Leader of the House that I was going to put forward a definite proposal. As I am of the opinion that it is an important suggestion, I venture, in order to clarify my suggestion, once again to bring it before your Lordships' House. It is really the same point which the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, made in his remarks when he said: Are we, I wonder, moving quickly enough in making air defence agreements, both in the East and the West, that will make it hopeless for any German to contemplate another military aggression? I have a feeling that we may be losing the present atmosphere of common effort and of comradeship that has grown up between the various Allied fort's. I will be as brief as possible. The underlying basis of my suggestion, which is a very modest and simple one, is the friendship that has grown up in this war between our Royal Air Force and the Air Forces of our Allies. There is no doubt that this friendship is sincere. These young men are only boys to-day but they will be the leaders of their respective nations in the future. They have fought together, flown together; they have had those long flights over Germany, over the Atlantic and over the North Sea together—Norwegians, Dutch, French, Belgians, Poles and Czechs. It is more than ordinary friendship. Without allowing sentiment to take too great a place in my remarks I feel that your Lordships must realize that this friendship is a friendship which will endure and which should be encouraged. It was the same in the last war. The friendship between ourselves and our American Allies—as it is to-day—was closer in the Air Services than between any other service, any other profession or any other walk of life.

Only last night an American broadcasting over our system after the nine o'clock news used this expression: If the British Tommy and the G.I. Joe are second cousins once removed, the British and American pilots are half-brothers. In fact after a time it is very easy to forget there is any distinction at all. There is something in the air which brings airmen together when they fly together. In the vast open space of the skies there are no national boundaries. Nationality loses a certain amount of its influence. They become friends in the air in all its intricacies, dangers and delights. Therefore this natural association is worth cultivating, encouraging, maintaining and developing. Do not let us throw it away as we did after the last war. My suggestion is that we should make arrangements now—not treaties, but arrangements with our friends and Allies. I feel we should make sectional arrangements which come within and under, if necessary, the auspices or control of the proposals or agreements that come into being as outlined at Dumbarton Oaks. I ventured to say in the last debate on the same subject: Neutrality is dead, and there will be no such thing as neutrality in the future in European wars.

These local arrangements should be made broadly on the following lines: In order to ensure that the Air Force is available, then the organization must be such that the force can be used at once to prevent war. I would like to repeat that I want an organization to prevent war instead of waiting until war breaks out and then organizing. I want to see friendly arrangements made by this country with the Western Powers of Europe, such as Norway, Holland, Belgium and France, to have their Air Forces organized on similar lines as ours. The squadrons should be organized on the same line in these countries and equipped with the same sort of machines—not necessarily the same machines, but the same types such as fighters, bombers, fighter-bombers, equipped with the same type of weapons such as bombs, rockets, torpedoes, etc. The aerodromes should also be organized on similar lines in these countries with the same landing orders, the same airfield rules and the same types of wireless communication and codes. It is done now. Why cannot it be continued? Surely this is the time to consider arranging that the present similarity should be continued in peacetime so as to be ready for war. In this war we have had squadrons composed of men from France, Belgium, Holland, Czechoslovakia and Poland, sometimes commanded by an Englishman sometimes by an officer from the Dominions, and sometimes a British squadron has been commanded by a foreign officer. I do not ask that we should go as far as that in peace-time—I do not think it would be practicable—but we should have our Air Forces similarly organized. I am not asking anything that would be controversial such as interference with national sovereignty. My proposals do not interfere with that in any way.

Now I come to my most important point. I would like to see it arranged between Britain and the countries of the Western Powers that I have mentioned and will repeat—France, Belgium, Holland and Norway—that squadrons from these different countries can fly to certain selected aerodromes—I repeat selected—in any of these countries for practice for training purposes or even for friendly visits or functions of sport and stop there for a day or two or three days. In these days of flying these countries do not want to be circumscribed to their own boundaries. It is no practice to fly up and down a little country when a couple of thousand miles is no distance in flying. The squadrons of these countries ought to be able to do this without having to obtain permission each time from Governments, Ambassadors or Foreign Offices. It should be a matter of course, by friendly and amicable arrangement between the commanding officers of the Air Services in the different countries, just as our commanding officers now in our own country move squadrons from one Command to another. I suggest that we should choose, say, twenty aerodromes in this country and perhaps the smaller nations should have five each or more. At these aerodromes should be at least one—if not more—squadron always stationed, and accommodation for one or two visiting squadrons. There should be hangars, huts and, generally speaking, everything that is needed to give the visitors a proper welcome. As to the smaller nations Norway might perhaps have five of these aerodromes, Belgium five, Holland five, and France a certain number. I feel that just as civilians can go to other countries with only their passports, so our squadrons and the squadrons from friendly Powers should be able to visit each other's countries with simply their uniforms and their commanding officers' signatures as passports. Let the officers and men of these visiting squadrons go freely about amongst our men. Surely visits conducted on these lines would make for the formation and maintenance of most valuable friendships.

In making these suggestions, I have not left out of account our great American Ally. Their organization and ours are practically the same to-day, and I feel that similar friendly arrangements should be made on the same friendly lines as I have suggested with regard to other nations, between the Air Services of our two countries. Surely this sort of arrangement could be made between our Royal Air Force stations in the Far East—in Singapore, Malaya, Burma and Hong Kong—with our American Allies in the Pacific and with the great Dominion of Australia. They want to be able to fly at will to pay us visits, and we want to be able at any time to drop in and see them. In spite of the vastness of their own country, the Americans will want to fly the Atlantic and so shall we, and it should be almost taken for granted that we can land on certain selected aerodromes in each other's countries. I am not wanting to make a combination of West against East—far from it. Russia can, and most probably will, make arrangements locally with the Eastern Powers. Could we not connect up with the Russians in the same way in the Middle East and even in parts of Asia. In the same way, surely, we could have a friendly arrangement between our Air Force in the Far East and the Dutch in the Netherlands. Is this all beyond the bounds of possibility? I do not think so, and I feel that it would add to our friendship.

I consider that these proposals of mine have two advantages. One is that if really friendly mutual arrangements are made, whereby visits between squadrons and other units of one nation to another are promoted, it will maintain and increase the friendship between our nations which is particularly what we want. The social meetings between the air crews of the different nations would lead to a permanent link of understanding amongst themselves, and also amongst their relatives and their friends. Our air crews would meet their friends and relatives and their air crews would meet ours. Secondly, the organization of the Air Forces of the Western Powers on similar lines to ours would ensure that a force would be ready at any time, should a crisis arise, to come immediately into action to prevent war.

I am one of those who would rather plant a small seed and watch it grow into a great tree than carry out the great task that is performed frequently by other people—and often fails—of planting a grown tree with all its branches and support it with props. It was the planting of small seeds such as those to which I refer that made England and the British Empire in the past, and I believe that we should make that our policy in the future. I believe that at the same time these great and important conferences are going on the more humble work of planting these tiny seeds may also be performed I hope that it will be performed and that mighty trees will grow from those seeds. Do not let us lose the chance of keeping that friendship which I have mentioned—the friendship that is inherent in airmen who have fought together in the air, in the intimacy of the skies in cloud, mist, rain, snow, fog and sunshine. That friendship will last when all others die. Is it too much to suggest that at the next great conference between the three Great Powers our Prime Minister, President Roosevelt and Marshal Stalin should issue a joint statement to the effect that the informal and friendly arrangements already in existence between the different Air Forces of the United States, Russia and the friendly Western Powers and ours, shall continue after the war in order to ensure that an adequate force is always ready to prevent war in the future? I know that a simple statement on those lines would be welcomed by all in the Air Services, and would do much towards keeping the peace, which, as I have said, is the key to all future problems. My Lords, cannot the Government give us some measure of assurance that these proposals are not lost sight of? I beg to move.

Moved, That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the best means of strengthening the armed forces in Europe with a view to preventing war before it breaks out, and in particular to the part which air control can play.—(Viscount Trenchard.)

2.36 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to say a few words in support of the Motion which has been put forward by the noble and gallant Viscount. I do so as a firm believer in the proposals emanating from the Dumbarton Oaks conversations, though those proposals I hope may be somewhat amended in certain respects. They are, I consider, capable of improvement. As your Lordships are doubtless aware, Chapter VIII of the Dumbarton Oaks Charter sets out various methods to be employed to deal with a potential or actual breach of international peace. Under these arrangements certain quotas of national forces are to be made available in order that the military sanctions may be applied if necessary. In particular, so as to enable urgent military measures to be taken, there are to be held immediately available national Air Force contingents for combined international enforcement action. It seems clear that if these international air contingents are to function effectively, the Governments concerned must arrange in normal times for such co-operation as will enable the contingents to act speedily and adequately should an international crisis arise.

The noble and gallant Viscount, who speaks with such very high authority on matters of this kind, has put forward certain suggestions to provide for this co-operation. I earnestly hope that these suggestions will be not only carefully but favourably considered by His Majesty's Government and by the Staff Committee which is to advise the members of the organization created by the Dumbarton Oaks meeting about such matters. It may be that the noble Viscount suggested perhaps a somewhat over-simplified procedure for the purpose which he has in mind, but, if adequate co-operation is to be established, clearly something more than formal visits by the national Air Force contingents is desirable and necessary. I assume that proper co-operation between international air contingents requires knowledge of certain national aerodromes, landing arrangements, ground forces and so on, and, as the noble and gallant Viscount has pointed cut, joint training and practice should be assured. I cannot but think that His Majesty's Government will welcome the proposals put forward by the noble and gallant Viscount since they have already given general approval to the principles which underlie them. That being so I should not feel justified in taking up your Lordships' time in expatiating on the advantages of these suggestions, because as I say, they have already been indicated very clearly in the speech with which the noble Viscount introduced his Motion, and I cannot but believe that they will be accepted by His Majesty's Government.

2.40 p.m.


My Lords, any observations made by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, on air matters are worthy of attention in this or any other assembly. When the history of this war is written it will be found that his pioneer work for the Air Force and the imagination that he instilled into it have been one of the great assets upon which we have most depended during these five difficult years. His suggestions are made out of long experience. He and I were together in the years immediately following the last war, and the lessons of that period have some applicability to the present state of affairs. We then had scarcely any Air Force left. I hope that that situation will never arise again. Very soon, moreover, we got out of touch with the Air Forces of our former Allies. I remember particularly the case of the French Air Force, which at that time was the predominant Air Force in Europe. Whether as a result of divergent policy or different organization or the fact that we were so weak in the air, we did lose contact with the French Air Force, and we never fully regained that contact in subsequent years.

The noble Viscount has made proposals to prevent a repetition of that situation. He has proposed, first of all, that the Allies in this war should attempt to agree upon a common basis of training, types of machine, types of equipment and types of aerodrome management. That need not imply uniformity, any more than the agreement which he and I made, now nearly twenty years ago, with the Dominion Governments meant uniformity. At one of the Imperial Conferences immediately following the last war, we came to a general agreement very much on the lines that the noble Viscount has just advocated for Western Europe. The result was that when this war started we found that we had a substantial community of sentiment in the field of training, in the field of operations, and in the general comradeship between the Dominion Air Forces and our own. That, I imagine, is what the noble Viscount wishes to see repeated now amongst the Allies generally, and particularly among the Allies in Western Europe.

His second proposal is that every possible obstacle that now stands in the way of frequent contacts between the Allied Air Forces should be removed. I think that that is an excellent idea. On no account must we lose this wonderful common esprit de corps which has grown up in the last five or six years. I would venture to make a concrete proposal in this connexion. I would ask the noble and learned Lord Chancellor to consider whether a definite instruction should not be given to the Committee of Imperial Defence and to the Chiefs of Staff to organize ways and means for obtaining this contact. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has made certain suggestions with reference to the visit of one squadron to another. That is an excellent idea, but it seems to me that something more precise may be needed, and I suggest that this is essentially a question for the Chiefs of Staff, but for the Chiefs of Staff with a direction from the Cabinet that they should do their utmost to carry these suggestions into effect.

Let us remember that we are to-day the great European Air Power. It is for us in Europe to take a lead in these matters. During these last five years it has been the strategy and the tactics of the Royal Air Force which have given the lead to the Air Forces of the Allies. I wish to see the great influence and the good will which we have created now made full use of, and one of the uses which we should make of them is to encourage, on the lines suggested by the noble Viscount, this contact and this common organization which are so necessary not only for good feeling in time of peace, but for swift action in time of danger.

2.47 p.m.


My Lords, I can naturally not claim to speak with the Service and technical knowledge of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, or with the official experience of the other two noble Lords who have spoken, but, though it may be merely as a civilian and a layman, I do wish heartily to support what the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has said. I do so on two grounds. First of all, I think that something of this kind is an absolutely necessary complement to what the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, put forward on a recent occasion—a very partial complement, but a very real and necessary one all the same. To enlarge upon that, however, would not be fitting on the present occasion. The other thing that I feel is that this is a real, immediate and, as far as it goes, effective measure for security.

What do we mean by security? Do we mean absolute security for the whole Empire? If we mean that, I cannot but remember what Mr. Joseph Chamberlain said just after the conclusion, if I remember aright, of the South African War. He said that we never had been and never should be completely secure, having regard partly to our own Constitution and partly to the far-flung boundaries of the Empire. That was thought to be a hard saying and it shocked many people at the time, but I believe that it is profoundly true. The unpredictable is continually happening. Who could have prophesied what took place at Singapore? The situation there, apart from the more technical matter of air cover for the Fleet, was caused by two events, neither of which could have been expected and the conjunction of which would have seemed impossible. I am referring, of course, to what happened at Pearl Harbour and—what is perhaps even more important—to the bloodless surrender of Indo-China. The latter, I think, was the more important and tragic event of the two, and one which, I cannot help thinking, should induce a little modesty in the comments we get sometimes from abroad. But in the past—and in the long past—we have always made the home front safe, though sometimes, in my reading of naval history, the margin, in 1797 for instance, was none too great. But that has always been a steady policy, whatever variations there may have been in the strength of the Army and in foreign policy. Now the need is the same, only it is needed in two spheres instead of one, and I have no doubt we can rise to the occasion. It is not an impossibility, it is no more an impossibility than it was found to be in the past, for the Navy to make our shores and the approaches to them safe, only we have to build up the Air Force and have it ready for quick and immediate action, and that I believe would be largely achieved by the proposal that the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has made.

Another advantage is that it can easily fit into much larger proposals without, so far as I can see, any friction and without departing from the basic idea of the scheme. Of course, we must have complete co-ordination, and co-ordination in the past we have not had. I do not know what truth they had, but I have heard most unpleasant stories of what happened in 1940, when squadrons sent out for the common cause were met at Allied aerodromes with the answer that they had no orders to co-operate or to do anything for us. That of course is completely impossible. Air co-operation is the more necessary and must be the more precise because we have seen what difficulties there are in real land co-operation. In both the two wars we had very narrow escapes; not only in this one, because anybody who reads General Spears's books will see how very narrow was the escape in 1914. It arose in the last war, some say with a certain cynicism, because there was not unity of command, and in this war because there was. However that may be, it all means that the air co-operation must be firm, effective and precise. Of course this plan will not do everything; it will not do everything diplomatically, it will not provide for everything from a strategic point of view; but it has the two great merits that it will fit into larger schemes, and it will give us time to protect the vitals of the Empire, if it should be necessary again, while we develop our resources.

2.52 p.m.


My Lords, the principle underlying my noble friend's question must be supported by everybody who wishes to see not only the national forces occupying enemy territories efficient but all the various parts in very friendly relations with one another. I think that the news we received this morning makes it all the more necessary, and if the Royal Air Force can add international friendliness to their marvellous achievements during this war they will put us under an even greater debt of gratitude than we owe them already. I am rather sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, as a past First Lord of the Admiralty, when he quoted the close relationship between the Dominion and the British forces, did not also mention that for many years the Royal Navy and the Dominion Navies have been one, and that any officer or man can step aboard any ship at any time. I think it was during his occupancy of the Admiralty that we had an Australian Admiral commanding British battleships. I hope that will occur again and again. I think the suggestions of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, even more important since we heard the news this morning, and I had hoped we should be told this afternoon not only that the occupying forces would be international but that there would be an international authority in Berlin. That would mean that everything undertaken by those forces would be carried out internationally and that there would be no room for the jealousies which existed in the last war between the zones occupied by the various nations.

At the present moment we are all in a glow, as some of us are after a good dinner, and I have no doubt the same feeling pre- vails in the Crimea. We see peace ahead of us, peace with all the world, and we are very amicably inclined. But in the morning you sometimes have a reaction, and you have to remember that Lloyd George, Wilson and Clemenceau, sitting together, were just as earnest in believing that they were going to sow the seed of international peace as Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt are to-day. Yet a very short time after the last war the United States had withdrawn her Army of Occupation, and three years afterwards we saw the French and the Belgians going off one way while we stood back and did not go with them. If we had one international force and an international authority in Berlin it seems to me we should avoid the possibility of that sort of friction. The bonds will get weaker as we feel safer and safer, and therefore I question the practicability of visits being paid by air to various countries and aerodromes and the uniform of an officer being a sufficient passport. I presume there will be landing places for the various occupying armies to which they can all go. I suggest that if it were properly handled the organization and everything of that sort which the noble Viscount mentioned would come about naturally because it is the line of least resistance.

Among all the Air Forces which he mentioned and which have been trained by the Royal Air Force, there is a wonderful friendship. But visits are not everything. We in the Navy have sometimes paid friendly visits to foreign ports. There was a very friendly visit to Kiel in the summer of 1914, and some noble Lords who are interested in small boat sailing may remember a visit paid to Kiel in August, 1939, when a star boat (some noble Lords will know what I mean by that) carried off in an international race a cup presented by the German Admiralty and brought it home—the first naval victory of the war! I am sorry to say that the officer who did that lost his life in a submarine. I may be accused of being a pro-German, but before the last war we made many visits to German ports and met the Germans there, and we always got on extremely well with them. So I do not think that these visits have quite the effect that they might be supposed to have. They are very pleasant to those who take part in them, because we have the sea in common as a subject of interest. The Royal Air Force have the air to talk about and they get on very well. But it is only the fringe; it does not go very deep.

I question whether this is a matter to raise—the visiting of these aerodromes in various countries. It was easy enough to arrange visits to ships; it was easy enough for local authorities in the ports visited to ensure that the officers of the ships did not see too much. But with the power of observation in the air and the means of recording what is seen, I should think that very soon after the war we shall find foreign nations saying: "No, we do not want these visits; they will know too much about the country." Having said all that, I do wish to support the principle of the Motion. The greater the friendship we can establish, the better. I have not a very sanguine outlook on the future, however. I believe that we shall very soon find that we are getting back somewhat to the position we were in during 1923, 1924 and 1925.

3.2 p.m.


My Lords, the noble and gallant Viscount who addressed us this afternoon chose a very narrow angle on a Motion which could give rise to a very extended and wide debate. I have served under him and known him for many years. He is always wise, and it is a great pleasure to see that your Lordships' House have agreed and do agree generally with the proposal that he puts forward that squadrons in the various Air Forces should visit one another. The only blot on the debate has come from the noble Admiral who says that these visits do not do any good.


No, a limited amount of good.


Well, a limited amount of good, and I can quite see that a visit to Germany to talk about how you fought against each other would not be so binding as a visit to people with whom you fought together. Consequently these visits might have a better effect than that which resulted from the visit to Kiel. I am a realist in this matter, and we have to realize that after the war there are going to be three Air Forces in the world, and three only—the Russian, the American and our own.


What about the French?


I am going to speak about that, if I may be allowed to go on in my own way. Those are the three great Air Forces in the world—the American, the British and the Russian. Now I sincerely hope that we shall be able to visit not only America but also Russia, and that she may be able to come and see us, as Lord Trenchard says. But there is another curious thing which is happening before our eyes but which we have not noticed, and that is the building up to-day of a European International Air Force—our own Royal Air Force. In it you will find all the small nations of Europe, actually serving, with their names on their shoulders. It is curious that they had first thought they wanted separate squadrons within that force, but they did not want it finally; they just wanted to be individuals in that Air Force. If, in the stress of war, we can run an Air Force composed not only of our own people but of citizens of these other countries of Europe, it would be, to my mind, a most desirable thing that, instead of having small Air Forces in small countries, we should perpetuate that amalgamation and allow foreigners of friendly Powers in Europe to serve with ourselves, so that we may be able to build up together at least the first part of a real International Air Force.

Viscount Trenchard spoke to us on this particular point which is, as I say, a very narrow one, but the Motion really has to do with future peace. For that reason I would like to put one or two questions to the Government which I understand are to be answered by the Lord Chancellor, as to this new development in the air, the man-less aeroplane. We know, of course, that VI has to be answered by the Royal Air Force and the Artillery, but I am not clear at all as to whose duty it is to make VI's if VI's are wanted. The Royal Aircraft Establishment had all the technique for making VI, except the pulsating, jet motor. All the technical ability was there but it was not thought to be and indeed it is not for us a military weapon of much use, whereas from the German point of view, of course, to be able to hit a big, straggling city like London certainly had military advantages. But here is a projectile which has wings. Whose business is it to study it and to decide whether to develop it or not to develop it? Is it that of the Air Force, of the Artillery, or of the Navy? The Ministry of Supply, of course, is going to disappear one day. It can wry easily be said that it is their job at the present time. The general directing of policy in regard to that particular type of weapon, however, seems to me to be extremely obscure.

Then we come to the even more difficult position of the V2. To ward it off seems to me to be the business only of the electricians, but who has the task of developing this thing? Rockets have shown an immense advance during the war. The launching of the 14-ton projectile by a rocket seemed almost impossible at the beginning of the war, but these things are being done to-day. Are we going on with this technique? Whose job is it to study it? Here is a projectile which has scarcely anything to do with the Air Force—it has not even got wings. Is it the Garrison Artillery's job? Is it therefore within the province of the Army, or is it the new long-range gun for the Navy? These are all problems wrapped up in the future and about which I do not think there is any clear thinking, but they are problems in the prevention of war. A Government could secure a valley in their own country and set up a range of rocket-launching devices which would hit any city. What are we going to do to see that that sort of blatant attempt on neighbouring countries is not made? It seems to me a most important point to deal with from the point of view of future peace.

I know, indeed, that these are dreadful thoughts. We cannot, as is so often done by the professional, think of the next war in terms of the last one. That is the mistake which is always made. Here we have technical developments frankly of a most unwholesome type which are a cynical reflection on the misguided ingenuity of man. But these inventions have occurred. They loom large into the future and seem to me to project very great danger. I should like to know from the Lord Chancellor what machinery, what thought and what organization are being given to the elimination of such threats now and in the future.

3.9 p.m.


My Lords, apart from the most interesting speech just delivered by my noble friend Lord Brabazon, the debate to-day has kept itself more precisely than is sometimes the case within the bounds of the initial Motion and the speech of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard. I would willingly do my best to reply to the question just put to me by my noble friend Lord Brabazon, but I have an inherent objection to attempting to answer questions without being first sufficiently informed of the answer. I could hardly expect that at the last moment he would produce this new variety of the latest bomb and insert it under the Woolsack, intending me to produce a completely informed, absolutely technical and wholly authoritative reply out of my own head. That really I cannot do. While I think it very useful, if I may say so, that he should mention this matter and call attention to its great importance, I am sure that what he really desired to do was to put that on record in a public way and call attention to it in order that on a suitable occasion the matter might be discussed or at any rate carefully considered. I therefore excuse myself from now dealing with that specially inserted topic.

As regards the actual subject of debate I am very glad indeed that Viscount Trenchard did not follow his first impulse and withdraw his Motion in view of the announcement from the Crimea this morning. On the contrary, I should have thought, and I rather think your Lordships generally will think, that what the noble and gallant Viscount has brought before us is the more timely because of the Crimean announcement, and I am very glad to be the one who has to reply to him as well as I can because on a previous occasion, last December, when he made a speech on much the same lines on I think the second day of the debate on Lord Templewood's Motion, I had the duty of replying and he is quite correct in saying I was not at that time able to give him an answer to the matters which he brought forward. Since then, thanks to the Notice he has given, I have done my very best to inform myself, and I hope to give him and the House a reply which will be felt to be really satisfactory.

The noble Viscount's question touches very directly one aspect, the air aspect, of the arrangements to assist in the development of post-war organization for securing peace. That is, of course, one of the features of the striking and comprehensive declaration issued this morning in the Press and coming from the Crimea Conference. Let me quote one paragraph of that communication for it will show how closely the question now raised is connected with those matters that have been under intense discussion and analysis between the three great leaders of the three great Allies. I extract this passage from the declaration: We are resolved upon the earliest possible establishment with our Allies of a general international organization to maintain peace and security. We believe that this is essential both to prevent aggression and to remove the political, economic, and social causes of war through the close and continuing collaboration of all peace-loving people. The foundations were laid at Dumbarton Oaks. My noble friend in the course of his speech said he liked to plant a seed in the hope that it would develop into a tree. Well, somebody planted an acorn and it developed into a Dumbarton Oak. But there is, of course, a great deal to be done with the propositions of a general character that were advanced at Dumbarton Oaks before the achievement of what I have just read from the declaration of the Crimea Conference can be practically secured. My noble and gallant friend asks whether we could not make arrangements now (for now is the accepted time) with our neighbours and Allies for the better development of their post-war Air Forces—arrangements which would fall within the general scheme of Dumbarton Oaks and would help to secure such an organization by mutual agreement as would promote and make ready a combined Air Force to be used at once to prevent war if occasion arises. He has illustrated this idea, and has been reinforced with the authority of my noble friend Viscount Templewood, by asking whether friendly arrangements could not be made, for example, with Norway, Holland, Belgium and France, to have their post-war Air Forces organized on similar lines to our own. Well, having taken counsel on the subject I am able to assure the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, at once that His Majesty's Government are entirely at one with him in approving the spirit of that proposal, that they realize its importance and that his technical suggestions are most welcome and will be further studied. To a large extent, as I will show in a moment, this general conception is being pursued.

Let me put in here the acknowledgment which I must make to the suggestion which Lord Templewood put forward. He asks whether the Chiefs of Staff Committee, or some other suitable body, might not receive directions from the Cabinet to take these suggestions into consideration and to work out how they might be carried into effect. I naturally have no express authority to make a reply to what was said a short while age, but I am perfectly confident that the proposals made here and pressed upon us this afternoon are proposals which will be regarded by the War Cabinet as well worthy of their own attention, and I feel confident in my own mind that the suggestion that they should be thus pursued is one that is likely to be taken up.

Something has been said—and I suppose most of your Lordships are already acquainted with the facts—of the assistance which we have given ever since 1940, and are continuing to give, to the Air Forces of our neighbouring European Allies. That assistance will certainly count as an important contribution towards the re-establishment of their national Air Forces in the post-war period. See how far it extends. This assistance which we are giving includes the supplies of British equipment, of all possible help in training, and the supply of technical and other information necessary for successful co-operative work. His Majesty's Government hope that the very close links between the Royal Air Force and these Allied Air Forces will be maintained and developed during the post-war period and that we shall be privileged to continue in the future to help our Allies in these ways. By this means the really remarkable association which has developed between the Royal Air Forces and the Allied Forces will, we hope, be perpetuated. It may take many forms, and various forms, I am informed, are under close consideration at this time. In view more particularly of what was said by my noble friend Viscount Templewood, I would say this. I can give a definite assurance that this matter is already in train, both in our own forecasts for training and plans for manufacture in the future, and that it is a subject of talks with some of our Allies already.

His Majesty's Government consider that this co-operation is a most important contribution to the World Organization sketched out at Dumbarton Oaks. That was a point made in the debate more particularly by my noble friend the Earl of Perth. It is in course of further development as a result of more recent conferences. It is worth while perhaps putting on record in a few sentences what has actually happened. Allied air units are at present serving with the Royal Air Force fully integrated with the Royal Air Force. They are organized, they are trained, and they are operated on an almost identical basis. Poles—and they make most gallant airmen—Belgians, Dutch, Norwegians, French, Czechs, Greeks and Yugoslavs all take advantage of this friendly contact in various ways. I think nothing corresponding to this has ever happened in the history of warfare. These people are friends. They are flying British machines or, sometimes, American machines. Their national squadrons and training units use our British aerodromes in the closest and friendliest co-operation with the Royal Air Force. In some cases—for example, in the case of the Poles who have supplied a surprising number of pilots—they have their own aerodromes in this country with their own station commanders acting in co-operation, it may be, with a British station commander.

Therefore my noble friend Viscount Trenchard was no whit exaggerating when he emphasized the nature of the opportunity which is now before us. The question is how far that close integration in its present form—of course they will get back to their own aerodromes in their own countries—can be made a common object of our policy and contribute to the carrying out of projects for securing peace after the war. His Majesty's Government are in the fullest agreement with my noble friend Viscount Trenchard as to the desirability of continuing the close co-operation with all our Allies which has grown up during the war as a means of preserving peace and encouraging mutual understanding. It is right to say that the principles underlying that conception are generally accepted by the Air Staff, particularly this technical but essential matter of securing common practice and mutual understanding in such matters as airfield control and communications.

I wish in the description I am trying to give to set the matter within its proper limits. It is not, of course, essential, and indeed may not be practicable, to aim at identical organization and identical types of aircraft. As my noble friend Viscount Trenchard pointed out, precise similarity does not exist to-day in many cases. We all know that the organization and types of aircraft of the United States Air Force and the Royal Air Force are not identical. Yet it has proved possible for these two Air Forces to work in the closest co-operation, and for their formations to be detached from the parent Air force and to work in association with others under the control of commanders of either nationality, as was so very interestingly explained to us in the course of the debate. The matter really stands thus, and I hope this assertion and this assurance will give satisfaction in the quarters which have raised this most important matter for inquiry.

The details for future inter-Allied co-operation between Allied forces under the aegis of a World Organization are the subjects of immediate study. They spring, as I have said, out of the Dumbarton Oaks Conference. There, I would remind your Lordships, certain proposals were discussed for the provision of national quotas—my noble friend the Earl of Perth referred to them—to constitute some form of international instrument at the disposal of the Security Council. Perhaps some of your Lordships will like the reference to the document. I will not read it all. Chapter VIII (B) of the Dumbarton Oaks plan, particularly the paragraphs (5) to (9), and again Chapter VIII (C) contain the relevant passages. For example, in Chapter VIII (B) (5), you will find these words: In order that all members of the Organization should contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, they should undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements concluded among themselves, armed forces, facilities and assistance necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security. Further details follow and in paragraph (6) it is stated that there should be held immediately available by the members of the Orgnization national Air Force contingents for combined international enforcement action See, my Lords, what a great step will have been taken towards securing the working of such a plan, which we have been able to follow with our neighbours and Allies, the plan of close association after the war which will make our respective Air Forces, already active comrades, acquainted with one another's ways following common training and technical control. Instead of having, as it were, to call out in an emergency forces which have not had previous experience together, you would be calling upon a body, a combination it may be of several of the Allies, able at once to take the air in unison. Your Lordships will notice that these proposals contemplate that the member States of the Organization shall make the necessary agreements between themselves to make available to the Security Council of the World Organization the necessary armed force with facilities for maintaining international peace. The Military Staff Committee, as it is called by the Dumbarton Oaks Conference, the "General Staff" of the World Organization, will advise the Security Council from the technical point of view upon the arrangements necessary, and will be responsible for the strategic direction of national armed forces placed at the disposal of the Security Council.

Now the point which I have endeavoured to bring out, and which I wish to stress, is one which will, I believe, appeal to any one who has been good enough to listen to me. The close association that has grown up in battle between our own and the Allied Air Forces will form a most valuable foundation for arrangements of this kind in the future. Again, the association between those Allied Air Forces may prove very valuable when the time comes to consider the formation of regional arrangements which are contemplated and, to some extent, provided for in Chapter VIII (C) of the Dumbarton Oaks proposals.

My noble and gallant friend has referred specifically to the necessity for a unified signals and flying control procedure amongst these Air Forces. All our Allies are, of necessity, well acquainted with our flying control system owing to the familiarity which they have gained during their period of operations under our control. We have also trained numbers of Allied officers in airfield control and flying control—generally, I believe, at the Central School of Flying Control—and I might add that negotiations are now in progress for a number of French Air officers to come from France to be trained in flying control in this country. This applies to some other Allied airmen also. We have already had a visit from a French Signals Mission which has had every facility for inspecting our Signals organization. In an endeavour to ensure that the Air Forces of our neighbouring Allies have the same broad basis of organization as the Royal Air Force, we have allotted in this country Royal Air Force stations to various Allies to enable them to train, under their own commanders, the necessary personnel to rebuild their Air Forces. These stations, of course, are run on Royal Air Force lines, although I think I am right when I say that Royal Air Force assistance is only given so far as it is asked for and required.

Your Lordships will see, therefore, that we have actually at work in this country, a system which, as it seems to me, Lord Trenchard is very well entitled to regard as the seed of some permanent and equally close arrangement between us when the war is over. All the matters of which I have spoken which are outside my own personal knowledge, are matters on which information has been supplied to me by the proper authorities and that information may therefore I think be taken as authoritative and, I hope, exact. I trust the answer which I have given will go far to satisfy my noble and gallant friend and others that his own thoughts on this subject follow the same lines as those which are being adopted by His Majesty's Government. I will not discuss particularly—I am not qualified to do so—the details concerning the protocol for visiting aerodromes in a friendly country, especially as the noble and gallant Admiral at once begins to think of the visits paid on occasion—ceremonial visits perhaps—by the Mediterranean Fleet in its summer tour. But, even though arrangements do not turn out to be quite so simple as might appear from Lord Trenchard's speech, our spirit in the matter is perfectly willing. It is essentially a matter of negotiation and agreement, and, as I say, our spirit is perfectly willing. Our resolve to pursue what is essential in this project, and to achieve it in every possible way, is firm.

At this stage in the debate the question begins to arise as to what would be the better way to deal with the Motion. I must say that, for my part, I do not see why the noble Viscount should be asked to withdraw his Motion. I think it would be perfectly proper for the House to adopt it, and for the Government to support that course. We shall not be understood by so doing to undertake to follow every detail of every plan which may have been outlined in my noble and gallant friend's speech, but, so far as the Motion is concerned, I consider, that it expresses in the most admirable terms what I believe we are quite united about. The Motion is moving for Papers, and asking His Majesty's Government "whether any progress has been made in considering the best means of strengthening the armed forces in Europe with a view to preventing war before it breaks out, and in particular whether they have considered the part air can play." I hope that your Lordships will think that I have given a straight answer to a straight question, and that the answer will be favourably received by the House. If the noble Viscount who moved would prefer that his Motion be treated as adopted, the Government raise no obstacle of any kind.

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, it only remains for me to thank the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack for his reply. I accept what he has said most gratefully, and I feel that, from my point of view, the course he has suggested meets what I have asked for. I am glad to hear that attention is to be paid to these ideas, and that we are going to go ahead with them. I will only add just this one word. I hope that, when the war comes to an end, this delicate plant may not suffer, as delicate plants sometimes do, from inattention. I hope that the Government will watch over it as a mother would watch over her child, and that it will be allowed to grow up in a healthy, strong and simple way. That is all I have to say on this matter.

On Question, Motion agreed to.