§ 4.33 p.m.
§ LORD CROFT rose to call attention to the strategic commitments of His Majesty's Government at home and overseas and the Forces necessary to fulfil those commitments; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I make no apology for raising the subject contained in the terms of my Motion at what we sometimes used to describe as "this late hour," because although we have been debating vital matters with such skill and interest in this House for the last three months, I feel sure your Lordships will all agree that there is no question which we can debate which is of such supreme importance to the future of this country as that of defence. My principal object in tabling my Motion is to ask his Majesty's Government to inform the public what is to be the shape of our national defences, in view of our 914 strategic commitments, the foreign policy which we are pursuing and the necessities of Imperial defence. What is the Government, in fact, asking of the Royal Navy, what of the Army and what of the Royal Air Force? The uncertain picture at the present time is having a disturbing effect, for it is difficult for the officers, and men in the various services to know exactly what prospects are held out to them; whether Forces will expand, or whether the axe may fall. Other Powers do not hesitate to tell the world where they stand and what their intentions are. I suggest that it is time that we in this country had a plan. I would like to ask the noble Lord who is going to reply for the Government how voluntary recruiting is going, and whether it is satisfactory in all three Services. That is something which I am sure your Lordships are anxious to know.
§ I would also like to ask, if it is not satisfactory, whether the noble Lord can give us the reason. Is it perhaps because the Government have given no guidance to the country as to the future, or is it perhaps that the conditions of service, improved as they undoubtedly are, are still not such as will attract the best recruits? I do not ask for specific details of actual distribution of the Forces, but I think that this House and the country are entitled to know what Forces and what formations we have to dispose next year, when the war-time Forces which have been built up over the recent years will have been dispersed. I want further to ask the noble Lord what are the strategic commitments for which those Forces are built up, in so far as the national interests permit him to disclose the facts. The Government would receive the confidence of the people, I am sure, if they would give us the facts. I think the country deserves to be told all that must now be known by His Majesty's Government. I submit that you cannot continue to ride off without a policy, as was done in another place. One was inclined to sum up the remarks of the Secretary of State as meaning that, on the matter of the Services, all he would say was: "Tar-baby, he say nuffink." I hope that the noble Lord when he replies will not assume the attitude of Brer Fox and say that he, too, is going to lie low. There is no doubt whatever that the hounds will soon know where he and his colleagues are, because there is a general insistence 915 by the nation to know what is the real position.
§ The Government cannot get away any longer with evasion and silence on this question. The great struggle for our existence must surely have convinced our countrymen, if it was necessary to do so, that we cannot any longer build up in a few weeks or months Forces to meet a world conflict. From the nature of the scientific advance which has taken place in the last few years in military affairs, it is clear that if war does come it will come upon us no longer with notice but as a bolt from the blue. I recall the constant votes against Service estimates between the wars and the strident calls for disarmament, irrespective of the armaments of other Powers, on the part of the then Opposition, and, although I hate to recall it, the failure of my own Party to stand up adequately to the storm of pacifism which they met in Parliament, in the pulpit, on the platform and in bye-elections from all those who believed that collective security was an alternative to armaments and who put their faith in international forces which did not exist at that time, instead of recognizing that adequate armaments are an essential pre-requisite to collective security.
§ I have not the smallest doubt that the motives of those who gambled with our fate were in many cases sincere, but in the light of events and having regard to the hairbreadth escape we had from utter disaster and servitude, from which we were only saved by brilliant leadership—and here perhaps I may be permitted to say how we rejoice at seeing the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, here this afternoon as one of the members of this House—by the valour of our fighting men, the staying power and determination of our people and the amazing contribution of the whole Commonwealth and Empire, we cannot again gamble with our fate. Memories in this country are proverbially short, but I cannot believe they are short enough to allow the continuance of drift in this world so full of inflammable material, and where, alas, co-operation and friendship are still so lacking in many quarters.
§ Let me run through one or two of the main anxieties which demand not only the strength and determination of our country, but, much more, preparedness and 916 a policy. Let me take first the outer defences of the Empire. As far afield as Malaya and Burma there is the rustling of unsettlement due to the chaotic results of the invasions of those great countries, and undoubtedly we shall require police forces in all those areas until this transitory stage has passed. Then there is the immense problem of Palestine which, so long as it remains the scene of enmity between two great conflicting interests, must require something much more than mere policing. In Palestine gratitude seems to be eliminated on both sides, yet the whole of the inhabitants of that country owe all they have to British strategic policy in the past. One might imagine that the armed might of Great Britain had never rescued that country from the Turkish yoke and that our fighting men had never really entered into the great conflict in Europe and liberated so many people. Surely we must realize that but for that fact the unhappy lot of the Jews now on the Continent of Europe would have been far worse and that they would have been confronted with perhaps complete and final extinction. That is what the armed forces of Great Britain and of the Commonwealth Empire did above everything else. In their wonderful victory they undoubtedly saved great masses of people from complete starvation and from death.
§ Again the liberation and new life of the Arab and Moslem world in the whole of the Middle East were due to British victories in two great wars. Arab unity was only possible under the shelter of British arms. The Arabs of North and East Africa were only recently lifted out of bondage, and but for British arms the Egyptians, as I think every student will agree, would to-day be the slaves of Mussolini and Hitler. These great services to Jew and Arab and to the Middle East in general are, I think your Lordships will agree, a glorious page in our military strategic history, and might, one would have hoped, have earned the undying gratitude of all the inhabitants of that great area. Instead, by our effort to be fair and impartial, we are the butt of extremists on both sides, and British soldiers and airmen, the shield of peace, to whom so much is owed, are assassinated, insulted and kidnapped. These events have culminated in the last few days in what has been described as "foul murder" even by their own compatriots, and this awful tragedy, involving the loss 917 of so many innocent lives of great public servants, has horrified not only this country but the whole world. It is a painful picture, but with such inflammable material it is not to be denied that there is the possibility of a new war in that area, and the power of British arms alone can stay great bloodshed, misery and disaster. If that is so, then I ask the Government whether we are adequately prepared and armed to preserve peace in Palestine and in the Middle East and for the defence of Egypt.
§ Then we have the problem of India. With the rights or wrongs of the policy upon which the Government has embarked I do not intend to deal this afternoon, because it would be quite inappropriate to do so. For what they were worth, my warnings were uttered ten years ago in another place. We must face up to the fact that it is possible, and indeed probable, that the great Indian Army, built up over such long years of endeavour and sacrifice, may no longer be at our disposal for the preservation of world peace and that our whole strategic balance may consequently be upset. I hope my fears in that respect may prove to be groundless and that the wonderful military partnership of Britain and the fighting men of India may be preserved to write yet further glorious pages in their common history. Meanwhile the cleavage between Moslem and Hindu in India is so volcanic in character that you cannot be absolutely certain that Hindu and Moslem soldiers, who have learned the science of war, will in all events remain at peace with each other. It was, as your Lordships so well know, the military genius of this country which blended the many races of India into a great and efficient army, an army which threw the Japanese back from the Indian frontier, destroyed that Japanese army in Burma and thus saved India for freedom. Whilst this great experiment of self-government is proceeding the peace of that great subcontinent must still, it seems to me, depend on the Pax Britannica and that is the protection provided by His Majesty's Government. I would ask whether the Government are satisfied that our scattered and small British forces in India are adequate to protect life in the transition stage.
§ Then we come to Europe and the occupation of the British zone in Germany. Can the Government tell us how many 918 troops we have available there, and can they give us an indication into what formations they are organized and how they are equipped for emergencies? Can they also tell us what is the strength of the forces of our Allies in the American and Russian zones and what forces of occupation there are in Austria, Hungary, Roumania and the Baltic States? If these vast forces, especially those of Russia, are necessary to keep the peace in Central Europe, are the Government quite certain that our forces are adequate in Western Germany? If, as we all pray, U.N.O. is going to be a great and enduring instrument for peace, it is now admitted I think on all sides that there must be a large international force behind it, and I ask His Majesty's Government what is to be our contribution. To wait on foreign countries before we do anything is surely dangerous. It is for the British Government to decide what is to be the maximum contribution we can make to the common defence of the world.
§ Clearly, if we are to count as a great power in U.N.O. and to have any influence, we must hare far larger forces than we can secure under any voluntary system. If, on the other hand, which God forbid, any one Power or group of Powers break up U.N.O., then the menace to world peace will be so dangerous and immediate that we must have even larger forces than would otherwise be necessary. I should like to congratulate His Majesty's Government in that they are sufficiently realists to have decided to continue, at any rate for the present, the system of universal service, for without it in this menacing situation which we see in so many parts of the world we should be simply courting disaster. We are a small people in these days of immense populations—population sometimes armed and organized for war. I was distressed to read in the reports of the Dominion consultations how little was achieved in promoting a real Commonwealth and Empire Defence, for unless the Commonwealth is prepared to pool its resources for the defence of peace I see no guarantee of safety for this country or for any other country within the Commonwealth system. Indeed, I see no hope for the world unless the Commonwealth is united and strong, and we can have lasting understanding with like-minded free nations. It seems to me that the Government have failed woefully in grasping the nettle, and we 919 appear to be sliding away from that remarkable Imperial comradeship which existed in all the theatres of war to a laissez-faire defence, which might lead ultimately to obliteration in detail.
§ No conceivable Regular Army can insure us against a major peril of the kind that we have twice been through in the last twenty-five years. It is obvious that we must have the machinery for immediate expansion. Surely the Government have by now made up their mind on the subject of a Territorial Army. I know they have said there will be a Territorial Army, and I am not going to suggest they should actually start training to-day, or to-morrow or this year, because warriors, however keen and patriotic, are bound to be stale after seven years of war, and they need a respite. But to list officers and to select the commanding officers of the various units which, are contemplated, to set up the skeleton framework on which can be built the main structure and to allocate districts and counties to definite formations is essential if we are not to see the best material dispersed perhaps never to be regarnered into the military effort.
§ Beyond all this I cannot help wondering whether we are completely up to date in the latest use of Army air co-operation in the strategical and tactical use of military power. I have always had this subject very near to my heart. I remember in the winter of 1916, or in the spring of 1917, when I had the honour to serve in His Majesty's Army in France, I had the presumption to send a memorandum to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff at that time, Field-Marshal Sir William Robertson. I urged him then that it was worth while immediately considering building 1,000 transport aeroplanes in order to land troops behind the enemy line in those bloody battles of fixed positions, and attack the enemy artillery from the rear in synchronization with the main frontal attack. That could not be done because we were busy building bombers. I remember a few years after I had a letter from the C.I.G.S. in which he pointed out to me that two Companies had that day been flown from Cairo to suppress riots in Palestine. He said that my dream had at least come true to a small degree.
§ The remarkable feats of our airborne infantry in Burma, and later the immortal 920 story of Arnhem have demonstrated for all time that this form of operation of Army air co-operation so brilliantly executed by the British Army has come to stay. To-day, more than ever, we must look to the airborne punch as the solution of our scattered world-wide problems. Only by such means, in my belief, can we concentrate the essential forces at vital points with the greatest economy of time. Have the Government provided the Army now with the means of thus using our slender military power? Have they the plans? If so, may we be informed of the state of their preparations in this vital matter as well as with regard to armaments? The time has gone by, I think, when we can go on reiterating, as was done by one of His Majesty's Ministers in another place, that these matters are still under consideration. Defence, after all, is more vital than ease or affluence, and I humbly submit far more important than experimenting with the economic, industrial and financial life of this nation. It is on defence that all our minds should be concentrated, and unless we learn that the plans are complete and satisfactory I go so far as to say that we really ought not to adjourn until we have an assurance that the plan is complete; otherwise, our foreign policy, as sometimes in the past, must fail to achieve its fruitful results.
§ I would urge your Lordships not to allow any consideration of the atom bomb or any new devilish products of science to deflect Parliament from the minimum of proved safety in defence. Remember that new weapons frequently lead their champions to imagine vain things. I always remember after the South African war that most knowledgeable people used to tell me that in all future wars mounted infantry would be the one thing that counted, and they would dominate all future wars. In 1914 I think it will be recalled mounted infantry were useless, and were certainly never employed. After the last war, we were told by some that infantry had been put completely out of date by the advent of that wonderful British invention, the tank. Armour, of course, in the recent war proved vital. But without infantry to fill the gaps and to consolidate the ground gained by armour we certainly could not have exploited the use of our armour, and again and again the shortage of infantry nearly led to disaster, especially at Caen, where 921 we saw the greatest assembly of German armour ever used anywhere. It was an assembly against the British Expeditionary Force on a small front, but it was broken and defeated by the British armies.
§ With the arrival of V1, many shook their heads and told us that nothing could meet this weapon. Its effect was almost miraculously countered by our Ack-Ack artillery and fighter co-operation, but it was British infantry and armour which finally destroyed the launching sites in the Pas des Calais and in Holland. Science found it impossible to counter V2, and it was only when the Expeditionary Force landed and captured the sites from which the rockets were fired that we could breathe again, although in both cases our bombers did great work in breaking up the rhythm of attack. Again, a large number of people told us that with the advent of airpower the day of the battleship was over. I am not going to enter into that controversy, but I think that no one who has studied the strategy of the 1939–1945 war can deny that the presence of a single battleship frequently dominated naval operations over vast expanses of the ocean.
§ While we pray that the atom bomb may be effectively eliminated from war by the united wisdom of the nations, so long as it is a menace unsolved no Power can sit down to be destroyed by this new force. Just as with V2, the only complete solution as yet may be to attack and defeat the Power using it on its own soil, in its own harbours and in its own skies. To counter any weapon, new or old, this ocean-linked Empire cannot rely on security without the most modern equipment and highly trained Forces on sea, on land and in the air. Therefore, I say that the country must be told where we stand. Foreign Powers, if they have the usual intelligence services such as we knew them to have in the past, must know all about what forces we have, and probably the precise formations which we have in being. Why should we deny that information to our own country? The country should know what we are aiming at, and what is the shape of the forces and the broad principles of policy upon which we are working. Twice in twenty-five years, as your Lordships are poignantly aware, we saw the absolute flower of our people wiped out and the most brilliant of our sons taken from us. We owe it to their treasured 922 memories to see that never again shall we fight the trained hordes of tyrants unprepared and ill-equipped. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 5.6 p.m.
My Lords, in supporting this Motion I should like to direct your Lordships' attention to the strategic commitments which will fall particularly on His Majesty's Navy. It is with some diffidence that I raise this matter because I am aware of the number of distinguished Admirals who are members of your Lordships' House. The eclipse of Japan has produced a profound change in the balance of power in a very large area of the Pacific, and I think there is little doubt that we are faced with entirely new strategic commitments which must be largely bound up with a combination of naval and air power, and, of course, military power as well, but on a limited scale. The Western Powers have great responsibilities in the Pacific, and we must not fall behind in taking care of our obligations. American foreign policy, like that of Russia, has entered upon an entirely new and vital phase. The Naval Affairs Committee of the United States House of Representatives have recently made it quite clear that they are in favour of complete strategic domination of the Pacific by America, and they have suggested that America should have control over the former Japanese mandated islands—the Marshalls, the Carolinas and the Marianas—and have also asked for specific and substantial rights to sites where they have set up bases during the late war.
In January, 1944, as, no doubt, many of your Lordships will remember, an agreement, which is still in force, was signed between Australia and New Zealand with a view to co-ordination of foreign policy with special reference to the Pacific, and there is little doubt that those two countries are fully alive to the focus of world power which is now centred in this area, and which is daily becoming more and more complex. I am sure that many of us who sit on this side of the House are anxious to know from His Majesty's Government what forces are to be made available, and how they are to be disposed in order to maintain our influence in the Pacific, and to fulfil our obligations. It might be said that the setting down of this Motion is a little premature, on the grounds that the 923 atomic bomb tests are incomplete, and that the forces necessary to fulfil our obligations may have to undergo a profound change when the full results become known. But what is happening to the Navy before these results have become apparent and have been analyzed? The fact is that we are again exhibiting all the signs of precipitate naval disarmament which occurred after the first world war, and we are doing this before the atomic bombs tests have become fully known and analyzed. The results of these tests may well show that fleets are by no means obsolete.
What is happening to our fleet? The proposed battleships "Lion," "Thunderer," "Conqueror" and "Temeraire" have been cancelled. The "War-spite" is to be scrapped, while the "Malaya," "Ramillies," "Resolution" and "Revenge" are to be turned into floating barracks. "The Royal Sovereign" has been transferred to Russia, and I understand that the "Queen Elizabeth," "Valiant," "Nelson," "Rodney" and "Renown" are to be reduced to training ships. Our battleship fleet will then consist of only five battleships in active service, which will include the "Vanguard," "King George V," "Duke of York," "Anson" and "Howe." How do we fare in cruisers? Before the war we had sixty-four cruisers, and the United States had thirty-five. Now this position is reversed; while we have thirty-eight underage cruisers, the Americans have seventy-four. Numbers of proposed new destroyers have been cancelled, and of the forty "battle class" laid down, I believe only half are to be completed, and only four of the new "weapon class" of destroyers will go into service.
Most of the capital ships are old and worn out, but what has happened to our replacement policy? It may be wise to hold our hand a little longer with regard to the replacement of battleships, but a replacement policy for aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers is still vitally necessary. At the present rate of naval disarmament, the fleet will very shortly be in the same state that it was at the time of the Munich crisis. I hope that His Majesty's Government will be able to assure your Lordships that a replacement policy is not to be neglected, and certainly not because of the possible implications of atomic warfare. And now let us see 924 what Russia is doing. Some of your Lordships may have read in the Press that a recent report in the Journal of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party stated that:Our shipbuilding yards are turning out more and more naval vessels, and our naval schools are training men for a mighty navy.It does not appear from that that Russia proposes to rely only on atomic weapons. She is not going to neglect her other weapons.
When the war ended aeroplanes without pilots had been used to carry explosives. Bombs had been dispatched by rocket at the touch of a button. It may well be that atomic bombs may never be dispatched at all in another war unless the members of the human race want complete extinction. During the last war the world was worried about the possibility of gas warfare, but it was never used. The same thing might happen with atomic weapons in a new war; but that does not mean that we should neglect our Navy because of this atomic weapon. I propose to make one comparison between our fleet in the Pacific and that of America. The American fleet consists of five battleships, eleven fleet aircraft carriers, twenty-eight cruisers and some ninety-eight destroyers. Our Pacific fleet, I believe, consists of two light aircraft carriers, four cruisers, and eight destroyers. I hope this force is to be increased in the near future. I am not in any way suggesting that we should be in competition with America, but I feel strongly that it is essential for us to have a strong fleet, not only to show the flag in the Pacific but to fulfil our great obligations and to keep faith with those free nations of the Commonwealth who look to us for guidance and support in naval policy.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, I do not intend to follow my noble friend Lord Croft in the survey of the strategic requirements of the present time. It is quite plain that they are very considerable, and that they are likely to remain considerable. In fact, I do not think that for a long time we shall reach that static period of peace which is referred to at intervals in various official statements. It is also plain that there never was a time when our foreign policy more required the backing of our Armed Forces to enable us to meet our commitments. 925 It is no doubt true to say that although we can see heavy and serious commitments over a short-term period we are unable to look far into the future, and it might be argued that therefore it is not reasonable for us to expect His Majesty's Government to draw up a long-term plan for the Armed Forces of the Crown. I can imagine that the Treasury would lend a certain amount of support to that view. They would be pleased if other Departments took the view that they could not plan, so that the Treasury would not be asked for any money.
But the moment we allow such a view as that to be adopted we find ourselves in a vicious circle. The Army needs planning for a much longer term than some people suppose. It needs a much longer view than that shown in the White Paper recently published on the call-up for the next two years. There are two factors which I want to stress rather particularly. They are both new since the time of Cardwell and Haldane. The first is that the Army, and particularly its leaders, technicians and specialists, requires very much more training than did the volunteer Army before 1914. The second is that in these days no second line forces are of the slightest use unless they are all set in practically instant readiness for war. In the time of the Cardwell scheme and of the Haldane scheme the General Staff could assume that there was a period of six months during which this island would be defended by the British Navy, while our second-line Forces had time to train. There were then no aeroplanes. Those two things of course are obvious, and I apologize for mentioning them, but I think they cannot be said too often, because they do involve us in making preparations which are much more firm and definite, much more serious, than those needed before 1914.
What steps appear to have been taken so far? I say "appear to have been taken," because I am only quoting from what has been published. In these days, when the Opposition Parties are not represented on the Committee of Imperial Defence, no one on these Benches has any access to confidential information which might reassure us—or alarm us. The published statements are two. The first is the White Paper on the Call-Up to the Forces in 1947 and 1948. That deals with the 926 immediate strategic commitments, and it deals with them very fairly. There is very little in that White Paper which I can criticize. In fact, there are several things which I welcome, particularly the announcement that the Auxiliary Territorial Service is to be continued. So far, so good. That White Paper takes us to the middle of 1950, provided it is not altered, because those people who are called up at the end of 1948 will be in the Forces up the summer of 1950.
The other pronouncement is contained in a speech by the Secretary of State for War in another place on June 27 last. I do not wish to quote that speech in detail. I am not sure that I should be in order if I did. There seemed to me to be three points which emerged from that speech. The first is that the Army has not returned its its peace-time status; the second is that the professional Army can in no sense meet our requirements if a war should come; and the third, that the Territorial Army is to be reconstructed from among those people who offer themselves. I make a point of those words "who offer themselves." I do not want to go into the details of that speech, but I would like to mention two points. First, I should be lacking in gratitude if I did not express my appreciation of what was said about the Army Cadet Force, and secondly, I notice with interest what I may call the rosy sunset of Army welfare and Army education with which that speech closed.
But I was quite unable to discover in that speech, even by reading between the lines, any words which led me to think that any of the proposals outlined have received Treasury sanction or Cabinet approval. I hope very much that those excellent sentiments and those excellent plans for Army welfare and Army education may soon be brought to fruition, and that the noble Lords opposite will not be content with "No" for an answer, whether it comes from the Ministry of Works, the Treasury, or anybody else, but will see that the barrack building programme, and all that goes with it, is properly implemented and that financial provisions are properly made.
I apologize for that excursion and I come back to the three main points of the debate on June 27. As I said, the White Paper deals with the immediate situation. It does not deal with enlistment in the Regular Forces nor does it deal fully with the Auxiliary Forces. 927 This question of enlistment in the Regular Forces and the taking of Commissions by young officers is an absolutely vital matter for the Forces. If we go wrong with our young officers we shall have no commanding officers of the right type in twenty-five years' time. In thirty-five or forty years' time we shall have no Generals. If we go wrong with the men in the ranks, in fifteen years' time we shall have no decent warrant officers and sergeants. I am not at all sure that this Regular recruiting is going right. We have a Motion on the Order Paper which may come up after the Recess and we shall come back to that question of recruitment to the Forces.
Let us look at the auxiliary Forces. An announcement has been made that the Territorial Army is to be restricted to those people who offer themselves, which I take to mean to some extent is a return to the volunteer system. I wonder how that is going to meet the requirement which I mentioned just now, of adequate training and readiness for war. I want to be quite fair. I admit that people who are enlisted now, and who have done the proper primary and corps training during the war, will be fully trained. But I want to think a year or two ahead, and of what we are going to do when we have to ask people to join the Territorial Army Who have not had the advantage of proper training under one of these compulsory schemes.
Fortunately this matter is not a question of politics or opinion; it is very largely a question of fact. We can see quite plainly what happened before the last war under a scheme of voluntary enlistment. I take the figures from the Army Estimates of, I think, 1938–39, which tell me that the peace establishment for 1939 was 246,379 all ranks, excluding permanent staff. The strength on January 1, 1939, was 204,009. So you see, without taking account of the increase from peace establishment to war establishment, without any reserve for wastage at the outbreak of war, we were still 45,000 down out of less than 250,000.
That is the actual strength compared to the peace establishment. I want to make that point very plainly, because it quite clearly indicates to me, and perhaps to your Lordships, that we are not likely to do very much better than we did before 928 the last war, because these figures are taken at a time after Munich. I want to ask His Majesty's Government as straightly as I can, on what calculations have they based the idea that a Territorial Army in the old shape is going to meet the conditions of the present time? May I put it in another way? This announcement in another place has brought the story of the British Army to a parting of the ways. The announcement might well—I hope it will—turn out to be a foundation for something which is realistic—really adapted to the needs of training for battle, and really adapted to the requirement of readiness for war. Or it may turn out to be a reversion to the bad old ways, in which case, as I say, the facts are before us for all to see.
My noble friend in front of me said just now that it is not a question of Party. There is no point to be gained in deciding who was the more to blame, the people who made proposals which were not big enough, or the people who voted against the proposals, small though they were. To my mind, that is not interesting at the present time. What is interesting is the opportunity which lies before His Majesty's Government and before the War Office to build an Army which is technically and morally capable and properly equipped, both in its Regular and its Auxiliary Forces, for instant readiness for war, and which therefore affords a proper backing to the efforts of our Foreign Secretary, which we so much admire at the present time. May I conclude by saying that His Majesty's Government and the Secretary of State for War are very fortunate in that the noble Viscount who was introduced to your Lordships' House this afternoon has succeeded the noble Viscount, Lord Alanbrooke, because they can be assured of continuity of the soundest possible General Staff advice.
Nineteen years ago I had the privilege of sitting under Lord Montgomery as an instructor at the Staff College, and there he taught that attack was a methodical progression from objective to objective. It is common knowledge that he has never wavered from that conception of battle, and it has been given to few to put his teaching into practice in so brilliant a manner as he has. I would only ask that His Majesty's Government should proceed methodically in the building up of the post-war Army from objective to objective, 929 and perhaps I might say that if they do so they will find my noble friends on these Benches even more helpful than they usually are.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
My Lords, any member of your Lordships' House who intervenes on the subject of defence in a debate in this House does so with a certain temerity, because he rises with the awareness that there are present many noble Lords who have an immense weight of experience, and what he utters has to be weighed against that experience. Therefore, I should be presumptions if I detained your Lordships for more than a minute or two in this debate. But I intervene because of my conviction that the subject under discussion is one of prime importance, and when I say "prime" I mean it in the literal sense of the word, because I am sure that it is the first task of any Government, whatever its complexion, to be certain that its defence policy is sound. When I read the report of a debate in another place, I saw that a Member of that House said it was useless for a community to debate the method of cultivation of its fields unless it was certain that the sea-wall was sound and could not be breached. I think that is an excellent simile. It is useless for us to dispute and argue—as we sometimes do—about the various methods of cultivation unless we are certain we can cultivate our fields in peace.
There are two points about the British Commonwealth and Empire which I believe are worthy of note. The first is that in two great world-wide wars it has emerged victorious; and the second is that it has failed to prevent those wars. It is the function of His Majesty's Government to do their utmost to prevent another war. They must do so, in my humble opinion, by seeing that the organization of our defences is adequate and that we cannot be surprised. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, who spoke just before me, referred to the state of readiness of our Forces, and that seems to me to be a matter of particular importance in the present circumstances.
"Blitzkrieg" is a word of German origin, but it has caught on because of its topicality. We realize now that the time for preparation is very short, and it follows, therefore, that if we wish to prevent a potential aggressor from yielding 930 to the temptation of attacking, our preparations must be in a very forward state. The longer it takes us to prepare after war has started, the greater the potential dividend to an aggressor. The responsibility which rests upon His Majesty's Government now is therefore a very heavy one. I am disturbed because from the published statements so far I am unable to detect that the Government very fully realize that, in order to conduct a foreign policy which is adequate for the situation, you must have a force in being—as well as a potential force—which is capable of supporting that foreign policy. We must see that in the most economical method possible we organize our war potential now.
The British Commonwealth and Empire I conceive can be in a peculiarly strong position in the circumstances of modern war. Any major war in which this country has been engaged has become a global war. That is a truism which is not sufficiently often realized. If we become engaged in a great war, by reason of our resources and our sea-borne communications it necessarily becomes a global war, because this country can stick it out until (and the day has never come) our communications are cut. But under modern conditions this country must, in any European war, be in the front line. We must therefore see to it that there is a dispersal not only of our military forces but of our productive capacity. If we ensure now, in peace-time, that the dividend to accrue from attacking this country is not immediate victory but must involve a long and arduous war, then we shall have done much to prevent the aggressor from ever embarking upon his aggression. Our defence is not an insular matter; it is an Imperial matter, and I realize that in touching upon this subject I am treading on delicate ground. The British Commonwealth is an organization of sovereign nations, and sovereign nations naturally do not wish to prejudice the conduct of their foreign policy by giving pledges in defence beforehand. I am equally certain, however, that that is not a reason for doing nothing. There are many directions in which we can consult the Dominions, in collaboration, in our production, in exchanging information, and in being certain that if the British Commonwealth of Nations is involved in war we can use the utmost economy of effort, and will not have to do, as, for example, 931 we had to do in the last war—take rifles over to the Canadian Forces in order that they can bring them back again to fight in Europe.
What disturbs me about the only pronouncement on defence policy which we have had, apart from the debate in another place—I refer to the White Paper issued in February—is what I might call the procrastinating attitude which it displays. It says:This is not the time to come to decisions about the eventual shape of our post-war Forces. The great strides made in the realm of science and technology, including the production of atomic bombs, cannot fail to affect the make-up of our Forces. Time is wanted for the full effects of these startling developments to be assessed.In the meantime we have to conduct a foreign policy, as one of the noble Lords has pointed out, so it is never possible to make final decisions in defence policy; all these decisions are interim and subject to revision, and the more closely they are examined and the more often revised, the better the organization. I do implore His Majesty's Government—and I say this not in any Party spirit—not to delay their decision, but to come to some decision now about the organization of our postwar Forces.
In coming to that decision they must analyze our commitments, and when they have analyzed our commitments they must, without fear or favour, without paying attention to any pre-conceived notions or Party theories or pledges, see that those Forces are adequate to fulfil those commitments. I would particularly draw your Lordships' attention to the last paragraph of that White Paper. It says:
§ "Collaboration with the Dominions in defence.
§ "During the war, collaboration with the Dominions and India has been comprehensive, continuous, and effective. The long accepted principle whereby His Majesty's Forces throughout the Empire have been trained, organized, and equipped on the same basis, proved its value in the easy and whole-hearted co-operation which took place by sea, land, and air, in all theatres of war, between men and women of many races. Behind the Forces, collaboration in the field of scientific and technical development, and in the production of munitions and supplies of all kinds, was equally close and thorough."
§ If we are to prevent another war, we must not wait for the development of that collaboration until the first shot is fired. I believe a unique responsibility rests upon 932 the Government of this country, because although the Dominions and ourselves rank equally in our Commonwealth, nevertheless the Dominions still look to us for a lead and initiative. I do implore His Majesty's Government to inform the people of this country of what they think needful, and I have no doubt that, whatever conclusions they come to, provided the nation is given the facts, every man and woman in this country will loyally provide what is required.
§ 5.36 p.m.
My Lords, I cannot help deploring the fact that the noble and gallant Viscount who joined us this afternoon for the first time has not been able to remain in the House and make what undoubtedly would have been a vastly important and extremely interesting contribution to the debate. I have no doubt that he is barred from doing so by one of those ridiculous traditions to which we are slaves, which says that the C.I.G.S. when in office may not speak in either House of Parliament. It would have been very interesting and very illuminating to have heard what he had to say on this subject. I would like to ask the Government one or two questions. One I would like to ask in particular is whether they have yet made up their minds that they are going to get out of the Middle East, including Palestine, as they intimated some time ago was their intention, or whether they intend to remain.
The importance of that question is this. Your Lordships will remember that we had a debate on Middle East affairs in this House at the end of May, and in that debate, though only fools prophesy, I was rash enough to predict that immediately following upon this announcement of our proposed total evacuation of our troops from Egypt there would be an outburst of insolence and rioting from the Egyptians and their neighbours. The words were hardly out of my mouth when there was an outrage in Alexandria, and now we have this more serious affair in Palestine. I find it difficult to speak with any moderation at all about that, because I know the King David Hotel, having lived and worked there for many months, far better than I know this Chamber. The full casualty list has not yet been published, but I knew a number of those men; I know the great work they have done and the immense debt that we, the 933 Jews and, for that matter, the Arabs owe to them. Many of them are Englishmen and a large proportion of them, I am proud to say, are Irishmen. Now it appears that a great many of them, including the Deputy Chief Secretary and Mr. Wash, the economic adviser, are dead. It is indeed a poor return for the asylum which we in this country have been proud to offer to Jews from Europe through the centuryés, that they should murder not only entirely innocent men and women but people who have built up their country during the last twenty-five years.
We have had a most interesting debate this afternoon on financial matters, with a speech from the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. It may interest some of your Lordships to know that one of the very few countries in the world which has succeeded in balancing its Budget, and not merely in balancing its Budget but in having a revenue considerably in excess of its expenditure, is Palestine. That fact, of course, is due, and due solely, to the admirable administration of Palestinian affairs by the British Government—or rather by the Palestinian Government, but through our people—over the last quarter of a century. It is all very well for American Congressmen to sneer at us and to pretend that they could govern India with one hand and Palestine with the other, but from some personal knowledge of that country I may tell your Lordships that it is an extremely difficult place with which to deal. The complexities of the problem are immense.
I want to ask the Government this afternoon whether they are really going to continue this insane policy of trying to administer this Mandate with no more force at their command than a handful of policemen, armed with truncheons and paid £20 a month with all found. It cannot be done. In another place last night Mr. Attlee gave voice to sentiments (with which every one of your Lordships would wish to be associated) of horror, grief and consternation at this dastardly outrage; but why was something not done to avert it? Can the Government, can Mr. Attlee, can the British military authorities, really divest themselves of responsibility for it? I say categorically that they cannot. They had ample warning; they saw what has happened in Egypt and they knew of the murderous attacks on policemen and other authorities 934 during the last few months. It must have been perfectly obvious to them that the time would come when pot-shots at policemen would be followed by a major outrage such as we have now had. Was anything done to prevent it, to anticipate it, or to deal with it? Not a thing.
It appears to me that the time has arrived when the British Government really must make up their minds and formulate some definite policy on this question. They must put enough armoured divisions into Palestine to take care of the place. After all, it is a very small country. There may be 100,000 Jews in Tel-Aviv but the country can be controlled if you have enough armed force. In fairness to our compatriots out there, many of whom have not been home for years and who have slaved there all through the war, you must either get out or give them protection. Soft words are all very well, but soft words here and curfews in Palestine are not enough; something else must be done. We are under a very serious obligation to protect our compatriots in the Middle East from this sort of thing.
When I was in the Middle East in 1942 there was very little of this. We then had the Axis at our doors, and the Jews and the Arabs—I draw no distinction between them as regards trouble making; I am not an anti-Semite at all—were comparatively quiet. They behaved themselves because they knew that in British arms lay their only hope of being saved from the Germans. Therefore they behaved themselves; but now, having saved both Egypt and Palestine from being overrun by the Axis, what is our reward? The King David Hotel. That hotel is both a military headquarters and an hotel. That in itself is a piece of unutterable folly which ought to be remedied immediately, because at present any Tom, Dick or Harry, Jew or Arab, the man carrying the laundry or anyone you like, can and does walk into that hotel without let or hindrance. It is scarcely surprising that, these men having got into the building, these things occur. It is just as though you could go freely into the Palace of Westminster and find this particular Chamber heavily guarded. The futility of that is obvious to anybody who thinks about it at all. General Barker, the local officer commanding, is reported to have said that he had long wished to have this aspect of the matter put right but could 935 get no help or support in his desire to do so That may or may not be accurate.
But think about it as you must and feel about it as you will, it appears to be perfectly clear that unless some action, and some quick action, is taken, and unless we stop merely talking and praying and saying how sorry we are, there are going to be further outbursts of a far graver nature, both in Egypt and Palestine, and the whole place will go up like a volcano. The Government have been warned about this not once but half a dozen times, and I suggest to them that unless they pay some attention to those warnings and send out sufficient troops and air squadrons—and if necessary the Navy—to take care of the situation, they will be taking upon their shoulders a responsibility which I personally would not care to take upon mine. Either they must do that or they must get out. I do not mean by that that the Government must get out, but that they must evacuate the Middle East, as they have said they are going to do. They must do one thing or the other; they must stand and fight, do the job properly and suppress, once and for all, this terrorism which is making us the laughing stock of the world, or give the whole thing up.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I do not intend to follow the noble Lord who has just spoken except to say that Palestine is, of course, a very serious commitment. This Motion standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Croft is, I think, of vital importance. I am sorry that the House is empty; I am sorry that important people are prevented from coining and taking part; I am sorry that those who have had great experience in this war and who are now members of your Lordships' House are precluded from coming here to speak on a Motion such as this, on which they could give of their great experience. I am of the 1914–18 war and not of the last war, but I was more than pleased to hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley who was one of your Lordships who fought in the front line in this war, and also the speeches of the two other noble Lords who spoke. I feel that you could extend this subject to an unlimited extent and would get nowhere. Therefore I am not going to follow any of the lines that have been followed.
936 The first part of the Motion calls attention to the strategic commitments of His Majesty's Government at home and overseas. I have not heard many of them mentioned yet. Although we do not know the full commitments, we know some, and I hope the noble Lord is going to tell us what those commitments are which are certain. Palestine is one which will go on for some considerable time. The second part of the Motion calls attention to the Forces necessary to fulfil those commitments. One noble Lord spoke of the question of administration, how to get officers trained and how to do the training, but that is, to my mind, outside the terms of this Motion. The Forces necessary to meet those commitments are vital. Surely the first thing we have to consider is what are our resources and what are the overriding points about those resources. Surely we are short of man-power, of raw materials and of time. All the rest is only addition, but those are the three things the British Empire will be short of in another twenty years and is short of to-day. I will repeat them: man-power, raw materials, and time. What is the most efficient and economical way to meet the deficiency both in man-power and raw materials, and what is quickest in time? The White Paper, which was quoted by the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, says:This is not the time to come to decisions about the eventual shape of our post-war forces. The production of atomic bombs cannot fail to affect the make up of our Forces.Whatever you may say about that, it is the future and not the present we must consider. I will take a period of fifteen to twenty years, and I make bold to say in the hearing of such a great scientist as the noble Lord who sits here that there is not the slightest doubt that the atom bomb has done one thing only at present, and will have done only one thing in fifteen years—that is, to make the air more important than it has ever been before. In twenty years the V2 rocket will not be any more efficient or any more accurate than it is to-day, and no scientist will tell you that it will be made quite efficient in that time. When it is, the Air Force may be as out of date as many other things are to-day and were at the beginning of this war. I will not name them.
Now I come to two remarks made this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Croft. 937 If he had not made them I should not be speaking at this moment. There were also some remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham to which I would refer. They talked about battleships and aircraft-carriers. I think the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, even went so far as to say that the Navy and the Air Force were more important than ever and the Army only important to a limited extent. There is not the slightest doubt that with air power the Army is more important than it has ever been before with its airborne forces. The Navy, I fear, has come to the point of being mere sea transportation. In transportation the air every day is going further and further. It has greater range, greater power and greater economy in man-power and raw materials. When I hear it said that aircraft carriers are necessary, I think there are no airmen, and, indeed, very few other people, who do not consider that they are a passing phase. With the range of aircraft increasing it is of more convenience to operate from the shore.
I warned this House, if I may say so, before this war, of what was happening, and If say now that the war was unnecessarily prolonged. I say to-day that you do not realize what is the most efficient weapon. You have to realize what is the weapon which will be the most economical in man-power, in raw material and in time. If we could provide everything by all means let us provide everything, but we cannot do so. I did not come here armed with any notes, but when I heard some of the remarks which were made to-day I thought that I would try to put my views to the Government. The noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, has said that this subject is very important. I would say to the Government: "All your new political ideas will be of no value whatever if you do not look after this Empire in the most economical and efficient way during the next ten to twenty years. You have got it in your power to-day to do so. The whole country would welcome a decision."
Then we have to consider why men do not wish to join the Services. I still meet a large number of officers in all Services. They ask me, "Will the Government tell us what is going to be the form of service?" A lot of them who intended to take permanent Commissions do not do so because they ask, "Are we going back 938 into the old ways of the battleship and all the rest of the paraphernalia?" The Army is more important and vital to-day than it has ever been, because it will always be needed to go and "dig them out" even when there are all these scientific weapons. I beg the noble Lord to convey what I have, said to the Leader of the House. I hope we shall have a big debate on this question in the autumn.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (LORD NATHAN)
My Lords, I do not need to have impressed upon me, speaking for the Government, the importance and the magnitude of the problem with which we are confronted in this debate which opened with a speech of so much earnestness by the noble Lord, Lord Croft. It is a debate in which a part has been taken by members of your Lordships' House each of whom has had some experience, if not in this war, then in an earlier war, and a debate to which distinction has been added, by the contribution of the noble and gallant Viscount who has just spoken and who brings to matters of this kind so deep an experience and knowledge. The questions raised by this debate are of far-reaching importance in the whole field of national defence. The noble Lord, Lord Croft, invited me to expound Government policy on the military commitments with which we are faced, to state our ability to meet them, and also to give information about the size and nature of our post-war armed forces.
As far as our military commitments are concerned, I would refer the noble Lord to the Government statement relating to Defence issued as a White Paper, to which reference has already been made in particular by the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley. Your Lordships will recall that that White Paper gave an outline of the main military asks with which we were faced at the close of hostilities. We are still faced with responsibilities in ex-enemy territory and in most of the countries which were formerly under enemy occupation. It is clear that these are commitments which will continue until the Peace Treaties have been signed. In addition, we still have responsibilities in India, in the East and over the length and breadth of world-wide communications.
939 Your Lordships will understand that it would not be in the public interest for me to give figures describing our detailed strengths and dispositions in this transition period, and I have, therefore, nothing to add to the information which has already been published. In the same way, it would clearly be quite impossible for me to give figures of the strategic dispositions of our Allies. Government decisions on a matter of such grave importance as the size and nature of our post-war Armed Forces, can be reached only after most careful study has been given to the lessons of the recent war, and after extensive and scientific research into the nature of future weapons. The same joint staff machinery which was charged—not unsuccessfully, I think your Lordship will agree—with the study of the problems of our war-time strategy is now fully engaged in the study of the new and varied problems of our future security. Furthermore, I can certainly assure your Lordships that the Government are fully alive to the necessity of applying the advances of modern science to the design of the future Fighting Services. With this in view, the Government have already strengthened this machinery to take every advantage of the latest technical and scientific developments. Your Lordships need have no fear, for example, that in our future Army we shall fail to make use of the air-borne and armoured elements, which played such notable parts in the recent war. The need for auxiliary forces to provide the necessary backing for the Regular Forces, is also fully realized, and plans to reconstitute the Territorial Army are well advanced. Details will be announced when the structure and terms of service have been finally approved, which I hope will be after not too long a delay.
It has been suggested that uncertainty in these matters makes it difficult for officers and men in the three Services to know how they stand, and to plan their careers accordingly. Certainly, we should all like to be able to look into the future, and to see more clearly the shape of things to come. But I am sure that your Lordships will agree that the Government must not allow themselves to be rushed into deciding the shape of the Fighting Services without proper consideration of all the various factors. They are many, and they are important. Nevertheless, I can, for the Government, confidently assure 940 volunteers that the Services will provide good prospects as a career, and that, so far as humanly can be foreseen, no "axe" is likely to fall.
It is too early yet for the Government to say what will be the results of the current voluntary recruiting campaign, about which something has been said in the debate. I am bound, in frankness, to tell your Lordships that up to date they are a little disappointing, but one must take account of the psychological reactions at the end of six years of war, and of the fact that the majority of men who have been in the Forces during the war naturally wish to return to civil life—at all events for a period. I am glad to say, however, that there are now preliminary indications that the rate of voluntary recruiting is improving, and I am hopeful that this will continue. At this stage, I must emphasize the importance which the Government attach to the satisfactory completion and the fulfilment of the programme of voluntary recruiting.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
Will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting? It would be a great reassurance, I think, if the noble Lord could give us some figures. After all, the matter cannot be one of very great secrecy, because we now have a system of estimates. We should be very happy to know what are the reassuring elements to which the noble Lord refers.
§ LORD NATHAN
I must tell the noble Lord opposite, quite frankly, that it would not be in the public interest to give figures at this stage, and I am unable to do so. I come now to a further question which was asked in the debate: what is to be our contribution to the Forces which will be placed at the disposal of the United Nations? This is a matter which is now being studied by the Military Staff Committee of the United Nations Organization, and it is impossible for me to say what our contributions will be until that body has reached agreement on the size and nature of the Forces required. But your Lordships can rest assured that we shall be ready and willing to play our part as soon as we know what is wanted of us. I next come to the question of Commonwealth collaboration, upon which the noble Lord, Lord Croft, touched.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
Will the noble Lord forgive my interrupting him? 941 I should like to know whether what he has just said about our contribution to the Forces to be placed at the disposal of the United Nations means that the Government will have to wait until they know the size of the Forces for which the United Nations Organization will ask before they take any steps themselves to protect the interests of the British Empire. I should like to suggest that when we have made whatever dispositions are required to protect the Empire, the Forces thus disposed will then automatically go towards making up the Force required by U.N.O. Surely if we get ready at the present time to protect the Empire and do not wait, that would be a quicker way of accomplishing what we have in view.
§ LORD NATHAN
I was answering a specific question as to the United Nations Organization. I think the noble Viscount must have misunderstood me. Until we know the results of the studies which are now being conducted I cannot say what our commitments to the United Nations Organization will be. We do know that we shall be prepared to meet those commitments. What I have just said does not mean that, in the meanwhile, His Majesty's Government are supine as regards the re-organization of the Forces of the Crown. The contrary is the case. I was coming to the question of Commonwealth collaboration which was raised by Lord Croft, and referred to by other noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Croft, seemed, if I judged what he said aright, to be disappointed with the results of the recent meeting of Dominion Prime Ministers. Let me tell him at once that the Government were not disappointed. The Government feel that they have no grounds at all to be disappointed.
There was, in fact, a very full and free exchange of information and views on the question of defence, and I think that all the Dominion Prime Ministers, without exception, went away recognizing to the full how heavy is the share borne by the United Kingdom in defence, and determined to consider, in the light of this, what their own preparations for defence should be. There was a very useful exchange of views, too, on the question of the machinery through which matters of defence should be discussed, and the Government very much hope that this will lead to satisfactory arrangements for mutual co-operation. 942 Your Lordships will appreciate that at a time when the Dominion Governments concerned are considering these matters, it is impossible for me to give details.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
Might I interrupt the noble Lord to say how glad we are to hear that His Majesty's Government are reassured as to the conclusions of the Dominion Prime Ministers? But could not wider publicity be given to that feeling of reassurance, and also to what was actually achieved?
§ LORD NATHAN
A communiqué was issued at the conclusion of the proceedings, which perhaps has not come to the notice of the noble Viscount. The assurance of satisfaction for which the noble Viscount asks publicity, I give now. I think I have dealt with the various questions which have been put to me specifically. Let me say, in general, that the Government will certainly take into consideration the matters which have been raised in this debate to-day. We are grateful to the noble Lord opposite for having introduced this debate. I will take note of what the noble Viscount has said about a full-dress debate on this subject at a later stage when the moment may be opportune. In the meantime, I can say that the Government are working hard upon these questions and are taking as their motto, not merely "Preparation," but "Preparedness."
§ LORD CROFT
My Lords, I think your Lordships must have felt gloom and despair in listening to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Nathan. It is quite clear that he was able to tell us absolutely nothing. I am not attacking him personally, because I am aware that he has to speak very largely from a brief; he cannot himself lay down a policy.
§ LORD NATHAN
I cannot allow that to pass, because, as no one knows better than the noble Lord opposite, whether a Minister is provided with a brief or not, the matter is his responsibility. I accept complete responsibility for what I have said, and if I have said no more than has been attributed to me by the noble Lord it is because I have a sense of responsibility.
§ LORD CROFT
I would not for one moment wish to suggest that the noble Lord was not giving us his own considered opinion, but obviously he can give, in this 943 House, only the views of the Government as a whole. That was what I intended to suggest when I said "from a brief," because obviously a Minister in any defence Department cannot speak for himself alone.
§ LORD CROFT
We have heard an extraordinary succession of phrases. We were told that the Government must wait until science had produced further evidence; that they must not allow them-selves to be rushed. Various other phrases were also used, such as: "Until we know the results of the studies which are taking place." Making such a complete evasion is not treating your Lordships' House correctly. It is no longer true that we cannot tell the world broadly what our policy is. There is no strategic reason, no reason of public interest or danger, to prevent the Government showing what foreign countries must know—how many armed divisions we have and are aiming at, and how many airborne divisions we have. These facts are known. When the noble Lord says that he cannot give us the exact figure I must tell him that we will pursue this matter. The last thing we want is to divide tonight on a question of defence, but if we have a reply of that character to future inquiries it may be necessary. Democracy demands to be told the truth about the defence of this country. I hope that the noble Lord will convey to those responsible for the major policy of the Government the fact that we are not satisfied that His Majesty's Government are taking the question of defence seriously. I will not pursue the matter. I think everybody who listened must have been disheartened.
The noble Lord told us that the Dominions Conference was satisfactory, and that a statement was issued to say how pleased everybody was. If that is so, I think he might have given us some indication that they had agreed on anything of major importance. We should have been told. Perhaps it is a further continuation of the policy of secrecy. We want to know, because we believe that the Dominions and this country together are a mighty and wonderful military force. Are we pooling the whole of our military efforts, or are the Government allowing this wonderful opportunity to go by and 944 taking no steps to see that we get together in such things as the Canadian Air Training plan? I do not wish to pursue the matter now, but in any event we must raise this question again soon after the Recess, and we hope that the noble Lord will convey the feeling of alarm and despondency which I think men of all Services feel at the position. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.