§ 2.50 p.m.
§ LORD CROFT had given Notice that he would call attention to the policy of 367 His Majesty's Government with reference to the future of the Defence Services and move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have repeatedly expressed the hope that His Majesty's Government would give to Parliament a statement of the broad lines of their policy with regard to defence. We were promised a White Paper and we all looked forward to receiving it, but I think your Lordships who have read it will agree that it is disappointing and does not give a complete picture; in fact, instead of being a statement on defence it appears to me to be a defence of His Majesty's Government's proposals and policy as to demobilization and a fairly elaborate explanation as to how greatly the Forces will be reduced by December of this year.
§ With regard to demobilization, we on these Benches are chiefly concerned that the Government should not in any way—and I am sure they will not—break their promises as to the dates when serving officers and men will be demobilized, and that these officers and men will be released as far as possible at the appointed time. We are, however, very much concerned to see that the Forces are maintained in full organization. We are not so much concerned to see—certainly I am not—that there is a greater total reduction in the Forces by December 31 than already indicated, as to know the main purposes of those Forces and especially if they are adequate for all such purposes. In other words, we are concerned as to whether the call-up is sufficient and whether all three Services at that date will be adequate to meet the immense obligations caused by so many upheavals at points vital to British strategic needs and for the safety of British subjects overseas. We are in the dark in this matter which is of such grave concern to the whole nation, Commonwealth and Empire, but we appreciate the fact that His Majesty's Government cannot give any final plan so long as we do not know what is to be the contribution of our Forces in support of the United Nations Organization and what contribution our Allies are going to make in occupying enemy territory—what number of Forces they are prepared to put at the disposal of the Allies for that purpose. Also I may add that we agree that the Government cannot make any absolutely final de- 368 cision about certain matters until, from experiments which may take place and scientific research, they know more as to the actual effect of terrible modern weapons such as the atomic bomb. All this we understand as the reason for some delay as to the final peace-time policy on defence.
§ I am bound to say that in spite of the difficulties which we know are present to the Government, there is great concern amongst many of us as to whether the Government are facing up to problems which are not hypothetical, such as those mentioned in the White Paper, but are actually with us at the present moment. I do not wish to dwell to-day at any length on the past, but I must recall the fact that our present Cabinet consists very largely of the principal actors in the great disarmament campaign between the wars. They acted from the highest motives, and no one doubts their belief that that campaign was in the interests of peace. We all remember the mandate given to the late Mr. Arthur Henderson and the great work he attempted with regard to disarmament although there were warnings at that time as to the danger of that procedure. Alas, he failed in his mission.
§ We also must remember, however, that his Party, in spite of the fact that other countries did not respond, proceeded notwithstanding to demand on every platform and, it will be recalled, in some famous by-elections, with the support of the Peace Pledge Union, unilateral disarmament. Therefore in fact what happened was that we alone disarmed. What that cost us ultimately in British lives no man can assess, but few of your Lordships will, I think, disagree with me when I say that our weakness in defence largely rendered the League of Nations useless to prevent war, and that our whole attitude with regard to the armed strength of this country was the greatest incentive of all to Hitler and Mussolini to wage war against our people. We were rendered impotent to intervene at the vital moment when Hitler first started his aggression, when the Dictators saw us unarmed and regarded us as incapable of action and degenerate in spirit. We all rejoice that they had a rude awakening. But with that record behind the present guardians of our safety, I think we may be pardoned if we are a little uneasy.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
May I just remind the noble Lord that we were not the 369 Government of the country all those years?
§ LORD CROFT
The noble Viscount is absolutely correct, but I think he will not deny that his Party were—as I said, from the highest motives—insistent and clamant in their demands that there should be disarmament by this country, and even that it must be unilateral.
§ LORD CROFT
I am very glad to hear that, because in some of the speeches one read one did not notice that that was the case. Anyhow, I think noble Lords will agree with me, in whatever part of the House they sit, that there was this feeling in the country. It was a very big wave of feeling and it was supported very largely from one political angle. May I leave it at that? That being so, we want to make quite sure that there is no movement from any extremist quarters supporting His Majesty's Government trying to deflect them from their duty—which we all know they recognize to-day—to see that our defence is kept up to the highest level. We have seen an attempt by an extreme wing of the supporters of the Government to sabotage the efforts of the Government in their foreign policy in parts of the world where there are disturbances—in India, in Palestine, in Egypt, in Indonesia and in Greece, where we are making every effort to help the cause of peace and democracy without bloodshed. It is in fact somewhat ironical that in every one of these cases the Government of this country, with the whole nation behind them, are doing all in their power to arrive at solutions which are satisfactory to the indigenous populations, yet in every case there are agitators who are doing all possible to stir up hostile elements within those countries against the British peacemakers who are in their midst.
It is in these circumstances that we are not quite satisfied with the blank cheque presented in Cmd. Paper 6743, and we ask for, and feel we must have, fuller information, if His Majesty's Government can possibly give it to us, at least on the following points. Are His Majesty's Government definitely prepared adequately to protect all British interests at all strategic points essential to the Commonwealth and Empire? If there are not sufficient volun- 370 teers for the Regular Forces for this purpose, will the Government pledge themselves to direct sufficient new entrants into the Services to fulfil our strategic requirements? Are the Government prepared to expand the Services so as to meet our obligations to the United Nations Organization and the needs of the occupation of enemy territories? Is that expansion of the Regular Forces to be supplemented by Auxiliary Forces, and if so, how much longer will it be before the Territorial Associations are empowered to build up their complements of key officers and non-commissioned officers for the rebuilding of that Auxiliary Force, in view of the grave difficulties which will otherwise obtain in re-collecting officers and non-commissioned officers once they are dispersed into civilian life and are out of touch with the units in which they served? Is it the Government's intention to continue national service, and assuming that such service will not exceed two years, are the Government taking every step to train Cadet Forces in all Services so that they can pass tests which will qualify them at an early date to meet the great need which must then arise for junior officers and non-commissioned officers as a supplement to Regulars?
Then I want to ask the Government whether they can give an assurance that our Forces are not so scattered in small pockets all over the world that we have no organized striking force which could be used immediately to defend our vital interests. In other words, are we building up a strategic reserve capable of being quickly transported by air and sea and of dealing with any sudden emergency, and have the Government selected the area or areas for assembling and training such a strategic reserve? Are the Government in close touch with all Dominions with a view to common plans for defence, common staff arrangements, common organization, and common equipment as well as interchange of officers? The last question I wish to address to the noble Viscount who is, I understand, to speak early in the debate, is, have the Government, in view of the shortage of man-power, started to preserve the formations of African troops and to initiate formations in all Colonies so that they could undertake, in a certain measure, their own defence, so that they could supplement, when needed, the defence of neigh- 371 bouring territories, and so that they could provide trained auxiliaries for manning Colonial dockyards such as Singapore and Hong Kong, and trained ground staffs and repair staffs for all airfields in the Colonies?
I apologize for the length of this questionnaire, but its length is due to the depth of anxiety which some of us feel, for up to date, I think it will be agreed, we are all in the dark. I am asking for the information which these questions imply rather than offering criticism of the present state of our Forces. We want the Government, if possible, to take the country into their confidence on this matter, and to dispel the feeling, which certainly does exist, that some of these vital matters are for the moment being allowed to drift in favour of less urgent affairs.
May I offer a few comments before I close my remarks? I see that my noble friend Lord Hutchison has a Resolution on the Paper with regard to a Combined General Staff. I do not intend to dwell on that matter at any length, although it is undoubtedly worthy of a debate in itself, but will content myself with offering a personal view. The three Services can never be treated again in watertight compartments, either in the realms of strategy or tactics. The war proved, if indeed it needed proof, that the three Services were absolutely vital to each other, and that only by the most complete harmony and perfect co-operation, with each having knowledge of the needs, requirements and possibilities of the others, could successful war be waged. I offer, with respect, the view that during the war the Chiefs of Staff Committee under the constant guidance of the Prime Minister as Minister of Defence got as near to perfection in waging war as we could hope. Mistakes were made—they always are in great conflicts of that kind—but the major strategic decisions of the war were, I think we all now agree, brilliant conceptions carried out with remarkable common endeavour and with still more remarkable results. I would, therefore, urge that something similar should become a permanent feature of our defence. I know that this involves the Prime Minister being in close co-operation with the defence chiefs and I realize that even in peace-time the Prime 372 Minister may not be available from day to day. That being so, I suggest with respect that he must have as his deputy a Minister of high stature who can preside in his absence. Should the Prime Minister himself not find it possible to be Defence Minister, it almost follows that his deputy must be Minister of Defence. It seems to me almost inevitable that we must have a staff, not cumbersome in size but of very high level and quality, who can correlate the views of the three Chiefs of Staff representing each of the Services so that the Prime Minister or his deputy may have the combined opinion of the Services at all times. I say no more on that, because I believe my noble friend Viscount Swinton will be offering some remarks on the subject later.
I want to stress the immediate need for the Government to decide the nature, size and balance of our Forces, if not for functions such as those connected with the United Nations Organization and the occupation of enemy territories, at least for the defence of our vital immediate needs. We ought to know by now what the Government have in view with regard to the make-up of the Services. We ought to know whether in addition to a long-service Regular Army there will be a General Service Army based on universal service, how long such service is likely to be, how long men will be kept on reserve, and whether on completion of their service there will be short refresher courses from time to time to bring our reservists up to date in modern military science. I also submit that further delay in deciding the nature of the Territorial Army is most harmful to its successful rebirth, because to-day almost all its fine young leaders are already dispersed. I would urge, therefore, that even if training does not commence this year, at least Territorial Associations should be able to select, on War Office advice, a list of all the key officers from amongst the officer-cadres of Territorial units during the war.
On this matter I speak with some experience, having reconstructed my county regiment after the last war. I assure your Lordships that it is vital to the efficiency of the Territorial Army that you should not lose those picked and proved leaders who have been serving in this war, and that you should try at least to gain their support in the Territorial Army of the future. Although I think there has been 373 a wonderful increase in understanding, not all Regular Officers have always understood the mentality of Territorials, but I hope that after the way in which our Army for war was so largely built up from the territorial basis, achieving such great results, we shall not allow this matter to drift. I would also like to add that there should be in my opinion a considerable reinforcement of any future Territorial Army by Regular officers and permanent staff. Unless Territorial commanding officers of proved war service are found to command the units, then in my opinion those posts should be ruthlessly filled by young Regular officers, if possible born and normally living in the county affected.
This will be all the more essential if, as I hope, men who have passed through the National Service Army, or whatever it is to be called, attend refresher courses in the Territorial or auxiliary Army. After a war in which such masses of troops have been put into the field by several Powers, and realizing our limitations in population, I would stress also the need for expanding forces with the largest possible reserves should the tragedy of war again come to us. I would therefore ask His Majesty's Government—and this is a personal view—before finally deciding on the make-up of our Forces, to weigh the possibility, in addition to the long-term service, of a short-time Regular enlistment so as to increase the available highly-trained reserves.
I would remind your Lordships of one great example. Our Ally Russia had between the wars, I think I am right in saying, by far the largest standing Army in the world. Every year they passed into their reserves as many men probably as any other Power had in its total armed forces. The result was, that after the disastrous opening of the campaign in Russia, when the Germans advanced over a frontage of 1,500 miles and to a depth of some 750 miles, the Russians were able heroically to stand in the suburbs of Leningrad and within 40 miles of Moscow. Thus it was that these vast Russian reserves were able to turn the tide, in spite of the fact that the total of Russians killed exceeded the total number of German troops against them, a staggering fact. With their great reserves the Russians were able to turn the tide and overwhelm the invaders and drive them back again across their frontiers. With such a lesson, whilst we should aim at 374 what must of necessity be moderate-sized forces of superlatively trained officers and other ranks, we should also aim at the largest possible reserves which as a last resort could be called to our aid.
Let us also do all in our power to get closest and speediest co-operation between the Navies, Armies and Air Forces of the great Dominions. Two wars have proved that that is necessary if we hope to stand united, and then nothing can break us. We not only want the highest trained technical troops which modern war has proved necessary, but we need in this small island a great mass of men for the servicing of modern war. We have a great pool of resources in the Colonial Empire, some 62,000,000 inhabitants, many of whom have proved their worth in battle. I beg that we aim at formations, if possible, in every Colony which we can extend far more rapidly than we found possible in the present war. This implies constant interchange of officers of the Home Army and modernization in every respect. I am sure I need not stress the need for mobility of our Forces. Our resources must be small, and therefore it is all the more important that we should plan to get the speediest possible concentration of our striking force and the speediest possible conveyance to any point of danger that there may be. I hope we have plans already formed as to how we should use our airborne troops and how we would transport them by air or by sea, as the case may be.
I will not engage in argument about battleships and bombers—which I see was discussed in a debate in another place and I suppose that discussion is likely to go on—save to offer the opinion that the evidence of the last war certainly convinces me that we dare not risk the absence of either of these instruments of war, both of which played a vital part in our victory, so long as other Powers are armed in this respect. In the great testing time of the last six years through which we have passed, the Royal Navy has saved us from starvation, destroyed the Navies of two great naval Powers, sustained our ally Russia in her most tragic hour, and transported vast armies over distances never before attempted in war. Had we lost command of the sea nothing could have prevented the invasion of our land. Therefore I hasten to say, and I think your Lordships will all agree, that the Royal Navy is still vital to our lives, and 375 we can achieve no material purpose unless it is sustained and maintained in the highest efficiency.
The British Army, in this war, has outshone even its great history. The war would not have been won and would not have been over now, in my opinion, but for the break-up of the Axis in Africa, Sicily and Italy. El Alamein, followed by the great victory of Tunis, was in fact the turning of the tide in the cause of the Allies, and our contribution on the Western continent, when we broke the full weight of the greatest mass of armour ever assembled in any war and won continuous victory, was one which we must surely never forget. I venture to think that Anglo-American victory in the west could never have been won if British and American power had not held and defeated some thirty German divisions in Italy and held some twenty-five to thirty others stretched over Norway, the Low Countries, Crete and Yugoslavia, awaiting British attack. I must record, and I would ask your Lordships always to remember, that in the Far East the British Imperial Army in Burma severely defeated a very great Japanese Army, probably the only force which was reinforcible all the time by the Japanese, and that is something which I think we and the United States will also always remember.
Lastly the Royal Air Force, so small in numbers, so superb in skill and so well equipped in their aircraft, undoubtedly saved us from appalling disaster in 1940 and 1941. They have played since then an essential part in every military operation which we undertook and largely destroyed the military potential and the communications of our enemies. I only mention these facts as a reminder, if it were necessary, of how much the three Services are intertwined. This great brotherhood in arms must persist. Never can we forget what we owe to all three combined Services. I submit that the time has now arrived when the Government may take the country into their confidence and tell us what is asked from us in manpower, organization and equipment in our own defence and in the cause of the United Nations. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.18 p.m.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
, who had given Notice that he would move to resolve "That this House is of the view 376 that a Combined General Staff should form part of the defence system of this country," said: My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Lord who has just raised this very important question of defence. I propose to stick very closely to one aspect of defence, and that is the creation of a Combined General Staff. I have been accused by some of my friends for bringing out the old horse again. Well, he is a good horse, and I still have great belief in him. I cannot help thinking that we are now moving towards the creation of such a General Staff as many of us have been advocating for many years. After the war it is only right and proper that we should reduce our Forces to a size compatible with the possible financial strain which our country can stand. It is all the more necessary therefor that the planning at the top should be such that we do not demobilize or cut down our Forces in the haphazard way in which it was done twenty-three years ago. I think that if we study the problem properly and the Government are advised by experts, much of the cutting-down can be done by plan and with a view to expansion if and when necessary. We have had closer co-operation between the Forces in this last war than in any previous war in history. It is very necessary that that close co-operation should be stimulated and that there should be a bringing-together movement at the top in future organization for defence.
After the first great war we all believed that the League of Nations would "do the needful" and that we should be able to sit down and pass our lives in peace—as I did before I entered politics—but we found that we were let down by the League of Nations. The whole policy of the League, collective security and the rest of it, found no one willing to march. Now we have U.N.O. and the Security Council of U.N.O. We do not know what obligations that may impose upon our country, but one thing we have got to be prepared for is that U.N.O. may let us down. We have, therefore, to see that we do not commit the same mistakes that we made after the first great war, and we must ensure that we ourselves are efficient and able to meet any dangers which may confront this country. We must aim at quality rather than quantity, but it should be our aim to be able from that quality to expand to quantity if and when any dreadful situation faces the country.
377 There is another point which concerns very closely the defence aspect of our Forces, and that relates to the financial burden of the three different Services. In another place we were always complaining that we could not discuss different Estimates together. We had Army Estimates, Air Estimates and Navy Estimates, and they were all taken separately. It does seem to me that the Government ought seriously to consider bringing in a joint budget dealing with the money that is required for the defences of our country, and that they should then use the expert knowledge of a Combined General Staff to allocate that money where it is most needed and can be best used for the defence of our country. I am certain that very great economies could be effected in that way. We should avoid much duplication, and at the same time get a better instrument for the defence of the country. If the three Services separately try to fight the Lords of the Treasury, those Lords will always beat them. If various Ministers go separately before the Cabinet and explain that they want so much money they are bound to be beaten individually. There must be a Combined General Staff which with the weight of expert opinion can say: "This grant of money is absolutely necessary for the defence of the country." In the past, the strongest Minister has always got the bulk of the money. The poor War Office very often was shouldered aside and could not get the money it wanted. Sometimes the Navy got practically all the money, or my noble and gallant friend Viscount Trenchard got the bulk of it for the Air Force. In any case, it is surely nothing but ordinary common sense to say that the system ought to be altered so that a combined Estimate can be brought in and discussed and decisions can be taken as to how and where the money can best be spent.
Who is to plan this distribution of our finances for the maintenance of the defences of our country? It is perfectly obvious, it seems to me, that the Committee of Imperial Defence are not strong enough, nor are they in a position to advise about the necessary forces that are required. They are not even allowed to advise the Prime Minister on ordinary defence problems. There was the Committee of the three Chiefs of Staff, who worked very well in their way. They tried to co-operate, and they did co- 378 operate. In the last war we got closer co-operation than ever before. But it is still not good enough. They all have their Departments behind them looking to them to put forward their own particular view as to what is required. This Chiefs of Staff Committee constitute a fine body to deal with many problems, but I do not think you will ever get satisfaction from a collection of politicians and Chiefs of Staff trying to come to a decision. The trouble is that there is no Head—nothing that can absolutely ensure the rapid making of a decision. The consideration of problems is all too often put off and in the end it is decided to "make do" with what is really only second best.
If you have a Combined General Staff it obviously must act under the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister must lead both in peace and in war. You cannot expect always to have for Prime Minister a master of war like Mr. Churchill, so you should legislate for a Prime Minister who will require expert advice. Mr. Churchill has been through every type of war. He is an expert, and he was his own Chief of Staff. After consultations—I have no doubt he still kept his own opinions—he issued instructions. What I am advocating now is that we should have a Combined General Staff drawn from the best experts available in the Services with an executive head to it. That executive head will have the duty of advising the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet—if the Prime Minister has a War Cabinet—on what is to be done. He will advise in such matters as the strategical distribution of Forces in the world. The best intelligence services that can possibly be organized ought to be directly under this individual, with his Combined General Staff behind him. Whether this leader is a soldier, sailor or airman does not matter twopence. What does matter is that we should get the best man. I believe that to follow this course will provide us with the only satisfactory system under which we can get decisions. Having got decisions from the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, the executive head of the Combined General Staff could then issue instructions to the various Forces, the Army, Navy and Air Force, and also, possibly, to many of the departmental people who are concerned with the preparation for war.
It is only logical that you should have an executive head. If you have a divided 379 head then we shall have the same troubles that we have had before. I fancy that I hear many people say: "Oh, but we have won two wars with the present machine." That is quite true; but we should have won them much better if we had had a Combined General Staff to begin with. Moreover we should not have committed many of the blunders that were committed at the beginning of this last war. I cannot help thinking that such a Combined Staff is long overdue. In that staff I would have representatives of South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and, possibly, later, India. I would have individual Staff officers from all those countries inside the Staff. That would help to ensure a knitting together of the Forces of the Empire. Do not forget that under the Statute of Westminster, all the Dominions, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa, are equal with the home country, and if you ask, "Do you recognize the C.I.G.S. in this country?" the reply will be, "Certainly not."
They have their own Staffs but if you ask them to appoint able Staff officers from their Forces to come and join a Combined General Staff you get that intimate relationship which is so desirable between the home country and the various Dominions. I think that a Combined General Staff must have a first-rate intelligence service, partly on the Services side, and partly on the Foreign Office side, so that they know what is going on in the world, and so that they are informed beforehand of the various movements taking place, and of the kind of armaments being used by the various countries which one may come up against. It seems to me that with a really combined intelligence service you could get that information, and it is, of course, necessary to spend money on it. In the past, before this war started, we starved our Intelligence Service, but it is very important that that part of the Staff should be adequately dealt with. There is constant change in armaments, and our armaments are continually getting out of date. How soon were our armaments out of date before this war?
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
The policy ought to be to scrap those 380 armaments which are out of date, and to get the very best. There has recently been a new development in armaments in the direction of atomic energy. We do not know much about it, but we ought to be prepared to use it when it comes along. One thing is certain, and that is that the strategy of war will not be altered, although tactically it will be altered. Therefore it is our business, and the business of a planning staff, to watch the strategical side of our defence very carefully. There is another point which is of vital importance, and which adds to my argument for the need for this Combined General Staff. Ministers of the various Services change rapidly, and it takes a new Minister a long time to absorb from his experts all the details of what he has to place before the Cabinet. He has to expound his case before the Cabinet, and if you keep on changing Ministers, you weaken that expounding of the case, whereas if you have an expert Combined General Staff, that body can put the case before the Prime Minister with far greater weight than can any collection of Ministers. I know that many noble Lords want to speak on this subject, but I wish to say this, and I make no apology for it. Many of us who have been advocating this idea speak with great deference before the distinguished soldiers and sailors who took part in the last war. I would apologize to them for raising this question, except that it is one which I have raised again and again and my opinion on it has not altered one bit. I believe that the real solution of this problem is a proper machine at the top. Given that, they can tell the Government what is necessary, and with far greater force and hope of influencing a hard-hearted Treasury.
As the Prime Minister asked in the House of Commons the other day, what is the good of forming an Imperial Defence College? What is it for? The answer is that you are bound to get the best officers going to that College, and after that training surely they will be used to serve on such bodies as the Combined General Staff They will be trained especially for that. I think it is a point that many people have missed, that it is no good having this Imperial Defence College to train these officers if you are not going to make use of them. You want to get the expert mind to sift out what has happened in this last dreadful 381 war, to learn what lessons are to be learnt, to realize what happened at the beginning, to realize why we were so unready and so unprepared, and why certain decisions were taken which obviously ought not to have been taken. All I can say is that I believe that if we had a Combined General Staff in peace-time, it would be the greatest blessing for the Defence Forces of this country. I believe that it would really relieve the Treasury of useless spending of money. In other words, the money spent would be properly used, and put into the proper places where it was wanted.
This question was the subject of a debate in another place on March 4, and I saw with great interest that the Prime Minister is distinctly moving towards the introduction of this kind of Staff at the top. I should not be in order in quoting what he said, but I can make a summary of a few things to which he referred. He said that there was but one Service. The three Services were rival claimants for the resources of the nation but ought to be one. He also said that planning and reconstruction during the peace should be at the highest level and of the highest quality. I believe myself that if the Government would take courage and go ahead on these lines, and produce a Combined General Staff, it would be the greatest movement forward in our defensive arrangements made since the days of Napoleon.
§ 3.39 p.m.
My Lords, I think that the only reason why I have been put on to bat or bowl—I do not know which it is—is to replace my noble friend Lord Sherwood, who is unfortunately incapacitated and likely to be away from your Lordships' House for many weeks. I do so with all the greater diffidence in speaking as a layman on a highly technical subject. The two Motions on the. Paper could give almost unlimited scope to a speaker in wandering about in the fields of defence and other related subjects, without any particular issue being brought up. I want to touch on only one point of somewhat limited scope, arising in part out of the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, and in particular Section VII of Command Paper 6743, which I believe is really what fundamentally underlies Lord Hutchison's proposal, although I would probably have used different words from those which 382 he has used. What Lord Hutchison advocates is, I submit with all respect, not in fact a Combined General Staff, but something very like what in point of fact we had during the war—in other words, a Ministry of Defence. Before going on to elaborate that point I want in particular to draw your Lordships' attention, unnecessary as it may be, to the terms of Section VII of the White Paper, which reads:The assumption by the late Prime Minister of the position of Minister of Defence, and the operation of Joint Staffs in an expanding field of activity, were the principal features of this development.I then omit a sentence.His Majesty's Government felt it desirable soon after the end of the war to review the position, and to formulate proposals for a higher defence organization which would embody the improvements suggested by the experience of the last six years. It is hoped before long to lay before Parliament concrete proposals.I venture to suggest that what we had during the war is also what we want to have in peace. The Ministry of Defence with the sections which were built up in the War Cabinet offices and in the Ministry of Defence offices, was not only an organization which combined the work of the three armed Services but combined the work of the three armed Services and those Ministries with all those other civil Ministries which were directly concerned with the prosecution of the War. It is precisely that organization which is wanted for the future of our defence and also for the future government of this country in time of peace. It is not a Combined General Staff which is wanted if a Combined General Staff means what the name implies, a Staff which is common to the three armed Services. That, with all respect, I submit is not a practical issue.
It is not a practical issue to have one Staff College or one system of training which will train one officer at the same time to command a battleship, administer a Corps in the field and deal with the strategic work of a group of aircraft. No man in any grade or time of his life can possibly have the leisure to learn the art of war in those three Services in sufficient detail to make him interchangeable in those various commands. Therefore I am left with the conclusion that the three armed Services must have their own Staffs with their own staff training, and not have Combined Staff. I do not think that point needs any further elaboration. The point 383 of contact is not there but at the top, and at the top probably in the Imperial Defence College to which I will return in a minute. But before going to that point the aspect which I think needs emphasis—and the more emphasis that is given to it the more it will be apparent—is that a Ministry of Defence or any organization which deals only with the three armed Services and not with the civil side of life in this country is useless.
May I ask your Lordships to throw your minds back to what happened in the two or three years prior to September, 1939, when a Ministry for the Co-ordination of Defence was set up but through which—I think it will be accepted by all your Lordships—very little co-ordination in fact took place. The gravamen of all the charges brought against the then Government in Parliament and elsewhere was that there was no Ministry of Supply—in other words, that the civil side, the equipment of the Armed Forces, had been neglected and that the Ministry for the Co-ordination of Defence had in fact achieved nothing. That charge was brought again and again, and by no one with greater force than those who represented the Liberal Party in the late Coalition Government. I would remind your Lordships only of one intervention in November, 1938, when Mr. Winston Churchill intervened in a debate in another place and said that the proposal to equip and make a Ministry of Supply, in other words the desire of the Liberal Party to bring the civil side of organization into defence, had brought the then Government to an issue which they must face and which they could not burk. That issue was taken to a Division in which Mr. Winston Churchill found himself voting with the Opposition against the Government of that day in the company of a number of supporters of the present Government.
That meant nothing more nor less than this, that in preparing the defence organization of this country, in preparing the Armed Forces for the war which then appeared to be inevitable, the civil side of life in this country must be brought, on precisely the same basis as the three Armed Forces were brought, into what was later created by Mr. Winston Churchill as the Ministry of Defence. It was alleged against that system at the time, and frequently during the war, and 384 will no doubt be alleged again if that system is continued as I hope it will be, that it would tend to create what happened in Germany in what was known in Germany as the O.K.W., Ober Komando Wehrmacht. That was an organization created by Hitler, if I am right in my dates, in about May, 1939. That was an organization totally different from what the Ministry of Defence in this country turned out to be. In Germany Hitler created an organization which was separate and distinct from the Army, the Navy and German Air Force, which led to incessant quarrelling. There was bickering and there were divergencies of opinion between that organization, the O.K.W., and the next biggest organization in Germany which was the O.K.H.—Ober Komando Heer—the Supreme Command of the Army. That mistake is one which was never made in this country because the Ministry of Defence was never a corporate body separated from the other Ministries which had been in existence before, but consisted only of the liaison groups of officers, civil servants and others derived from the Ministries which had to be represented in the Ministry of Defence offices, men who gave their allegiance to their own Service plus the co-operative allegiance to the Ministry of Defence to which they were attached, without ever being detached from the Ministries from which they were originally drawn. That is the essence of the difference between the system which we evolved during the war in this country and what was evolved in Germany, and which I think your Lordships will find, before time is very much older, was one of the main causes which led to the breakdown of the German military machine. I believe that a Ministry of Defence machine adapted to peace-time, but retaining that characteristic as the central defence machine of this country and this Commonwealth, must survive and ought to survive.
I think, with due respect to the authors of the White Paper which I have quoted, that they have perhaps understated the case in saying that the Ministry of Defence wrought no formal change in constitutional responsibility. When the constitutional history of the period of the war is written I venture to think it will be found that the Ministry of Defence and the organization which the then Prime 385 Minister built up have in fact wrought some constitutional changes.
The only point in which I am in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, is not on the creation of a Combined General Staff but on the development of an organization at the top in which senior members of the Armed Forces of the Crown, senior members of the civil Ministries in the Government and civilian representatives of life in this country who are not officials at all, will be brought together to give their advice, to correlate and to co-ordinate their own activities with what is the policy of His Majesty's Government at any given moment. The school in which that can be taught, the place where each can learn from the other is clearly the Imperial Defence College which I think all your Lordships will welcome in seeing re-established. But I would like to suggest that in this new phase its activities should be to some extent increased. It will be within the knowledge of many of your Lordships that before the war civil servants from many Ministries affected went as pupils and as instructors to the Imperial Defence College. The Staff was added to by prominent civil persons holding non-official appointments coming to give those in the Defence College the benefit of their advice on shipping, industry, commerce, finance or other matters.
I venture to suggest that those same civilians should be added to the Imperial Defence College hereafter, not only as instructors but as pupils. There are the national services in this country which may become nationalized but which, in time of war played their part just as the Armed Forces of the Crown played their part. They need no description; they range from the railways to the workshops, Civil Defence and so forth. No defence machine, no defence staff can be complete without including them in the corporate body of the imperial Defence College and the defence staff, whether they have an official capacity or an unofficial capacity; and when we are dealing with national services like the railways, it is even to-day wholly immaterial whether they happen to be official or nominally unofficial persons. If I may throw out a very mischievous or perhaps improper suggestion at this moment it is perhaps that the bringing together of official and unofficial people in this manner might help both sides to understand each other's problems a little 386 more when it comes to such controversial matters as nationalization of this or that Service.
It is on that level that the defence staff of this country and the national defence staffs of the other constituent elements of the Commonwealth should be brought together and not in a Combined General Staff which affects only the three Armed Services. We look forward with the greatest possible interest to see what the proposals are to which reference is made in the White Paper. I join with those who have already paid tribute to those who helped the Prime Minister to build a machine to beat those who were the professional Staff officers of the world in Germany without falling into the Styx into which they themselves fell. I hope that what was learned during these six years will not be merely a memory of the war but a part of our constitutional machinery which will remain with us throughout peace as our defence machine.
Nobody when considering man-power and resources can decide between the claims of the battleship, bomb and bayonet. Social Services we must have, and therefore I submit that the defence machine I have described is more important at this stage than the actual numbers that are allocated to each of the armed Services or the member of millions of pounds which each one of thorn will have to spend, I hope not in competition with each other but under the guidance of a Minister of Defence who can only be the Prime Minister of this country.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, I propose to follow the example of the last two speakers who have addressed such extraordinarily interesting speeches to the House and confine myself in this debate to a single subject. Like my noble friend who has just spoken I propose to address myself exclusively to what I regard as the absolutely vital need of continuing a Minister of Defence in this country. I do not believe the importance of that decision can be exaggerated, and that is why I look forward so much to what I hope the noble Lords who speak for the Government will be able to say to us. I hope they will at any rate take us part of the way along the road. Quite frankly I think this interesting White Paper becomes most tantalising at this most important stage. Chapter seven 387 stops short at the most interesting point in the story. It is "to be continued in our next," and presumably it is hoped we shall buy the next instalment with the greater keenness. Certainly we look forward to it with much interest. That may be good salesmanship, but it is not a convenient way of dealing with an urgent and fundamental problem.
I think we should all appreciate that on many of the questions of defence, decisions at this moment depend on factors which are uncertain, sometimes quite unknown, but on this question of the establishment or rather the continuance of a Minister of Defence, I would suggest that all the facts and experience needed to take a decision are now at our disposal. We have the whole of our pre-war and war experience and a good deal of experience of what has happened since. I think that all that experience, pre-war, war-time and post-war, points in the same way. Before the war we were feeling our way to closer co-operation among the Services. It was rather a long and an uphill task. I remember vividly the long contest which had to be waged to establish the great principle of air co-operation against selfsufficiency—two and a half years of struggle to establish what to-day is regarded as axiomatic by every person in the country. I remember in those days my noble friend the Earl of Cork, who was always a great and a staunch advocate of co-operation, once said—I do not think I am misquoting him—"I wonder if we will ever get it right until we all wear the same overalls." We are not all wearing the same overalls to-day, but I think we are all of the same opinion.
We had that very unsatisfactory halfway house—or rather quarter-way house—of Minister for Co-ordination of Defence. The war swept away, I think, the last doubt and the last hesitation as to that. I am not making a personal criticism at all; it is the system that matters. It was an impossible position. The person concerned with co-ordination must have power; he must be the Minister of Defence. Surely that is true, because year by year as the war went on events proved how wise Mr. Churchill was to establish, as soon as he became Prime Minister, the office of Minister of Defence, and to fill that post himself.
388 I believe the great majority of your Lordships will agree that the continuance of that post is just as important to-day as it was in the war. Nobody, certainly, will dispute that in war you must have a Minister of Defence, and in war I think he must be the Prime Minister. After all, what are war preparations except an insurance of peace and, in the last resort, effective preparation for war? That in itself is a strong argument in favour of the proposition that if the Forces must be ready, the organization needed in war must be ready also.
But I want to put the case much higher than that. I am equally sure that a Minister of Defence is as necessary for the organization and the functioning of the system which is needed to keep the peace. All warlike measures to-day, whether they are defensive or offensive, are and must be three-dimensional. There is hardly an operation in which all three Services are not involved. The war has proved that absolutely. Therefore the three Staffs must work together as a Combined Staff, though I do not altogether approve what was said by the noble Lord. If your Lordships will bear with me, I will develop that by saying that there must be a Combined Staff as distinct from the creation of a separate General Staff, but they must work as a Combined Staff on the highest plane. In war that became increasingly more successful. It owed much to the breadth of view, the wisdom and the personalities of the Chiefs of Staff. It owed perhaps even more to what can only happen in war, and that is the ever-present compulsion of the realities of war which, week by week, prove whether your organization as well as your strategy is right or wrong. But I think it will also be universally agreed that, admirably as the Chiefs of Staff worked together and learned the lessons of war, that system would not have functioned nearly so well if the Prime Minister had not himself been the Minister of Defence.
I do not say that in peace the Prime Minister need necessarily be the Minister of Defence; I think that must be a matter for the Prime Minister of the day to decide. I am quite certain, however—and I feel so strongly about this that your Lordships will forgive me if I speak dogmatically about it—that there must be a Minister of Defence who, if he is not the Prime Minister, is responsible to the Prime Minister and to the Cabinet on all 389 the great questions of policy, of combined strategy, and the implication and carrying out of those decisions. Let me observe in passing, because the Committee of Imperial Defence has been very properly brought into this debate, that whether the Prime Minister is himself Minister of Defence or not, he should certainly remain the Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence. That indeed is inherent in its constitution. As Lord Balfour created it and as it has been ever since, the Committee consists of the Prime Minister and those whom he decides to invite to join it. That is right, and I think it must be so. I am sure also that because Dominion Ministers and Dominion High Commissioners frequently sit in the Committee of Imperial Defence, it is essentially right, in relation to the Dominions, that the Prime Minister should be Chairman. The Minister of Defence, of course, can be his deputy. I remember that that happened, in effect, in the days when my noble friend the Marquess of Salisbury was Deputy Chairman and when he often actually acted as Chairman of the Committee.
The vital work of framing combined defence policy and implementing it cannot be done in Committee. The Committee of Imperial Defence is no possible substitute for a Minister of Defence. The task of the Minister of Defence is not only a necessary job, it is a whole-time job, and on main questions of policy I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, that though perhaps in strict constitutional theory no change was made in the relationship of Ministers, in fact there was, of course, a very great change, because whether the three Service Ministers are, or are not, members of the Cabinet, if you have a Minister of Defence, as I think you must have, those Ministers must work to him. They may have their individual right of appeal, as a Cabinet Minister may have his own right to appeal to the Prime Minister if he is at all anxious about something, but of course the Service Ministers and the Chiefs of Staff Committee on big questions of policy must work to the Minister of Defence.
The Service Ministers, the individual Chiefs of Staff, will be responsible for carrying out the decisions in their respective Services, but those decisions will be decisions which have been taken by the Minister of Defence or presented by him to the Cabinet and approved by the Cabi- 390 net. More than that, there will be many questions not only concerned with the framing of policy but with the implementation of policy on which decisions will have to be taken either by the Minister of Defence or presented by him to the Cabinet. I am sure this post is necessary.
If policy is to be inspired all through by the combined spirit in conception, planning and execution, there must be one Minister who all the time is seeing our defence problems as a whole. In war the compulsion of the realities of war enforced it, but in peace that most forceful of all compulsions is not there. The supreme test of action and its results cannot be applied in peace. That being so, with the best will in the world a Service chief will tend perfectly sincerely to take his particular Service point of view. The stronger the man is and the more forceful his personality, the more he will tend to try, quite naturally, to force what he believes to be right from sectional point of view. I do not put it that he feels it to be right only from his sectional point of view, but it is a sectional point of view although he feels it to be right, and of course he will try to press that view. Lower down throughout the Service that will apply even more so unless there is a broad directive of overriding combined policy to which the whole Service and each of the Services is working and unless all of them have, to use the old cliché, sufficient knowledge of the general idea to carry out the particular operation. Unless there is that broad directive, that particular individual Service view will in its turn react upwards on the chief of that Service and of course quite naturally the Service Ministers will tend to back their own men.
Those who lived through our attempts to achieve joint staff working, co-ordination and common action before the war will agree in their heart of hearts, and perhaps even in the profession of their lips, that there is a tendency, or at any rate a risk, that in such circumstances the Chiefs of Staff will tend to agree on the lowest common denominator of agreement rather than to find the highest common factor of efficiency and combined experience, or, in order to shirk the clash of controversy, they may tend to postpone or even to shelve difficult issues altogether. But if the Chiefs of Staff and the Service Ministers are working to, are encouraged by and, as they certainly were in the war, 391 are inspired by a strong independent Minister always looking at the defence problems as a single whole, then I think the whole spirit and approach will be that which brought us safely through the war. That is my conception, but that does not mean that in my view the Minister of Defence need have a great Ministry or an enormous staff. It is the essence of the plan—and this is where I think I differ from the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, and agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rennell—that the authority and responsibility of the Chiefs of Staff should not be undermined or duplicated by a parallel organization. The Chiefs of Staff together, in commission so to speak, will work to the Minister, the joint planning staffs will work to them but work to them to implement that combined policy which the Minister has laid down and which, if necessary, the Cabinet has approved.
Similarly I agree about joint Intelligence. It is very important to combine the whole Intelligence system so that the Combined Staff work can be informed by a Combined Intelligence, but that again would entail drawing the Intelligence of the three Services together, just as you would do on the Joint Planning Committee. This organization from the Chiefs of Staff in commission downwards is in effect the real staff of the Minister. It may well be that he should have his own senior officer working with the Chiefs of Staff in the same way that General Ismay worked so admirably during the war, although his was not altogether an easy position. The great question about all these matters is, how has the thing worked in practice? You can advance theoretical arguments one way or the other about this, but it has worked. The Minister must, of course, have an adequate secretariat but that in no way undermines the joint and several responsibilities of the Chiefs of Staff and of the Service Ministers to him.
Supply must of course be brought into this. You do not want to give to the Minister of Defence a vast organization of supply. I am not going to argue to-day whether it is a better plan in peacetime that the three Services should have their own separate organizations because that would take too long and this is not the appropriate time to do it. Whether they have their own individual organizations or whether there is one organiza- 392 tion, or whether it would be very difficult to bring the Admiralty into one organization however many Ministers of Supply you created—and I see that the Admiralty always manages to remain aloof from this matter—supply has got to come into this. On strategy and planning we agree. To give effect to this strategy and to these plans of course involves supply at every stage. Therefore on the question of policy on supply the Minister of Supply, working with the Service Ministers, must work to the supreme decisions of the Minister of Defence.
Dominion co-operation has been spoken of. That is most necessary, but I think it will be easier if there is a Minister of Defence with whom there can be co-operation on the highest level. Then there is work with, through and for U.N.O., but that surely is going to be easier and not more difficult if there is one Minister of Defence responsible for policy and, through his subordinate Ministers, for the execution of policy. Viewed from the point of view of defence as a whole the case for the continuation of this Minister is, I believe, quite unanswerable, but I venture to suggest to the individual Services themselves that the existence of this Minister and his authority is just as much in the interests of the individual Service Departments as it is in the interests of defence in its entirety. We have all had experience of these competing claims by Service Departments one against the other, which sometimes means that all the Departments suffer. There is a risk that one Service Department may be played against the other; sometimes the Service Departments themselves have not always resisted the temptation. In default of agreement between the Services it is dangerously easy not to take a decision, and the temptation is greatest when there are a number of other claimants for the money. It is so easy for those other Ministers who sit round the council board to say, "Well, the Service Departments are not agreed among themselves what should be done, why should we deal with this claim to-day?" if they think there is a chance of getting away with the £15000,000 for their own particular plans. I feel sure that each Service will gain by having the needs of the three Services as a whole and their supplies presented to the Cabinet as a co-ordinated, integrated and coherent 393 whole. For all those reasons I feel that the case for the continuance of a Minister of Defence is firmly established and if that be so—for so much turns upon it in the day-to-day work—then the sooner a decision in favour of this is taken the better for the Services and the better for the country.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (VISCOUNT STANSGATE)
My Lords, we have had some very interesting speeches and I have lost a good deal of the fear which I had at the beginning of the debate when I saw so many Generals and senior officers present that I felt that I could not possibly contribute anything to the discussion. The main question raised is one of organization and in this connexion mention has been made of the old Committee of Imperial Defence; this I believe does not now exist. But before I deal with organization I should like, if your Lordships will allow me, as the noble Lord, Lord Croft's Motion covered the Defence White Paper in general, to mention one or two other matters. I shall be able on one or two points to put before your Lordships new information which the Government are able to announce in connexion with defence policy.
Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Croft, said, I gather that there has not been very much criticism of the demobilization figures. I saw none in the debate in another place about the strength of the Services in December, 1946, namely 1,100,000. There was some criticism of the figure for June, 1,900,000, and someone said it should be 1,500,000. But I would beg your Lordships not to press the Departments to demobilize too fast because if you do you crush and break the machine.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
I am not laying a charge against the noble Lord at all, I am speaking generally about criticisms that have been made. If you saw the instability rate, the rate at which people are posted and reposted in a service during a period of rapid demobilization, you would see that further acceleration might make it impossible to carry on. A man who is your Control Officer to-day, for example, will certainly have to be posted away in a fortnight. On the question of 394 the rate of demobilization, therefore, perhaps I can leave that matter where it is.
Since we had our last debate on defence His Majesty's Government have published the new Officer's Pay Code. As your Lordships realize its production was a formidable undertaking. It aimed at three things. The first aim was to give a reasonable equality of treatment to officers of equivalent rank in the three Services; secondly, it aimed at simplifying the very complicated pre-war and wartime pay regulations; and thirdly, and most important of all, it aimed at equating as far as possible the pay of a Service officer with a civilian in comparable employment. How far the new code will prove attractive for the purposes of stimulating re-engagements I cannot say. I have heard of men who have left the Services and then looked back longingly and applied to return. We certainly hope that the new rates of pay and allowances will have that effect.
If your Lordships will bear with me for a moment longer I would like to refer to one or two detailed points in the White Paper on pay especially affecting the Air Force, which have perhaps escaped due notice. Our Personnel department has made an excellent job of revising some of the trades and gradings in the Service. One example is this. Previously a man, a qualified tradesman, did twelve or twenty years' service and by the time he was about forty he was discharged. We have made it possible now for a man to go into the Service and make a life career of it because we think there is no reason why an engineer or tradesman of fifty or fifty-five years of age should not be quite able to continue to work to military standards. Another thing we have done is to recategorise our air crews. There are five categories now. Pilot and navigator are the first two and for those duties a man must specialize in air crew duties. For the other three categories, the signaller, the gunner and the engineer we have made an arrangement by which a man qualifies as a tradesman in a ground trade and then does five years in the air before reverting again to ground duties, so that the man is both a skilled tradesman and a flying man. He takes into the air the skill he acquires on the ground and he brings back to the ground the experience he gains in the air; I think that is an admirable arrangement.
In addition we have made a permanent branch of the technical branch which we 395 improvised during the war. We are going to recruit from the universities men who have academic qualifications of a high order in engineering or science and turn them into technical officers. The result will I hope be to produce a technical branch for the Service of the highest quality. Previously we have taken men from the general duties branch retrained them for technical duties; they have done very well but now we are going in for a specialized technical branch. Then we have introduced a secretarial branch. We are also broadening the basis of selection of general duties officers and, like the Army, we have abolished fees at Cranwell so that the door is wide open and no financial bar is standing in the way of those who can qualify for a Commission. I hope your Lordships will not think I am taking up too much of your time with these small but important points, but they are of vast interest to me.
Unfortunately I cannot give any Government decision yet about the future of the women's Services. But I would like to pay a tribute to the work that they have done in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force; I naturally speak of course from personal experience especially about the W.A.A.F. There is one small change we are making, which enables us to catch up with the Army, in relation to the chaplaincy services. There is a committee called the Churches Committee for work among women in the Forces who supply lay-women to assist the Service Chaplains in their duty. The Army I believe has an establishment of thirty-six of these women. They do not exist in the Air Force but we are about to make a beginning with four such lay-women, three Anglicans and one Church of Scotland. They have been a great success in the Army and I am sure they will be equally successful in the R.A.F. In that connexion also, in consultation with the United Board which is the denominational board covering the Baptist and Congregational bodies we have agreed for the first time to accept a woman to work with the R.A.F. as a chaplain for those denominations. I believe that mothers who are thinking of letting their daughters come into the W.A.A.F. will be encouraged and reassured if they feel that every phase of life such as the girl might have at home is being provided for her in the Services.
396 The noble Lord, Lord Croft, asked me what we were doing about Auxiliary and Reserve Forces. I cannot make any announcement to-day for the Navy or for the Army but, if your Lordships wish, I would be glad to read to you a statement of recent decisions affecting non-regular air forces. It will take a minute or two, but I feel that it is due to your Lordships that you should hear it in the full official form. Here it is:Reserve Command of the Royal Air Force will be re-established in the immediate future. Its primary function will be to maintain and train adequate reserves of flying and ground personnel.The noble Lord will see that I am meeting some of the points which he made in his opening speech.To that end it will recruit to the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, foster the creation and development of the Auxiliary Air Force, assume responsibility for the Air Training Corps, and, in co-operation with the University authorities, recreate the University Air Squadrons. Group H.Q. of Reserve Command will be set up: they will coincide geo-graphically with Army Commands.These Group H.Q. will, in turn, set up Town Centres, and will provide training facilities. Public announcements will then be made inviting officers and men released from the Royal Air Force to join the Volunteer Reserve or the Auxiliary Units.For the present we are recruiting our reserves only from those who have served in the R.A.F:The Territorial Army and Air Force Associations will be the main recruiting agency.The Auxiliary Air Force. The twenty Auxiliary Squadrons which existed before the war will be recreated on their old Territorial basis. Commanding Officers are now being appointed. Most of these units will be day and night Fighter Squadrons, and, when fully trained, they will form part of the First Line Air Defences of this country.These squadrons served in the front line in the last war. They did wonderfully. In peacetime, too, Auxiliary squadrons are cheaper, of course, to maintain than Regular Squadrons.But several Light Bomber Auxiliary Squadrons will also be formed. In addition, some non-flying Auxiliary Units will be formed, probably in such spheres as Operational Control and Radar work.The University Air Squadrons. Discussions have been opened with the University authorities to determine at which universities it will be possible to maintain University Air Squadrons.Now as to the Air Training Corps, and here I am going to amplify what I said in reply to a question which was asked by Lord Calverley a week or two ago. 397For the present we propose to maintain the Air Training Corps at a strength of 75,000. From a Corps of this size we should be able to accept all cadets of a satisfactory standard into the Air Forces; but it must be realized that not all can become air crew. We shall keep the A.T.C. authorities informed as to the proportion of air cadets who can become aircrew and the proportions which we can take in the different groups of tradesmen. This will enable A.T.C. Squadrons to plan their initial training in such a way that their cadets will find the right opening before them.We are thus proceeding to the immediate creation of a framework within which the Volunteer Reserve, the Auxiliary Squadrons, the University Squadrons, and the Air Training Corps will find their permanent place in the post-war Royal Air Force. We attach the utmost importance to these non-regular forces, and it may well be that in the future it will be desirable, and possible, to develop them to a much greater degree than before the war. Such development will take time, however, and I must warn the House that we shall not immediately be in a position to give intending recruits to the non-regular forces the same facilities as those that existed before the war.That will be one of our main difficulties.But the main thing is to get a firm basis laid down now. The re-establishment of Reserve Command provides this basis, and we confidently appeal to all those who have interests of the R.A.F. at heart, to help us, in one way or another, in the rebuilding of our non-regular forces.As your Lordships will realize, to get out a complete plan of that kind means an awful lot of work. There are many things to be considered. But I am very pleased and proud to have been able to make that announcement to you.
The noble Lord further raised in his speech the question of compulsory military service. I cannot announce a definite decision on this subject, but perhaps I may be allowed to make one or two observations. I have always been, myself, a keen believer in voluntary service. I was brought up in the Liberal Party and learned to become an ardent advocate of the voluntary principle. For the most urgent and most dangerous military jobs you must always have volunteers—you must have volunteers for submarines, for paratroops and for aircrews. But when the last war came, the Germans forced on us total war, and, as a matter of fact, everyone, in one way or another, was conscribed. Most able-bodied men and women were allotted some part in national defence; even those who were not ablebodied were directed to some form of war work. Everyone, practically, had some national job. Many people, of course, were sent to the Forces and are at present 398 still serving compulsorily. One thing at least is quite clear. The man who was conscribed into the Forces cannot be left there, simply because he was called up during the war. It would be grossly unfair to retain such men in the Service without making adequate provision for their demobilization by calling up replacements. We must not fail to take all possible steps to get people to replace them and to get them out. That is fair and right, and I am sure it must be clear to everyone.
People ask: "For how long are young people about to be called up to be retained in the Services?" That is a matter which requires careful calculation. You have to estimate what your commitments are, how many people you will want to meet them and how many people will enlist voluntarily. The guiding principle must be to be fair as between the two classes. This problem is now being worked upon, and I hope that before long some precise details will be given to your Lordships. We hope to be fair to the man who has been conscribed because of the war—
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount, but may I ask him if he will be good enough to clear one point? He used, I think, the expression, "You have to know how many are going to volunteer." Does he mean by that that there is going to be voluntary recruitment, or was he referring to people already in the Forces who will be given the opportunity of re-engaging?
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
Of course, a man may re-engage voluntarily for permanent service in the Forces. There is nothing to prevent that. We are now studying methods of encouraging them to do so. We would rather have volunteers.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
Do you mean volunteers from men who are now in the Services? Men who will volunteer to continue serving?
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
Yes. I am speaking both of men now in the Forces who volunteer to re-engage and of men outside who volunteer to enlist. We want them both. That is the second stage. As regards the question: Are you going to have permanent national service? I cannot give an answer. I can only point out some obvious considerations. We have to consider how many volunteers may be forthcoming. We have to consider what 399 will be the effect of the new pay code and of the other methods of raising volunteers which we are considering. Then we have to consider also the demands and the obligations that may be imposed upon us. In fact, the problem is what plans are to be made for deploying the full national strength in the best way if danger arises? Your national man-power is a very limited asset, and you have to consider how you are going to use it to the best national advantage. You must bear in mind that a man may not necessarily be making his most effective contribution if he is put into uniform. That is a point which has already been made by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell.
Again, are you going to put study or apprenticeship first, or service first? That is a very interesting point. My boy is at Oxford, and he informs me that the tutors there tell him that they would rather have an ex-Service man as an undergraduate than a boy from school, because he does not go out on rags, and does not waste his time. He confines himself to his job. On the other hand, it may very well he that the Services would rather have a boy with a university education or a boy who has served an apprenticeship than a boy from school for the jobs which need to be done in the Forces. So you will see that the position may be quite inverted. However, your Lordships may be perfectly certain that we shall consider all these questions very carefully before we come to a definite decision. We have progressed a long way from the days when a young man who entered the Services was addressed, probably in broad Doric, by a Sergeant Major who assured him that he was "going to make a man of him." I now want to say a word about material.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
Balloon Command is in abeyance. I am not quite sure of the position but I think it is more or less deflated! I come now to the material side. There are one or two points I should like to mention. At the end of the war it was decided that one Department should supply all the Services with the exception of certain materials which the Admiralty considered they should supply for them- 400 selves. Viscount Swinton is an ex-Minister for Air and knows ail about these things. This caused us a great deal of anxiety in the Air Ministry because we were users and we were afraid that we should only be one customer of many. We are now reassured completely on that point. The Minister of Supply has formed a Supply Council and on that Council our representative has an equal voice with the other customers of the Ministry of Supply. The senior post in the Ministry of Supply, on the aircraft side will also normally be filled by a Service officer. By this means the users' interest is being properly attended to in this new universal "shop." I have some details of the scientific side, but I think your Lordships know them better than I do. However, the figure of £28,000,000 which appears in the Ministry of Supply and Aircraft Production Estimates for aeronautical and associated research work indicates that we are aware of the importance of scientific research. Some people have charged us with producing obsolete types of aircraft, but that is not so. You have got to keep the aircraft industry "ticking over" but the main weight of our orders on the Ministry of Supply is, of course, for jet aircraft. They are the most advanced types at present but they will by no means be the last word.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I hope in this vast expenditure there is a full allowance for pressurization. All the noble Viscount says about jet aircraft is right but it will be perfectly useless unless we keep just as far ahead on pressurization.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
I am not an expert in all these things but I have no doubt that that point is being attended to. As the noble Viscount knows, in the inter-Service organization which I am just going to turn to, there is a Deputy Chiefs of Staff Committee which deals with defence research. It has scientific advisers from my Department and from other Departments and I have no doubt that they will keep an eye on the question which the noble Viscount has raised.
Now I come finally to the Resolution on the Paper and frankly I cannot under-stand it. It says "That this House is of the view that a Combined General Staff should form part of the defence system of this country." We heard first of all the noble Lord's speech and we heard a speech from Lord Rennell. I accept very 401 largely the opening speech and that of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. But what is it that does not exist that the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, wants? That is what I want to know. I should just like to say this, in order to keep the forces properly aligned. We agree with the noble Viscount about the defence organization. Nothing of the organization which proved so successful in war has been destroyed and developments are going forward exactly as if the war was on today. The Chiefs of Staff are meeting frequently and my desk is piled up daily with papers from the Joint Planners, the Joint Intelligence Committee and all sorts of similar people. The organization is being studied not with a view to destruction but with a view to improvement and of course, as Lord Rennell says, this is not a matter of Left or Right but one which covers the whole of the national life. When we have discussions on defence nowadays all sorts of people turn up; we are even harried by the Minister of Town and Country Planning. It is, of course, essential that you should have a complete survey of the national needs. But what is it that the noble Lord wants? That is what I cannot understand. I listened to his speech with very great interest. He does not, apparently, want an integration of the three Services; he does not want everyone to be a Lord Louis Mountbatten. Does he want a permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee? I am unaccustomed to doing it, but I should like to administer interrogatories to the noble Lord, which certainly if he wishes he can answer. What is it that he wants? Everyone has described what exists. What improvement is it that he is after? Does he want a permanent chairman? Does he want a Staff over the three Services?
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
Yes, I see what he is after; it is the O.K.W. He wants a Staff to sit and give orders to the Prime Minister.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
What I want more than anything else is a Combined General Staff which is going, through an executive head, to advise the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is the only head who can lead the country in war or peace, so that the Staff has to plan 402 and deal with the strategical aspect both in peace and in war. But it does not interfere with the various Ministers administering their Departments.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
I say this with very great respect to a distinguished soldier, but I think what he has overlooked is that you cannot have an overweighted collection of people responsible for giving orders unless they have the responsibility for carrying them out. To have a Staff which says, "We will have nothing to do with your quarrels. We will order the Air Ministry to do this or that," is of no value. It was the divorce of responsibility from decision that was the weak spot of the O.K.W. As to the divorce from Parliamentary control—that is to say allowing these people to get together and decide what the Defence Budget is to be—that is a constitutional point which I think most people consider as settled. The third and final reason is that, whatever might have been said in 1942, when people could say, "Hitler is winning the war. Why?" "Because he has got the O.K.W." is now washed out. The thing has been a failure. That is the ultimate answer to the noble Lord.
From an examination recently made of various German documents it was found that there were many complaints of the O.K.W., and the complaints precisely underlined the reasons why we say an O.K.W. is not wanted in this country. This is what this official report says:One of the great drawbacks of the O.K.W. was its independent position as regards the Service Ministries …
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
I cannot give you the author. I know it is authoritative but I cannot give you the writer.Though it was staffed by officers from all three Services, they had no function as representatives of their own Ministries"—that is precisely the point—in which they had no status or responsibility. The representative character of our central war machine providing the link between it and the Service Departments, which has proved so essential to the proper co-ordination of the views and demands of both, was lacking.403 That is the reason why the O.K.W. came to nought. Therefore, with great respect to the noble Lord, I would ask him, is that the type of thing he wants, and, if not, in what precise particular does he want an alteration in the machinery which in to-day's debate has been praised from all quarters of the House?
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
My Lords, the debate having gone on now for over two hours, and there being six more speakers, I will confine my remarks to as short a period as I possibly can. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Croft, for his kindly reference to the Navy, which has reconciled me to some adverse criticism this afternoon of the Admiralty, but I think it was perhaps a little unfortunate that he should have raised that difficult question as to whether one Party or the other was most responsible for our lack of readiness when war broke out. I always emphasize that there should be no Party politics or Party bias, if we can avoid it, in discussing these defence matters. We have to agree I think that all three Parties were almost equally to blame for our lack of preparedness. I think it was very unfortunate that Lord Hutchison's Resolution, which is important, because he represents views which have been strongly held by a great number of people, should have been combined with the general debate on the White Paper. There is not time for both and the train of thought in dealing with one Motion is quite different from the train of thought in dealing with the other. You cannot discuss two subjects of quite different nature like these in the same debate. I very much feel, with the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, that Lord Hutchison ought to produce something more definite as to what he would consider was an adequate organization.
We have at the present moment a very elaborate defence administration. What it is at the moment I do not think anybody knows. How it has finally evolved at the end of six years of war, when the Government say it has steadily improved, and what it is now, I do not personally know. Therefore it is very difficult to say to what extent the present organization is adequate or inadequate. But if you are going to try and set up a different organization, then you want to put forward equally clearly and equally categorically in a diagram how your organization of what is 404 called the great General Staff is going to be formed, with all its heads and sub-heads, and in what way it will be any different from the organization which exists, so that we can pick the bone to pieces and say "This is the best." I do not think we can do it merely by arguing rhetorically on the subject, as has been done this afternoon. There is nothing you can get hold of in the speeches to which I have listened to-day. The subject is a very complicated one.
I do not think it is quite fair to say that the Chiefs of Staff did not work sufficiently together, and shelved their problems sometimes, as Viscount Swinton has said. Certainly in the six years I was there I never knew the Chiefs of Staff to shelve their problems, although they may have done so earlier in the history of the Chiefs of Staff organization. What we did do before the war was this. We did bring into being a higher and a new organization when we formed in the Committee of Imperial Defence a subcommittee of Ministers, Chiefs of Staff and the Foreign Secretary under the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, to go into all the larger questions which the Committee for Imperial Defence could not do, of policy and of war strategy. That continued during the war and was eventually enlarged on and improved when we got the great simplification of the Prime Minister himself, as the Minister of Defence, being Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee to all intents and purposes.
The opening paragraph of the White Paper states:It is the intention of His Majesty's Government to restore the pre-war practice of laying before Parliament from time to time a White Paper on Defence.…I do not think that is correct. It has not been the pre-war practice to lay a White Paper on Defence before Parliament. On the contrary, it has been quite an abnormal practice to do so. It only happened on two occasions, namely, when the two Defence Loans were brought in. These were the only two occasions when a White Paper on Defence was produced. It certainly is necessary in my opinion that there should be, if not a White Paper, a statement on defence every year, and that it should be made by the Prime Minister, or, if there is a Minister of Defence other than the Prime Minister, then by him.
405 That brings me to the question of the Service Estimates, which I want to talk about. I have, as you know, each year in the month of March (this is the third month of March in which we have had a defence debate) moved a Motion on defence in which I have expressed various doubts as to how it was we had a bad organization in anything, why we were unready and what we ought to do, and I did make constructive proposals. In March of last year, when the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, replied, he promised that all the proposals I put forward would have the Government's consideration. What consideration they had I do not know, and to what extent these proposals, which were supported by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, whom I see on the Government Benches at the moment, were passed over to the Labour Government when they came into office I also do not know. But I do not wish to expand on these matters except in a very small way. I do feel as regards the Service Estimates that we ought to have an assurance from the Government that the old practice of making all three Services fight each other for the money is to be abolished. That was the cause in the Services of all the trouble; it was due to the misunderstanding of the Services' own actions that brought into being the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence was brought in because it was believed that the Admiralty got all the money because it was the old and well dug-in Department, and that the Air Force and the Army did not get any because they were pure simpletons who really did not know how to get it.
Of course, the whole thing was absurd. The reason why the Navy got money and the Army and the Air Force did not in peace years was, as has been said so often in this House, because the Navy had a standard of strength and the Army and the Air Force had none. That was the only reason why the Navy could get money and the Army and Air Force could not. Any idea that it was due to bickering between the Chiefs of Staffs was entirely unfounded and was laughed at by anybody who sat in those offices. But at the same time it is very necessary that there should be an understanding that you ought to do away in the future with all ideas of individual standards of 406 strength of the Services. The Services have got to work as a combined whole and they should present their Estimates as a combined whole. Those Estimates should be based not on standard strength, but on the policy of the Government of the day. Now that policy can only be laid down by the Cabinet. It does not matter whether you have a Defence Minister or a Prime Minister at the head of a defence organization; it is the Cabinet who finally have to decide the policy on which Estimates are to be based.
The policy of the Government is to provide sufficient forces, as is said in paragraph 7 of the White Paper, for our duties to the United Nations Organization. As regards facilities, the White Paper says that the upkeep of our bases and communications is essential. What I want to ask the Government is, do they appreciate that that is not sufficient? and I ask this because these are the matters of policy which are at the back of the Service Estimates.
The point I want to make is that it is not sufficient for our Imperial strength. You have got to be ready for the United Nations Organization breaking down. You cannot get away from that. Before, we trusted to the League, and we did not make any preparation for the League failing us. We must not do that again. We have got to have an additional strength according to our Imperial responsibilities in order to save us if war comes again. War can only come again if one of the great Powers brings it into being and U.N.O. breaks up, and the countries split according to their sentiments and ideologies into groups. Then war will come. When that happens, no one will look after our communications except ourselves, and we must make preparation for that inconvenient moment which we hope will never arrive.
There is one other point in the White Paper which I want to bring forward. It is in paragraph 15 (a), where there is reference to concentration on research. I want to give a warning about that. Nobody feels more than I do about the essential need of a complete research organization. The warning I wish to give concerns what was said in the peace years in order to check expenditure in the Services. They used to say, "Do not provide guns, aircraft, or ships, go 407 on experimenting. There is plenty of time. Do not start to build up reserves of munitions, guns and rifles or whatever it may be until we are quite sure that we have got the very final thing the scientists are going to produce for us." That is all right if we know we are not going to war for a long time. You must not allow the fact that the future war is going to be won in the laboratories of the nations to mislead you and to be misused merely as a cloak to prevent the Services being provided with money to keep themselves efficient and to renew their material from year to year.
What are we going to do, I would ask the Government, to recover our strength in time? It will not be long before we talk about reducing our strength. We must reduce our strength from what it is at the present time, and I have given my ideas in the past to your Lordships as to what must be done. Can I be sure that the Government have in their minds an organization for recovering our strength in case of war? When we are ready to fall to a peace level on some such plan I do very much hope that the Government will give us some assurance. That is the crucial point. When you reduce to peace strength, how are you going to be sure of getting back to war potential in time? I proposed a formula last March as to how that could be done.
Somebody talked about battleships and bombers. I did once know something about them. Anybody who has not fought in this war is not competent to speak on the subject. We have some soldiers, sailors and airmen with us to-day. When they come to talk to you about these matters you can be sure they will not want any bombers, tanks or battleships unless they are the best weapons we can have. As regards the old battleships which I used to champion so much in the past, if you ask any sailor whether he could have performed his duties in the war as well as he did without battleships, he would say, "No" If you asked the United States if they could have destroyed the Japanese fleet without battleships they would say, "No"; and look at our construction programme.
I am very glad to hear that the Dominion Ministers are coming here to discuss various problems which will no doubt include defence matters. I do feel 408 that we must get much closer together in Dominion co-operation. I do not believe it is possible for the Empire to pull together in war, especially at the beginning of a war, unless it has pulled together efficiently in peace. I did propose the organization of an Imperial Defence Council at one time in your Lordships' House, with the object of trying to bring the Empire more closely together in defence matters. After all, we had great difficulty in peace on the Committee of Imperial Defence before the war. You may, in the Committee of Imperial Defence, be going to discuss some very secret matter. It may be some new secret weapon which has not yet been heard of. Are you to ask the High Commissioners for the Dominions to attend that meeting if you do not know they are going to be with you when the war starts? Obviously you cannot do so. Can you discuss your war plans, which are highly secret, with representatives of countries which again you are not sure will be with you in the war, or which may even be against you?
We all know the Dominions have been our greatest support with the exception of one—Ireland—but the mere defection in spirit of one is quite sufficient to prevent your having the general collaboration which you want. What was the result? When we used to have secret matters to discuss on the Committee of Imperial Defence, we did not ask the Dominion High Commissioners at all—not any of them. That is very undesirable and it is wrong. Imperial defence is a combined operation. If U.N.O. breaks down and we have a war, then the Dominions will trust entirely so far as the British are concerned, to the United Kingdom forces. We shall not be alone; we shall have other nations with us. If they are going to do that, and must do it, is it not wiser that they should give us the right to look on them also as part of our defence forces, which will work with us when we go to war? It is a big question, I know, but I am quite certain that you will never get that complete organization for defence and efficiency between the Dominion Services and those of the United Kingdom unless you have 'a much closer co-ordination in peace, including a much closer co-ordination of the Secret Service and the Intelligence Service.
I very much hope that something will be done to try and get more authority 409 given to the Dominions as regards defence expenditure, and an assurance that we are not going to let them down. If we can get that in our combined policies, I am sure it will be worth their while to give us the extra security we want—that they will be with us in war. Any who do not wish to be with us in war need not come into our councils.
In conclusion I would say that the basis of defence is money. In peace we refused to pour out the money that we wanted to arm our young men, and so, when war came, we poured out their blood instead. Let us hope that that shameful chapter in our national history is closed. Whether it is closed or not will very largely depend upon what is this final higher organization for defence which the Government have promised to lay before us shortly.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, the Motion placed on the Order Paper by the noble Lord, Lord Croft, raises a subject that requires three days to debate even lightly. Then we have superimposed on it a Resolution in regard to the Combined General Staff, which certainly requires another day's debate. With all due respect to the noble Viscount who replied for the Government just now, I think he swept aside some of the arguments rather light-heartedly and almost sceptically. I would urge him to read some of the debates on combined staffs which we have held in the past. He said that when things were going badly at the beginning of the war it was natural to raise this subject, but now that they are going well there is no cause to do so. The most dangerous lessons of this war, and of any war throughout history, are those which are written in the years of victory and not when the country was having a bad time. I am always frightened of hearing about lessons of war gained from what happened in the last two victorious years of the war. I am more anxious of that in regard to the last war than I am of anything else. I am not touching on the point of the Combined General Staff, and I wish only to say a few words. I agree entirely with what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield, said when he expressed the wish that some of those who have been given seats in this House and who led our Forces in the last war should be here to take part in this debate. I feel cer- 410 tain that if we had heard the old Chiefs of Staff here we should have had a very different debate from that which we are having this afternoon. I had no intention of coming down to your Lordships' House to speak, because I felt certain that some of those noble Lords who know what the defence policy should be would speak to-day.
There are one or two points with which I agree in regard to the defence policy. Again with-out wishing to criticize my noble friend Viscount Stansgate who replied for the Government, I feel that there was one point in Lord Hutchison's speech which was most valuable, namely, that we should examine all the facts of the last war. Why did we do badly to begin with? Why did it take six years instead of four, and what were the weapons, the policies and the organizations which did not carry their full weight? I think consideration of that would be of great value. We should consider why we won and why we took six years to win. I am not one of those who think everything was perfect, even at the end of the last war. Perhaps that is saying something which is controversial. I sometimes feel the war ought to have been won a year or eighteen months earlier. I am not singular in this matter; a great many people in America and in this country have often said the same thing. Therefore I say again that we should examine the facts of the last war. We do not altogether see the facts now, because there are no dispatches published, but that is another subject.
What are we going to have in the Forces of the future? Let me ask the Government whether they intend to maintain the policy of having the best and most efficient training schools. Training schools, whether for the Army or the Navy, should be efficient. I would like to see also the cadre of units maintained. It might be necessary to keep one quarter strength in order to maintain one well-known battalion in existence on paper. The same applies to squadrons: a cadre should be kept in being at the right stations in the world. You have to use a lot of man-power to look after dumps, prisoners of war and many other things. The cadre of the units should be kept in being, even though the numbers are reduced. A squadron might be a flight.
Another point I want to mention is Colonial man-power. Surely when man- 411 power is so short we should provide in our plans for the future for as much man-power from the Colonies as we can to provide all the Services in those Colonies. They want to do it, and if they are allowed to do so it will relieve our man-power shortage tremendously. I agree with much that was said by the noble Lord who introduced this Motion, but I feel that the last part of his speech will be received with sadness, at any rate in the Air Force. Air power has changed war remarkably. Is there any doubt in anybody's mind that it is bound to affect policy, especially when one remembers what that great bombing force under Sir Arthur Harris did to bring about victory by knocking out oil plants and communications in Germany? I know that I shall be accused of having a one-track mind, and of thinking only of bombing, but it does affect the whole defence policy of this country, especially now that the atom bomb has arrived. After what the bombing force under Sir Arthur Harris did, I hope the possibilities of the bombing aeroplane will be recognized. Finally, I would say that I agree with the noble Lord who suggested that in the future in another place the Defence Estimates should be debated simultaneously and not piece-meal, even though the debate may take four or five days.
§ 4.22 p.m.
My Lords, I have listened to the whole of the speeches in this most interesting debate with the attention which I am sure all of your Lordships gave to them and I have read every word of the two-days debate in another place on this same White Paper. I am bound to say, always excepting the speech of my noble friend Viscount Stansgate, who dealt with particular or administration matters with which he had to deal, that I found something missing in all of them. I hope my noble and gallant friend Lord Chatfield will forgive me when I say that I think he was searching in the same direction, but I want, if I may, to put it into slightly different words. What I think is missing, and I am bound to say I detect this omission also in the White Paper itself, is a new doctrine. We had hints of it from the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, a moment or two ago when he spoke of the modern bombing aeroplane, and its effect on the whole of strategy. I know 412 I did not serve in this last war, except in a very humble capacity on land, nor did I administer great forces, but I think I can see as far through a brick wall as most people and I have seen most of the published documents. I am going to suggest that not only has the coming of the modern air force with its tremendous destructive power made a new doctrine essential, but the atomic weapon, which was mentioned by Viscount Trenchard in passing, has made that new doctrine vitally important and necessary. I fail to see that that is yet appreciated by any of the Governments of the great Powers of the world, and of course I do not exempt my own country in this matter because I think no one here in authority has yet appreciated what this new doctrine has to be. I have noticed that particularly in reading the debates that have taken place at the U.N.O. conferences and so on.
I particularly address myself here to the distinguished opener of this debate, the noble Lord, Lord Croft. He is quite right in saying we want certain forces but for certain purposes. The truth of the matter is that in future we have got, not to make preparations for, but to prepare our minds for, two different kinds of war. The noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, spoke of the possible breaking down of U.N.O. but I do not know whether that is quite the right way in which to put it. There may be two kinds of war, namely, those that will be waged with the full support of the combined police forces of U.N.O. and those which will not. There will be the wars that in the past were called police wars or limited wars, when two nations fought for some objective without desiring or attempting to annihilate and destroy each other completely. A perfect example of that is the Crimean War of the middle of last century, when Britain and France with Turkey fought Russia for a limited objective, namely, to prevent the Russians from getting free access to the Mediterannean through the Dardanelles. Another example is the South African War at the end of last century, which was a war waged for limited objectives. Another example is the Russo-Japanese War, at the beginning of this century, which again was a war for limited objectives. There was no desire completely to annihilate and destroy the whole national structure of the opposing nations; after a certain time the de- 413 feated Power gave up. The Franco-Prussian War also falls into that category.
But in the first world war, and still more in the second world war, we had unlimited warfare, which was only approached in the past by the Napoleonic campaigns, where the complete disruption of the whole national economy of the enemy was attempted. In that sort of war all the resources of science will be used. I therefore suggest to your Lordships that our minds must be attuned accordingly. In the limited wars, or the police wars, I would suggest that the atomic bomb would not be used, just as poison gas, for similar reasons perhaps, was not used in this war. Therefore we shall want the older types of weapons, the air forces as we knew them in 1945, the navies as we knew them in this recent war and the armies as they ended up in the Philippines and on the Continent of Europe at the time of the last resistance of the Germans. We shall want those sorts of forces; we shall want to prepare our people for that sort of war in case it is necessary to defend our interests with those older types of weapons. But we must also recognize that if the full resources of science are going to be harnessed to our war machine, then there will be a war of a very different nature, the end of which will be the complete destruction at any rate of one of the combatants and possibly of both. Therefore if we can evolve from this the new doctrine which I suggest to your Lordships is so necessary we can then prepare our defence arrangements and our weapons for the future. We can recruit accordingly; we will not waste money and we will not do what even is worse, lull ourselves into a sense of false security.
Having very inadequately attempted to suggest the lines on which we should seek this new doctrine—I am not so bold as to attempt to lay it down—may I suggest that one or two lessons follow therefrom? I am sorry that my noble friend Viscount Stansgate has been called away because I was going to say that much as I enjoyed his assault on the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, it did not altogether convince me. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, will return to this question of a Combined General Staff in greater detail and that we can have a, separate debate upon it, for I think there are still some things to be said. For example, the Americans, according to my information, are adopting this very suggestion, 414 and they have the same information about the breakdown of the O.K.W. in Germany as, I presume, we have. My noble friend Lord Hutchison and I have fought together for a Minister of Defence for years and we have also fought for this very reform in both Houses for many years. May I say for his comfort that, after all, the O.K.W. had one great handicap and that was the personal leadership of Adolf Hitler? I think that may perhaps account for some of the breakdowns that were so vividly described by Lord Rennell. Those lessons I suggest we should attempt now to profit from.
I agree with what has just fallen from Viscount Trenchard with regard to the necessity of a thorough examination of why we won for a change instead of why we lost, something like a very enlarged Dardanelles inquiry. I suppose one of the matters which might be looked into, and I must apologize for mentioning this again, is the future of the battleship, the great gun-carrying battleship with the gun as its primary weapon. May I be so bold as to suggest that any reading of the lessons, particularly of the last phases of the Pacific campaign—and I have had access to the published documents—would seem to show that the future capital ship will not be the great gun-carrying battleship but the large aircraft carrier. I think that was proved conclusively in the last stages of the Pacific campaign. For the first time an adequate force of large aircraft carriers was available for task forces. I am not saying that the battleship has no further use in the navies of the world, not at all, but it might be well worth our while to explore the possibility of an international scheme for no new battleships to be built, or an international agreement recognizing that the aircraft carrier should perform the main functions of the naval side of the police force of the United Nations Organization.
The second lesson I suggest we might learn is that once more the submarine is only effective as a weapon of barbarism, and we might, by international agreement, again attempt to have the submarine abolished from all the navies of the world. It has long been the policy of successive British Governments, and I suggest that this time we might be more successful. With regard to what the Government have said about the battleship, I take comfort from the fact that of the five super-dread- 415 noughts we had building during the war, according to a recent communication only one is being completed. Another lesson I hope we have learned, which has been mentioned by several noble Lords—and with great diffidence I would venture to support their plea—is that the greatest possible use be made in the future of Colonial troops. I heard that fall with very great pleasure from the noble Lord who introduced this very important Motion. I venture to suggest to your Lordships' House that we have made far too little use in the past of our Colonial loyal British citizens the defence of Hong Kong. I believe if we had had an adequate garrison of Chinese, those very loyal British citizens, the defence of Hong Kong could have been prolonged very much longer and perhaps successfully till the end. We had enough Chinese, who hate the Japanese like poison, to raise an Army in Malaya that would have eaten the Japanese invading Malaya and helped successfully in the defence of Singapore. Your Lordships are very well aware of the very fine services done by Colonial troops, such people as the Fijians, who were not supposed to be used as soldiers, and who were only used as police forces in the past, but who proved themselves the very finest jungle fighters in the world. I suggest there is a lesson there, and we should draw as largely as we can for the defence of the Colonies on the Colonial populations. With great respect I should like to support the plea, and I am sure my noble friend when he comes to reply will take the same view.
Nothing has been said in this debate about what really concerns most of all the general public. That is not the question of defence or the future strength of the Armies, but how to get the men out and home, in other words, demobilization. One must congratulate the Cabinet on the very fine way in which demobilization has been carried out. Those of us who remember the chaos and confusion, the discontent and, indeed, worse after the first world war, and compare it with the smoothness and efficiency of the machine after this world war, I am sure must agree that His Majesty's Government deserve a great deal of praise. I do not see how it could be done more quickly in view of other commitments, and I am glad to hear we do not now have any criticism 416 from the Opposition, even if we have no praise.
But I am a little alarmed at the proposed apparent strength of our Armed Forces for the next few years. It is calculated, according to the White Paper, that we will be maintaining under arms 1,100,000 men in the three Services, with the addition of 100,000 men in training. I am quite well aware that that is owing to the special circumstances and difficulties of the times, and there can be no criticism of that for the time being. We obviously need that number now. It is also suggested in the White Paper that that is not the final figure, and that there will be reductions. I hope that will be the case, because 1,200,000 men, including those under training, withdrawn from industry, with the addition of the very large number of people required to make munitions for them, is too great a drain on our man-power and our economic resources. We have got to find some means of economizing in that man-power, whether by more powerful weapons or greater use of Colonial troops I do not know, but obviously, with our future commitments for industry, it is difficult to see how a permanent force of 1,200,000 men can be maintained, and I presume that is the considered view of His Majesty's Government.
The Conference met in New York on 25th March of the Big Five, Britain, France, United States of America, China and Russia, who form the permanent members of the Security Council. There are meeting these the Chiefs of Staff of the five nations in New York to discuss the police forces for the United Nations Organization. I do not know what truth there is in this, and I can only go by the newspaper reports, but it appears to be very authoritative—and the news-papers in America seem to get hold of their facts very easily, which is more than they do here—that the total police force for the United Nations Organization is to be 2,000,000, and that the Big Five, including ourselves, are to provide 1,000,000. That means our quota, on a parity basis—I do not know what the basis will be—will be 200,000. That seems to me a much more reasonable figure. It is also reported—and may I draw your Lordships attention to this in view of the earlier remarks I ventured to make?—that in the United Nations Organization Force no atomic units will 417 be included, and therefore we have them agreeing that this last devilish invention will not be used by the U.N.O. combined police forces.
If those figures, as given in the Press, are near the truth, I suggest they indicate that the force to be provided for the policing of the world, which is what it means, 2,000,000, including Army, Navy and Air Force, is not un-reasonable, and that our share of that, on the basis I have suggested of 200,000, is something we can bear, but the figure I discussed earlier may in the long run prove too burdensome. I am very glad to congratulate my noble friends on the White Paper, which I do not think deserves the description of "disappointing" which the noble Lord, Lord Croft, applied to it. It fully explains why more detail cannot be given at the present time. It describes the uncertainties, and we are, after all, promised a more authoritative and factual document in the near future. I think that such a phrase as appeared in the otherwise most interesting and enlightening speech of Lord Croft was quite undeserved.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
My Lords, I must ask your Lordships to excuse me intervening at this point, but it is necessary for me to attend another meeting quite shortly, and I must therefore crave indulgence for not waiting till the end. My noble friend Lord Winter will take any other point which may arise. We have had, I think, a very interesting and profitable discussion on the White Paper. As noble Lords have said, there are still quite a number of important matters to be determined, which will be reported upon to Parliament at a later date. In particular, perhaps, I might refer at the beginning of my remarks to that part of the Paper which has entered so much into the discussion this afternoon, namely, the reference to a higher defence organization which was particularly dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, and which appears on the last page of the Paper. I am very sorry that I shall not be able to hear what my noble friend Lord Hankey says, because I believe that he probably knows more about this than almost anyone else in the United Kingdom, but I am quite sure that I shall not say anything from which he will wish to differ.
418 Listening to the debate I could not help thinking that there was some-thing in the suggestion which my noble friend Viscount Stansgate was prompted to make—that the right method of procedure if it had been in order was by way of question and answer. But, of course, it would be most disorderly. With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Hutchison, said, it struck me that the sort of thing he had in mind was the German High Command—the Combined General Staff. I think the experience of the war shows conclusively that our system of higher Staff consultation, joint consultation, was much more effective than theirs. What really happened, as I think the Papers prove conclusively, is that the German highest organization being composed of men who were, shall I say, above the Services, above the Service Departments, became, inevitably, as things developed, more or less divorced from the realities which operations necessarily involve. At the latest stages of the war they were almost, in effect, marooned, and then had little or no influence upon the conduct of the war except to make for a good deal of confusion.
With regard to the Staff system which was developed here in the war, and from which, I may say at once, there has, so far, been no departure, what we are trying to do, by means of constant and most intimate consultations with the Staffs themselves, is to see if any improvements, based upon experiences of the war, can be devised. The system that has been developed in this country has been one of joint meetings of the Chiefs of Staffs. The C.I.G.S. is still the professional head of the Army, and when things are called for that involve movements of troops, or all the thousand and one things that go to make up an operation, it is for him to deal with them through the various officers attached to the different committees which are working on these subjects—it may be transport, supplies or anything else. Those officers are still officers of their own Services and they are not divorced from the living realities of their Services. That is the system which was developed during the war in this country. It proved exceedingly efficient. In fact it proved much more efficient than the Combined General Staff of very high persons which I think the noble Viscount favours.
419 As to what proposals will actually be put forward, I can only say, without being able at this stage to anticipate their final form, that I do not think the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, will be disappointed. We are trying to learn the lessons of the war, and to see in what way improvements can be effected and welded into our peace-time organization of the Services. I do not think that at the moment I can say anything more than that, except perhaps to express my agreement with the various speakers, Lord Rennell and, I think, Viscount Swinton and others, who have insisted that clearly the Prime Minister must be the Chairman of the Defence Committee. I think that that is recognized to be essential. However he may be assisted and advised, or however a matter may be dealt with lower down, he must be at the head of the Committee.
I do not think that I should profitably use your Lordships' time, if I may say so, were I to follow the mover of the Motion into animadversions upon the different Parties. He allowed himself, I think, to enter upon those in an un-guarded moment. I have a vivid recollection that during the early days of the war, when your Lordships sat in a more august and ornate Chamber—albeit one nothing like so convenient for speaking in—I moved that there should be a Minister of Supply. The proposal was defeated. But that did not, of course, prevent a Minister of Supply being appointed later. Several of us, I think, on three separate occasions had a Motion down for such an appointment. But still, I hope every Party will be willing to learn from its own failures. So far as my Party are concerned, however, we have no responsibility for that particular bit of hesitation. Now, we want to see that our post-war plans are such that we are enabled to make the fullest possible use of the lessons of the war and of the men who have learned them, the men who helped to get out the plans which brought us success and who are, happily, still with us. With regard to science, information, supply, and all the rest, we are anxious to do everything to make the fullest use of their experience, and if improvements are suggested, as they very well may be, we shall not hesitate to recommend them to the country.
420 One further point. I would like to express my emphatic agreement with the statement that the personnel of our Services must be of the highest possible quality. It is quite evident that our numbers cannot be as great as those of many other countries. Maybe we shall not require them, but I think it is agreed that we must aim at having the best trained, the most highly efficient and best equipped Services that can possibly be produced. The more efficient and well-trained are our Defence Forces, the less need will there be for them to be very large. But they must be well-equipped and well trained. The training facilities that are now available and their development are being dealt with, and plans are being made, with that end in view.
Let me now say a word upon a point to which I think the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield, and others referred. That is the matter of Dominion help. I think that from the discussion which we had some little time ago it emerged quite clearly that the system of having, shall we say, a high-powered Staff capable of giving directions to everybody all over the world was not a system which was likely to appeal to the Dominions. I think that anybody who has any inside experience knows that to be true. But that does not affect the actual fact of the situation, and it has now been considered that there are problems of defence, shall we say of a regional character, in which Dominion co-operation is essential. I think it has already been announced with respect to the forthcoming visit of some of the Prime Ministers that certain specific points will be considered. There are regional groups of problems in the consideration of which everyone is willing to co-operate. But that is very different from having a group of high-powered, superior persons at the top, who might be tempted to give orders to these nations. That would not work, and the other way is the right method of approach. With regard to many of the other questions dealt with by the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, as to the character and size of the Services, we cannot really at present give any final decision. The contributions to U.N.O. are still undetermined. It is not possible at this stage to define with any precision what will be the ultimate form of the future Forces, but the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, dealt quite effectively with the problems 421 which had got to be borne in mind in assessing the size and character of our future Forces.
I have here a typewritten list of the questions which Lord Strabolgi asked and which he had courteously supplied to me in advance. One question was regarding the future of battleships. I think that everyone at one time or another in his life has delivered an opinion as to the value, or utility, as the case may be, of battleships, and I can only say that we recognize the value of the aircraftcarrier. It is clearly vital, but at the same time we are not in a position at this stage to ignore certain values which may be attached to battleships. The decision of the Government, acting on the best advice we can get, will be revealed in the Estimates which will subsequently be brought forward. I have nothing to say about the use of Dominion and Colonial Forces or the scientific value of various experiments now being undertaken. So far as the development of the scientific side of research and information is concerned, speaking generally we in this country have an exceedingly alert and an exceedingly well-informed, superior organization. We intend to make the very best use of what science can bring to our aid and I do not think that at this moment I can or should go any further than that. I am afraid I am not in a position to answer Lord Chatfield's question of which he also gave notice but my noble friend Lord Winster may have something to say about it. But it is pretty evident, I think, that apart from our contribution to U.N.O. there will be Imperial forces required. That is, I think, self-evident. So far as supply and research are concerned, I do not think any of your Lordships need have any misgiving that this country will depart from the principle of having a centralized supply department. I know that the Admiralty is sometimes a bit of a law unto itself with regard to certain supplies, but I think if one lesson has emerged clearly out of the two wars, it is that we should have a well-organized, well-disciplined, properly conducted Ministry of Supply, which must of course be closely associated with the work of the Joint Staffs Committee.
Finally, one has to remember this, and this I think is the final reply to the suggestion which I thought underlay Lord Hutchison's plea, namely, that war un- 422 fortunately will nevermore—and let us hope it will never occur again—be limited to mere combatants. It involves the whole people, everything—the line of food supplies, trade, all activity, and the work of every citizen in the country. That is the terrible fact which faces us, so that it means that, whatever may be the joint Staff arrangements, you must have allied with it those whose business it is to take account of these innumerable other activities which have to be dealt with in case war breaks out, affecting transport, supplies, and so on. That is another reason against having a divorce of a superior higher power from those who are actually in touch with the operations which would inevitably go on, both on the civil front and in the field. That is conclusive I think that the scheme which is in the mind of the noble Lord would be no better than the one we have at present. All I can say in conclusion is that various other proposals will have to be brought before Parliament—we are working very hard—and they will be produced as soon as possible and as soon as the state of affairs in the distracted world enable us to do so. Some very useful contributions have been made to the debate to-day and for my part I welcome them.
§ 5.56 p.m.
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, I am only going to keep the House for three minutes. Most of what I hoped to say has already been said. I want to support the Motion of Lord Croft and I wanted to say a few words in support of Lord Hutchison, but the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, was good enough to refer to a conversation we had many years ago, so I feel exonerated about that. I was very interested in what Lord Chatfield said. I am not going to embark on anything about battleships. In fact it is one of the benefits of being out of the war that you need no longer cross swords with your friends on that subject. I should like to mention the importance of reserves, which are not mentioned in the White Paper. In the debate in another place which followed the Prime Minister's statement on the White Paper relating to defence much time was occupied by successive speakers in pressing for a speed-up of demobilization and in pressing for a still more rapid reduction of the Armed Forces. If that is possible now, in the present disturbed state of the world, with U.N.O. decidedly 423 wobbly, with many people in many lands almost dreading the resumption of hostilities, what are we to expect if U.N.O. becomes firmly established, if the international horizon clears a bit and things are going smoothly? I think that whatever the Government of the day may be, whatever its colour, it will have an irresistible pressure brought upon it to cut down the Armed Forces to the bone.
I think we have really got to try to combine being financially sound with being a strong military power if we are going to play our part in the world. The military strength of a nation lies not only in its first-line effectives but in good reserves and it is the strength of the reserves that matters. Twice in half a century our Regular Army has been sacrificed so as to form a shield behind which the men could be trained to defend the home country, but in spite of the devoted efforts of the Regular Army on each occasion we have had to send half-trained troops to the front. Thousands of young lives have been wasted because there were no reserves ready. Thousands of young lives and much treasure have been sacrificed because of our unpreparedness in the matter of reserves. Have we learned our lesson? Can we say that never again shall we send unarmed and unprotected ships to sea to face enemy attack, to be sunk off our own coasts? Can we say that never again shall we land troops upon foreign soil within range of enemy aerodromes without air support and without a single anti-aircraft gun for their protection?
The only way in which we can avoid the wretched position in which we found ourselves at the beginning of the war is by having strong reserves ready in this country. Directly war was declared, what happened? We had not any reserves. Doubling the Territorial Army by a stroke of the pen on the eve of war did nothing towards providing the Army with the trained reserves it required. The Navy used up its Regular Reserves at once (when I say "Regular" I mean the Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) to man the ships it actually had ready. I believe the Royal Air Force was better supplied with reserves owing to its far-sighted policy (credit for which I believe is due to the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard) of giving short-service Commissions and the en- 424 couragement which was always given to the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. I believe they had some people. But no Service had enough reserves. All had to set up large establishments in which to train the officers and men required. But these men were wanted at once. There was no time to give them proper training. They were bundled off to the front or to the sea because we had no reserves. Thanks to the adaptability and natural aptitude of British youth, we did in time get enough officers and men. But how much better if they had been trained and ready when the storm broke.
Now, after six years of war in all the Services we have a large number of officers and men, trained in the hard school of active service, who are going back to private life. At this moment they are a great asset, but it is an asset that loses value very rapidly. Should we not really make the fullest use we can of this talent that is coming out to help to train the rising generation, and to keep going all the organizations we had before the war, and perhaps improve upon them? These men, who are veterans of this war, would appeal to the younger generation as men who can put the stuff across, having had such experience, and the knowledge of our having such reserves would be a source of confidence to us, and be a great deterrent to any potential enemy.
One thing is perfectly clear, and that is, if you are going to make use of your reserves, you must have them not only ready, but you must have them trained in the latest weapons; you must treat them, in the jargon of the day, as being of high priority. It is no good thinking you are going to have enthusiasm in your men if you give them old stuff, if you give them old weapons. You have got to trust the officers and men, to give them responsibility, to let them do the job in peace which they are going to be called upon to do in war. It is essential that they should have the most modern equipment, and be made to feel that the country is trusting in them, and feeling sure they will prove their worth.
I was going to say I am alive to the fact that people may say I have forgotten the atomic bomb. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, put my argument much better than I can. I have done nothing of the sort. But you cannot base your preparations for war on what may be done with the atomic bomb. One thing is 425 certain, and that is that wars will be won in the end by men, and the more destructive the weapons the more men you will want. Who finally secured this country against the V1 and V2 attacks? The British and Canadian infantry, who overran the stations. It may be that the atomic bomb will never be used. As Lord Strabolgi said, gas was never used in the last war. Gas was the bogy then, and we spent hours and hours wearing gas masks, and running about and going into shelters. But nothing happened. Perhaps the very completeness of preparations to use against it was its undoing.
My own feeling has been that we made a great mistake when we allowed atomic bombs to be dropped on the cities of a nation which was already down and out. It may well be that the force of public opinion and the fear of reprisals will keep the atomic bomb out of any war. We have got to be ready with the most limited Regular forces, because we have got to economise, and the only way to do this is by having these strong reserves, by compulsion if necessary, so that they can take up their rôle on the day war is declared. It is no good saying, "We will wait until war is a little nearer. We can train them in time." You cannot. I do hope, when a further reply is given to this debate, that something will be said which will show that the Government realize the importance of having these reserves at the moment and not six months later.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ LORD TWEEDSMUIR
My Lords, rising at this extremely late hour, I promise to be exceedingly brief. The noble Lord who moved this Motion, the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, and the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, have drawn attention to the great reservoir of man-power which we have in the Colonies. I will briefly draw your Lordships' attention to the African Continent. The White Paper makes reference to collaboration with the Dominions, but makes no mention of the Colonies at all. I find that a most extraordinary omission when we think of that great body of troops from East and West Africa who took part in the campaigns in Abyssinia, Madagascar, and, most important of all, in Burma. At the outset of this war, some natural doubt existed as to whether the African, unused to war as he was, could take his place in the large battle formations and 426 acquit himself in the hideous complexity and temper of the modern battlefield. That doubt has now been allayed. The Africans stood up manfully not only to shot and shell but to the most fearful hardships. In Burma the advance of the African Divisions from Imphal to Kalewa was a truly remarkable performance. Valuable lessons have been learned during this recent war with regard to the African as a soldier. He is in his infancy. In the 1914 war the King's African Rifles gained an enviable record in fighting against Von Lettow, that master jungle fighter. But this recent war is the first war in which they have been engaged which is a war in the 20th century meaning of the term.
As I say, the African is in his infancy as a soldier. A nation does not learn the military art in one or even in two wars. Those magnificent troops of the Indian Army and the North African troops of the French Equatorial Army became the powerful legions they now are through being built up over a very long period. This war has shown us certain factors with which we must reckon. The different tribes of Africans have demonstrated their different capabilities. Some take more readily to discipline than others. Some make the best infantry, others the best administrative units. The trouble is you cannot decimate the fiercest tribes who make the finest infantry and consequently take the heaviest casualties, without completely upsetting and unbalancing the economy of their country. Above all factors, it is necessary to have only the very best British officers. Our Colonial administration now and in the past has had a vast army of critics. They would have the world believe that the unhappy African was oppressed under the brutal British yoke. Had that been the case what better opportunity could the African have found than within those dark days when, beset by our mortal enemies, we stood alone and friendless? That would have been the time to have thrown off our yoke had they wished to do so. Instead they flocked to our standard in their tens of thousands, and showed the world that they considered our Colonial Empire was something for which it was worth fighting.
Before the war our Colonial African forces presented rather a strange pattern. The Colonial Office supported them as officers lent by the War Office. The War 427 Office kept an eye on the whole business from the point of view of overall strategy but the Colonial Office put in most of the budget and the Governments of Colonies made their Minister a kind of peaceful war lord. When we started this war we started with an African force that was to a great extent unbalanced and entirely unused to the higher collective training, and in most cases was not fully equipped. However we never lacked the best British officers and we must see that we never do. Those forces were kept to a minimum and in fact amounted to no more than police battalions. The present circumstances are these. As we look at the world to-day and see how best we can shape our security we find that a cloud at the moment hangs over India and the future shape of that great Empire is an image we cannot discern at the moment. In peace time our defence services are handicapped by two great shortages, the shortage of money in peace time and the shortage of man-power in war.
We have in Africa a great reservoir of stalwart manhood who already flocked to espouse our cause. In 1939 we had 19,000 men under arms in East and West Africa. By 1945 the number of men recruited was 375,000. Africa has now proved herself worthy of full reliance. The African Continent will become a great strategic area; it must be forged as a strong joint in the strategic structure of Imperial defence. In Mombasa and Freetown we have two great Imperial bases. As a training ground Africa is unequalled, and Africa cannot be disregarded. It is said that democracies are never prepared for war because a country which is prepared for war cannot be a democracy. That is said, I think, by those people who consider that because we have entered two wars unprepared and won them we can do it again and again. There is an old saying that the third time is never like the rest.
Given time and patience we can build up a first-class African Army. Who pays does not matter; at all costs the War Office must command and must control it. It should be a force, a balanced force, of all arms and services forming the nucleus of what may be East African and West African divisions. If it is to be small it must be carefully picked, with every soldier a potential N.C.O. There are 428 those who think it might be profitable to model it on the Indian Army. I think the present system a better one, where officers serve when seconded from their own regiments, returning often to England to refresh themselves in current practice. Flying should make that easier, as in the past the question of the short tour involved heavy expense. There must, too, be incentive in the way of pay and promotion. Officers who serve with the African forces must be encouraged to keep up that connexion. Much might be done to keep up that connexion by having affiliated battalions with the home Army and the African forces.
Whatever its scale and whatever shape this takes there is no time like the present to start it. Those great African forces built up during this war are only partially demobilized. If the fighting spirit and the sinews of Africa are not woven into the pattern of our future Fighting Forces we shall make a mistake which we shall live to regret most bitterly. My Lords, ask His Majesty's Government to state their plans for the African forces. The noble Viscount who leads this House has just said that he could not make a statement. I would like the assurance that although a statement cannot be made now, His Majesty's Government are fully alive to the importance of it.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, I must apologize to your Lordships and especially to my noble friends Lord Croft, Lord Hutchison and Viscount Stansgate for having to speak without having heard the earlier part of the debate. I am so afraid I may repeat what others have said. I had a long-standing engagement which made it impossible for me to get here earlier. On my noble friend Lord Hutchison's Motion, to which I am devoting all my observations, I have given my view repeatedly in earlier debates. Put very briefly, my strong view is that the Staff system whatever it is must be based on a return to the Committee of Imperial Defence and the powerful system which we built up between the wars to provide for a war emergency. Now that system has seen us through the two greatest wars in our history. Not only was it sufficiently flexible for adaptation for the supreme control of our war effort in both wars, but it has been extended to Washington to the Combined Staff which directed the war effort of the United Nations with such 429 brilliant success during the last half of the late war. It is well understood by the Dominions and it is well understood by all our own Government Departments right through. It is unthinkable, to my mind, that we should not continue to base our-selves on an organization with that unchallengeable record, although of course we must keep it always progressive and up to date.
Now, even before the first German war the Committee of Imperial Defence was based on the assumption that in the event of what my noble friend Lord Strabolgi called an unlimited war, it is necessary to provide for the development and co-ordination of the Fighting Services, on which of course victory depends, and also, behind them, the organization of all the resources of the nation as well as of the Commonwealth and Empire. Before the first war we did not have time to complete it; there was a great deal left to do, but that was the conception on which it was based. There is no other system I ever heard of that covers the co-ordination, both horizontally and vertically, right through the whole of the Government, through all the branches at all levels, in peace and in war, to be compared with that system.
Take the highest level—and the highest level, of course, is that of the Prime Minister. It is very important that the Prime Minister should be conversant with all these arrangements and with both our weaknesses and our strength, because if you go to war it is on the Prime Minister that falls the direction of the war and the expounding of the policy of the Government to Parliament and the Empire. Now he surely can best prepare for that responsibility by taking charge in time of peace of the organization that is responsible for the principles, the policy, the plans and the preparations. That is why, in the original scheme of the Committee of Imperial Defence, it was laid down that the Prime Minister should be its invariable President; and no Prime Minister in those forty-two years has shirked that responsibility, though some, of course, have, when very pressed, delegated the day-to-day direction to a whole-time colleague. There is no other system that gives the Prime Minister, without really overburdening him, that opportunity to acquaint himself with all the preparations.
430 It is essential also that a number of other Ministers—I will not give the list—who are pivotal in time of war should also be associated in that way. For my part, I should like to see the Leader of the Opposition and one or two of his colleagues in the picture too, because you can never tell the conditions leading up to a war or the circumstances in the early part of a war which very often lead to a change of Government and sometimes a Coalition into which these members ought to be brought. The Dominions and India, of course, must always be given every possible opportunity, as for many years has been the case, of being represented in such manner and to such extent as they desire. All that is provided for by the C.I.D. system.
On the next level come the Chiefs of Staff—almost on the same level. It is a very high level. Of course they always have been, and must continue to be, the mainspring of the machine. Collectively they are the joint advisers in peace, and in war they become the joint advisers and also, to a great extent, the joint executive of the Government on the planning and operational side. Throughout the war they met daily, delegating to a certain ex-tent to their Vice-Chiefs of Staff, and with the aid of their powerful joint planning and intelligence organizations—these on a slightly lower level. I am trying to show how all the levels were co-ordinated, and how under the general direction of the Prime Minister and Defence Committee, they issued their orders and directives. I particularly call attention to the fact that in the White Paper on the Organization for Joint Planning—that is, the 1942 Paper—and in the recent statement on defence of February last, the organization is definitely referred to as the Joint Staff. Now that is the Joint Staff that I want to see continued. But, besides the Joint Staff—and it is an essential ancillary—you need the whole of the War Cabinet system, to build up, under the Imperial Defence system in peace, the staying-power of the nation, and organize all its resources behind the Fighting Forces.
Before the War the build-up of the essential organization was undertaken by the Committee of Imperial Defence, with a number of committees, sub-committees, executives, working parties or whatever you like to call them, at every grade, and all linked up with the Chiefs-of-Staff 431 organization by a strong and efficient secretariat. Now that secretariat, under the able direction of Sir Edward Bridges, General Hastings Ismay, General Hollis and General Jacob, built up a highly-developed technique. It started during the war of 1914–18 and was greatly improved between the wars and during the last war, and was a decisive factor in the success of the whole system. That is what I mean by a Great General Staff, and with that interpretation alone I support the Motion of my noble friend Lord Hutchison. But I have the impression—I unfortunately did not hear his speech, but I have read his former speeches on the subject—that he wants some closer integration of the work of the existing Joint Staffs. If that is desirable, you can do it under the present system, which is very flexible and which can be adapted to meet any of his objects.
Take the position before the war. There was a Joint Planning Committee which originally consisted just of the three Directors of Plans of the Services, but afterwards it was strengthened by including whole-time planners of just a little lower rank than those, working continuously within the Committee of Imperial Defence. It was started in my time and I aided and abetted it all I could. So you have the three inside working always together, and thus you focus into one Committee the whole planning brains of the three Services. There were other whole-time planners ad hoc. I remember a working party of whole-time planners on Home Defence which worked for some years, and during the war they became specially close. The White Paper of 1942 said that specially selected officers of the three Services lived together in the same office and thus learnt to think and act not in terms of three separate units assisting one another for a common end but in terms of a single fighting unit, animated by the same spirit and the same conception of the common task. What could one ask for more than that? That system, taken as a whole, seems to meet all requirements. My main thesis is that it should be continued, although no doubt it should be kept up to date.
I have one or two tentative suggestions which I should like to offer. We need many more people trained in this kind of work. We always knew that, and that was why the Imperial Defence College 432 was founded. We need them not only so that we can have a pool on which to draw to meet the needs of the centre, but because in war it is essential to have out in the Commands this same sort of co-operation. You have got to have a Combined Staff, if that is the right phrase, in each theatre of war, and for that you want specially trained people, and, I think, a good many younger men training on. Therefore I was delighted to learn, and I congratulate the Government on it, that they are re-establishing the Imperial Defence College under General Slim. In that sense I agree with my noble friend Lord Hutchison that we must build up a sort of Inter-Services Staff Corps.
I am very anxious to know what is to be done to bring science more closely into Imperial defence. I have read the White Paper and I have read the speeches, but I got nothing very definite out of them. I think we should continue the position which we reached during the war, when pretty nearly the whole of our scientific personnel—supreme in quality but none too numerous—was harnessed to the war effort, producing such amazing results, some of which have been mentioned this afternoon, namely, radar, anti-submarine warfare, mine detection, the accuracy and effectiveness of bombing, anti-aircraft warfare in all its branches, landing operations, flame warfare, medicine—there were terrific achievements in medicine—and others much too numerous to mention, culminating, of course, in the atomic bomb. In addition, we produced a large number of scientific personnel. Under my own scheme we trained twice as many people for junior scientific work as there were men in Wellington's British army at Waterloo. More than 60,000 people were trained as scientists. We must not lose all that; we must retain it. The only plan I can think of is to bring science right into the central system of planning in time of peace, that is to say, into the very heart of the Committee of Imperial Defence. There should be a strong section of whole-time scientific planners working in conjunction with the Service planners, and at its head should be some eminent man of science, whom the Chiefs of Staff would look upon as an equal and be glad to consult. I am told that in Canada a distinguished scientist has been appointed Director of Inter-Service Science, and is graded on a level with the Chiefs of Staff. 433 This is an excellent example of what I submit the Government should do. In addition, of course, we want a number of youngish men of high attainment and character to keep the whole organization in touch with the march of science in all its branches, including the specialized research conducted by the Service departments, which I hope will continue, but From which before the last war the Committee received singularly little information. These scientific planners must, of course, be associated very closely with all the other planning work. On top of that I would have an Advisory Committee, including some of our leading scientists in the war, to whom periodical reports should be presented on the scientific work on defence, and who should have the right to initiate fresh proposals. Science also should be brought into the Imperial Defence College. It is rather late to ask the noble Lord to give answers on these points, but I hope they will at any rate be considered.
I do not want to offer any other suggestions because the hour is very late, and because I think the people most competent to make the suggestions are, as my noble friend the Leader of the House said, the people who worked the system during the war—the Ministers, the Chiefs of Staff, the civil servants, the scientists and others. I should like to ask one question in conclusion, and that is whether at the moment we are on the system of the Committee of Imperial Defence, whether we are still on the War Committee system, or whether we are in a state of transition, which I rather suspect to be the case. I ask it because I notice that Australia has re-established its Council of Defence which is a body conceived on exactly the same lines as the Committee of imperial Defence. If it is difficult to answer that now, perhaps the Government will give me an answer personally later.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
If the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt, perhaps I may tell him that the Defence Committee is carrying on at the present time. The Committee of Imperial Defence has not, to my knowledge, met since this Government was formed, and, I believe, not since the beginning of the war. "In the transitional stage" would be right.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ LORD CROFT
My Lords, may I thank the noble Viscount for his most 434 courteous and interesting reply to that part of the debate raised by my Motion? I am very grateful to him, and also to the Leader of the House for the sympathetic way in which he spoke on the general subject. I frankly confess that I am a little sorry that the noble Viscount and the Government could not give us more encouragement with regard to Colonial recruitment, but I am sure that after the very impressive debate we have had that will receive a considerable amount of force, and I hope that note will be taken of the speeches that have been delivered. I was also a little sorry that he was unable to tell me—there may be some reason of which I do not know—anything about whether in our much scattered forces we have something in the nature of a strategic reserve. I realize he did not come to give an answer to that, but it is a very important question. He gladdened us by telling us what the Air Force were doing with regard to their Auxiliary Service, and I hope the Royal Navy and the Army will be close on their tail in that matter.
Before resuming my seat, may I say one word with regard to what my noble friend Viscount Trenchard said when he remarked that he was sad—I think those were his words—that I had not referred to what I, of course, regard as the grand operations of the bombing force under Air Marshal Harris. I realize it was towards the end of my speech, and that was an excuse for any noble Lord not to have heard what I said, but, to use my own words, I said that the Royal Air Force, amongst other things, saved us from appalling tragedy in 1940 and 1941, took an essential part in every single successful military operation, and so largely contributed to the destruction of the military potential and communications of the enemy. I only repeat that because I do beg the noble and gallant Lord not to feel sad if I was inadequate, and I want to tell him it is not because I do not feel immense admiration, as a one time soldier, for those great achievements. I beg to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at eighteen minutes before seven o'clock.