§ LORD STRABOLGI rose to draw attention to the contribution to be made by the United Kingdom and the Colonies to the solution of the problems of Imperial Defence; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion I have the honour to submit to your Lordships has been slightly altered in the wording at the request of the Government, because I had given notice that I did not intend to raise matters concerning the contributions of the Dominions to defence, which is a separate subject. It was thought better to narrow the terms of the Motion, but I do not think it will limit any of your Lordships who wish to express an opinion.
§ I do not propose to raise matters concerning the present military situation arising out of the recent World War, because obviously that is rather abnormal and more or less temporary; it is probably unavoidable under the circumstances. It is quite obvious that a great many of our military commitments on the Continent and elsewhere are transient and by no means permanent. But I do submit to your Lordships that it is time that we had a discussion on the long-term policy of defence, and I think I am right in saying that although we have had many important discussions on the various technical aspects of defence, the Territorial Army and so on, we have not had a discussion embracing the whole subject for some considerable time, and I think not even in this Parliament.
§ In approaching this subject one is at once confronted by a number of what I may perhaps describe as imponderables; there are certain factors of the situation which are quite uncertain. Amongst them is how far we are going to succeed in making U.N.O. a reality in which the peoples of the world will have faith, and what is to be the nature, strength and composition of its international police force. We know that the policy of His Majesty's Government is to do all they can to strengthen and make effective the U.N. Organization. How far we will succeed in that we do not know. Secondly, there are, of course, the new weapons, particularly the atomic bomb and the long-range rockets, and the question whether these can be brought under effective international control. In this connexion, I do not know whether it has 247 been done, but I would like to suggest that the functions hitherto exercised by the Lord President of the Council with regard to scientific research might be transferred to the new Minister of Defence. That may have been done, but I suggest that all those questions of scientific research which are of importance should be centralized in one Department.
§ Another great imponderable is what are to be the plans for the future defence of India. Our peace-time military plans have been largely based for the last fifty years or more on the defence of India and the communications with India. There may be great changes here. Again, there is the question whether there is to be, by international agreement, an all-round multilateral reduction of armaments, and this is obviously bound up with what I ventured to say about the new weapons, atomic bombs, rockets and so on. One more imponderable is the rate of our economic and financial recovery, and this again depends to a certain extent on the functioning of various international instruments over which His Majesty's Government have not full control. Considering all these uncertainties it is obvious that those who are responsible for shaping our future defence policy have a difficult task, and they have my sympathy. On the other hand, I do suggest that we can rely on certain fixed principles, and if these are recognized and understood the problems are simplified.
§ The most important principle is that so long as we are dependent on overseas lines of communication we must be in a position to defend and control such lines of communication. How the control is to be exercised, whether distant or close, by warships or aeroplanes or any other means of exercising force, does not matter. It is the principle that matters, and there has been, I fear, much confusion in the past owing to the technical discussions about the weapons themselves to be used for exercising the control, and not about whether the control should be exercised or not. Your Lordships have enjoyed the lively encounters between the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, and the Admirals in this House about the merits of battleships and aeroplanes, and so on. I myself have been a protagonist in the past in those discussions, but that is not really what matters. So long as we are an island and we are dependent on overseas 248 lines of communication for exercising such influence, we must be in a position to defend those overseas communications, otherwise we are naked and helpless. If all these other safeguards of the peace should fail and we are involved in another Word War, we will be reduced by blockade or invasion.
§ I submit to your Lordships that everything else is secondary to this inescapable fact. Sea power—I revert now to the old term—means control of sea communications, and it can be exercised by a variety of weapons according to the march of science and invention. While this control is a potent weapon against any potential enemy, at the same time it is primarily a defensive weapon and the lessons of the two World Wars reinforce this principle. We were saved from defeat by sea power—using the term in its widest sense—and Russia was saved from defeat by our sea power. If our sea power had not enabled us to send the necessary supplies to North and South Russia, the balance no doubt would have been tipped against our Ally. The Battle of Britain, the great fighter aeroplane combat, was one aspect of the exercise of sea power. It was a fight for the control of the air over the Channel, in other words for the control of the sea passage of the Channel. If our Fighter Command had failed—and they did not—we would have had to use other means at our disposal to dispute that passage. It was the opening phase of a fight for sea communications across the Channel. Because we won it we survive. Sea power eventually encompassed the defeat of the Hitler coalition as it defeated the Central Powers in World War I, and Napoleon a hundred years earlier.
§ Similarly, in the recent war in the Pacific the Japan conquests waxed and burgeoned during the temporary eclipse of Allied sea power, and waned and withered as soon as Allied sea power recovered. Japan was defeated before the atom bombs were detonated over Nagasaki and Hiroshima. In any case it would have been a long time before the Americans could have used nuclear energy but for the reconquest or seizure of positions through the exercise of recovered sea power. We in these Islands are in the unique position of being primarily dependent upon sea power; with the exception of Japan, we are the only nation in this situation in the world. This makes the control of our sea communications 249 essential, not only for home defence or our survival as a Sovereign State, but for the defence of our Colonies for which this Parliament is directly responsible.
§ Until we can be certain of the efficiency of the United Nations Organization we shall neglect oar sea power at our peril. Alliances will not help us—neither our twenty years' alliance with Russia, though this strengthens our position, nor the present loose partnership with the United Stags of America, nor the proposed Western Bloc in Europe, however valuable the friendship we enjoy with France and the Low Countries and other neighbouring Powers.
§ Now if my premises are correct, and they are fortified by all the teachings of history, we have to make a choice. We cannot without great strain, I suggest, maintain great land power and great sea power. And it is a fallacy to suppose that specialized military air strength will take the place of specialized naval air strength.
§ Our ancestors, who were not such fools after all, recognized this and they made a deliberate choice of sea power. "Even in the years of our industrial supremacy and great financial strength, it was realized that we could not over long years of peace maintain great land armies plus strong naval power. The position today, of course, can be much more unfavourable.
§ Our present policy—I again make reservations; I realize it is probably only temporary—is apparently to maintain an Army of 1,100,000 troops as well as a Navy and an Air Force. What is our naval position to-day? I do not propose to revive the controversy about the usefulness of the great warship or battleship, but it is a fact that at the end of the recent war we had in commission fifteen capital ships, so obviously they had a value. It has not yet been decided, so far as I know, whether the future main weapon of the battleship or surface warship is to be the gun or the rocket. I do not think it is settled. I believe it is a matter of debate whether the gun is to be the weapon of the surface warship or whether it is to be the long-range controlled rocket. So far there is a good deal of uncertainty there. But compare our position at the end of the war with the present position. We now have in commission only three battleships, of 250 which the "King George V" is undergoing a long refit, and the "Vanguard" is to take their Majesties to South Africa. This leaves only one, the "Duke of York." Now in all my life I cannot remember when we had only one battleship in service for the whole oil the world. The "Anson," "Howe" and "Nelson" are training ships, and the "Valiant," "Ramillies" and "Revenge" token training ships.
§ It is no secret at all that the naval manpower position is embarrassing. I do not think my noble friend, the First Lord, would deny that. It is due to the transition period, of course, and I believe that he has more hope about the manpower position of the future. Yet fleets and their crews cannot be improvised, and they take longer to build up than land forces. I do submit that if this policy is to continue it should be only temporary. We are maintaining ground troops in a disproportionate number, considering our population, to the United States, France or Russia. On a rough calculation, we have one third of the population of the United States and one quarter of the population of the U.S.S.R., but we are maintaining an Army of about half the bayonet strength of either. On January 10 President Truman sent his budget to Congress and it included provision for an Army of 1,070,000 men only, and 571,000 men for the American Fleet. Both these figures include attached Air Forces, as at present there is no separate Air Force in the United States of America. So it would seem that we are pulling more than our weight on the land and less than our weight at sea, and if my arguments in my earlier remarks to your Lordships are well based and well founded that is a dangerous situation.
§ Now there is little need to dwell on the manpower situation. Your Lordships no doubt read the White Paper recently issued, Cmd. 7018, but If wonder if your Lordships also noticed the very remarkable speech on January 10 by Sir Godfrey Ince, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour. He was addressing the Institute of the Motor Industry and he gave some very disturbing figures which are not included in the White Paper. If I may, I will quote just three salient figures. They deal with the number of young men who will reach the age of 251 eighteen in various years, and they show the declining trend of our population. In 1939, 417,000 young men reached military age; in 1946—that is, last year—the number was 335,000, but in 1950 only 295,000 young men will reach the age of eighteen. Your Lordships are aware of the effect of raising the school leaving age to 15. It is a step which I and all my noble friends on these Benches support, but it will deprive industry of 340,000 boys and girls. Apart from improved efficiency and better machinery we need 400,000 to 500,000 more workers in export trades in order to get the necessary 75 per cent. increase. Also, we need more men in mining, in agriculture and in building. Apart from finance and economics, how are we to maintain a standing Army of 1,000,000—I presume that is not a long term policy—plus a strong Navy? This, I suggest, is the real problem of Imperial Defence and of our contribution to the common defence of the Commonwealth.
§ Before I bring my remarks to a close, may I say that I gave notice to my noble friend Viscount Addison, who, I understand, is going to be good enough to reply to my Motion, of two matters which are causing a great deal of perturbation. There are rumours or reports—indeed I believe one could put it even more strongly than that—that the Royal Naval Reserve is to be abolished. The Royal Naval Reserve, as your Lordships are aware, is composed of professional seamen. It is a most valuable, cheap and efficient reserve. I have been told frequently that it is proposed to abolish this historic and very valuable reserve. I hope that my noble friend Viscount Addison will be able to declare that there is no truth at all in that suggestion.
§ The other report to which I would refer is to the effect that it is intended to station a large British Army in future in the Highlands of East Africa. Apparently the idea is that these will be troops who have been withdrawn from India, Egypt, Palestine, and so on. They will, it is said, be concentrated in the Highlands of East Africa. I really can think of no scheme more objectionable than that. On strategic ground, it is to be argued that they are too far away from any possible trouble centre to be effective for use in time of emergency. Nairobi, which is the 252 centre of the East African Highlands, is three hundred miles from the coast to which it is connected by only a single line railway and one road which usually washes out in the rainy season. Every soldier stationed in East Africa will cost three times as much to maintain as one in the United Kingdom.
§ Then, too, there are all sorts of social objections as well. I know a little about East Africa, and it is no reflection on our gallant colonists to say that there is really no white society cut there for the rank and file of a large military force. The result would be that we should probably get the usual social problem which is likely to arise if a British Army is stationed in an out of the way spot with a native population. There would probably be a considerable increase in the half-caste element in the population, of which East Africa so far has been very free. If we want to have a strategic reserve—and I presume that we do—I suggest that the proper place to have it is in this country, especially in view of modern means of communication. I hope that my noble friend Viscount Addison will be able to give us some words of comfort about this, and tell us that the dream of three or four British Divisions being stationed permanently in East Africa will remain a dream.
§ I would like now to refer to the part of my Motion which deals with the contribution of our Colonies to the general defence. I presume that His Majesty's Government are going to make much greater use in future of Colonial troops—that is of the locally recruited indigenous inhabitants of the Colonies. In the recent war, native soldiers from East Africa and West Africa served with great distinction. In Burma, particularly, their military value was most evident, and also—what may seem surprising to some—a large number of them proved themselves to be very good mechanics. It need hardly be said that in this mechanical age this is a matter of great importance to the Army. I would like particularly to mention also the Fijians. In the past we used to use the men of Fiji as Police. We had never thought at all of using them as soldiers. But in the recent war they made most wonderful soldiers. They used to go into the jungles and, so to speak, "eat" the Japanese. It is right to say, I think, that these Fijians proved themselves the 253 finest jungle fighters in the Pacific campaign. And no one, as I say, had ever thought before of using them as soldiers. That is only one more example of the value of the inhabitants of our Colonies, and I am sure that the noble Viscount, with his great knowledge of these matters, is well aware of the magnificent military material Which we have among them. I hope full use will be made of it in the future, and that native troops will be taught to defend their own territories and their own interests.
§ My Lords, that is the Motion which I have the honour to submit. I put it forward in a very friendly way to the Government. I know their difficulties, and I do not expect my noble friend to be too indiscreet in his reply. But, if he can give me comfort on one or two of the points that I have mentioned, I, and I believe your Lordships also, will appreciate it. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 2.56 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, debates on defence in this House are, I think, always interesting and always informed, and this debate has been introduced to us in a very interesting speech. I should like, at the outset of my remarks, to associate myself with what the noble Lord said, both about the African and the Fijian Troops. At second-hand, I know very well that everything he said about the Fijians is right. I can bear first-hand testimony that Lord Strabolgi in no way overstated the efficiency and the gallantry of the contribution which the African Troops made in the war. General Giffard, with his unique knowledge of Africa and Africans and his sympathy and understanding, did a job that I do not think any other soldier could have done. On the slender foundations of a few African battalions, with a fine tradition behind them, he raised an army of 200,000 men, an army which served in the first place in East Africa and which fulfilled, of course, every function of defence of their own territory, including the coast and antiaircraft defences. I have seen them working six-inch batteries.
What I think is not so completely recognized, is that this force included not only these tens of thousands of fighting men, at least 100,000 of whom served outside their territories but also included not fewer than 40,000 trained tradesmen—mechanics and technicians of all kinds. 254 The Air Force, I regret to say, was rather behind hand in following suit in making use of this material at first; but they did their best to make up for lost time, and they recruited for the Air Force thousands of men who did most admirable service on the machines and in the repair shops.
I hope, therefore, that in dealing with the manpower position we shall not only make full use of these troops as fighting troops for defence where they are required, but shall not forget that they are most admirable mechanics. There must now be tens of thousands of these men, who have gone back and have been, or are being, demobilized, who have had full training in the use of modern weapons and their maintenance in all three Services. I emphasize that all three Services have used them. Admiral Pegram and Admiral Rawlings were very keen about this matter, and native ratings were used in numbers in Freetown and elsewhere.
I want now to deal with the wider aspects which have been raised in the noble Lord's speech. It was an interesting speech. It ranged wide—wider I think than he himself realized, but I certainly make no complaint of that. If I might venture to say so, I think on the wider aspects it called for a rather broader outlook; the "old Adam" is still in service, though he contended very well with it. No one, I am sure, would underrate the importance of sea communications. No one would underrate the contribution of the Navy and the Merchant Navy in the recent war, but I think the ablest of naval strategists would themselves be the first to assert that these problems cannot be looked upon as onedimensional—if that be a legitimate phrase to use. By that, I mean a problem of one Service alone. I am not going to argue the relevant importance of the three Services, or of their arms in general or in particular, but I would assert—and in doing so I think I shall carry almost universal assent—that in assessing the strategic and defence problem as a whole, and in assessing any individual or regional problem of defence, we need the "combined staff" mind so animated.
I well remember my noble friend the Earl of Cork and Orrery, who was a very good co-operator in days when co-operation was not so universally accepted, saying: "I wonder if we shall ever get 255 it right until we all wear the same overalls?" To-day, in mind if not in body, I think we wear the same overalls. The Ministry of Defence, the Combined Chiefs of Staff, Combined Planning, Combined Intelligence, Combined Operations—all these are accepted as axiomatic and fundamental in the functioning and planning of defence. It is in that unity that strength, wisdom and economy lie. So, and only so, shall we serve our own interests, the interests of the Commonwealth, and the interests of security in the United Nations.
I should be the first to agree that just as we need this co-operation and this combined mind in our own Services and in our own defence, we also need it in the Commonwealth; and together with the Commonwealth we need it in united security. I am sure, too, that that conviction is as strongly shared in the Dominions as it is here. But I am equally sure that we shall only get that co-operation, which we all—here and in the Dominions—want to give and receive, if we not only understand but make it plain that we all equally understand and share the same view as to how Commonwealth co-operation can work. No one would challenge for a moment the obvious truth that we all accept the fact that each Commonwealth Government, whether they be the Government of this country or the Government of any of the Dominions, must take their own decisions. These decisions are decisions of Government, and they can be taken only by Governments. A Prime Minister will want to take the most important, at any rate, of these decisions in consultation with his Cabinet. Each Government in the Commonwealth must take these decisions; they are the decisions of Governments which, in this democratic Commonwealth, are responsible to their own Parliaments. No Government would be willing to delegate these policy decisions to another Government or to a combined executive.
If that is not only understood and universally accepted—as I know it is—but also plainly stated, we shall get more effective co-operation where it is practicable and desirable and, I believe, generally desired. Constitutional limitations of that kind, if we may so term them, are no bar to continuous and effective co-operation. Within these clear 256 limits much co-operation is possible in deciding policy and plans and in carrying them out. Policy and plans in strategy and defence must be clearly based on the fullest knowledge and the best agreed appraisement of that special knowledge. These are matters of fact, or at any rate they are factors, and it is from these facts that conclusions must be drawn. There is the field of the experts the Service Chiefs and their officers, the men of science, the men of industry and it is on the work of these men that all Governments must take their decisions. Every Government should have the fullest access to that pool of knowledge and experience; and in collecting, pooling and assessing that knowledge the experts of the Commonwealth should work together.
Much is being done that way and much has been done for a long time. It is being done in the work of the Imperial Defence College, which is now re-established again with its full complement of Dominion representatives. Not only Dominion students but also Dominion instructors, drawn from all over the Empire, are working together for the acquisition of common knowledge and the development of their own province. It is in this kind of co-operation that there lies every possible advantage, and in that way we and the Dominions can get the best in knowledge and men that we can all contribute. That is the way to get the best results, and that will ensure that Governments have the information, and will have that information interpreted by men who have worked together on these problems. In this way the decisions of the Government—and decisions of Governments they must be—will be fully informed. They will, I think, be taken more quickly and more effectively; and not only in the taking of the decisions but in the execution of decisions there will be the full co-operation of staffs and experts.
In many cases plans agreed by Governments will involve regional action. That means the closest staff co-operation, so that each Government concerned may play their agreed part most effectively. In this pooling I do not think any of us have in mind a mere concentration in London. The job, whether it be planning staff work, investigation or action, should be taken where it can best be done. We should look upon the whole world as the field in which these expert staffs operate together in accordance 257 with the decisions which their respective Governments have taken. Perhaps I have said nothing to-day that is not very obvious or that is not universally accepted by all of us as right and necessary; and that is the only way in which that co-operation can come. It is the Commonwealth way of life in action, and it is in that way that the dream becomes the reality.
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I am not going to follow the noble Lord on the subject which he made the most important part of his speech and with regard to which I am sure all your Lordships are thoroughly agreed. I am going to turn to the terms of the Motion:To draw attention to the contribution to be made by the United Kingdom and the Colonies to the solution of the problems of Imperial defence.Those words cover a very wide field. There are three points in the Motion to which I want to refer this afternoon. The first is how the invention of the atom bomb affects the weapons and methods of imperial defence. The second is the question: Ls the proved power of Air Forces being taken sufficiently into account? The third and most important is the shortage of manpower.
Without a doubt, both the atom bomb and the air power are in existence. So far as these Islands are concerned, the immediate effect is to increase enormously the vulnerability of our population and industrial resources. I would ask your Lordships to think what that means. I stated last year that for the next ten to twenty years the counter to the atom bomb will be piloted aircraft, anti-aircraft guns and other ground devices. This afternoon I should like only to refer to the maximum period of the next ten or twenty years. It is possible that in days to come the atom bomb, in combination with long-distance rockets, will be made more accurate than it is to-day, but it will take time. I understand that the majority of scientists in this country believe that long-distance rockets will not be sufficiently accurate (I should like to hear the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, on this) to be an overwhelming weapon for certainly ten years, or perhaps fifteen years to twenty years. When that development comes about, it may be that the Royal Air Force as we know 258 it to-day will have to be drastically reconstructed because its aircraft and equipment will be as obsolete as battleships are to-day.
What the Chiefs of Staff, and the Minister of Defence have to decide is what weapons and what tools the three Services should keep and maintain in peace for the next ten to twenty years. I think it is admitted by all that the Chiefs of Staff have a very difficult and onerous task in deciding that matter. By that I mean whether the Army should have a large number of armoured divisions, airborne divisions, tanks, infantry and so on; whether the Air Force should have long-range bombing squadrons, fighter squadrons, coastal squadrons and reconnaissance squadrons; and finally, what type of ships the Navy should have. It is obvious that the Chiefs of Staff in coming to a decision must not only put forward what they think their particular Service requires in the way of types of weapons but be in a position to offer effective suggestions with regard to the type of weapon to be maintained by the other two Services. They will have to—and I know they will—regard the whole of this problem, as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi said, as one. It is one war now, and not two wars, on land and sea.
They must ruthlessly discard weapons that are not the most modern, even if this means discarding weapons in one Service only and not in all three Services equally. I would quote, if I may, the words of General Arnold which appeared in the National Geographical Magazine of February, 1946. He stated:…It is our obligation, now and in the future, to organize our Armed Forces with the most modern weapons to secure the most powerful striking force at the least expense to the taxpayer.We must do this, not to prepare for another war…We must do this to prevent another war—to perpetuate peace.…Now this may be looked upon as a controversial subject, but I wish to refer to it for one moment. I have seen it stated in the Press and in speeches that the Services now must all co-operate and never argue in public. Personally, I am a believer in public argument and public discussion. I say to-day that, without a doubt, the Air Force would not have existed if it had not been for the public discussion there was about it.
259 I was not the originator of this sort of idea. I thoroughly believed in it in the old days. When I was a young man, I remember seeing that great Naval League slogan which appeared on posters all over the country:We want eight and we won't wait.Your Lordships will remember it. Thank goodness, that battle cry was raised in those days, because it did more for this Empire than some of us now realize. I believe that without it we would have got nowhere. I saw a letter in the Daily Telegraph the other day which accused General Martin of going back to the "bad old days" of arguing and bargaining. I am perfectly certain that my noble friend the Leader of the House, Viscount Addison, believes in public controversy. It is more vital than ever today to decide, and to decide rightly, what kind of weapons we should maintain in the three Services in the British Isles.
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, made reference to sea power. He defined it in the two or three ways in which it is always defined, but chiefly as sea communications, if I understood him rightly. Everybody, whether expert or non-expert, accepts that we want our sea communications kept open, and we want to deny those sea communications to the enemy. I come to one or two points now about which I get more alarmed every day. We read and hear in these days of the shortage of manpower. We read of many experiments being tried. It must be remembered that an ordinary 12,000 lb. bomb, filled with ordinary explosive, sank the "Tirpitz" in a very few minutes in this last war. With the atom bomb we know that it will be still easier. Yet we are still discussing and having practices and trials to find out what the atom bomb will do to ships. What I am trying to point out to your Lordships this afternoon, on the terms of the Motion, is that the question is what type of Navy, Army and Air Force we should have, and what tools they are to have to enable sea communications to be kept open. We all agree that they should be kept open, but if you cannot keep them open it is no good adopting that principle.
First, it is necessary to face the fact that nothing can now sail the seas in war unless you have air superiority. Sea 260 power, as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said and as I have said myself, is vital, but it is not now exercised by ships; it was not even exercised by ships in the last war, but by ships and aircraft, and chiefly by aircraft. Before and at the beginning of the 1939–45 War it was admitted that we were woefully short of small ships for the Navy—destroyers, very fast motor boats, submarines, etc., in fact, all those small craft that were so necessary. Is that realized to-day? Are those small boats being laid up and put out of commission? Those are important points.
We must not to-day keep weapons, such as battleships and battle cruisers, which can be of no possible value and are a terrific liability. Can we afford to retain weapons that do not keep to the general idea of securing, as General Arnold said, the most efficient striking force at the least expense? The American Navy are withdrawing a certain number of battleships, and so is our Navy. I hope they are withdrawing all. Is there any Power in this world that is to-day building new battleships? I cannot believe that anybody out of a lunatic asylum would consider that there is any danger of war between ourselves and America. What use are the big battleships? Nothing would please me better than to hear that some Power had started building battleships and were squandering their money and manpower on them and on the enormous liability involved in protecting them.
I come to a further point which I read about the other day in the Daily Telegraph and which I think must be remembered. General Martin wrote in the Daily Telegraph:… battleships proved immensely useful in the late war when used as mobile gun platforms for bombardment purposes. I suggest, however, that the Allies were glad to use them thus because they already had them. They would not have spent countless millions on building these battleships and locked up untold manpower in them for bombardment purposes alone.That is my case too. I heard it stated the other day in a public lecture, that the fleets may have to be kept at sea for periods a good deal longer than in the past, because of the danger of bombs on their bases. Think what would be necessary then in what America calls the logistic support to the fleet. Think what would be required for the fleet in the Pacific. It would be immense, and if it remained at 261 sea for an even longer period the number of vessels, to be kept going would be colossal. And think again of the waste of manpower and money.
It may be said that the Pacific has proved the value of battleships. Surely the Air Force, whether on the carriers or whether from shore, and the submarines, were chiefly instrumental in winning the battle of the Pacific. I am now going to say something about the way the war was fought in the Pacific that may startle your Lordships. Was it fought in the best way? Has that been thoroughly examined? I am wondering. I am not saying this without other much more responsible people having said it, but I do ask: Was it fought in the best way? I hope the Government are examining whether it was fought in the best way. The lessons of war are not always learned when you are overwhelmingly superior but sometimes when you are losing.
I turn now to what is probably the most difficult problem of the lot—the carriers. I am one of those who do not believe that because the large carrier existed in the last war it will exist in the next. I do not think it is possible for any large carrier to exist at sea unless there is complete air superiority over the seas all over the world. It cannot exist, and I do not believe many people think it can. They are a splendid target for air controlled missiles as well. I will not go into all the details of the carrier, as it would only bore your Lordships and take much too long, but I hope that this question is being thoroughly discussed and looked into.
Time does not permit me to deal in detail with the Army, and I am only going to mention the Army as at the time when the world returns more or less to normal, if it does. I know that the Army will, for some considerable time, require very large forces for police work in countries like Palestine, and so on, which are experiencing these very disturbed conditions. That also affects manpower. I am, however, dealing with the Army that is required to be kept in being for defence purposes in a major war in the future, and I suggest that these questions arise with regard to it: What airborne forces are required, and where; and what tanks, guns and infantry are needed?
That really brings me to the third and vital point of manpower. We are desperately 262 short of manpower, and everybody knows it. We must use every man we can in this country for production of goods for our export trade. Without that we shall not live as a nation. Then we have to remember the Services, and here there is talk of one million men and more. Is it not possible, as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, mentioned, to consider the Colonies? That point has been mentioned to your Lordships twice before; I think I brought it up two years running. There are 60,000,000 inhabitants in the Colonies and 40,000,000 in these islands. Did we have 1,000,000 men under arms from the Colonies at any period in the last war?
I am one of those who believe that every man, for all three Services stationed overseas—the Navy, the Army and the Air Force—all the clerks, the motor drivers, the men for the supply vehicles, for the radar equipment, and so on, could be found from the Colonies. I firmly believe in starting schools in a place like Nigeria, with 25,000,000 inhabitants, in Africa, and also out East, where they could be trained by the Services as at Halton, and get what I call the Halton spirit. Is it too much to say that in two or three years you could get a million men with the greatest of ease? Think how that would strengthen the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. I would like to have heard the noble Lord enlarge on that point still further. Think what good it would do to have these men trained as mechanics in radar, and so on. I believe that could be done in two years, and perhaps British officers and men could be provided to train them. That would save 1,000,000 men straight away.
The next point with which I want to deal is as to what type of Air Force is required, whether short-range, medium-range or long-range fighters, long-range heavy bombers, medium bombers, air co-operation squadrons, coastal squadrons, torpedo squadrons or mine layers. I think most of your Lordships will be agreed that we must have the fighters and bombers in major strength to begin with, to maintain a war. We have to maintain the war until England gets into her stride, because we cannot keep the whole of England at war strength all the time. Therefore the fighters and the bombers will be necessary. It may be that other squadrons could be maintained in skeleton form. As the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and the noble 263 Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, remember, in the early days of the Air Force we maintained practically only the schools; we kept the Bomber School, the Fighter School and all the other schools, as well as Halton, going whilst maintaining practically a skeleton Air Force. This was advocated, I saw the other day, by General Martin, who is not an airman.
The overriding problem will be shortage of manpower. What proportion of the available manpower should go to each of the three Services is a matter for the Minister of Defence to decide, with the Chiefs of Staff advising him. I think it is quite certain that the first and foremost requirement on manpower must be for those fighter and bomber squadrons necessary to save England from being defeated in the early days. They must be ready immediately. It will probably take a year or two to win the battle of the air before the war can be carried into the enemy's country, and therefore there will be time to improvise, if we have a sound training basis, in the matter of our other requirements. I know it will be all too short, but nevertheless there is a little more time for the Army. You will see what I mean when I say the Chiefs of Staff and the Minister of Defence have to face tremendous difficulties. All three Services, I feel, must recognize the fact that for the next ten or fifteen years we can be secure only if we have the air power to protect these vulnerable islands. On air power all warfare depends to-day. It must be remembered that we have not only successfully to defend ourselves but also to turn to a successful offensive. On that will depend the maintenance of the Empire.
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, referred to sea communications, which are vital. In the past that has been definitely a naval responsibility. The Navy have upheld it for 250 to 300 years, but they cannot do it to-day. Even now, the best means of preventing the enemy interrupting our sea communications will be by air force assisted by innumerable small, fast naval vessels. The Admiralty will still have to be responsible for the routing, loading, assembly and timing of the convoys, the areas in which mines are to be laid, the Navicert system, intelligence about enemy warships, and so on. The three fighting Services will still be controlled by the Defence Committee and the Chiefs of Staff working as a team, 264 but I hope they will appoint (as I saw it stated the other day in one newspaper, or possibly it may have been said by Mr. Churchill), in peacetime as well as in wartime a Supreme Commander-in-Chief to exercise control over all three Services and to get them working as one.
To sum up, may I ask the Government whether the following principles are accepted as being correct? First, that air superiority must be won before any type of warfare can be waged on any appreciable scale. In fact, air power is the dominant factor in modern war. Secondly, that at the present time sea power is still vital, but it cannot be maintained by warships. It can chiefly be maintained at present by air forces in co-operation with fast, small naval vessels, and it may be in years to come that it will only be maintained by air power or by some other means that will be developed. I feel certain that this must be examined year after year to see what science is producing. Thirdly, that the Government must encourage by all means in their power the recruiting and training of a large number of men in the Colonies for the Services. Our Services must work as one. That, I think, will be universally accepted. All operations depend at present on air predominance; and therefore on air strategy depends all strategy.
§ 3.36 p.m.
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, in addressing a few remarks to the House upon the Motion which is now before it, I am not going to follow the last speaker in any way. I am not going to mention battleships or naval craft of any description, except as a whole. I do not believe the time is yet ripe for that sort of discussion and I do not believe it will be ripe until eminent men, fully qualified—military men, scientists and others—have gone into this as a Commission and have had all the evidence before them from all the witnesses who can be produced as to what effect various weapons have had. Something of that sort must be done before we can come to our conclusions, and when those conclusions are reached, whether they be to sink every large ship and to build nothing but aircraft or not, I am quite sure they will be loyally accepted by all in the Services, who will do their best to implement the policy of the Government of the day. No doubt when that time comes those members 265 of your Lorships' House who have had experience of the ordering and the fighting of the war will give their views on the floor of this House.
I am going to confine myself to one part of the problem of the Imperial policy of the future, but I believe it is a very important part. It is the question of the reserves that are maintained in this country. If ever again the British Commonwealth as such has to go to war, for many years to come this country must be the cornerstone of the whole structure, for we must be the chief reservoir for men, money and munitions. The Commonwealth might stand the temporary extinction of one of its members so long as these islands hold fast, but if we fall the whole comes down with a crash. It is therefore very important that we should maintain ample reserves in such a state of readiness and training that we can be as certain as is humanly possible that we cannot be overthrown by some thrust from a better prepared enemy. Not only that, but we must be able to maintain our own freedom of action.
The recent decision of the Government as regards conscription indicates that they mean to maintain sufficient forces to implement the Empire policy of the moment under existing conditions; but whatever may be the intentions now, time brings changes, and what appears inevitable at the present moment may not so appear when our present troubles have been surmounted. We have been warned, on the best authority, of the possibility of a financial crisis in the near future. Whether that is averted or not, we know that for many years to come strict economy must be the order of the day. Some interests will have to give way, and the question is, which are they going to be? Will it be the social services or will it be the Regular Forces? I am quite certain that, whatever Government is in power, it will be the Regular Forces that will go to the wall, and as they are reduced in strength, so the importance of the reserves rises.
The value of those reserves will depend on their organization, their training and their administration, but what is very important is that the whole world should know that we have in the background ample reserves of trained men, whether they are actually with the Regular Forces or ready to be called up to join them. 266 At this moment we are very well placed for re-creating and reorganizing our reserve forces. They would, as it were, get away with a flying start on the training at a high level, owing to the number of trained men we have in the country and the large number of officers and noncommissioned officers we can draw upon as instructors. Who can be certain that conscription is going to be maintained in this country? The call for economy will be great and the shortage of manpower has already been mentioned. There is even now strong opposition to conscription in peace-time, and I do not feel at all sure that conscription is going to continue.
I do not often hand out bouquets to the Army and Royal Air Force at the expense of the Navy, but there are rare occasions when that is possible. On this occasion I do say that in my view the Army and the Royal Air Force have left the Navy a long way astern in the matter of their reserves. Holding this belief, I recently put down a question on the Paper asking whether it was intended to issue a White Paper or to make a statement on the future of the Naval reserves, especially as regards the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Your Lordships have already bean reminded of the Royal Naval Reserve, but circumstances prevented my being answered in the House, and I had to content myself with a written answer in which I was informed that it was not considered appropriate at this juncture to issue a White Paper. I was referred to a statement made in another place on November 3. But it was that statement, together with another incident, which caused me to put the question on the Paper. That other incident was that in September last I attended the annual meeting of the Officers' Federation of the Merchant Navy. There, in September—and I call your Lordships' attention to the date—the President expressed the fear that the Royal Naval Reserve was going to be abolished. That rumour had evidently got around to the members, and there was a good deal of resentment shown.
Your Lordships may think that I am getting into rather parochial matters, and so I am. The Royal Naval Reserve, I would remind your Lordships, is composed of officers and men of the Merchant Navy; that is, of professional seamen, as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has already 267 said. That means that they all receive naval training, and that they are immediately available to fill all those appointments at the beginning of a war, in ships or on shore, for which seamen are required. The Royal Naval Reserve is a Force which has done great service and its members have distinguished themselves in every type of ship afloat. Not only that, but in peace-time they form an invaluable link between the two branches of the sea service—the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy—which in peace-time tend to grow apart. Yet for months these officers have been left in doubt as to whether their Force is to be continued or not, and nothing has been said. That view was published in the Press at that time, so it cannot be unknown in higher quarters. This immediate Reserve is, of course, limited in size, and you cannot strip the Merchant Navy at the outbreak of war of many of its best officers and men just at the time when their peace-time occupation becomes their national duty in war. I do ask the Government to set the doubt at rest now. If you are going to cut their throat, cut it; do not keep them in suspense. Let them know whether they are going to be abolished or not, because there is nothing worse than not knowing.
I will now pass to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, reminded your Lordships in December last that this branch of the Service supplied 48,000 officers to the Navy during the war, and at the end of the six years 80 per cent. of the men afloat were officers and men of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. What is to be the future of this Force? It has shown what it is capable of doing. Is it now to be treated as a Force and encouraged to keep itself efficient in the type of duties which it has shown itself perfectly able to perform under war conditions? My anxiety on this score was due to the very statement to which I was referred by the First Lord of the Admiralty and for which the First Lord was in no way responsible, which was a most uninspired document, calculated to damp down any enthusiasm among officers and men to rejoin the reserve, and to dishearten any recruits. It actually said that for the time being no recruits, except those who served in the war, were required. These were limited to certain branches, and the training which was foreshadowed was practically 268 the training of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve before the war started. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, mentioned that training, and to quote Hansard he used these words:After the first War arms were supplied, but no attempt was made to keep them up to date. We had to train men with weapons which it was quite certain they would not see in any ship that went to sea.One improvement on pre-war training was indicated by the fact that each division was to have a minesweeper attached to it as a sea-going tender for week-end cruising, and that the Solent would have motor launches for coastal force training. One minesweeper can be used for only very elementary training; in other words, for recruits, and recruits are barred by the statement to which I have referred. To expect to attract officers and men who have spent months at sea under war conditions back to their Forces by offering one minesweeper to take them on week-end cruises is very much like offering a man who has raced his own six-metre yacht a boat to sail on the Round Pond. As for the motor launches, I am sure it is an excellent scheme to have a training flotilla down at Portsmouth, but surely further training should be in the waters and off the coast which may be their battle area?
The War Office has already issued a scheme for the Territorial Army that is to be, which would be an excellent scheme even if it were to depend upon voluntary training, for there is something there to attract men. There are airborne divisions, tanks, armoured cars, modern artillery, technical branches, modern infantry, the A.A. defence of the country, and everything. There are real and responsible duties which the patriotic man can take up. The Royal Air Force, too, is reorganizing a very efficient Reserve such as it had in 1939, and it is well under way. I hope we shall be told that the Royal Navy is going to re-organize its Volunteer Reserve on much the same system as the Territorial Army, and that the battalions and batteries will be matched by flotillas and groups of small craft. It is important that we should go ahead in these matters, because we must have these men if we are really going to set an example to other parts of the Empire. If they see that we think an old hulk, moored bow and stern alongside a jetty, is good enough as a drill 269 ship, that is what they will think it good enough to provide.
The men who join the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve are really sailors by instinct. They want to go to sea, and not to look at it from the beach. Scores of Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve officers have commanded ships of all types during the war and have shown their ability to do so. Scores of others have served as second-in-command for many years, and would have been appointed to command had the war gone on. The value of these men to the re-organized Force cannot be over-estimated, and that is true of the great majority of those who served at sea at all. Their value as instructors is enormously enhanced by the fact of their having had actual active service at sea in war-time; and those who have to acquire knowledge from them will do so twice as well if they are interested as well as told, and if the man who teaches them knows what be is talking about.
It does not require much imagination to visualize the coasts of these islands surrounded by stations from which could emerge at short notice flotillas of all sorts, escort craft with small carriers, and fast light craft, all coming out and being on the spot before attack comes. Do not let us forget that both the last two wars started by our ships being sunk on our doorstep by the enemy before we were ready. We ought to prevent that happening again. I hope the Government will make it possible for the R.N.V.R. really to become an efficient Territorial Navy which will be ready to act and will not have to wait until the enemy act while they are preparing. Conscription will allow you to man ships with crews of trained men. It will enable them to train in their own districts close to their own homes, and to man the ships in the ports on their own part of the coast for which they are responsible.
Sea Cadets are a valuable part of youth training and would fit into such an organization like a glove. They could do their preliminary training in the ships, and for after-training would return to form part of the crews of the same vessels. If you had well-arranged competitive exercises between the various divisions, you would have local patriotism as an incentive to the greater patriotism. The time has come to make a statement and to attract men now—the men who have the 270 experience. As time passes, new interests take form and new commitments are entered into. I hope that something will be said this afternoon to put these men on a definite footing. If you will provide the ships I feel certain the men will provide themselves.
§ 3.55 p.m
My Lords, in a very interesting speech this afternoon the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, advocated sea power in its broadest sense; and I entirely agree with him. But, strangely enough, in his speech Lord Strabolgi hardly mentioned the air. On the other hand, the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, naturally discussed the air from end to end of his speech. I want to approach the subject this afternoon on the basis of sea power in its very broadest sense. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, made an interesting remark this afternoon when he said that to approach this subject properly we all ought to wear the same overalls. I will not quite suggest that, because I see the First Lord of the Admiralty and I know the Admiralty frown on overalls; but I would wish that we should approach the subject all wearing the same battle-dress.
As I see it, the great advantage of sea power in the broadest sense is that a force can be quickly concentrated in any part of the world. The Services, as they existed in the last war, showed that the only truly mobile force was the Navy, and, with very great respect to the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, the Air Force was the least mobile force of all. If we had suddenly to fight in a far distant part of the world, or some emergency took place which meant: immediate action at different points, the only mobile force was the Navy and its attendant Air Arm. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, rightly emphasized the value of our Colonies as a recruiting ground for our Forces, and I should like to ask whether the Colonies have been sufficiently considered from a naval point of view. Have His Majesty's Government considered giving them a generous allowance of ships and vessels so that local training can begin?
These men are simple people, and they must be taught something of the sea and ships if they are to be of value and are to be used in any part of the world. Even if every Colony could be given only one 271 ship it would be something. Some years ago, I remember, each State of Australia had its own Navy. South Australia had only one ship, and an officer of a foreign vessel called and called to the captain of that ship. When asked how many ships were in his Navy, that captain had to admit that there was only one. The foreign officer's reply was "How convenient; there is no possibility of collision." We could start with one small ship in these Colonies, and I think it would help in the future.
The noble Earl who has just spoken emphasized training I am entirely in accord with him that we must train in this country and throughout the Colonial Empire. I spoke just now about the mobility of sea power in the broadest sense, and I think it is this mobility which will give the opportunity of active co-operation with British Commonwealth Forces throughout the world. With all the will in the world, we cannot get true co-operation throughout the Empire unless the rank and file of the various Forces meet and learn to work together. Great provisions have already been made for Staff conferences and for councils on a regional basis. I submit that insufficient is yet being done to enable active co-operation and working together of the Forces themselves.
Of course an Empire division, or even an Empire wing, could not be formed today, but we could to-day—this suggestion I have made before, and I make no apology for raising it again—form an Empire Pacific Fleet. That would have the most wonderful psychological effect among British peoples throughout the world. It would strengthen the ties of Empire, which greatly need all the strengthening they can get. I have little more to say, but I do want again to emphasize the importance of sea power in its broadest sense, including in it the air and, indeed, every arm of the Service.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, I would not have intervened in this debate had it not been for some of the remarks which fell from the lips of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, and from those of the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery. Viscount Trenchard, of course, adopted his familiar theme, to which many of us in this House 272 have listened before. The battleship, he seemed to suggest, is not too good; the Navy, on the whole, is not too bad, and it can be tolerated so long as it is accepted that it is a Service very inferior to the one of which the noble Viscount is himself such a distinguished ornament.
But the noble Viscount also developed a new theme; he made an attack on the Fleet Air Arm. He tried to tell us that the large aircraft carrier is no good. May we not leave it to the advisers of the Minister of Defence and the First Lord of the Admiralty, who, I am quite certain, will be able to arrive at a very good conclusion and make a sound decision, as to whether we should have large Fleet carriers in the future or small ones? I am sure that these experts will be quite capable of deciding the point. But I do suggest that if you want to have an Air Force controlling the trade routes of the world you can never disregard the Fleet Air Arm, and the contribution which it must make in any future war to that control. I agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken that the Royal Air Force is, in a way, curiously enough, one of the most immobile arms we have, or, at any rate, one of the most difficult to move, with its enormous ground organization and impedimenta. It is all right for dealing in war with targets within the range of shore-based aircraft, but I venture to suggest that when operations and strategy become more world-wide that the welfare and maintenance of the Fleet Air Arm is a matter of the first importance.
The point upon which I chiefly wish to touch arose out of the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery. He truly says that as the Navy or any other Service is reduced, so do the reserves for that Service assume an increased importance. He has referred to the rumours that have been going round with regard to the Royal Naval Reserve. I have heard these rumours myself, and I hope very much that whoever is going to reply on behalf of His Majesty's Government will be able to lay that particular ghost for us this afternoon. It would indeed be a tragedy if anything were to happen to impair the efficiency of the Royal Naval Reserve. With regard to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve something has been done, a decision has been arrived at, which I think is not so good. The Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in the last war (I must tell your Lordships this in order to explain 273 what I mean) had a supplementary reserve which was called the Royal Naval Volunteer Supplementary Reserve.
The men of that Supplementary Reserve went into the last war about 3,000 strong. They consisted for the most part of yachtsmen, men who held yacht master's tickets and so on, and other men of similar type. It was laid down that they should have three months' training. At the outbreak of the war, when the first groups were called up, so far from getting three months training, the average time which a man spent in training was four days. The reason for this was the urgent call for officers to man the small craft which the Navy had to have. Those men, trained or not, who had yacht master's tickets, even though they knew little about the Navy, had to go to sea as quickly as possible. From their ranks were produced some of the finest officers who served in Naval uniform during the war. I saw much of their work myself.
Now this Reserve is being reconstituted, and it is being reconstituted on this basis. It has been laid down that the constituent members, the individuals who serve, are not to receive any form of training whatever. I do not know what the numbers are going to be, but I understand that of the 48,000 R.N.V.R. officers who served in the last war quite an appreciable proportion are going to go into the Royal Naval Supplementary Reserve. How are these officers to keep themselves up to date if no opportunities are going to be provided for them to have any form of naval training? I saw a lot of this Force before the last war. I know that individuals in it were really heart-broken that no sort of official opportunity was given to them to perform any sea training at all, and had it not been for the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery the was Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth at that time), who did arrange facilities for some of these fellows to go to sea occasionally in destroyers when they were running torpedo exercises or something of that kind, and to go at their own expense, none of them would have had any training of that sort.
It is heart-breaking for a fellow who is trying to keep up his keenness, if he is made to feel that he is just a member of a supplementary force, that the Navy do not care about him and that he is not really wanted. That is not the way to 274 have an efficient force. Men must have a certain amount of training. Surely it might be said to them: "You can go along for some training at your own expense "—although I think, personally, that if a fellow gives up his time he ought to be recompensed in some way, however small. I do feel that these men ought to be given the opportunity of having some sort of training. I hope that the First Lord of the Admiralty will bear that particular point in mind. I do not expect an answer to-day. I know that probably further consideration will have to be given to the matter, and I trust that further consideration will be given, because I see no hope for this Force unless something is done to allow it to perform the training which it ought to have.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DOMINION AFFAIRS (VISCOUNT ADDISON)
My Lords, in the first place I should like to say that I think the House and the country are indebted to my friend, Lord Strabolgi, for raising this discussion and for the substance and temper of it. He contributed, in a very short time, a speech full of suggestions, full of thought and full of material, which might well, had he not been so considerate to the House, have occupied a much longer time in its delivery. It was quite evident to me that he had given a lot of time and trouble to its preparation, and had conducted very close research into many of the aspects of this subject. I think that the House will join with me in paying a tribute to him both for his restraint and for the wide range of thought which have been manifest in his speech.
But before I come to a more detailed examination of the debate and refer once more to the speech of my noble friend, Lord Strabolgi, I should like to express my thanks to Viscount Swinton for what he said on other aspects of this matter. The noble Viscount put clearly before us in a few compact sentences the vital issues of the relationship between this country and the independent members of the Commonwealth. I would like to say, with full knowledge of the facts, that what he has said will be exceedingly useful. It will certainly serve to dissipate some misunderstandings, and I should like very sincerely to thank him for it. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, told us that he expected that when I spoke I would agree 275 with him in saying that I believe in controversy. His anticipation was well-founded. I am quite sure that the discussion we have had to-day, in which everyone who has spoken has shown himself to be exceedingly well informed, although some of the points may be controversial, is an abundant justification of his belief. It is a feature that characterizes our debates in this House.
I listened very carefully to all the speeches, and I have, of course, been very closely associated in all the discussions that have taken place, in the formation of the Ministry of Defence, in the submission of the estimates and proposals and the formation of them in the Committee, and in the submission of them to the Cabinet. I think I can truly say that there is not a topic that has been mentioned this afternoon, except one minor one, which has not been the subject of close examination in these discussions. We all recognize—indeed it is obvious—that the vulnerability of this island is a matter of first consideration, and in that respect I do not differ at all from any of the propositions which the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, mentioned.
Perhaps it would be better if I were to approach the subject by saying a word about the present position. We have had the good fortune during the last few weeks to have a Minister of Defence, and to have round the table with him representatives of all the three Services. It is a matter which is accepted by all of us as of first-class importance. What they have to plan is the correct use of our defence Forces. At the present time, to use the phrase of my noble friend Lord Strabolgi, there are a considerable number of imponderables which have to be taken into account. There are the rapid changes in the development of weapons and in the character of equipment, and it is clear that the defence considerations have to take account of these as well as they are able.
I would like to make this quite explicit statement. It is the aim of the Government, and it is on the advice given after the most detailed and meticulous examination of the necessities of the case by the Minister of Defence, upon which we are all agreed, to ensure that the resources available for defence are laid out to the best advantage in terms of the manpower, equipment, and weapons available or to be made available, and that the Army, 276 Navy, and Air Force of the future shall contain the most up-to-date equipment that British ingenuity can devise. The full meaning-and intent of that statement are obvious, and I am sure that it will be satisfactory. As the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, told us, at the present time the Minister of Defence is advised by the Combined Chiefs of the Staff who have at their command the best advice available—military, technical and scientific. In due time it will be shown in detail that very generous provision is being made for research and experiment on a very large scale indeed, and it is absolutely vital that that should be done. I may say that the whole of the research branches, so far as the Minister of Defence is concerned, work in unison under common direction. Other statements will be made in the very near future with regard to development in research, and I will not anticipate them any further to-day.
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and other speakers, quite properly said that manpower must determine to a great extent the type, character and size of our Forces, but I do not regard a competition between the Forces as any part of our present project at all. It is not a question of a big Navy at the expense of the Army, or a big Air Force at the expense of somebody else. It is a question of using these Forces, with the best possible advice we can get, in a properly balanced way. That is what we have to aim at, and it is quite evident that in that respect it must be almost an axiom that there must be a paramount need for the adequate air defence of this island. That is obvious, for these are all parts of a co-ordinated whole.
The continual perplexity of any body of men who have to be responsible for government at the present time must be how to make the best use of our manpower. It is clear that we cannot have an Army, a Navy or an Air Force if the country is financially unable to support it. We have to aim, as the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, said, at producing enough manufactured goods for export to enable us to live, so that we can maintain such Forces as are necessary. With regard to the numbers in the Army mentioned by my noble friend Lord Strabolgi it has to be remembered that the present year is not a normal year. Unfortunately, we still have left a great deal of the overhang of the war—much more than we 277 should like. We have to keep a large force in Germany. It must be a very efficient force and it must be kept well equipped. We have, unfortunately, to keep a considerable body of men in Palestine; I need not mention other places. It is therefore evident that the number of men in the Forces at the present time is greater than we ought to, and do, anticipate will be our regular need. It is the hang-over of the war which, let us hope, will very soon be diminished, as I am sure it will.
I can tell my noble friend that I agree that he need not anticipate—we certainly do not anticipate—that the future regular strength of the Army will be of the order of 1,000,000. I can assure him that that is not what we are planning for. It will, so far as we can foresee, be a figure substantially lower than that. It is all a question of balance and of making the best use that we can of our manpower. I feel sure that when in due course the detailed proposals are submitted to Parliament, the noble Lords who have spoken to- day will, on the whole, be satisfied that a proper balance has been looked for and obtained.
I shall not venture on—shall we call them?—the hidden controversies lying behind the question of how sea power is to be maintained, to what extent we are to use carriers, or how far carriers are vulnerable. But it is perfectly evident that our sea communications must be maintained. The precise machinery and forces for maintaining them, whether of small craft, aircraft and combined air and naval services, must be a question for the technicians. It is to their advice that we look and upon their advice that we act. As to the necessity of maintaining communications—on which my noble friend rightly insisted—I do not think that there can be any question that what he said was thoroughly justifiable.
He made some observations about the location of Forces and referred particularly to some parts of the Near East and India. I would ask him to excuse me from enlarging on that subject. The disposition of our Forces must be based on the advice we get from the experts, and I can truthfully say that all strategic needs, including those he mentioned, have been the subject of careful examination. I should like to join my noble friend and other speakers in paying a tribute to the service of our Colonial troops. I am 278 informed that one of our Fijian fellow-subjects has been awarded the V.C. That is an example of the service they rendered. I am quite sure that what the noble Lord said with regard to the service of mechanics and others in both East and West Africa was fully justified.
There is one other aspect of this colonial manpower problem—and we are not losing sight of this—to which I do not think we have in times past given quite the attention we shall have to give in the future—namely, its importance from the point of view of the production of food for this country. It always seems to me that the continent of Africa has not by any means been cultivated as much as it ought. I can tell the House that we are now elaborating projects for making a much fuller use of some parts of Africa from the point of view of food production. I am quite sure that is vitally necessary. The use of African-trained men for local defence service is, I think, a self-evident necessity. I can say that the Overseas Defence Committee has been reconstituted and is now busy at work on the details of these various problems. I should like to assure your Lordships that I do not think a single one of the considerations that have been mentioned has been lost sight of.
May I try to reassure the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, with regard to the R.N.R. and the R.N.V.R. that I think his misgivings are not very well founded. I must say that I wish that my noble friend the First Lord could have intervened on this particular point, because he is very fully acquainted with this topic and knows much more than I do about it. I can assure my noble and gallant friend that there is no intention of abolishing the R.N.R. Indeed its future organization and functions are at the present time being carefully examined, and many of the considerations which he has mentioned are being taken into account. The R.N.V.R. has been reconstituted and, as a matter of fact, recruiting is already going on. We are maintaining a force of the Sea Cadets which I believe is already almost up to its former strength. At all events, it has been well maintained and recruiting is proceeding. I should like to reassure the noble and gallant Earl that in all these three respects his misgivings are not well-founded, and I hope that my noble friend beside me will soon be able to make a fuller statement.
279 Let me say with regard to the Royal Naval Supplementary Reserve, which was in the mind of the noble Lord opposite, that at the present time the Admiralty are wishful to reorganize the R.N.S.R. and provide training facilities for its members. That matter, and the question of how effect is to be given to it, is at the present time under consideration. I have tried to reply adequately to the many points raised by noble Lords. In conclusion, I should like to come back to what the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, said in paying his eulogy to the Defence College and all that it implies. I suppose that he has seen it at work—I am sure he has—and so have I. It is a most inspiring institution. A short time ago it was my lot to talk to the members there assembled about Commonwealth matters and, to be quite frank, I found them rather a difficult audience; they were so exceedingly well informed. After I had said what I had to say, I had to answer questions for more than an hour. In fact, I think that that ordeal would have gone on much longer had it not been that we were all called to a welcome tea. They were all high-ranking officers both from home and from every Dominion, and I must say that I have never seen a team of men of a keener and more alert type. And I can add, from intimate knowledge, that the spirit and camaraderie of the institution are just splendid. That is something we should never let die.
I come back to the point raised by my noble friend who initiated the Motion. We have had a Ministry of Defence for only a short time; it is in its early days. For that Ministry I am taking no Governmental credit, because it is not in the least a Party matter, though I have myself been very intimately concerned with all the discussions connected therewith. And yet, speaking for myself—and I have a fairly good experience—I know of no institution that offers greater promise of helpful work than does the Ministry of Defence. It will clearly avoid Service rivalries which have often been a hindrance in times past. It will bring together thinking men of all the different Services, so that the best in each can be pooled. It will bring together science and research, whose aid we so badly need at the present time.
280 And it the horrors which the noble Lord quite rightly said threaten can be guarded against, I am sure that the work of the different Joint Staff Committees under the Ministry of Defence will be such that the salvation of this country, if anything of that kind should come again, would be largely in their hands and largely due to them. I think that the possibility of usefulness, and of economy, both in the employment of men and in the expenditure of money, that will be likely to arise in the course of time out of the co-operation of the three Services and of the best men that they can bring together, will be difficult to calculate. I am glad of the opportunity for saying so provided by the Motion which has been put before the House by my noble friend Lord Strabolgi.
§ 4.31 p.m.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his very full reply and the other noble Lords for their contributions. If the noble Viscount will allow me to say so, we have just had a thoroughly satisfactory statement. I believe that the three main pronouncements which stood out from my noble friend's quite rightly generally cautious statement, are: first, that he reaffirms the basic principle of the need of control of sea communications. That is of the utmost importance. It is the first time that that has been said, and I think it needs to be said in regard to our long range policy. Secondly, there is his statement in regard to the use we are going to make of Colonial troops; and, thirdly, his setting at rest the rumours about the intended abolition of the R.N.R., and the re-organization of the R.N.V.R. I am sure that those three statements will give the greatest satisfaction to all who are interested in these matters. I am extremely grateful to the noble Leader of the House, as are probably all those who are interested in these matters. I am sorry he said nothing about the proposal to station a large White Army in East Africa, but perhaps that was asking too much. I do hope that that is one of the matters that will be very carefully re-examined before we commit ourselves to an immense British garrison in East Africa. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.