§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, we in this House sometimes hear of our demerits. It has always seemed to me a great merit that for every debate, on every subject, the House seems to form itself automatically into a panel, into which are drawn the people who know the subject inside and out. And the panels are constantly refreshed from outside. I am sure that your Lordships would wish me to begin by saying how much we welcome the new recruit to the panel who has joined in our discussion on matters of defence to-day, and to congratulate him on the outspoken nature of his speech, on the fact of having in a maiden speech raised two laughs, and, generally, on his powerful exposition of his views.
The news which has just been announced must have a tremendous bearing on the subject of this debate, but I do not propose to intrude upon that to-night. Bacon has left us a saying that:It were better in causes of weight that the matter were propounded one day and not spoken to 'till the next day; In nocte consilium.I should like to know more about the subject before attempting to express its bearing on the Motion which we are now discussing. In view of the late hour, I have followed the example of the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, and have torn up most of my notes. I wish to speak only on one subject, except that, generally, I should like to associate myself with my noble friend Lord Chatfield in saying that I find the White Paper distinctly encouraging—apart from one passage. That exception relates to a matter on which I spoke some eighteen months ago, on the last occasion when I took part in a debate on defence. I refer to the Empire side of this question.
The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, suggested that in calculating the strength of our forces, the minimum criterion was that they must provide an efficient deterrent (he is not here now so I cannot get him to 929 check this). But it always seems to me that in calculating the deterrent to a potential aggressor we are bound to take into account the strength of the Empire as a whole, just as the Dominions, for example, in assessing their own position, have to assess our strength. That, of course, is an argument for close co-operation and that argument is strengthened by paragraph 56 of the White Paper in which it is stated that:The potentialities of these new weapons also enhance the need for greater co-operation within the Commonwealth. The security of the United Kingdom is one of the keystones of Commonwealth defence, but, equally, the United Kingdom alone, without the support of the Commonwealth, would lose much of its effective influence and power.That is extremely well put, and it strengthens the argument for co-operation.
What do we learn from the White Paper on the subject of co-operation? We learn from paragraph 49 that the United Kingdom liaison staffs which were featured strongly in the White Paper and in the debate of October, 1946, have now been established in Canada and Australia and South Africa, but not yet in New Zealand. Then, in paragraph 50, we are told of a very important Conference of Empire scientists on Imperial Defence science. That is all very much to the good; the liaison arrangements are satisfactory, but mainly from the point of view of regional defence. It was for regional defence that they were originally proposed. But the outer regions of the Empire do not seem to me to be specially threatened at the moment. It is in Europe that the storm clouds are brewing.
Distant thunder is heard; and lightning ever and anon may be seen. Yet in the White Paper I find nothing about high-level contacts at the centre or, for that matter, anywhere else; and it is high-level contacts we need so much at the present time. I venture to recall once more that Mr. Curtin, who was, I believe, the first to propose the regional liaison scheme (I have the paper in my possession in which he proposed it) which was later espoused by Mr. Chifley, laid down:It is fundamental to future arrangements for co-operation in defence that appropriate machinery should be created to provide for an effective voice by the Governments concerned in policy and in the higher control of planning on the official level.Appropriate machinery was to be created. There was already in existence machinery, 930 which the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has described to us very fully and very convincingly. But Mr. Curtin asked that "appropriate machinery" should be created, so he was not quite satisfied with what they had. Surely there never was a time in the history of the Empire when appropriate high-level machinery was more necessary to stimulate and control planning and, still more, to concert the policy on all great questions of the day.
The whole world is in a ferment. Europe is in a dither; America is fuming; and Russia is chuckling. It is not at all a pleasant outlook. We are, as it were, watching the spread of a horrible disease to which no one has yet found an anti-dote. Much of the Continent is infected. We are not immune. Neither are the Dominions. Only yesterday I happened to meet at different times two old friends from the Dominions, both men of wide and official influence. Both of them, curiously enough, said, "How fortunate you people are to be so much less affected by Communism than we are." We are all up against this common menace, and I feel we should be studying together both that problem and the other mass of problems that have to be settled. It is a question of what are the right weapons to combat this new and subtle form of warfare. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, mentioned the German Fifth Column. I go back much further in history, to Jenghiz Khan, and especially to his successor, Sabutai, who prepared the way for the Mongol, invasion, first, of the whole of Asia and then of a large part of mediaeval Europe, at the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth centuries, by sending a cloud of spies and propagandists beforehand to poison the relations of the different States. It is still much the same kind of warfare that we face. Some people talk of dealing with it by the use of the atomic bomb. That is rather like sending a gunboat to bombard white ants, as in H.G. Wells' story. And can you profitably use atomic bombs against an enemy who is in occupation of territory where most of the population are those you want to free? These are only some of the threads of an immense ganglion of inter-connected problems which I feel we should be discussing with the Dominions.
There is one other reason why these discussions ought to take place: that is as an 931 example, as a demonstration, to the world that we are still all standing together, as firm as ever. The British Commonwealth and Empire is still a factor in international affairs and there are times when it ought to be showing itself. We want to demonstrate that those methods which have been so successful in the past are again possible at this moment, when we have contracted an arrangement to enter into closer economic and even defence relations with other European countries. There is much else I could say, but I will say no more. I hope noble Lords opposite will not take this as a criticism or as an attack, because I do not mean it in that way. I would emphasise that this is a time in which, if it is possible, we should co-operate to show that we are still standing together.
§ 5.57 p.m.
My Lords, last week the Government issued an urgent appeal for 500,000 more workers for the textile and other basic industries. Last week they also issued an Economic Survey in which it was stated that without substantial external aid we have no hope of attaining a reasonable standard of living within the next few years. Last week, again, the House of Commons voted Service estimates for a total of 940,000 men, plus 590,000 civilians entirely employed in supporting and supplying these men—making a grand total of 1,530,000 persons, at a cost of £692,000,000 per year. I am all in favour of armed strength and military might, to the utmost we can afford, and I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, when he says there is a minimum of defence below which we cannot afford to fall. But if we are to agree to such an immense expenditure, both of men and money, surely we must make as certain as we can that we are getting full value for it. And in not a single speech that I have heard throughout this debate has any noble Lord, expressed satisfaction on that point.
Before 1914 our traditional policy was an all-powerful Navy and a first-class but small Army. At any rate, at the beginning of the 1914–18 war we were able immediately to put six first-class divisions and one cavalry division into the field. Then arose the R.A.F. In my opinion, the R.A.F. has become the most important arm of the Services, at any rate in 932 regard to its deterrent effect before and at the very beginning of any conflict. So we did our best to keep up a powerful Navy, a powerful Air Force and a first-class small Army, and we were able to put into the field at the start of the last war four divisions and one armoured division, in addition to a considerable force in Egypt. The strength of our Army in 1939 was 210,000, of whom 50,000 were in India and Burma, and paid for by those Governments. The total cost falling upon the British taxpayer was £81,000,000 for a total of 162,000 men. Even that £81,000,000 was somewhat inflated by the fact that considerable expenditure was then being incurred by the late Viscount Caldecott in preparation for the war which seemed to be imminent. A more comparable figure would be the £54,000,000 which the Army cost in 1936, before we had begun those extra preparations. This year we are paying for a total of 715,000 soldiers at a cost of £340,000,000—that is to say, about six times the cost of 1936; and, of course, we have about five times the number of men.
How are those men disposed? There are 265,000 of them outside Europe, of whom 151,000 are Colonial troops and Gurkhas, and the other 114,000 are British. I have nothing to say about that. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has pointed out to your Lordships this afternoon the many and widespread obligations that we have overseas. Although one may hope that with the evacuation of Palestine those obligations will become less, it still seems necessary to keep an adequate force in various parts of our far-flung Empire. I would invite your Lordships' attention for a few minutes to the 452,000 soldiers that we have in Europe. The great majority of them, I take it, are in Germany. What are they in Germany for? Are they there to stop the Russians, or to deter the Russians? I venture to think that that cannot be the case, because the New Statesman has told us that the striking force is only two divisions and an odd brigade or two. Therefore, they cannot be there for that purpose.
Personally, I am not one of those who think that the Russians intend to make military war. Why should they? They have just conquered a large country without moving a man or a gun. Although 933 one hears talk in some quarters of the Russians coming to the Channel Ports, and so on, in my humble opinion, they are likely to come to the Channel Ports only if France and Belgium go Communist. The Russians, surely, are waging a political war in every country in the world, including our own, and the weapons to use in a political war are not great armaments. Communism cannot be conquered by force of arms; Communism is a creed. You might just as well talk about conquering the Christian religion by force of arms. Communism is the negation of Christianity, and, surely, one of the weapons to use against Communism is a strong revival of our own Christianity. Another weapon is the weapon which I am glad to see the Government are now using, of rooting out the agitators and adherents to Communism and exposing them. This is necessary not only in the Government service, but even more in the trade; unions. A third weapon, of course, is the increase of social and economic prosperity. Those are the weapons against Communism. Therefore, it seems to me that the 452,000 men are not needed in Germany from the point of view of deterring the Russians.
The noble Lord, Lord Douglas, in a valuable maiden speech the other day, told us that those men were there for the purpose of preventing the resurgence of German aggression. He said that that was the main reason why they were there. Again, I cannot understand all this talk about the resurgence of German aggression, because from all one hears the Germans are in an apathetic, listless, undernourished and underhoused state. Their country is divided in two, and half of it is under the Russians, with, I should have thought, no possibility in the foreseeable future of the Russians releasing that half. I should have thought that there was no chance of a resurgence of German aggression at any foreseeable future time. In the same speech the noble Lord expressed his opinion that we should soon be forced—and I think he said it was desirable—to set up a fully-Hedged German Government in the Western Zone. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in the closing phrases of his speech in the foreign affairs debate clearly indicated his agreement with that point of view. Is there not some contradiction in terms there? If one feels it is desirable to set up a fully-fledged German 934 Government, is it not also desirable to reduce the police force which you keep there, and to show some trust in the Germans? So I feel it really is not necessary to keep a huge Force on the demoralising and unpleasant duty of garrisoning a hostile country, and doing little more, according to the noble Lord, Lord Douglas, than training the National Service men.
In the course of his remarks, Lord Douglas spoke of the Air Force being 270,000 strong, and he expressed doubt as to the striking power which that Force could put into the field, in spite of that great number of men. Be used a phrase with which I venture most strongly to agree. He said: "I would rather have a small and well-trained Force than a large and half-baked one." What I fear about our Army at the present moment is that it rather leans to the latter category. We have too many men doing training work, and we have not got a striking force. Almost every noble Lord who has spoken this afternoon has stressed the necessity of our having an efficient striking force which can operate at any moment. We certainly have not that force, and it seems to me that the first plan of the Government is to ensure, so far as the Army is concerned, that we have a first class striking force of the size which they are advised by the Chief of Staff is right for our purpose, and to get that in hand at the earliest possible moment. I was going to make some suggestions as to how that might be done in connection with the Territorial Forces, but I understand that there is shortly to be a rather special debate on the Territorial Forces. Therefore your Lordships will all be delighted to hear me say that I shall not inflict myself upon you any longer.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
My Lords, I fully appreciate the great responsibility of taking part: in a debate on Defence in your Lordships' House, and I do so only because I think I may be able to add some small part to the discussion. First, I should like to support the important speeches made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. I, too, do not feel at all sure that we are getting full value for this great expenditure, or that we are to be given an immediate striking force. I wish to make one point on a matter upon 935 which I have had a little experience—namely, the standardisation of production. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, touched upon that ably this afternoon, and I am sorry that no reply in regard to it was given by the Minister of Civil Aviation.
We started the war badly in regard to standardised equipment. I speak in a modest way, but when I was a Troop Commander in A.A. Command on the East Coast, we had no less than eight different types of generators in my own battery of searchlights, and about eight or ten different types of vehicle. It was an absolute nightmare to get spare parts for those various generators and vehicles. When the threat of invasion came, we were armed with. 303 British rifles, and the Home Guard next door to us were armed with. 300 American rifles. Later on, in a junior Staff capacity, I went with the British Army Staff to Washington where a great deal of progress was made and we learned some valuable lessons. I hope those lessons will not be forgotten, because we did effect a great deal of standardisation, although nothing like enough. I do not see anything about standardisation mentioned in paragraphs 29 and 30 of the White Paper.
It is most important that vehicles, small arms, and anti-aircraft guns of all calibres should be standardised. For instance, in the early days the Americans had a 38 mm. gun and we had a 40 mm. Bofors gun. Later on, in this country, Canada and the United States, the gun was standardised on the 40 mm. basis. It took months and months to do that, but it was done. In the height of the Middle East campaign we had great difficulty in getting spare parts for British vehicles, and those vehicles had to be laid up because the parts were not standardised. The Americans generously offered us new vehicles, but we had not the shipping space to transport them. Eventually we obtained the spare parts for those vehicles, but it took a long time. I hope, therefore, that His Majesty's Government will pay more attention to this matter, because although we partly learned the lesson in the last war, we are so apt to forget it. I feel it my duty to stress that point. In conclusion, I should like to support the Motion moved by my noble friend.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, the debate draws to a conclusion after a large number of speeches, and I would like at the outset of my remarks to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, on the speech which he delivered so effectively. I am sure we all look forward in this House to further contributions from the noble Earl. I would also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, the Minister of Civil Aviation, for the charming courtesy with which he delivered his speech. I am afraid, however, that I cannot extend my congratulations to the substance of his speech, because it seemed to me that he was repeating the points in the White Paper upon which the main criticisms have been made in this House. He repeated the vagueness and the lack of defined purpose. He added a good many meaningless assurances in general terms and, as I say, while he delivered it with his usual charm and courtesy, I fear he really added nothing to the general knowledge that noble Lords in this House possess as regards the state of the defence of this country.
National defence is, I believe, a matter considered by the citizens of this country to be largely above Party. I am sure we all wish that to continue to be the case. It is the concern of every citizen in the country but, nevertheless, it is the responsibility of the Government of the day. Therefore, I feel that the Government of the day should welcome the debate and take note of the powerful speeches made by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and others, which contain much matter for serious thought and deliberation.
I was unable to congratulate my noble friend Lord Douglas of Kirtleside—my old commanding officer in France—on his maiden speech, as I was unavoidably absent, but I would like to extend congratulations to him now. In his speech today he divided the problem into two: the short-term and the long-term defence problem. He said that the long-term problem—what he described as press-button warfare—he did not wish to consider in detail to-day. He felt that when the time came we should be able to cope with it. The noble Lord, Lord Douglas, and, indeed, most noble Lords, concentrated their remarks on, as he termed it, the short-term problem—the immediate 937 requirements of national defence. I think it is generally recognised that the international situation is dark, and that we cannot proceed as we did at the end of the last war, with the Government giving a directive to Chiefs of Staff that we can expect no major war for ten years. The United Nations Organisation provides us with no safety. In fact, in this darkened situation, we have to rely upon ourselves for our own safety, and we can rely upon no one else.
In the White Paper on Defence the Government said that the supreme object of British policy must be to continue the prevention of war. But I would submit to the Government that there is a second main purpose almost equal in importance, and it is to see that if we are engaged in a war we are prepared for it and will be able to win it. It seems to me that there are no assurances, either in the White Paper or in the speech we have heard to-day, that our defences are in such a state of preparation that we can sit back confidently, knowing that if we are suddenly aggressed we shall be able to deal effectively with the aggressor. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, said that our safety was assured by vast reserves of men who have left the Forces, who are getting older and getting rusty in their knowledge. I should scarcely regard that as an adequate assurance.
§ LORD NATHAN
I know the noble Lord would not desire in any way to misrepresent me. What I wished to say, and what I think I did say, was that these men would get old and in the course of time would become rusty, but that meanwhile they are the answer to the situation.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
So we have the assurance repeated. I made a note of the noble Lord's words. What he said was: "Our safety is assured by vast reserves of men who have left the Forces …" I do not think that is an adequate assurance for the safety of this country from a Minister of the Crown, in view of the possibility, which always exists, of sudden aggression. I regret that the Minister's intervention added to the misgivings which all of us feel as a result of listening to the speech he made this afternoon. It seemed to me that the noble Lord repeated again that motif that runs through the Defence White Paper, which perhaps I might paraphrase thus: "Do 938 not worry too much about the present, because we are awfully busy on research for the future."
As the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and others have said, research for the long term (to use the division made by the noble Lord, Lord Douglas again) is no substitute for the provision of essential safety for the short term. The next war may give us no time for building up arms from the industrial potential, and no time for applying the results of research which it is essential to carry on now but which would not help us if the hour struck soon, Action and decision in the next war may be swift; therefore we must be ready now and always—and I believe that we must be ready with the best which the nation can afford. Only the Government can say what part of our national income can be spent on general defence requirements. None of us can say. We have not the secrets of the economic position—except for some rather grim facts revealed in the White Paper. We do not know the details. But what we do say is that when such a sum has been decided upon and allocated to defence, it should be a first charge upon the national resources. It seems to me that the White Paper gives defence only a relative priority. Our equipment of the Air Force is subordinate to the needs of industry. I could give quotations, but the noble Lord will know them already. Man-power deficiencies exist to-day and have to be accepted, because recruiting has not been successful and industry is attracting men. The position of defence is one of relativity to the other directions of national effort, whereas we had thought, having settled what the immediate requirements for defence were to be, that they would be a first charge on our national resources.
I believe that we cannot afford all three Services on a big scale. The noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, in the course of his speech said: "All three Services must be adequately equipped." Those were the noble Lord's words; and that is an ideal. One wonders whether, with the state of our national economy, we can afford to contemplate defence in that bright light, or whether we have no: to say that minimum standards of defence must be laid down, that those requirements of defence shall be interpreted in terms of air, sea and land. Then it may well be that the Navy and the Army, during 939 the present time of crisis, will have to give way to what has become the predominant striking force in warfare, air power.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
I am quite prepared to agree with what the noble Lord says, but I should like to point out that I was dealing in principles, and that we must not consider in our principles whether one Service should be strong, another half strong and another quarter strong. It may be that one of the Services has the greatest need to be strong. If you go to war, and one of the Services is insufficiently equipped, then all the steps and all the trouble you have taken will be useless.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
I do not dispute what the noble Lord says, but the fact is that we cannot have everything we wish to-day. As the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, pointed out so effectively, in time of war the Army, the Navy and the Air Force can, broadly speaking, obtain all their requirements—and quite rightly. But now we come to a restricted time, a time of great national difficulty; and it is natural and right that the great Service chiefs, who have risen to the highest positions in their particular Services, should demand all they feel is necessary for the equipment of their particular Services. The answer is that they cannot have it in the present circumstances. It is the Government who must courageously take the stand that some of the Services will not be able to have their full requirements granted them. I entirely believe in inter-Service co-operation, but, as the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, said, the big men will not agree. I think that when Chiefs of Staff agree in peace time, when there is an inadequate amount of money for them, it is a sign that some big issue is being shelved and not tackled. If I heard of agreement between Chiefs of Staff when an inadequate budget had been given them I should be very worried—more worried than if they were disagreeing fiercely. Having settled the main needs of defence, the Government should make up its mind and take bold decisions.
I speak with great humility, in view of the rebuke to laymen administered by the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield. The noble Lord said that we laymen were treading 940 on dangerous ground in these matters and that only those with numbers of gold rings on their cuffs, the senior officers, are really entitled to speak—
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
Then if the senior officers are not entitled to speak, and the laymen are not entitled to speak, and the Minister will have to follow the advice of the Service chiefs, I do not know who should speak.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
I should be sorry to suggest what should be the composition of the Royal Air Force with the confidence with which some propose what should be the composition of the Navy.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
What I am trying to do is to defend my position, now that I am about to be bold enough to put forward certain ideas. I remember that in 1941 the senior Service officers made serious prophecies as to the incapability of the Russians to resist the Germans: now at first they gave the Russians two weeks, and then grudgingly three weeks, and so on. So I do not think that the Service men are absolutely infallible; laymen on both sides are entitled to give their views.
It seems to me that the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, puts the position very clearly. What we need is a force of short-range and long-range fighters for home defence, anti-aircraft guns, mobile forces and a powerful striking force of bombers. Only the Government can say whether the striking force should be fifty, seventy or one hundred squadrons; but what we would like to know is whether there is a striking force ready and available to-night, to-morrow night and the night after. I think that is an assurance which we are entitled to seek from the Government. Have we an effective striking force which the Government feel would fulfil our requirements if we were attacked to-night or to-morrow night? We ask for an assurance from the First Lord on that particular point. I think that we should consider, from an Imperial point of view, the defence bases from which our aircraft can operate. As was said in another place, there is no target in the world which is not within seven hours' flying of an Empire air base. Therefore, if the Government are considering the proposition of defence of bases, let it be 941 with an Imperial and not a domestic out-look.
The problem will be for the Government to get the men for this essential Defence Service. I believe that here the Government will have to re-open the question of the conditions of service in order to obtain the skilled man-power required to man this force of minimum defence requirements. I am not talking only about pay and allowances but about amenities—married quarters, better living conditions, and so on. There I come to the question of relative and absolute priority. The White Paper shows that defence has a relative priority, as regards building living quarters, married quarters and other buildings, with the other housing requirements of the nation. I submit that, if we are to have the minimum essential Defence Force, they should have that first charge. It is no good building houses for miners, or giving consumer goods to textile workers, if the mines or factories are to be blasted out of existence because we have not an adequate Defence Force. Whether we have an adequate Defence Force or not depends on whether we have the skilled man-power present to maintain it. The Government will have to reconsider the conditions of service in the near future in order to attract skilled manpower to the Services.
Finally. I wish the Government could tell us something more about the state of the Royal Air Force to-day. I know that the Government must decide how much is secret, but the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, said there was a general impression in the Services that there was a lot of criticism by people who had not the information, and that it was somewhat unfair on the Services. I think that was broadly what he said. In effect, the fact that all Services suffer from lack of information being given must be the responsibility of the Government. If the Government gave the information to those who asked for it, there would be no need to criticise, and no need to ask for information which we feel should and could reasonably be given. We know that the Royal Air Force to-day is definitely hampered, as regards fulfilling all its tasks, by a shortage of skilled men. It is stated in the Air Estimates and also in the Memorandum accompanying the Air Estimates.
Could we put forward a sustained effort of fifty or a hundred or a hundred and 942 fifty bombers? I do not think that the First Lord would be able or willing to tell me that, but it is the sort of question about which there are grave misgivings in the country at the present time. How many fighters can we put up now? Before the war we knew, at: any rate, the total strength of our Forces. Could not the Government consider giving such information as the total number of first-line aircraft that we possess? That would afford us a measure of reassurance as regards our needs for immediate Defence which we feel is lacking at the moment. Time is short; and perhaps there is very little time left to us. The responsibility upon His Majesty's Government for the defence of the country is tremendous, If we are adequately defended for the short-term requirement, then let the Government say so to-night. Let them say that we are defended with an effective striking force and an effective Home Defence Air Force. I am not talking about the Army and Navy because my knowledge of those Services is not great. In any case, I feel that the Air Force is the paramount weapon at present. We await the speech of the First Lord with eager anticipation. The White Paper on Defence, the speeches in another place and the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, all fail to give us an assurance, that the provisions for the safety of the Realm are those which all citizens demand at the present time.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (VISCOUNT HALL)
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down in his opening remarks said that he hoped the Government welcomed this debate. Speaking on behalf of the Government, may I say that of course we welcome a debate of this kind, and; indeed, any debate in your Lordships' House. We welcome the speech of the noble Viscount who opened what I regard as the second part of the debate. I am referring to the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. His was a speech which could be delivered only by someone who has had a long experience in ministerial Departments, undertaking great responsibility and himself actively associated with one of the Fighting Services at a time when that Service, with the other two Services, was faced with very great difficulty. I have no complaint at all 943 to make about his speech, with the possible exception of his reference to the White Paper and his vision of the immature elephant. I am not sure to whom the noble Viscount was referring. I make a guess, but I hope that I am wrong.
I refer also to the speech that was made by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, whose work for the Services and for administration has given him all the qualifications necessary to enable him to speak—and not only to speak, but to be respected. The same can be said of my old colleague the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, who has had such a distinguished career, not only at sea, but for twelve years as a member of the Board of Admiralty, and who afterwards became Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. I may say the same of the noble Lord, Lord Hankey. I could say almost, but not quite, the same of other noble Lords, but so far as experience and length of service go they have not lived quite so long as the other noble Lords to whom I have referred by name. Every speech has been worth delivering and worth listening to. I would refer particularly to two maiden speeches—first to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtkside.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
It was the first time I had heard the noble Lord speak. It was a speech from someone who has been right through it. His Service experience, his administrative experience—indeed, his whole life—entitle him to speak, and compel us to listen to what he has said, and the way he said it. If I may say so, I quite enjoyed it. I would also like to join in the congratulations extended to the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, on his very practical maiden speech.
My Lords, may I say that I am pleased with the tone of the debate? There has been some pretty hard criticism—and, if I express my own opinion, without attempting to be politically controversial, there has been some very hard and unjust criticism—against the Government and against the White Paper which was issued by the Minister of Defence. I do not want to be too controversial because, 944 as the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, rightly said, foreign affairs in this country at the present time are taken out of political controversy. I and His Majesty's Government would like political controversy to be taken out of Defence Services. Let us have that kind of continuity which we ought to have. Noble Lords must not for a moment think that the Government of which I am a member will take second place to any Government of this country in its desire to preserve and protect this nation and the Commonwealth against any attack, from wherever the attack comes, either inside or outside this country.
There is just this feeling which I had when listening to the speeches to-day. If for a moment one examines the record of the Government of which 90 per cent. of noble Lords who delivered speeches today were members in the period between the two wars—and I will not ask your Lordships to accept any evidence from me; read Lord Chatfield's book or, indeed, study some of the speeches delivered by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard—then, notwithstanding the difficulties which existed during that period, criticism could fairly have been levelled at such a Government, which had not one per cent. of the difficulties with which this Government have been confronted. I detected signs of impatience, and a little unrealism, I thought, when noble Lords sought to get something more in the matter of defence policy. I know that complaints are made to the effect: "Why do you not give us more information?"
In the course of the last three or four months I have got myself into serious trouble for giving too much information. I was told that it was much better to issue an official statement in relation to any rundown, or to any part of the Services which might have to be scrapped, or anything of that kind. So I said: "Very well, I will issue it," and everyone said, "We agree with the scrapping of battleships, but what we complain of is that you made it public." Had that not officially been made public there is not a single newspaper in this country which would not have exaggerated possibly three, four, six or eight times, the truth of what was published at that time. Indeed, there is not a noble Lord who has spoken this afternoon, and who has asked for information, who would deny that there is any Government 945 of any other country in the world, which is under such pressure from any source whatsoever for fuller information concerning the Defence Services than His Majesty's Government at the present time.
If it were a question of giving information merely to the Leaders of the Opposition, to the people of this country, or to the people of the Commonwealth, certainly I would say, "Give every possible piece of information upon every branch of the Defence Services." But noble Lords know that we cannot limit the information to the people to whom we would like to give it. His Majesty's Government rightly decided, for certain reasons, that it would be better for the time being that information about dispositions—and, indeed, in some cases the numbers, with the exception of global numbers—should not be given until such time as further consideration can be given to that matter.
I can reply at once to all the questions which have been put about disclosing certain information. The Prime Minister on March I said he fully realised how important it was to keep the people of this country informed, and that he would consider it. He is at the present time considering how much information can usefully be given to noble Lords opposite, to Members of another place, to the people of this country, and to the Commonwealth. That is the position. I cannot agree with the statements which have been made concerning the White Paper. I offer no excuses, and I am not going to apologise for it. With the three Services as they are at present one can expect nothing from the Services but statements of the kind we have had to-day. But the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, in his admirable speech, rightly indicated that you can get from a document of that kind what you seek. If you look at the document for the purpose of criticising it, you leave out the more important part from the point of view of the information—namely, the purpose of the Government and their determination. You should rather look at the Defence White Paper from paragraph 51 onwards, and then ask yourself whether any part of it will give you satisfaction.
When I was in opposition to the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, in another place, and was one of a very small Party, we sometimes criticised the Government; but we had to trust them. What we must ask 946 of noble Lords opposite, recognising our great responsibilities, is that they should trust us; and I think we are not asking too much. Noble Lords cannot have any doubt of the earnest endeavour of His Majesty's Government to build up a sound defensive system. If they have, let them consider the steps which have been taken to strengthen the situation to-day in relation to what it was in 1936 or 1937. A deal of criticism has been levelled against the Minister of Defence. The Ministry of Defence was set up eighteen months ago. The functions of the Ministry were explained in a White Paper. They did not quite have that organisation—that perfect organisation—which was spoken of by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. It is true that the Chiefs of Staff were operating and there were the organisations subsidiary to the Chiefs of Staff. But the Minister of Defence had to build up his own organisation, the purpose of which was, to some extent, not to supersede but, so far as possible, to co-ordinate the three Services. He has been Minister of Defence now for just a year.
Not one noble Lord who has spoken from the opposite Benches has failed to ask: "What is your policy? What is your plan?" I think that question is just a little unreasonable. All I can say is, that the Defence Committee meets regularly and has the benefit of the advice of the Chiefs of Staff. The Joint Planning Staff system, operating under the Chiefs of Staff, ensures that departmental proposals are fully co-ordinated. The Minister of Defence not only, consults the Chiefs of Staff from day to day but himself attends their meetings whenever he or they desire it. No one, I am sure, will suggest that there are any serious differences of opinion between Chiefs of Staff. But there are matters which it is for the Minister himself to decide. That is one of the advantages of having such a Minister at the present time; he can, if necessary, resolve differences as between one Service and another.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
If he does not, then the differences must—as they did in the old days, as Lord Balfour of Inchrye has said—go to the Cabinet to be resolved. 947 But indeed, it is surprising how many differences the Minister himself resolves. The noble Viscount shakes his head. He, himself, of course, has experience of the old system which existed between the two wars.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
It led us into the difficulties which we were in when my noble friend Lord Chatfield was appointed Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence; and every noble Lord in the House knows what those difficulties were. I say to the noble Viscount—and I hope he will accept the assurance from me—that the Minister of Defence and his Ministry are working, and working very well. I would like to refer to the excellent work done by the strong Defence Research Policy Committee under the Chairmanship of that very distinguished scientist, Sir Henry Tizard. That Committee is devoting its time to scientific research and development of the equipment of the Fighting Services. Your Lordships need have no fear in this connection: every scientific and technical question receives the closest examination by that Committee, and I can assure you that that consideration extends also to all matters (I cannot deal fully with them now, of course) such as atomic energy, atomic bombs and bacteriological warfare.
The question has been raised, and rightly raised, by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, as to whether defence policy is formulated in close consultation with the Foreign Office. I feel that I need hardly say what the answer is, because I am sure that the noble Viscount knows that foreign policy and strategy must go hand in hand. That is done as a matter of course at all levels, from the top levels right down to the lowest. The Ministry of Defence and the Service Departments are in direct and close consultation with the Foreign Office on day to day problems, and they are also represented on numerous Ministerial and official committees.
I would like again to remind your Lordships that never before in time of peace has this country adopted a policy of universal military service, which places the obligation upon every person of eighteen years of age to perform a period of National Service with the Colours, and, 948 of course, to discharge his Reserve liability. I suppose that any noble Lord, or indeed any other person going to the camps to-day, if they judged the efficiency of the Services by the strength of the Forces they could see, might get a wrong impression, owing to the run-down of the Forces. I do not wish to make excuses, but I want to help your Lordships to understand the difficulty. I agree with what has been said in the debate—we just cannot afford not to have National Service. It is essential. But we are now in the transitional stage between the operation of the old Act and the operation of the new Act. Five million men and women have been demobilised in less than three years. The personnel of the Royal Navy has been reduced from 850,000 to 145,000. I think that proportions almost similar can be quoted with regard to the Royal Air Force and the Army. And in the run-down there must be just that transitional state, in view of the fact that so many of the well-trained men have left and new men have been brought in.
I think the case of the Royal Navy best illustrates this. Last year we lost 90,000 men, and we have taken in, since recruiting commenced—I do not want to be tied strictly to a figure—anything from 36,000 to 40,000 men. That is over a period of two years. Who is there, knowing what a gigantic and complex structure a modern battleship is, who can say that for the operation of radar, for anti-submarine work, for dealing with all the technical equipment that is found aboard those ships, a man can be fully trained in anything less than two years? It just cannot be done. When I listened to some of the statements which were made in the debate on naval matters, and indeed in this debate—in view of his experience, Lord Teynham, for instance, really ought to know better what is the position of the Royal Navy—I must say that they surprised me.
What I was suggesting was that one year was quite useless for naval training. If the period had not been reduced, but had been kept at two years, it would have been much better.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
It never was two years; it was eighteen months. I do not 949 want to enter into an argument, but I ask the noble Lord whether he would prefer one year to nothing at all. I would like to have a reply. Would the noble Lord sacrifice the operation of National Service if the training were to be based upon a period of only one year?
Certainly not. We must do the best we can with one year—but I do not think it is long enough.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
Might I ask the noble Viscount if he would give me an answer on certain points? I sent him a note with regard to what I was going to say about the short-service system. From what he says, I gather that he agrees that one year is not long enough to train men for technical work and for the Regular Army. Could he say anything with regard to the short-service system?
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I am hoping to come to the points which have been raised by the noble Viscount, for I think they are important. I hope I shall not be driven off them, for I really want to deal with them. Much has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, about the allocation of money. I was rather interested in his speech. I gather that he agrees with priority but thinks that there might be some difficulty in financing the three Services, and then we would have to select one and leave the other two to do the best they could. Priorities were agreed to
It has been suggested that research is an excuse; but it is absolutely essential that we should devote as much time and money as we can to get the most modern weapons of every kind to equip our new Defence Forces. That is why scientific research is placed first. The Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy and the Army are not to be placed, one, two and three; or one, two, and "three also ran"; or one, and "two and three also ran." The allocation of the global sum was not done in the method the noble Lord seems to imagine. It was properly apportioned to the three Services after consultation, and the global sum was based largely on estimates submitted by the three Services. It was not a question of giving everyone a bit, without giving one Service enough. On the contrary, the policy has been to ensure that each Service is equipped to 950 perform its particular functions. I think it would be appropriate to remind your Lordships of the financial provisions made for defence for the year 1948–49—£631,000,000 and, in addition, £61,000,000 for the Ministry of Supply and £600,000 for the Ministry of Defence, making about £700,000,000 in all.
The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, referred to standardisation. There is standardisation so far as it can possibly go. The Ministry of Supply is the standardising authority. I do not know whether the noble Marquess had in mind the standardisation of equipment for our own Forces, or standardisation between our Forces and the Commonwealth Forces, or standardisation with our late Allies; but so far as standardisation in this country is concerned, we are endeavouring to bring it about. With regard to vehicles, I would ask the noble Marquess whether the Ministry of Supply is to open up an industry for building the necessary vehicles, or should the Minister use for the production of vehicles the industrial capacity in existence at the present time? There is standardisation, and the Ministry of Supply was brought into existence for the purpose, so far as possible, of bringing about standardisation.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
The noble Viscount asked me a question. I suppose I ought to go through the motions of making some reply, though I did not intend to intervene. Does the noble Viscount mean that the best that can be done by the Ministry of Supply is to produce the multiplicity of vehicles we had during the war, or does he mean there is a possibility of our being able to reduce the number of types to something more manageable?
§ VISCOUNT HALL
The noble Marquess must know that the Ministry of Supply came into being immediately before the outbreak of war, and had to take the multiplicity of vehicles produced in the various industries.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
The noble Marquess is basing his criticism on what happened six or seven years ago instead of ascertaining the facts at the present time. The 951 Ministry of Supply is the co-ordinating authority and is in process of standardising, so far as possible, not only vehicles, but other commodities which are used by the Services; and it is standardising to the extent of an expenditure of £61,000,000 this year.
As noble Lords will realise, the planning required for the three Services is entirely different. The R.A.F. and the Navy are highly technical Services. Their trained personnel, equipment, aircraft and ships take a long time to produce. The planning required for those two Services takes a long time, even though everything possible is being done to encourage research and development. The R.A.F. constitute our first striking force. Effort must, therefore, be made to secure a Force supplied with aircraft of the highest quality and latest design, in an advanced state of readiness and manned by personnel trained to the highest pitch. While everything possible is being done to encourage research and development of unmanned weapons, we are not losing sight of the need for research and development in respect of the aircraft, armament and equipment which will be required for use during the next few years. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Douglas, will know that it is already possible to see the next stage when suitable crews will be required for the manning of bombers and fighters flying in the stratosphere, and when special and new equipment for navigation and bombing will be required.
When we know more of future scientific developments of the equipment now under development, the Air Ministry will be able to decide what new types must be brought into full scale production. Meanwhile, they realise the importance of not falling between two stools and they have not stood back and waited for the arrival of the supersonic aircraft. Our jet fighters—I do not know whether there is any need to repeat it, but I think it worth while to do so—are the finest in the world. Our lead in the development of jet engines is being maintained. We can keep our superiority over all comers in the interception fighter class. The re-equipment of all Fighter Command interceptor squadrons with the latest jet types has been virtually completed. The re-equipment of the bomber force with jet bombers has been deferred until new jet engines have been fully approved. The 952 prospect of jet bomber aircraft of exceptional performance is in sight. Pending such developments, the re-equipment of our bomber squadrons with Lincolns will be completed this year. The importance of an adequate bomber striking force is appreciated, in the realisation that the existence of an efficient striking force is this country's most effective safeguard against aggression.
With regard to the Navy, in present circumstances the Government do not think there are any reasons to justify modifying in fundamentals the traditional character of the Fleet. On the other hand, they are advisedly not at present initiating any programme of large scale construction. I need not trespass further on your Lordships' time to discuss naval matters, about which I spoke, I am afraid, too fully when I had the honour of addressing your Lordships' House last week.
I would like to deal now with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Chatfield, in relation to armour potential. As the noble Lord will be aware, the maintenance of this capacity at an adequate level for use in an emergency is a very difficult problem. It seems that peace-time Service requirements do not absorb more than a negligible proportion of the total capacity required in war-time, and there is little commercial application to which armour can be put. Furthermore, armour plant can only with difficulty be adapted for other purposes. The development of the modern Army and its increasing demand for armour has further complicated the difficulty which we experienced after the First World War. But the noble Lord should know that a Joint Standing Committee has been set up to keep under review the whole field of capacity for armour and protective-plating production. This Committee regard the problem of maintaining the armour production capacity in peace-time as a problem applicable to all the Services, and they will make recommendations on the steps required to maintain plant and other facilities.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
What about experimentation and research? Can they be given subsidies to-day, as they were before?
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I think that is one of the questions with which the Committee are concerning themselves. If it is not, I will certainly consider the matter, and 953 possibly discuss it with the noble Lord. A decision on the capacity which will be permanently retained must await a fuller assessment of future war-time requirements. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, asked whether there is anything equivalent to the ten-year rule in existence at the present time. The ten-year rule in its pre-war form, by which it used to be renewed annually, came to have the effect of being even more than ten years (it was very much larger) and its cumulative consequences were very prejudicial to our Defence Forces. Experience then showed that it is dangerous to forecast a definite period of established peace in the same way as it is impossible to forecast when war might occur. This mistake is not being made by the present Government, and I should like to take this opportunity of disposing, as emphatically as I can, of any misgivings which may exist upon that point.
The noble Viscount also referred to the question of priorities as between civilian and military requirements. He said that for defence purposes it should be absolute and not relative. We feel that all priority must be relative in practice. The demands of research and development, and the demands of the three Services, must be considered in relation to other priorities in the civilian field. This does not mean that implementation of the defence policy will be in any way prejudiced. It must be viewed in its true perspective in relation to the problem of ensuring that our economic position is stabilised as quickly as possible. I am sure the noble Viscount will see that it is difficult to define or, indeed, to arrive at any decision, and in circumstances such as those with which we are confronted at the present time it is difficult to decide the percentage for the one and the other. In any case, I think it may be said that a good deal of the research carried out for the Services is helpful to civilian production, and there is a close liaison between the Defence Committee and the Committee of Industrial and Scientific Research.
The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, pictured as a minimum defence requirement a mobile striking force of air and naval units, all to operate from bases overseas equipped to receive it. I appreciate the noble Viscount's discretion in not asking for details of our present dispositions. I can assure him that we are 954 taking as the fundamental basis of present and forward defence planning the very factors which he so rightly stressed—striking power, mobile and self-contained Forces, and strategic base organisations. I was pleased to hear so many noble Lords stressing the necessity for maintaining these bases. They are very essential. The noble Viscount also referred to his earlier proposal that short service in the Forces should be regarded as a recognised form of entry to the public service. As he was informed, following the discussion of this point in your Lordships' House on October 28 of last year, the problem of the resettlement of Regulars was referred to an interdepartmental Committee, by whom it is still being considered. It is a problem which raises many points of great difficulty, and I am afraid that the Government are not yet able to make any firm announcement. But I will see what can be done with a view to speeding up the Report of this Committee and I will let the noble Viscount know.
Several noble Lords, including the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, rightly spoke of the question of Commonwealth defence. In this connection I would like to refer to the consultations which took place in London at the last Commonwealth Conference, held to study this flexible system of handling problems of common concern to ourselves and the Commonwealth nations. The Conference recorded their appreciation of the value of the consultations which had been maintained between His Majesty's Government and the Governments of the Commonwealth, which they said exemplified the system of free discussion and exchange of views that is characteristic of the relations of the countries of the British Commonwealth. They considered that the existing methods of consultation had proved their worth, and were sufficiently flexible to meet a variety of situations and needs. They said that the common outlook of the members of the British Commonwealth, despite their individual independence, has resulted in the development of the type of consultation so appropriate to the characteristics of the British Commonwealth. They regarded the flexible methods of free consultation as preferable to any rigid, centralised machinery, which they felt would not facilitate, and might even hamper, that autonomy and unity which is so characteristic of the British Commonwealth 955 and is one of its great achievements.
In the light of these views, His Majesty's Government have developed a system of consultation between ourselves and the Commonwealth nations. As has been pointed out in the Defence Paper, we have established liaison staffs in Canada, South Africa and Australia, and will shortly be doing so in New Zealand. I have on a previous occasion referred to the valuable results of the meeting of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Defence Science in London in November last. Co-operation has also been impressive in the exchange of ideas in tactics, armament, and navigation, following the dispatch from this country of specially equipped aircraft and skilled men, as well as specialists in other branches, to Canada, South Africa and New Zealand, and, of course, by the interchange and bringing over of persons from the Commonwealth to the Staff College. In the production sphere contacts have been no less close, and the results equally satisfactory. The action of the Commonwealth of Australia in establishing a range and an organisation where it will be possible to watch the development of controlled missiles, and to carry out full-scale tests under the most suitable conditions, is perhaps the most striking instance of Commonwealth defence co-operation in this field. Furthermore, we have not overlooked the question of the dispersal of production throughout the Empire. This is linked with the question of the standardisation of the equipment used by the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth nations. Much useful work has been done in the United Kingdom in this field.
We have, of course, as the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, said a responsibility for Colonial defence. In this there are two important points to be considered—the security of the territories themselves, and the extent to which they may be able and willing to play their part in the wider field of Commonwealth defence. We have had these matters closely under examination during the past year, both here and in the Colonies themselves. In East and West Africa we hope to establish regular military Forces under a voluntary system on a scale adequate to provide a basis for expansion in war, supplemented by part-time 956 local forces on the model of the Territorial Force in this country. In other Colonies which cannot, because of the smallness of their population, raise whole-time Forces, we hope to establish Auxiliary Forces on the Territorial level. A permanent Naval Force has been established in Malaya, and in some cases Colonial Naval Reserve Forces already exist. Every encouragement is being given to the maintenance of these Forces as a nucleus for the development of the permanent Naval Forces.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I think something is being done, but I will make inquiries and let the noble Viscount know. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, said that time is not on our side. I agree with that statement if we do not make proper use of our time. I hope your Lordships will believe me when I say that we are endeavouring to make very good use of time, and I hope that critics will not be impatient if, in a period of development and research, the results of our efforts are not now put into the shop window.
As for the Government's effort in the wider field, I need refer only to the clauses of the Treaty of Brussels. I am sure your Lordships, like myself, listened with pleasure to the report of the signing of the document which took place in Brussels this evening, and which must fill us all with a considerable amount of satisfaction. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, also referred to the defence against the enemy outside our gates, and to the fact that we must defend ourselves against the enemy in our midst. His Majesty's Government are fully alive to the danger of a Fifth Column in any future war, and to the need for taking adequate measures for meeting it. The announcement by the Prime Minister in another place on Monday, of the action which His Majesty's Government propose to take against Communists and Fascists in Government service, is an indication of the importance which we attach to this question, and to the determination of the Government not to be caught unprepared in this matter. I am pleased at the reference which the noble Lord made to the work of the trade unions in this matter. I think they are one of the greatest bulwarks in this country against the spread of this pernicious doctrine.
957 In conclusion—and I am afraid that I have again had to leave quite a number of questions unanswered—
Could the noble Viscount say something about Civil Defence, especially as regards legislation?
§ VISCOUNT HALL
Yes, I can—I was afraid I was taking up too much time. As the noble Lord will know, the Prime Minister, in a defence debate in another place, referred to legislation. He said it would be premature for him to make a statement with regard to legislation at that time, but he assured the questioner that the matter was not being overlooked, although in the meanwhile there was a good deal of planning which could go ahead without additional legislation. The point is being kept under review. In conclusion, may. I say that we are all anxious to pay respect to the hopes reposed in the United Nations, and we shall work for its success. But we must frankly recognise that in the present state of international feeling its members must still depend upon their own Forces for their safety. For this nation, the one trustworthy guarantee of security is the tried system of the British Commonwealth, together with those countries who will join with us for the protection of their and our age-long liberty. In this our aim must be to give to our defence the utmost effectiveness which the overstrained resources of this country will allow.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, the fact that this debate has gone on for so long may perhaps be some indication that it was worth while holding it. I am grateful, as I am sure are my noble friends on these Benches, to the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, for their full and forthcoming replies. We had some heartening pieces of information from the noble Viscount, Lord Hall. What he said about there being no such thing as a counterpart of the ten-year rule was very cheering to all of us. What he said about Colonial defence and Commonwealth matters was also very pleasing. Apart from that, perhaps I am not being too ungrateful in saying that we are not much the wiser. There was a certain amount of special pleading. The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, referred to the state of affairs between 958 the wars and, of course, he is quite right in saying that everything was not done between the wars which might have been done to put this country into a sound state of defence. But there are two differences about the state of affairs then and the state of affairs now. One is that history has been written for all to read, and the other is that His Majesty's Government will not be troubled, I hope, with interference by the Opposition in these matters; rather will they receive support, for what it is worth.
The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, said something which made me think that we were invited not to say too much because it was bad for the morale of the troops. I am afraid that I cannot accept that or, to put it in plain language, "I am not buying that one"—I mean the suggestion that the morale of the troops will suffer if we say that the Minister of Defence ought to do more for them. It is our duty, if we think so, to say so. In my time in the Service I have listened to a good many tributes, and those tributes are well received if the action is suited to the word, but they do not go down well in other circumstances.
There was the question of the eighteen months' service. On these Benches we said that the eighteen months' service should never have been reduced to twelve months, and the fact that it was reduced—as we think, in a hurry—has led to a good many of the troubles which the Service Departments, particularly the Admiralty and the Air Ministry, are experiencing in the present arrangments for National Service. I asked if there was such a thing in existence as an Order of Battle for the Army, and I was told that it was against public policy to disclose the Order of Battle. I am still in ignorance as to whether an Order of Battle exists or not.
On the matter of security, I ask once again that we should no: put our heads in the sand and arrange our security plans in a way which will keep information from people in this country, but will not succeed in keeping it away from other people. The real things in which we want security are things like the radius of action of aircraft, performance of weapons and of vehicles, and so forth. Those are things which you can keep secret; but, as has been recognised, you cannot keep secret indefinitely the number of the units or the number of ships. 959 I think we have reached this point. We have now, after the statement that was made by the noble Viscount who leads the House, an obligation to play our part in the defence plans which are included in the arrangements with the four other countries announced this afternoon: there is no doubt whatever about that. As the White Paper says, we recognise that the first essential is a strong and sound economy; and we accept the inference that defence plans must be properly related to it. But the converse is also true—that our economy, whatever it is, cannot really be strong and sound unless our defence plans match the rest of the arrangements.
We have been invited by the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, in very compelling words, "not to shoot the conductors, because they are doing their best." We shall, therefore, watch for the results which have been promised. Meantime, it seems to me that the next task before us—as we are all agreed on the principles and on the way we are going—is to see that guidance is given and that people in the country, as well as members of your Lordships' House, irrespective of Party, really understand the importance of national defence in the time ahead, and of making personal efforts and personal sacrifices in order to achieve the national defence which is necessary. With those words, I beg to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.