§ 2.40 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD rose to call attention to the question of British and Western Union Defence; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, it will be remembered that during the last twelve months we have had in this House three debates upon Defence. Each of these debates, I believe, served a useful purpose and each was conducted upon entirely non-Party lines. Since then there has been a series of momentous changes in the world. There has been the admission that Russia now possesses and produces the atomic bomb. There has been the Communist sweep over China. There have been a series of crises in Central Europe and in the Balkans. Each of those events has emphasised the urgency of the problems that we discussed in this House six months ago, and yet it seems that in the country there is still a curious apathy about defence questions. In the last debate we warned the Government that their policy of secretiveness would inevitably lead to apathy. The noble Viscount, Lord Portal, for instance, in very impressive words, said that if the country were told little or nothing about defence problems it could not be expected that the people would respond to the appeals of the Government for national defence. I do not propose to go back to that side of the problem this afternoon, but I do say that everything that has happened since our last debate shows that the Government must take the country more into their confidence about defence questions than has hitherto been the case.
I propose to-day to devote my remarks mainly to air power. That does not mean that I would in any way suggest that the debate should be restricted to air power, but I take air power as the side of defence
that best illustrates the purposes of my argument. Noble Lords will remember that in our last debate the Leader of the House expressly admitted that air power was the central problem—I quote his words:
We have to constitute an Air Force as a safeguard against war, and I would agree…in putting it in the first place…The Royal Air Force is, without a doubt, our greatest safeguard in war, so far as we can see, and I believe it is our greatest safeguard in peace.
§ It is on that account that once again I am taking air power as the chief subject of my remarks. Air power was generally admitted to be the chief deterrent that was available to us in the present circumstances of Europe, and if I concentrate upon that fact it does not mean that I do not think there are many questions connected with the Navy or with the Army to be discussed.
§ If I might interpolate a sentence about the Navy, I am inclined to think that the submarine menace has increased rather than diminished in the last six months. If my information is correct, the Russians are actively engaged upon making a submarine base upon an Albanian island at the mouth of the Adriatic. I mention that merely in passing. If it is so, it means that Russian submarines are being brought into the very centre of the Mediterranean. Nor do I delay upon the Army, except to say that I cannot believe that everything is right with the Army when short-service boys are sent into jungle warfare in Malaya with scarcely any previous training at all. But I leave those questions to the experts upon the Army and the Navy who will no doubt take part in the debate.
§ I come back to my two main questions. First of all, how far are we providing an effective quota to Western defence? That is my first question. Secondly, how far are the Brussels and Atlantic Powers agreed upon a common strategy? I begin with the first question. By "an effective quota, "I mean a military force consistent with our resources and our obligations, capable of immediate action in the event of aggression. The R.A.F. is essentially a trained and skilled Service needed for instant action. Highly trained Regulars must be its backbone. What is the present position? If my figures are correct, at the present time the personnel of the Royal Air Force amounts in number to 204,000, excluding women and 405 excluding the Auxiliary Air Force. Of those 204.000 men, 114,000 are long-service Regulars and 90,000 are short-service National Service men; that is to say, nearly half the Service is composed of young, short-term conscripts. Moreover, the number of long-service Regulars is running down. In our last debate I think it was Lord Addison, or Lord Henderson, who said that the number of long-service Regulars on the permanent list would tend to diminish in the course of a year. The First Lord of the Admiralty will correct me if I am wrong, but I think I am right in saying that the number of long-service personnel is running down.
§ Meanwhile recruiting—I am now speaking of the permanent Service—seems to be going from bad to worse. I have here the figures. In the first quarter of this year the recruits to the permanent Service were 4,026. I am informed that that number was considerably below the Government target. In the second quarter it fell to 3,189, and in the third quarter to 2,658. Those are very disturbing figures for a Service that depends essentially upon its long-service personnel. The long-service personnel is running down, and nothing is taking its place except this vast intake of National Service short-service young men.
§ I pass from the first line to the second line—that is to the Auxiliary Air Force. I have always taken a great interest in the Auxiliary Air Force. My noble friend Lord Trenchard and I were greatly interested in starting it, and ever since I have been Honorary Air Commodore of one of its squadrons. What are the figures of the Auxiliary Air Force? As to the fighter squadrons, the manpower is, on the whole, not bad. There are, I think, about 20 fighter squadrons, and I believe that if they have not done so already, they will in the near future reach their establishment. But the fighter squadrons are only one part of the Auxiliary Air Force. There are also the anti-aircraft units and what are called the fighter control units, the ground units without which the fighter squadrons cannot effectively operate. When one looks at the figures over the whole field of the Auxiliary Air Force, not only in relation to the fighter squadrons but also as regards the fighter control units and the anti-aircraft units, I believe I am within 406 the mark in saying that so far as civilian personnel are concerned, they are more than 80 per cent. undermanned. I hope that the noble Viscount the First Lord of the Admiralty will correct my figure if I have over-stated it, but upon what information I have been able to obtain I believe that figure to be correct.
§ These examples show how far we are, five years after the end of the war, from having an Air Force of reasonable size, ready for immediate and continuous action. I admit that I am speaking the dark; the Government give us no information upon these questions. I have studied the last edition of the Air Force List and compared it with the Air Force List which was current upon the eve of war in 1939. The present Air Force List tells us nothing about units. It gives us no standard upon which we can test the question whether this vast expenditure of between £200,000,000 and £300,000,000 a year is really producing money's worth. In 1939, we had 137 squadrons—106 squadrons in this country and 31 overseas. Even with what contacts I still possess with the Air Force I have not the least idea how many squadrons we have to-day. I do not press the Government to divulge secrets which it is necessary should be kept for our security, but I do say that they could give us some means of testing whether this vast army of men—more than 200,000—and this vast expenditure of more than £200,000,000 a year are really producing the kind of Air Force we require for Western Union—namely, an adequate number of operational squadrons that can take the air at once.
§ I may be asked: If that is the state of affairs, what ought to be done about it? I will be bold enough to try to give an answer to that question. I say, first of all, that it is essential, even in the midst of this economic crisis, to improve in a number of ways the condition of the Regular long-service personnel in the Royal Air Force. I will not dwell upon details to-day; I merely mention two or three of them, such as better living conditions, a more assured career for the personnel when they leave the Service and—this is 'particularly important—extra pay for flying risks. There used to be extra pay for flying risks, but, for some reason or other, it was abolished. I am told by my friends in the United States 407 that the extra pay for flying risks is one of the means, by which they attract recruits. I would ask representatives of the Government to-day to look at this problem again in order to see whether, in spite of the need for economy—and I am going to say a few words about that in a minute—these changes are not urgently needed if we are to obtain a sufficient number of long-service Regulars in this highly trained 'Service.
In the course of the summer, there was a very interesting conference summoned by the noble Lord, Lord Tedder, Chief of the Royal Air Force, to consider the whole question of recruiting and the relations between the Royal Air Force and industry. I will not do more to-day than quote a single sentence from one of Lord Tedder's speeches at the conference. Speaking on May 17, he used these words:
It is completely out of date to say, as many people do, that there cannot be satisfactory recruiting for the Royal Air Force when there is full employment.
§ That statement made by the Chief of the Royal Air Force seems to me to be conclusive in support of the kind of changes which I have just recommended to the Government. Putting these facts together, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that, as things are now, we are not producing for Western Union the kind of Air Force contingent that is needed in the present circumstances of Europe. I go further and say that, as things are now, it looks as though they will get worse rather than better.
§ I pass from the question with which I have just been dealing to my second question—how far are the Brussels and Atlantic Powers agreed upon a common strategy? I do not imagine that the First Lord of the Admiralty will be able to give me a very specific answer upon a wide question of that kind, nor do I wish him to say anything that might compromise the conversations now going on in Paris between the Foreign Ministers. I hope, however, that he will be able to throw a little more light at least upon the machinery of Western defence. I suggest to him that it might be worth publishing a White Paper setting out in tabular form particulars of all these committees that seem to be set up almost every day upon this or that side of Western European or Atlantic Defence.408
§ I own that my own mind is confused as to how this machinery works. Every day I see another committee of some kind being set up; I see that one has been set up for the South Western Mediterranean. I should like to see a picture of how all these bodies work in with each other. But apart from the machinery I have the uneasy feeling that we are creating a very complicated system, and that so far there is very little co-ordinated power or definite direction behind it. I have a feeling that we are drifting back to the sort of system that we called "collective security" between the two wars, in which definite responsibilities were confused and in which there was always a tendency to make one country think that all the others were going to do its job. I hope that that is not the case.
§ I hope also that we shall not fall into another error which we committed between the two wars; namely, the error of looking the other way when difficult and perhaps dangerous questions confront us—I am not now blaming the British Government more than any other Government. I have in mind particularly the question of Germany. Looking back at all the years between the two wars, there was always an impasse between the demand for French security and the demand from Germany for equality of status. These demands persisted year after year. For one reason or another little or no action, or at least not sufficient action, was taken to satisfy them. The result in the end was that Germany acted outside the comity of Western Europe and created a great army and air force of her own. To-day I venture to point a word of warning about the risk of the same thing happening again.
§ I already see the German demand for equality of status gaining power. I already see—I saw it in the paper this morning—the insistent French demand for security. I do not suggest to-day that, now that the economic situation has entirely changed since the end of the war, when the sole apparent danger was Germany, we should suddenly and abruptly reverse our policy. I profoundly appreciate the depth of the French anxiety about German strength and policy in the future. They can point with almost conclusive effect to what happened between 409 the two wars, how German promise after German promise was broken. They can also point to a factor that had a great influence upon Allied policy in the years between the two wars—the military weakness of the Western Allies. I am convinced that if it is decided in the discussions in Paris, or in future discussions, to take the first steps, perhaps very tentative steps, and perhaps not in the field of defence at all, with a view to bringing Germany—Federal Germany to start with, though I would still go on hoping that it will eventually include both parts of Germany—into the orbit of Western Europe, it is essential that we should be able to reassure the French that Anglo-American strength is so great, particularly in the air, as the first deterrent available to us at the moment, that the risks of aggression, either from Germany or from Russia, have been reduced to a minimum. I do not propose to develop that argument further, but once again I insist upon the lesson that is taught by the years between the two wars; and I insist on the fact that the only way we shall be able to reassure the French is to have overwhelming military strength ourselves.
§ Let me now sum up all I have attempted to say to your Lordships this afternoon. First of all, I ask for a great effort to make effective what the United States call "readiness potential," particularly in the air. Secondly, I ask that efficiency should be improved in the Air Force by a greater reliance on skilled long-service personnel and less reliance upon a great intake of National Service young men. As to the intake of National Service men, I would suggest that the Royal Air Force should follow the example of the Navy and make a special and higher standard for these intakes. The result would be to free the Air Force from this great burden of having thousands of young men passing through the units for a limited time. I am told that to-day two out of three Regulars are engaged in training these National Service young men. That may be necessary for the Army—I say nothing about the Army—but it is devastating the Air Force and preventing the Air Force becoming what we all wish it to be, a highly skilled Regular force ready for action at once.
§ Thirdly, I say that the economies that are no doubt very necessary over the 410 whole field of Government expenditure should be found from savings upon the National Service intake. I am told that every National Service conscript in the Air Force costs the country £500 a year. I am certain that, from the point of view of the Air Force, that is a very wasteful plan: it is wasteful in money and, what is to me much more important, wasteful in efficiency. Fourthly, I ask for an immediate review of the German problem, in face of the changes that have taken place in Europe during the last five years, and for a serious attempt to draw Federal Germany step by step into the Western orbit. At the same time I would appeal for an effort to reassure the French, by an overwhelmingly strong Anglo-American Air Force and the fullest development of Western Union defence, against possible German aggression in the future. It may well be found that the line of Western Union defence is the most practicable approach to the greater unification of Western Europe. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.11 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, the noble Viscount who moved this Motion spoke at the outset, if I may say so quite rightly, of the effect of apathy in regard to this particular subject, and he attributed that apathy to the great ignorance on defence matters that exists throughout the country. Many of your Lordships will probably be conscious a that same ignorance, because it is a matter of extraordinary difficulty at present, to those of us who have an interest in these matters and desire to obtain information—though we may well lay no claim to expert knowledge—to find out even the rudiments of what is happening. I do not propose to refer in any way to that aspect of the noble Viscount's speech in relation to the position of Germany. My noble friend Lord Perth will be speaking later, and that matter impinges so deeply and directly upon the field of foreign affairs that it is more suitable that it should be dealt with by him.
While the noble Viscount was speaking I had in my mind what I have had in it during all my attempted consideration of this matter—namely, the problem of trying to resolve what has been the effect upon the over-all requirements of manpower of the intervention into strategy of the atom bomb. Until recently, I 411 imagine, there was no insuperable difficulty for those who were expert in these matters to base their strategic conclusions upon well-tried and well-recognised principles. There has now come into being a new imponderable, in itself so ponderous as almost to obliterate all the pre-conceived notions. It may be that in my own mind I exaggerate the force of the advent of this new weapon. I recognise that there are those who believe that the dangers of unleashing atomic energy in warfare are so overwhelming that no country would be prepared to start such warfare for fear of the deadly retaliation which would be likely to follow. But there is also a school which believes that the advantages of striking first with a weapon of this unknown character are so great that it might well be that a country would take that risk, believing that having struck the first blow it would have succeeded thereby in paralysing the opposition and so avoiding the retaliatory consequences.
I am not suggesting for a moment that the arrival of the atomic bomb has rendered unnecessary, or is likely to render unnecessary, the use of ground forces, either by land or by sea. After all, the advent of the aeroplane was a new factor in warfare which had to be taken into account; and although it may well be that it has been demonstrated that air superiority in modern warfare is essential to success, at the same time it is only as one of the factors making up the whole plan of campaign. One would imagine that the main problem exercising the minds of those whose task it is to deal with these matters is to fix the relationship between this new weapon and the older weapon in terms alike of strategy and of man-power—the two, of course, being inexplicably connected. It may well be that these matters are the daily concern of staffs all over the world. But as the work of staffs becomes more complex, so also, apparently, do staffs themselves become more numerous with each Agreement entered into between Powers or series of Powers—the Brussels Treaty, the Atlantic Pact and the new one concerning Southern Europe and the Western Mediterranean to which, as the noble Viscount said, reference is made in the papers to-day. In each of these instances one of the essential features appears to 412 be the creation of a new and apparently separate staff.
One cannot help asking whether there is not, to put it mildly, a grave risk of duplication between this multiplicity of staffs. A staff working in a vacuum is not an effective body. It is of value only if its labours are directed to particular problems, and, I would add, if it realises that it is responsible to somebody above it for the work that it is doing. Further, a staff can achieve its fullest usefulness only if it its attention is concentrated not merely upon its own individual problem but upon that problem in relation to the over-all plan. It is no use working in a watertight compartment as an autonomous unit. A staff can prepare plans only upon certain data given to it and when certain objectives are fixed for it. What is extraordinarily difficult to discern in the whole of the picture, presented to us in perhaps rather scrappy outline, is: To whom are these various staffs responsible? Are they responsible to the Chiefs of Staff of their own particular countries? Are they responsible to some body of persons selected from those different countries? To whom do they turn for their instruction? To whom are they responsible for the work they do? Until one has a more coherent picture of the lay-out of these various staffs, it will be extraordinarily difficult for 'anybody to discern whether or not the machinery so far set up is likely to be effective.
I suppose there has never been in the recollection of any of us who take an interest in these matters a time at which we knew so little of what was going on. Not long ago we used to talk about spearheads, and I imagine that any commander would feel extremely uncomfortable unless he had under his hand a small body of highly-trained divisions of Regular troops—and if it could be a big body, so much the better—which would be available to him either for defence or to take the initiative if circumstances so required. It may not be easy—indeed, it may be impossible—for the Government to give any information on this subject. Nevertheless, when one sees the use to which the Regular forces now available are being put, it makes one doubtful whether any such spearhead exists. A spearhead is not a very adequate weapon in itself. It requires a 413 shaft as well, and that shaft must be neither too heavy nor too long for the purpose for which it is required. In other words, you want your striking force and you want your administrative troops in order to keep your striking force in action; but you have to be careful in these specialised days that there is not an administrative tail out of all proportion to the fighting body. The problem of a balanced force is one of the most difficult confronting the authorities and, at the same time, one of the most essential for solution, particularly in these days of limited effective man-power.
I would like to add my word to what the noble Viscount said on the subject of training. I have said that you require for your spearhead not just divisions, but trained divisions. That fact strikes one with real apprehension when one comes across case after case of these young men, both officers and other ranks, going out to that most arduous and exacting form of jungle warfare which is confronting them in Malaya with the degree of training which is made available to them. It is unfair on the young men in the ranks; it is certainly not less unfair upon the officers who are called upon to lead these men. I hope that in due course the Government will give us the fullest reply which in the circumstances they feel able to give. And I hope that they will be prepared to take the House a little more into their confidence than they have been on past occasions. They can, and they know they can, rely upon all noble Lords taking part in the debate in this House not to ask these questions merely to cause the Government inconvenience or embarrassment; noble Lords genuinely want such information as the Government feel able to give, in order that we may make a more useful contribution to discussions in the future.
§ 3.25 p.m.
My Lords, I will try to preserve the harmony of this debate for a little time by supporting the plea of the two noble Lords who opened it for as much information on defence as we can be given. I would particularly ask whether some further steps cannot be taken to publish once more the Return of Fleets. I understand that diplomatic difficulties have arisen heretofore, but that was a very useful return—the 414 Dilke Return—and it would show the public a little more of the sea position.
The noble Marquess drew attention to the immense growth of international staffs in Europe and elsewhere. No doubt he remembers that we have the Supreme Chiefs of Staff Committee in Washington, with large numbers of assistants, helpers and so on. I always understood that that was the supreme body. He must not forget also that this is one of the contributions to the problem of full employment. You have to have a large number of officers so that you can rapidly expand your Army in time of war, and, therefore, you have in time of peace a redundancy of officers who are given red tabs or, if they are naval officers, other suitable insignia and who are placed on these various staffs. I have been reading the last White Paper, which was very informative, but which was issued as long ago as last February, where some account is given of the set-up for Western Union. I am afraid the whole thing is rather a facade, because there is no real force as yet behind these staffs. That is what I am very much afraid of. It is rather like the war game played on Salisbury Plain which I had to attend once as observer in my naval days, when a battalion of infantry were represented by a man with a large flag. One old soldier could not understand why he represented a battalion of infantry and yet could not have the beer for the battalion. That is the sort of force, I am afraid, behind the present facade of these immense staff organisations.
I suggest to my noble friend the First Lord that it would be very interesting indeed for the House, and would give no read information away if we could, have one of those large tables showing who is at the top—presumably the Chiefs of Staff in Washington—and all the lower branches. We could have the administrative staffs, the executive staffs and the intelligence staffs et cetera all indicated and we could have the total number employed, including all clerks, assistants, runners, A.D.C.'s and so on. It would present a most interesting picture. We cannot expect to be told what is the actual force behind this facade. With great respect to the noble Viscount who opened this debate, that would be asking too much. But it would be interesting to see what some of the overheads are.
415 The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, drew what I thought was a most alarmist picture about the Royal Air Force. Usually, his information is well founded, but I hope he was pessimistic this time. He did not say this, which I believe is a fact, that technically the Royal Air Force to-day is ahead of any other in the world. I believe we have led the way in all types of war aircraft and engines, and are way ahead of everyone else. That, at any rate, is an asset on that side of the balance sheet.
The noble Viscount spoke about the French and security (I must confess that I have the greatest sympathy with the French in this matter; and who cannot?) and the difficulty he had, when he was a member of successive Governments and held great positions in the State, in reconciling the need to appease Germany and reassure the French. He will not forget that in the original arrangement the Americans were to underwrite and support the Peace Settlement. When he was a private Member and I, too, was a private Member, when he was one of the young bloods of the Conservative Party, and the Treaty of Versailles was drawn up, one of the reassurances for the French was that the Americans would underwrite the Treaty. But then the Americans came out; and that bedevilled the whole situation in Europe, right up to 1939. To-day the Americans have not walked out, and they did underwrite security. Isolationism is weak in the United States, and it does not show much sign of reviving. Therefore, the situation should not be so difficult now as it was then. It would be a great lack of statesmanship on the part of our Government if we could not in time reconcile these conflicting claims on this occasion.
The noble Viscount and the noble Marquess both seemed to throw some doubts on the effect on the recurrent economic crises of the present system of National Service. There has been a further attack from certain quarters on the whole system of conscription. Before making a few remarks on that subject, I want to make it clear that I am not opposing conscription on principle. I was one of the first in my Party, right back in the days of Blatchford and certainly before the Second World War, publicly to advocate conscription. And I think 416 there is much to be said for the French Socialist theory, that it is far better to have a citizen army raised by conscription than a long-term professional army, which is apt to become political—a sort of Prætorian Guard. At the same time, I must agree with the two noble Lords who preceded me that the present system of National Service does not seem to produce the Air Force or the Army which we require. The Navy does not rely to a substantial extent on National Service men.
I am afraid we are faced once more with the dangers of what I can only describe—I hope without offence—as the predominance of the military mind in Britain. I have the greatest admiration for our field-marshals and generals, and other field officers, but they do have, with few exceptions, one fatal defect: they always insist on preparing for the next war as if it were going to be just like the last war. I have seen it happen three times in my own lifetime. In the South African War our Army was admirably fitted to fight the Crimean War. We started the First World War with an Army that would have been admirable in the field in the South African War. We started the Second World War with an Army well fitted for the First World War—indeed, even worse, we had retrogressed in tanks, of which we were the initiators. It took us three years to remedy the situation and catch up in tanks. And now we seem to be preparing in the same way in case of a third world war—which Heaven forfend!—with the kind of Army which was needed for the recent war. If that sort of thing goes on we are going to waste a great deal of money and of man-power and not achieve security.
The worst of it is that this military mind, which is all right when confined to the Staff rooms of the War Office, seems to permeate, influence and infiltrate into the inner circles of Government, whether the Government be Liberal, Conservative or Labour. The Royal Navy had much more excuse when the First World War broke out, because, after all, there had been only one war between first-class naval Powers—the Russo-Japanese War—for one hundred years, and the Navy had not had much opportunity of experience. The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, mentioned 417 the submarine. In the First World War we ignored the submarine; but, fortunately, so did the German admirals. In the First World War I myself saw the whole Grand Fleet stopped in the middle of the North Sea to ship mail bags, until they woke up to the menace of the German submarine. If the Germans had been alive to the potentialities of their own weapon, if, in short, the German admirals had not been so thick-headed, there could have been thirty submarines attacking the Grand Fleet when it stopped to pick up mails. What was afterwards done to "Crecy," "Hogue." and "Aboukir" by one submarine might have been done to the Grand Fleet; and we might have lost the war. But the Royal Navy learnt its lessons in time. I do not include the Naval Staff in my strictures, which I hope are good-humoured and inoffensive, against the military mind. Nor do I include the Royal Air Force Staff which, not having a long history and tradition behind it, seems to have escaped the blight of the military mind.
The other danger which was touched upon by Lord Templewood, is this: are we quite sure that we are preparing, in all these immense preparations of Western Union and so forth, against the real enemy? Are we sure, in other words—to be quite blunt—that the Germans in a decade or so may not be a greater danger than the Russians? Russia, with one exception, is a satiated Power; the one exception being the north Persian oilfields, where they seem to have some legal rights for exploitation which have been denied. Apart from that, Russia is a satisfied Power with immense national resources and land areas which she wishes to develop and exploit, whereas Germany is a disgruntled Power. I have said that Lord Templewood was one of the Conservative young bloods" at the time of the Treaty of Versailles, and he will, I am sure, remember that I moved its rejection on the ground that it contained the seeds of future war. Unfortunately, I was right. My noble friend the Leader of the House, who had some responsibility at the time, will remember those events. The prohibitions and the burdens laid upon Germany under the Treaty were thistledown compared with the weight of the burdens and affronts (from the German nationalist point of view) that have since 418 been heaped upon her. I am not defending or excusing the Germans; they brought it on themselves. But, remembering that Eastern frontier, remembering the long delay in making the Peace Treaty and the long years of occupation, can one wonder that there is a nationalist recrudescence in Germany?
I do not know that that was in the mind of the noble Viscount, but I think he foreswore any suggestion of arming Germany. If Germany is given a permanent place in Western Union and similar organisations, I hope she will be confined to economic, cultural and social co-operation and not be permitted to rearm. I hope it is not suggested that the Germans should play a part in Western Union defence—that would be madness. We know too well their efficiency, their long memories and their industry; and if we allow them to rearm as a gap-filling measure in Western Union, how do we know that this Federal Germany, in a decade or two, will not start the whole business over again? I beg my noble friends in the Government to search a little into their memories and look beyond the advice they may be given from certain professional quarters, to see whether we are not overlooking what may be a great danger in the future.
Of course, the only thing to do is to keep Germany disarmed and see that we have a security system that will prevent her becoming a menace again. At the same time, I should like to ask this question: is it necessary, for military and strategic reasons, and in order to prevent rearmament, to maintain the present weak but expensive garrison in Germany, supporting a vast control organisation? Could not the same object be achieved by an efficient police force and the Intelligence Service? It seems to me that it is not really an Army of Occupation that we have in Germany Together with the Americans and French, we are occupying certain key positions in the national transport system, but we do not effectively occupy the country; our forces are too small. I think I am right in saying that militarily the present armies in Germany are not taken seriously by anyone as a real holding force.
I do not know how many divisions we can put into the field at the present time. Statements have beer made that we can 419 put in two strong divisions, but that we should be hard put to it to find three divisions. I do not know what the Russian first-line strength would be a week after mobilisation. I have seen figures of one hundred Divisions. I do not think that the French, or the Benelux Powers, have a very strong army ready for immediate use. The American troops are being reduced. I do not think that our troops in Germany are even holding forces. Would it not be better, therefore, to get these garrisons out? I think there is a strong case for it, and I hope it will be looked into closely. The Russians talk of removing their armies from the Eastern Zone of Germany. No doubt they have something ready to take their place. At any rate, the removal of the Red Army from the Eastern Zone would strongly reinforce the case for removing the British, French, and American Armies from the Western Zones.
May I return to a subject which was touched upon by the noble Marquess—that is, the relation between these large mass marching infantry armies which we are raising, which of course, are the only thing we can raise under our National Service scheme, and the atomic weapon? I understand that you cannot make really efficient tank troops or artillerymen in eighteen months. I doubt it very much. I do not profess to be a military expert, but that is what I am told. But you can produce a great mass of marching infantry divisions such as we had in the Second World War. There is the question of their relation to the atomic weapon. I am one of those who think that the atomic weapon will not actually be used, because of fear of reprisals and partly for another fear. I speak with some diffidence in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, and other learned scientists in this House. If we go very far with this method of warfare, shall we not be in danger of upsetting the whole balance of nature? The noble Marquess said something along those lines. The present atomic bombs available in America, and presently in Russia and this country, are ten times as powerful as those which devastated Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Their power is being increased all the time. If a great many of those bombs are used in some future 420 world war, I think it will have unpredictable results. Anything may happen.
Are the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, and my noble friends aware that there are hotheads in the United States—I admit that the hotheads are only a minority—who talk quite glibly, in the event of Europe going Communist as they put it, of diverting the Gulf Stream by use of immense atomic power in the Atlantic, with uncontrollable results? It is that sort of thing which I think will really influence sane people not to use that weapon, just as gas was not used in the Second World War. The same thing applies to the still more terrible bacteriological weapon not mentioned by the noble Marquess. I am told that the bacteriological weapon is more potent, more destructive, more deadly and still less controllable. I do not think it will be used. But the possibility of the use of these weapons should lead to some re-balancing and re-weighing of the value of infantrymen trained for eighteen months and then going into Reserve in case of future trouble.
Also, I think there is a great future—I understand that we are well ahead technically in this matter and paying great attention to it—for a weapon much more on the orthodox lines of development: I refer to the modern rockets. I believe that that is a weapon which will have tremendous power in the future and that the rocket-firing aeroplane and the rocket-firing tank may be decisive. I also believe my noble friend knows—I do not wish him to reply to me here and now—that there is a certain line of thought in the navies of the world, certainly in our own Navy, which believes that the orthodox cannon, as we know it, will be obsolete and that the rocket will provide the same fire-power with less weight, and therefore will be more efficient. Developments of this sort make me doubt whether the kind of army that we are raising and training at such expense is going to be the right sort of army.
I think I have said enough on that subject for my noble friend to know what I mean. I warned him that I would be raising something of this sort. On the other hand, if we need infantry for semi-police duties, then of course there is a strong case for the long-service professional army. There is another possibility. The truth is that we feel very much the 421 loss of India in our whole strategic setup. That was a great loss. It was not only the 30,000 European troops which we kept there who could be replaced by Territorials in case of trouble; it was the fine Indian Army from which we could send a brigade or battalion of Indian troops to the danger spot. They were great supporters of the whole Imperial system. For the time being, that is out of the question, and we are feeling the loss. The military authorities must feel the loss very much at the present moment. I am hoping that a little later on, perhaps when this unfortunate Kashmir business is settled peacefully, we can persuade our fellow subjects in India and Pakistan to be prepared to undertake the responsibility which used to be undertaken by the Indian Army and the Royal Indian Navy in the past. We are all members of the Commonwealth, I am delighted to say, and there are certain obligations as well as privileges in such membership. Therefore, I should have thought that that is the right approach and the right argument—that we should get some help from our fellow subjects in Asia. I am thinking particularly of places like Hong Kong and Malaya, the latter being mentioned by the noble Marquess.
Again, cannot we make greater use today of the fine military material that we have in some of our Colonies? I am thinking particularly of West Africa and East Africa. The African soldiers did splendid service in the Second World War. They are altogether reliable, and if anyone is going to stand up here and say: "We cannot trust the natives being armed," then that is to cut the ground from under our whole Imperialist system. I do not accept it for a moment. If you cannot arm your fellow citizens then there is something radically wrong with your whole system. I see in the White Paper of last February (Cmd. 7631) that one of the excuses for the stretching of our military commitments is that extra forces had to be sent as reinforcements for local security in West Africa. We had to send European troops to West Africa for local security reasons. The West African Regiment had the highest reputation for discipline and loyalty for generations. All those Colonies ought to be able to look after their own local security and supply units for a centralised police force for the general good.
422 Then there is the question of Hong Kong. I do not wish to develop this point. It is a diplomatic and political question much more than a military question. I have said this before: from what I know about Hong Kong you can defend it for a long time against all corners if you have on your side the Chinese in Hong Kong—which ought to be possible because they are fellow-citizens. If our rule is right and just, as I believe it is, we could recruit them as we tried to do at far too late a period in the Second World War. With the Chinese in Hong Kong against you, it is going to be very difficult indeed. In the Kowloon leased territories there is the old walled city of Kowloon, a great haunt of antiquity buyers in my day, which is still under Chinese sovereignty. Under the leasing arrangements, we left this part to the Chinese and they have hoisted the Hammer and Sickle, and all the rest of it, of the New Chinese Republic. I do not know whether they will give us any trouble at all, but I think that with careful and diplomatic handling there need not be any real difficulty there.
I want to make it absolutely clear to my noble friend—and I believe I speak for the bulk of our Party here—that there must be no question of our giving up our just rights in Hong Kong. We are there as of right and we should be there for many other reasons as well. I think all those matters can be arranged. One of my friends who has just come back from Nationalist China and who speaks very good Chinese tells me that Hong Kong is not a burning question at all, either in Peking or anywhere else. Nevertheless, if we make the sort of blunders referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, that. we did in the years before the war—and I must remind Lord Templewood that he cannot escape complete responsibility—
Nor, possibly, me; perhaps less than the noble Viscount. If we commit a few more blunders of the sort that we committed between the two wars, we can start a third world war in China, never mind what may happen in Western Europe. However, I think I have indicated my view of the position there to my noble friend. I am not making a pacifist speech; I am pleading for efficiency and 423 firmness where firmness is required. It has been said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. What is the price of national security? It is also eternal vigilance. That is why I think it is high time we had this debate. In addition to eternal vigilance, there should be complete ruthlessness in cutting out dead wood and combating inefficiency, and I am sure I carry my noble friend with me.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I am glad that my noble friend Lord Templewood has put down this Motion to-day because I am one of those who think that the subject of defence should be debated more often than it is. Like my noble friend I have no wish in any way to embarrass the Government, but I do believe that there should be more publicity in this country on the necessity for efficient defence. I see great publicity for working hard and the reasons why, and for increasing exports and the reasons why. That is all very necessary. Yet I believe that defence questions should be more discussed publicly than they are so that the public, who have to pay and provide the man-power, may become interested and informed on the question. I do not see why they should not be given more information as to why this defence is required.
Before I come to the terms of the Motion I would like to say a few words on matters that are relevant to it. We may all be proud of the wonderful work that has been done in the aviation industry since the war in regard to aircraft production. The display recently staged at Farnborough proved that wonderful progress has been made in civil aircraft and to a certain extent in service aircraft. Besides congratulating the organisers and the designers, I would like to say a word in appreciation of what the test pilots do when they fly these aircraft for the first time, at extraordinary speeds. They receive very little publicity or thanks, but it is wonderful work and we owe them a lot.
The noble Viscount who introduced this Motion has given an over-all description of what our strategy should be in the event of war being forced on us. I have recently been able to visit in Germany both the British and American sectors, and also Berlin. I went about 424 Germany a great deal, and I met many people, German, and members of our own and the American Air Forces. What I saw filled me with pride in those Air Forces, and in the harmonious and efficient way they work together.
(My Lords, I feel that, however unpleasant they may be, we ought to face facts, rather than delude ourselves that the facts are as we wish them to be—I am speaking only for myself, but I hope the Government will not disagree: certainly, however, others feel that the facts should be stated. When I visited the Continent the other day I felt very much that Britain should speak out plainly as to what we mean rather than wrap everything up in the guarded language that we were obliged to use between the two great wars. In Mr. Chamberlain's day one was frightened to say what the Germans were in fact doing, because somebody might have had the idea of going over and making peace personally. I feel that if the public had known more of the facts of those days we could have stopped the war; and I feel now that if we spoke out more openly the nations upon which we must depend to an enormous extent in the future, the Western bloc, would be more happy. In the past the sea gave us time to bring into being sufficient forces to defeat the enemy. We have not that time now. Yet time we must have. Since no democracy will be an aggressor it will always be relatively unprepared. In this connection, as in most others, time costs money—and a lot of money.
The other day, I heard a speech given by Lord Tedder to the Royal Empire Society. It was a lecture on "Air Defence," and I recommend everybody who can do so to read his words. He began by quoting Admiral Mahan as saying:Free peoples object to paying for large military establishments.Lord Tedder went on to say that unfortunately in these days, when modern equipment becomes more and more expensive, it becomes more and more difficult to provide the necessary Forces which are strong enough to gain time. We have to pay more to-day than we did for keeping a Navy to gain time. Lord Tedder then went on to say:In point of fact, if great care and discrimination is not used, it is quite conceivable 425 that a country might spend so much on its military establishments as to sap its economic health…I believe that we must have an overwhelming Air Force. I am not going to repeat what I said before. I gave the strength of what we should have on the Western Front. We must have them. I cannot help feeling that nobody in these days can deny that an overwhelming Air Force is necessary.
I would like to quote again from what Lord Tedder said a few days ago:I am quite sure that, so far as we are concerned, the principle which was proved again and again in the last war is true now, and will remain true for years; that is, that in war nothing on the surface of land or sea can operate effectively unless and until the situation in the air is under firm control. This is sometimes expressed by saying that the air battle must be first won. That is rather an over-simplification"—It is very much an over-simplification; the air battle is never won outright. The noble Lord went on to say that it is often thought that the Battle of Britain took place in August and September of 1940. One phase of it did—the daylight phase over this country. But it continued, at first at night over England then with Bomber Command going across the Channel, and finally it was fought out over the heart of Germany. The battle of the air, he said, must go on all the time, because no Army and no Navy cart work without Air Force aid, which is still necessary.
Can any single democracy to-day, even the United States, pay and provide forces which by themselves will suffice to gain the time? May I again quote from Lord Tedder's remarks? I am quoting him so much because when I read his speech I realised that it was very much clearer than my own language, and will therefore be more easily understood by your Lordships. But he is saying exactly what I have been trying to say for years. This is what he says further:I feel that no one will contest that the most immediate and most dangerous threat would come from the air, and the trouble is that that threat can develop a great intensity so rapidly. The time factor is vital and the inevitable unpreparedness of the democratic countries has in the past often proved to be an irresistible temptation to an aggressor.How true that is, my Lords! Lord Tedder continued:If, therefore, the free people are strong enough to gain time and make it clear to 426 the world that they can defend themselves effectively during the opening phase of a war, I believe the risk of any would-be aggressor trying a blitzkrieg would be greatly reduced.There are one or two other factors to which I should like to draw the attention of your Lordships. Surely in these days it is clear that democratic countries, like America and the United Kingdom cannot keep large numbers of troops in foreign countries in peace time—when I say large numbers I am speaking of a figure in the region of 500,000. We have also to bear in mind the fact that no country in Western Europe wishes to see a line of defence which would allow an enemy to invade their country—even though they would afterwards be liberated. Countries on the Continent have gone through all that before, and it is only human nature for them to say that they will not suffer it again. This means that if we decide upon a line of defence behind those countries they will simply let in Communism, with all that that implies. We have to face the fact that other Western European countries suffered heavily in the last war—much more heavily than we did. I do not mean to say that Britain did not suffer very heavily, too. We certainly suffered severely from the bombing and the hardships of war, but we did not go through what so many of the Western countries had to go through. We did not have the enemy living in our homes. We did not have all the bestialities and brutal acts of war taking place it our midst, however much we may have been hit by bombs. We did not, thank God, have any Germans living in this country during the war, except under restraint. There is a very great difference between a country which has been invaded by an enemy and one that: has not, and we have to accept that difference as a fact. This enormous difference is something which we have to recognise in considering the problem of putting up a good Western defence. I feel that our morale during the war did not suffer like that of the countries who endured the German occupation.
Now we have to face another fact. According to General Omar Bradley, and others whose names I have seen in the Press, the Russians can put up as many as 200 divisions; I have seen the figure put as high as 300. We know that the Russian divisions are smaller than ours, 427 but we also know that America and England will not in peace time be able to put up on the Continent that number of divisions, or anything like it. But the Continental countries naturally feel that unless we can do so they will be overrun, and that collapse will follow. My Lords, what can be done? I feel that the Government (I am sorry that the noble Viscount who is to answer on their behalf is not here now) must be fully alive to this problem; hence the association of nations formed under the Atlantic Pact, and also the association of nations under the Brussels Pact. I think I have seen it stated that Western Germany may be allowed to become an associate member of that Pact. But the pooling of resources for collective defence, which I hope is now being organised in those countries, should provide a combined strength that will be sufficient to deter aggression—whereas in the past separate weaknesses have invited aggression. From this pool it should be possible to provide the necessary Armed Forces, the arms coming from the Western democracies—which would have the added advantage of standardising arms—supported, of course, by the American and British contingents and, most important, by an overwhelming air force.
Much has been said about civilisation being wiped out by the atom bomb. I hope that your Lordships will not be shocked by what I am going to say about that weapon. All wars have been won in the final stage by fire power—by superior fire power. What is the atom bomb but superior fire power? We must be prepared to say now that if this threat from the East materialises we will at once hit with the latest development in the possession of the Western Powers—the atom bomb. How many millions of a nation's men would have to be destroyed before peace could be assured? Is there any doubt whatever in any man's mind that the atom bomb to-day could probably destroy anything over 10,000,000 and up to 20,000,000 people in a month? I am not overestimating, nor am I trying to be unnecessarily brutal. I say that a nation which lost that amount of man-power in such a short period could not exist, and would have to submit.
Some of your Lordships will feel that what I have implied is sheer brutality. 428 Is it? What were the total casualties in the last war? What of the thousands of men and women who died as a result of brutalities in the concentration camps? And what about the large numbers still alive but maimed, or the millions who found their graves in Germany and in Russia during the war? If the nation, and the satellite nations, which believe in the brutal doctrine of Communism, with all that it means, were to force another war upon us, and if they won it, with all the consequent loss of life, it would mean the end of civilisation. That is the problem as I see it to-day. I am sure that the Government will realise that what I have said is not said without a sense of responsibility and, regrettable though it may be, I feel that it is true. I feel that if the Government show that they realise these facts, the public will realise them too and will back all the defence measures suggested in every way they can.
There are just one or two other points I wish to make. I have indicated at different times in this House the size of the force that we want for the defence of Europe, and I am not going to repeat that to-day. I hope that the Government intend to provide a force of the strength I have indicated. But now I want to turn once more to the manning of the Services, without which all is useless. In these days this whole question of personnel is recognised as difficult. In my lifetime of over three-quarters of a century, there is no doubt that the working life of the population has been extended from seven to nine years. Cannot we use that extra time? During the last fifty years there has been a continual demand to retire people earlier and to reduce the age at which old-age pensions are payable, instead of increasing them. The reason generally given is that men should be pensioned earlier in life, so that the young men can have a chance of promotion. Many men with active years of life in front of them are thrown out of jobs in the Government Service. We all know of many of these cases. I am at present waiting to see five people because they have been thrown out at fifty or fifty-five when they want to work, and are fit to work.
The Services want young men for the first five years of their adult lives, and the only way we shall attract them is to give them a definite priority in civil life, 429 so that they can go from the Armed Forces into Government service, the nationalised industries and private enterprise. I have said this in your Lordships' House for the last four years running, and I am sorry that the noble Lord who is to reply to-day has not been present to hear me say it again. Will the Government not set up a high-level committee—not a staff committee, but a committee of Ministers—to see whether something cannot be done in this direction, which I am certain is the solution of the problem. We must get young men for the Services first and so arrange things that their service will work for their advantage in civil life. I will not detain your Lordships any longer. I hope I have made myself clear.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, I have one point to make and I should like to ask for one assurance from His Majesty's Government. Before I deal with that one point, I should like to refer to a matter dealt with by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood (to whom we are all grateful for bringing forward this Motion to-day) and which was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, with whom I must say I find myself in some measure of agreement. Lord Templewood and Lord Trenohard, to whose powerful speech we have just listened, both said that this is not a Party debate and that all speak as individuals giving the best they can of their views. The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, advocated the first steps to bring Federal Germany into Western Union and at the same time to placate France's very proper wish for reassurances as regards security. The noble Viscount went on to say that he would not develop that argument any further. Frankly, I am somewhat at a loss to know what would be the ultimate result of his point of view; whether it would be that a disarmed Germany should be brought into Western Union or whether he would advocate a limited rearmament of Germany. Which view he holds I do not know and I do not ask; but I would like to say that many of us, inside this House and outside, have misgivings about the risks of a policy of bringing Germany into Western Europe and offsetting that by satisfying France's need for security.
430 Many members of the public must ask themselves the question which your Lordships may ask yourselves—namely, is Germany purged of that virus which has animated her since the middle of the nineteenth century, the virus of conquest and belief in war as a means of settling disputes? Are we not regarded in many quarters in Germany, deep, deep down, as the cause, the hated cause, of Germany's downfall twice in the last twenty-five years? Until we have the assurance of some visible signs that the virus has been got rid of, many of us would hesitate to support a policy that in any way might give Germany art opportunity a third time of menacing the world.
The point I wish to raise with the noble Lord who is to reply is one of which I have given him notice. Suggestions have been made in various quarters during recent months that we could satisfy the great need for economy in defence expenditure by either eliminating or reducing our heavy bombers, which are so expensive to obtain and to operate, because under the Atlantic Pact we might look to the United States to carry out long-range strategic bombing. The argument is that under the Atlantic Pact we can regard our forces with those of the United States as a global force, and, that being so, we could economise greatly in terms of men and money by leaving long-range strategic bombing to the United States. We should concentrate on home defence, say the advocates of that policy; we should concentrate on a tactical Air Force to support the Army and to protect our trade routes. I am sure your Lordships will agree that it is not the job of politicians to plan forces; that is a job for the chiefs of staffs. Nevertheless, Ministers lay down policies and may veto plans on political grounds. I should like to ask for an assurance from the Government that, though our Air Force can be regarded now as part of the global force of the Atlantic Pact nations and Western Union, nevertheless we shall within ourselves retain a balanced Air Force with a proper proportion of striking force.
It is a very tempting policy to achieve a large measure of economy in money and men by saying that we can leave the job of striking power to someone else and concentrate on our own home 431 defence. It is a dangerous doctrine, because in modern war the bomber force is just as much part of home defence as the fighter force. The bomber force strikes at the missile bases which might menace this country, as well as giving offensive power against the enemy. It is worth remembering the part Bomber Command played in the last war in the way of defending our shores. Bomber Command destroyed in harbour 63 U-boats in commission, which was about 81 per cent. of all U-boats in commission during the war. Another 150 never got to the assembly line. Planned deliveries of U-boats between June, 1944, and the end of the year were 423, and the actual deliveries were 180. All this was due to Bomber Command.
I submit that we cannot afford to abdicate to any of our Allies our ability, first, to go to war when we have to—and we could not go to war unless we had a bomber striking force—and secondly, the power of conducting and directing a war in the way we and our chiefs of staffs consider best. Were we to deprive ourselves of a proper striking force, we should abdicate in respect of both those matters. I repeat that it is a tempting and easy way for the Government to achieve economy. If they can tell us to-day that they have no intention of following that course, many noble Lords on this side of the House, and many people outside this House who take an interest in these vital defence matters, will be reassured.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, I feel we are always in a certain difficulty when we discuss defence matters, because such a discussion must be rather in the nature of one of those mathematical problems in which we are told to neglect the weight of the elephant—the weight of the elephant in this case being the atomic bomb and, in a lesser degree, the projected missile. We do not know who has got what, or how many, or what is the value of what they have got. To that extent our discussions must be somewhat academic. The problem is even more difficult when we come to discuss the question of Western Union defence because it is essentially political. It would be inadvisable to discuss in public the opinions and decisions of the Powers 432 with which we are associated; and especially would it be undesirable to discuss the bareness of the cupboard in certain instances. The Powers with which we are associated would take grave exception were we to do that in public. We are in these difficulties in discussing defence, but we must do the best we can and consider the matter on the basis of such facts as are available to us and which it is appropriate to mention.
The line of Western Union defence must, for obvious reasons, be the Rhine, on the 300-mile reach between Basle and Arnhem. The number of divisions needed for the defence of that line can be calculated, and the number that can be provided—or are contemplated—by those concerned must be known. The essential question is: how large is the gap between those two figures? Are the prospects of closing that gap rather brighter than the Economic Secretary to the Treasury says are the prospects of closing the dollar gap? The number of divisions which we can put into the field on the day that the balloon goes up is rather too small to quote in comfort. It would be even more uncomfortable to quote the small number of additional divisions which we shall be able to put into the field six months later. I do not know w hat France can do, but I am sure of what France will expect us to do. It may be true that in the event of war the most effective help we could give France would be in the air and at sea; but the French people will not be convinced about that. What they will want to see are English soldiers on French soil. Although, as Lord Tedder said in a recent speech, the air battle will be going best and the Army will be getting the best help if the Army never sees the air battle, we shall not get the French people or the French politicians to believe that. The attitude of the French is that what the eye does not see the heart does bleed about; and the only thing that will convince them is the presence of English soldiers on French soil.
I often hear surprise expressed that with an Army so much larger than formerly we can mount only so few divisions. The explanation is well known to your Lordships but does not seem to be so well-known amongst the general public, and it is, therefore, worth emphasising. It is that, with the development of modern 433 scientific war, the services of supply and maintenance have swollen to vast proportions. Even welfare absorbs great numbers of men of the modern army in the field. That is the precise reason why, even with far greater numbers at our disposal, we dispose of far fewer divisions. It seems to me that no possible blame attaches to the War Office in this matter. I am sure the War Office would like to see great numbers of regiments, battalions and divisions, but no unit is of any use whatsoever unless it is fully equipped for modern scientific war. Because of the need for these essential and all-important ancillary services, which inevitably increase in size as scientific development proceeds, the distance between the teeth and the tail also increases. Nowadays it is not so much a case of an army of the bulldog breed, all jaws and teeth, as an army of the dachshund type, with a very long body indeed interposing between the teeth and the tail. As I have said, I think the War Office should be entirely absolved from criticism on the point that, with larger numbers at our disposal, we still dispose of few divisions.
However, there is perhaps one point on which the War Office do invite criticism. I am frequently informed that the numbers employed at the War Office itself, and on headquarters staffs, are far too large. I have noticed recently that the Secretary of State for War announced that the staffs at the War Office have been reduced by some 12.9 per cent. That is certainly a welcome announcement and a step in the right direction, but there is still a good deal of "fat" which could come away with advantage to all concerned. Now there is such a multiplicity of courses for officers, the C.I.G.S. might consider instituting a course of, shall I say, "slimming" in these two directions and reducing the numbers.
If it is accepted—and I am sure it is—that the line of defence for Western Union is the Rhine, where is the man-power to come from? What man-power is available west of the Iron Curtain? It is not only a quantitative but a qualitative problem—quality, morale and virility must all be assessed when we are considering this matter. Many of the Western Union countries were occupied or defeated during the war, and their morale is inevitably low. What is the position in two other countries west of the Iron Curtain? Germany was the occupying country, and for 434 a long time had a remarkably victorious career. I should not be surprised to find that the average German feels respect only for the United States of America and Great Britain. Spain was neither occupied nor defeated. The Germans and the Spaniards are tough lighting men and find considerable pleasure in the job. We have to ask ourselves: is Western Union defence possible unless Germany is brought in? Suppose she threw in her lot with Russia; would any attempted defence of the Brussels Powers be of the slightest use?
Can Western Union defence ever be a reality without Germany? It may naturally he said that, by bringing in Germany, we might be constructing a Frankenstein monster. That may be possible, but without German assistance in this matter at the present moment—which I agree might be called a gamble—can we be sure that we can escape the arms of the Russian octopus? This question of Germany is primarily political, and until the politicians settle it it is impossible for the chiefs of the Fighting Services to clew up their planning.
What is to happen in Europe in the future certainly depends upon whether Germany looks East or looks West. I think she will decide, very naturally, according to enlightened self-interest. If Russia succeeds in her negotiations to secure a virtual monopoly of trade with Communist China, Russia will have some valuable pickings to offer to the Ruhr industrialists, without whose support Western Germany can hardly stand. We must view this matter completely realistically and ask ourselves whether bringing Germany into Western Union defence might not prove an extremely difficult card indeed for Russia to trump.
As regards Spain, it seems to me absurd, strategically as well as financially and economically, to allow the present state of strained relations between this country and Spain to continue. To be fully represented in a country no longer indicates complete approval of the method of that country, or of the system of government which prevails. We have gone a long way from the days when Queen Victoria demurred, upon ethical and religious grounds, from giving the Order of the Garter to the Shah of Persia. We now enjoy full representation with some very "queer fish" indeed. In this matter 435 of Spain, I would earnestly ask the Government to reconsider the matter, not in terms of the feelings generated by the Spanish Civil War but in terms of our present national dangers and national requirements.
So far as man-power is concerned, we cannot afford to ignore the question of numbers. But do not let us be led into thinking that numbers are everything. War becomes increasingly a scientific affair. Science makes increasing demands, but yields very high dividends to resourcefulness, and resourcefulness is the product of education and scientific skill. We need not be overawed by the vast masses of Russian man-power if we abandon old ideas and encourage the scientists, and if, above all, we lay our plans in such a way as to ensure a co-ordinated and concerted Commonwealth defence policy. Only in that way can we effect that decentralisation of our war production which I believe to be all important. Into this matter of defence inevitably comes the question of expenditure. Economy in expenditure is the order of the day; and so the Chancellor of the Exchequer presses the Service Ministers, and the Service Ministers press the Chiefs of Staff. We may therefore safely assume that the Service Estimates are always forced down to below what the Chiefs of Staff conscientiously believe to be necessary. As a result, when war comes a lot of lives are unnecessarily lost, a great many unnecessary risks are run. When we are at war many people speak in heartrending terms—with which we must all sympathise—about the men who are getting killed; yet in peace-time those same people seem all too ready to insist upon economies, which must result in more men than needs be being killed if war unfortunately does break out.
That leads us to the question of whether our commitments necessitate National Service. It seems to me that the question is this: If we scrapped National Service how long would it take to build up a Regular Army and a Regular Air Force to the level required by our commitments to the Brussels and Atlantic Pact Powers? These commitments imply not only producing certain forces upon the appointed day, but also building up the post-mobilisation reserves necessary to maintain and augment those forces. If that question is examined, I feel that we 436 have no option but to continue National Service. We have gone back to the eighteen months period after that ignominious retreat from eighteen months to twelve—a retreat embarked upon in deference to Back Bench pressure upon the Government. Of such pressure in a matter of this sort I can say only that it is the road to ruin lives; but I would like to hear the experts' views on whether eighteen months' training permits of complete efficiency. I believe that Mr. Churchill would like to see fewer men trained for a longer time, and that proposal has a great deal to commend it. But whether it would give us time to build up the forces and the reserves of which I have spoken, I am not sure. With such knowledge as is available to me I feel that we have no option but to continue National Service as it is to-day, while endeavouring to weed out from it certain elements of inefficiency which, as we must all agree, exist at the present time.
There is another matter I would like to mention very briefly, and that is the question of what are known as plans. I expect—in fact, I am sure—that there are a great many plans in existence concerning Western Union defence. I am sure we can trust Lord Montgomery to see that the planning is well forward, and that the plans are well considered: He will see that a good job is made of the planning. But a plan by itself is worth exactly and precisely the paper upon which it is drawn—and no more. Plans begin to have value only when everything necessary to implement the plans has been thought of and has been provided. It is at that point that I begin to feel some anxiety about these plans, and I have little doubt that Lord Montgomery feels even more anxiety on that head than I do. Do not let us be satisfied with being told that plans have been prepared. Let us ask ourselves whether what must necessarily lie behind the plans, if they are to be effective, has been provided. The Minister of Defence has met his colleagues from other countries, and I have no doubt on those occasions the proceedings were extremely bright and brotherly. I am sure that he is able to return and give account of the plans which have been formulated. But can he, as Minister of Defence, give an equally good account of the forwardness of the logistics upon which those plans 437 depend? There is many a slip twixt a plan and the logistics.
I have mentioned the Minister of Defence. There are undoubtedly in Service circles many criticisms of the Ministry of Defence set-up. I was an early advocate of a Ministry of Defence, but I always perceived certain disadvantages in the idea. It involves disrating (if I may use that term, with respect) the three Service Ministers virtually to Under-Secretaries outside the Cabinet; and it seems to me that the three Services may well feel that their heads ought to be in the Cabinet and that the present arrangement allows the Minister of Defence too much power as against their own Ministers. There has always seemed to me to be a certain danger in the whole idea of a Ministry of Defence: the danger of setting up a system of stooges. The Prime Minister of the day is unlikely to appoint as Minister of Defence a man so strong and of such commanding position and influence in the country that a resignation on a point of principle may involve the Prime Minister himself. Equally, the Minister of Defence, it seems to me, is extremely unlikely to agree to appointment as head of a Service Ministry a strong man whose resignation on a point of principle might involve his own position or his own resignation. I think those two dangers are inherent in the existence of a Ministry of Defence.
What the Chiefs of Staff of the Services want in the Service Ministers is not amateur strategists. What a fighting Service wants is a Minister who will fight their corner for them with the Minister of Defence; and they want a Minister of Defence who will fight his corner with the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the latter is pressing for the Service Estimates to be confined within too tight limits, limits which would deprive the Services of essential items. I understand that pressure has in fact quite recently been brought to bear to confine Estimates within limits which would deprive all three fighting Services of essential items.
Those are a few points. In a debate on defence one cannot cover the whole picture. I have endeavoured to call attention to one or two matters which appear to me to be of importance at the present moment. I notice that practically nothing has been said in this debate about the Navy—which I think is a great 438 tribute and testimony to the ability of that great Service to manage their own affairs. I understand that they have successfully kept the Minister of Defence outside their door and that they are able to consume their own smoke and get on with their business. I ventured in a recent debate to put for ward some views about naval policy. I have nothing to add to them, but I hope that on a point that arose in that debate—namely, battleships—the First. Lord is coming up to date. On that occasion he seemed to have one foot ashore and the other in the boat, because he claimed credit for having scrapped more battleships than any other First Lord on record, but at the same time said that if other nations have battleships we must have them also. That seemed to me to be reducing naval doctrine to the policy of what the Americans call "Keeping up with the Jones's"—only keeping up with the Jones's in reverse, in that you do not have a modern refrigerator because the Jones's are sticking to their old ice-box, and therefore you stick to your ice-box too. I doubt whether the point need be much further urged, because at any rate light has dawned about battleships; and I have no doubt that Percy Scott is now resting much more contentedly in his grave.
A last word I should like to say is this, and it can be summed up in this way. In considering these matters of defence, I think the essential thing is to scrap the ideas of 1914 and of 1940; not to think of the Rhine line in terms of the Maginot line but to scrap old ideas and encourage the scientists to show us new methods. We all owe a great debt to the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, for bringing forward this Motion, and I am sure that the fact that these matters have been debated in your Lordships' House with sympathy and with understanding will be a source of great encouragement to 'those officers who labour so loyally and with such self-sacrifice for the well-being and efficiency of the Services with which they are connected.
§ 4.47 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to deal for a few moments with the broad aspect of Western Union defence and with the over-all strategic policy covered by the Atlantic Pact. We 439 have heard a good many rumblings from across the Atlantic as to the strategy which is slowly taking shape, but we have not yet heard from His Majesty's Government what our own part may be in this strategic plan. I should like to ask His Majesty's Government whether an overall strategic plan is yet in existence for the twelve Atlantic Treaty nations. I do not wish to embarrass the Government—more especially as the Paris Conference is at present sitting. It may well be that now that Russia is known to have the atomic bomb a complete reorientation in our plans has become necessary. But, like the noble Viscount who moved this Motion, I feel that a proper disclosure of a strategic policy, perhaps indicating the military solidity of the Atlantic Treaty Powers, would go a long way to acting as a deterrent to an aggressor; and I hope that His Majesty's Government will be able to give the House some information to-day. The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, said that apathy in the country on defence matters was very great indeed. It is certainly dangerous, and I am sure that a statement from the Government would do a great deal to get rid of it.
Many of your Lordships have no doubt seen a statement in the Press that the Chairman of the Chief of Staffs Committee in America is reported to have said that Europe must maintain the hard core of resistance until reinforced with American help. On the other hand, it has also been reported that such help may not be forthcoming until results achieved by a long-range atomic bombing offensive by the much publicised B.36 Bombers have proved effective. I certainly hope, however, that this is not in any way the settled plan within the Atlantic Pact. I suggest that Europe does not want to be liberated a second time, when civilisation may well have been irreparably destroyed; and I am sure she wishes to be in a position to offer effective resistance to an aggressor immediately it becomes necessary, and to keep going until assistance, which in the nature of things must take time, can reach her. Unless Western Europe can be placed in the position to defend herself in the initial stages of a conflict, I suggest that confidence will be weakened and Communist influence will undoubtedly increase and be strengthened.
440 I suggest that, whatever the American plans and views may be, it is essential that Western Europe should be in a position to hold up and stem an immediate advance by an aggressor. That, of course, can mean only one thing; that Western Europe must be provided with a sufficient number of active military divisions to act as the main defence against invasion in the early stages.
The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, has referred to the statement of the noble Viscount who moved this Motion about Germany coming into the fold of Western Europe, and has asked whether she would be disarmed or otherwise. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has referred to the pooling of resources for collective security. Both these suggestions fill me with a little alarm; but that made by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, that perhaps re-armament should take place in Western Germany, filled me with greater alarm. But, like the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, I do not propose to pursue these matters to-day. As a naval officer I feel a little diffident about referring very closely to purely military commitments, though I feel fortified by the fact that the First Lord of the Admiralty is to reply on behalf of His Majesty's Government. I do suggest, however, that the more the three Services study each other's commitments, difficulties and organisation, the better it will be for combined operations which are bound to be required in a future war and which were so successful in the last war.
It has been estimated by a number of military experts that a minimum of thirty divisions are necessary for any effective defence of a 700-mile front in Europe. It is said that such a force would ensure that any aggressor would have to undertake the slow and cumbersome step of mobilisation before an invasion could be carried out with any measure of success. The question is: How are these thirty divisions to be provided? The noble Lord, Lord Winster, has asked where the man-power is to come from. Various figures have been published in the Press from time to time as to what forces can be provided by the Benelux countries and France. It has been reported that the Western Union defence commanders have called upon Britain to provide eleven divisions, of which two would be 441 armoured, two motorised and one airborne. Perhaps the noble Viscount who is to reply for His Majesty's Government can give the House some enlightenment on these points, though I do not want to press him too far.
I understand that eleven divisions would absorb 250,000 men organised and ready to take the field, a commitment which it would be quite impossible for us to fulfil to-day, with a large proportion of the Regular Army engaged in training the National Service men. In fact, I understand that at the present time we have only four Regular divisions in the Army, apart from the Territorial Army, and as your Lordships know most of those are abroad. I should like to ask His Majesty's Government what plans they have in mind for extending the Regular Army to meet the European commitment of, perhaps, eleven divisions. I suggest that it is only by extending the Regular Army that any European commitment can be contemplated and effectively carried out. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, has told us that in his view trained men, and not half-trained young men as we have in the National Service men, would be required for any European commitment. I suggest that the country is entirely in the dark as to what our commitments in Europe may be. But, whatever they are, there is no doubt that we must build up our Regular Army. And the question is: "How is this to be accomplished without greatly increasing our financial expenditure?"
I suggest that the absorption of a large percentage of the Regular Army in the training of National Service men is very wasteful. We all know that there are many views held on this subject, one of which is that conscription should be done away with and reliance placed upon a much larger Regular Army. I certainly do not subscribe to that view. I do not think that is the answer to the problem, and if we did away with conscription, it might well lead to a loss of confidence in the whole of Western Europe. I am confident that, on the whole, the abandonment of conscription would undoubtedly have that effect. On the other hand, some compromise is possible, perhaps by having the Regular Army increased and the National Service entry decreased, with the term of service extended to two years. I suggest that, with the progress of science and the more 442 technical nature and quality of the arms, such an extension is day by day becoming more necessary.
As many of your Lordships are aware, the United States employ a selective system by ballot to obtain their National Service men. This system, of course, has one great disadvantage—that is, the difficulty which arises in the case of a man who is in a reserved occupation. If he is called up by ballot, then his training is wasted. It might be possible to overcome this difficulty by the setting up of district selection boards, rather than by the use of the ballot system; but even with this arrangement certain obvious difficulties come to mind, and personally I should prefer to see the use of the ballot. If it were in tact decided that selection boards should be set up, it might be possible for some form of compensation to be given to those men selected—for example, assistance when they returned to civil life. I am absolutely sure that we ought to get away from the slavish adherence the principle of equality of sacrifice in the scheme for National Service. What about the deferred classes, such as the agricultural workers and the miners? We have heard recently that the agricultural workers are to be deferred for another year. It is quite fair to consider some system of selective service, and whatever may be decided I am sure that in order to achieve a proper balance and provide our necessary quota of trained troops for European defence we must decrease the number of National Service men and increase the Regular Army.
There is undoubtedly a limit to the number of short-term National Service men who can be effectively trained by a given number of Regular soldiers. The point is that this limit has already been reached and passed. As to the question of an increase in the Regular Army, I am convinced that this can be done without increasing the total financial estimate for the Army as a whole. This might well happen by the saving which would accrue in the cutting down of the National Service intake, and even taking into account the additional inducements which I am sure will be undoubtedly necessary in order to attract a sufficient number of men for the Regular Army, there may still be an actual saving in total expenditure. How are we to build up the Regular 443 Army? I would suggest that, apart from pay, the one thing of paramount importance which is holding back many young men from going into the Forces is the feeling mentioned by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard—that when a man has finished his active duty life in the Service he has no assurance that he will be able to find a job in civil life. I maintain that a man should know when he joins up that at the end of his active service, provided he has an exemplary character, he will be able to find employment, either in the Civil Service—for instance, in the Post Office—or, perhaps, in a nationalised industry or in a private firm with which an agreement for employment of ex-Service men has been made.
We must give the average man the opportunity to earn as much in the Army as he would earn in civilian life. On present-day figures, I suggest, it would be necessary to raise the pay of other ranks by approximately 10 per cent., which is not a large sum. Then again, if we are to attract the right type and numbers of men the building programme must be expedited to provide enough married quarters and better barracks accommodation at home and abroad. I have little doubt that it is the extra cost in pay, transport, fuel, food and buildings required for the large number of National Service men which at the present time prevents the Army Council from increasing the pay and bettering the conditions of the Regulars. Moreover—and this also is of great importance—it is having the effect of limiting the very necessary modernisation of army equipment. I think that is a very important point. In fact, the whole thing has become a vicious financial circle which must be broken if we are to have an efficient Regular Army.
I suggest that the creation of a really effective defence force in Europe depends upon building up a mutual confidence between the nations so that each will play its full part in providing the necessary Regular formations which can be immediately available in the event of aggression. I hope the noble Viscount who is to reply for His Majesty's Government will be able to assure your Lordships that an over-all strategic plan, covering both Western Europe and the twelve Atlantic Treaty nations, is in existence; 444 and perhaps he may be able also to let your Lordships know what our commitments in Europe really are.
I should like to turn now to one special point, and to ask the noble Viscount whether a report has yet been received from the Inter-Services Inquiry, which I understand was recently set up by the Minister of Defence to establish the relative rôles of the three Services. I understand that the Committee have had under consideration what should be the respective establishments in ships, planes, weapons and man-power. Perhaps the noble Viscount would also indicate why the Inquiry was set up on such a low-level basis as regards the members of the committee.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (VISCOUNT HALL)
I would be obliged if the noble Lord would assist me by giving me more information as to which committee he refers, because there have been two committees set up to deal with matters such as he has mentioned.
I understand that this Committee was set up a month or two ago with a civil servant as chairman one member of the Committee was, I think, a rear-admiral, and the other a major-general. I suggest to your Lordships that the defence plans for this country have reached, or are reaching, a crucial stage. I am sure that this debate is a timely one, and I feel that His Majesty's Government should certainly provide the country with a little more information. There is no doubt that many people in the country feel that in defence matters we are rather drifting along, that no over-all strategic plan exists, but rather that there are merely a series of, shall I say, proposals put forward by the various nations without any real co-ordination. I hope that the noble Viscount will be able to give some assurance to the contrary. I am sure such an assurance is looked for and would be welcome to all sides of the House.
§ 5.4 p.m.
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, so much has been said, and said so well, on this subject that I do not propose to occupy many moments, but I do not think enough stress has been laid on the fact that we cannot be content with taking long views now. It may be 445 that we can take them, but the danger is at our door. The Benelux countries have no rosy time ahead of them; and if we say that we are not going to train so many men, what conclusion are they going to draw? Only the other day an American general of high standing gave out that Britain need not fear invasion, for any concentration of ships and troops for this purpose would be destroyed by atomic bombs. That seems to me a very peculiar theory. But if that is taken into consideration with the reduction of our reserves, I think the Benelux countries may well ask, "Is it good enough?" After all, we are the moral support of the Western Powers; they depend upon us. Nothing will alter the geographical fact that the American Army is 6,000 miles away and that there is time for the Russians to come across.
We are now building up a Territorial Army which in a short time could be a very fine force. Do not let us stop now by cutting off recruits at the source, by reducing the number of National Service men, and by keeping them longer. That would have a serious effect. Surely it is not an insuperable difficulty for the Army to train these men? There are ways of doing it. It may mean a little more money, but money is nothing at the moment. I find it difficult to speak on the subject of the Committee which was referred to by my noble friend Lord Teynham. We do not know what it has advised or what its terms of reference were, and that, of course, is all important. If that Committee were to say what they really think is necessary for the three Services to carry out their part in a new world war, well and good; but if they have been told that they must cut down the Estimates by £30,000,000 and then produce what forces they can, it is a very doubtful policy.
I take up a sentence of the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, who alluded to men who had been given eighteen months' training. He referred to them as half-trained recruits. I am sure that he is a great admirer, as I am, of the Royal Marines. A Royal Marine is turned out as a finished product after twelve or, at the most, fifteen months, and he is considered fit to join a commando or go on board a ship. If we can get good officers and men to do it, I defy anybody to tell me that we cannot, with eighteen months' training, make an ordinary young Eng- 446 lishman into a very well-trained man. He will not be an experienced man but he will be well trained, and we can build on that. Hand him over to the Territorial Army and they will do it.
There is a rumour that there is to be a reduction of 18,000 men in the Estimates for the Royal Navy. I quite see that the next war is going to be an air war and an army war, and that the Navy must be prepared to give way. If those 18,000 men are required to join the other Services, well and good; but if it is a reduction only, I think it would be a wicked thing to do. If we are going to cut down the Navy like that, for goodness sake let us do more for the Reserves. I read in the papers the other clay of the Royal Air Force Reserve Squadrons flying past in review, in formation. I have yet to read of Liverpool, Hull, Newcastle and Southampton sending flotillas to take part in a review of officers and men of the R.N.V.R. It can be done, and what a remarkable stir up it would be if they did so! They could go out to sea in their own ships. It could be done, and it would mean spending only a little money on keeping the ships efficient.
I venture to suggest that with the commitments we now have it is really farfetched to talk about great masses of British troops marching across the Continent. Has anyone ever heard of a general complaining that he had too many men at the start of a war? Let me carry your minds back to 1899. Those were the days when, in the words of the poet, we fawned on the younger nations for the men who could shoot and ride. What did we do in 1914? We sacrificed the Regular Army. And that sacrifice was not enough to the god of war; we had to send half-trained men over because they were better than none at all. We did that again in 1939, and there is a section of opinion in this country who are quite prepared to risk another generation of our young men through unreadiness for war. I believe that with a very little trouble a great number of men could be brought back to do training work for the Services. One sees men who occupied the positions of sergeant-major, chief petty officer and their equivalent in the Royal Air Force, standing about outside a cinema and looking rather like a Guy Fawkes, or looking after a car park. As every officer knows who served with 447 them, these men are worthy of far better jobs. They are of a much higher level than that, but they have to do that work because there is no other occupation for them.
As one speaker has already said, these men are allowed to leave the Services and take their pensions at the absurd age of forty-five, although many of them do not want to do so. What is forty-five, after all? Why, I could have a grandson of forty-five. But leaving that aside, there are great numbers of very fine men who would be willing to continue in the Services if only it were made worth their while. As things are, they take their pensions and leave to become car-park attendants, or something of that sort. The pay which they get for that work makes up their money to a good deal more than they could get in the Services. So I suggest that it should be made worth while for these men to remain and help in training the new men. I knew one man over sixty years of age who was recalled to service in the last war and proved himself of great value in training men for work with high speed craft in the North Sea. He did very well indeed and left the Service with a decoration.
I would further suggest that we do not cut down the number of men going into the Services. If we must have a selective form of training, let us have selection for two years' training for the special branches, and let everyone else do eighteen months. A letter appeared recently in the Daily Telegraph from a colonel who wrote that he was turning out perfectly good gunners in eighteen months. If it is possible to turn out efficient Royal Artillerymen in eighteen months and Royal Marines in fifteen months it should be possible to turn out efficient National Service men in eighteen months. I am sure that there is good material to work upon.
§ 5.12 p.m.
THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, we have listened to speeches from eminent military authorities and from noble Lords who have been in charge of various fighting Departments. I do not intend in what I am going to say to impinge on what I may call their strategic territory. What always troubles me in a debate on Defence is how far it is right to press His Majesty's Government for information 448 about matters which pertain to national security. This is particularly the case when Allied nations are concerned, as they are concerned in the Motion which is now before your Lordships' House. Then again, we are also concerned with the much wider aspect of Defence, which includes the defence of Britain, and the defence of Western Union—namely, the defence measures to be taken under the North Atlantic Treaty. Here I think it maybe legitimate to ask the noble Viscount who is to reply on behalf of His Majesty's Government, whether he can tell us what progress is being made with the integration—I am afraid I have to use a horrible word—of British and Western Union defence with that provided for by Article 9 of the Atlantic Treaty. I should like to know what progress has been made with the establishment of the Defence Committee as arranged for in that Article. It is provided by the Article that the signatories will see that the Defence Committee is set up immediately. But that is not the main purpose of my intervention this evening. What I particularly want to do is to say a few words about the question of Germany, which was mentioned by the noble Viscount who moved the Motion and also by Lord Strabolgi, Lord Winster and Lord Balfour of Inchrye.
I should like, if your Lordships will permit me, to quote from a report of a Liberal committee of which I was chairman which reported in 1944, because in that we laid down two principles which we thought should apply to Germany after the war. I believe they are equally valid to-day. They are quite short, and therefore I hope your Lordships will give me permission to read them. The two principles are:(1) Germany must not be allowed to establish such military force as will permit her to contemplate the possibility of successful aggression; and(2) Germany must not be treated worse than other nations as regards economic, finance and 'welfare' matters.Of course, when that report was written we did not foresee the unhappy and continuing division of Germany into two parts, but the principles apply to Western Germany as well as to a united Germany, which I think we all hope will ultimately emerge. I know that there is a school of thought which believes that we ought to build up Germany from a military point of view as a counterpoise to Russian 449 strength. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, is not here now, but, if I may say so, he seemed to be almost a professor, or if not a professor certainly a most promising pupil, of that school. In that connection I much prefer the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, though I could not accept his excursion into past history. If he really thinks that the Treaty of Versailles was the main cause of Hitler's aggression then he is far more credulous than I have ever hitherto thought him to be.
The building up of Germany from a military point of view, I think, should be most strenuously opposed. To my mind it would be fatal for the future peace of Europe. I would ask those who advocate it, are they really sure that it would fulfil the function which they would give it—namely, opposition to Russia? I do not think we can easily forget what took place during the first phase of the war between Russia and Hitler. In any case, such a policy would make Germany the dominant Power in Europe, and Western Union would certainly be at her mercy. I do not know whether it will not be possible in the long run to give Germany the right to some measure of self-defence. It may be so. But I am clear that such a stage has not yet been reached. Germany must first of all give definite evidence of a changed mentality. Alas! I do not see many signs that that change is ready to materialise. In questions of this kind, we must work and walk hand in hand with France and the Benelux countries, and be largely guided by their advice. That is surely essential for both Western unity and security. It may be that some day there will be an international security organisation built up under the auspices of the United Nations to which a German contingent will be most welcome. But that is in the distant future, and in the existing circumstances we must take warning from the past. We cannot afford to take again the terrible risk of the dangers from which we narrowly escaped in 1914 and 1939. A friend remarked to me the other day: "I hear that you are very anti-German." That suggestion is completely without foundation. I want to see a united prosperous, peace-loving and peaceful Germany taking her due part in Europe. But I should hate and dread to see that Germany heavily armed.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, the noble Earl will forgive me, I hope, if I do not follow him in the extremely interesting speech which he has just delivered. I should like to draw the attention of your Lordships to the exercise recently held at Paderborn in Germany which went by the code name of Agility II, and in which British American, Belgian and Norwegian troops participated. I wish to do so because I feel that some of the lessons which the exercise produced, despite the fact that the existence of the atom bomb was rightly or wrongly ignored, may be relevant to the subject under discussion this afternoon. These results, as they strike me from reading the numerous reports, were first of a domestic nature, and I think they have a direct bearing on some of the remarks just made by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery. It was clearly shown that the National Service man who participated in that exercise is extremely keen and well trained, conducted himself admirably and has an admirable discipline.
I think it right that that should be said, because in the discussions which now go on concerning the respective merits of six months', twelve months', eighteen months' or two years' National Service training, there has grown up a most unfortunate legend about the conscript, that he is at best just a barrack-room lawyer, content only to waste his own time and the taxpayers' money. Nothing could be further from the truth, and it is right that we should realise that. It is perfectly clear also from these reports that the raising of the National Service men to that standard of training is placing the greatest possible strain upon the Regular troops. It is also resulting in a serious shortage of technicians. The other comment I should like to make on this exercise is concerned with equipment. We have seen in the Services Estimates in the last two years that so much money was being spent on the development of new equipment. Very little of it was apparently seen in this exercise. Much of the equipment was old, some of it very old. The only new item of equipment which appears to have been on show was the Centurian tank, and nobody has yet gone 451 so far as to say that that is a world beater.
There are also some general lessons to be learned from this exercise. One has a direct bearing on the remarks of the noble Marquess, Lord Reading. Obviously, we have still a great deal to learn about the standardisation of training, equipment, supplies and staff work before Western Union force becomes a reality. International liaison is always difficult to achieve, and we obviously have to modify some of our present ideas of nationality in this matter. We have had a very distressing example of lack of co-operation in the course of the last few weeks in America, where their Chiefs of Staff have indulged in an inter-force squabble which gives the expression "washing dirty linen in public" a richer and deeper meaning. Nobody save the Russians could have benefited by that discussion. It is perhaps an impertinence for us to comment on it, but we are directly concerned now in what the American Chiefs of Staff do. Let us take that lesson to heart and make sure we are doing everything we can to integrate (I apologise for using the word which the noble Earl, Lord Perth, has already apologised for using) our staffs at all levels and in all Services.
I should like to ask a question concerning these international forces. Where are they to be led from? This has been asked before, but it is a vital question. Are these forces to be led from Washington, from Whitehall or from Fontainebleau? I would like to quote an observation attributed to General de Lattre de Tassigny. He remarked at the conclusion of the exercise:We are fighting as a wealthy people on a narrow front. We should be fighting as a poor people on a broad front.That seems to me to be the essence of the whole problem. Our particular front stretches far beyond the bounds of Western Europe. It stretches to every place at which we are in contact with Soviet Russia. It stretches from Berlin to Hong Kong.
I believe the noble Lords, Lord Winster and Lord Strabolgi, both discussed the size of the forces available to us. There was some adverse comment in the French Press about the small scale of this exercise, and about the fact that we have 452 something like 800,000 men under arms but found, with difficulty, only two or possibly three divisions to take part in this exercise, something like 40,000 troops in all (and apparently, if reports are correct, almost an equal number of spectators). Surely, the answer is this. People forget that we also have a very large force in the Far East, and although the Far East is not mentioned in the noble Viscount's Motion, I make no apology for referring to it, because we are directly concerned there and that concern must be reflected on our commitments in Western Europe.
I do not think we sufficiently appreciate the revolutionary effect wrought upon our strategy by the Communist conquest of China. I do not think we realise how completely both the American and British position in China has now changed for the worse. Our interests, status and reasons for being in China are actually quite different. But we now have Russia on our doorstep in the Far East. Perhaps it is just as well that we should sit back and let the dust settle a bit before we make up our minds what we are going to do. It is, however, important that soon we should decide what our relationship with Communist China is to be. I do not press the Government for an answer at this moment, but they will have soon in their hands much information on which to take action. The Minister of Defence has returned from his tour of the Far East. The C.I.G.S. is on his way back. Sir Ralph Stevenson, our Ambassador in China, is also on his way back to report. Mr. Malcolm Macdonald, the Commissioner-General in the Far East, has just completed a conference of all commanders and chiefs of staff, and doubtless the Foreign Ministers are discussing the problem of China at this very moment. I appreciate all the difficulties of acknowledging the existence of Communist China. There is the problem of creating yet another veto in the Council of the United Nations. But can we go on maintaining diplomatic relations with a Power which has no authority in China and completely ignore the Communist régime, which now and in the foreseeable future must be the effective power in China?
We have a war on our hands in the Far East. To be exact, we have two wars on our hands: one in Malaya, which ought to have been cleared up many 453 months ago. For nearly two years it has gone on and it is no exaggeration to say that, despite the most strenuous efforts of the Government, of the soldiery, of the police and of the civilians, we have reached something perilously near stalemate. That cannot go on. We cannot go on wasting that enormous number of men out there when they are badly needed elsewhere. We debated the question of the Malayan police in your Lordships' House only a few days ago, because the disturbances in the Malayan police are giving rise to much anxiety. This war in Malaya should be mainly a police war. Of course, we must keep soldiers there until the war is won, but that is a very expensive bill to pay. The war in Malaya is beginning to be taken for granted; it is no longer news in England. But it most certainly should be.
The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has raised on many occasions the question of Hong Kong, and the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, also mentioned it this afternoon. Can Hong Kong be defended against a first-class Power? At the moment Communist China is not a first-class Power, despite the fact that the Chairman of the Canadian Peace Conference has recently announced, on what authority is not clear, that China has the atom bomb. But Communist China may become a first-class Power at any moment, if she has Soviet Russia at her side. I think the Government's policy in Hong Kong has been right. We have shown force and strength, and that must be right. If the noble Viscount who is to reply can give us any information about what is going on out there, we shall be grateful. How much longer have we to tolerate approximately 35,000 troops being kept out there? Do we envisage that commitment lasting six months, six years or for eternity? Surely we will not allow that to go on? Some modus vivendi must be established with China.
We cannot do that solely by ourselves. We have to do it with the co-operation of the United States and the Dominions. I have had the feeling during the last two years or so that the liaison between ours-selves and the Dominions in military and strategic matters is not what it should be. We need have no shame in asking for our burden in the Far East to be shared. Our contribution to national defence is 8 per cent. of our national 454 income; that of Canada is under 2 per cent., America about 4½ per cent. and France only 2 per cent. So we need have no guilty conscience in this matter. I think we are entitled to look for assistance outside our own British Isles in keeping the peace in the Far East. I have mentioned the subject of Dominion liaison. I should like to see that strengthened a great deal. We have admittedly had Canadian senior instructors at the Staff College, but I should like to see that principle carried much further. Is there any reason why, for instance, when General Sir William Slim finishes his term of office, we should not consider a Canadian C.I.G.S.?
I do not apologise for having discussed the Far East, because I feel convinced that we must get out of our heads that war can be localised anywhere. War is likely to break out wherever we are in touch with Russia: it may break out in Berlin, or it may break out in Hong Kong——any chance explosion might ignite the whole powder magazine. It seems to me from what I have heard in this debate this afternoon that the only chance we have of winning the next war is by preventing it ever breaking out. We therefore have to ask ourselves whether we are doing everything we can at the moment, in conjunction with our Allies, to prevent that war from ever breaking out. From what I have heard, and from the misgivings that have been voiced in this debate so far this afternoon, I am afraid that the answer appears to be "No."
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, this debate on Defence has contained a number of familiar features which possibly have been raised in every defence debate we have had since this Parliament began—namely, the lack of confidence caused by excessive secrecy, doubts about the state of readiness and fresh appeals that the Regular Forces should be put on a proper footing. A great many of those points have been raised by noble Lords on Both sides of the House and, quite rightly, no one has apologised for raising them again. Those points made to-day are just as true as they have been at intervals between 1945 and now. Nothing has yet been done in any of these respects; the evils are still there and still dye to be remedied.
455 In this debate, however, there has been one striking new feature, which is implied by the terms of my noble friend's Motion, which is:To call attention to the question of British and Western Union Defence.For that reason, I think it was a very good thing that my noble friend Lord Mancroft took us a good deal further afield than the old battlefields of Europe. Although it is true that Western Union defence is of paramount importance, it is also true that our commitments in other parts of the world—notably in the Far East—have not thereby been diminished. That enhances the importance of remembering that, whatever may be our contribution to Western Union defence, it can be only a proportion of our total contribution to the defence of our interests all over the world. That reinforces the argument, so well put by my noble friend Lord Mancroft, that this is the time, because of the need for Western Union defence, to improve the liaison with the Dominion Governments; to improve the plans whereby regional responsibilities are assumed in different parts of the world by different Dominions—I am thinking particularly of the responsibility which Australia now assumes in the Pacific—and, further, as one of my noble friends said, to make proper use of the man-power resources in the Colonies for purposes which are appropriate to that class of man-power.
However, let me now come back to the question of Western Union defence. It is true that since we last debated Defence in this House great strides have been made—certainly on the military front, and clearly on the political front also, although I am not an expert on that subject—in the plans for an agreed and combined defence policy by the Western Union Powers for defence against the common enemy; and, in pursuance of that policy, for the organisation of forces capable of carrying out the plans decided on by the respective Governments of the Western Union countries. So far, so good; and it all sounds very nice on paper, as several noble Lords have said this afternoon. But we are a good deal in the dark as to what exactly is the measure of control of any Supreme Command over these forces, and as to the job of these different committees and staffs. Which of 456 them represents the real executive command? Which of them are only advisory and planning? Certainly to me the whole thing is in a deep fog, and I believe that it is also to some of my noble friends.
I come now to this question of the integration of the forces, and the balance. The view has been expressed this afternoon that it is necessary for the global force, whatever it may be, to be properly balanced and able to meet its commitments. I think it is also necessary for each of the national contributions to that global force—certainly our own contribution—to be likewise equally balanced. And not one of the nations composing Western Union—least of all ourselves—should be dependent on another nation for some integral part of its armed strength. This question of the integration of command, and practice in command, was, I take it, the main purpose of the Exercise Agility II, which has just been held in Germany, and about which my noble friend Lord Mancroft spoke. That exercise was extremely useful and, if I am any judge of these matters, represents a great step forward in what are known in the Army as Staff duties—that is, the actual practice of the organs of command, of signals, of the method of transmitting orders and of making sure that Allied troops under one's command understand the orders as they are given—which is a very difficult matter. So far, so good. But do not let us suppose that because Exercise Agility II was a success in its rather limited sphere, it is necessarily an indication that all is well, that there are sufficient troops to do the job required to be done—whatever it may be—and that real plans exist.
In the economic debate a few days ago the noble Lord, Lord Winster, in making one of his points, gave as an instance that it would be preposterous to suppose that anyone would go, say, from Whitehall to Versailles without a plan in his brief case. As the noble Lord put it, who could disagree with him? Certainly not myself. But, if I may say so to the noble Lord, I think he rather over-simplified the matter, because it is quite possible to go with a plan but for that plan not to fill the bill. You may go with a plan which is impossible of implementation. It would not be the first time that a plan had been taken along which was quite 457 impossible of implementation. You might even go with a plan which the Government had no intention of implementing; it might not be the first time that that had happened. Finally, you might go with a plan so short-termed that it failed to deal with any of the problems which needed to be considered at tine moment. I have a feeling that although all those charges may not be wholly true at the present moment none of them is entirely false.
This debate has shown clearly that all of us, irrespective of Party, need to do everything we can towards the preparing of a proper plan which really will work. We must start, I think, with two propositions: first that this nation is determined to fulfil its allotted share in that plan just as completely and as well as it can be fulfilled. To adopt the other line would be dishonest to a degree of which no one would be capable. The second proposition is that any plan to which we are parties must be a plan which is capable of safeguarding the territorial integrity of the Continental nations of Western Union—because it goes without saying that that is very largely the object of our Western Union plans. It also goes without saying that no Government in any of the Continental countries could subscribe to an over-all plan which left any part of their territory in danger—it would be politically impossible to do so. Those seem to me to be the two underlying conditions in any plan which may be agreed upon; and the agreed plan must be implemented in such a way that the Continental nations, who are supplying troops and material in furtherance of that plan, have reasonable prospects of the result being to protect their territory.
That brings us to this extremely thorny question, upon which so many different views have been expressed this afternoon: the question of whether or not (I am putting it in this way because this is the way in which I see it) it is necessary in furtherance of such a plan to make any use of any of German resources. I do not want to add fuel to any fire by trying to discuss that matter in any greater detail. All the dangers and all the advantages have been clearly stated by other noble Lords this afternoon. All I want to say about it is this. Do not let us try to make any strategic plan for 458 the safeguarding of the Western Union countries until this question of whether or not German co-operation is necessary has been threshed out That is not a question at this stage for your Lordships—it is a question for the political authorities concerned obtaining advice from their professional staffs. But what would be absolutely fatal would be that we tried to make a plan and relied upon it without first weighing up whether or not German resources were necessary to give that plan a reasonable chance of fulfilment.
I now come back from Western Union to this country. I have been a good deal disturbed by the various rumours which have been flying about—started mostly, I think, by the Economic Debate and the devaluation crisis, though, as I see it, not an entirely legitimate child of that crisis. First of all there was information—I cannot remember now whether it was official information or a controlled or uncontrolled leakage—about the Inter-Service committee to which my noble friend referred and which I think was under the chairmanship of a civil servant, who was himself a graduate of the Imperial Defence College. If I understood the committee's purpose aright, they were to decide the future requirements of the three Services. That was the information published in the newspapers—which I hope is wrong, and I am only too anxious to be told it is wrong—which filled me with the greatest gloom. In the first place, reviews of this sort were made a long time ago, and it would have been a good thing if the Government had listened to them. And, secondly, that committee was not likely, in my humble opinion, to do the job given them. The membership was on far too low a level, and anything a committee of that sort could recommend would have to be screened first by the Chiefs of Staff, then by the Defence Committee of the Cabinet and finally by the Cabinet itself. I put that committee down as a grand opportunity for further delays—Whitehall's alibi, and the Treasury's delight.
Now we come to this other question about which so many noble Lords have spoken, the question of National Service. There again, I have been a good deal disturbed, largely for the reason that I feel that the more we talk about National 459 Service the farther away we get from one of the main reasons for which it was introduced, and certainly from one of the main reasons for which it was recommended by the Army authorities four or five years ago—namely, to provide basic training for our second-line Forces because the state of readiness required in these days does not permit them to be trained from scratch. My noble friend Lord Cork alone referred to that point. The more we use these National Service Forces to make good the shortage in Regulars, and the more we boost National Service to make good the shortage in Regulars, the longer the shortage in Regulars will continue. That I think is certain. I feel desperately anxious—I agree with so much of what my noble friends have said—that we may be about to take the easy way and "slap on" another three months or another six months to the National Service man's time and leave the Regulars at the same strength as before. In that way we are still left with the problem. I confess that I am not so much worried about the presence of National Service men in Malaya as were some of my noble friends, because in the old days young Regular soldiers who had no political friends often went to those parts after they had had a year's service, and were there for seven or eight months, with no serious ill effects, so far as I can remember.
But I am much concerned about the continued use of National Service men for purposes for which I do not think they were ever intended. If we increase the length of National Service to hide up our deficiency in Regulars; if the Government shirk carrying out the advice which we have given so often from these Benches to get down to the problem and ascertain the market rate for the Regular soldier, so much more will they be putting off the evil day; and our Regular Forces will go from bad to worse. I am talking about the Army because everybody knows that the real arguments for National Service are Army arguments, and a good deal of soreness has been caused in the other two Services by trying to fit the pattern of the Army to the Navy and Royal Air Force, though there is no reason why that should be done. What is the Ministry of Defence for if it does not contain brains good enough 460 to make the necessary adjustments in the plans?
There is another unpleasant symptom in dealing with the National Service men. I have it on good authority that there are far more National Service men in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and the Royal Army Pay Corps than are required against mobilisation requirements. To me that means that those men are being used to do jobs which should be done by civilians. If those National Service lads are being used for that—and I think they are, although again I am only too anxious for a denial—that is quite wrong and should not be allowed. I hope that we shall soon come to an end of these different rumours about National Service. The remedies are there, the needs for the remedies are there, and time is running out. Let us remember that the Territorial Army is expecting the National Service men next summer. I will not pursue that matter further, because we shall have an opportunity next week of dealing with Territorial Army problems. But let us leave the contributions from these Benches to this debate on one note: whatever plans may be decided upon, let them be real plans; let them be capable of implementation and let them be modern plans.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (VISCOUNT HALL)
My Lords, this debate has been a wide debate covering not only the three Service Departments but also a very wide part of the world. Naturally, when defence is being dealt with, that is to be expected; and His Majesty's Government have no complaint against the noble Viscount for the initiation of this debate. As he said, it is the fourth which has taken place during the course of this year on various aspects of defence. There is no one more competent to speak with authority on the subjects which arose in the debate than the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood. His work in the Service Departments and in other high Departments of State qualifies him to speak with authority. It is characteristic of debates on defence—certainly of those to which I have listened in your Lordships' House—that these subjects are discussed in a calm manner, although the points which are raised are very important; they are raised without heat or controversy, and I can assure your 461 Lordships that a great deal of notice is taken of them by His Majesty's Government.
There have been many notable speeches in the debate to-day, speeches of great interest and importance, as there were in the debate which took place on March 23 last—at which, owing to causes over which I had no control, I regret I was unable to be present. After reading the speeches, I felt that the one that impressed me particularly was the speech which was made by the noble Earl, Lord Perth. The same can be said of his speech to-day. In the course of his speech on March 23 the noble Earl, as I thought, put his finger right on the spot, because he showed the close link between defence and foreign affairs. He said:The statement that defence and foreign policy must go hand-in-hand has become a truism in the various debates on both subjects which have taken place in your Lordships' House, but never in my recollection has the union between defence and foreign policy been so close and so well-marked as it is to-day. We are no longer concerned solely with the defence of this island and of the various parts of the Commonwealth and Colonial Empire. The whole problem of our defence has been changed through the formation of the Western Union and, above all, by the proposed North Atlantic Pact.Those are facts, my Lords; and indeed, in all the speeches which have been delivered to-day those two facts have been referred to, and referred to in such a manner as to show that we are no longer isolated as a Commonwealth from other parts of the world. We are linked up with Western Union countries and with the United States of America in addition to our Commonwealth countries.
Since the debate in March the Atlantic Pact has been ratified, and on October 6 President Truman signed the Mutual Defense Assistance Act. This new organisation will play a vital part in the defence of the Western Hemisphere, as the noble Viscount brought out very forcibly in the course of his speech. I think it can be said that no post-war period in our history has given rise to so many defence problems as those with which the world has been faced during the past four years. All the Western countries who were engaged in the last world war have been faced not only with the difficulty of the restoration of their economic life, which is of vital importance, but with great difficulties as a result of a very active cold war; and not only ourselves but some of 462 the other Western Union countries have had a great number of defence duties thrown upon them.
I do not want to refer to our own commitments, in Germany, in Austria, in Trieste and in Hong Kong, which were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in a very able speech. Not only the Army but the other two Services also have had to play their part in fulfilling those commitments. Now, in addition, there are our responsibilities to the Western Union under the Atlantic Pact, and what is most important (and I am pleased that in one or two of the last speeches this point was made) the maintenance of our close relationship with the Commonwealth. Two or three references were made to the need for strengthening the liaison between this country and the other Commonwealth countries. It could not, I think, have been fully recognised by noble Lords who made that suggestion how close the liaison is which exists at the present time. I think it can be said that at no time—in peace-time at any rate—has the liaison been closer than it is now. These are commitments which we have been called upon to meet and which are sometimes forgotten by some of the critics of the policy of His Majesty's Government. Indeed, the frequency with which we are asked to debate matters of defence—and here I am not complaining—might suggest that sufficient credit is not being given for the great strides which His Majesty's Government have made in setting up what we consider to be the means of protection against aggression.
A large part of the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, was devoted to the question of Western Union defence, the Atlantic Pact, and the organisation in relation to these bodies. A good deal has been said about committee meetings and multiplication of committees; and the noble Viscount asked that a White Paper should be published, so that noble Lords and others should understand the machinery which has been established. I should like to remind the noble Viscount that the machinery of Western Union was fully dealt with in the Statement on Defence which was published in February of this year. It appears on page 5 of the Statement on Defence and has already been debated. I thought that the structure was well known. Its main 463 committees, supported by Supply and Executive Committees in permanent session, meet periodically, and Canadian and American representatives attend as observers—they did before the Atlantic Pact and still do—and participate in the work of planning on a non-membership basis. The Western Union Commanders-in-Chief Committee has the task of preparing plans for the defence of Western Europe, and a peace-time planning staff and nucleus of a command organisation for war have been established. There is no doubt that the military planners of Western Union have achieved a great deal.
§ VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD
Would the noble Viscount forgive me for interrupting for a moment? I am aware of these details on page 5 of the Statement on Defence, but I would remind the noble Viscount that many things have happened since the Statement on Defence was issued. I quoted an instance of a new committee formed this morning. What noble Lords and I really wanted was a tabular statement setting out the whole network of these committees with their respective responsibilities. If the noble Viscount would consider my request, I should be obliged.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
My Lords, I will certainly convey to my colleagues the request which the noble Viscount has made. During the course of the debate to-day there did not appear to be recognition of the fact that it is only recently that the organisation of the Atlantic Pact, and indeed the link-up between the organisation of the Atlantic Pact and the Western Union, have taken place.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
If the noble Viscount will be a little patient with me, I was going to say that that Statement dealt solely with the set-up of the organisation of Western Union. With the Atlantic Pact coming into operation changes have, 464 of course, taken place, although I recently saw a publication—I believe it was in an issue of the Economist in October, although I would not like to be tied down to the exact date—which published a table showing the organisation proposed to be set up under the Atlantic Pact. The Southern Europe and Western Mediterranean group are, of course, part of the Atlantic Pact, the organisation of which aims at complete co-ordination, the very negation of watertight compartments.
A question was put by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, in relation to staffs and staff talks. The staffs are responsible to the Military Committee of the Chiefs of Staff of the Atlantic Powers for efficient and rapid work. I am sure that everyone will agree that the smaller a committee the better it is. Therefore, this Military Committee has set up a standing group, a committee of three senior officers, one each from the United States of America, France and Great Britain, to be in constant session.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I would not like to be too sure about that. I think it is the one at Washington. Then there is a co-ordination of the staffs of the various regional groups. The hope has been expressed that these committees and these staffs have not been set up for delaying purposes or for the purpose of duplication.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
I did not suggest that they were set up for that purpose. I suggested that their setting up might lead to duplication.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
But the noble Marquess suggested that the setting up of so many committees might lead to a duplication which he had in mind.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
Well, I cannot see that there is much. In relation to the 465 Atlantic Pact and Western Union, much has been said about an over-all strategic plan. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, asked us whether any information could be given in relation to an over-all strategic plan.
THE EARL OF PERTH
What I asked was: Has the Defence Committee, which is definitely provided for in Article 9 of the Atlantic Pact, been set up over-all?
§ VISCOUNT HALL
Yes; and they have had a meeting. They met some two months ago. I think it can be said that the main committees are in active operation. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, referred to the question of plans. I thought he rather belittled the question of so many plans. We must have plans before we get operation. I am not suggesting that plans will be used for the purpose of delaying the, shall I say, "clothing of the skeleton" with what is necessary to make the scheme operationally possible. I am sure that noble Lords have realised, as I have, that to bring together in peace time twenty nations, nations such as those which have been brought together under the Atlantic Pact, is a very great achievement; and that fact in itself, seeing that the Pact has been brought into existence for the purpose of defence and to deter aggression, must have a considerable influence.
I think it can be said that such an organisation as that to which I have referred was rather anticipated by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, in a speech which he made in November of last year in your Lordships' House, when he stated that any programme or plan needs most of all the closest possible co-operation with the United States Air Force—now the predominant Air Force in the world—and the constant interchange of ideas, machines and personnel. That is the very purpose for which this Pact has been signed. We in the United Kingdom know that the other Commonwealth countries have received the signing of the Atlantic Pact with sympathetic understanding. They realise that it can serve only to strengthen the position of the Commonwealth and to act as a further deterrent to aggression. Since the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference last year, great progress has been made by the Service experts in the development and improvement of defence consultation and defence planning. Before leaving this 466 question of the Atlantic Pact I would like to point out—and it cannot be emphasised too strongly—that the Treaties to which I have referred are alliances threatening no peaceful nation. Their intention is to prevent aggression and to provide a new sense of security.
During the course of the debate much has been said about Germany and the policy of this country, and indeed that of the Atlantic Pact Powers, to that country. In view of the fact that meetings are being held—there is a meeting to-day attended by the Foreign Secretaries of the United States, the United Kingdom and France—it would not be appropriate at the present stage to discuss the steps that might be taken to deal with the future of that country. It was pointed out by the noble Viscount, Lord Temple-wood, in a strong statement in relation to Germany, that he would have no objection at all if Germany were brought into an organisation to deal with the economic rehabilitation of Germany and Western Europe, and also to deal with other aspects, but, as I understand it, he would be very careful or chary before bringing them into any defence organisation.
§ VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD
May I just clear up my position? If the noble Viscount reads my speech to-morrow he will see I used very careful words. I did not go beyond saying that I wished to avoid the drift that took place between the two wars in allied policy towards Germany, and that I realised that caution was necessary; but I suggested that the time had come to reconsider the position, and to reconsider it in stages, probably not beginning with the defence stage. I am obliged to the noble Viscount for allowing me to intervene.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I have no disagreement with the noble Viscount in the restatement of his case. I am sure that noble Lords will not expect me to deal with the question of Germany other than to make the statement which I have just made.
In addition to dealing with the two facts to which I have referred, the debate, as was expected, centred mainly around the question of air power. The noble Viscount who sits opposite and the noble Viscount, Lord Treachard (to whom I would like to apologise because I was called out during the time he was speaking) together with other members of 467 your Lordships' House, stressed the importance of air power. It will be recalled that in the debate in your Lordships' House almost a year ago my noble friend the Leader of the House agreed with the noble Viscount in his assessment of the situation. The noble Viscount has to-day asked for more information about the development of our Air Force. He will know from what has been said in another place that the Government now have under review long-term plans for the development of the Armed Forces. These plans must have regard not only to our present economic position but to the existence of the Pacts to which I have referred, and also to our Commonwealth commitments. It is impossible for me, in these circumstances, to say anything about the relative strengths of the United States Air Force and the Royal Air Force, or indeed about any suggestion of a percentage contribution which might be made by the Commonwealth to what might be regarded as the overall strength of the nations under the North Atlantic Pact. Nevertheless, I would confirm that the Government continue to attach the greatest importance to the building up of strong Air Forces in collaboration with our Allies, and to playing a full part in this branch of the Services in the Defence Pacts.
In this year's debate on the Air Estimates in another place my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Air announced our intention to build up an Air Force composed of the latest types of jet fighters, both for day and night service, jet bombers and equally advanced aircraft for other rôles. He said that our aim was to create an Air Force adequate in size and shape to the work it would have to do in time of peace and for the task it might be called upon to undertake in an emergency. This aim remains unchanged, and I am sure there can be no disagreement with it. I should point out that deliveries of aircraft are coming forward in accordance with our programme. As noble Lords will remember, the Air Estimates provided for an increase of some £30,000,000 to be spent during the current year, the major portion of which was to be spent upon aircraft and equipment. It can he said that the Royal Air Force has reached an advanced stage in the re-equipment of its fighter squadrons, both at home and overseas, with this type of aircraft.
468 Although so far we have no jet bomber in service, a prototype of our first jet bomber, the Canberra, has flown, and I am sure that all who saw it at Farnborough came away with the impression that it was a magnificent aircraft.
My Lords, before the North Atlantic Treaty was signed there had already been much progress in building up the Air Forces of our Western Union Allies, and this progress will be an important factor in the wider arrangements to which the Atlantic Pact will lead. Substantial numbers of jet aircraft of the latest type have been supplied by His Majesty's Government to the Air Forces of France, Belgium and Holland. Each of those Forces now has Meteors or Vampires in service. We have given France all the help we can to produce her own Vampires, and the first results are already appearing. With our assistance, too, Belgium and Holland have developed a plan for the joint production of Meteors. But we and our Allies fully realise that an Air Force which will be an effective deterrent to an aggressor must have the power to strike back. This power forms an integral part of our air defence. An Air Force must include not only fighters but a bomber force capable of carrying operations into the territory of the aggressor and destroying his offensive capabilities at the source. To give one example, I would point out that it was Bomber Command who first delayed and then minimised the German V weapon attack in the last war. I should like to make it abundantly clear that we welcome the bomber force which the United States Air Force can contribute to the military resources of the North Atlantic Treaty Powers, and the presence in this country for training of some of their medium bomber groups. It is, however, our intention to build up our bomber force to the maximum extent which our resources will allow. There is nothing I can say with regard to numbers of aircraft or anything further in relation to its development.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, I put one question at a moment when the noble Viscount was not in the Chamber. He speaks of "our Air Force." Does he mean the Air Force of Western Union or the British Air Force when he speaks of "our Air Force" possessing bombers? I asked if he would give an assurance that, relying on the umbrella of a balanced Air Force for Western 469 Union, we would not economise in heavy bombers for our own Air Force but would retain a balanced air force for ourselves.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I was referring to our own Air Force. I hope I made it clear that it is the intention to have a balanced Air Force. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, and the noble Lord, Lord Winster, dealt with the question of atomic energy. I am afraid it would be impossible for me to spend much time on that subject or to tell your Lordships much concerning it. I want to assure both noble Lords and the House that the effects of the atomic bomb and other weapons of modern warfare on the organisation of our Armed Forces and on our strategy are, of course, matters which are being accorded top priority by our military, naval and air force advisers. They are fully alive to the changes that the use of the atomic bomb would be likely to bring about.
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, referred, in the course of his very interesting speech, to the development of the rocket weapon. I can assure him that the offensive and defensive possibilities of rockets are under constant consideration by the Services, and research and development is proceeding with the aim of improving the effectiveness of rockets fired from aircraft. Noble Lords will not expect me to go into details on these secret matters, but I can say this: that no major advance can be obtained without the addition of remote control and guidance, and even then the main advantage would be the higher degree of accuracy rather than any increase in damage potential. There is no reason to suppose, therefore, that any striking change in the structure of the Army would result from the development of these rockets.
Much has been said during the course of the debate about the use of National Service men. If one might weigh the speeches which have been made, I think it is true to say that there has not been a single speaker who has declared himself to be in favour of the abolition of National Service. Its purpose was well defined by the Prime Minister when National Service was introduced in 1946. It was then pointed out that it was impossible to meet our commitments or, indeed, to build up the kind of reserve which was necessary, without National Service. From the time when the Prime 470 Minister made that statement, those reasons for continuing National Service in peace-time have lost nothing of their force. Indeed, the dependence of the Forces on National Service is revealed in the strength figures published on September 1, last. Out of a total strength of 757,000, the number of National Service men was 305,000. Without them, it would be impossible for us to meet our commitments at home and overseas.
It is impossible to compare present-day conditions with former peace-time conditions, or, indeed, with any period between the wars or before the First World War. Conditions to-day are vastly different front those which prevailed during those times. Then the imperial policing task could be carried out by formations strong in infantry but without the armoured and technical units which modern conditions demand. To-day, the Army is deployed more widely than ever before in peace, meeting overseas commitments that require balanced forces of all arms and facing at home a training commitment to build up the national Army of the future. It is true, and no on-e can deny it, that National Service imposes a heavy training burden upon the Army and the Royal Air Force. Such a burden is, however, inevitable, and is the price paid for the contribution which National Service men make during their colour service. It is also the price which has to be paid for the building up of trained reserves.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
If the noble Viscount will forgive me for interrupting him, may I say that the whole point of the remarks which I ventured to make on this subject was that this burden is far heavier than it would be if proper steps were taken to build up a Regular force. It now falls on a smaller Regular force than would be the case if that were done. I do not think that the noble Viscount has taken that point.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I am hoping to touch upon the question of recruitment to the Regular forces later on. I am now dealing with National Service, and attempting to justify the present method of utilising National Service men. A point was raised, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, with reference to the question of deferment. I should like to say this, not only to the noble 471 Lord but to others who claim that the working of the National Service scheme is inequitable and that large numbers are able to escape service when they ought to be called up. It is true that out of about 300,000 persons liable to register in the present year some 110,000 will be deferred and some 45,000 will not be available for medical and other reasons, including volunteers for the Services after registration. None of those deferred, however, will escape except those engaged in agriculture, coal mining and the mercantile marine, and then only if they remain satisfactorily employed in their jobs until they reach the age of twenty-six. I want to make it clear that in present circumstances the Government do not intend to make any modification of the present scheme. I would emphasise, however, as the Minister of Defence recently said in another place, that while maintaining National Service as an essential feature of our defence policy the Government will continue to keep its practical working under review to ensure that it meets the needs of the Services as effectively as possible.
References have been made to the misuse of man-power. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, referred to branches of the Army where men were kept when they could be more usefully employed elsewhere. If the noble Viscount will bring such cases to the notice of the War Office, I am sure they will be carefully looked into. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, and the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, referred to young Service men being sent out to the jungles of Malaya. I should like to point out that before these young men are sent out to the Far East they must have had eighteen weeks' service, including a minimum of sixteen weeks' training. Then they have four weeks' jungle training in Malaya before they are called upon to do operational duties. That covers a period of something like six months altogether, including, of course, the time taken to reach Malaya.
I do not wish it to be inferred from what I have said that the Government are satisfied with the present proportion of Regulars to National Service men, or that they are not doing everything to increase the Regular element and to rectify the present disproportionate number of National Service men to Regulars. There 472 is a need for a substantial increase in the Regular element. I do not disagree with the figures which the noble Viscount gave of the very large proportion of National Service men in the Army, as against the Regular strength; and the same thing is true of the Air Force and the Royal Navy. But it can be claimed that much has been done in these difficult post-war days, when natural war weariness has prevailed throughout the country and during a period of full employment, to build up our Regular strength, bearing in mind that, generally speaking, with the exception of a branch in the Royal Navy Regular recruitment was discontinued entirely during the war years and that subsequently there has been a heavy run-out of experienced personnel.
I entirely agree with what was said by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery. It seems strange that these men who have had a long period of service should take up the type of employment to which he referred. There is no difficulty about remaining in the Service by continuing their long service by short periods, until they desire to obtain their release or until it is felt that they can no longer efficiently serve. Indeed, one of our problems at the present time is the failure of these twelve-year men to stay on to complete their twenty-two years' service for pension. Every inducement is being given to them to stay on.
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
I was referring to the man who comes to an end of his long service and takes on an extra term. Those added years do not increase his pension.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I think that is so, but that is a matter which is being looked into at the present moment, with a view to seeing whether something cannot be done on the lines suggested by the noble Earl.
Let me refer to some of the steps which have been taken by the Government to increase Regular recruitment. I would mention first the increases in emoluments that took effect from November of last year. Though these have been described as "derisory," the Government are unable to accept that description. Their effect on individuals must not be minimised. They range from 7s. a week for a married private of the lowest rank to 21s. 6d. a week for warrant officers. A married sergeant, for instance, received a 16 per 473 cent. increase in emoluments. In an endeavour to retain these men in the Services, the Government have paid considerable attention to the provision of married quarters. Between she end of the war and the end of September this year some 12,500 married quarters have been made available at home to the three Services and more than 1,800 have been provided overseas.
A campaign to attract recruits is being pursued by all Services. Among the steps that are being taken by the War Office, for example, is a more flexible range of engagements which was introduced this autumn covering a wider recruitment field than the existing general five-year Colour engagement. In particular, the seven-year Colour Service scheme now introduced gives the soldier the opportunity to round off his technical training and qualify for trade union recognition whilst still serving. A special term of service confined to National Service men has also been introduced under the three-year Colour Service scheme, and it is hoped that a number will take advantage of this innovation. I agree with what has been said by many noble Lords to-day, that owing to the changes which have taken place, owing to the application of science to warfare, the type of man now required in the Services is different from the type required in the days of the old infantryman.
To show the effect of these changes in one branch of the Royal Navy, I may say that the equipment introduced in connection with radar, radio and communications cost before the war £3,000. At the present time, to equip a destroyer with only radio and radar costs no less than £72,000—an increase of something like twenty-five times. But, in addition to that—and each of the Services is faced with a similar problem—we have to increase the complement of a ship, owing to all the scientific equipment which has been installed, by something like one-third. This increase must be of specially skilled men to deal with this equipment. The same can be said about the other two Services.
My noble friend Lord Strabolgi referred to the predominance of the military mind. My experience, working with the senior officers of the British Army, is that they are fully alert to the future, and there is no danger of anything happening such as my noble friend feared would happen. The officers of the British 474 Army are fully alert to the future—as alert, I think it can be said, as those of the other two Services—and they are doing all they can to meet the changed situation. Lord Strabolgi also dealt with the question of the Colonies, and referred to West Africa. I would remind him that in the 1949 Statement on Defence reference is made to the fact that, to prevent dissipation of our armed strength, local forces are to be built up in the Colonies; and His Majesty's Government, in conjunction with the Colonial Governments concerned, are examining the position at the present time.
In conclusion, I would like to touch again upon the request for additional information. As in every Defence debate, application is repeatedly made for more information to be provided on Defence matters. Where the security of the country is affected, of course, the Government must obviously be the arbiter of what can and what cannot be published. Noble Lords opposite woult1 undoubtedly insist on this if the positions were reversed, particularly at the present time. Whatever noble Lords may say to the contrary, I think it ought to be admitted that a good deal of information is provided in the annual Defence White Paper, and in the Services Estimates and their accompanying Memoranda. Debates, both in your Lordships' House and in another place, have also added to the public knowledge on these questions. As noble Lords are aware, talks on Defence have now taken place between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and I can say that they were carried out in a spirit of cordiality. The noble Viscount referred to the publication of the Air Force List. In addition to the publication of the Air Force List, the Navy List and the Army List have been published. It is interesting to note that the Navy List, notwithstanding its price, was almost immediately sold out.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
There will be a further issue. My noble friend Lord Strabolgi and the noble Lord, Lord Man-croft, in very interesting speeches, referred to the situation in Hong Kong. Lord Strabolgi asked that we should do all we 475 can to build up the strength of a Chinese Force in Hong Kong so that they may undertake the defence of that Island. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, expressed the hope that we should not have to retain there for any length of time the troops who are there at present. Neither of the noble Lords complained that the troops ought not to have been sent there. I think they agreed that the men should have been sent there and that they should be maintained there until such time as we had an indication that this British Possession would not be attacked. Certainly everything possible will be done to bring about the kind of arrangement to which I think my noble friend Lord Winster referred—namely, some understanding with the Chinese Government. However, that is a matter for the Foreign Office, who are fully seized of the importance of obtaining a guarantee as to the security of Hong Kong. Until that guarantee is obtained. I feel sure noble Lords will agree that the troops should be maintained there.
I regret very much that I have detained your Lordships for such a long time. I appreciate that it has not been possible for me to reply to all the questions which have been put to me, and I regret that the answers given will not be regarded as satisfactory to all noble Lords. Nevertheless, this motion, like others on Defence which preceded it, has evoked some very productive discussion which will be useful to those who have the responsibility of deciding the great issues of Defence in a world faced with so many and great difficulties as we are at the present time.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD
My Lords, before I ask leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers, I would like to make two or three short observations upon the speech to which we have just listened. The noble Viscount dealt with these questions in so friendly and pleasant a manner that it is almost impossible to take issue with him. At the same time I must say, first of all, that his speech gave me the impression of a shattering complacency in the minds of the Government upon these questions of Defence. I go further and say that in no single respect has he met the grim facts that we have tried to bring to his attention this afternoon. On the question of secrecy I ventured to quote the statement of Lord 476 Portal, the staff officer best entitled to give an opinion on a question of this kind, that this excessive secrecy is doing the Fighting Services considerable harm, and it is preventing the public from realising the state of affairs, with the result that there is a drag upon recruiting.
The noble Viscount quoted in some detail steps that have been taken since our last Defence debate for setting up the complicated machinery of Western defence, and he pointed with some pride to the Pacts that have been signed upon the subject. Let me remind the noble Viscount that there never was a period when there were more Pacts than the period between the two wars. What interests us is not the signing of Pacts, but the amount of force that is behind them. I leave this debate this afternoon feeling gravely disturbed as to the amount of force that we are putting behind our international obligations. I dealt with the question of the Air Force. I pointed to the position of air personnel—it could hardly be more unsatisfactory. I pointed to the fact that, in my view, the present system of National Service, and the great flood of young National Service men who have to be trained, was doing definite harm to the Regular Air Force.
The noble Viscount comes to us to-day and tells us that the Government are going to make no change in the system of National Service. I own that I was not surprised that the First Lord of the Admiralty should have expressed that view. He has been wise enough, with his Department, to keep almost entirely free of this National Service intake. But I am depressed by the feeling that we have tried to put these points before the Government and that in debate after debate we get the kind of speech to which we have listened to-day—very friendly and very polite, but with little or no substance in it, and little or no hope for any member on any side of the House to think that the Government realise the urgency of these questions and are taking effective steps to remedy the many gaps in our defence system. Having said that, thanking the noble Viscount for the kind remarks he made about my humble self, and saying with what regret I have made this criticism of his speech, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at seven minutes before seven o'clock.