§ 3.8 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN rose to call attention to the Statement on Defence, 1950 (Cmd. 7895) and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in discussing this Motion which stands in my name on the Order Paper, we are following the practice that we have followed for the last few years—that is to say, we are holding our debate on the annual Defence White Paper after it has been debated in another place. I intend this afternoon to try to confine myself to some of the major aspects of the case, because we shall hope to deal with the more detailed problems of each of the three Services in debates which we hope it will be possible to arrange after the Recess. A great deal of attention has been given in the Press recently to this question of defence. I think that is partly because of the meetings of Defence Ministers, some of which have just taken place and others of which I believe are to take place shortly; but also, I think, it is due to a general feeling that this question of defence has in the last twelve months become far more urgent.
§ It is for this reason that we on these Benches are glad to think that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, will be speaking early in the debate, because we all know that he brings to this House a great wealth of knowledge about defence matters and about matters connected with the Services. I am sure that my noble friends and I all look forward to his contribution to this debate. Just as there are new Government spokesmen in your Lordships' House, so there are also new Ministers in another place. I am not going to say much about those Ministers. Perhaps they are not the individuals who would 737 have occurred to us as being the most suitable people to place in charge of the Service Departments. Those Ministers are not members of your Lordships' House, so I will leave it at that. I will merely add that in my opinion perhaps the most important test of a good Service Minister is whether or not the Service prospers during his period of office. And we shall judge the new Minister of Defence and the new Secretary of State for War by that test.
§ My Lords, we have heard fairly frequently at different times the gibe that we are always preparing for the last war, or for the last but one. Never has that gibe been less true than it is to-day. The atom bomb has forced us all into thinking of the future, and so has that extremely interesting document which has just been published in America, and which no doubt many of your Lordships have read —namely, the book by Dr. Vannevar Bush, Modern Arms and Free Men. Yet the atom bomb in itself does not disclose any new principle of war; it represents only an extension though a very considerable extension, of war-time technique in bombing. Moreover, by adding so much, as it does, to the horrors of war, it emphasises that the only use of the atom bomb which civilised nations can contemplate is for forestalling war as opposed to waging war. Whatever we may think about the atom bomb, and about any future except the immediate future, I have no doubt at all that the immediate danger is the cold war. Whatever one may think of the cold war, in many of its manifestations it happens to be very largely an infantry job. That is one of the peculiarities about the present defence situation; although we have to think about so many highly scientific techniques, yet at the moment, particularly in places like Malaya, we have also to remember that battles of this sort—cold war battles, if you like—are fought and won by the ordinary infantryman with the ordinary gun. Therefore, "Colonel Blimp" probably still has some lessons which it may profit us to learn—that is, of course, if "Colonel Blimp" has not lost his soul in the process of his transfer to the Daily Herald.
§ This post-war series of White Papers on Defence begins with the 1946 Paper. When I was thinking what to say this afternoon I had a good look at that 1946 paper. At that time, so we were told, it 738 was too early to decide the make-up of the post-war Forces. Apparently the reason which His Majesty's Government had in mind then was that the atom bomb would exercise so great an influence that it would have been unwise to set our course too firmly until we knew more about it; and also, if one is to believe the 1946 White Paper, that it was too early to assess the effect on our defence requirements of the establishment of the United Nations Organisation. The only part of the contents of that White Paper which showed any sign of the shape of things to come was the mention of Greece, and I did not think that the White Paper interpreted the signs of the times over Greece in the way that it might have done if people then had been able more clearly to foresee the future. Then what happened after that? In the 1947 White Paper the U.N.O. commitments were just hinted at. The 1948 White Paper in retrospect is seen to be almost entirely noncommittal. In 1949 the White Paper paid a good deal more attention—on paper at any rate; I am not certain how much attention was paid in fact—to the real problems which we have to-day—namely, co-operation within the Commonwealth of Nations, and within Western Union.
So, my Lords, we come to the 1950 White Paper. We on these Benches welcomed the reference in the gracious Speech to the fact that His Majesty's Ministers were going to play their due part, in collaboration with other Powers, in strengthening common matters of defence. The wheel has pretty well turned full circle in these last five years, which makes it all the more curious that in paragraph 7 of the White Paper, we are told that the comprehensive inter-Service review, which was held I think in the Autumn of last year, came to the conclusion that
there were no grounds for any substantial change in the relative rifles of the three Services.
That seemed to me to be a very remarkable statement. It seemed to me to be difficult to believe that it was true, when we compare the whole tone of the 1946 White Paper with that of 1950. Since when has there been no substantial change? I should have thought there had been plenty of change; that there had been almost fundamental change between 1946 and 1950–that is to say, between the defence problems of those two
periods; and if there has been a fundamental change in the defence problems, then it would seem to me that there must have been some very considerable change in the shape of the Forces required to deal with those two problems. I very much hope that at some stage in this debate the Government spokesmen will deal with this point.
§ The 1950 Paper, rightly I think, lays a great deal of emphasis on the Western Union position to-day—more emphasis, in fact, than has any of the other White Papers before it. What is strange is that at the same time the Paper lays practically no emphasis on the need for cooperation between the various Defence Forces in the British Commonwealth of Nations. This I think is a distinctly retrograde step, particularly when one realises that a great many of our Service troubles at the present time are concerned with South-East Asia—a Commonwealth sphere of influence if ever there was one. For another reason altogether I also put down the 1950 White Paper as being unsatisfactory. From reading it it seems that the problem of defence is defined as being the sum total of the problems of the three Service Departments—Army, Navy and Air Force. As I see it, the problem is no such thing; it is something very much broader, very much deeper. It is far more closely related to foreign policy than the White Paper, as read by me at any rate, would give one to think. After all, defence policy must represent and be bound to the practical steps which we are to take to implement our foreign policy; and therefore, before we can make any sign of discussing defence policy we have to be clear on what our foreign policy is.
§ I know that this is not a debate on foreign policy. If your Lordships look at the Order Paper you will see that my noble friend Lord Salisbury will be dealing with foreign affairs at a date after the Recess. None the less, I do not think it is possible to consider defence to-day unless we make some assumption as to the foreign policy that we propose to implement. Therefore, I suggest to your Lordships that the task of our Defence Forces at the present time, and for a long time to come, is to oppose Communism wherever it threatens our own survival or 740 the safety of those peoples for whose protection we are responsible. I see that according to this morning's papers General Marshall has delivered himself of some rather similar views in America. But if what I have said is not right, if opposing Communism is not the main task of the Defence Forces, we must ask what we are doing in the Far East. Is it not true that the Colombo Conference was primarily concerned with defence, as stated by the Prime Minister in another place? I can hardly believe that any Party of responsible Ministers can have held a Conference in a place like Colombo without the shadow of the situation in Malaya, in Indonesia, in Indo-China, and in China itself, throwing itself across that Conference. The position as General Marshall saw it was this. He said that in his opinion the United States were engaged in a perilous struggle with an implacable foe. That, I take it, holds good for Western Union and for ourselves.
§ To go back for a moment to Malaya, I am sure it is wishful thinking to suppose that we are over the worst there—we are nothing near it. I shall not go further into that now, as my noble friend Lord Mancroft intends to deal with the question of Malaya at length later in the debate. I will say only that I do not think it will be possible for us to withdraw our troops from there, for a very long time. I wonder whether it is making the right use of our field forces to tie them up there in this long-drawn struggle against the bandits. That is why I was glad to see the appointment of General Briggs. If we may spend one further moment considering that part of the world, I suggest that we look at the French action in Indo-China, and look at the corresponding action of the Communists in France. That will show, I think, what is obvious to all of us; that the whole world situation and the whole fight against Communism is of one piece. Any idea that Western Union is one problem and that the Far Eastern problem is another is utterly wrong. If by any chance that idea is in the minds of His Majesty's Government or their advisers, it will lead us to incorrect defence positions. I say that because I am certain that the view I have expressed must be the foundation for any further thinking on defence. I hope that the present Minister of Defence will be of the same mind: or, if not, that he will take 741 note of what is being said in the House to-day.
§ So we come back to Western Union. I am sure that we are all grateful for the White Paper which has made such a brave attempt to guide us through the maze of committees with which, under Western Union Atlantic Pact arrangements, collective defence is to be conducted. It almost made me feel for one or two moments that I understood how those committees worked! I am sorry to say that it did not make me feel that if I were a Staff Officer taking part in those discussions, I should find it very easy to achieve anything. We have just had a meeting of Defence Ministers, and we had a Press notice which stated, I think, that within the short space of six months the military planning organisation has determined the general strategy of defence of the North Atlantic Treaty area, so it looks as if the Staffs engaged in planning have managed to break into the open with some plan or other.
§ We are told that twelve countries have unanimously approved that plan, and I suppose that tributes have been paid all round. I wish that nobody had told me that twelve countries had unanimously approved that plan in so short a time. It made me think that, if that had happened, the plan had failed to face up to any of the really important things which have to be decided. The important things in the realm of defence are surely bound to be controversial, and not the sort of matters upon which a unanimous vote will be obtained in a week-end. So, although we have pleased everyone on paper, I doubt whether we have pleased anyone practically, or whether we have made appreciable progress towards translating the plans which the planners have made into something real, something which represents real weapons and real troops under the command of a real person, capable, when the day comes, of taking real action. This business of passing over from plans on the drawing board to plans in action represents a very difficult stage in the proceedings, a stage where many independent sovereign Governments have to commit themselves, commit their own arms, their own equipment and their own money. The White Paper on the reorganisation of defence pointed very clearly to the real cause for anxiety 742 when it suggested that some people might think that up to date the Western Union Plan was all harness and no horse. I am very much tempted to think that myself. But I do not think that free nations will be in a hurry to enter into binding forward commitments in the defence sphere unless they are really satisfied that they are all united on foreign policy.
§ We are trying to do something which is quite different from anything that has been attempted before in peace time. Never before in peace time, except on relatively small scales, have we attempted to integrate the force; of a number of sovereign countries, or to settle on a plan which means definite action in peace time. And yet we have to do it, because if it became known that the plans we are talking about so much were only plans on the drawing board, that state of affairs would be a direct invitation to any potential enemy to interfere with the integrity of Western Union. Therefore, we have to ask one or two questions. I think the noble Lord opposite will have had sufficient notice from me that we were going to ask questions of this sort. First of all, have we arrived at any position of what I. might call effective joint defence in Western pclicy? Is the thing really working? Is the plan coming off the drawing board? Secondly, if we have not reached that stage, what are the prospects in the foreseeable future of our reaching a stage of that sort? I am saying this and yet, at the same time, I do not want to make it appear that the difficulties of taking this very decisive step are not quite plain to me. Indeed, they are. There are the financial, the material and the man-power sides to this problem. I believe all these questions are going to be discussed by further conferences of the Defence and Finance Ministers next month.
§ Particularly in regard to equipment, we know that if we attempt to discuss matters that really ought to be secret, we do not advance the things we have at heart; therefore, all I would say about equipment this afternoon is that we feel that a great deal is being done, particularly in America, and the question at the moment is not so much whether equipment is flowing from the sources of production but whether that production, when it gets into the hands of those 743 destined to use it, will really be able to be used for the purposes of forestalling war. The same remark applies to the financial discussions, which are only discussions leading to the supply of men and material. The only other point I would raise about this part of the problem is that I hope we have now finished with diverting any equipment needed by our partners in Western Union and the Commonwealth to nations who do not form part of one of those two groups.
§ I want to talk for a moment in more detail about the very serious problem of man-power. There are two sides to this problem, as one sees from a study of the Defence White Paper. The condition of our Regular Forces is one, and the problem of Germany is the other. I shall take the second one first. In thinking of the defence of Western Union, we ought to assume that it would not be any good if we produced a plan for the defence of Western Union which was not capable of securing the integrity of the Western Union countries. I can imagine that the Government of, shall we say, Holland, or Belgium, would not find it easy to retain popular support if they agreed to any Western Union defence plan which was not designed to keep the enemy away from their borders, or if that plan did not stand a reasonable chance of safeguarding them from dangers such as bombing, or being starved out, or enemy occupation.
§ Then I come to geography. It is plain that the first question that the planning staffs will have to ask of their political advisers will be about Germany; and I am sure they have asked that question already. Since this Motion was put down, the question of Germany has been fully discussed on two occasions in another place, and I want to keep as clear as I can from the foreign affairs aspect of this thorny problem. This is a Defence debate. Apart from that, I would say to noble Lords opposite that I am fully conscious of the need of carrying the French with us in any discussions we have on this problem. I feel that strongly, but equally I feel that the problem is there and it will do no good to us, or to any other member of Western Union, not to face up to that problem now, before it is too late, because it is rapidly becoming too late. The problem is there and so 744 long as we shirk it there will be no defence plan worth having. I ventured to say to your Lordships, not very loudly, in our last Defence debate on November 9 last year, and I should like to repeat what I said then just a little more loudly: I do not think that any Staffs can make any plan for the defence of Western Union countries without knowing whether or not they can count on being able to use German man-power or other German resources and, if they can count on using German man-power and resources, to what extent they can do it. I have been a professional soldier and I for one should certainly not like to try to draw up a plan for the defence of the Western Union countries without being able to make use in some way of Western Germany and its man-power. Frankly I do not believe such a thing is possible for any self-respecting Staff officer.
§ Yet I notice that in another place Mr. Strachey, when winding-up the debate on the Army Estimates, talked about holding part of the line to defend Western Union. That begs the question with a vengeance, because when one talks about holding a line one immediately enters into terms of man-power. If, speaking in wide terms, the man-power of Western Union without Germany is sufficient to hold the line Mr. Strachey has in mind, then I think a little arithmetic will have to be done. I do not wish to associate myself with Mr. Strachey's tactical conceptions, but I want to challenge the man-power calculation on which anyone thinks we can hold the line. I realise the difficulties of the Government in this matter and I do not want to add to them, but we on these Benches should be entirely wrong if we sought to shirk the issue at this moment, and we should be entirely wrong if we did not express our deep concern that Western Union defence should come off the drawing-board stage and become a reality. I gave notice to the noble Viscount that I should make this point and I give him further notice now that we shall revert to this matter until we are certain that matters are going along the right lines.
§ On the question of man-power, I now come to our old friend, or enemy, the question of the long-service Regular. Debates in another place on this matter have been very disappointing, and they will go on being disappointing until we 745 have some evidence that the Government are facing up to the problem and dealing with it on a basis of what it costs to be a Regular soldier, instead of on the basis of what it costs to have a Regular soldier. Those are two entirely different things. People say that Regular soldiers are expensive. I hope that noble Lords opposite read the report in The Times of March 24 when the Comptroller and Auditor-General, reporting on the Civil Appropriation Account, 1948–1949, for Scotland, said that a dentist had earned £18,000 in six months under the National Health Service. After that, we still find His Majesty's Ministers talking about what the country can afford! What I am saying applies equally to the Reserve Forces it is the problem of what it costs a man to volunteer as a Territorial or a member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve or the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. But I shall leave the question of Reserve Forces for now, because we shall seek to come back to it after Recess.
§ I would simply remind your Lordships that in all the period between 1945 and 1950 the Defence Services are the only section of the population whose wages have been pegged. In the debate on the Motion on the cost of living by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said that the overall increase in wages between 1945 and 1950 was 23 per cent. Let us remember that argument, which was to show that people were not badly off. It is an argument that goes two ways. We must also remember that. very little —in fact, practically none—of that wage increase was enjoyed by any member of His Majesty's Regular Forces. That, I believe, is a case which will want a good deal of answering by those who are responsible. This problem is a very tough one. But while it is being studied the Regular Forces are dying on their feet; and they will go on dying on their feet until His Majesty's Government stop looking., for solutions by which people can be encouraged in a free market to join the Regular Forces without being given the increase in pay, in money or in kind, which other sections of the population have had. When we see in the White Paper that the Government are going to encourage recruiting by every practical means, those who can read between the 746 lines can see quite plainly what that amounts to. That paragraph of that White Paper is not a decision by the Government; it represents a Staff officer's attempt to cover up complete indecision and utter failure to deal with this problem. We shall come back to that matter again. All this time the Regular Forces are going down, the lifeline of our defence organisation is dwindling away and nothing is being done.
§ I come now to the poor references to Commonwealth and Colonial Forces. I said a certain amount about the Commonwealth earlier in my speech. I will repeat that, in spite of the need for Commonwealth co-operation, particularly in the Far East, there is hardly a word mentioned about Commonwealth cooperation. I come also to paragraph 17 of the White Paper—a most disturbing paragraph—in relation to the Colonies. Here we see no reference made to the very important question of Colonial manpower, except some faint reference to the need for local forces and the difficulty of fitting them into Colonial Budgets. I could say a great deal more about that, but I shall not, because my noble friend, Lord Swinton, who speaks with great authority on these matters, is going to deal with it later in the debate.
I come now to my last main point on this White Paper (I apologise for having taken so much time); namely, civil defence. There is in the White Paper a passage which says:
This statement is concerned with Armed Forces and it would be on side its scope to deal with the progress made in Civil Defence.
Have it your own way, and let the Home Office haw it their own way, but nothing the White Paper says anybody else can say can alter the fact that civil defence is part of defence; and defence problems must be dealt with overall by those people who have to deal with defence—namely, the Defence Ministry and the Chiefs of Staff. I say that is true whether the Home Office, the civil servants there or the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, like it or not. Meantime,I must say, and say as strongly as I can, that so long as this business of the Home Office contracting out from the orbit of the Chiefs of Staff on Civil Defence goes on, so long the Civil Defence organisation will not make sense, and so long will Home Defence not make sense. Have it your own way, but
I have given you my opinion in all seriousness, and I mean every word of what I say.
§ That brings me to the end of my introduction of this Motion. I have made a gloomy speech, but I hope I have not made an entirely unconstructive one. If at some points I have been unconstructive, then it has been because I felt that certain of the points were best not threshed out in public, because of the implications in the direction of security and foreign affairs. I have tried to put the spotlight on to this machine as we do every year, and to see where the spanners are in the works. I do not think your Lordships will accuse me of not having pointed to quite a number of large-sized spanners, and I hope you will not accuse me of having failed altogether to suggest how they could be extracted. I most earnestly beg His Majesty's Government to look into some of the matters which I have ventured to point out. I feel, in all seriousness, that the breaking strain now placed upon our defence organisation is very near at hand. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I am certain your Lordships would wish me on your behalf to thank my noble and gallant friend Lord Bridgeman for having put this Motion on the Order Paper, and for the very clear and logical way in which he has laid his case before us. Defence debates and Defence White Papers must always contain a high quota of imponderables, but since we last debated Defence in your Lordships' House I am afraid it is all too sadly clear that the strategic balance has dipped sharply in favour of our only potential enemies. Since we last debated Defence Russia has gained a much increased knowledge of atomic warfare, and one-fifth of the peoples of the world—namely, the Chinese nation—have come sharply under the domination of Communist Russia. It is to that part of the world that I would like for a few moments to direct your Lordships' attention. As my noble friend Lord Bridgeman has told us, the cold war continues throughout the world, save in one place—namely, Malaya, where it is a hot war. That war in Malaya is getting no cooler. So far as any impartial observer can see, the 748 situation is no better than it was two years ago. For two years this long, dreary and dangerous war has dragged on, costingover a thousand of His Majesty's subjects their lives. How much longer can we tolerate this situation in Malaya, particularly in view of the fact that our recognition of Communist China has thrown a completely new and murky light over the whole of the defence problem in the Far East?
I will not go back and cover the ground on the recognition of Communist China, which we covered during the debate on the gracious Speech, save to say that I entirely associate myself with the view of my noble leader, in that the recognition was singularly ill-timed. There is no getting away from the fact that the result of that recognition is now being seen in Malaya. Nobody will argue that men and materials are pouring over the borders—there is no evidence of that yet —but it is clear that the bandits in Malaya have derived considerable moral support from the victory of their friends and allies in Communist China. Equally it is clear that the Chinese themselves in Malaya are sitting yet more firmly on the fence, and are co-operating even less willingly than they have done in the past.
None of this must detract for one moment from the magnificent achievement of the peoples of Malaya. Sir Henry Gurney has recently instituted an anti-bandit month. I do not think we should be unduly depressed that that month has not been mathematically a success—it has to some degree been a boomerang. But we in this country do not always fully appreciate the extraordinary difficulty of the nature of the war in Malaya. You cannot put down a plague of mosquitoes just by swatting them; you have to find the breeding grounds and destroy them. That is the difficulty. But one good thing has come out of this anti-bandit month. There are in Malaya something like 500,000 people who are prepared to walk around wearing an armband proclaiming their faith in the stability of Government and giving the direct lie to the Communist argument that the bandits' activity is an insurrection against British Imperial domination. But Malaya cannot go on fighting alone. She looks to us and to His Majesty's Government for leadership, and for moral and material support. What have we done in the last two years? This is not the 749 time and certainly not the place for extravagant language, but I am driven inescapably to the conclusion that His Majesty's Government have completely misjudged the nature and importance of the war in Malaya. Too often they are found clutching at the coat tails of events. I do not know whether operational code words are still in vogue in the Cabinet Offices, but if they are I shrewdly suspect that the file which contains the plans for Malaya is labelled "Operation Afterthought."
I would join with the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, in congratulating the Government on the appointment of General Briggs to co-ordinate the military police and civilian operations in Malaya, and I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I myself join particularly heartily in these congratulations in view of the fact that I advocated exactly that appointment over a year and a half ago in your Lordships' House. I hope that the noble 'Viscount, Lord Alexander, will be able to tell us a little of General Briggs' terms of reference. Will he receive full support from His Majesty's Government in all his demands, be they in men, money or material? Are we prepared to give him all the aid he requires, even if it means diverting it from somewhere else? Are we prepared to give him the men, despite the unhelpful —and that is an under-statement—proclamation of His Majesty's Government that the sending of the 26th Gurkha Brigade from Hong Kong was the answer to a final demand? How do His Majesty's Government know it is final? They have been wrong every time, so may they not conceivably be wrong again? It may be, of course, that we do not want more men. It may be that General Briggs will come to the conclusion that it is now a police war, and that what are required are more Malay-speaking and Chinese-speaking policemen. He may require more information and better intelligence. He should have those also —we must deny him nothing. Can we get away from this old habit of refusing to pay attention to the man on the spot and relying so much upon theoretical doctrines here at home?
May I ask your Lordships to bear with me for a moment while I read a short but significant extract from a speech by Admiral Sir Denis Boyd, who was until recently the Naval Commander-in-Chief 750 in the Far East and is now General Paget's successor at Ashridge? This speech was delivered to the Royal United Services Institution and is reported in their current journal. The Admiral says:It is not without interest that after two and three-quarter years as Commander-in-Chief, I came home filled with a wide experience of the whole area, and a great enthusiasm for the problems. But apart from the First Sea Lord, no one took the slightest interest in my return. I asked to see the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office, and was informed that Mr. So-and-so was away or busy, and that I would be contaoted later. That was in March, l949. I have no false opinion of my knowledge or my understanding but I was the only man in the whole Far East who every year had met everybody of importance, Ambassador, Governor, General MacArthur, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek and, just as important, the wise business men of Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tientsin. I have ears and have heard every opinion.When the Admiral came home nobody, apparently, cared two hoots for his opinion. Can we be surprised, therefore, that the people of Malaya turn round and reproach us for regarding their war as a sideshow?
I see that His Majesty's Government are sending the Secretary of State for the Colonies to visit Malaya in the near future. That visit is highly necessary. The Secretary of State will have his work cut out to convince the people of Malaya that we do not regard their war as a sideshow, and that we are determined to bring it to a speedy conclusion. I understand that the Secretary of State for the Colonies is well endowed with that charm for which the Welsh are rightly renowned. He will need it all. What happens in Malaya is no longer of merely local interest. The fact that the whole of China is now controlled by Communist Russia changes the whole strategic importance of Malaya. The whole of the Far East is now threatened by Communism. The-eyes of Communist China can stretch from Karachi, on the one hand, to Shanghai on the other, and Communist Russia and China can make mischief as far and as wide as they like. Other countries wrestling with this evil are naturally looking to us with interest to see how we are solving our problem in Malaya. The speed of our victory there is of the greatest possible importance. We all know that Communism thrives on poverty, ignorance and hunger, and therefore, such progress if any, as was made at the Colombo Conference in co-ordinating the 751 economic requirements of the Far East is obviously welcome. We all wish the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, good fortune when he Roes to the Conference which is to take place at Sydney in the near future.
Are we however, really doing enough in the strategic field? The strategic plans of Communism against democracy in the Far East are designed on a cold, logical and co-ordinated basis, and the strategic plans of democracies to meet that threat are an unco-ordinated jumble. In my opinion we are carrying too much of the burden. The noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, put that idea into our heads during the debate upon the Colombo Conference. I understand that the New Zealanders, always first to our aid, have sent a few Dakotas to Hong Kong to ease our burden there. Why should not the Australians be asked to lend us a battalion or two for Malaya? We must now co-ordinate the whole of the strategy in the Far East of those democratic countries who are attempting to break down the cold war.
We have recently seen the development of Western Union defence and the Atlantic Pact, and my noble friend has touched upon them this afternoon. I speak only for myself, but I should like to see us moving towards a Far Eastern Union and a Pacific Pact. I should like to see the same cohesion in our Far Eastern affairs as we are trying to achieve in our Western affairs. I should like to see some strategic headquarters (a counterpart of Viscount Montgomery's set-up) set up in the Far East to deal with the same problem there that we are trying to deal with in the Western Hemisphere. In the old days we could regard what happened in the Far East as isolated events: we could look upon this war here and that rising there, and they were not related. But as a result of what has happened in China the whole of the Far Eastern strategic concept is one complete picture. We can no longer afford to regard our defence plans in the Far East as a series of little vignettes, embracing Hong Kong here and Indo-China there, Malaya here and Siam there. We have to regard the strategic picture as one whole picture, and at the moment, so far as I can see, it is not a very pretty picture.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH)
My Lords, first of all I ask the indulgence of your Lordships in addressing you for the first time, although I am glad that the subject upon which I have to address you is one with which I am perhaps familiar. My principal fear to-day is lest, straight from the cut-and-thrust of debate in the other place, I shall not assimilate quickly enough this, shall I call it? superior atmosphere of courtesy exchanges which I have witnessed in this House for the last few weeks. If I transgress, your Lordships must forgive me, and I hope that I shall do better in the future.
Perhaps your Lordships will also allow me to say that, as this is the first speech that I have made in Parliament since relinquishing a few weeks ago the post of Minister of Defence, it comes as a great wrench to part with ministerial direct connection with the Services. For nearly the whole of the twelve years of my service as a Minister of Cabinet status I have been concerned entirely with the Service Departments; and I should like on this occasion to pay a tribute to the Services for their constant advice, wisdom and courage, and for their unvarying kindness to me while I have served with them.
I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman for having raised this question of Defence in the manner in which he has raised it to-day. I can assure the noble Viscount that I take no offence whatsoever at any of the points which he has made. I should not dream of suggesting that he has been overcritical, or that he has not tried to be constructive. Of course, I cannot agree with all his criticisms. He may think that he has been constructive in some of his remarks; I could reply that I could do all the things which he mentioned, but I have not the economic resources with which to do them; and it is on that ground, and perhaps on that ground alone, that he and I might part company.
The noble Viscount said that he took a rather gloomy view of certain matters. I must say that I do not feel so gloomy about the situation as the noble Viscount appeared to be. We must look at what has been happening in the last few years and judge from the course of events; and then, perhaps, we shall be better able 753 to see why we need not be quite so gloomy as Lord Bridgeman.
We emerged victorious in 1945, after six years of war—a war in which we fought front the first month to the last; I think we are about the only nation, apart from Germany, of whom precisely that might be said. Of all the combatants on the Allied side, we must remember that we achieved the highest degree of both military and industrial mobilisation. Those efforts, coupled with the results of enemy action, created problems of reconstruction sufficient to engage our country's whole energies for many years—and many years yet to come. In fact, no respite was given to us; we were soon face to face with new problems. So, instead of being gloomy to-day, I would say that, having regard to the problems we have had to face, and the enormous difficulties that we have encountered, we have reason to take pride in the country's response to the post-war years and their challenge. I believe that we have faced our economic and military difficulties in a fashion which no other country in Europe has done. I think we have made it plain that in spite of our difficulties our intention is to stand firm and to play a part commensurate with our national strength and responsibility and that we have done so in a manner which has been plain for all to see.
The developments to which the noble Viscount has referred (and of which I will make mention presently), in Western Union and the North Atlantic area, derive almost directly from the courage of this country in the last four and a half years in facing at one and the same time both its economic and its military difficulties. That has been an encouragement to other countries in Europe, and has enabled us to give them a lead—first with the Treaty of Dunkirk and then, later, with the Treaty of Brussels linking up the countries of Western Union and culminating in the North Atlantic Pact, emphasising the great response that the United States and Canada have made to our efforts. So far from being gloomy about the situation, I would say to the noble Viscount and the House that I am much more encouraged in this matter than I have been in the past. The position to-day, as compared with three or four years ago, suggests to me that we have made real and fundamental progress.
754 It is true that where the White Paper describes the developments in Western Union and the North Atlantic area it seems to present a great maze of staff committees and organisations—which the noble Viscount seemed to think were rather frightening: and they would frighten him more, perhaps, if he were a Staff Officer. Perhaps he would like to know that the phrase which be quoted, "More harness than horse," was one which I chose to put into a White Paper because it comes from Somerset and was well known to me in my childhood. Throughout my connection with Ministries I have found again and again that, so far as possible, you should have plenty of horse and not so much harness. Harness for the warrior, yes; but not too many components in the harness of the organisation. However, as a matter of fact we have reason to be grateful to the Staff Officers who have been appointed. to do the job in connection with various organisations; they have done the job extremely well. If I may take a particular Staff Officer—not one of the very senior Chiefs of Staff level—whose work in wise planning I hat e seen in the last two years, I would mention Air Vice-Marshal Huddleston and those who have been working with hire. They have done a great job.
The noble Viscount seems to think it surprising that, when the Conference met at The Hague over the week-end, unanimity was reached by twelve Powers after only six months' planning. The noble Viscount expected that there would have been considerable controversy, and that the Conference could hardly have been unanimous if the matter under discussion had been tackled more thoroughly. But I should like to point out to the noble Viscount that the discussions followed months and months of planning in the case of both Western Union and the North Atlantic Pact. Problems which were inherent in these areas had been thoroughly discussed before the Treaty was implemented.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
May I interrupt the noble Viscount? I am afraid the reason for my anxiety was not connected with what he has just said but was because the attitude of the Stair Committee gave no indication how they would settle the German problem.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I will come to that presently. I have been closely connected with this matter ever since the Western Union military organisation was begun. I have seen the work going on for eighteen months or so, and that period has been a great advantage to the people who have been planning, in the last six months, in the case of the North Atlantic Treaty; and there is not so very much to be surprised at in their having reached a great degree of unanimity at the Hague Conference during the last week end. There is a point, too, with which I should like to deal while it is in my mind, arising from the actual speech that the noble Viscount made. Supposing the plans of the Staff are already on the right lines and they are agreed—what next? Is there going to be real progress? Here again I feel that the noble Viscount touched on the right point when he said that of course there are reasons why in your Lordships' House one should not deal with questions which would be likely to hamper the Staffs or, in fact, injure the cause that our country and our Allies have in mind. Therefore I shall have to be careful exactly how I reply to the noble Viscount. But some things are self-evident. First of all, the work of the planning staffs in the first two years of Western Union meant that there was a complete assessment of deficiencies in regard to the defence capacities of the Western Union powers. As a result of those deficiencies, we had the passing of the Military Aid Act by the American Congress.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
In the region of equipment. That aid is now coming to fruition, to overcome actual deficiencies in equipment. It is now coming into operation. The majority of the 1,000,000,000 dollars' worth of equipment that the United States is supplying under that aid will, of course, go to France, the principal land Power in any defence organisation in Western Europe, and to Belgium and Holland. When I look back to the condition in which I found things at the end of 1946 and to how difficult it was to get any beginning made, to put any stiffening or backbone into the defence of Western Europe, then I find it a matter 756 of great encouragement and greatly heartening to know that we have reached the situation where arms are now flowing in which will enable those countries to go on building up with their own resources, with effective equipment.
The question whether the plans will also actually begin to function through a demonstration of the integration of the forces, which is the point which the noble Viscount had very much in mind, is also one on which I do not think he should be discouraged. Obviously, the staffs have had the matter in mind from the beginning of the joint exercises that were held last year between the navies of three countries of Western Union, aided then by the Air Force, and subsequently the air exercise "Bulldog" and exercise "Verity." All these things are giving us actual experience of the integration of international forces. The noble Viscount is quite right when he says that it is something new in international history. If such a situation as this arises in our minds—it is obviously one with which it is difficult to deal—I personally feel very much encouraged by the way in which the joint exercises have gone and the way in which the forces of the different countries are working together.
In regard to the present stage of these plans, I noticed one hint in the noble Viscount's speech in dealing with which I must be very careful—that is, as to how they will be not only integrated, but put under a Staff and Commander. There will be more than one region in the area of the North Atlantic Treaty. There will be many questions discussed in order to settle what will happen in any given circumstance at any given moment. I can assure your Lordships that, from the setup of the joint planning organisation, I am quite satisfied with the strategical end —what is called, as I expect your Lordships know, the Standing Group reporting to the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the North Atlantic Treaty and therefrom down to the joint staffs in the regions of the Treaty. I am certain that arrangements will be made in every one of those regions for the necessary joint work and command that are to be operative whenever it is necessary to call upon them. I am saying this spontaneously this afternoon, from my knowledge of the situation as it was when I was there. I am quite convinced that those people who are 757 responsible for it will see that that really comes about.
The noble Viscount suggested that he was not very satisfied with the White Paper. I nave often spoken in opposition in another place on the occasions of Service Estimates debates and the like. No doubt, in such a matter, I often fell into the same kind of language as the noble Viscount has used this afternoon. I am one who has been "shot at" pretty continuously for the last three and a half years. I have been described by a number of cognomens. I was a "quisling." I was "the man who would be responsible for the next series of military graveyards on the Continent." I was "vacillating" and "weak" and all the other things. Therefore, I am not at all moved by the delightfully mild remark of the noble Viscount that our White Paper is "not very satisfactory." All I can say is that in all my twenty years' Parliamentary experience of what things usually were on Defence occasions in peace time, I can find no parallel—not merely in the last thirty years but going back for a hundred years—in which a Government have been faced with such economic problems contemporaneously with the difficult situation in the world from a military point of view, and have made such a contribution, done so much planning, and obtained for themselves in such a short time such a basis of collective security through alliances as this Government have done in the last four years. There is no precedent for it in a century of our history. If it were not for what has been accomplished in that way, then, indeed, I might say to the noble Viscount that I should be gloomy, just as he has been in the presentation of his case to the House.
We are no longer down to a total military force of 340,000 as we were in 1922, four years after the First World War. We had no greater forces in this country on the eve of entering into the second war than 380,000. We have not now a situation like that. We have at this moment a combined force—some, of course, being National Service men—of 740,000. We propose that the figure shall not go down in the next few years to below about 680,000 men. I should like to feel, without criticising them today from that point of view, that Conservatives had always been as zealous in 758 the past in their preparations for possible military contingencies as the Government to which I have the honour to belong have been in the last four years. I cannot find in my experience anything to apologise for. I believe that, in all the difficulties of the situation, we have every reason to be proud. I will not suggest for a moment twat it has not been difficult for the Minister of Defence, because from time to time it has been difficult, in our economic circumstances, to get a sufficient allocation to enable us to present such a programme to Parliament. But I will say that the foreign policy pursued by the Foreign Secretary and his complete justification of the action we have had to take in the military sense, has been at the very, heart and centre of it. I should like to pay my tribute to him, now that I have passed to this other House, for his constant support in enabling us to make arrangements for moving towards more adequate defence.
In the course of his speech the noble Viscount said that he thought the White Paper was not satisfactory because it did not refer sufficiently to the foreign policy which made our defence necessary. We have never changed from our general position in regard to our need for defence since we took office in 1945. Because of the particular reasons I mentioned just now, we have needed sufficient years of peace in which to rebuild and recover from all the damage which had been done to us in the war, and to use those years of peace to support to the full the objectives, the programme and the Charter of the United Nations. We have done our level best to secure that. We have supported the proposals made in the United Nations for the control of the atomic weapon, and, indeed, to deal collectively in the United Nations with any weapons of mass destruction, for I think that weapons of mass destruction are just too horrible to conteriplate. I think the noble Viscount is right when he says that the advent of the atomic weapon, horrible as it is, does nit necessarily alter the principles that have to be adopted to meet the situation that arises in war. I agree with him there. When one considers that it is not merely the atomic bomb but all the other frightful weapons of mass destruction which are now either here or on their way, I feel that we have been right in supporting to the fullest degree the endeavours of the United 759 Nations to ban weapons of mass destruction, including the atom bomb.
In the Committee of Conventional Armaments we have endeavoured to get a general basis for reduction of armaments, and also to achieve some degree of confidence in both those directions through the Military Staff Committee's endeavours to get some agreement as to what should be the contribution from each member State of the United Nations to a central United Nations force which would act collectively against any possible aggression. If we could have made the progress we desired in those three directions, much of the problem would be already solved. In fact, we have not been able to get the support we should have liked, and we are moving in our present direction because it is essential that if we cannot get a unanimous basis for collective security, then we must get the widest basis of collective security that is possible. I think it was Mr. Churchill who, in 1938, after the Munich incident, pointed out in a famous speech that the principal fault and responsibility of the then Government which had not seen fit to include him in its membership, was in not recognising the danger and in not taking advantage of the League of Nations. To-day, having learnt perhaps from the exposure of that position by Mr. Churchill in 1938, we have just the opposite position. We have made ample provision, so far as we can in our economic situation. We have gathered our alliances, we are bringing them all within Article 51 of the Charter, and we are seeking to get the best possible new collective machinery to see that through.
The noble Viscount also referred to the question of how the Staffs of Western Union and the North Atlantic Treaty could be expected adequately to plan until they had had instructions as to the possible use of the man-power of Western Germany. My Lords, I think it would be very unwise indeed for me to endeavour to dot the i's and cross the t's of what has already been said in another place with regard to this matter both by the Prime Minister and by the Foreign Secretary. Some of us have different views as to democracy; nevertheless I think we must at least go along by proved stages in regard to Germany. I 760 hope very much that Western Germany will give the lead to all Germany in really learning and then practising free democracy, of which we are so fond here and of which perhaps we are to-day the best example in the world. But we must have a certain time in which to be able to witness for ourselves the demonstration that that change to a really democratic opinion is going to be put into practice by the Germans. It is not we that are thus open to be charged, as some people have charged my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, with dragging our feet in regard, say, to the Council of Europe. We should welcome the acceptance by the Germans of a free invitation to join, on the conditions which are laid down, as an associate member of the Council of Europe, and steadily thereafter to show how much further they can advance along the road of democracy, and then be trusted to the fullest possible extent.
I am sure the noble Viscount will agree with me when he looks at the evidence—the speeches of members of his own Party; and if he looks carefully between the lines in the article in the London Times of to-day, an article upon the defence situation which does not seem to be too critical of His Majesty's Government and which pays a tribute to the manner in which we have built up our defence organisation and our collective activity to what it is to-day. Perhaps he would look carefully at the speech made last week by Mr. Anthony Eden. I think he will find that there are a number of Conservatives at least who would be hesitant before they accepted the full—I would not say political in his case, but the full military implications, of what he had in mind when he was speaking on this matter.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
May I interrupt the noble Viscount? I have read all the various statements and articles that he has mentioned, and what I said was decided after I had read those papers.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Of course, there are some people who cannot be made easily to change their opinion. I am quite sure that the noble Viscount, whose record in the Service and whose work at the War Office I know and appreciate, is entitled to have and to express his military views; 761 but he will not expect me, I think, to go further than I have in regard to this German point to-day.
At another stage he turned to the question of our attitude with regard to cooperation within the Commonwealth and with our Allies. He said we did not say enough about it in, the White Paper. On previous occasions in White Papers we have referred to co-operation within the Commonwealth. I think the noble Viscount thought we did not refer to it as much this time as we did last time, but there is no reason always to be restating the obvious. In fact, there is far more co-operation on defence within the Commonwealth to-day than there ever was between the wars, and we have been very glad indeed to see the development that has taken place. For the moment, let us look at the kind of contribution which the older Dominions could make to-day in the event of any real need arising for their coming to our help. Look at the kind of contribution they could make on the basis of their present military preparations for their own defence. Last year Canada spent £105,000,000. Though that would be less per head of the population than is the quota with which we tax ourselves here, nevertheless it is more than ten times the amount of the contribution to military defence that Canada made in 1938–39. Then take the case of Australia. That country is pursuing a live years' ordered plan of military development, spending something like £48,000,000 a year, and is tending to increase the effort. That is far and away beyond what was ever done in peace time.
Although the expenditure in New Zealand may not be more than £9,000,000 or £10,000,000, we have to remember that that is a country which has an exceedingly small population. But they are a very gallant people. We shall always remember how they came to our aid at this time with a measure of national service so that they may be able to give us, if need arise, adequate, sufficient and early help with man-power. And that is on top of their development of their naval and air force resources. That, I am sure, is something which is greatly to be admired. South Africa has been spending twice as much as before the war. Some gloomy prophets in the past did not seem to think that we would get that measure of support from the South 762 African Government. That is the actual support which is maturing in each of those cases. Taking the matter collectively, I may say that conferences are now being carried on and we have a far greater degree of planning for the joint use of the Forces which are being built up here and in the Dominions than ever existed before the war under any previous Government administration.
I feel at times a little impatient—I ask your Lordships to excuse me; I must not get impatient here in this kind of debate—but perhaps I should say I have been a little impatient with the kind of criticism that comes nom those who support a political line which never seemed to do quite as much between the wars in these directions as they seem to think it is fundamental that we should do at the present time. Nevertheless, we are doing it. We have, I think, made extraordinary strides in that direction. I am not saying that it is all that I should like or all I want to see. But I want to say to our friends overseas that we are very grateful for what they are doing. Of course we should always appreciate it very much if they found themselves able to do a little more. It must not be forgotten that they are helping in other directions—in the Commonwealth Scientific Advisory Councils and Conferences, for instance. Great assistance has been given by Australia and Canada, in particular in the joint Commonwealth defence research work, not only in fundamental science matters but in their operational applications. We have, I think, every reason to be proud of the growth of this work. The noble Viscount was concerned about the position with regard to the Colonies, and the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has been good enough to tell me that he is going to say something later about this matter. As I shall have the privilege of giving some further answers in the debate after the noble Viscount the First Lord of the Admiralty has spoken to-morrow, perhaps it will be convenient if I say a little more on the Colonial position then, thereby saving time to-day.
I should like now to spend a few minutes, if I may—and I ask your Lord-shins' indulgence for speaking at such length—on the two points of equipment and man-power. The noble Viscount rightly stressed those two things as being 763 vital necessities. It should be observed that the general effect of the White Paper is that we are planning to spend in total £20,000,000 more than last year. It would have been a great deal more than that if we had not to keep our word about concurrent economies in the Services, as promised last year in the House of Commons. If it had not been for the economies last year planned for the rest of the year at the rate of £30,000,000, with the programme with which we have to deal we could not have got down to such a figure as £780,000,000 for this year; it could not have been done unless we had already managed to operate the economies which we promised to make.
On the question of equipment and manpower, let me say that this White Paper is the result of inter-Service inquiry of a kind which I think has hardly ever taken place before. I myself had personal experience in this connection, in the old days. In 1929 and 1931, I used to attend meetings of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and I have also seen something of the operation of these matters during the period of the war. May I say that this inquiry—which did not take place last Autumn, but much earlier; it had been continuing more than twelve months, with high-ranking representatives from each of the Services engaged in it—has led to a policy set out in the White Paper which was agreed between the three Services and which, in regard to these questions of equipment and man-power, is being implemented on the basis of their recommendations?
I should like to tell the noble Viscount that there is no question of interpreting the White Paper in the way that he did, to suggest that we are complacent in the matter, that we have found there is nothing new or changed in the roles of the Services. The fact is that the Services have been planning, so far as they have been able to plan during all that period of flux and change since 1945 to which the noble Viscount has referred. But they could plan only up to the limits of the events that were either taking shape before their eyes, or which it appeared were likely to happen in the next year or two. Now we have the situation in which the Brussels and North Atlantic Treaties are actually in operation. Agreement has been reached—and I am very glad that 764 it has—as to the relative réles of the Services. Moreover, in the conferences there has been agreement as to what should be the appropriate allocations in respect of man-power and equipment, as the result of the plan for the integrating of each of these three Services in the defence of the country and its Allies.
That is all I think I need say about that matter. May I point out that between £34,000,000 and £35,000,000 of the White Paper provision is actually an increase in respect of defence research and equipment, most of it of course upon equipment. It is fundamental that in modern days it would be absurd to produce a high figure of man-power and not to have weapons with which the Forces could be expected to stand up to the commitments they would have to meet. We have been living on our fat for the last four and a half years. We have therefore to spend a considerable amount on the actual replenishment of stores—and conventional stores at that. We have also to see where great changes are possible in the matter of modernisation of weapons, and in such cases we must ensure that these shall be brought into effect as soon as possible. This is happening in every respect. I will leave the noble Viscount the First Lord of the Admiralty to say a word or two on that subject tomorrow from the naval point of view, because he deals with what is both a Service and a production Department.
In the case of the air, I think that we have every reason to be encouraged by what has been accomplished by the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Supply, working in conjunction with each other. I think it is a good thing that they should stick to the old principle of putting the emphasis in peace time on production in quality, rather than on production in quantity. I think that the developments which have been made in the case of such machines as the Canberra have demonstrated how important it is that we should keep our air production industry going at the proper level. I am delighted with the result. Equipment in the case of the Air Force represents a large part of the extra bill we are meeting. I believe that it is right that we should meet the extra bill and give the air priority. There is an increase in the budget of more than £15,000,000 this year, though the actual man-power strength of the 765 Royal Air Force is to go down. I am sure that that general treatment of the matter is likely to give your Lordships some satisfaction.
In the case of the Army, as the noble Viscount said, the principle thing they have to face at the present moment is the cold war. Although we are giving them a substantial amount of re-equipment, I should be misleading your Lordships if I were to say they were getting all the modern equipment I should like them to have. Because we have to concentrate to a large extent at the present moment upon the use of the Army in the cold war, we have to give the balance of advantage in the production of equipment to the other two Services. I repeat and emphasise that what we are doing in this regard is something agreed upon between the Services in the plan which they submitted to me and to the Government. I am not sure whether I have covered every one of the points which the noble Viscount put to me, but if I have omitted anything, I shall go through both what I have said to-day and the notes I have made, and I will pick up to-morrow any loose points that I have left over. I did not want to be tied to notes, because I like to speak so far as I can without notes and to meet the points put to me.
Before I sit down, I should like to say a word or two about what the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said in relation to Malaya. I am certain that there is no member of your Lordships' House who is not equally concerned, about the situation in Malaya and who is not full of anxiety that the position should be improved at the earliest possible date. However, I think it would be wrong for the noble Lord to think, or to leave his colleagues to think, that the Government are in any way blameworthy for what has happened and that they have been in any way short in their efforts to assist those on the spot. I was rather interested to hear the noble Lord say how necessary it was to take the advice of the men on the spot, because I met exactly the opposite kind of advice in another place over the "Amethyst" incident in China. There we had been working entirely upon the advice of the men on the spot, and I received criticism in exactly the opposite direction. But we have never neglected any single recommendation from Malaya that I remember 766 as to what should be done, either in regard to the improvement of the police or in regard to strengthening the Forces, or any other kind of request which has been made 'to us. Therefore, I hope the noble Lord, who spoke strongly and firmly on the matter, will not mind if I am equally strong in saying that we plead absolutely "not guilty" to the kind of suggestion which he has made in his speech to-day.
The fact is that in the last two months we have greatly strengthened the forces in Malaya compared with their strength when the trouble first broke out. If that had not been done, the situation would have become far more serious. It is very serious already, and very serious is the job that the police and the military forces have to do. I should like to pay a tribute this afternoon to both the police and the military forces for the devotion with which they are carrying out a very difficult job. I am not quite sure what the noble Lord had in mind when he said that the Government had given a sort of fiat that the return of the Gurkha Brigade from Hong Kong to Malaya was to be final.
§ LORD MANCROFT
I was referring to the statement made by a Government spokesman in another place, which may have been a slip of the tongue, but which nevertheless received a most hostile Press in Malaya.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I do not know whether it was something suddenly said or not, but perhaps I should bring it up to date. On March 29, in answer to Major Tufton Beamish, my right honourable friend Mr. Griffiths, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, said in another place:The strength and equipment of the military forces employed against the bandits in Malaya is under constant consideration and every effort will continue to he made to meet the requirements of those operationsI think we should regard that as honour being satisfied. We have never held back from them what they have required, and with the reinforcement in the air that they have now received, along with the Gurkha Brigade, and the other efforts that are being made, I think we shall be shown to be doing our best to come to a satisfactory conclusion in this matter.
767 The noble Lord asked me whether I would say something about the appointment of General Briggs. It is always good for great minds to think alike, and I am happy to know that the noble Lord had this kind of appointment in mind when he addressed this House some eighteen months ago. As he may have seen from the Press, General Briggs has now arrived in Malaya. He is to be Director of Operations, by way of nomenclature, and it is a civil position. It has been created to meet the need to have one officer to plan, co-ordinate and generally direct the anti-bandit operations, both of the Police and the Fighting Services. He will be responsible for the preparation of general plans for offensive action and for the allocation of tasks in the various campaigns to the security forces. In consultation with the heads of the Police and Fighting Services he will decide priorities between these tasks and the general timing and sequence of their execution. He will exercise control through the heads of the Police in the Fighting Services. He will not be in direct command of units, but will give instructions to the Commissioner of Police, and the General Officer Commanding, regarding the tasks to be carried out by the forces employed in the anti-bandit operations. He will work directly under the High Commissioner and within the framework of the policy laid down by the Federation Government.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Yes, under the general conditions which I mentioned, in consultation with the heads of the Police and of the Fighting Services he will decide priorities. He will be in closest touch with the civil authorities and responsible for matters such as settlement and control of squatters, and immigration control. He will have the right to make representations direct to the High Commissioner in all matters affecting the conduct of the anti-Communist and anti-bandit campaign as a whole. I hope that that long statement will meet the requirements of the noble Lord and give him some more knowledge of General Briggs' terms of reference. I can assure the noble Lord that we shall do our utmost to bring, the trouble in Malaya to a speedy end, but 768 it would be wrong to say that that is likely to happen very suddenly, because of the difficulties which the noble Lord himself stressed, not the least of which is the nature of the terrain which has to be covered and the ease with which the bandits can escape after their operations.
I feel conscious that I have omitted one matter about which I wished to speak this afternoon—namely, the general position of man-power in the Services; but perhaps, in view of the fact that I have taken so long, the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, will forgive me if I leave that until to-morrow. I would only like to assure the noble Viscount that the Government are not unmindful of the man-power difficulties and are not refraining from facing up to the situation —those were the words I think the noble Viscount used—and I hope to be able to prove to his satisfaction tomorrow that we have done far more in building up our man-power than we have yet been credited with. Meantime, I assure the House that, in this matter of defence and ensuring peace by means of proper collective security within the terms of the United Nations, and with all who are willing to agree with us, we are determined to see that whatever we can possibly afford from our economic resources will be added to the strength of our mutual defences.
§ 4.50 p.m.
My Lords, it is my agreeable duty to congratulate the new recruit to the Government Front Bench on his admirable maiden speech. I can assure him that he has not failed in the standard he set himself. He has certainly not failed in the laudable courtesy which he said it would be his aim to try to achieve; and he has eschewed the pardonable insolence which I think a great authority said was a justifiable concomitant of laudable courtesy. It was a pleasure to us to hear the noble Viscount speak, and we shall look forward to hearing him again to-morrow.
The debate has already covered a wide field, and no doubt it will range still wider. I propose to confine myself to two main topics. Last year your Lordships will remember that the general comment upon the White Paper which we then had was that it contained a number of clichés and aphorisms—to which, indeed, no one could take exception, because most of 769 them have through the centuries, or certainly through the decades, received a due meed of Parliamentary approbation—but that there was little evidence of an overall plan to which the Services would conform. I want to say at once that on this occasion paragraph 4 of the White Paper contains something much more definite. We are there told that the necessary organisation for the Atlantic Pact and for Western Union defence has been established; and, more important I think, that an overall strategic concept has been drawn up and approved. As the noble Viscount has told us to-day, that was confirmed by The Hague meeting.
This is all to the good, so far as it goes, but what I feel your Lordships really want to know to-day is how far it has gone, and, in particular, how far we have gone in this matter. What the House wants to know is how far policy is being translated into action. The noble Viscount the Chancellor of the Duchy said that real and fundamental progress has been made; and, dealing with the matter of equipment, that ample provision has been made. But he added the words "so far as economic circumstances permit." I hope when he speaks tomorrow he will amplify that or, rather, will come a little more to the particulars, for that is the only way in which we can test whether real and fundamental progress has been made, and whether the provision is ample.
Last year, as your Lordships recollect, I pleaded that in the air, at any rate, our needs were clear: that the Air Force should have a first priority, and that action need not wait on further planning, at The Hague or anywhere else. I then emphasised the vital need of the striking liirce—the defensive offensive, the bomber force—which would be ready immediately to deal with important targets well inside the enemy territory. At that time I was glad when the noble Viscount the Leader of the House said:I would agree that we have to constitute an Air Force that is a safeguard against war. And I would agree to putting it in the first place.Since we debated this subject last year there are two new facts of great importance which have emerged. First, a great deal of new information has been published about the size, quality and character of the Russion Air Force and their aircraft construction. It is summarised 770 in the book, which no doubt most of your Lordships have read, by Commander Asher Lee. I feel sure that, whatever may be said on not tolling us about our own affairs on grounds of security, there can be no objection to the Minister of Defence telling us about the strength of the potential enemy—that cannot be giving away secrets to Russia. Therefore, I should like to ask the noble Viscount whether—and if so, low far—he confirms the facts stated by Commander Asher Lee.
No doubt the noble Viscount is familiar with the figures he gave. which are these A production of 40.000 to 50,000 aircraft a year—that is leaving out something like 20,000 more which emerge yearly from the repair factories. Commander Asher Lee puts the first-line strength of the Russian Air Force at 15,000. That embraces jet fighters, jet fighter-bombers and jet medium bombers. As in our case, there are as yet no long-range jet bombers. I would ask the noble Viscount how far those figures are confirmed by the intelligence information which the Defence Ministries must have.
The other factor which is wholly new is that Russia is now in possession of the atom bomb—a great deal sooner than any Government or any expert expected. I submit that those two new factors reinforce the vital need for an effective counter-offensive striking force. Surely, they must give a wholly new emphasis to the vital need of ensuing that our jet tighter force, coupled with all its radar defences, is completely adequate. I know that we are getting the American long-range bombers—and we are very grateful —but what we want to know is where we stand on our own feet. We are told in paragraph 15 of the White Paper that the plan for doubling the jet fighter strength of Fighter Command will be completed. But it is impossible to assess the importance of that unless we are told what it is that is being multiplied by two. I recollect once upon a time being greatly impressed when I was told that the production of a certain article had gone up by 100 per cent.; but my satisfaction was somewhat discounted when I found that the article which I ad gone up 100 per cent. was one single unit. I am not suggesting that we are as badly off as that, but we cannot judge unless we know the first-line strength. We certainly 771 cannot judge properly unless we have some idea of what the reserves are.
I realise that there may be objections to giving details about reserves; but I never saw any objection to giving information about the size or the state of readiness of the shadow factories, and much less of course the main factories. What we ought to know is, what is the state of readiness of our war potential? Equally important, and a vital concomitant of our fighter strength: Are all the necessary ancillary services, radar and the like, ready to serve the Fighting Forces? It is not merely a question of the supply of aircraft and radar equipment, but of the personnel to handle them; and the whole, of course, should be fully exercised together. The noble Viscount will certainly agree that it was the quality of equipment and the intensive collective training which gave the best pilots in the world the confidence and experience which won the Battle of Britain. But we must have not only quality; we must have adequate numbers, and we must have the whole service exercised together absolutely to concert pitch.
I earnestly hope that we can be told something more. The Americans, who are very security-minded, give a lot of figures. They give their programme and how it is progressing. Indeed, I think—the noble Viscount can check this—their aircraft programme was scheduled to the Act of Congress which approved the Appropriation. Of course, progress is steadily reported. We have had from them considerable information about anti-submarine aircraft—a very interesting development—and only in the last day or two I have seen further information given in the United States about radar sights on the guns of aircraft. It is not only that Parliament has a claim to more information, but I am sure that such information would greatly increase confidence in Europe. There is to-day a good deal of anxiety on the Continent about the part which the United Kingdom will play in European Union. On the financial and economic side, we and the sterling area have problems which no other European country has with regard to its currency. I have no doubt that we shall play our part, but I sometimes think our contribution to European economic co-operation and recovery has 772 been under-valued by our European friends.
But none of these difficulties arises over defence. Security is one and indivisible. We are all in this, members one of another, and in defence the economic difficulties—I mean the currency difficulties—do not arise. There must be a unity and an overall plan to which we must all conform. Indeed, that is accepted. The noble Viscount has said that the Conference at The Hague has confirmed it and laid it down. In those circumstances, I am sure that the more the Government can disclose of their methods of giving effect to that plan the more confidence they will inspire, and the greater the encouragement they will give to the countries of free Europe as well as to our own people. I hope that it will not be argued that on grounds of security nothing more can be said. I should have thought that we could go as far, or nearly as far, as the Americans. Last time my noble friend, an old colleague, Lord Portal of Hungerford—and nobody in a matter of this kind speaks with greater authority—said that he felt the balance was very definitely on the side of much fuller disclosure.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I would point out to the noble Viscount that there is much more information now in the Estimates than there was, say, two years ago, at the time when Lord Portal was speaking.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
It was a year ago when the noble Viscount spoke, and I have the Estimates. If the noble Viscount will address his mind to the very specific questions I have asked, I hope there will be a little more information tomorrow. For instance: what is the first-line strength now? It is not given. We cannot form the faintest appreciation of what the value of an Air Force is without knowing its first-line strength. That is information which the Americans regularly give to their Parliament and to their people. If the noble Viscount still says that he cannot disclose to us what the Americans disclose then, in full agreement with my noble Leader, I would urge that that greatly reinforces the request made in another place for a secret session. This House is not only a very well-informed Assembly, it is a very responsible Assembly. I am certain that nothing would be said—I am not talking 773 about its being repeated outside, because I am sure that would not happen—in secret session which would not be weighed with great responsibility. I think much more can be said in secret session than in public.
The noble Viscount misunderstands me. I have attended many secret sessions, and I do not think we get much more information from them.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I do not agree. That entirely depends on the confidence and the frankness with which the Government treat the House. I have a much higher opinion of the Leader of this House than my noble friend, and I am sure that if we went into secret session on a matter of defence the noble Viscount who leads the House with such satisfaction to all of us would see that we were given a good deal of information. Anyway, we shall see what happens to-morrow. My noble friend and I will certainly return to this and, indeed, make a formal request if we are not satisfied. I would add this. We have not unlimited time and the new factors to which I have referred—the Russian force and the atom bomb—make time more important. Future plans and research are no substitute for present readiness.
Now I pass to the other topic which I raised last year—the recruitment of our Colonial Forces. I had hoped from what the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said in winding up the debate a year ago, that a great deal would be done in the current year. I am bound to say that I was very disappointed to read paragraph 17 of the White Paper, because we had been led to expect that a good deal would happen. The paragraph is headed "Colonial Forces," and says:A review of the colonial forces by the Chiefs of Staff Committee has been followed by consultations with the Colonial Governments concerned and, in the case of the East and West African colonies, by a conference in London. The basic difficulty is that the cost even of the forces required for internal security is often beyond the means of the colony. Means of bridging the gap are under consideration.774 What has actually happened? So far from having increases those Forces, which were not adequate for local security, during the past year the numbers of Colonial and Gurkha troops have been reduced by over 13,000.
I maintain that paragraph 17 of the White Paper shows a wholly wrong approach. It is not the way in which we approached the problem in the last war. This is not just a Colonial question, or a question of Colonial internal security. It is an Imperial quest on, a Commonwealth question, and an international question. We should approach it, and approach it immediately, on the basis of what is the fullest contribution East and West African Forces can make to the complete structure of world defence. I believe myself that that contribution can be very large.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Because that is the greatest source of man-power. I know that in Malaya local forces have been raised. And in the war West Indian troops made a considerable contribution. But West Africa raised enormous forces in the last war. They have a tradition, with old regiments. There are already enormous reserves of trained men who can be drawn upon. We can extend this force if need be. Why do I say that I think this contribution can be very large? In the last war West Africa raised an army of 200,000 men, all volunteers. That number included 40,000 trained tradesmen. In addition to that, something like 10,000 ground troops were recruited by the Air Force. These West African troops served with great gallantry in Kenya, Somaliland and Abyssinia. Two full divisions went to Burma, and fought there; one brigade was even chosen to serve in Wingate's picked force. In addition, tens of thousands more men served in pioneer units and other formations in other theatres of war. Moreover, they took over all the defence of these territories—which was a considerable task at the time. They manned all the guns of the African territories, from the 6-inch to the Bofors. They maintained their own vehicles; they ran their own wireless. It was a remarkable achievement. East Africa matched the West African effort and this applied to other African 775 territories as well—to Rhodesia, Basutoland, and so on.
We have been talking of Malaya. Would not these troops be invaluable in Malaya to reinforce or relieve British formations? They would be well accustomed to that kind of fighting. Before the divisions went to Burma they had been engaged in divisional training in the jungle; and they went out there—I will not say fully prepared for everything they had to meet, but certainly with a high degree of training in just the kind of warfare and just the kind of area over which we now have to fight in Malaya. Moreover, in both East and West Africa there is a vast number of demobilised trained men. They can be remobilised in reserves, with refresher training. But apart from these reserves I submit that the standing forces should be of an adequate size—and when I say "adequate size" I mean that the size should be measured by the part which they can play in the complete plan. I am sure that Africa would welcome this opportunity. In the last war, although it was very far away from them, they did not hesitate to come forward as volunteers in their hundreds of thousands to play their full part in the war effort.
As regards cost, I consider that the approach in the White Paper is hopeless. This was not the way we approached this matter in the war. The charge on the African territories should not be more than their quota of security forces. Indeed, I think it was an understood thing that it was not to be greater than the pre-war cost, plus, I think, 33 per cent. or some such figure. At any rate, I believe there was a formula of this kind, and it may be that that formula is in operation now. But we ought to carry the balance on the Imperial exchequer and where the essentials of defence are concerned we ought not to have to line up in the queue. There has been a great deal more Treasury control over military expenditure than over the expenditure of the Ministry of Health. It seems to be much easier to confine the noble Viscount and his defence colleagues within the limits of the permitted Treasury figure than to confine the noble Viscount's more flamboyant colleague.
This, moreover, would be an economical expenditure. These African troops 776 are highly trained and a great deal cheaper than British troops. They would come as volunteers and you would not then have the frightful cost of taking the National Service man, shipping him to Malaya or Hong Kong and then bringing him back to this country almost as soon as the ship had touched shore. The matter ought to be looked at and discussed with the Chancellor from an economical point of view. And let us remember how important is the time factor; if we have to wait for some things because supplies of new equipment are not ready, then it is all the more reason for being ready where we can. I do plead again with the Government: Take us more into your confidence. Do not hesitate to say what is needed, and to demand it. You will certainly have all our support. We need not be afraid of frightening our people. They will not shirk or appease through fear; the only risk is that they will be complacent or inert through ignorance. I say to the Government: Take them into your confidence. You have a great responsibility, and you have a great opportunity.
§ 5.18 p.m.
My Lords, I have found myself more and more uneasy as I have listened to the speeches of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton recently, because I find myself so largely in agreement with them. I have to search my conscience. The two main themes in the noble Viscount's speech have been put with force and clarity and I entirely support them. I go a little further than he does when he says that we ought to have an immediately-available bombing force ready, and ready on the second. It is, of course, a terrible prospect from the point of view of expenditure alone; but we must have our defences attuned to possible future hostilities and not to the conditions of the last war. Where I go further is that I suggest that another important force that must be ready on the second is an anti-submarine force. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, when he speaks on this subject, will support that view. Included in the anti-submarine organisation there must be a highly-specialised aircraft force available for anti-submarine work; I am sure we are all agreed on that. I should also like to pay my tribute to the noble Viscount, 777 Lord Alexander, on his speech to-day. I heard his maiden speech in the other place and it has been a pleasure to hear his maiden speech in your Lordships' House. I am very pleased to have had the opportunity.
With regard to the other main theme of the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, about the use of Colonial troops, I entirely agree. This, as the noble, Viscount said, is a great Imperial question. I also was a little shocked by paragraph 17 of the White Paper. It burkes the whole issue. There you have these admirable soldiers suitable for tropical warfare in the jungle. We can make greater use of them. That argument is made all the more powerful to-day by the situation in India. We all welcome the tremendous achievement of our Government in the last Parliament in keeping India and Pakistan within the Commonwealth. When the history of our times comes to be written, I believe that that will be the greatest achievement of the Labour Government. But it has meant the loss of the old Indian Army for general defence purposes. Furthermore—one has to say these things—while this unfortunate dispute is in progress over Kashmir, which may be a long-drawn out affair, we cannot very well look to India or Pakistan for immediate help in case of threatened trouble. In actual trouble, no doubt yes; but in threatened trouble, no. Therefore, there is that gap, that hiatus in the whole system of Imperial defence, and we should make more use of Colonial troops, and we can do so. But they will not be obtained so much more cheaply—at least their officers will not be. They have to have special allowances. I am sure the noble Viscount does not suggest that we should have these soldiers in any way, under-paid. They ought to be well paid, so that we can collect the best manhood of our Dependencies and Colonies with which to reinforce our military forces.
Little has been said about the Royal Navy. As the First Lord is to address us to-morrow, may I ask him to reinforce the fact, as I am sure is appreciated in the Admiralty if not altogether outside it, that whatever new weapons come along and whatever new methods of actual fighting are developed, the old principles of sea power and what they mean to a country placed in the situation of Great Britain with its Commonwealth and 778 Empire will remain. Control of the sea routes is still as fundamental to large-scale strategy as ever it was. The First World War and the Second World War proved it. All the previous wars since the sixteenth century have shown that the great principles of sea power are unchanging. I am a little alarmed when I read the actual strength as disclosed of our ships in commission. Navies take a long time to build up. Armies can be created much more quickly, even with the modern complication of present-day weapons, but navies are of long and slow growth. Once a navy is run down, it is difficult to build it up again.
In this connection I have been rather disturbed in the last few days to read in the Press reports from the United States that the professional chiefs there in international conferences are bringing pressure to bear upon us to devote more of our available expenditure to other forces rather than to our own Royal Navy. I hope that this blandishment or persuasion will be resisted. We have tremendous responsibilities. Because of its tradition and training it takes a long time to build up a fleet. Our responsibilities will still remain. The international political situation may change. There may be a recrudescence of isolationism in the United States. That may happen overnight as the result of an election in the United States. Much as we admire the Americans we all know that they are a very changeable people, as we have seen them over the last ten or fifteen years. If, with our vast sea communications on which our life will depend, we are left in case of trouble to be guarded without American help, then we may regret the day that we listened to such blandishments. I hope the House will support me there.
That brings me to where I see a great dividing line on the defence question as between the Parties or perhaps within the Parties, although it has not appeared yet to any important extent in my own Party. That is on the question of re-arming Germany. I listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Viscount dealing with this matter. He only re-echoed what was said by his Leader in another place. It fills me with apprehension and disquiet. May I ask both the noble Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, who is to speak later, how far they propose to go with this German rearmament? It is all very well to talk about "German 779 soldiers standing in the line with Frenchmen, Americans and Englishmen." Do they propose to have a German air force? The Germans will certainly demand it. They are a very proud people. Perhaps they will ask for a German navy. Is it proposed to let them have that? Did we fight the First World War and the Second World War in order to assist now in the rehabilitation of German sea power? We talk a great deal about the submarine menace, thinking all the time of Russia, but if the German bases in the North Sea are going to be used for submarine fleets based there, we must increase the expenditure on defence in that direction. Is that the intention? Are the Germans mercenaries who can be recruited to serve under foreign officers? They will never agree to that. All other things considered, they will have to have munition factories. They will not serve as mercenaries. Nationalism is boiling in Germany today. Attempts to build a democracy in Germany have not failed but progress is slow.
Let me read from The Times of February 15 last year, on this very subject, the failure to democratise Germany.Four years of occupation have done little to convert the German people to democracy.This is not the Daily Herald; this is The Times.Those Germans who are convinced democrats have had to struggle against many difficulties, often, it is to be feared, with little help or even recognition from the Occupying Powers. Even the success of the currency reform and economic recovery on the American pattern has in many cases given power and wealth to the very class which welcomed Hitler and made possible two world wars.Some members of that class were not Germans; they were British. I am not talking about anyone in this House now. We hear some of their voices to-day nevertheless. Some who welcomed Hitler in pre-war Germany are in the ascendant to-day. I am not reading from The Times now; I am using my own words. They have their sympathisers here. Again, I quote from The Times leader:The greatest difficulty has been and still is the feeling that those who co-operate with the Western Allies are in some way Quislings who will one day have to pay the price at the hands of Communists or Nationalists …That was written on February 15 last year, thirteen or fourteen months ago, and it is more true to-day, unfortunately.
780 I can tell your Lordships one result of the proposal to allow Germany to re-arm. We hear a great deal of complaint in foreign affairs debates—you cannot entirely separate defence questions from foreign affairs—about the number of countries that have come under Russian influence, countries beyond the iron curtain. Do the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and his friends who think with him realise that one of the most potent reasons why those countries are adhering to the Russian camp, if you like to call it that, is the fear of a recrudescent Germany? That is certainly true of Poland and Czechoslovakia, and other countries as well. If you pursue this policy of allowing Western Germany (as it is called) to re-arm, then you will only strengthen the feeling of those countries that at all costs they will have to rely on Russian help in case of German attack. Your chances of bringing them over to sympathy and friendship with you, as I had always hoped would be the result of the foreign policy of this country and our Allies, would be very small.
No, this is a terribly difficult question. All the eloquence of Mr. Churchill in another place or of the noble Viscount here, or of those who speak the same language in the United States, will not alter these facts. They talk of re-arming and recruiting in Western Germany, as I understand it, to resist an army coming from Eastern Germany, also largely composed of Germans. Is it really to be supposed for one moment—for we have learnt something about the Germans in the last generation—that Germans will fight Germans under the different flags of either the United Nations or the Western Allies, on the one side, and the Russian alliance on the other? Of course they will not. The last thing they will do is to fight a civil war. What they will do is to change sides when it suits them, supporting either one side or the other.
I would ask those who to-day preach what I think is a pernicious and poisonous doctrine to remember what happened just before the outbreak of the Second World War, when the Russian rapprochement encouraged the Germans in their aggression, which in turn led to all this horror, bloodshed and disaster from which we have not recovered to-day. Faced with the lack of a peace treaty in 1950, when 781 the old generation of militarists in Germany are still young enough to influence events and when their industrial capacity is becoming stronger, we are proposing once more to build up a military power in Western Germany which three times within the memory of men still living has steeped Europe in blood. Some time ago when I was speaking in your Lordships' House I ventured to suggest that Germany in the future, re-armed and re-strengthened, might be a greater danger than Russia ever could be. My Lords, I am afraid I have had to speak with a little heat on this question, because I think it calls for great frankness and a great deal of plain speaking.
I wish to raise only one other question. I have discussed this matter with my noble friend the Chancellor of the Duchy in other connections, but I think it right to raise it here. I am a little puzzled as to where we are going to base the force that we undoubtedly need in the Middle East. This, again, is largely a Foreign Office question. I do not know what new arrangements can be made with our good friend Nahas Pasha, the Prime Minister of Egypt, who is once more in power. I do not know whether Egypt will be open to us as a base, or whether we are going to rely on North Africa or East Africa, but obviously we must have some place d'armes in the Middle East. There is no doubt about that. If we can get it—and I do not think it is impossible—the most suitable would be, not North Africa where there is very little water or labour, or even Egypt where there is always political conflict, or East Africa which is rather far away from the vitally important Eastern Mediterranean areas: the most important and desirable place d'armes we could have would be in Palestine, in the new State of Israel. For many, many years in both Houses of Parliament I have been advocating a policy which would have developed Palestine from the mandatory state into a British Dominion. Now the State of Israel is struggling with even worse economic difficulties than we have here, but nevertheless is developing as a nation again after nearly two thousand years. From a naval and air point of view, and also possibly from the military point of view (although I do not know so much about that), the State of Israel is ideal as a place d'armes, as our stepping off place, our arsenal in the Middle East.
782 When the events of the liberation, the breaking off of the Mandate, begin to fade, when the rather bitter memories on both sides begin to dim, as they do when the grass begins to grow over the battlefields and even over the gallows, then perhaps it will be realised that we British through generations have done a very great deal for the Jewish people. We led the way in treating them decently, as equals, and, after all, we made possible the re-establishment of the National Home in Palestine, cut of which has grown this State of Israel. With diplomacy, patience, skill and wisdom it might be possible to get the State of Israel into the Commonwealth as a Dominion. India came in with all her memories of her Long struggle for independence. We were not very popular in India in 1945. If India can be a contented member of the commonwealth (I agree on very liberal and loose terms), and we only just missed having Eire in, I do not see any reason why one day Israel should not come back. That would solve many political and strategic questions. I think it is worth keeping in view, and I would throw the idea out to my noble friend the First Lord, who naturally carries great weight in our Party and the Government of the country, as something worth considering and studying for the future.
§ 5.35 p.m.
: My Lords, I am bound to say, in the first place, that this Defence White Paper shows very little improvement on its predecessor of last year; and the same, or almost the same, criticisms which applied to that apply equally to-day. One of our criticisms is that this document contains no reference to the tremendous military power of Russia, which is daily growing more formidable. That point was mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. Can it be that His Majesty's Government are afraid to publish anything about the Russian menace for fear of frightening the people, or is it because it might lead to a disclosure of the inadequate provisions for meeting this menace?
I wish I could share the optimism of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, on matters of defence. I would go so far as to say that there is no guidance whatever in the White Paper which would help your Lordships to come to a proper 783 decision on the Forces which are required. In fact, the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, has told us in his speech very little of substance. Perhaps he would confirm or deny the estimates of Russian strength which have been made available from time to time in various American publications, and which have been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Swinton. It has been reported that Russia has some 9,000 bomber and fighter planes, and possibly as many as 8,000 transport and supply planes, more than half of which are reported to be jet types. Also included in this number are reported to be some 300 of what are called T.U/'s, long-range bombers which are almost equivalent to the American B.29. The question I put to His Majesty's Government is: What have we and our Allies got to set against this formidable array?
The United States are reported to have some 3,300 bombers and fighters and 5,500 transport planes, but of course for various reasons we are in a much inferior position. I should like to ask His Majesty's Government, whether they are satisfied that the combined strengths of the Benelux countries and the United States are a match for this huge Russian Air Force, and that the increase in our production of planes is sufficient to keep pace with that of Russia. On that, of course, His Majesty's Government cannot be satisfied. In fact, a distinguished American General declared only a short time ago that in his opinion the American Forces had been disarmed below the safety level. Then, again, we have the very startling figures for the Red Army. I believe it is true to say that the Red Army has between 150 and 170 divisions, including some 30 armoured divisions, all at more or less fighting strength.
What have we and the Benelux countries to set against this vast force? Is it just plans, and yet more plans? I understand that the recent Conference at The Hague has come to an agreement on the Atlantic Defence plan. No doubt this is a further advance—a great advance; but, as was pointed out by the United States Secretary of Defence, we have now reached the point of deciding on the finance required for implementing this plan. He further indicated that it would take several months even to estimate what the cost would be. We have 784 certainly a very long way to go before there is an effective fighting force.
I would draw your Lordships' attention to what in my opinion is a very striking article in the leader column of to-day's issue of The Times, which I think was mentioned by the noble Viscount. I will read a short paragraph.… it would be foolish to be over-confident and it would be worse than foolish to discount the fears of Frenchmen and others who live at the western end of the traditional routes of aggression in Europe. They argue that Russia, once determined on aggression, would count on overrunning Western Europe and holding it by blasting with her own atomic bombs and other high explosives embarkation ports in Britain and the United States, making liberation in the old style impossible. It is with these fears in mind that these Europeans ask …."—And I particularly stress this—for more signs of military preparedness around them.I had hoped that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, would give much more information about the Atlantic Pact and The Hague Conference, and I should like to ask him whether we have been definitely committed to a defence quota of military help to Europe. The question, I would say, is this: Are we in a position to supply any quota at all as regards military aid? From the information which has been made available it appears that we could not provide even two divisions, and anything less would leave the nations of Western Europe in some doubt as to our sincerity.
Questions have been asked in another place, and also in this House to-day, about the possible rearmament of Western Germany. I suggest that we must be realists in this matter and consider where the greatest danger lies. I certainly do not advocate rearmament of Germany in the sense that we usually understand it, but there are many things which we can do which do not go so far as that. We are, of course, witnessing the partial rearmament of Eastern Germany at the present time by the usual Russian underhand methods. The United States High Commissioner in Germany has estimated recently that there are 45,000 German youths in a Communist-sponsored police force which, in reality, is an army without modern or heavy equipment. It might well be possible, and of great advantage to the Western Powers, to provide for two or three divisions of Foreign Legion troops, the majority of whom 785 might be Germans, serving under Allied officers. In the past the French Foreign Legion contained a large number of Germans, and was a very fine force indeed. Speaking personally, I do not think it beyond the bounds of possibility that Allied officers might also include German officers, which perhaps might meet the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi.
You would not satisfy the Germans with that, unless you have German officers in our own army. If you have that sort of international force probably you might satisfy them; but not otherwise.
I think the whole point is open to argument, but perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to proceed.
But what can we do about increasing our own contribution to European defence in a military sense? I believe that it can be done only by building up a really effective Regular Army. One or two points have been made this afternoon about recruitment. I do not want to go very far into that subject, but it seems that the Government do not really appreciate the tremendous effect on recruitment that increases in pay would have. I think it is true to say that the average married private, and for that matter the sailor, too, is some eighteen shillings a week worse off than a comparable worker in civil life. And when we examine the disparity between the skilled man in the Services or the N.C.O., and the skilled tradesman, it is still more marked. I am sure that if we bring the Service pay into line with civilian employment we shall see a tremendous improvement in the recruiting figures, and we shall be able to play our proper part in European defence. In many quarters it has been suggested that we are already spending a vast sum on defence, a sum now to be £20,000,000 more than last year. But is this sum really so vast when we come to look at it, taking into account the depreciation in the value of money and the tremedous increase in the cost of equipment and stores since 1938? I suggest that the comparable—figures of defence expenditure, taking into account pre-war values, is nearer £400,000,000 than £760,000,000–the figure to-day. And the £400,000,000, of course, is only a little more than our expenditure in 1938 which I think was round about £343,000.000.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I do not want to interrupt unnecessarily, but I want to keep the argument in line. I think the essential point is that our personnel is already double what it was in 1938. I think that affords the best check on the noble Lord's argument.
What I am contending is that we are not spending such a vast sum as in certain quarters it is said to be. I think there is also a doubt whether our defence expenditure is being allocated in the right direction, I shall have something to say on that when we discuss the Naval Estimates. What is our paramount danger? It is, of course, a knockout blow from the air, perhaps by a series of atomic bombs, or even by intensive bombing by the ordinary run of high explosives. Then again, there is the great danger of the destruction of our life-line through the sinking of our merchant ships by enemy submarine attack. All these statements are of course platitudes, but I am bound to say that we could find very little in this White Paper to indicate that even these platitudes are fully realised. Under paragraph 11, which is headed "The Navy," there is no mention at all of the very important Naval Air Arm which is so vital to our anti-submarine defence, nor is any mention made of our anti-submarine surface fleet. In fact, all we are vouchsaved in this White Paper are the words in paragraph 11, which read:Needless to say, anti-submarine research is receiving much attention.Disturbing reports have appeared in the the Press in the last few days that the aircraft of Coastal Command engaged in the recent exercises with the Fleet on anti-submarine work in the Bay of Biscay were in poor condition. In fact it is reported—I hope it may be denied—that one sortie had to be cancelled because the machines were unit for service, and others were short of crews. Can the noble Viscount give your Lordships some assurance, perhaps to-morrow, that Coastal Command is not being neglected and that both suitable machines and men are to be provided?
I should also like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that, so far as I can see, there is no mention in the White Paper of the atom bomb and the hydrogen bomb. Surely we should consider and 787 assess the effect of these new weapons on our strategy and plans for defence. We seem to be served up with merely soothing syrup, at a time when Russia is probably building some 15,000 to 20,000 aircraft a year and is in possession of the atom bomb. In some quarters there appears to be a tendency to neglect methods of defence which might become obsolete in the event of atomic warfare, but I suggest that it is just as necessary to maintain these methods of defence to-day as in the last war. If an enemy wishes to be master of Europe, I would say that he must also be master of the industrial potential of Europe, not merely of a radio-active shambles; and it may well be that the atom bomb would not be used for offensive operations, and that, in fact, it would never be used at all. I think the atomic bomb may well be of limited value to a prospective conqueror. I suggest that its main danger is when it may be used for isolating a theatre of operations. We cannot plan our defences on these assumptions, of course. On the other hand, I feel we should retain a balanced view of the possible effects of the atomic bomb. I would suggest that the atomic bomb, and, for that matter, its more powerful rival, the hydrogen bomb, is a counter-offensive weapon rather than an offensive.
Disturbing pictures have been drawn from time to time of atomic and hydrogen bombs being delivered by rockets across the oceans, but I suggest that this is very doubtful when one remembers that the range of the German V. 2 rocket was only about 200 miles. It is true that the range of effectiveness of rockets has been considerably increased, but there is a great difference between 200 miles and 2,000 miles. I think I am correct in saying that to carry the weight of an atomic bomb a distance of even 1,000 miles it would require a rocket of astronomical proportions and of astronomical cost. The greatest drawback of all would be inaccuracy. On the other hand, a rocket delivery of an atomic bomb across the Channel might well be possible. The only defence against that is to prevent the enemy reaching the launching sites, and this is what we have to guard against above all things in our defence of Europe. I think we can also dismiss the "robot 'plane," as it is called, carrying atomic bombs, owing to its 788 limited power of manœuvre against defence. It also has a great limitation in its weight-carrying capacity. It is still a fact that for a successful attack the atomic bomb would have to be delivered by the largest bombers that we have, except for short ranges.
It is essential that we should keep in mind a balanced picture of the threat of atomic and hydrogen bombs. It may well be that advances in anti-aircraft defence will make it extremely difficult to drop the bomb with any real success. I would suggest that the new missile, with its so-called ram jet to push it along, coupled with a proximity fuse, will be a deadly foe of any bomber in the future. I should like to ask His Majesty's Government whether experiments in this direction are now beginning to bear fruit, as I am convinced that the development of this weapon is of vital importance to the defence of this country from the air. I hope we shall not hear that it is one of those problems which come under paragraph 16 of the White Paper and which have not been selected from the list of problems the Services would like solved.
I do not think a war is inevitable, but I would go so far as to say that the only reason that is holding back the Russians from turning the cold war into a hot one is that they are not yet certain that if they start a war they will have a good chance of winning it. The danger will come when the Russians feel that their Communist propaganda and subversive efforts in various countries are really beginning to bear fruit. Terrific efforts have recently been made by the Communists in France and Italy. I would also say that it is very likely that the long-drawn-out Berlin troubles, which forced us to operate that magnificent Air Lift, were really staged to mask the Russians while they were Communising China. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the testimony given recently by the United States High Commissioner in Germany before the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, which throws a little light on the Russian menace. He said:I certainly would not be frank with you if I did not convey to you my sense of the real crisis that impends in Europe. It is not a sense of inferiority or fear of attack that leads the Russians to put all this pressure on the West … They are putting on the pressure, in my judgment, because they feel their strength, 789 and the immediate hope of success. Their points of attack are Germany and the Far East, but Germany is still their main goal. With it, they feel that they would most effectively shake the hope of democracy in the West.I feel that it is of the utmost importance that His Majesty's Government should endeavour to make the country more conscious of the dangers in Europe. They should also make it quite clear to the people that we can attain an agreement with Russia only through strength and not through weakness. We can have agreement with Russia only when she is brought to realise that she has nothing more to gain, either by hot or by cold war.
Defence and foreign policy must, of course, be linked together, and one will fail without the other. Yet can it be said that they are in step with one another to-day? I suggest that there is no coherent whole and without it we cannot provide for our strategy in defence. The Secretary of State in America is doing his utmost to link foreign policy and defence policy together, and I hope that before long we shall see His Majesty's Government taking a similar line in this country, so that we can then assess and appreciate Our difficulties and provide for them. I hope to-day that we shall have no mention of irresponsibility in raising these matters, which are undoubtedly of urgent public importance. I do not suppose His Majesty's Government are by any means blind to the great issues of policy which have been mentioned to-day; but can it be that they are somewhat unwilling to allow public discussion because it may show up their own lack of decision? I maintain that we are confronted by a situation which must not be allowed to drift. We have still time to put our defences in order, 'but the sands are running out, and if we do not hurry and bend our energies to the task we may be too late when the call comes, and find ourselves enveloped in our plans. I feel that this White Paper on Defence is quite inadequate, that the real general review of strategy is missing, and that there is no broad appreciation whatever which one would expect to find in a document of this nature.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ LORD WILSON
My Lords, in addressing your Lordships on this very important subject of the defence of our Commonwealth, 790 I feel that in comparison with its handling in the five years after the First World War, its problems have been faced in a far more realistic manner in a situation which is, in many ways, more complicated. In 1924 our guns and regimental transport were still on a horse basis, and it was not until some years later that experimental mechanised brigades were formed. It is comforting, therefore, to know that attention is being paid and appropriations devoted to the futuristic equipment of our Services, in spite of the almost prohibitive cost of armament to-day. Napoleon's saying that "Victory lies with the big battalions," has to be modified to suit the conditions of this century, as numbers have little avail against smaller forces equipped with the latest modern weapons. Nevertheless, we must never let this idea lead us into a sense of false security or even to contemplate that the forces of our Commonwealth and of its Allies can be allowed to fall below the safety minimum.
There are, however, one or two points in the White Paper to which I should like to call your Lordships' attention. First of all, I would refer to the paragraph relating to the Middle East which reads:The Middle East is a vital strategic area and the maintenance of our position in the Far East is essential to the security and economic well-being of the Commonwealth. We must therefore maintain our position in those areas.The achievement of this aim presents some difficult political and strategical problems, with many of which we have been faced in the past only under different settings—the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean and Cape sea routes, air deployment, selection of bases and many others. The application of the word "vital" to the Middle East means that it has to be held. Yet it has been stated by a responsible Minister in another place that troops are to be withdrawn from the Suez Canal Zone, and under the Air Estimates a reduction is to be made in the number of transport squadrons. If an area is vital to defence it has to be held against sudden attack and must be capable of being reinforced rapidly. With the reductions which I have referred, I think your Lordships will agree that the implementation of these requisites appears doubtful, and the 791 strategic importance of the area may be in danger of going by default.
This strategic area of the Middle East includes a great deal of North East Africa. I should like to impress upon your Lordships the paramount part that the Continent of Africa has to play, not only in the future defence of our Commonwealth but also in the maintenance of Allies to whom we are bound by treaties. Added to this, there will be the requirements for the provision of bases, communications by land, sea and air, and also a potential source of manpower. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has touched on the question of Palestine as a base, but as Palestine is not within Africa I do not wish to enlarge on its possibilities. However, I have a feeling that when it comes to be studied, the noble Lord may find that what is generally known as logistics may be very unfavourable to his suggestion.
The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has already referred to man-power, and I do not wish to repeat what he has said. However, I feel that the reference to Colonial Forces in the White Paper is not encouraging. There is mention of consultations and a conference, but no mention of a policy. It surely should have been possible to produce something in the five years since the end of the war. The East and West African Divisions came out of the last war with a good record, and their efforts have been very well recorded by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. Surely it would be advantageous to continue to make use of such good material, and not to be limited by considerations of internal security. The value of these troops depends upon officers and non-commissioned officers supplied from our Forces at home. In the days before the last war, there was more opportunity for adventure, and they were paid extra allowances, with the result that their standard was high, with personnel chosen from a long waiting list, To-day, in many quarters I have heard reports that there is a deterioration in this standard: allowances have been taken away, and, instead of volunteers, officers are now detailed for this service to make good their tour of foreign duty. Nor has great acumen been shown sometimes over the posting of these officers. I heard only the other day that one who had served 792 with East African troops in the last war, and spoke Swahili, was being posted to West Africa and had great difficulty in getting his assignment altered. I feel that this is a wrong approach, and that if value is to be derived from Colonial Forces there must be a firm and realistic policy which can produce the best leadership.
I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, in what he said to-day on the question of Colonial Forces, but I disagree with him in his suggestion of a secret session. During the last war I was serving in a country which was not at war with the enemy, and it was proposed to have a secret session. I was in command there, and I was rather disturbed at what might be said at this secret session. I sent for the head of my Intelligence and said: "How can we find out what these people will talk about?" He replied: "You need have no anxiety. When there is a secret session in this country, what is said is known two hours earlier than it would be in an ordinary session." In saying that, I do not wish to cast the least aspersion on your Lordships' House or the Members of another place in regard to security. However, I feel that, though the spirit may be willing, the flesh may be weak, and that without war-time controls a secret session is a danger to security. It immediately draws attention to the fact that something is afoot, which at once causes speculation; that, in turn, means that there are discussions of ideas, some of which may reach the target, and possibly more harm is done to security in that way than in any other manner.
The last point I should like to make is in relation to Regular recruitment, to which several paragraphs are given in the White Paper. The statement giving figures for the Army and Royal Air Force is disturbing. Shortage of Regulars in units cannot but have an adverse effect in the training of the National Service men. Plans for the improvement of barrack conditions are long-term projects and cannot have any immediate prospect of inducing recruits to join. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to certain factors which may be having a bad effect. One is the uncertainty of the man's future if he enlists or extends his service to twelve years and thereafter re-engages to complete twenty-two years. 793 It is extremely doubtful if the re-employment figures given in paragraph 26 can be maintained in the future. A man is likely to see himself coming under the "too old at forty" slogan on discharge. One does, however, welcome the advisory council which is being set up under the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour to consider the resettlement of the Service men. During the last year a paper known as Estacode (a directive on Civil Service establishment matters) has been issued. Paragraph 9 of this paper deals with the employment of Regular soldiers, sailors and airmen in Government Departments, but it limits the scope of their employment to certain capacities, all of low grade. If the list of these grades is studied, I think your Lordships will agree with me that it is based on the outlook of the Service man which was prevalent in this country in 1899.
The question of giving Government employment to Service men is not a new one, but times have changed since it was accepted at the beginning of this century. The type of man who leaves the Service to-day is in a different category altogether. The tempo and technical changes in modern war, combined with improvements in Service conditions have seen to that. Surely the approach to the problem requires a wider outlook to-day so that an ex-Service man can be fitted into a job for which he is most suited. Recruitment would certainly be helped if it were possible to assure a potential recruit, or his parents, that after his term of service a job suitable to his qualifications and his temperament would be waiting for him. In the past the Post Office has been the good and valued friend of the ex-Service man, but why should this not be extended in the future to other Government Departments and nationalised industries? It does not seem equitable that a limit should be placed on the scope of employment to be offered. Surely, all types of Government employment could be made available, subject to suitability and qualifications. If His Majesty's Government gave a lead in this respect it would go a long way to overcoming such prejudices as exist among employers and trade unions to-day.
Another source of discouragement may be the question of dress. To attract the recruit the Regular must be well dressed. I have heard of Regulars not comparing 794 well with National Service men in this respect—walking out in khaki berets and old and badly fitting battledress. The provision of No. 1 dress for walking out is long overdue. The figures of National Service men who have signed on for a Regular engagement are, I understand, roughly 2 per cent., while in some regiments it has gone up to 5 per cent. or over. It has been pointed out to me that some National Service men who are contemplating enlisting are being put off by the presence of undesirable characters in their units. To-day it is very difficult for a commanding officer to get rid of a man who has a bad character. The case has to be referred to the highest authority. The tightening up of such discharges is no doubt due to the wish or desire to keep up numbers, but it may well be acting adversely to what was intended. It is also possible that the present "star pay" system and restrictions as to curfew, plain clothes and bounds are not popular.
I am sorry to have taken up so much of your Lordships' time, in a debate the scope of which may cover high levels in politics and strategy, in speaking about recruitment for the Services, but I do feel—and I Lope your Lordships will agree—that the maintenance of our Regular Forces is the backbone of our defensive system, and it is up to everyone who has the welfare of our Commonwealth at heart to see that it is placed on a sound and firm basis.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, I feel some concern this afternoon over what we have heard about Malaya. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, on behalf of the Government, pleaded "Not guilty" to any charge of having failed to do everything that they should have done; indeed, he went further and said that the Government had complied with all the requests put forward from Malaya. I am sure that we all accept these two statements made with complete sincerity. The noble Viscount, however, went further and, as I understood him, said with great frankness that he could hold out no prospect of an early clearing up of the situation in Malaya. Surely it is a very serious situation when the Government, having done everything that they can, having complied with every request put forward to them, have to say that we must look forward to a long continuance 795 of this painful and grim business. In fact, it confirms what I and, I am sure, many of your Lordships have heard of recent date, that the situation has deteriorated and is deteriorating.
I also noticed what was said by the noble Viscount about the terms of General Briggs' appointment. I confess that it seemed to me that there are a great number of potentates concerned in this matter of the campaign in Malaya. It did not appear to me that there was one man in charge of the whole business with supreme authority and under no obligation to consult anybody except the Government. In what I have read about such campaigns as the one now proceeding in Malaya, I can think of hardly an instance where such a campaign has been cleaned up until one man was placed in full control, given a free hand and supported in every way possible. In case after case that I can recollect, a long-drawn-out unsatisfactory campaign has been cleaned up when such a step as that has been taken. It remains for us to see whether the situation in Malaya can be brought to a satisfactory issue until such a step is taken there.
As regards the main subject of the debate this afternoon, defence of course is no longer an affair of guarding this country and the Commonwealth. It is now a matter which is interlocked with many other countries, and involves great political issues. We now belong to three strategic combinations—that of the Brussels Pact, that of the North Atlantic Union and that of the Commonwealth. May I say that I fully agree with what the noble Viscount said about the way in which the Commonwealth is now tackling these problems of defence? As an instance, I think of what Australia has done in the matter of providing facilities for a guided-missile range, which has been of very great value indeed. But as regards what was said about our Colonial Forces, I read with real regret a little time ago that the Cyprus Regiment had been disbanded. That Regiment mounted my guard at Government House, and every Service chief who visited me in Cyprus commented upon their smartness. I constantly visited the depôt of the regiment (and I am accustomed to inspecting or seeing other people inspect trained men), and that regiment came up to a very high standard indeed. The men from it went 796 into every one of the 620 villages in Cyprus, and in that Island the stories they had to tell about their treatment and the way things were run were, of course, of the greatest value to the authorities. I greatly regret that it has been found necessary to disband that regiment, and I can only hope that the War Office may find some other means of giving an outlet for the loyalty, the great sense of duty and zeal which animated the men of that regiment.
The debate this afternoon has largely revolved round the question of Pacts. Field-Marshal Montgomery has recently laid down some of the requirements for the efficient working of the organizations which result from these Pacts. I noticed in particular that the Field-Marshal stressed the question of political direction. He said that "military proposals involve political decisions," and that "these decisions require clear directions from above, given with great promptitude." In purely military matters, the Field-Marshal said, "rapid, precise decisions from a superior body are required." Again, his stress is upon promptitude. Lord Montgomery also pointed out that "The weakness of the committee system is that it is cumbersome and slow." He evidently feels himself more in the position of chairman of a committee than that of a commander-in-chief. In connection with these requirements—there were others put forward at the same time—I see that a considerable expert, in the person of Captain Cyril Falls, says that he sees no signs of the Field-Marshal's requirements being met. The Times says, "The organisation looks disquietingly complex on paper." Agreement may be reached on principles; but principles must be translated into action, and very often, I fear, national preoccupations prevail in such an organisation. The international machinery rarely fires on all cylinders, and considerations of national safety are often put before questions of international security.
I should like now to say a word as regards plans which are produced by such an organisation. Clausewitz says that:—Strategy forms the plan, but it will not do to form a plan, however good, and leave things there.How can plans for Western defence represent at this moment effective possibilities? We have no adequate professional Army. Recruiting has been 797 declining, and the conscript does not effectively fill the gap. Matters are much the same with the Air Force. France has a good deal of leeway to make up; distractions and dissensions which followed from the time of Vichy still affect matters. Those were tragic experiences front which it will take France a long time to recover. Holland, too, is reorganising after Indonesia, while Belgium is going through a reorganisation, replacing her General Staff system by three major command posts. Italy is in much the same position as France; she is passing through a period of reconstruction and recovery. These facts must militate very strongly indeed against the prospect of plans which are being formulated becoming fully effective for a very long time.
In regard to these plans, may I ask whether some information can be given to-morrow about the standardisation of weapons, training and equipment? The Ministry of Defence issued a statement on this subject last January, and agreement has been reached on this subject between the United Kingdom, America and Canada. That means that a policy has been arrived at, but there is no indication yet that the policy has found its way into the workshop. This matter of standardisation is of immense importance tactically as well as economically. But laymen probably do not realise how complex the matter is. It will involve a great deal of give and take in staff work, and much pooling of ideas and of information; great good will will be required, with an interchange of plans on a scale never heretofore attempted.
The political implications are very far-reaching. After all, we do not belong to the North American system and America does not belong to the Western European system. Are France and Belgium to be brought into this standardisation? If not, will the French believe in the bona-fides of our collaboration? There is an important and practical difficulty. Standardisation affects every sphere of civil industry, since much military equipment is built up on civil industry components; and the practice of civil industry, of course, varies in almost every country. I feel, therefore, that there cannot be much prospect in the near future of great results flowing from this policy—although of course, it is a policy in which every little counts and in which 798 every step that can be taken is of the greatest possible value.
Now I should like to say a word as regards Western defence. Can we really believe that the Brussels Pact and the North Atlantic Pact can provide the security they promise? What they aim at is to remove from Russian eyes the prospect of weak and divided but very desirable victims. Fat sheep tempt hungry wolves, and I imagine that the intention of these Pacts is to put a little more fat and a little more fleece on the sheep. But the Pacts together constitute a cumbersome and complicated structure. There is much overlapping and duplication, and an immense amount of hiving-off into committees and sub-committees. The difficulties and dangers were, I think, well put by The Times which said:The stage of principle proves successful, the stage of planning goes well enough, but when the stage of practical action is reached, there may be a dead stop. The peoples at large see nothing of this. The public may imagine it is getting much more for its money than is really the case, that it is being in some way protected when it really is not.As an instance of thinking something is there when it is not, I should like to quote what was said by a diplomat who was at the signing of the Defence Agreement at Washington. He said:We derive deep satisfaction from the conviction that we have profited from the lessons of history. We have refused to make all over again the fatal mistake of letting the aggressor pick some of is one by one.There you have the illusion that some security exists whereas in fact the nations concerned are more exposed to danger than ever.
I have quoted one statement made by The Times. I wonder whether your Lordships have read a despatch from The Hague to the same paper on March 28–it will serve as an illustration of what I said about hiving-off into committees and sub-committees. These are a few lines from that despatch:The Chiefs of Staff who constitute the military committee of the North Atlantic Treaty issued a statement … announcing their unanimous agreement on an integrated defence plan. … The statement said that planning had progressed rapidly … in the five regional planning groups since the general concept for defence was approved by the Defence Ministers' committee meeting in Paris. … The plan now approved had been developed from the regional plan by the standing group, which was in permanent 799 session in Washington and acted on behalf of the military committee. It was based on the agreed strategic concept of the North Atlantic pact countries, and emphasised the responsibility assumed by each nation to take part, with the maximum forces it could provide, in assuring the continued security of the territories governed by the North Atlantic organisation. It emphasised also the principle of harmonisation and integration of national effort. …The Chiefs of Staff (the statement continued) examined the special potentialities of each country, and they took into account the importance of such abilities while drawing up the general plan. The necessary close coordination of the work of the military committee with that of the other North Atlantic treaty organisation agencies concerned with the financial, economic, and supply implications of the plan was being effected.Is there any hope of that promptitude for which Field-Marshal Montgomery makes a special plea, coming out of such an organisation as that? What are the forces, the arms and the equipment behind these pacts and these committees? How far are their provisions effective? Are they affording any security whatever at this moment? How far are the countries concerned ready for concerted action in the event of emergency?
The Atlantic Pact envisaged an organisation embodying precaution and prevention, but at the moment we have something which gives neither. Are the forces, arms and equipment which are necessary to afford precaution and prevention genuinely at the disposal of this organisation? The essence of the problem seems to me to be that of finding the man-power necessary to defend a line of 300 miles of the Rhine between Switzerland and Holland. We can estimate the numbers required and presumably we know the number which is available. I hope the prospects of closing that gap are somewhat brighter than those of closing the dollar gap in the near future. Can we make Western defence a reality without drawing upon German man-power? The fate of Europe seems to me to depend at this moment upon whether Germany looks East or West. Bringing her into Western defence might be a difficult card for Russia to trump. At this moment the Western Powers are really wrestling with Russia for the soul of Germany.
We face in Russia, it seems to me, a far stronger enemy than we had in Hitler, both numerically and, in fact, materially. 800 I saw it stated in the Sunday Times the other day that:For every bomber Hitler sent Russia could send 100.If Mr. Churchill is right, Russia has some powerful submarines which threaten our shipping. The basis of Russian policy has always been the same: "Never miss an opportunity, but always retreat when confronted by superior power." Superior power to Russia will take a good deal of amassing. Your Lordships have this afternoon heard various figures quoted about Russian strength. I noticed the other day some figures which were quoted by General Omar Bradley, who gave the Russian army as 2,500,000 men, the air force as 600,000 men and the number of aircraft as 14,000 to 16,000. Of course, one hears very conflicting figures indeed, but I do not think that General Bradley would go on record lightly on a matter such as that. If those are the figures, then the superior power which alone will cause Russia to draw in her horns is a very long way off indeed.
The question of bringing Germany into the scheme of Western defence has been touched upon this afternoon. I can hardly think of a question about which it is more difficult to make up one's mind, about which it is more difficult to assess the pros and cons. It is a question which has to be considered in the cold light of reality, of knowledge and of past experience, not in the light of prejudice. Opinions differ very much. Mr. McCloy of Stuttgart asserted:Germany cannot be allowed to develop a military status which would threaten other nations or the peace of the world. That means there will be no German army or air force. German security will be best protected by German participation in a closely knit Western European community.He did not go on to say what he meant by "German participation in a Western European community." On the other hand, General Clay has advocated allowing Germany to contribute to a European military force, but only land contingents. This is the problem as I see it. If the cold war with Russia developed into a shooting war, the strategic possibility of defending Western Europe would surely depend on keeping Russia out of Western Germany. Therefore either the Western nations must guarantee the defence of the German Federal Republic, as in fact is implied in the North Atlantic Pact, or 801 they must allow the Republic to defend itself. The Times agrees thatGermany cannot be left without the protection to which every nation is entitled.Which is it to be? Those are the two alternatives.
But there is the German mentality, the German point of view also to consider. If Germany were asked for financial and economic help only, she might very well reply: "That is simply tribute and servitude." If, without being allowed to rearm, she is asked to contribute towards the cost of her defence, she might very well say that Western defence without her assistance is so inadequate that it is not worth her while paying for it. If she is allowed to participate in Western defence, of course some control could at first be exercised, but the point would ultimately be reached where such control would become impracticable: what could be controlled would be of very little value and what would be of value could not be controlled. It may be convenient for us to think in terms of Germany taking the first shock of Russian aggression on German soil, but Germany probably thinks in terms of a unified Germany and the restitution of the Polish provinces. She may make those her price for assisting in Western defence, or use any forces she were allowed to raise as a contribution to Western defence as an instrument for effecting unification.
I said we had to be guided by experience in this matter. The Germans have been proved to be a very dangerous race to trust with armaments. One never knows. There is all too much reason to believe that Germany cannot be trusted, armed. It seems that one never knows which side of the German nature will be uppermost. They have been very well described as a "race of carnivorous sheep." One never knows whether it is the man-eating side or the sheep side which is uppermost. As we try to resolve this problem of how far we can take Germany into a system of Western defence, the advantages and disadvantages are so nicely balanced that I confess I think of the Arab, who after a particularly bitter quarrel with his wife, lifted up his face in prayer and said: "Allah, what is this creature, that I can live neither with her nor without her?" I fear that Germany confronts Europe with a similar problem, but I think one thing is certain: 802 that the possibility of bringing Germany into the comity of Western Europe depends very largely upon the development of good relations between France and Germany. In that matter, I believe that this country alone can be the catalyst which can effect that mixture and mingling of the two races. But for the time being we are left in that unfortunate dilemma: do we bring Germany in and possibly raise up a Frankenstein monster, or do we leave her out and possibly find ourselves clutched in the tentacles of the Russian octopus? That is the dilemma which statesmanship has to solve.
May I, in conclusion, say that we now have to consider the strategic set-up in a wider context than those matters of which I have been speaking. We have to consider ii in the light of the hydrogen bomb and of China going Communist, a fact which threatens all India and South-East Asia and is in fact likely to shake those continents to their very foundations. The rival ideologies now confront each other all over the world, not in Europe alone, but it seems to me that the Atlantic and the Brussels Pacts hardly take account of that fact. Wider combinations are necessary to-day, especially as no individual nation can now afford the cost of adequate defence measures. This is a matter which has special relevance to such a highly industrialised country as our own, which so constantly needs capital investment to maintain her industries and keep them up to date. But no Western European country can afford adequate, all-round individual defence, which, as General Clay says, means that we have a little of everything but a lot of nothing. The cost now prevents any nation providing adequate defence independently. Meanwhile, our amiable and kindly scientists continue to offer us more frightful and more costly weapons, the cost rising almost as rapidly as the weapons become obsolete or require renewal. My Lords, perhaps the finance of this crazy progress in which mankind is at present engaged may drive us into a state of sanity, where humanity and reason have so far failed.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I have listened to the whole debate this afternoon. There is one point with which I should like to deal—namely, that raised by my noble friend Lord Swinton, when he referred to the Colonial armies. This 803 matter was debated fully last year and I am not going to repeat what I said then, but there is one point that I think the noble Viscount omitted when suggesting that these armies might be considered for the defence of this country and for service all over the world—namely, that I suggested then the opening of a big training school like Halton in which Africans could be trained in mechanical work. We have the Halton apprentice scheme in this country. The general feeling of the House was very much in favour of it, but nothing has been done, nor has it been inquired into, because it is thought that the various Colonies will have to pay for it. There is no question of that.
There are four points with which I wish to deal. I have read all the defence papers about which the noble Viscount spoke this afternoon, from 1946 up to to-day. I have already read all the statements on defence in another place, made in the debate which took place on March 16. My four points are, first, the statement in the Defence White Paper that there is no ground for any substantial change in the relative roles of the three Services, or for drastic curtailment in the strength of any of them. Secondly, there is no mention throughout the White Paper of the air bases which are necessary if air power is to be flexible and economical. Thirdly, I would mention the shortage of manpower in defending the Western Front which has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, and about which, therefore, I shall need to say only a little. Mr. Churchill mentioned this subject in another place on the 16th and the 28th March. My last point is to suggest methods for saving money and manpower in the three Services by the prevention of over-lapping in air power.
My first point deals with the statement that there are no grounds for any substantial change in the relative rôles of the three Services. My Lords, is this so? I refer to it, not for any controversial reason, but to show that a statement like this which is put into a White Paper may unintentionally mislead the public. It makes the public wonder whether those responsible for our defence are alive to the changes which have taken place in world defence conditions, and are therefore qualified to prepare for them. I fear 804 that the Government do themselves an injustice. I cannot help feeling that the public do not realise, although I know the Government and the Chiefs of Staff have fully realised, what a drastic alteration has come about in defence policy in the last two years. Never has there been such a drastic change. I refer to the fact that to-day we have no battle fleet, which for many years—centuries almost—was the most sure defence of these Islands and the Empire. To-day we have no large battleships, no battle cruisers, and really no large ships except a few large carriers. I believe we have one battleship for training purposes. It is the same in America. To say that there are no substantial alterations after two years is surely wrong.
In the years when air power was only just starting and in the early 1920's, just after the first Great War, one heard arguments, and right arguments, in support of the battle fleet. It was only in a previous Defence debate that there was mention of a battle fleet going to the West Indies, and how glad they would be to see that the Navy was being reconstituted, but the idea petered out. I am glad to see that several speakers in another place have mentioned the fundamental change that has occurred. But I wonder why this great change has not been referred to more openly. Is it because the Government would like other people to believe that we are building a battle fleet again? Evidently the Government do recognise the change, or they would not have abolished the Fleet. I cannot help feeling that the Government are not showing to the best advantage when they do not show publicly that they realise the great changes. They have brought about this change themselves.
My Lords, what is the object of our debate this afternoon? It is to prevent war, not only to win it. How can the nation prevent war without having confidence in itself and its leaders, the Government? The people know that great changes have been made, and if the Government do not show that they know it too, the people will think that the Government are fighting the war before the last one. Here was an opportunity for the Government to show what they have done and are doing. This secrecy that officialdom and, I fear, Governments love, is harmful to the spirit of the nation. The people of this country want 805 to do the right thing on the Services question, but because of Government secrecy are suspicious and doubtful whether the Government really do see the changes that have taken place and will take place in the future. The Government do not mention the greatest change in the last 200 years; they also do not mention, as many other speakers have, the atom bomb. I know many people say that none of these changes makes any difference to the principles. I always notice this argument raised whenever people do not want to admit that the great changes which have been brought about ought to have been brought about before.
I turn now to the next point which is causing me some anxiety, and that is the question of air bases. I should have liked to see air bases established throughout the Commonwealth and in those countries who desire to protect civilisation or who are associated with the Brussels and the North Atlantic Pacts. In the past, again learning from the old days and trying to apply the old principles to which I have just referred, there were long arguments and public discussions over the great naval bases at Hong Kong, Singapore, Malta, Gibraltar, Bermuda, Simonstown and other places—arguments to prove that they were necessary, as, indeed, they were, for the Fleet would otherwise have been immobilised. That was the argument, and it was the right argument in those days. So in the same way air bases are necessary to-day, or air power loses its mobility and, therefore, its usefulness. I hope the Government are not making the mistake of calling an aerodrome an air base. That is as far from being correct as it would be to call an ordinary harbour a naval base. You can put millions into the squadrons—in men and materials—but you will be wasting a lot of it if there are not bases throughout the world always ready at suitable strategic points.
I have seen no reference to this matter, and I cannot feel that the Government are alive to the necessity of establishing these bases. Is it because of what I have already referred to—this demand for secrecy—that they must not be mentioned? If we are to prevent war we must make it clear that we have these bases, just as the Admiralty used to make it clear that they could operate anywhere throughout the world. Their policy had 806 enormous influence on world opinion. In the same way, it should be made known that we can use the air in any part of the world. Why cannot we have great air bases in the Commonwealth and in those countries associated in the Atlantic Pact and the Brussels Pact?
Something may be said of the difficulty of making great air bases in a foreign country. We must remember that the Americans, without causing so much as a ripple in the public life of this country, have established air bases over here, and we are very thankful far them. The fact that they have done so brings our two nations more closely together, not merely in a Service way but in matters pertaining to the life of both nations. Not a word is mentioned about this, one of the two greatest changes that have taken place—this and the matter of the battle fleet—in my seventy-five years of life. Th noble Lord who is to wind up the debate for the Government will probably say that this is dangerous information to give a potential enemy, but I am afraid that that will not convince me or, I think, the nation.
Now I come to my third point. It has already been dealt with by several speakers so I will cut down what I have to say about it. I referred in this House two or three months ago, before the Election, to the same matter, though I did so in very guarded language. I am not a diplomat, and I thought what I wanted to say ought to be sail by a far greater man than myself. Fortunately, it has since been said, and in no uncertain terms, in another place by Mr. Winston Churchill. He declared that Western Germany must be considered by anyone looking to the defence of Western Europe, and that Western Europe cannot be defended without the aid of Germany. I am not an expert on foreign affairs, nor have I any connection with foreign policy, but I say that if Western Germany is not allowed to join in this plan, then Germany will unite again one day and she will go East and not West. We cannot find the man-power to keep out 200 Russian divisions if we do not tap all the sources of man-power of the nations concerned in the Atlantic Treaty and the Brussels Pact; and Germany is now an associate member of the Brussels Pact.
I come to my last point—how can money and man-power be saved in the 807 Services by the prevention of overlapping in air power? This really takes me back to my first point about the drastic changes that have come over the world. Mr. Churchill, in his speech on defence to which I have already referred, said:I do not propose to make any comments in detail upon this"—he was referring to the Fleet Reserve—but rather to deal generally with the great chance that has come over the naval position, and to try to focus for the House, so far as is possible, the new Admiralty problem.That showed that someone at least recognises the great changes that have come about in the world defence situation, and the fact that many members on the Government Benches in another place also referred during the debate on the Navy Estimates to the great changes that had come about in the naval position shows that it is no Party matter. I am not looking at it from a Party angle. Speakers from all parties, especially the Labour Party, referred to the changes which have occurred.
There is one matter upon which I fear I must differ from Mr. Churchill, if I understood his statement correctly. In his speech, he divided the air problem into two parts. He stated (and it is reported in Hansard, Column 1291) that it is obviously imperative that the Navy should manage its own Air Service. Then he went on to say:Nevertheless, in the sea war of the future, it is the air which will decide the fate and fortunes of ships of war.Later on, he referred to what he appeared to regard as a new problem. He said:Now I come to the general air problem—not the one connected with the Navy, but the general air problem.My Lords, we cannot divide the air problem into two. That cannot be done, and it never has been done successfully. There is only one problem. As I said earlier in my speech, battleships and battle cruisers—the battle fleet as we have known it in the past—are no longer in the picture; and the aircraft which embarked on the large battleships and battle cruisers—those aircraft which were considered part of the total complement of the ship—have gone too. Nowadays, we put the aircraft on carriers.
That brings me to the question of aircraft carriers in general. There is a great body of opinion—and I should have liked to hear other Marshals of the Royal Air 808 Force who are members of your Lordships' House speak on this point—in America and in this country which looks upon the carrier as obsolete. I have been out of things for twenty years, but I believe that if you asked some of the noble Marshals of the Royal Air Force to whom I have referred, who are all up to date in these matters, who all went through the last war, or some of the American airmen, they would say that the large carrier is definitely obsolete, and the small carrier a little less so. I have recently read histories of the air war in the Pacific by General Kenney, that great American airman, and the late General Arnold, who commanded the American Air Forces in the war. I have read the two volumes of the American Official Air History. I have also read the book by Asher Lee on the Soviet Air Force. Incidentally, I was somewhat surprised to see it stated in one Sunday paper that the Americans considered we were putting too much emphasis on the carrier question. I have also read, as no doubt many other noble Lords have done, that extraordinary book on scientific warfare by Dr. Bush. The same thing underlies all their statements: the carrier is obsolete.
It must be remembered that we now have machines which can travel at 500 miles or 600 miles an hour, which can ascend to heights of thousands of feet in a few minutes, and which can carry the atom bomb. Are we going to risk these machines on the most vulnerable aerodrome in the world, the aircraft carrier, instead of using the safer aerodromes of the land? I cannot believe that we are. A large amount of money will be needed to make these very fast and large machines, an enormous amount of research will be needed to enable them to land on the carriers. I do not doubt that it could be done, and that they could be landed, but it is probable that there would be many crash casualties. I do not ask for an answer to be given in public, but I should appreciate an answer given secretly as to what the casualties have been now, as the result of landing very fast machines on carriers.
I know what happened on some of the carriers in the last war. I know definitely how many crash casualties there were, despite the great work done then. No doubt carrier landings for these planes would be possible, if money, man-power 809 and time were no object, but even then, the planes would not be as efficient as those based on shore. In these circumstances I feel that efforts should be made to re-examine the training bases of the Air Services to see whether the training schools and many other activities behind the front line of the Naval Air Service could not be amalgamated with those of the Royal Air Force, and whether the Naval Air Service itself could not now be amalgamated with the Royal Air Force. We must remember how in the last war Bomber Command and Fighter Command had continually to work over the seas, laying mines and bombing ships, such as the "Tirpitz," and doing other so-called naval work which was really air work.
I feel it is my duty to raise this question. I do not want your Lordships to think that I am trying to re-open old controversies, but the situation with regard to aircraft carriers and the work on the seas has changed and is changing profoundly. I admit that on the other side of the argument there is the absence of open strife between the Services, particularly during the war; but is this right in peace time? I feel that sometimes we are in danger of getting agreement on the lowest common denominator. Are we justified in doing that in peace time? I am aware that I am identified as having fought with the Navy for the existence of an Air Force, and later with trying to prevent there being two Air Forces. Many did not agree with me, but I feel I am right in raising the subject now, in the interests of the country and of efficiency and economy. Airmen have talked about battleships so often in the past that your Lordships must indeed be weary of hearing it. Now battleships have disappeared, leaving hardly a ripple on the water, but leaving great names in history which will never be forgotten. We airmen used to talk about bombing, and we were attacked on all sides. It was said that bombers would never be able to stop great battle fleets going to sea, and they would never stop great armies marching. We had the last war, for all to see. We used to say that the air could defend these Islands and other places from ship-borne invasion. Leaving myself out of the question, were not the men of those days right? Therefore, I hope your Lordships will not altogether disregard my last point.
§ 7.3 p.m.
My Lords, in moving this Motion, the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, mentioned that the wider strategic problems must be dependent on foreign policy, and went on to say that any strategic plan must in its turn be dependent on three practical matters—man-power, material and money. Of these three the first is the most important, because the provision of material depends on the ability of our civilian man-power to produce it, and the provision of financial resources to pay for both the material and personnel of the Armed Services depends on our total national man-power for the creation and maintaining of those financial resources. It follows that it is that the most efficient use must be sought of our limited resources of man-power.
In order to emphasise that point, I would draw your Lordships' attention to a figure quoted on gage 31 of the Economic Survey, 1950, recently published. A figure of no less than 1,420,000 men and women is the estimated total man-power that are directly and indirectly employed on matters of defence—700,000 or thereabouts in the uniformed Services, 235,000 in the Defence Departments and certain other non-industrial departments, and 500,000 in industry. As I read the White Paper, that is a figure that is growing. It may appear little enough compared with the immense figures of man-power that the Russians can dispose, but when we consider it in the light of our total working population of only 23,000,000, and remember that our country depends for its livelihood on trade overseas, then this figure of those devoted in so-called peacetime to the Defence forces takes on a real arid important aspect. With that background, I want to turn to the Armed Forces themselves and consider the best use of the man-power we have in them.
I want to deal for a moment with the question of Regular recruitment, to which other noble Lords have referred. To my mind that is the key to the whole problem we are facing. It is most serious in the Army, very serious, I understand, in the Royal Air Force and apparent in the Royal Navy. I believe that in this matter we are getting ourselves into a vicious circle. I have always understood that the original idea of National Service was 811 to build up in peace time a number of trained Reserves. In paragraph 19 of the White Paper it is clear that the writers would agree that that would be a desirable object to aim at, arid I would support that view. But I am convinced now that the very existence of National Service men in Regular units, of whatever the Service, is to no little extent in itself responsible for the falling off of Regular recruitment. In so far as that may be so, the longer we continue as we are now, the further off will be the day when we shall not need to rely on the National Service men to carry out present-day commitments, whether they be in the Far East, the Middle East, Europe or at home. We are given to understand that so immense are the Service Estimates that we cannot expect any substantial improvement in the conditions of service for Regular personnel—at any rate, that is the impression I received from the debates in another place. I hope that when he comes to reply to-morrow, the noble Viscount will be able to tell us something more optimistic than that.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER or HILLSBOROUGH
As the noble Lord has raised this point, perhaps he will permit me to ask what sort of suggestion he has in mind. I cannot get the Conservative view on this matter clarified. I think it is only fair that he should put it now, so that I shall be able to answer it to-morrow. Eighteen months ago I obtained from the Chancellor of the Exchequer £12,000,000 extra for the personnel. In a debate in your Lordships' House that was described as "derisory." Now we are told that £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 would do all that is wanted. On which leg do the other side stand? How much is it going to cost to get the extra Regular recruits? Because at present the Opposition seem to be quite muddled in their thoughts about that matter.
I cannot speak for all my noble friends, but I have a suggestion to make. I mentioned this matter because I want to put forward a definite proposal which may be worth considering. We are given to understand that, so immense are the Service Estimates, there can be no question at the moment of an overall increase. Yet, if 812 we accept that statement, then I suggest we shall be submitting to the idea that we are virtually powerless to free ourselves from the present tendency of a falling off in, Regular recruitment. That is why I say we are getting ourselves into a vicious circle. Clearly we cannot by a stroke of the pen, as things are now, avoid the use of the National Service men for to-day's commitments. I am fully alive to the statement on page 10 of the White Paper, which says:The theory, for example, that regular recruiting may be improved to such an extent as to make it unnecessary in the near future to employ National Servicemen otherwise than under training is quite unrealistic.I would agree with that. But assuming it is agreed that the success of National Service men to-day—and we probably have all heard glowing reports of what the National Service man is doing all over the world—,is in no little measure due to the substantial leavening of Regular personnel in the units where these National Service men are serving, and if your Lordships agree with my thesis that the very existence of National Service men in Regular units is an important factor affecting Regular recruiting adversely, then we cannot avoid the conclusion that we are piling up difficulties ahead for ourselves, and we have no option but to seek some re-arrangement and new plan for the man-power problem, to which we can work through intermediate steps from our present situation. The first condition of any such re-arrangement must be to make it possible now to get right the conditions of service for the Regular forces—a point made by many noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Wilson. In these conditions of service I include not only pay, but married quarters, and the certainty of a job upon retirement—and not just a job, but a job that is commensurate with the seniority achieved in the Services.
As regards pay, the Government in their White Paper on pay and allowances sought to show that, at any rate in relation to other ranks, there was an attempt to equate Service and civilian rates of remuneration; but as a result of subsequent changes in the cost of living, and in civilian rates of pay, I think there is ample proof that the Service man to-day is at a disadvantage compared with his civilian counterpart. I would go further and say that under present-day conditions it is not even enough to try to balance 813 Service and civilian pay. I would suggest that there are good arguments why there should be something in favour of the Service pay as compared with civilian pay. The reason is this. To an increasing extent to-day civil industrial work is becoming the work of specialists, and requires a degree of technological training, at any rate for foremen and senior charge hands. There was a debate in your Lordships' House on technological training the other day, which merely served to emphasise the point I am making. While there are a number of Service trades which have their counterparts in civil life, there are a good many more that have not, and in those cases—and this is mentioned in paragraph 30 of the White Paper—I suggest it will become increasingly hard for the long-service man, who no doubt goes out as a senior non-commissioned officer, to acquire a job which has in any way the same status to that to which he has become accustomed in the Services. It may well be that he will have to submit himself, I will not say to a labouring job, but to an unskilled job, and one that is not particularly interesting. I doubt very much whether his pay will in all cases be made up by his Service pension. That is the tendency, and I believe it will prove to be a difficult one to solve. I support other noble Lords who have paid a tribute to the work that is being done on resettlement, and I am glad to see the reference in the While Paper to "Conference Ariel." But the problem is still there and I do not think it is really solved.
I have somewhat similar remarks to make on the matter of married quarters. In civil life a married couple may have to wait a long time for a house, but in due time they get it, and once they get it, in that respect they are substantially all right. But in the Services that is not so. They wait a long time for married quarters, and may feel a lot of frustration before they get them. The knowledge that they may have to repeat that experience over and over again, as they move from one station to another, may well influence them against re-engaging for a further term, and also influence others against going into a similar occupation. I suggest that a greater degree of preference should be given to Service married quarters than to civilian housing. I am aware of the existence of the Armed Forces (Housing Loan) Act, 814 1949. That is useful, so far as it goes, but I think we must go further if we are to overcome this problem.
I now come to the question of costs, on which the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, intervened. I know that what I have suggested would cost a great deal more, but I submit that so important is the problem of the Regular Service man in relation to our overall defences that this additional money must be found, even at the expense of something else. After thinking over this matter a great deal, that "something else" is, in my view, the National Service scheme as we have it to-day. With that in view, I suggest that we ought to consider—I agree over a period of a few years—limiting National Service to a term of no more than so many months as will enable the National Service men to receive an intensive period of initial and technical training. An announcement now on some such lines as that would make it abundantly clear what was the main purpose of a National Service scheme—namely, the building up of reserves. It should promise in the future—and I emphasise the words "in the future"—substantial reductions in costs. And on the strength of these reductions in costs in the future could we not now offer improved, and perhaps preferential, conditions for Regular personnel, with all that that would mean to them?
I can speak only from the point of view of the Army, but I dc not believe that reduction in full-time National Service training would seriously interfere with the Reserve Forces. I believe that loss of full-time training could be made up later. I feel that that is a practical suggestion towards a solution of this far greater and more urgent problem of reversing the trend of recruiting in of our Regular Forces. At the same time, it would have other effects. It should make it possible to reduce the number of exemptions and deferments, on which there is a good deal of heartburning to-day. It would cause far less break in a boy's career; it would be of assistance not only to the individual, but to industry, to agriculture, or whatever other civilian job he might have and, therefore, indirectly to the Services themselves. I realise only too well that that could not be put into effect immediately, but it could be started immediately. And unless we start now to take some definite 815 steps towards reversing the present trend, we shall find that our Defence Forces will become so weakened for want of Regular backing that the whole system will be in danger of breaking down.
I do not for one moment want to suggest anything that could be in the slightest way misinterpreted by our friends and Allies overseas as a sign of weakness or withdrawing from any commitment which we have made. But it would be much more serious if the solemn undertakings which we have given in the past—in the various Pacts which have been referred to—and similar undertakings which we may give in the future proved in the long run, if the time ever came to put them into effect, to have no more backing than an empty shell.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Hall, I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.