HL Deb 05 April 1950 vol 166 cc858-904

4.54 p.m.

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved yesterday by Viscount Bridgeman, That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the Statement on Defence, 1950 (Cmd. 7895).


My Lords, the purpose of my intervening in this debate is to deal with matters concerning the Royal Navy which were raised by noble Lords yesterday. It is the intention, with the permission of Your Lordships, that my noble friend Lord Alexander will deal in his concluding speech with the major points raised during the debate. I would like to join in the congratulations which were extended to my noble Friend on his admirable speech yesterday. I fully share the views expressed by him, for whatever might be said of the excess of planning by the organisations under Western Union and the Atlantic Treaty, the facts are that the twelve nations are bound together for the security of their countries against any aggressor, and as an earnest of intention one of the powerful signatories to the Pact has already voted large sums of money for equipment, some of which has already been delivered to Treaty countries. This is an action almost unparalleled in peace time.

In the course of the debate yesterday reference was made by some noble Lords to the need of additional expenditure on research and equipment. It will be seen in paragraph 6 of the Statement on Defence that provision is being made for an additional expenditure on research and equipment of no less a sum than £35,000,000 in excess of that which was provided last year. Indeed, the net sum provided in the Estimates for the purposes mentioned amounts to almost £250,000,000. That in itself is a very large figure.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, sought an assurance that the old principles of sea power and what they mean to a country placed in our situation remain, and that control of the sea routes is still as fundamental to large-scale strategy as ever it was. I have no hesitation in assuring the noble Lord that this is so, and that while new weapons, new methods of attack and defence, may require new means of exercising sea control, none the less the principles of sea power to this country, with its Commonwealth and Empire scattered over the world, remain true. The noble Lord was afraid that we were being put under some pressure from outside to reduce the strength of our naval forces. I can assure him and your Lordships that we are under no such pressure and that His Majesty's Government form their own evaluation of naval and military requirements. The strength of the Fleet has been shown in my Memorandum Explanatory of the Navy Estimates, and I would remind the noble Lord that while naturally he attaches most importance to the Active Fleet he must not overlook the enormous value of the Reserve Fleet. From the figures given in my Memorandum he will see that we are maintaining on the Reserve large numbers of vessels which in need will emerge to build up the striking power of the Fleet. Nor must he overlook the Forces and strength of the Commonwealth countries, whose Naval Forces are steadily increasing.

The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, complained of the inadequacy of the information in the Defence White Paper on the subject of naval aviation and anti-submarine defence. I do not wish to elaborate on these points at this stage, as your Lordships will shortly be having a debate on the subject of the Navy Estimates, but I would remind Lord Teynham that the Defence White Paper does not attempt to cover details of all the three Services which can more appropriately be dealt with in the White Papers relating to the individual Services themselves.

The importance of research and development to counter-measures against attacks by submarines with high underwater speeds, long-endurance and deep-diving capacity is referred to in my Memorandum, and the highest priority is being given to protection against submarines, both by surface craft and from the air. All told the Admiralty will be spending approximately £11,000,000 on research and development during the current financial year. At the same time increased expenditure of about £7,000,000 will be incurred for material and contract work. This is inevitable as our rundown of war-time stocks continues.

The noble Lord, Lord Winster, in a most interesting speech, asked about standardisation. I can assure him that so far as the Navy is concerned we are collaborating closely with the Americans in the adoption of common methods and equipment, especially in the all-important field of submarine warfare, where the two Staffs are developing a common doctrine and tactics. Similarly, we have made considerable progress under the Brussels Treaty, and agreements already arrived at provide for standardised methods of communication while common tactics are being developed through the exercises being carried out by the combined fleets of Western Union nations. The Royal Navy's rôle in this field is of especial importance, in that we provide the main link between America and Western Europe in naval standardisation.

The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, played lightly with the reference in paragraph 7 of the Statement on Defence when he stated that the inter-Service review of the future development of the Forces made it clear that there were no grounds for any substantial change in the relative rôles of the three Services, or any drastic curtailment of the strength of any one of them. The Paper referred to the present rôle and the strength of the Forces in the present world situation. Those who were responsible for that statement were fully aware of the many changes which have taken place, including the scrapping of many old battleships some time ago and the placing of the modern battleships in Reserve—not scrapping, as was suggested by the noble Viscount. The noble Viscount's main attack was on the Government policy relating to the retention of carriers and naval aviation generally. He said that he did not desire to revive old controversies: but what else was he doing?—for this is a very old controversy, and no one knows more about it than does the noble Viscount himself. The value of the Naval Air Service—its inauguration was in 1911, and at that time it was a young and growing Service—was proved from the very beginning of the First World War. By the end of that war, there had grown a feeling that all air work should be concentrated in one Ministry. That led to the passing of the Act in 1917 setting up the Air Ministry in 1918.

What a controversy the setting up of that Ministry caused! No one was a greater protagonist than the noble Viscount himself. Indeed, there was committee after committee, conference after conference, between two strong protagonists—the noble Viscount and the late Lord (Admiral, as he was at that time) Keyes. The result of this long controversy—I do not desire to say any more about it—was that the then First Lord of the Admiralty, the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, and the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence put up an unchallengeable case to the Cabinet at that time, strongly recommending that the administration of the Fleet Air Arm should be transferred from the Air Ministry to the Admiralty. The noble Viscount was one of the few who did not accept that position. Indeed, from his speech yesterday it is clear that he refuses to accept it even to-day, with all its advantages.


My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Viscount is inviting me to interrupt. Later, I will try to explain my view of it. What I understand the noble Viscount is saying now is that there has teen no alteration sufficient to justify this being examined again. I can quite understand his saying that.


That is what I said—that nothing has occurred since that date to lead His Majesty's Government to a consideration of a reversal of their policy as regards the control of naval aviation.


Then there is a difference between us.


But yesterday the noble Viscount went even further. He not only suggested a restoration of the responsibility for naval aviation to the Air Ministry, or a consideration of that plan; he suggested that there was no longer any need for such a thing as naval aviation—that in fact all flying tasks over the sea could be carried out by land-based aircraft, and that the aircraft carriers were no longer required. I must say that the noble Viscount's views are not shared by any naval authority and, so far as we know, they are not seriously shared by any Royal Air Force officer of high repute. Indeed, it is rather interesting to note that in all the debates on Defence the noble Viscount is the most persistent in raising this matter. There is scarcely a debate on Defence without not merely a reference but a very strong statement from the noble Viscount in relation to this matter—which, of course, he is quite justified in making. But he must not claim that there is a very large body of opinion in this country which shares his views.

I think that I should quote fully a statement made by Mr. Churchill in another place during the debate on Defence when (and I take it that he was speaking for the Opposition) he stated quite categorically that: In the Navy the war in the air and the war on the sea have become so closely interwoven as to be indistinguishable and inseparable. It is obvious and imperative that the Navy should manage its own air service. Nevertheless, in the sea war of the future it is the air which will decide the fate and fortunes of ships of war. Therefore, the aircraft carrier with proper naval protection must increasingly replace the battleships of former times. But what kind of aircraft carrier, and how many of the large or small types? To decide this you must look at the actual problem which lies before us. The combat of gunfire between lines of battle is utterly extinct. There is an indication in that statement that Mr. Churchill himself has not changed his mind from the memorandum which he drew up when this was a matter of high controversy in. 1937.


My Lords, as that has been read, may I clarify this point? I do not think that anyone contends—though I am not sure about the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard—that aircraft which are necessarily carried on ships and which cannot operate from anywhere else should be other than under the control of the Admiralty. I take it that the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, is not now asserting what was turned down repeatedly—and I do not think it has been argued for ten or fifteen years now—that shore-based aircraft are much less vulnerable than aircraft carried on a carrier, and that such shore-based aircraft should be operated only by the Royal Air Force.


May I interrupt once again? I think the noble Viscount said that he does not know of a single senior officer of the Air Force—here or in America—agreeing with what I said.


I confined my statement to the Royal Air Force.


May I say that I think there are a great number of senior officers, both here and in America, who subscribe absolutely to what I said yesterday.


Well, we hear very little about them. With regard to the point which was raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, I would say that for certain purposes land based aircraft are, of course, very suitable; but that is not so easy a matter as he mentioned. Indeed, conditions during the war were not quite that easy, because there had to be a good deal of naval supervision, even in relation to Coastal Command. But I do not want to go into that controversy this afternoon.

May I now refer to a paper which has recently been written by a former German admiral who served throughout almost the whole of the war? He has written a very long paper dealing with this particular point. I am not going to attempt to quote very much from it, but, summing it up, he makes it clear that throughout the war at sea the British Naval Air Arm played a decisive part. Indeed, the paper is full of examples of the failure of German and Italian naval operations due to the lack of aircraft, and he refers strongly to the decisive part played in naval warfare by the use of British aircraft carriers. He shows that this was true not only of the failure of the German and Italian surface fleets, but also of the decisive defeat of the German U-boat campaign in 1943.

Let us consider for a moment the rôles for which naval aviation exists. The noble Viscount complained that the Defence White Paper said that there were no grounds for any substantial change in the relative rôles of the three Services, or for any drastic curtailment of the strength of any of them. That is perfectly true. The importance of the battleship has decreased with the coming of air power and the increasing menace of the submarine; and it is the fact that there are very few battleships in existence in the world other than those possessed by the United States of America and the United Kingdom. The methods the Services adopt to carry out their rôles do not remain static. The noble Viscount was, I think, confusing the rôles with the means of carrying out those rôles. To-day the function of naval aviation—as was its function in the last war—is the anti-submarine protection of convoys and fleets; the fighter protection of convoys and fleets against long-range reconnaissance aircraft working with submarines; the fighter protection of convoys and fleets in an area where heavy enemy attack must be expected; and strikes against enemy targets at sea or on land.

The noble Viscount said that the air problem could not be divided. Whilst that may be true, it is surely also true that the solution to the air problem can and must be shared by the Navy and the Air Force. Can anyone suggest that shore-based aircraft could in the last war have given protection to the Russian convoys or sufficient cover to the landings in the South of France, and at Salerno; or could they have made possible the successful campaigns in the Pacific? Does he think that the protection of the Fleet and of convoys could ever be effectively maintained by aircraft which at any moment may be hundreds of miles away from the Fleet or the convoy which they are required to defend? No land-based aircraft could be constantly on call to meet such demands, nor could land-based aircraft afford that protection which must be given to any ships at sea against the shadowing aircraft, whether on long-range reconnaissance or working directly with submarines within the area covered by our surface craft. Indeed, the noble Viscount really surprised me when he asked whether it was right to have an absence of open strife between the Services in peace time. Surely inter-Service strife is something to be deplored at any time. The lessons of the last war have taught us the value of co-operation, and we can hope to carry out our respective rôles only if there is understanding and agreement on all sides on what we are required to do.

Certainly amalgamation of various functions might lead to economy, but the noble Viscount must know that he is not suggesting anything new. He knows that the basic flying training of all naval aviators is done by the Royal Air Force, and the possibility of further amalgamation has been examined. Amalgamation has already been carried out in certain spheres to the maximum extent possible. The Royal Navy is in close day-to-day touch with the Royal Air Force. Particularly is this so in the case of the antisubmarine school at Londonderry, where the two Services operate a combined training scheme which could only be carried out successfully where there is complete agreement on the different rôles of these two Services. The Admiralty has not challenged the acceptance by the Royal Air Force of the responsibility for carrying out the protection of coastal shipping with land-based aircraft; but I would say that in my opinion there is far more of a case for the Admiralty taking over Coastal Command than there is for the Royal Air Force to take over the whole function of naval aviation and to attempt to carry out with land-based planes the rôles assigned to the Naval Air Service.

There is ample opportunity for members of the Royal Air Force—Marshals of the Royal Air Force, or whatever their standing—to make their representations in relation to this matter. One of the members of the body which made the statement in the Defence White Paper about which the noble Viscount complained is an eminent and indeed a very gallant member of the Royal Air Force. He was a party to those words. The noble Viscount knows, also, that a distinguished member of the Royal Air Force is one of the Chiefs of Staff, and if there is a desire for the changes which are so often suggested by the noble Viscount I am sure many distinguished airmen would make their representations in the right place. The policy of His Majesty's Government is similar to that of the Commonwealth countries who possess growing air strength, and it is similar to the policy of the United States of America. In all the circumstances, His Majesty's Government could not agree to the suggestions which were made by the noble Lord.


My Lords, may I intervene for one moment? The noble Viscount who has spoken has made three-quarters of his speech an attack upon me. I do not think the ideas I put forward yesterday were unfair. I have a large correspondence from all over the world, and I still find that a large number of people want this matter considered again. That is all I asked for yesterday.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, this debate on the Statement on Defence has been so broad-based on general problems of strategy and, indeed, of foreign policy, that I must ask your Lordships' forbearance when I ask you to consider a matter of detail. I feel justified in doing so because the opportunity is here, and because I am disappointed that that part of the Statement on Defence which deals with man-power contains no mention of the officers. I agree that there is mention of the resettlement of officers, but we have first to get the officers and to employ them during their active years before any question of resettlement arises. It is in regard to medical officers that I am particularly concerned and very fully informed. There is no question at all that the supply of medical officers, to an army especially and probably to any fighting unit, in order to provide an efficient medical service, is of the greatest importance for the health of the troops. I think I shall have the support of every serving soldier, from the highest to the lowest, when I add that the medical officer has also a very big influence on the morale of the force.

I raised this question as long ago as December, 1948, and I pointed out the shortage and the lack of quality in the supply of medical officers to the Forces, particularly the Army. I agreed then that it was necessary to have a higher age for the call-up of medical and dental officers than for any other recruits under the National Service scheme. But at the same time I warned that even by raising the age to thirty there might still be a shortage. I advised integration, particularly with the National Health Service, and I feel justified in asking now what has happened, in view of the promise given by the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, as First Lord of the Admiralty, when he said that all these representations would be brought to the notice of the Service Departments and the Government. The position is now worse, and I think your Lordships should be informed that it will grow steadily worse through the next two years; and that in 1952 the shortage of medical officers for the Army alone will be about 500.

That is very largely due to the fact that it is estimated that about 800 of the men who will leave the medical schools as qualified medical men in 1952 will have already done their military service and will be ex-Service men. There will be no improvement in the situation until 1954. The shortage of specialists is really alarming. It should alarm all parents, it should alarm particularly your Lordships who have a general responsibility, and it should alarm the Government, who have a special responsibility. Young men, the flower of the youth of our country, are being sent to distant garrisons, and members of my profession in responsible positions are certainly not satisfied—nor is the Director-General of the Army Medical Service—that there is an adequate supply of specialists to care for them. The R.A.M.C. cannot from its Regular officers undertake to provide the requisite number of specialists, who nowadays have to have very prolonged training and wide experience. In some of the specialties the Service cannot provide any.

I think it will be obvious to your Lordships that in the very nature of things a young general duty officer in the R.A.M.C. who aspires to be a specialist in surgery in that Corps cannot secure adequate experience to be a surgical specialist simply from what he meets with during his service in the Corps. At the present moment, the R.A.M.C. requires 114 specialists for the half year that we are now in. Of those 114, twenty-four are surgeons. The number available to fill that requirement of 114 is twelve. It is obvious that we are reaching the danger point. The position is not a temporary one. There is going to be a permanent shortage. The Regular R.A.M.C., even with its full establishment of Regular officers, could not provide the specialists in peace time; there would be a shortage of 280. With the short-term commissions which are granted for a period of years, and including a proportion of specialists, the shortage would still be 142; and with the call-up of young men of some experience in the specialities the shortage again is 122. It is no solution to bring in civilian specialists and give them higher pay and have officers of the same rank receiving different remuneration in the Corps. That has been done, and it is a frightful and frightening expedient. It is unsatisfactory, it is unfair, it is expensive and it does not provide a permanent solution. Some of the remedies which have been suggested are palliative—for instance, an adequate supply of transport. Your Lordships will appreciate that a surgeon in an area who is confined for lack of transport, has a limited opportunity of service, whereas if he has adequate transport he can cover a much larger number of cases. Another suggestion—again this is only a palliative, but it would ease the situation—is that the Services should accept a lower physical standard for specialists, particularly those who are not serving under war conditions.

The fundamental point is dealt with in paragraph 23 of the Statement on Defence, which says: a high level of recruitment cannot be expected unless Service conditions compete in attractiveness with those of civilian life. That is the only way in which a proper solution can be found. The first requirement is that the pay of the Regular officers should be advanced. Some Regular officers serving now are anxious to retire. There is a ban on retirement. Do your Lordships think that that will lead to a contented Service? In fact, there is a considerable discontent, The Regular and short-term establishments can be increased, but that is no solution. The only way to get a specialist service for the Army under the present National Service Act is by obtaining civilians. There is a suggestion that the civilian age for recruitment should be raised to 45 years. It would be a serious matter if the specialist section of the population should have legislation levelled against them that might interfere with their careers up to the age of 45.

In December, 1948, I made a suggestion—which I still think is the right suggestion—that there should be some integration with the National Health Service. Those who hold whole-lime posts in the National Health Service should be appointed with a definite obligation that they will from time to time accept secondment to the Forces. They should be able to return to the civilian service without loss of seniority and promotion. In my view, secondment is the solution. The integration of the Forces' medical services with the National Health Service and with the Colonial medical services would do much to enhance the reputation of the Commonwealth and Empire. I submit to your Lordships that the matter is one of extreme urgency. I know that these matters have been considered in Department after Department, in the Defence Department and in committee after committee, and if the hold-up has been at the Treasury, it is time that pressure was brought upon the Treasury to permit of a solution being obtained.

5.31 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to address myself to the subject upon which the noble Lord, Lord Webb-Johnson, has just spoken. I did not know he was going to raise this point and I have not equipped myself with notes, but it is a matter with which, as chairman of the responsible committee, the Medical Priority Committee, I have some acquaintance, as has my noble friend who is vice-chairman of the same committee. It is true that the situation in respect to recruitment to the Service is very grave as regards both general duty officers and specialists. The fact that during the next two years so many men who would normally be called up for eighteen months' duty not be available for call-up, because they have exhausted their military service obligations before they become qualified, is a temporary matter. It does not make the situation at the moment any less serious. The situation with regard to specialists is serious, but I think it is only fair to say, because perhaps the House would like some reassurance on this point, that during an extensive tour which I made of the Forces' medical services in 1946 and 1947, it was clear that while there were difficulties in regard to the medical services, as indeed there were in regard to other services, there were no objectionable features about medical treatment; and, indeed, medical and surgical treatment was being carried out very well. During my tour I visited all the commands in which British troops overseas were engaged, with the exception of Japan, which from the standpoint of our influence was a very minor command at that time, as to a large extent the Americans dominated the scene.

In my view there is no doubt that the only solution finally is to regard the National Health Service, as the mother and father of all the medical services, in the Colonies, in the Services and anywhere else where numbers of medical officers are employed—for instance in the Overseas Food Corporation and the Anglo-Iranian Company. There are a number of different pockets of medical personnel all over the world—although perhaps the Colonial Service should not be described as a "pocket"; if it is, it is a large and capacious one. Unless all those medical officers are integrated in some way, as has already been suggested by my noble friend, then there will always be a difficulty. It seems to me, and I think my noble friend will probably agree, that we cannot make up the differences in the service in one part of the world and another merely by extra pay and extra amenities and facilities. We want some kind of general basis of security of life, and the solution seems to me to be the bold one that it should be regarded as part of the duty of those taking service in the National Health Service that part of their time should be given to one or other of the Fighting Forces. It would not matter at what age that service was given, and the time could be adjusted according to the medical officer's own work and the needs of the Service concerned.

Something on these lines, something striking, something new, will have to be done. At the present moment we are only at the beginning of the development of the National Health Service. It is not at all certain at the moment whether the hospitals in this country are not employing more people than they require. For instance, about eighty-two medical officers are registrars at one large hospital in London. That is possibly at least four times too many. Probably my noble friend would think it a good many more too many. Many things require to be done in the National Health Service, but I think that if the matter is tackled on these lines we shall find a solution. As this matter has been brought to public notice in this debate, perhaps it may serve a useful purpose if we make up our minds that the whole question of the medical services should be looked at from a national point of view, and all doctors regarded as being in one pool to serve the national interest, whatever it may be and in whatever part of the world it may be.

5.38 p.m.


My Lords, it is late and I do not propose to detain your Lordships for more than a few moments. I shall endeavour to be brief and I hope to the point. I wish to refer in particular to Malaya. I have only just returned from Malaya, leaving Singapore on March 23, so I have fairly recently returned to this country. Your Lordships are well aware that the position in Malaya is bad; that is common knowledge. Out there it is generally agreed that the position is worse than it has been for the last six months. I think everyone will agree on that point and that most people will also agree that the position is worse than it has ever been since the trouble started. For example, the capital of Malaya, as the House is aware, is Kuala Lumpur. Yet it may not be within your Lordships' knowledge that it is unsafe to go any distance, even a few miles, outside the confines of Kuala Lumpur city. I recently took off from the airfield at Kuala Lumpur beyond which, but quite close, there are some low hills, I should say about a mile from the High Commissioner's house; yet these hills cannot be safely entered.

Kuala Lumpur is linked with Singapore by a railway and by road. Neither are safe. Nobody, if he can possibly help it, will travel by road to Kuala Lumpur. If he does, it is at his peril. Nobody, if he can help it, will travel by train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, because it is also definitely unsafe. While I was there only a fortnight ago a railway station was burnt on this line—it is the only single line—seven miles from Johore Baru. Johore Baru is the capital of the State of Johore, which is just across the narrow Johore strait. Incidents occur all the time. Every day the local Press has its tale of people shot up, attacks of various kinds, and other unpleasant happenings. I do not want to overpaint the picture, but I repeat that the situation is very bad.

Hitherto we have talked about these people as bandits. But one asks oneself whether their character has not changed, and whether it is not now more a matter of organised guerrilla warfare. I believe myself that it is. We know that they are fully organised. One section of them is organised in uniform, with battalions, companies and all the rest of it; they are ably directed, and served by a large body of others, not in uniform, throughout the country—many of them terrorised, some of them in sympathy. At any rate, they are well served. There can be no question that their Intelligence service is extremely good—personally I suspect that their Intelligence service is better than ours. I was out there six months ago—as, indeed, other members of your Lordships' House may have been—and I came back at that time feeling greatly reassured. The general impression then was that the situation was in hand, or would shortly be in hand; that these bandits were being broken up into bands, which were being driven in and rounded up; that there was a great shortage of munitions and general supplies, especially medical supplies, and that it was only a matter of time before we had the situation in hand. At that time I think the generally accepted figure was that there were between 2,000 and 3,000 of these people still in the field—I do not guarantee the figures, but that is what one gathered.

The other day when I was there my visit happened to synchronise with the middle of the so-called "anti-bandit month," which your Lordships have seen advertised in the papers. I believe there has been a great rally of the loyal local population, and, amongst other things, while I was there there was published an up-to-date list of the "bag" against these bandits: it was about 3,000. I could not help thinking back to the statement made earlier that there were between 2,000 and 3,000 in the field last June. Further, inquiries now seem to establish that there are still several thousand in the field. If there were 2,000 to 3,000 in the field six months ago, and 3,000 have been put "in the bag" since, and still there are in the field 2,000 to 3,000, or perhaps even more, obviously there is something wrong with the arithmetic. Surely the explanation must be—as I believe to be true—that they are drawing on recruits locally. They are no doubt going in for a policy of deliberate terrorisation, in order to draw recruits to them, some willingly and some enforced. We were told yesterday in this House that all recommendations made by the local authorities had been adopted and, I gathered, approved. To come back then, to what I said before, if the position is, as I believe it to be, worse than it ever has been, surely there is something wrong: either the recommendations approved were not adequate, or in their approval they were watered down a little. Anyhow, the effect has not been striking.

So far I have perhaps given the impression of criticising rather too much. You may well say: What is the remedy? It is obviously not easy. For I am certain that the fault does not lie with our gallant troops, to whom this House has so often paid a well deserved tribute; nor does it lie with the loyal elements of the community, who have stuck it out in a most gallant way; least of all does it lie with the planters and their wives, who in order to earn dollars to help us bridge the gap, stay deep in the jungle at the risk of being shot up, day and night, at any minute. Therefore, one is driven back to asking oneself: Is it not a question of faulty system? And, if so, what?

I certainly would not wish to dogmatise or say anything embarrassing to anybody, but the system out there is very odd. There is, if I may say so, a plethora of high authority. Surely, when you are faced with an abnormal situation such as this, you may have to do something abnormal to meet it, and not have a series of high authorities of all sorts and kinds and not one solitary unified control. Therefore, what one asks onself is whether there ought not to be one individual "Supremo"—I use the word which we used at the end of the war when we had a "Supremo." I know that may be a rather startling suggestion to make—there may be constitutional and all sorts of other difficulties. But if it is a basic fact that the retention of Malaya is absolutely vital to our position in the Far East and to the whole of our world policy, then I feel we may have to take unusually stringent and drastic action. We may have to appoint one person with the fullest authority and powers, and with the assurance that he will be backed from home without question, to cope with what is undoubtedly a particularly critical state of affairs.

In fairness, in talking about the system, I think one must admit that it is a peculiar one. There is the Commissioner General, who I believe has no executive authority over the various Governors within that area. That is not only Malaya, but the whole area of the British territories in South-East Asia. There are four independent King's representatives—four Governors—all of whom have not only the right but the duty to correspond direct with the Colonial Office.. Not only that, but the Commissioner-General himself is under two masters, if I may put it in that way—that is to say, he is under both the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office. We all know that dual control is not always the best method of dealing with things, even in normal times, let alone when faced with a critical situation such as we have now. Therefore, I come back to what may be the totally impractical suggestion of a "Supremo" in command of the whole area, with full powers and full backing, whether he wants troops or more police or whatever he wants. Here I should like to pay a tribute to the police, because I think I left them out before. They have done a wonderful job of work.

I have said enough for the moment about Malaya, but as I am speaking I will just mention the general question of South-East Asia. I visited not only Malaya but also Indonesia and the Philippines, and so I have had a bird's-eye view of the situation as it is now. Your Lordships will not be surprised if I describe the situation as extremely grim. With China going Communist it has been infinitely complicated. That applies to every area throughout the whole region. There is one area, however, where perhaps there is a little ray of sunlight, and that is Indonesia. It is true that it comes a little late, and it would have been far better if it happened two years ago, but the Dutch and the Indonesians have finally composed their differences and an independent Indonesian Government are now in operation. They have been in operation only a very few months, and obviously there are difficulties to be overcome, but so far as I could judge they are making good. It is rather refreshing to find at least one area in that great region of South-East Asia where things are looking a little better.

French Indo-China I say nothing about, and Burma I say nothing about, but it is obvious that throughout the whole area this question of China has had a radical effect. There is not the slightest doubt that it has invigorated these gentlemen whom I call "guerrillas," and has added to their morale. What is more, it has added to their morale in the eyes of the local population in Malaya, which is very important. Naturally, the inhabitant of Malaya who lives there, and whose children and grandchildren are going to live there, keeps an eye on the main chance. A great many of them are determined to back the right horse. They watch the horse coming down the course—and some of them are past masters at doing that—and anything which comes along which strengthens the hand or adds to the morale of these so-called bandits acts conversely against us. Therefore, when I read in the Singapore papers a statement that the recognition of China by us had had no effect whatever on the increase or strength of this bandit business, I was amazed, because it was so patently untrue. Furthermore, the prospect of having Chinese Communist consuls throughout the British territories in the area fills people with alarm—and frankly I am not surprised. Anyway, that is the picture as I see it.

For the last couple of years I have said nothing about Malaya because I thought it was more becoming not to do so. But there comes a time when things reach such a pitch that one feels one would be failing in one's duty as a member of this House not to tell the House frankly if one feels that things really are serious, and that serious measures should be taken to put things straight. We have to hold Malaya—there can be no shadow of question about that. If we have to hold Malaya, we must be prepared to go a very long way to do so, even if it may be along rather abnormal lines.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships' House will have listened with great attention to the grave words which have been uttered by the noble Lord, Lord Killearn. He speaks with great authority, and with an authority born of knowledge and experience. I sincerely hope that His Majesty's Government will take due note of the warning which he has uttered to-night, and that the complacency—I can call it nothing else—which I detected in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, in this matter of Malaya last night, will now be removed, and that we shall see the problem deeply and properly studied. It is clear that after this long period of struggle if the situation is deteriorating, as the noble Lord has told us, something must be wrong, and certainly somebody must be to blame. We do not expect His Majesty's Government to come here in a white sheet, but we do expect them to come here with a mind receptive to suggestions and open to criticisms when they are so pertinently offered in such a statesmanlike manner. I think my noble friend Lord Mancroft had every justification for the remarks which he uttered last night. He has a most signal reinforcement in the speech which has just fallen from the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, and I hope that the 'Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will re-read every word and repeat it to his colleagues in the Cabinet.

We have had a long and interesting discussion upon a topic which I think we all recognise is of absolutely fundamental importance. When I was contemplating what I should say to your Lordships to-night, I re-read the White Papers which have been issued annually since 1946. They are not exactly stirring literature, but I think they repay re-perusal. In a sense they, are a mirror of events in the international field and in the military field in the last four years—sometimes we might be tempted to say a distorting mirror, but at any rate a mirror. We see that the expectations of the Government—and not only of the Government—that the world was settling down, figured prominently in the earlier White Papers. There were great hopes for U.N.O., and there was a natural preoccupation with the problems of demobilisation and with the disposal of warlike stores. There were hesitations about formulating a policy for what was called "the eventual shape of the Armed Forces," and there was implicit in the White Paper of 1947 or 1948 the assumption that the rôle of the post-war National Service men would be to form a trained Reserve in the event of war, while the permanent obligations of the Army would be fulfilled by Regular recruitment.

In the 1946 White Paper as my noble friend Lord Bridgeman has already stated, although Greece was mentioned, there was apparently no real perception of the significance of that episode. We see cropping up in the later White Papers, and g becoming ever more frequent, mention of unforeseen commitments and unlooked-for occurrences. Long-term planning about the shape of the post-war Service is rudely pushed to one side, while solutions for immediate crises have to be improvised, and resources which ought to have been devoted to training and re-equipment become absorbed in such enterprises as the Berlin airlift and in dealing, or trying to deal, with the troubles in Malaya and the Far East. Meanwhile, there is no treaty with Austria and our troops remain there; we have our commitments in Germany; and we see implicit in these annual Statements how far our resources have been stretched and how constantly arid how progressively long-term planning has had to give way to the march of events.

Then, in 1.949, the Government avowed their grievous disappointment with the failure, or apparent failure, of the United Nations Organisation to settle the differences in the world. We see coming into view a policy for regional security Pacts. I must confess that I have a preference for the older terminology, "a system of Alliances", but perhaps that is a little démodé, Anyhow, we see it becoming overt, and now it figures even more prominently in the recently published White Paper. Indeed, there is no chance relationship between the disappointment of the Government's hopes for the united efforts of the nations to settle their differences, and their recurrent inability to implement the plans which they wanted to draw up for what has been termed a "balanced system of defence." And why is this? It is because Great Britain, in common with Europe and the whole Western world, has been constantly reacting to Russian initiative. The Kremlin has given us no respite. It suits the Russian book to see us use National Service men so uneconomically as we have had to do to reinforce our troops in Malaya.

These situations have not just arisen; they are part of a grand design; and, so far, Europe has been saved not by policy but by the atomic bomb. Russia, on the other hand, has made in the circumstances what we must admit is from her point of view the best use of those years. She has consolidated her position in Eastern Europe: Communism under Russian influence has overrun China and, meanwhile, national divisions have been fomented by Communists elsewhere who are no less effective, though perhaps less overt. We have just heard Lord Killearn tell us how great is the jeopardy of the whole situation in the Far East. Truly there is no reason for gloom in Moscow, but I assert that here there are the greatest reasons for disquiet. If you see a man going up a moving staircase which is in reverse, you may admire his efforts to reach the top but you measure his progress by the distance he covers up or down. We have been on a moving staircase in reverse—and our progress, relatively, has been downwards.

We ought to ask ourselves three questions. First: how long have we got? Secondly: what are our resources? Thirdly: are we making the best use of both our time and our resources? Russia knows pretty well our resources, and she is not going to give us the time we think we need; she will undoubtedly continue, as she has done in the last five years, to attempt to forestall us by fomenting trouble and stirring up unrest in the various parts of the world that are least convenient to us and most convenient to her. I confess that like Lord Bridgeman I was deeply shocked at the Prime Minister's reply to a recent debate in another place. He said that the Colombo Conference was not primarily a Defence Conference: it was concerned with foreign affairs. My Lords, defence, foreign policy, and economic policy are a tripod. If one leg is short or deficient, the tripod will fall over. I was even more profoundly disturbed when the Prime Minister said in the same speech, speaking of Commonwealth co-operation in defence, that one cannot force the pace. In Heaven's name, if the Prime Minister of Great Britain cannot force the pace, who can? It is not we that make the pace: it is being made for us.

Therefore, I do ask the noble Viscount once again to take most careful note of the questions which were asked him yesterday by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. We on these Benches fully recognise the achievements in bringing about Western Union and the North Atlantic Treaty. We fully recognise the importance of the aid which the United States has given to the nations of Western Europe to supplement their arms and equipment. We must recognise that in the past we have not always been ready enough to fight a war—even though we have managed to achieve victory. And so I ask once again: Is Western Union ready now to prevent war? I ask also: Are the plans off the drawing board, and is there an effective joint policy? I ask: How soon will those plans reach the stage where planning ends and action begins?

I make no apology for re-presenting those questions to the noble Viscount. I think they are proper questions to be raised in Parliament, and if they are not fully answered disquiet will grow, not only here but in Europe, and reviving confidence in the future of Western Europe will end. And if it ends the task of integration will grow not easier but far more difficult. I was pleased to see the noble and gallant Viscount, Field-Marshal Montgomery, listening to our deliberations to-day. The whole House is fully aware of the magnitude of the task which faces him, and he also, I think, recognises the magnitude of his difficulties. But, as the noble and gallant Viscount well knows, on our success in meeting and solving these problems the whole future of this country, of Western Europe, and of the world will depend.

I offer two reflections. The first is that history and geography alike have cast on this country the rôle of leadership in these affairs. But His Majesty's Government must be equal to the task. The second reflection is that the best is often the enemy of the good: an imperfect plan acted upon is better than a perfect one laid by in a pigeon-hole and put on one side by the march of events. This is particularly relevant to the problem of Germany. As Lord Bridgeman said yesterday, planning staffs must have a clear direction upon this subject. I am sure it is an illusion to believe that there is time for us to observe Germany's behaviour and then decide. We shall not be given the time for such a leisurely procedure. Plans must be put into effect very soon, and they must be based on a firm decision now, that if Germany is to be left out then the military consequences must be faced, especially in the realm of military geography. It is fatal to base plans and obtain agreement upon a hollow formula which begs a question such as this. Even if we are successful, and even if at best we can put off another long and bloody struggle, the prospect which faces us is not a particularly pleasant one. We ought to realise that.

I can see no alternative to a long period of watching the frontier, and prolonged vigilance is the most wearying of all military preparations. The ability to maintain constant and effective vigilance depends upon a good morale; in fact, the outcome of this great struggle (for struggle it is) ultimately depends upon this factor. We are faced with the opposition of two rival philosophies. The Communists are constantly making a parade of theirs, and we must not underestimate their power. I think that we in Western Europe are in danger of forgetting the philosophy upon which our way of life—what we call the free way of life—is based. There is that philosophy and there are assumptions underlying the ancient civilisation of Europe, even if sometimes we forget them. I believe that the central assumption is the belief in the transcendental value of the individual human being. This has often been attacked but has never been abandoned. I submit that there is no compromise possible between philosophies so completely opposed.

In Europe the resolute opponents of Communism cannot understand an attitude which sees nothing wrong in the aims of Communism and objects only to its methods. If the defence of Europe is to be a reality, we must depend on those who are firmly opposed to all totalitarianism and are armed not only physically but spiritually to oppose it. I hope His Majesty's Government recognise this fact, that they will so act as to encourage their natural allies in the fight for freedom and that they will encourage them morally as well as materially. In this field, as in the whole sphere of defence, the gravest of responsibilities rests upon the Government. I hope and pray that they may be worthy of it.

6.14 p.m.


My Lords, the debate on the Motion moved by my noble friend Lord Bridgeman has ranged widely. It has given the Government many serious questions to answer, in particular the questions which were raised in two powerful speeches which must have disturbed your Lordships on all sides of the House, by the noble Lords, Lord Mancroft and Lord Killearn, on the Malayan situation. We shall await specific answers to the questions which were raised by those two noble Lords. I should like, if I may, first to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, on his appearance here at the Government Front Bench. I am sure that I express the wish of all noble Lords on this side of the House that his work in the Government in the high office that he holds may be both successful and congenial.

It seemed to me that the noble Viscount put forward his case as a happy man in a very contented state of mind, satisfied, as he felt he had a right to be, with the achievements of his Government and taking a legitimate pride in the contribution he had been able to make in past years at the Ministry of Defence. But I thought also I detected some slight resentment and some expression of a feeling of unfairness at the Opposition's boldness in query and in criticism. In respect of that particular aspect, the noble Viscount used what appeared to me some what strange tactics as a means of expressing that resentment. He made certain statements in the form of, one might say, a counter-attack that I think we on this side of the House cannot allow to pass unchallenged or uncommented upon.

I must quote the noble Viscount's words in the debate yesterday. You will find in Column 757 of the OFFICIAL REPORT that he said this: I should like to feel … that Conservatives had always been as zealous in 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. The noble Viscount then repeated what, if I may say so without offence, I would describe as another piece of complacency. It appears in the middle of Column 759, where he commented upon the Government in 1938 "not recognising the danger." The noble Viscount really must not presume that we all have such short memories on these matters as he himself appears to have. Let me remind the noble Viscount of two or three facts. When the National Government in July, 1934, decided to increase the Royal Air Force by forty-one squadrons—an increase which in fact laid the foundation for the fighter force which won the Battle of Britain—the Labour Opposition moved and supported a vote of censure in another place. That vote of censure or this measure of re-armament was moved by the present Prime Minster who declared—I quote his words—that re-armament was not calculated to add to the security of the nation, but was certain to encourage a revival of dangerous and wasteful competition in preparation for war. Continuing this reminder to the noble Viscount of some of the pre-war years, I would point out that in July, 1935, over two years after Herr Hitler had commenced re-arming Germany, my noble friend Lord Swinton, who was then in another place Secretary of State for Air, introduced a Supplementary Air Estimate. The Labour spokesman, en behalf of the Labour Party, dealt with that Estimate in these words: We are moving a reduction to show by vote as well as speech that we are determined to take exception at a time like this to the squandering of so much money upon the enlargement of the Air Service in this matter, quite needlessly as we think … We object to this country being committed to the air race that is going on. I must take the noble Viscount just a little further. As late as March, 1938, after five years of Nazism, when the National Government then in power asked for approval of further provision to extend the Armed Forces, the Labour Party condemned the provision of what they called "immense armaments," and the noble Viscount himself marched into the Lobby in disapproval of the proposals in the White Paper on Rearmament. Finally, four months before the war broke out, in April, 1939, when the National Government announced its intention to introduce a system of compulsory military training, the Labour Party voted against it. Amongst those who voted against it was the noble Viscount himself. Let me remind him that in those days the difficulties of the Government in office were much greater than have been the difficulties of the Government to which the noble Viscount belongs, because in those days the Government did not have the loyal support of the Opposition in matters of national interest such as this Government has enjoyed since 1946.

My Lords, our criticism is, not as the noble Viscount seemed to say yesterday, a criticism of what has not been done. I think the Government are fully entitled to the greatest credit for the work they have done in regard to pacts or alliances. Our criticism is that we are told we must be content with Government declarations; we must be content with what we are allowed to see; we must be content, as it were, to gaze at the shop window, at the same time being forbidden to enter inside to see what really exists upon the shelves, on the counters and in the cupboards. The noble Lord, Lord Killearn, used the phrase "a plethora of plans." If a plethora of plans and planning staffs can ensure security and home defence, then I must at once acknowledge that we have absolutely nothing to fear. But our criticism is that assurances on Staff plans do not replace the need for this country to have instantly ready defensive and offensive forces, made up of men and materials in sufficient numbers and of the finest quality, and also throughout the whole of the free world adequate bases from which those forces can operate. No noble Lord supporting the Government can say that this House has been told in positive terms that the nation possesses those safeguards.

The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, yesterday stressed—and I think quite rightly—the great contributions which Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada have made to defence. Of course, these are the outward signs of the determination of the Commonwealth brotherhood to stand four-square in defence of men's liberties against attack, from whatever quarter of the globe. We are faced with the possibility of a new sort of war. It war comes it is not going to be a war of country against country, where Staffs can prepare plans; where the field of battle can, as it were, be surveyed, like the Low Countries before the last war; where Staffs can plan out almost where battles will take place. Today we are facing a world crusade of an ideological creed which wishes to control the world—a creed which to us is evil and wrong. This crusade is backed up by great and growing armed forces. Here let me interpose the hope that the noble Viscount in his reply will deal very positively indeed—either denying them entirely or saying that there is substance in them—with the figures which were given yesterday by my noble friend Lord Swinton from Commander Asher Lee's book on Russian air strength, from which he quoted a production of 40,000 to 50,000 aircraft a year, and a first-line strength of 15,000 aircraft.

I submit that we cannot allow this debate to conclude without some sort of reassurance on that matter. Either that that report is entirely erroneous, according to the Government's information, or that there is substance in it. If this crusade, backed by these great and growing armed forces, which is at present engaged on the cold war of political penetration and the threat of force, turns into a hot war of guns and bombs, then the eruption may have a main field of activity. It will, nevertheless, be an eruption to a lesser or greater extent all over the world, for adherents to this creed of evil, which would kill freedom as we know it, will strike both visibly and invisibly, wherever they exist. So it is against this need for instant readiness that we ask the Government to give us a reassurance in public—or, if they feel that they cannot do it in public, then in private—that we have the necessary force ready at any hour it may be called upon.

I gather that the Government do not look favourably upon a secret session. Indeed, the question of a secret session was criticised by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Wilson, yesterday. The noble Field-Marshal has attained a position of great military eminence, but perhaps has not had so long in political life as the noble Viscount and myself and other noble Lords on this side, and we think one of the advantages of a secret session is that it enables members to put critical questions to the authorities without those questions becoming public knowledge, and Ministers can justify their actions, or otherwise, without giving away secrets. The value of a secret session is not the secret information which the Government could give to the House; it is the opportunity that is given for free criticism of Government action, and an opportunity for the Government to reply.

Against this need for instant readiness of our Forces, we listened yesterday to the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, justifying certain expenditures by admitting that for the last four and a half years we had, to use his own term, been "living on our own fat" as regards stores and supplies, and that now we have to replace those supplies and stores, and (I quote his words again), "even conventional stores." I think those are very grave words, because they arouse in my heart and probably in the hearts of other noble Lords feelings of misgiving that there are to-day shortages in essential stores in the Services which should gradually have been replaced over the last four years. We should not have allowed stores to be exhausted, which was the impression the noble Lord gave to me in his speech yesterday. No doubt he will be able to clear up that point.

My noble friend Lord Swinton yesterday pointed out that now Russia has the atom bomb we more than ever need not only adequate offence but a fighter force and radar matched, exercised and ready. It seemed to me that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, answered in advance that need with a truism which I have heard from Ministers before, "Better go for quality than quantity." That is all right up to a limited point only. I ask myself, as regards the first line of the Royal Air Force: where is that quality over the next three or four years? Let me take three main characteristic aircraft. First, fighters. We have Vampire and Meteor jet fighters. They are adequate at present, but according to all the technical information available they are inferior to the latest American fighter, and, if reports are correct, the new Russian jet fighters are their equal and, in some respects, their superior. One asks, in reference to the essential quality which is to discount any shortages in quantity, what is coming along, and when is it coming?

Take bombers. We have no jet bombers at all in our Royal Air Force squadrons. Russia is reported to have them. Bomber Command to-day has Lincoln heavy long-range bombers which are virtually obsolete aircraft. Now Bomber Command is getting the American B.29, which is already a semi-obsolete aircraft. I ask the Government: Where are our new long-range jet bombers? It is true, of course, that we have the Canberra, a first-class aircraft, a jet bomber; but it is not in service with the units yet. We do not know when the Canberras will be in the squadrons, and in any case they are only light or medium bombers and cannot supply the need for a long-range bomber of superior power for our long-range bomber force. The United States have already flying several long-range jet bombers and we may well say: Where is the quality over the next two or three years which is going to make up for the lack in quantity in our squadrons?

I turn to Coastal Command. I would say that Coastal Command is, as it were, in the doldrums to-day. The anti-U-boat squadrons have an aircraft which, as the noble Lord knows, is called the Shackle-ton. If I may say so without being rude, this machine looks rather like an outmoded Christmas tree, with everything hanging around it; and the pilots dislike it intensely. There is no new flying boat under development. What were known as the "Strike Squadrons" against shipping during the war are non-existent to-day in Coastal Command. I certainly think that the need which the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, mentioned yesterday for a quick striking force from the air against U-boats, is not met by the present state of Coastal Command. Again I ask myself, as regards Coastal Command: Where, now and over the next two or three years, is the quality which is to make up for the lack of quantity?

I turn for a moment to civil aviation, because there we have a much brighter tale; there we have quality. We have two aircraft, the Cornet and the Viscount, which are superior to anything else in the world. They are made by private enterprise. I ask myself: Where is the military counterpart of that technical ascendancy which we have in civil aviation? I wonder whether the noble Viscount will consider this—I do not expect him to answer—that a good many years ago Lord Rothermere, with great patriotism and at his own expense, developed an aircraft called the "Spirit of Britain." When he felt that officialdom was being resistant to new technical developments, he gave an order to Bristol's who built that aircraft, and from that "Spirit of Britain" was developed the Blenheim Bomber. That plane, I grant, was almost obsolete at the beginning of the war, but nevertheless it was a great technical advance and did much towards making our Royal Air Force operationally sound before the war. Can we not do something like that with the Comet, and so try to take advantage in the military field of the technical advances that we have achieved in civil aviation?

My conclusion is this. We cannot shelter behind a statement that we are going to have quality to-morrow. If we are not to have great quantities, at any rate we should be assured that we have the quality to-day. I do not believe that we have it, and I cannot see any prospect of that quality coming in our first-line units to any great extent for the next two to three years. We need the assurance now from the Government that the defence picture is better in reality than the Government's silence, combined with such information as we are allowed to have, so regretfully leads us to fear to be the case.

6.38 p.m.


My Lords, may I first of all say that I am very grateful to the House for the general tenor of the debate, and I am sorry if, as I gather from the speech of Lord Balfour of Inchrye who has just spoken, some of the things I said yesterday seemed to indicate that I wanted to make Party points in the course of the debate. No doubt from time to time there are occasions when we must necessarily make Party points, but from the point of view of the Government, I am quite certain that so far as possible we should always desire that in matters relating either to the general defence of the country or to the welfare and efficiency of the Services at least a measure of agreement should be obtained amongst the various Parties in the State, and co-operation in general in reaching the objectives.

Having said that, I would perhaps make only one very short reply about the series of political incidents that were quoted by the noble Lord who has just sat down. Of course, the short answer is that in the period from 1931 to 1939 (during the early part of which a great number of my colleagues now in the other place, including myself, were not in the other place) it was the constantly-expressed view of the Opposition that far too little attention was being paid to the basis of collective security, and that there was a tendency, when rearmament was brought before the House for approval, for it to be discussed usually upon the basis that it needed to be quite unilateral in its idea and construction, and it was not sufficiently related to collective security. Of course, it was always the practice of the Opposition, as it still is, to move reasoned Amendments to whatever Vote might be before that particular assembly, and to vote upon the reasoned Amendments without necessarily being against all the provisions before them.


Should I be right in interpreting the noble Viscount's attitude during that period as being that he was prepared to vote for other people arming to defend him, but consistently voted against our arming ourselves?


No, certainly not. If we are going to debate this matter on Party lines, I am prepared to do it. As the noble Viscount has done me the honour of referring to my attitude on another occasion, I say at once that I took the line in another place in 1938 that the direction of policy at that time was such that we were heading for war, and that when war came we should be found alone. At that time I quoted in another place the fact that in two hundred years this country had not won a major war without Allies, and powerful Allies. I said that the policy then being followed would lead at the start of the war to our Allies being non-existent for some time, and I remember, when what I had said eventuated, calling the attention of certain people to my statement in 1940. If I may do so without raising undue heat, I should like to ask the noble Viscount to read again the speech of his leader, Mr. Churchill, on October 5, 1938, after the Munich incident. There he will see where his leader placed the blame, who had the power, who had the responsibility, and also the criticism which Mr. Churchill made of the policy followed.


I can answer that with the full authority of my leader, Mr. Churchill. Generally, we did not do enough, but no help of any sort or kind was given by the Opposition and the last people who had any right to criticise were the noble Viscount and his friends.


That certainly could not be applied with truth to myself. I could if necessary quote many passages from Hansard to prove my case on that.

Having given perhaps too much time to the political points raised, by the noble Lord, let me deal with the main questions which have been raised during the course of the debate. I had to leave over from yesterday the questions of manpower and recruitment for the Regular Forces raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. It would be fruitless for anyone to suggest that this does not raise a problem which is very difficult of solution. The fact is that there was no Regular recruitment to the Royal Air Force and the Army in the years of the war. That, with the prolongation of the service of many Regulars during the war, and therefore the magnitude of the rundown in the Regular Forces of long-service men, from 1945 onwards, left a large gap to be filled. The actual amount of recruitment obtained during those years was not altogether unsatisfactory in comparison with the years following the First World War up to 1922 and 1923. In fact we obtained 298,000 Regular recruits for the three Services up to the end of December, 1949, which is about 50,000 more than were obtained in the somewhat similar period after the first war.

Then, however, the number of recruits that were being estimated for by the Government of the day did not exceed 340,000. We have a much larger objecttive in the number of troops which we consider it necessary to keep in the three Services for the security of the country and to contribute to the collective defence into which we have entered. The present position is that we have in the Services about 420,000 to 425,000 Regulars, which is rather more than the total number of Regulars the Services on the outbreak of war in 1939. But the position is not so satisfactory as it appears on the surface, because in the course of recruitment in the last three or four years we have had a number of short-service recruitments, some of which are likely to fall out soon, and something must be done to try to repair that situation.

The question can be approached in a number of different ways. I feel sure the Service authorities are not leaving out of account any suggestions that have been made, but I should like to examine one or two of them to see whether their adoption would lead to the solution we all desire to obtain; to have in our Forces at least the minimum number of Regulars required to keep the Forces as a whole efficient and ready to undertake the tasks which are allotted to them.


Experienced Regulars?


Certainly I do not think we can rule out the question of bounties. I will say no more about that matter except that it is under consideration. But I would say that the suggestion that substantial increases in pay will deal with the situation in the light of the circumstances we face is exceedingly doubtful. May I say, with respect to the authorities who have approached the matter from this angle, that I do not think we have been helped very much by some of the criticism in the Press, and in other places, with regard to the provision which has already been made in pay and allowances since the war? The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, justifiably asked how we looked at the position in relation to the statement of my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who said that there had been a 23 per cent. advance in general wage rates. I have had a look at the increases that have taken place in the Services. It is quite impossible in a short speech to go through the whole of the schedules of the pay codes but let me take three examples—no doubt I shall be charged with selecting the best examples, but noble Lords can compare them with others. First of all take a corporal, Class A, tradesman; his gross emoluments have improved since the middle of 1945 by 28 per cent.


Married or unmarried?


I thought the fairest way was to deal with the smallest family, of a man with a wife and one child. Then let me take a warrant officer, Class 2. His gross emoluments have improved since 1945 by 40 per cent. If I may take a rank equivalent to that of a captain in the Army, the improvement in his gross emoluments is 50 per cent. I know that I shall be told in the case of the officer and of the warrant officer, Class 2, that taxation now enters into the question, and that the position is different from what it was before the war. But in taking gross emoluments and seeing how they compare with conditions outside the Services, we must remember that Service personnel are not the only people who are paying taxation. There must be a comparison of like with like. We have taken into consideration the general question, and I am not suggesting that I am ruling out any kind of approach by way of bounty, pay or amelioration of conditions. But I feel that the best kind of solution will probably come from improvement of amenities, conditions, married quarters and the like, rather than by the increase of pay which is possible within the limits of the military budget we have adopted.

When I look at the question of married quarters, again I think that what has been done in regard to housing in the last four and a half years is hardly recognised. It is true that the Army, because of the enormous pressure upon them in their great demobilisation campaign, were somewhat late in entering into the provision of permanent new married quarters. They are doing well now. But it is also true that for many of our troops, and especially married troops, not only in this country but in other parts like B.A O.R. and Austria, we have taken at the public expense a large amount of furnished accommodation. At the present moment more than 44,000 of our Service personnel are actually accommodated, either in married quarters or in quarters which have been specially hired and arranged for them. May I remind your Lordships of something which I am sure is already known to you, but which needs to be put on record? It is felt strongly that, if we are to meet this kind of expense, we are entitled to be able to spread it upon a loan basis, in the same way as the civilian housing aid is spread over. That is the principle we have adopted, and this will enable us in the current financial year to start between 6,000 and 7,000 new married quarters for the alleviation of this particular problem of the Services.

I would not have your Lordships think for a moment that this problem is one which brings any feeling of complacency to the Government. We feel very strongly indeed the need for having the minimum number required of Regular Forces. There is nobody in the Party to which I belong who would wish to see National Service purely as something that must necessarily happen. If we could supply the whole of our defence needs at the present time by Regular Forces, no one would be happier than we. If you look at the technical requirements in the Royal Air Force, and in certain new aspects of mechanisation in the Army and new developments in the Navy, you will see that the same trouble arises. National Service for a comparatively short period of eighteen months, and the like, does not give the same result as would be obtained from the experienced Regular in those functions. We are doing our best to tackle the problem in the face of the great difficulty of doing it during a time of full employment—a time of full employment so essential to us for recovering our economic stability in the world. I believe it is essential to us, in present circumstances, as a first line of defence, that we should recover our economic stability in the world.

I pass to the next point about which I have made up my mind to say a few words and which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley to-day, and by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, yesterday. They asked whether all the planning and the organisation, and so on, in connection with the Brussels and North Atlantic Pacts have come off the drawing board. Are we beginning to show real progress? I should have thought I said enough yesterday to make it clear that they certainly have come off the drawing board; and the communiqué which appeared in the Press at the week-end, leading to the final approval of the strategic plans for the whole area of the North Atlantic Treaty—about which I think more is being officially stated this afternoon in the other place by my right honourable friend tie Minister of Defence—shows the progress which has been made m planning. In the meantime, we have never been idle. It was this country to whom the noble Lord said the others ought to be able to look for leadership, and they have not failed in looking to us for that leadership. It is from this country that the inspiration came to rehabilitate the French Navy—to give them help, lend them an aircraft carrier, supply them with jet planes and arrange for them to get the licence to produce jet planes on the British pattern—a point of standardisation, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, yesterday. That has led to the real birth of the new movement for collective security which is going on in Western Europe. The leadership in that matter has come from this country, arid has now blossomed out into the military aid from Washington, through the Military Aid Act, in the form of the arms which are now beginning to flow in to support the general efforts which have already been made by the countries of Western Europe.

We must not forget, either, that when the situation began to deteriorate, especially in 1948, we instituted an emergency programme of production in this country, and our production has been, from a military point of view, getting better ever since that was done. Before the final consideration in Washington of the Military Aid Bill, which subsequently became an Act, we entered into an agreement that we would put extra expenditure, manpower and material into military production, in common with our allies in Western Europe, as a set-off against the help the United States of America have given to us. That is the best kind of answer can give to your Lordships' House as to whether or not we are "off the drawing board" in the matter of planning. I beg noble Lords to look at the facts. While it is perfectly certain that they are right—and I should like to be right with them—in saying that there is an enormous amount still to do before we get the kind of complete readiness to deal with what might become a major attack, we want to call, not only upon our own people, but upon those in alliance with us, to see that no time is lost in putting our strength collectively into achieving the highest standard of efficiency.

The next point to which I want to refer is the point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and mentioned by other noble Lords, in regard to the Colonial Forces. May I say at once to the noble Viscount that I agree most heartily with him in what he said about the quality of the services rendered by the Colonial troops in tie course of the last war, and especially those from East and West Africa to which he referred. The noble Viscount is asking at the present time that we should consider going in for a large expansion of the use of Colonial man-power for military purposes, outside the actual military forces required for internal Colonial security. That, of course, raises a number of issues. I would say at once that I should welcome—if the financial and other conditions could be made—the opportunity of having such expanded Colonial forces. But, with all the other necessities which are pressing upon us in the military budget that we have, perforce, to present to Parliament in present world circumstances, it is extremely doubtful whether we could get an expansion of the size the noble Viscount seems to indicate. Moreover, it must be remembered that the extent to which you can use such troops in this, what I may call, present peace time—the world is at peace and not at peace in many ways—


We were speaking largely about Malaya.


If the noble Viscount will wait, I will come to it. In peace time there are limits to the ways in which they can be used. I am quite sure it would not be suggested that they could be used in Europe.

Questions were raised yesterday with regard to Malaya and Hong Kong. In the case of Malaya, we have the use of very efficient Gurkhas, and we have also the growing efficiency of the Malayan-trained troops. I saw some of them last year when I was in the East, and I must say that I agreed with the reports given to me that they seemed to have improved constantly under British training and direction, and that the other troops there are doing very fine service indeed. From that point of view we do not anticipate any difficulty. I assure the noble Viscount that in the course of the conferences and joint consultations with the Colonial authorities which we have had in the past twelve months, two things have been borne in mind. The first is that the standard and quality, and the organisation and planning of the present Colonial troops as they stand shows a very great improvement indeed, about which I am glad to be able to speak, because that is the view of all the military officers I have consulted. Secondly, the question of being able to expand beyond that basis of security forces is constantly under consideration, and if there were an opportunity to provide the extra facilities for that, without interfering with a vital service which, in the opinion of our Service advisers, it is essential to retain, then we should certainly not leave the matter out.

In view of what has been said, I think I should say a word or two about what the noble Viscount said concerning the book of Mr. Asher Lee on the state of Russian preparedness. May I say at once—I speak from memory about the discussions I have had—that the figures which were quoted by the noble Viscount from that book might be described as less inaccurate than many previous estimates have been. But I would not go so far as to say that they are accurate. The field covered by the book is naturally very wide. All such matters as are covered in it are constantly under study by our Intelligence. I should say that whilst the figures would not be as inaccurate as some previous estimates, they are not in our view accurate, and I should say that our advisers disagree with some of the assessments which are made in that book. Beyond that, I say quite frankly, I would not go in open session.


There seems to be a mania about security. Surely we should not be giving information to the Russians which they do not already possess if the noble Viscount was a little more informative and said in what respects he thinks Mr. Lee's published figures are wrong.


That would be just the kind of security matter which, in the course of a war—and I knew the noble Viscount very well and appreciated all the work he did during the war—the noble Viscount would not want to give, as to what his assessment was of a potential foe. I am quite sure that if he were dealing with the security side of this matter he would take exactly the same stand to-day as the professional advisers of the Government are taking, and upon whose advice we are acting.

I turn to the question which has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, and the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, today, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in his speech yesterday. I am rather astonished to think that some noble Lords feel that my attitude with regard to Malaya could in any way be thought to be complacent. I described the situation as very serious indeed. What I said was perfectly true, and that is, that His Majesty's Government have not withheld any part of the help which has been asked for at any time by the authorities in Malaya, Service or civil, and that we are determined that we will do everything it our power to bring the unsatisfactory position there to an end. I thought I was right last night in not holding out hope that that could happen suddenly. I see that my words have been somewhat differently reported in the Press. Perhaps the word was not clearly heard at the time, but I am quite prepared for my words as they appear in Hansard to be taken as they are and accepted on that basis. There was certainly no complacency about that.

The fundamental point which remains is the one which was raised by a number of noble Lords—I think by the noble Lords, Lord Winster and Lord Killearn—as to the need for having some central authority in this matter in Malaya. Well, I should have thought that I made it fairly plain in my answer to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, yesterday. In fact, when I read about the appointment of General Briggs by His Majesty's Government and the powers which are accorded to him, one noble Lord rather queried whether I had not been describing powers which might be too much to give him. With the experience which General Briggs certainly has in this kind of guerrilla warfare—and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, it is indeed guerrilla warfare—I have a great deal of confidence that that appointment will bring a marked improvement in the arrangements made to deal with the exceedingly difficult situation. I can assure noble Lords that we shall do our utmost to bring that matter to a satisfactory conclusion.

I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, one or two points about the general organisation, and whether it would function successfully in relation to Western Union and the North Atlantic Treaty. I read my noble friend's speech again this morning, and I did feel, if I may say so with respect, that if one took a view on the situation as he described it, without any determination to move on from where we are, one would almost say: "Well, what is the good of anything? Why try to get the nations together to resist possible aggression? Because it means the setting up of all this machinery and you cannot get all the things you want at once." I am quite sure that that was not the note which was uppermost in my noble friend's mind, and I am quite sure that he wants to see collective security obtained by this process. All I would do is to repeat that I am greatly encouraged by the situation, as a result of what has been done, compared with the situation as I found it at the end of 1946. No one could have sat through the discussions at the Paris. Peace Conference for dealing with ex-enemy peace treaties, as I did for many months, without being quite sure that something had to be done to arrest the drift that was going on at that time in the face of the infiltration of this other gospel against us.

I think that I have fully answered in my previous remarks as much as the noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, desired yesterday should be answered in regard to the matter we were discussing just now. But it would be discourteous if I did not make a special reference to what the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, said yesterday about the possibility of a secret session.


Is the noble Viscount going to say anything in reply to the specific questions I put to him about the Air Force? They were very specific indeed.


Yes, I will try to say something about that matter. But with regard to the proposal for a secret session, I have naturally thought over the position, and I have had to remember that if such a proposal were adopted, it would have to be with the approval of the whole of the Government, and certainly of the Prime Minister. The statement which the Prime Minister made in reply to the Question on 16th March, when the matter was raised by the Leader of the noble Viscount's Party, was, I think, expressing the view not only of the Prime Minister but of the other members of the Government; and I am therefore unable to add to the statement made by the Prime Minister in regard to that matter.

As regards the general position of the Air Force, I shall try to deal with as many points as possible. I understand that when we are dealing with the equipment of the Air Force we must consider, at any rate in peace time, quality first. But there is a time, as we all know, when quantity as well as quality must be considered. We are dealing now with a position in which we have been Producing very large numbers of planes in the last four years; and very large numbers in total have been supplied to our Allies. Certainly that is so in the case of fighter aircraft. With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, said about our fighters, I could not accept, without a great deal more evidence, that there are any superior fighters in the world, at the moment, to the Vampire and the Meteor. And with the increased performance of the latest type of Vampire—the Venom—still further progress is shown. But I am also sure that both Lord Balfour and Lord Swinton will be glad to know that the research development which is so important has come along very well indeed; and we have reason to believe that we shall continue to have great progress in the performance of the Vampire, the Meteor and the Venom.

As regards the bomber, it is true, as the noble Lord has said that from many points of view Lincolns are obsolete; but that they would be incapable of any good service I do not accept. Certainly in the case of the production of a new heavy 4-jet bomber, it is vital that when we get it it shall be the best, and that it will not need a constant series of changes and amendments before being brought into service. I am not going to mention any country in particular, but I hope the development work which is going on with regard to the British 4-jet bomber will not be subject to the alterations and so forth which seem almost inevitable in some of the aircraft which have been produced elsewhere. I am hopeful that we shall have the same success with the development of the 4-jet bomber as we have undoubtedly had in the case of the machine which the noble Lord rightly praised, the Canberra. I agree with what was said about the efficiency of our development work on the civil aviation side, and especially about the Comet. What the noble Lord said about this is worth looking at, and I know that the Secretary of State for Air and the Air Council will study the question, and, if the matter is not already under consideration, will see whether something of the kind suggested cannot be done.

With regard to Coastal Command, it is true that a great number of planes which had been in current use in Coastal Command in the last year or two have been on the out-of-date side. The noble Lord was a little scornful of the Shackleton, but I dare say some of the pilots of a few years back would have been only too glad to be given the Shackleton. There has been an improvement; but I hope that it will be possible for Coastal Command to be given some kind of progressive improvement in aircraft equipment.

My anxiety is to try to satisfy noble Lords on all the points they raise. They will, of course, not necessarily accept what I say, but I want them to feel that I have not neglected their points. There is one other question which was raised by the noble Viscount and that was concerned with air bases, not merely in our own country but in various places throughout the world. I can assure the noble Viscount, from my own contacts in the last three-and-a-half years, that this matter has never been outside our thoughts and our anxieties. It sometimes seems impossible to obtain even far less than what we should regard as essential. Sometimes we have to put things into a category between "desirable" and "essential," but we are certainly doing our best to get the air bases we require. It would be inadvisable for me to say too much about where the bases would be, and under what conditions, and so on. We have to make a distinction between a landing strip and a whole aerodrome.

I must apologise for having kept your Lordships so long already. I feel that my safeguard in not having covered the whole of the points raised is this. As I said to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, who has since spoken to me privately, there will be debates initiated in this House in the near future, especially by noble Lords opposite, on the individual Services. I understand that notice has already been given for debates on the Army and the Navy. Before then, I am certain that the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Hall, the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, or myself will be careful to study any other points which have been raised in the course of this debate. I am sure we shall be happy to try to deal with them in the course of debates upon individual Services.


In view of the full disclosures which the American Air Administration have made of their programme and progress, may I ask the noble Viscount, who has given a very detailed reply to-day, whether he has intentionally omitted to say anything about the first-line strength of the Air Force?


My Lords, I am afraid I must plead guilty to the noble Viscount that I do not wish to refer any more to that point, or to produce figures upon it. The circumstances are so different here. The geographical position of, and the immediate threat to this country are not as they are in the case of the United States, On the best professional advice we have to adopt certain lines of security for ourselves. As I said before, the experience we have gained, both during and since the Second World War, proves that very often the information we gave to Parliament in those pre-war days was successfully used against us by the enemy. I am sorry I cannot go beyond that. May I say that we take the attitude that, serious as is the situation, powerful as is the potential enemy, as the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, reminded us, and concerted as the pushing of his philosophy may be, we do not hold the view at the present time that war is inevitable?


Neither do I.


I am glad to hear that, because. during the course of the noble Lord's speech, taking it literally line by line as he was addressing the House, I felt that he had a conviction that there could be no compromise, that there was absolutely no other way out but war. I am very glad to hear that that was not the intention of his speech.


I was very careful to say that it was not my view. I said I thought the time was short. I laid the greatest possible emphasis on the word "time." I should very much like to hear the noble Viscount place a similar emphasis.


I did say that we do not regard war as inevitable.


Nor do we.


Nor do we consider that our growing strength and progress, and the further developments in planning under the North Atlantic Treaty, can fail to have their effect upon other nations of the world in which that same ideology and its pressure have to be met. All those things have to be taken in their ultimate influence. But the House can depend upon this: that through the United Nations Organisation, through our pacts already entered into, through our determination to use to the utmost the resources that we have available in our present situation, we shall put forward our best endeavours to preserve that very way of life referred to by the noble Lord, of which there are no firmer supporters in the world than those who form the present Government and those who supported the fight against totalitarianism throughout the last war.

7.24 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that my noble friends on these Benches would like me to express our thanks to the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, for the full way in which he has replied to this debate. There are one or two points he has not mentioned, such as the medical situation and also Civil Defence, hut I have no doubt that His Majesty's Government will consider what has been said in this House this afternoon and, if necessary, we can revert to those points at another time. We are all glad that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, has been in charge of this debate on behalf of the Government. As he himself said yesterday, he has a long and happy record of association with the Service Departments. In fact, I think that association began in 1929 when he succeeded my father at the Admiralty. We are glad to think that he is still in charge of these matters in your Lordships' House to-day.

I should also like to say how grateful I am to those of my noble friends who have supported my Motion. I feel that, long as the debate has been, your Lordships will all agree that it has been fully worth while. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, said yesterday that some of the words we spoke were moderate or mild, but I think he will have realised by now that moderate words weigh more heavily in this House than perhaps they do in another place. He must not mistake moderation of language for lack of purpose. I should like to associate myself with one remark that he made in his speech yesterday, his tribute to the work of the Staff Officers who are associated on these plans. From these Benches, we heartily echo that tribute. Our criticisms were not directed to tae Staff Officers. Indeed, we realise that the harder the political scene the greater the efforts required of them.

But if, on the main question this afternoon—the question of Western Union and Germany—we are asked to say whether the noble Viscount opposite has satisfied us, the answer to that must be a definite "No." He suggested that if we looked at the official announcement we should be satisfied that plans were coming off the drawing-board. I am sorry to say that that is just what I am not satisfied about. If we were asked whether we should conclude from the noble Viscount's words that real forces which could fight an enemy are there—the forces of all the different nations in Western Union which could be integrated and could take the field under the command of the various Allied commanders, including the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, Lord Montgomery, whom we were so pleased to see here this afternoon—then my answer is that I for one conclude no such thing from the evidence that has up to now been put before me, including the evidence that has been put forward this afternoon. Therefore, we shall have to watch the whole of this question and continue watching it with the gravest concern.

It is exactly because this matter is so difficult that this debate was staged. We wanted to draw attention to the gravity of the situation, and we wanted, as I think we have done, to assure His Majesty's Government of our anxiety and our intention to help in every possible way. That is why we did not say more than we did. That was why we never suggested that this question of Germany was not a very difficult one. That is why I agree very much with what the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, said in his speech yesterday, that this question had got to proceed by proven stages. But what we are anxious about is that those proven stages should start at once, because we are not convinced that they have begun. I shall say no more about the question of manpower. As the noble Viscount said, we shall have an opportunity to debate this question during the debate on the Army Estimates after the Recess. I think the noble Viscount will agree that this question of man-power is largely an Army question and therefore appropriate to be dealt with on those lines.

I should like to thank the noble Viscount for what he has said about the anxiety of the Government and of himself to examine this problem. We have here another dilemma. Just as we have a dilemma in the need for Western defence on the one hand, and on the other the German problem, so we have the dilemma of man-power—on the one hand, the need to find the necessary man-power and, on the other, the economic and financial difficulties. But those dilemmas have got to be resolved. They will not be resolved merely by repeating how sharp are the horns of the dilemma at the present time. So, my Lords, we shall come back to this matter again. We close this debate still with a real feeling of anxiety that all is not well in the defence of Western Europe. We feel a real anxiety that our partners in this defence of Western Europe, the Western European nations, should feel that we, like they, are in it. I do not feel that to divide the House to-night would add anything to the weight of the words which have been spoken in this debate in the last two days. Therefore, I think we should leave the matter here for the present. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.