§ 2.40 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON rose to call attention to the position in regard to National Defence; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the White Paper on Defence, which will, of course, be an important element but not, I hops, the whole basis of our debate, is the third defence and rearmament plan, or the third edition of the plan, which we have had in nine 447 months. I do not think it is true to say that an entirely new situation has suddenly arisen. Korea is not so much a new situation as a manifestation in a more aggressive form of a danger which has been apparent now certainly for two years; a danger no less apparent during those years in the vast armaments of Soviet Russia, in the seizure and absorption of satellite countries in the Communist bloc, in the campaigns in Malaya and Indo-China, and in the Communist cold war all over the world. That being so, though I shall speak mostly of the future, I cannot refrain from saying that the measures taken now should have been initiated long since. If they had been, we should to-day be in much better shape: we should have forces much better equipped and more fully trained, and we should certainly have a large rearmament programme well under way.
That delay makes it all the more important that what we do now should be adequate, right and effective, and should be our full part in a complete and coordinated plan. I hope it is so. But I am bound to say that this chopping and changing makes one very anxious. Is this a fully considered plan or, as in the economic situation, are we slipping from one expedient to another? Sir Stafford Cripps' words still ring unpleasantly in our ears:
We have been trying to deal with it by a series of temporary expedients which have led to a series of crises as each expedient has been exhausted. Now we recognise that this is not enough.
It is vital that our action, long-term and short, should conform to an overall strategic plan. It is by that test— whether we have a plan, and whether what we do conforms to it—that I would ask your Lordships to examine, first, the proposals in the White Paper, and then to consider some of the wider aspects of national and inter-Allied defence.
§ Let me take the White Paper first. It falls broadly into two parts: the proposed reinforcement of man-power, and the provision of munitions. With regard to man-power, the main proposal—others will deal with its provisions in more detail—is to call up 235,000 men of the Army Z Reserve and 10,000 of the G Reserve of the Royal Air Force for fifteen days. I ask this at the outset: 448 What is the real object of the fifteen day call-up of the Z reservists? Is it a mobilisation exercise, or is it hoped that, in addition to this, the short period of training will enable the reservist to become sufficiently proficient to take his place as an effective fighting man in the unit he will join on mobilisation? Is this in fact a temporary expedient, or does it conform to a considered plan?
§ Now, as I understand it, there is a long-term plan and a short-term plan. Under the long-term plan the Regular Army and the Territorial formations will be brought up to strength by National Service men who have completed their time with the Colours and have passed into the reserve. I believe that system has been fully worked out. I have no doubt that the noble Viscount the First Lord of the Admiralty will be able to tell us something to-day about how recruiting is progressing under the new conditions, and how quickly the National Service men will be able to pass into that reserve. But unquestionably the position to-day is this. The National Service men are being retained longer in the Army—and that is necessary—but as they are being retained longer in the Army, so the formation of what I may call the National Service reserve reservoir is proportionately delayed and so the long-term plan is delayed. In those circumstances, I submit that the short-term plan must be, or should be, to bring the fighting formations —Regular and Territorial—temporarily up to strength and sufficiently trained to go into action. To attain this result, it is necessary that the men who will be called up upon mobilisation shall be sufficiently trained to take their places as trained men in their assigned units. I do not think that will be denied. Nor do I think it will be seriously contended that a fifteen days' refresher course, useful as it may be in some respects, is sufficient to make those men trained to take their place in their fighting units; except possibly in a very few instances of men who will be called up into technical units to do practically the same job as they have been doing in civil life. Do not the Government accept that fact? Because if we take the parallel example of the auxiliary fighter squadrons, who are first line units in our defence, we find that the Government have thought it necessary to call up those squadrons for no less than three months' training.449
§ The Z Reserve call-up does nothing, as I see it—or practically nothing—to reinforce the fighting formations in Germany. Certainly nobody from the Z Reserve is going to Germany. But, surely, the forces in Germany should be the most ready of all. It is the front line of all front lines, and it surely should be the most ready, both as regards its corps troops and as regards its divisional units. I know that some of the ancillary units to complete our Army on the Continent are being formed and trained in this country, and I suppose they will be reinforced by Z reservists, but whether the men for the Army in Germany are trained here or in Germany, they are all first-line troops who should be fully trained and ready. I do not think it can be seriously contended that fifteen days will give that training. Therefore, I ask this question: Would it not have been wiser to call up a smaller number of men in the Z Reserve for a longer period of training—as has been done with the auxiliary squadrons—so that upon mobilisation the first-line formations might be really ready for action?
§ Whether this be a plan or an expedient, everything possible must be done to make this short training effective. Administration must be so stream lined that the minimum time will be spent on fitting a man out and the maximum time spent in training him. This streamlining would probably have been more effective—and I hope it will be as effective as possible —if the plan had been made last year. But I assume—indeed, I think it must be obvious—that the Army will have a great strain thrown upon it, and I suspect it will be short of competent instructors. I venture this suggestion: would it be possible to get a reserve corps of instructors, officers and non-commissioned officers, enrolled, say, for six months? I make that suggestion because, before the war, we had a very similar problem in connection with the expansion of the Air Force. We were expanding enormously the personnel of the Air Force and required a great number of new instructors and we obtained these by bringing back into civil and service training schools a large number of time-expired short-service officers, who came back voluntarily as instructors. If something on those lines could be done, it might be a great help 450 both to the Army, and to the Territorial Army.
§ I turn from men to munitions. Here we are up against an insuperable difficulty in appraising what is being done or in making any effective comment. I am sure we have all studied the White Paper and read the speech of the Minister of Defence; and we now have, and have read, the memoranda accompanying the Service Estimates. As regards the Navy, I must say the First Lord is much more informative than his colleagues in the other Services. The existing strength of the Fleet is given by categories of ships, and the number in each category; and a good deal of information is given about new construction, both types and numbers. In the Navy, therefore, we know the datum line from which we start and a good many particulars about the new programme. But when we turn to the Army and the Air Force it is very different; everything is obscure. We are given, it is true, a lot of percentages; we are-told that this is going up 40 per cent., that that is being doubled and that something else is going to be redoubled. But we have not the faintest idea what is the existing strength to-day in tanks, in guns, in aircraft, in radar equipment or in anything else. We do not even know the number of squadrons in the Royal Air Force, except the auxiliary squadrons. I do not know why we are allowed to know the number of auxiliary squadrons but not the number of Regular squadrons. We do not know whether the squadrons are on a one-flight or a two-flight basis. Not knowing the datum line from which we start, all these percentages and multiplications are meaningless. Not only do we not know what we have; we do not know what is being ordered; we do not know whether the factories can execute these orders, or what are the target dates for delivery; and we have not the least idea what prospect there is of these dates being achieved.
We have repeatedly raised these matters in your Lordships' House. Last July the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, gave us the assurance that all was well. On July 27 he said:
In regard to the experience before the war and what happened during the war in production, the noble Viscount made reference to shadow factories and asked whether we could rely on such capacity to-day. He seemed to be doubtful whether any such provision existed. To-day the productive capacity
of this country is far and away greater as a whole than it was in 1939. Learning from the experience of the pre-war and war-time period, we have never disbanded the machinery for controlling and planning for war requirements. The factories which have been in actual production of war requirements have all been co-ordinated and specially scheduled so that they are capable of expansion in shifts, and, on top of that, we have reserved the extra industrial capacity required for any emergency expansion. We are not quite so foolish as we are sometimes painted.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Well, someone must have been painting with a broader brush. If words have any meaning, what the noble Viscount meant was that we were in a much better position for getting our emergency programme carried out than in 1939. The noble Viscount persists in this.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Really, my Lords, "where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise." I can speak with some experience and responsibility of what was the position of the Royal Air Force before the war. Not only were the shadow factories in full operation, and had already produced great numbers of aeroplanes and engines, but there were also shadow factories producing propellers and carburettors. The regular aircraft firms had enormously expanded, and a vast programme of fighters and bombers was under way. As Mr. Churchill said in another place, every aeroplane that fought in the Battle of Britain was produced and laid down before the war started—and, indeed, so were the heavy bombers. The radar chain was complete —I wish that were true to-day—and we had stockpiled a great deal of material. Does Lord Alexander really claim that we are in that position to-day? The Prime Minister and other responsible Ministers tell a very different story. In the White Paper, Defence Programme, paragraph 11, the Prime Minister states:… our plans for expanding capacity "—which, according to Lord Alexander, were all ready—depend entirely upon the early provision of machine tools, many of which can only be obtained from abroad.452 The Chancellor of the Exchequer was even more explicit. He said:… the speed with which this extra capacity can be brought into operation will depend almost entirely on whether we can obtain the necessary machine tools.This is bound to impose a great strain on our own metal-working machine tool industry, as the following figures will show. The output of this industry last year was some £40,000,000. The mere re-tooling of existing plant will involve expenditure of some £50,000,000 upon machine tools in the next two years. In addition to this the new capacity to which I have just referred will require in the same period a further £65,000,000 worth of machine tools. It is clear, therefore, that we cannot possibly meet our requirements solely from our own production.The Chancellor also expressed grave anxiety as to shortage of raw materials.
We are made a party to these many anxieties; but we have no real information as to the programme. Hitherto we have been told that no information can be given on grounds of security. It is not so with the Navy. This is a great contrast to what is done in the United States, where they are very security-minded but where a great deal of information is given about the number of squadrons in the programme and the size of the orders for armaments and their progress. Of course, that does not mean to say detailed particulars are given of what is being made in what factory. But here, this rearmament programme, as the Prime Minister says, is a vital effort on which all our energies must be concentrated. It is the right and duty of Parliament to know what is being done and what progress is being made. If it is still said that this information, without which Parliament cannot discharge its elementary duty, cannot be given to us in public, then there is an overwhelming case for a full statement of our present position and prospects to be made to us in Secret Session, and for regular progress reports to be made to Parliament in the same way. We all want to help in rearmament; and we have some practical experience. But how can we help if we are kept in complete ignorance?
I will not follow the White Paper further, but I would ask your Lordships now to consider some of the wider aspects of inter-Allied defence and our position in relation thereto. We were told by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, last June—I have his words—that what we 453 were doing was part of an overall plan, that the plan covered all the land, sea and air operations for the defence of the North Atlantic area, and that the requirements of all three Services had been embodied in that plan. Surely, that must have been a somewhat optimistic and exaggerated picture, because since then we have had two new plans of our own. The noble Viscount added:Our aim will he to conform to the plan, but it will be necessary for other countries also to conform to the plan.Now that we have in Europe the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, the ideal man for that purpose, who is acting with great promptitude and who will soon have his inter-Allied Staff, and now that we have also in operation the Council of Deputies and the parallel organisation for co-ordinating industrial activity, it may be hoped that policy will rapidly be translated into action in all European countries. Accepting that now, at any rate, there is an overall plan, I would ask the House to consider certain elements which I think everybody with experience would agree are essential to the swift and effective implementation of the plan, and its adaptation to changing conditions.
Let me say at this stage a word about the European Army, and about the discussions which the French Government have initiated. After all, the essence of the overall plan in Europe is that there should be a European army under General Eisenhower's command. That army, and its tactical air force, will consist of contingents from the European countries, from the United States and from the United Kingdom and, with the proposals now on foot in Canada, we must gratefully say, from the British Commonwealth. As the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, said, we want the European countries to conform to the plan, and all of them to provide their agreed share of the aggregate forces. If the countries of Western Europe, including Germany, which is vitally important, agree that the best way, politically and militarily, for them is to provide their contingents in a European Army which is itself an international force, surely the British Government should welcome and encourage this instead of throwing cold water upon it. I think it is a great pity that we should be represented at these discussions merely by an Ambassador as an observer. I mean no reflection 454 upon the Ambassador, but this is not his job. Surely we could assist by the presence of the Service chiefs or senior Service officers who, without committing the British Government, would be able to give a great deal of practical advice and help. I should have thought not only that this would be a proper and natural gesture of good will, but that it would be of great value to ourselves, as well as to the European countries, that our Service chiefs should be in close touch with these discussions from the start.
We have all accepted enthusiastically the Supreme Commander in Europe, with his integrated Staff, and we can be profoundly thankful that General Eisenhower is to fill that post. Not only has he unique experience, but he has shown that he has a unique capacity—"unique" is a word to be used accurately, and it is used accurately in his case—for welding allies into a team and on a Combined Staff. But in the last war we had something which was equally essential in addition to the Supreme Commander: the organisation of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. And that would be just as essential to-day if it came to war. But is it not equally important that this Combined Chiefs of Staff organisation should be in existence now, when plans are being framed and carried into execution?
Let us be clear just what we mean by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. The Combined Chiefs of Staff organisation is not a committee of Chiefs of Staff of many countries, meeting from time to time. It must be a team working together all the-time. It must be of manageable size— that is vital. It should consist of the ablest professional men, pooling their individual and collective wisdom and experience. I hope that for this purpose there will be general acceptance that the Combined Chiefs of Staff might be a triple partnership—the United States, the British Commonwealth and Western Europe. Incidentally, the concept of a European Army makes that easier. If we accept, as we do wholeheartedly, a Supreme Commander-in-Chief, and take for that post the best man we can find, it should not be difficult to accept a Combined Chiefs of Staff organisation on the partnership basis I have indicated. What the Chiefs of Staff give is the ablest strategic plan. They do this on the 455 highest professional level. But they must always receive, and must be continually receiving, political direction and guidance; and that must come from all the Governments acting in concert. Moreover—and this is vital—such political guidance must be forthcoming promptly.
I turn to another aspect of the inter-Allied plan. Here, again, I believe that we shall be agreed. The co-ordination of production is an essential counterpart of the integrated strategic and operational command. Alike for efficiency and economy and rapid action, it is essential that what I may call the Combined Chiefs of Staff technique should apply in the production, as well as in the strategic field. America, the British Commonwealth and Western Europe together have far greater industrial resources, and greater, more varied and more advanced technical experience, than the Communist bloc. But to make full and rapid use of our resources and experience it is essential that munitions production should be integrated, should conform to the general plan, and should be distributed and carried out in a way which will secure the most rapid and economical production.
It is indeed of the essence of the Atlantic Pact and the Grand Alliance that, strategically and industrially, our whole enterprise should be integrated. Apart from the obvious efficiency and economy that integration brings, it has the great advantage that from the start fit unifies in one coherent, indissoluble whole our military and industrial effort. This indissoluble integration is the cement which ensures that we all act effectively together, and is the real answer to doubts and anxieties about full German co-operation. I have heard it said that anxieties have been expressed in some countries lest, if they were dependent on some other country or group of countries for the supply of some vital munition of war, they might be unable to equip their own force. But surely this limited view is contrary to the whole principle of the Alliance; it really is a form of isolationism. And if any country stood alone in isolation, it would not stand at all. Our strength is not only in unity, but in unity made effective by the most efficient collective use of our resources. This, indeed, is a condition of real collective security. 456 But, my Lords, the fact that the manufacture of munitions is distributed where it can be most efficiently and economically carried out does not at all govern the distribution of the product which is manufactured among the countries of the Alliance. Both militarily and psychologically there is the greatest advantage in all countries' contributing to a variety of armed forces, provided always that those forces are in accord and conformity with the strategic plan.
Let me take an obvious example. It would be a profound misfortune if the American Air Force were to provide the whole of the bomber force and the R.A.F. were to confine itself operationally to fighter and reconnaissance aircraft. I am sure that no such idea is intended: it would not only deprive our combined forces of much valuable operational experience and technique but would deprive them of something more important still—namely, that invaluable comradeship in all arms. On the other hand, this does not mean that we have all got to manufacture the arms and equipment that we use in the Grand Alliance. Our aim ought to be to make the best where the best can best be made; and the comradeship in arms will be intensified if our airmen are flying bombers which are made in the United States—it may be from a British design—and American airmen are flying fighters made in Britain. I hope and believe that these principles are universally accepted, and are being rapidly applied. I hope, too, that we shall have as little secrecy as possible about how they are being applied. I am sure that the great majority of people in this country, and in all the countries of Europe, want rapid action on these lines. Of course important decisions have to be taken by individual Governments, but once those decisions have been taken, as I hope they have already been taken, then the detailed application ought to be disposed of by the working organisations established under the Atlantic Pact. Indeed, it is the tes of an Alliance of free democracies to prove that they can operate as rapidly as. and more effectively than, a dictatorship.
One more point in regard to the strategic plan. The advantage which the United States, the British Commonwealth and Western Europe have in productive capacity and resources (and that includes raw material), if all these are effectively 457 co-ordinated, naturally leads to a consideration of the overall strategic plan which this integration should serve. We in the free world shall always be inferior in one respect, man-power; but that inferiority can be countervailed and overcome by the better use that we can make of our great scientific and technical knowledge, and of our resources. We all accept that the immediate and urgent need is the rapid creation and equipment of the Allied Forces under General Eisenhower's supreme command. I am sure that we shall all have confidence in the collective wisdom of the men who will, if they do not already, compose the Combined Chiefs of Staff, and I do not doubt that what I am about to say is even more present to their minds than to those of us who stand outside.
It has long been a cardinal principle of our strategy that the most effective defence, as it is also the most important deterrent, is a great counter-offensive air force, capable of striking an immediate and devastating blow That is not merely a matter of the effective use of the atom bomb. Recent developments which have taken place in the range, capacity and speed of aircraft, and in their offensive and defensive power, make the value of the atomic weapon and its deterrent force enormously more effective. This is a field in which mass man-power plays little part, and a problem to which it certainly is no answer; and it is a field in which the United States and we can enjoy an immeasurable advantage if we use our knowledge and capacity to the full. I do not think that anyone looking to the future would deny that this development of airpower must hold a predominant place in our strategy. I think it was General Bedford Forrest who said that if you are going to win "you must be able to get there firstest with the mostest." My Lords, I would adapt that to air strategy, and say "Get there firstest with the bestest." Such an offensive air force would prove a strong defence and the most potent insurance of peace.
My Lords, this debate will concentrate chiefly on arms and men. But as modern war is total, so our preparations to withstand attack and prevent its occurrence must be equally wide in their scope. In the cold war which is waged everywhere we must not be content to rest on the defensive. Here again, offence is the best defence. I have no doubt that the Gov- 458 ernment are fully alive to fifth column activities, actual and potential. It has been said that successful strategy depends on knowing what is happening on the other side of the hill It is equally important, and a good deal easier, to know what is happening on this side of the hill. We must know, and we must be prepared with special measures, if special measures prove to be necessary. But that is not enough. Always, all the time, we must counter-attack with truth, which is the strongest weapon and which in the end will prevail. That is one reason why excessive secrecy is bad. The more we are told, the more we shall convince others. We must carry the cold war into the enemy's country. If truth cannot penetrate the inner core of Russia itself, there must be millions in satellite countries who still hear and think and hope. The words "Ici Londres" were an inspiration in the war to countries under the heel of the invader. The same massage of hope, reinforced by the unity of the Alliance of the free countries, must go out continually from the free world to-day, and go out in words of leadership, confidence and courage. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.22 p.m.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (VISCOUNT HALL)
My Lords, I am sure that the House has listened with much interest to the speech which has been delivered by the noble Viscount. There is little to complain about with regard to the line taken by the noble Viscount, or, indeed, with the exception of his opening remarks, to what he said. I fully expected that he would refer to the fact—as he did—that there were "three bites at the cherry," and that he would say that we should have taken action some time ago. In fact, the noble Viscount went so far as to say that the danger has been apparent for some two years, and that action should have been taken long since. That is not quite in line with the attitude a year ago of the Party to which the noble Viscount belongs. A year ago, at the General Election, they promised the nation that if they were returned, taxes would be considerably reduced, that the cost of living would fall, and that controls would be removed. During the whole of the Election campaign, and in the publications which were issued by the Conservative Party at that time, there was little 459 or no reference to any increased expenditure upon defence. In fact, a reading of the literature reveals rather a tendency the other way. Is it yet a further case of thinking one thing and saying another?
Whatever can be said about the Government, their policy in relation to defence has been consistent. It may be that we should have spent more a year ago, although there was a good deal of criticism about what was being spent at that time, but I am hoping to prove, before I sit down, that we have had a good deal of benefit as the result of what the Government have done. I wish that the noble Viscount had been a little more gracious concerning what has been done during the course of the last five years, not only in the matter of maintaining strong forces, but also in relation to what has happened in connection with the stabilisation, and indeed the improvement, of the economic condition of this country. I am not sure whether noble Lords opposite are pleased or otherwise at the fact that we have been able to see the end of Marshall Aid without a crisis occurring; that, instead of a crisis, we are embarking upon an expenditure for defence which far exceeds anything that any person in this country expected a year ago. Having said that, I will now try to deal with some of the main points raised by the noble Viscount.
I am glad that he did not think this country had to deal with this question of defence in isolation, for in a number of speeches which one has listened to in Defence debates, so many noble Lords, and Members of another place also, have seemed to regard it as the function or the responsibility of this nation alone to deal with the menace with which the world is confronted. It can be said that the forces of freedom are to-day banded together far more strongly than ever before in time of peace. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has made great strides during the past year. It has now passed from the phase of planning to that of operation, and the noble Viscount will realise that in all fields, political, military and production, it has become an effective and active organisation. There is, of course, a Council of Foreign Ministers, dealing with the political side, and there is a Council of Deputies who represent the Atlantic Council in all its functions and act as the co-ordinating authority between the 460 military, production and financial authorities. Noble Lords will, I am sure, have welcomed the announcement—as it has been welcomed by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton—of the appointment of General Eisenhower as the Supreme Commander. His Majesty's Government have agreed to put their forces in Western Germany generally under General Eisenhower's command.
On the production side, a new Defence Production Board has been set up to replace the Military Production and Supply Board. This body has headquarters in London, and each country has provided representatives who can be readily available at short notice to attend meetings. The Board will have a full international staff, the head of which will be known as the Co-ordinator of North Atlantic Defence Production. I think that is what the noble Viscount Lord Swinton aimed at. This gentleman's headquarters will be in London. I understand that he is expected to arrive in this country before the end of this month.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
Yes. This country has already done much in search for peaceful settlements through direct talks through U.N.O., through the building up of the Western Defence Organisations, N.A.T.O. and so on. At the same time, during the last five years we have had to deal with many instances of aggression which have resulted in the expenditure of much money and man-power. Notwithstanding what has been done, this country, like all the N.A.T.O. Powers, recognises—and I make that confession here—that the state of its forces falls short of what is required, both in numbers and equipment, to deal with major aggression. The task of rearmament is no easy one: it is a formidable task. No one underestimates the gravity of the sacrifices which will be called for in the fulfilment of it. Few will question the necessity to undertake it. Our resources have to be used to provide an effective deterrent to aggression, and the only way in which that can be done is to have strong forces ready to act. We hope the programme which we are debating to-day will fulfil this purpose, in conjunction with the programmes of other North Atlantic Treaty Powers. As the noble Viscount rightly 461 said, the programme falls into three parts —man-power, production and finance.
It is not always realised that, as a result of our maintaining conscription in this country since the last war, we have trained nearly 1,000,000 men and that before the outbreak of the war in Korea we planned to have Armed Forces in this country numbering no fewer than 700,000. This makes a striking comparison with May, 1939, when we had only 480,000 Regulars, and quite inadequate trained reserves. Following the outbreak of war in Korea, we decided to extend National Service from eighteen months to two years, and to retain Regular reservists for varying periods up to eighteen months. This means that our Forces at the end of April 1, 1951, will number 800,000, and by April 1, 1952. should reach nearly 900,000.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
For all Forces. Thus we have prevented what has always happened before—the complete disintegration in peace time of the Forces built up in war. Moreover, we have achieved this with little or no interference with our industrial production.
Basically, of course, we are dependent on our Regulars, and the magnificent performance of our Forces in Korea, including the National Service men, is immensely heartening. Our troops have earned a reputation second to none. It is most encouraging (and here I reply to a question from the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton), that the recent increases in Service pay have resulted in a sharp rise in Regular recruitment. For the eight months before the increase, the average monthly intake was 3,673; for the last five months, it was 7,743. The remarkable thing is that in January the Regular recruitment went up to 9,200.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
For all Services. Of the 9,200 Regulars recruited in January, 5,000 enlisted in the R.A.F.—again, I think this is notable. This was four times the average monthly number recruited in the first eight months of last year.
I expected the noble Viscount to focus much of his attention upon the call-up of the Z and G Classes. The Royal Navy, 462 which from the point of view of manpower is in a special position, will be able to carry out its plans by calling up a maximum of 6,000 Royal Fleet reservists for eighteen months, and obtaining 600 officers from the Emergency List, the R.N.V.R. and the R.N.V.S.R. These men are not for training but for service. The problems of the Army and the Royal Air Force, however, are different. As regards the Royal Air Force, two essential parts of the air defence system of this country, as the noble Viscount rightly said, are the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and the Control and Reporting Organisation of Fighter Command. I am sure your Lordships will welcome the decision to embody the fighter squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force for three months, and to call up 10,000 men, mainly of the Class G Reserve, for fifteen days' training in the Control and Reporting Organisation.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
May I ask a question here?—I hope that I shall not put the noble Viscount out of his stride. The auxiliary squadrons will be in training for three months. Will they have the reporting and radar system, which is a necessary concomitant of their work, in operation with them throughout that period of training?
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I should think they will be in those areas where the system is in operation; it is not completely out of order. There are parts of the country where it could be stronger, but there are parts where it is working, and I believe that training will take place there. However, I will make inquiries and let the noble Viscount know. The Royal Air Force will also call up 1,000 air crew reservists of the Regular and Volunteer Reserves for a three months' refresher course, and about 200 may be recalled for flying instruction duties for up to eighteen months. It is hoped that a large proportion of these will be obtained from volunteers.
I should like to spend a little time dealing with the fifteen days' call-up of the Class Z Reserve, as the noble Viscount has dealt with it very fully. In time of emergency the ten Regular divisions of the Army will need supporting arms and administration to transform them from separate divisions and units into an army, and it is vital that we should increase the state of readiness of 463 the reserve divisions and of the Anti-Aircraft Command. For these purposes the Army proposes to recall up to 235,000 officers and men for fifteen days, mainly from the Class Z Reserve. This part of the defence programme has come in for more criticism than any other— and we have had a number of questions put to-day by the noble Viscount, who was not unnaturally anxious to know exactly what value we expect to get from only fifteen days' training. This is a most important point. To start with, let me assure your Lordships that as much as possible of the administrative process, including medical examination, will be carried out before the reservist joins for training. In this way we hope to make the least possible inroad into the time available for actual training during the fifteen days.
The training has four purposes. First, the reservists will be joining units to which they will be allocated in an emergency. Thus it will bring together the men who are going to serve side by side, and will give them a chance of getting to know each other, of sorting out obvious misfits and inefficiencies, and generally fitting them into a team. Secondly, the reservists will be allocated in the main to units of the Territorial Army which at present find it difficult to carry out effective unit training. I would emphasise that this is one of the most important and valuable parts of the whole plan, since not only will it improve the state of readiness of units and formation but it will also give a boost to the morale of the volunteers of the Territorial Army to see their units brought up to full strength and looking like real active forces. Thirdly, the men will be given invaluable refresher training, which will not only brush up their old skills but will introduce them to new weapons and tactics developed since the war. It must be remembered that these men who are being called up are trained men, some of whom left the Service only three or four years ago, and it will take but a short time to bring them back to the condition which we feel to be necessary. Finally, the value of the training as a mobilisation exercise will be considerable, and it will greatly help units to become fully effective in the shortest period after mobilisation.
464 I hope that I have shown that we shall secure real and lasting value from this training, and I would point out that any longer period would inevitably begin to interfere seriously with the industrial production of the country—and that is something which we feel we must above all avoid.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Before the noble Viscount passes from that, is he able to deal with the point that I raised, as to how this period of training will improve the training of the corps troops in Germany, who constitute the real front line?
§ VISCOUNT HALL
Some of those who will be trained in this country will make up the additional division which it is expected will be sent to Germany, and they will be assisted as a result of this training.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
The divisional unit I understand. I am not talking about the divisional unit. I am talking about the corps troops which are sustained in all divisions. I am sure the noble Viscount will agree that if there is to be an army ready for action it is important to have the whole of the corps troops ready, as well as the divisional troops, and, indeed, for them to be exercised together.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
It is expected that there will be great advantages as a result of this plan. The noble Viscount may be assured that a good deal of attention was given to this matter, and this was thought to be the best way to deal with it in all the circumstances.
So much for the extra men we shall require to carry out the programme. But your Lordships will want to know what all this means in terms of the fighting forces of the three Services. As has already been announced, by April of this year the Army will have the equivalent of ten Regular divisions, which will be disposed as follows. We shall send a further division to Germany, making our immediate contribution to the defence of Western Europe just over four divisions in all. We also have our widely dispersed commitments all over the world, and these account for another four and one-third divisions. The remaining one and one-third divisions we shall keep in this country as a strategic reserve.
465 In addition to these Regular forces, we plan to have twelve territorial divisions. I have already explained that the purpose of calling up the Z reservists this year is twofold: first to ensure that in an emergency the Regular Array will have effective supporting arms and administration; and, secondly, to ensure that the Territorial divisions and Anti-Aircraft Command can be mobilised for action as quickly as possible. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, rightly stressed the importance of production, to put "teeth" into these Forces. The production of weapons and equipment for the Army in 1951–52 is to be almost double what it was in 1950–51, with the emphasis on tanks and new types of combat vehicles —especially the Centurion tank, for which we are setting up two new tank factories. In Anti-Aircraft Command much progress has been made during the last two years in improving the readiness for war. A proportion of the heaviest guns have been greatly increased in efficiency by being converted to fully automatic control, and we intend to convert the remainder. Stocks of searchlights are sufficient, and stocks of the latest type of radar equipment have been increased by 45 per cent., so that most of the guns can now be equipped with this apparatus.
My right honourable friend the Minister of Defence said in another place last week that he attached first importance to the air defence of the United Kingdom, and I wish to re-emphasise what he said then. At the time of the Berlin trouble in 1948 we placed orders for jet aircraft which were to double the then rate of production, and last year we included in the 1950–51 Estimates much greater provision for jet aircraft than in previous years. These measures have already begun to bear fruit. We have now completed the doubling of the 1948 front line of the Regular day fighter squadrons, almost all of which are now equipped with jet aircraft, and there will be a further large increase in day fighter strength. Deliveries of the new aircraft will be coming forward as rapidly as possible.
The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, rather complained that we were much too secretive about the Services, other than the Royal Navy. I am sure that no one in your Lordships' House, or indeed anyone in the country, would like a disclosure of the strength of the Royal Air Force or of the Army. Once disclosures 466 of that kind are made, then the enemy benefit, as they did largely as a result of the information given before 1939. It was proved by documents which were captured and examined that the enemy reaped great advantage from the information which they derived from publications and from statements made in this country. I very much doubt whether there is a Service officer who has responsibilities in relation to this matter who would agree to a disclosure such as that for which the noble Viscount has pressed this afternoon.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
The noble Viscount must not misunderstand me. I said that if it was still considered that these particulars could not be given in public, then there was an overwhelming case for giving them to the House in Secret Session. I do not believe that any responsible Service officer would object to that.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I am not in any position to say yea or nay to a Secret Session, but I am doubtful whether, at a time like this, those particulars could be given even in Secret Session.
The effect of these defence proposals upon the Royal Navy will be greatly to strengthen our power to deal with the threat of the submarine and the mine, and to maintain the strength of the Fleet generally. In addition to continuing the work on ships now under construction, such as the fleet carrier "Eagle," which will shortly join the Fleet, the "Ark Royal" and the light fleet carriers of the "Hermes" class, work is proceeding on new frigates of the most modern types and also on the eight "Daring" destroyers, which are the most modern of their class, of which four will be commissioned during the course of this calendar year and another two by March of next year. Modernisation is proceeding on quite a number of ships, and a substantial number of ships are being brought forward for service from the Reserve Fleet, whilst some antisubmarine frigates will also be commissioned during the next financial year Orders have been placed in the ship building yards for a substantial number of minesweepers of entirely new design, and other orders will quickly follow. It should be noted that we have already refitted some 450 ships of the Reserve Fleet—all since 1948—and virtually all 467 the ships in the operational categories of reserve have been refitted with modern equipment. The Navy is expected to cost about £70,000,000 additional to that which was spent last year.
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend this point? When he speaks of £70,000,000, is that for the construction spread over three years? In other words, is there going to be more construction than that given in his statement.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
The £70,000,000 is additional to that which is contained in the 1950–51 Navy Estimates.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
May I put it in this way? There were two sums set aside for defence expenditure in addition to the Estimates for the current year, each amounting to £100,000,000. They will be embodied in the Estimates for next year. The £70,000,000 odd will be for 1951–52 in excess of that which was provided for 1950–51.
Before I turn to the effect which the new programme will have on the economic life of the country, I should like to add a word about research and development, to which we attach vital importance. We continue to lead the world in many spheres of technical development and the Avon and Sapphire jet engines, the Canberra bomber, the Centurion tank, our anti-submarine equipment and new marine propulsion, all show that the British genius for invention is as powerful a force as ever.
I do not want to deal too fully with the cost of this programme, other than to say that for the first year it will amount to £1,300,000,000—£500,000,000 more than defence costs for the current year. This amount will rise, so that in the third year it will reach possibly as much as £1,000,000,000 more, or a total for that year of £1,800,000,000, making a total defence budget for the next three years of about £4,700,000,000, 60 per cent. of which is accounted for by greatly increased defence production, research and works. Measured in terms per head of the population, it will amount to an increase for defence from £16 per head 468 of the population in 1950–51, to £36 per head in the year 1953–54. This is a very heavy financial burden.
May I ask the noble Viscount whether there is not, in addition, expenditure for stockpiling?
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I was coming to that. The above total does not include money to be spent on stockpiling— estimated at £140,000,000 next year—or capital expenditure on new plant purchased by the Government; or assistance given to private industry. It should be noted that these figures are based on present-day costs which may well increase. Other N.A.T.O. countries and the Commonwealth are also largely increasing their expenditure on defence. The United States of America propose spending about £15,000,000,000 during the next fiscal year. Canada's defence expenditure in the coming year will be four times as great as that envisaged before the outbreak of war in Korea. The French defence budget for the coming year will be 75 per cent. above that voted in July last, while the Italian defence budget will be twice as much as for this year. Norway and Denmark, despite their small population and lack of industrial capacity, are making substantial efforts. These huge sums indicate a frightening expenditure but a very necessary one. I should also say that our defence programme is based upon the closest possible co-operation with the countries of the Commonwealth, who are, as always, ready to play their part. Consideration is also given to the part which the Colonies can play in this great defence effort.
Production of the necessary equipment for the Forces is the most essential factor in this drive for rearmament, and I can quite understand the emphasis the noble Viscount placed on its importance. In planning our defence production programme, we have to remember that it must fit into the general production plans of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It will be for the Defence Production Board to co-ordinate national programmes to see that there is no overlapping or waste of effort. His Majesty's Government are determined to co-operate to the full in this combined production effort. At the same time, they take the view that it would be an unsound policy to allow standardisation or integration of programmes to deflect too much attention 469 from the immediate necessity of expanding national production as rapidly as possible. There is little risk that in adopting this policy any effort will be wasted, and it is certain that much time can be saved.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his recent speech—which would repay reading—dealt with the breakdown of the global defence expenditure, and pointed out that of the £2,850,000,000 involved in the three-year programme for defence production, research and works, no less a sum than £1,700,000,000 will be spent on production by the engineering and vehicle industries, in which is included the shipbuilding industry. Of the amount to be spent on production in these three industries in the first year, 1951–52 (£350,000,000). approximately one-third will be for aircraft; one-sixth will be for shipbuilding and marine engineering; one-sixth for vehicles; and about 7 per cent. for the radio industry. I thought the noble Viscount was a little unfair to my noble friend, Lord Alexander. If Lord Swinton will examine the productive capacity in this country, he will find that we are infinitely better off than we were at the beginning of 1939, for the whole programme which I have referred to represents an average of only about 20 per cent. of the engineering industry's output as compared with 80 per cent. in the middle of the last war. The amount to be spent in the first year is to be built up to a much larger figure during the next two years and is being injected into an industry many parts of which have full order books for the first time—particularly shipbuilding and marine engineering.
I should like to indicate to your Lordships how orders outside the defence programme are flowing into factories at the present time. The shipbuilding industry is flooded with orders. In 1949 the total orders booked were for less than 500,000 tons of shipping. During January and the present month orders amounting to nearly 1,000,000 tons have been placed with the shipbuilding industry of this country. We have met the warship builders and have had a guarantee that preference and, indeed, priority will be given to naval demands which will have to be imposed during the course of this year. Fortunately, some of this industry is situated where there is still some spare capacity 470 and unemployment, so that it will be quickly absorbed. The programme will be running at its peak in 1953, when it is expected that the actual defence output will be four times what it is now—that is, provided no serious delays have been caused by shortages of machine tools or raw materials, and that the necessary transfer of capacity and labour to essential defence work takes place quickly and smoothly. In this matter the Minister of Labour recently discussed with the representatives of the trade unions and the employers the question of the direction of labour, and all agreed that it is premature to come to any definite conclusion until the full impact of the rearmament programme develops. The Minister of Labour also pointed out that if it becomes necessary to control the engagement of labour, it will also be necessary to discuss with the employers how far their activities in employing workers in non-essential industries are to be restricted.
The labour position to-day is very different from what it was in 1938 and 1939, for at that time there were more than 2,000,000 persons unemployed. To-day there are some 300,000, many of whom cannot be transferred owing to physical disability, though in certain parts of the country there are vacancies for workers in excess of that number. Since 1939 there have been brought into production some 1,800,000 persons who in 1939 had not been mobilised for either the Armed Forces or civil economy. A large number of these, indeed nearly 1,000,000 of them, are in the engineering and manufacturing industries, where industrial capacity and output has greatly increased. That applies generally to most other industries, not only in this country but elsewhere, for it is estimated that the United Kingdom industrial output in 1950 was 8 per cent. higher than in 1949 and 40 per cent. higher than in 1940. Mr. Truman, in his report to Congress on January 13, stated that the United States' output had increased by more than 50 per cent. since 1940, 25 per cent. to 30 per cent. of which was since the end of the War. And the same thing can be sad, though not to the same extent, of most of the countries, of Western Europe. That gives an indication of the tremendous capacity available to the free countries who are bound together under the North Atlantic Treaty.
471 Some of the industry engaged at the present time in producing goods for civilian home consumption could be switched to defence production without much difficulty or a great deal of retooling; and to switch from civilian home consumption to defence orders would do the least damage to our export and investment. Where this cannot be done, steps may have to be taken to secure some transfer of labour from these industries into defence work. Some additional factory capacity will be required to carry through the full programme; and the speed with which this can be done will depend entirely on how quickly the necessary machine tools can be obtained. In addition to obtaining the largest possible share of the output of our own machine tool industry, and increasing its production if we can, we shall have to acquire very large numbers of tools from overseas, particularly from the United States. Large orders have already been placed both in the United States and Western Europe, and we shall do all we can to get this vital equipment in the shortest possible time.
Equally important in determining the success or failure to sustain a great defence programme while preserving the basic strength of our economy, is a sufficient supply of raw materials. This problem is essentially international in character, and there is little we can do on our own to solve it. It will be remembered that the Chancellor of the Exchequer visited the United States last September, when he discussed this matter with American Ministers and officials; and last week he announced the establishment of several commodity groups to examine the position. It is hoped that as a result the difficulty will be speedily alleviated. The full defence programme will have a far-reaching effect on industry. To carry it through effectively will require the fullest co-operation from management and men, and that must be obtained. His Majesty's Government are confident that with a full realisation of what is at stake this will be forthcoming. Both sides of industry will be taken fully into consideration at every stage.
In conclusion, I would say that we should be entirely unrealistic if we did not heed the warning signs. This nation, with the British Commonwealth, has been and still is a great power for good in the 472 world. Our combined resources with those of the United States and the other North Atlantic Treaty countries are sufficient, if properly assembled and employed, to enable us to beat off any attack if called upon so to do. I repeat that we shall have to go without many ordinary everyday things—a sacrifice which will be felt but which is not too great, for we know that the alternative is too terrible to contemplate or to permit.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I will not attempt to follow the noble Viscount who has just spoken in his references to who said what at the last Election; nor will I follow him in any way into that large part of his speech which was directed to prove that we are now in a better position, either to wage war or for defence, than we were before the Second World War. Rather would I compare what we are doing now with what the enemy, or our potential enemy, is doing. In many respects, this debate on Defence must be closely allied with the debate on foreign policy which will take place in a week's time. Foreign policy has a tremendous effect on defence. I will not go into the matter of the connection between defence and foreign policy more than to say that I suppose it embraces the questions of rearming Germany and the 38th Parallel. Both those matters have a profound influence on our preparations for defence. I will not attempt to go into that matter to-day because, for one thing, I am not competent to deal with foreign policy and, secondly, because I have noticed during my life that most politicians are under the impression that military officers (using "military" in its broadest sense) always "put their foot in it" when they mention foreign policy. So I will not attempt to do that.
There are a number of important points on defence involved in discussing war to-day; I feel that I must confine myself to a very few. First of all, with regard to the speech of the noble Viscount who introduced this Motion, I should like to say that I agree with every word that he said. Particularly I would mention the restarting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff organisation. Secondly, I should like to stress his point about the overdoing of secrecy as an excuse for 473 saying nothing. There may be something in this idea of secrecy in a minor way, but is it as valuable as letting the enemy know that we are prepared, not letting him think that we simply consist of nothing, or letting our own people know that we are prepared to take on any adversary? Will not such a course of openness do more to prevent war than this excessive secrecy? Another point is the necessity of rearming Germany (I realise that this is connected with foreign policy), and the necessity of readiness for war. As regards the Air Force, we began the last war with distance Mill dominating air power. Space had not been conquered. To-day, space on this planet has been conquered, at any rate for purposes of defence and offence. That is an important difference. The range of machines has increased. Of course, I must realise, and I do realise, that the greater the distance that aeroplanes have to fly, the more complicated is the apparatus in the aircraft; but. for all that, space has been conquered on this planet. That fact must not be forgotten.
In the last war, in order to have air superiority, we had to have aerodromes within striking distance of the enemy countries. In those days our maximum range was roughly 1,200 to 1,500 miles. Great progress has been made, both at the end of the war and after the war, and aeroplanes now have a range of 5,000 miles. If your Lordships will look at a map, as I have urged before in this House, you will see that England is still the centre of the productive world, of a hemisphere that has 98 per cent. of the production, and 96 per cent. of the population of the world. Therefore, as I say, if we want to prevent war, we must have a large number of these long-range machines, both fighters and bombers. With this force and cur possession of the atom bomb or the "block-buster," any potential aggressor would know himself to be vulnerable and would hesitate to start a war. With this force, air superiority can be fought for and won. Without this long-range force, it cannot be won. I will not elaborate those points further. Then it must be realised that it is no good having a great stockpile of atom bombs or "block-busters" if they cannot be taken to the spot where they are required. That point must not be forgotten. I will not enlarge further on this aspect.
474 There is another point that I must make (I have said this before, both here and in the Press), though I do not want to be unfair in any way to the Government. The Canberra, of which there has been talk again to-day, is, I agree, a wonderful machine, it is a splendid machine. But, as Mr. Harold Macmillan said in another place the other day:It is not really a heavy long-range bomber at all.The right honourable gentleman, the Minister of Defence, speaking about the Canberra in another place said this— I ask your Lordships to note his words:As regards bomber aircraft, the Canberra is now in production and the rate of output will be greatly accelerated. The formation of squadrons of this type will begin; shortly There is agreement throughout the world that this is an exceptionally fine aircraft and we expect to find that it will be adopted by a number of allied countries. A further important advance towards the re-equipment of our bomber forces is marked by the placing of the first production order for a four-engined jet bomber to replace the piston-engined 'Washingtons' which are the heaviest type we have in service in the Royal Air Force at present.As I say, the Canberra is a wonderful machine, but it is not the long-range heavy bomber for which I am asking. I feel that a statement like that of the Minister of Defence, and even in a minor way what has been said in this House to-day—that the Canberra is a fine machine—unintentionally misleads many people, who will say, "Well, there you have this wonderful jet bomber." It is nothing of the sort. It is a light, medium bomber, and it will not prevent war. It will not be able to reach enemy countries. It is vital that we have the long-range bombers and fighters if we want to keep the peace or win the war.
In plans recently made public (the Government spokesman will correct me if I am wrong), and we have heard it again this afternoon, I see plans for mobilising the fighter squadrons, the antiaircraft defences and radar; but I have, heard and seen nothing in any statement made in another place, or in this House to-day, either by the Minister of Defence or others, about any preparations for mobilising bomber squadrons, or even having long-range bombers. Are we going to wait until the enemy gets here? Are we going to wait until the enemy gets into the Allied countries? There is not a word about mobilising the only force that can possibly stop a war or can hit 475 the enemy in the heart. Do people really want to prevent a war, or are we only thinking of defending ourselves? On all sides, there is this idea of defence, defence, defence—the thought only of protecting ourselves. Is that going to lead us to have a bomber force as we did in the last war? I beg your Lordships to consider the necessity of having these long-range bombers.
Much is written and spoken about the overwhelming numbers of the Communist hordes. Heads are counted and comparisons are made between the numbers of potential enemies and our own numbers. I feel that this head counting has become an obsession with us. It is alien to our character. I was delighted the other day to see in the Press that Mr. Anthony Eden said that to-day there is too much talk about numbers. Many people are busy counting Communist heads. I have said for the last six or eight years that I wished this counting of heads would stop. I would again emphasise that it is not heads that matter, it is their capacity—what is in them. If heads alone counted, the civilised countries of this world might well be outnumbered by the uncivilised. There is in the world to-day a cult of equality. It is all wrong. There is no such thing as equality. If all people are equal, then we are doomed to carry out the policy of the majority of the world, however brutal and uncivilised—and I do not believe it.
In our past history we have more than once made our stand successfully against unlimited numbers massed against us. To-day we must do the same. We are capable of doing it. We must defend our civilisation and all that it means to us by making full use of our superior knowledge and our superior skill and spirit. We must employ that skill and spirit against the power of the Communist masses. Noble Lords opposite must agree with that. When we consider the Armed Forces that we shall require against possible aggressors, we shall find we are outnumbered if the chief weapon to be used is an Army. But I say that the chief weapon is the long-range aircraft, and the correct use of that aircraft. Only in that way can aggression be prevented. It was in that way that the big battleship and cruiser kept the peace for a hundred 476 years. They had absolute priority over everything—and rightly so. May the long-range aircraft have the same absolute priority! Remember the slogan: "We want eight and we won't wait." This does not mean that we do not want a Navy and an Army, but in the progress of arms to-day we do want overwhelming superiority in the air. As we attain that superiority we can reduce the size of our Armies and the number of bases throughout the world which have to be held very strongly at present by our Armies.
Over and over again it has been said to me, "You say that armies are no longer necessary. Look at Korea." I have never said that armies are no longer necessary. People also say to me, "We have in Korea an overwhelming superiority in the air and yet we cannot do without an army; therefore your air theories go by the board." It has been said that we must have tactical air forces to work with the army. I agree thoroughly. Some of my friends tell me that this is more essential than a strategical air force. I entirely disagree. My Lords, without a strategical air force we shall never have command of the air, and it will be quite impossible for the tactical air force to work. In the limited war in Korea the United Nations have had complete air superiority, not because we had a strategical air force there but because the enemy had no air force worth speaking of, and did not use what they had.
It is pointed out that the United Nations' forces were driven back and at times defeated locally; that therefore an army is still very necessary, and the army must be enlarged and not reduced. No airman has ever said that a tactical air force can win without an army—the idea is ludicrous. The very name "tactical air force" means that it is working with an army. But the tactical air force must co-operate with the army, and the army must also co-operate with the tactical air force. That is a point to be remembered. The tactical air force must be handled rightly; so equally must the army be handled rightly. By all accounts that is being done now in Korea. At El Alamein in the last war, if the army, under Lord Montgomery, had not used with the utmost vigour the advantages given it by the tactical air force, which had created chaos in the army of the enemy, that army would quickly have re-formed, and fought 477 again. It was the rapid movement of our army which emphasised and justified the power of the air. Tactical air operations alone could not have won that campaign. Field Marshall Montgomery knew that instinctively. He knew how to use the advantages air power had given him, and I feel that that is thoroughly understood in Korea to-day.
I come to another point. Reading and listening about war nowadays, my mind goes back over thirty years. The noble Viscount who introduced this Motion referred to mechanisation. I remember when there were no mechanised vehicles in our Army. Now we are completely mechanised. Mechanisation we hoped would make us more mobile. I sometimes feel that it has wrecked the mobility of armies. We think everything can be done by mechanisation. Psychologically, it affects everybody who deals with transport. We carry to the front line increasingly vast supplies under the name of "Welfare" We have on the road columns fifty miles long for one division. We carry grand pianos; and unlimited cigarettes. We must learn to control mechanisation so that the evils it brings with it do not make for the loss of mobility, as is the case at present. Still the best form of transportation in war is what many people nowadays seldom use—namely, their legs.
The last point I should like to touch upon is one about which I have read in a great lumber of despatches, official documents and books of the last war. I have read many of them which have been produced by our Allies, and I am more and more amazed at the complicated organisation considered necessary to wage modern war. I see in White Papers, and I have heard speeches by the Minister of Defence and others, both in another place and here, about the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Brussels Pact, the Supreme Headquarters, the Defence Production Board (which has also been mentioned by the noble Viscount opposite), and all the different organisations which have been set up. That may be all right, but I should like to say once more, and as strongly as I can, that the simplest organisation in war is difficult enough in all conscience, but a complicated organisation is impossible.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, the noble Viscount the First Lord referred in the 478 course of his speech to the fact that our shipbuilding yards are at the present moment very full indeed of work. I had occasion to go into this matter towards the end of last year, when I found that they had on their books orders amounting to over £250,000,000. I was interested in the matter because at that time there was grave reason to fear that among merchant navy officers there was a drift away from the sea. It was an undoubted fact that that drift was taking place, and I was anxious because clearly, in the event of war coming, it would be a very serious matter if we were short of merchant navy officers. I wondered, also, what was the good of our shipbuilding yards having all these orders on their books if we were going to be short of the officers to man the ships they were building. Since then, I am happy to say, negotiations have taken place with the shipping companies, who in my opinion have acted with generosity, and as a result they have made useful additions to the pay of the officers of the merchant navy. I hope that, as a result, the drift away from the sea may be checked, and that, should war come, we shall still find ourselves with an ample supply of those officers upon whom such a very heavy burden falls in time of war.
The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, in his speech and also in something which he has published, and which I have read, seemed to me to be putting forward an idea—an idea which, if I may say so, emanates from a thoughtful and far-seeing mind—that in view of the increasing range of our aircraft the question of bases may require to be reviewed. It would perhaps be too much to say that to some extent bases are becoming superfluous; "superfluous" is too strong a word. But it may well be that their value and purpose require to be reviewed. I appreciate the noble and gallant Viscount's argument, but I should not at this moment like to say definitely, "Yes" or "No" on the matter. I should like to examine the question from the point of view of the Navy, and to find out the feeling in that Service on this matter of the necessity of bases. I remember that during the war the Americans showed how it was possible to take an immense fleet right across the Pacific, by means of a system of following the fleet up with store ships, repair ships and so on. In other words, they evolved a system 479 of taking the dockyard to the ship, instead of the ship to the dockyard. That was a very remarkable feat indeed, and having this in mind I should like to examine the noble Viscount's proposal from the point of view of the Navy, and see what it means to that Service.
In the debate so far as it has gone, I think that two points stand out especially. The First Lord has made, it clear that the Government has a coherent, well-thought-out programme and plan for rearmament to put before us. The proof of the pudding is, of course, in the eating; but the pudding looks pretty good. That is one thing which we have ascertained to-day. The second thing has emerged from the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. It has been made clear, as indeed one knew would be the case, that the Party for which he speaks will support the carrying out and execution of the programme by all means in their power. The programme has been framed, and it has got to be carried out in face of what is possibly greater danger than confronted us ten years ago. I think there is good reason for saying that we are to-day far more vulnerable to Russia than we were to Germany in 1939. The answer to the danger lies in our own hands, and it has been put in a nutshell by General Eisenhower who has said words to the effect that, granted hard work, severe sacrifices and a little time, the West can provide its security, and so assure world peace.
I feel that the winning of a war, if once it starts, is only the secondary objective of this rearmament programme. The primary objective is to ensure that war does not start—in other words, we do not want war; but, equally, we do not want peace at any price. That being so, I think that, perhaps, Ministers and others might give up what is really becoming a cliché —the statement that war is not inevitable. So far as I know, nothing is inevitable, except income tax and death—and, if income tax increases still further, the thought of the inevitability of death will almost become a solace. But to those gentlemen who talk about war not being inevitable, I recommend that they should recall Bismarck's adage that: "No one should presume himself able to look at the cards held by Providence." I should prefer them to say that war, or worse than 480 war, is inevitable unless we get on with this programme.
In spite of what the First Lord has said, I feel that in carrying out the programme much greater frankness with the public is advisable. It must be remembered that those who have pressed this point over and over again are not laymen in these matters. It has been pressed by noble Lords with great experience in positions of high authority in the Services, and also by noble Lords who have had experience in high office during war. If they press for greater frankness, clearly there is the force of authority in what they say on that subject. A study of the American Press, of the proceedings in Congress, and also of Mr. Drew Pearson's "leaks," will show how very well the American people are kept informed on military matters. In consequence, they take the medicine represented by the measures now being taken in America very manfully indeed. I feel that our Government, equally, should remember that this great expenditure upon armaments means more sacrifices by the public.
I recall that The Times has very justly said:It is the people who will bear the burden and perform the taskAs things are, the public know that there are grave deficiencies in our defences. But they get no definite information as to when or how they will be made good. Instead, they get a succession of statements of the sort to which the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. referred: that everything is being increased by a certain percentage, or everything is being doubled —statements which disregard the fact that twice nought is nought, and twice one is two. I hope that those Ministers who keep on saying that something is being doubled hold cards in their hands which justify all this doubling, because most of us have had painful experience at the bridge table of partners who double without holding cards which justify that action. I feel that it would be possible, without violating security, to give the public a more vivid and comprehensible picture of the position. Too many people, I fear, feel that this is not being done at this moment for very obvious reasons. Not only do I urge this on behalf of our own public, but I would ask Ministers to remember that some of our Allies at this 481 moment need encouragement: they would be greatly stiffened if we could give them the story of what we are doing. I think that probably it is a pretty good story, and I feel that from that point of view more publicity would be of advantage.
I said a few moments ago that we are acting in the face of great danger, but I feel also that there are some more encouraging signs in the air at the present moment. The visit to Europe of General Eisenhower, the evidence that the free nations are drawing together, and our own rearmament programme, are all matters which I am quite sure are being taken note of in Russia. Russia at last sees a determination and a drawing together on the part of the free nations, the absence of which has undoubtedly encouraged her in her aggressive action during the past years. I referred to General Eisenhower's tour of Europe. By his report to Congress he has achieved full American support for Western European defence, because he has convinced America of something of which they were very doubtful: that the defence of Western Europe is now a practical proposition; that Europe is not defeatist, and that Europe will defend itself if given the equipment, munitions and leadership. All he asks is that every nation should be at its best. He used these words:The smallest of all nations can set the example to the largest.This matter of defence was recently debated in another place, and I noted several points in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. He was critical of the period of fifteen days' call-up, and his criticism has been repeated in our debate to day. I do not share those doubts. I think that it is entirely a question of how the fifteen days' training is handled, If the proper provisions are made before the men arrive, if after they arrive their time is not wasted with this, that and the other detail, if they arrive to find that a carefully worked-out programme has been arranged for them, and that the whole fifteen days are taken up with useful work, then I believe that the fifteen days' training will prove of great value to the men. If the training is attractive, and they feel that their time has not been wasted, they will go back home and have a good story to tell of their experiences, which will be valuable to public morale at this moment.
482 The Leader of the Opposition in another place also made a point about the atom bomb, saying that we had not made one here, and so on. For many years now I have been among those who have strongly advocated decentralisation of our war industry throughout the Dominions, because the packing of the whole of our immense war industry into this small island obviously presents great risks. I am not anxious to add yet another war industry in the shape of manufacturing atom bombs, to those in this country. Considering how closely integrated our affairs now are with those of the United States, especially our military affairs, surely we may take it for granted that there is an arrangement with the United States whereby we shall not be kept without the bombs necessary for us to play our part in the joint plans and joint strategy with the United States. If we are in that position, and I feel that we must be, what will be gained by duplicating the enormously expensive process of manufacturing the atom bomb? One point in connection with the atom bomb has always worried me: what are the financial arrangements? Are we going to pay for the bombs, do we make a contribution towards the cost of the manufacture, or is it considered that our work in this country on nuclear fission is a sufficient contribution?
The argument has been advanced that we need not fear Russia so much because the free nations' production of steel greatly exceeds that of Russia. If my memory serves me aright, Mr. Churchill advanced that argument to the Japanese during the war in the hope that it would keep the Japanese out of the war. But it did nothing of the sort. In spite of his being able to prove the immense superiority of the Allied output of steel over that of Germany, Japan nevertheless came into the war. What perturbs me about steel—and what I am going to say now has no political reference whatsoever; I am not arguing the rights or wrongs of the nationalisation of steel—is that the Conservative Party have said that if they are returned to power they will de-nationalise steel. So it may be the case that, in the course of the carrying out of our rearmament programme, the steel industry may be nationalised and de-nationalised. In these circumstances, the industry may be subjected to a considerable upheaval. 483 and that calls for a certain amount of thought.
The most important speech in the debate in another place was that made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is certainly embarking on an arduous task. He has to start from a severely strained economy, which has had a great deal put on it very quickly, and he is left with little taxable capacity with which to face the strain of new expenditure. He has very little fiscal ground in which to manœuvre. The Chancellor of the Exchequer outlined four possible ways of meeting the burden: expanding production, reducing consumption, reducing investment, or allowing the balance of trade to deteriorate. I notice that he put the limit of the possible expansion of production at 4 per cent. I disagree with that figure. I think it could be increased by much more than 4 per cent. The Chancellor relies upon fiscal policy and controls to reduce consumption. I am sure your Lordships will have noticed that, in putting the four possible courses before us, the Chancellor made no mention whatever of a reduction in Government expenditure. I find with my personal expenditure that I can usually reduce my spending on any item by 10 per cent., if I make a great struggle. Certainly the Committee on Estimates have frequently called attention to items of Government expenditure which they regarded as excessive or redundant. Nevertheless, no mention was made of any reduction of Government expenditure, But, said the Chancellor, there must be some absolute reduction of consumption and of the standard of living. In other words, the Chancellor says that we have now to put aside that favourite bedside book. Great Expectations, and take down from the shelf Bleak House and Hard Times.
In foreign policy we are committed to support of the Charter of the United Nations, and that brings us straight to the Navy. The United Nations' forces can be assembled only by sea, therefore we must have control of the sea. Stalin is not making Hitler's mistake and building useless battleships; Hitler concentrated on battleships resources which, if expended on submarines, might have proved fatal to us. The Russians are making more and more deadly submarines than Hitler ever had. Nevertheless, with fifty submarines Hitler sank 1,250,000 tons of our 484 shipping. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, claims that Russia has 320 submarines, many of them of high speed. Mr. Attlee has said that they have a great many. We are very short of high-speed escort vessels to meet that danger, and the Navy should certainly concentrate on antisubmarine craft. But the answer to the submarine is a combination of sea and air. At the moment, unfortunately, the Navy is short of flying officers, and I am told that Coastal Command is below strength, both in aircraft and personnel. There must also be carrier-borne anti-submarine aircraft, because the submarine menace may develop in mid-ocean. This means that the light fleet carriers are equally as important as the anti-submarine vessels. In this connection, I should like to ask whether the Government intend to set up an anti-submarine committee, which I feel would be a most useful measure.
What can we look forward to in naval strength? We heard from the First Lord in September of the measures which were to be taken: an accelerated programme of new construction, modernisation and conversion. The programme provided for the conversion of four anti-submarine frigates, twenty-five new sweepers and some motor torpedo boats; work was to continue on the construction of the additional frigates and destroyers, and the provision of submarines, aircraft carriers and other modern ships; and the refitting of no fewer than 111 ships in reserve was to be completed by March of this year. The Financial Secretary to the Admiralty spoke later, in October, about the "Ark Royal" and the three "Daring" class destroyers having been launched. They were not part of the rearmament programme, and their launching did not represent an acceleration of any programme. He told us that six new aircraft carriers were to join the fleet before 1954—the "Eagle" and three light fleet carriers, but he did not specify which the other two were to be; that two anti-submarine frigates of new design were in hand; that forty-one minesweepers were to be ordered; that an unspecified number of destroyers were to be taken in hand in 1951 for conversion; and that the conversion of submarines to higher speed had begun.
I found a great deal of vagueness in that speech. We were not told about 485 the uncompleted carriers; we heard that frigates were in hand—but "in hand" is a very vague phrase. We were not told how many minesweepers had been ordered, the number of destroyers to be converted, or the number of submarines which had been converted to high-speed boost. I noticed one matter here, too, which I confess I was quite unable to understand. The First Lord of the Admiralty said that 111 reserve ship refits were to be completed by March 31 this year; the Financial Secretary said that 450 ships would have been refitted in the three years ending March 31, 1951. What puzzles me is that the Reserve Fleet consists of 202 large ships—that is to say, from battleships down to frigates—and if 450 have been refitted in the course of the last three years, it seems to me that some of them have been done twice, or even more often. I confess that I am at a loss to know how to reconcile those two figures.
§ LORD WINSTER
The answer is that the large discrepancy is accounted for by refits to ships of that class?
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Involving the two important categories of minesweepers and submarines.
§ LORD WINSTER
From the figures that I have been able to secure for 1950, I do not know that we can say that events in Korea have greatly stimulated an increase in the strength of the Fleet. Many of your Lordships know how difficult it is to get the exact figures, because the situation changes rapidly. I am subject to correction, but I think I have given a fair picture of the state of the Fleet for 1950. So far as I can see, we were two destroyers, three frigates and ten submarines down on previous years. Of the large aircraft carriers, six seem to have been unoperational, although the "Indomitable," after a very long refit, did come into service at the end of 1950. The 486 position in regard to light carriers was somewhat better. We now have twenty-four cruisers, whereas in 1939 we had sixty. Seven submarines appear to have been scrapped, and we now appear to have fewer than we had before the war. How these figures work out is shown by the fact that at one time in 1950 the America and West Indies Squadron— a very high-sounding name—was represented by one frigate. That being so, I am not surprised that the Argentine have been getting rather "fresh" with us in the Antarctic.
Since the war ended, we have not laid down a single warship of any size. Some old ships have been modernised., and some ships from war programmes have come into commission. During 1950 we added two ships to the Fleet, one a surveying ship and the other a motor torpedo boat. When one is told about acceleration of construction, and that sort of thing, I feel that it needs a little consideration. For instance, we were told at one time that nine carriers were claimed as under construction. What does this mean? The "Eagle" was laid down in 1942; she was launched in 1946, and she hopes to run her trials in March of this year. The "Ark Royal" was launched in 1950, seven years after having been laid down. The light carrier "Hermes," of which we heard to-day, was laid down in 1944, and she has not yet been launched. There are three light carriers which were laid down in 1943 and launched in 1945; work on them was stopped in 1950, and no dates are given for their completion. And there are another three light carriers the position of which I do not know. Three cruisers, "Blake," "Defence" and "Tiger," were laid down in 1941 and were launched in 1945, but work on them was stopped in 1946, and no dates are now given for their completion. So that when we hear of ships being under construction, the dates involved require some examination. There is one question I should like to ask in connection with naval construction. How is the five-day week working out in the dockyards? I notice that many of the reserve ships go to private yards for refit, because the Royal yards cannot take on the jobs. Is this because of a shortage of man-hours? In the old days a ship would come in on Friday, and work would start on her on Monday. But now I should think that work on a ship that comes in on Friday 487 probably starts on the Tuesday. I wonder how the five-day week is working out in the Royal yards.
It seems to me, from the facts and figures which I have given to the best of my ability, that the great expenditure on the Navy in past years has given us maintenance and replacement but no great additions to strength: we have been running very fast to stay where we are. I do not ignore the fact that in that expenditure research and development have to be included. I know that I have asked many questions. I have done so because I think that if we had the replies to them we could, without any violation of security, obtain a very clear picture of the situation afloat. At this point I should like to say that I feel it would be a good thing now, when this rearmament programme is getting under way, if the Ministers concerned with defence were to broadcast. Why should they not broadcast and tell the country the position in regard to each of the Services? If they were to do such a thing, I would advise them to "lay off" the economics of it, because that often takes the form of saying that we can have rearmament without tears, or something like that. But I feel that at the present moment the country would welcome a broadcast statement from each of the defence Ministers as to exactly what it is they are aiming at, and at what time they hope to complete their programmes.
In conclusion, may I say this? I greatly regret that the initiation of this programme should have been marked by a vote of censure which coincided with General Eisenhower's tour, a tour which put great heart into the countries which look to us for a lead. It is also unfortunate that the Government have to rely on such a small majority when so many international conferences and deliberations are involved. It would be preferable, in these circumstances, if there were a Government who spoke with full authority derived from a large and solid majority. The vote of censure endorsed the programme and promised support for it. The reason for the vote was a doubt of the administrative ability of the Government to carry it out. There have certainly been some regrettable administrative failures in spheres other than defence; it would be futile to attempt to 488 deny that there have been these failures in several directions. I think it is fair to point out, however, that these failures have taken place in fields where very little Government experience existed. They have occurred in new fields of Government activity. The Government have been launching out into fields with which Governments before them never busied themselves, and consequently there has been a lack of knowledge and experience which may well have been the cause of these administrative failures.
Where defence matters are concerned, a vast fund of knowledge and experience exists, and the Government have the advantage of highly skilled professional advisers, with a great weight of tradition and knowledge at their disposal. Therefore, once the Government are committed to rearmament I think there should be less chance of administrative failure in that particular field than in the other fields about which I have spoken. I am sure that it is the earnest wish of every one of us that time will prove that the Government's determination to push through this programme is matched by their ability to direct its execution.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, we have listened to two very interesting speeches from the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, speaking on behalf of the Royal Air Force, and from the noble Lord, Lord Winster, speaking on behalf of the Royal Navy. It now falls to my lot to offer a few observations from the point of view of the Army, though naturally on a much lower level than that of the two previous speakers. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Winster, will forgive me if I do not follow him very closely, and particularly if I resist the temptation to cross swords with him over the remarks which fell from his lips in the last five minutes of his speech—remarks which, I thought, slightly spoilt the normally sound Tory speech which we have learnt to expect from the noble Lord. I think it is only a matter of time before he crosses the Floor of the House to these Benches, and I do not wish to embarrass his progress in any way.
I should rather, if I may, revert to the remarks concerning the call-up of the Class Z reserves which the noble Viscount. Lord Hall, made in his speech. I am not 489 one of those who think that this call-up of the Class Z reserves is of no value. I think it is of some considerable value, and for one reason which has not yet been put before the House but which I should like to elaborate in a moment. In saying that, I wish also to emphasise that I think it does no good amongst our friends outside this country to suggest that this elaborate scheme is not going to produce some results. Furthermore, it is very hard luck on the Class Z reservists who are going to be called up and the officers and men who have to administer the scheme, if they believe that people in the country do not support the scheme. That does not necessarily mean that I have a very high opinion of the scheme—I have not. I think it is "Too little and too late." I believe that in certain aspects one can see very firmly the imprint of cold feet and compromise. And I also believe that it would be less than helpful if we did not realise, at once what the scheme does not do.
It is perfectly clear that the scheme produces not one more division on the ground anywhere. It produces no more troops where they are most wanted—in Germany. My noble friend Lord Swinton, in the course of his extremely interesting speech, asked whether it might perhaps be an exercise in mobilisation. I think he is being a little optimistic even in thinking it is that. I have studied the two mobilisation schemes of 1914 and 1939, and I have also examined the plans for this call-up, and I am afraid that this one is not so much a mobilisation practice as simply an exercise for a few clerks in the Record Offices. I am not suggesting that they do not need that exercise. As I walked into the House this afternoon I was given a letter from a very disgruntled Class Z reservist—he does not sign his name, but a Bristol postmark is on the envelope—asking whether I think it is right that he should have been either on the Class Z Reserve at all, or called up, as he apparently has been, to serve at this particular time. In view of the fact that he lost his right arm at Alamein, there may be some justice in his complaint.
I think it is also fair to say that this call-up will be of little benefit to Territorial units. The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, if I understood him correctly, suggested that the accretion of men will 490 enable Territorial units which are under strength to operate during their camp period at almost full strength. But, of course, that is not so. As I understand the scheme—and my noble friends, Lord Long and Lord Rochdale, who are in similar positions to myself, can confirm this—we are receiving reservists at the rate only of man for man; and as most of the Territorial units are not more than 10 per cent. manned at the moment, the accretion, though valuable, will not be very great. I believe that the problem facing the Territorial commanding officer needs careful examination. These reservists are called up for fifteen days whilst the unit goes to camp. The Minister of Defence, if I understand him correctly, says that they are never to be called up again. When the Minister of Defence threw out that little bonne bouche in another place, I had the impression that that was not part of the original scheme, and I cannot think that it is a wise decision. I cannot think that it is very wise to say: "You men whom we are going to call up are specialists. Being specialists and potential instructors you are never going to be needed again." Having welded the reservist into the team, you send him away and the commanding officer never sees the man again.
I am not clear either whether any other reservists are going to be called up. That seems slightly doubtful. I was glad to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, say that the men would be called up into the units into which they would eventually be placed on mobilisation. That is a definite statement—much more definite than that which appears in the Defence programme. May I just read your Lordships that passage, because it is very ambiguous? This is what the Prime Minister says:The Government now propose to fill this gap by calling on a number of selected reservists who have the up-to-date training required, and giving them a period of refresher training so that, if an emergency arose requiring general mobilisation, they would be ready to take their place in the units with which they would have to serve.That is not quite the same thing as the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, said, and I hope that the noble Viscount is right and the Prime Minister's statement is merely rather careless ambiguity.
Therefore, from the point of view of the Territorial unit itself, I cannot see a great deal of advantage accruing. The 491 commanding officer, in point of fact, has to train two units, the one he has at camp and one he has all the year round, and they are two completely different units. The great advantage, though—and it is a great advantage—that I see accruing to the scheme is that if those fifteen days are properly used (and I most heartily endorse the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Winster) these Class Z reservists will get to like the regiment with which they are serving and will rediscover that Army life is not such a bad thing. There is also a good chance that they can be persuaded to join that unit as Territorials. I believe that that will happen. I know that commanding officers want it to happen. If it does happen it will be of inestimable advantage to the whole scheme.
To make that happen, the fifteen days have got to be perfectly spent. I see that the troops are to be medically examined before joining units. Surely much more can be done, for instance in the way of documentation and kitting up. Surely we can make certain that men are not joining a unit too far from their own homes. Most of the administrative work can be done beforehand and the men can then get to know their officers and their comrades before the regiment goes to camp. Anybody who has served in a Territorial unit knows that getting even a well-trained regiment to camp is a business which requires the help of everybody if the commanding officer is not to lose his reason before the first day. If a commanding officer has to take a hundred or so strangers on the first day, I see very great administrative difficulties. I hope also that, when the camp is reached, there will be enough vehicles for the whole intake: that there will be no more charging about on Salisbury Plain in bakers' vans as there was in 1939; and that there will be enough equipment for the men, including new equipment, because many instructors will want to polish up their own training. I hope that everything possible will be done to make the fifteen days in camp happy and profitable. For instance, the Territorial officer receives a £5 bonus for messing, the object being to help make the officers' mess what it should be. Are the new officers coming in on the Class Z call-up to receive that bonus? If they do not get it, the Territorial officers will 492 have to pay towards the Class Z officers' mess. That is but a small point, but it may well prejudice the whole scheme.
I did not quite follow the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, in answer to the query of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, about training of corps troops. If the training of corps troops, of L. of C. units, and of the fourth line units which are going to train with the Regulars, is to be of any value, it must be such training as will enable those units to be in their right place at the right moment, and not to have to wait for another six months' training in this country. At the moment I do not see how this scheme can produce that sort of training. Perhaps the representative of the Government who is to reply will give us some information on that point. May I make one other suggestion? There are very large numbers of administrative jobs in static commands in Home units— R.T.O.'s, movement staff officers, and so on—which can be done by older men who had staff experience in the last war. Could they not be got together under this Class Z call-up? There will be no room for young Regular staff officers in home commands in time of war; those jobs can well be carried out by experienced staff officers of the last war. They could speedily be re-trained in the staff duties which will be required of them if their services are needed.
I hope the observations I have made are not over-pessimistic. They are intended to help to make this scheme constructive. I feel strongly that the one point in which this scheme is good is very good, and that we must all—noble Lords on both sides of the House and everyone in the country—now bend our backs to make the scheme work really well and help to bring about an enlarged Territorial Army. There are signs already that this enlarged Territorial Army will be achieved. There are also, I understand, signs that men are going into the Territorial Army in increased numbers in order to avoid the Class Z call-up. That is all to the good, too, for, after all, it is the increased numbers in the Territorial Army that we really want. If we do not achieve this, the whole scheme will be a most fabulous waste of men and money. Therefore we have just got to achieve it.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
My Lords, I have listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, and to the noble Viscount who initiated this debate, to my noble friend the First Lord and to those who followed, and I would now, with your Lordships' indulgence, myself express a few thoughts on this harsh matter. I shall need your indulgence, for this is the first time that I have ventured to address your Lordships' House.
It is indeed a hateful thing that, after all that has been done and endured by people to have the chance of living peaceful lives in conditions of freedom and some security, we should once again have to bend our efforts and spend our resources in rebuilding our defences— just when our people had a right to expect that they would begin to enjoy the fruits of their best endeavours, first in resisting and overcoming Hitler and then in rebuilding our shattered country and its broken economy, as has so wonderfully been done. I think we should at this moment join in paying some tribute to the astonishing achievement of the last six years. It certainly is a splendid and shining monument to the tenacity, resilience and invention of the British people; and it can and should by now have resulted in an easier and more abundant life for a people who well deserve it.
But what else can we do than take the course that is now forced upon us and upon our friends and Allies in the free world? We have, indeed, persevered in all the alternative courses open to us, in the hope that that small group of powerful men who inhabit the Kremlin and who determine the actions of vast populations under their direction would at last be willing to join in the fraternity of nations and to settle such differences as there may be by means of conference and accommodation, as once they did in the great Alliance which gave them and us the chance to live again after our victory over Hitler. All these warlike preparations would then be unnecessary and we should be able to bend our efforts to making life on this earth more comfortable, healthy and secure. It is hard to give up even yet the hope that some change may come. I was glad to see that the Prime Minister did not forget to say 494 in his Statement on the rearmament programme that neither the Government nor Allied Governments have given up hope, and that we have not yet exhausted the resources of diplomacy, patience, and negotiation. May success attend their efforts to find some way, even yet, by which this hateful business can be brought to an end! Meanwhile we have taken enough risk, and we go that way no longer without some insurance. Perhaps by the rebuilding of our defences our effort will command more attention and respect.
It is clear that the Government are fully aware of the sharp impact that this vast programme (upon which the Government are to be congratulated) will have upon our economy. Fortunately, it comes at a time when the full benefits of the achievements of the last six years of effort are with us; but the same threats and menaces which have forced these warlike courses upon us are forcing them also upon our friends and Allies in every part of the world, so that everywhere at this time there is a great demand for the same tools and materials. This has already caused a marked rise in prices, and swung the terms of trade against us. This programme is certainly vast. It can be measured by the financial figures which the First Lord gave to us in his very comprehensive and interesting review: £1,300,000,000 in this next financial year, and £4,700,000,000 over the next three years. This, as the noble Viscount pointed out, excludes what must be the great cost of the accumulation of stocks of raw materials and all the building costs which are involved in the expansion of industrial capacity. But I am convinced that it must be done. All this must be accomplished by an economy which has to bear at the same time the gruelling demands of paying for our imports by exports out of our industry. At the same time as these prodigious efforts are called for, there must be withdrawn from our productive machinery altogether some 800,000 men, the flower of our manhood, who are to serve in the Armed Forces, there to be maintained and equipped by the remaining civilian population who must provide this enormous weight of armament.
It is important to remember that, while; all this is going on, we have to maintain the value of our exports in comparison with our imports. All of us particularly those 495 who are engaged in industry, will know how heavy the strain has sometimes been in order to do what we have already done. There is a new and serious aspect of this export matter. A very large contribution, perhaps the major contribution, to the remarkable export achievements of the past years has been made by the engineering, vehicle and metal using industries. And upon those very industries will fall the chief impact of the new defence programme. Therefore they will be unable to maintain their part of the export requirements. The gap has to be made good from the remaining civilian industries. This makes the whole problem much more complicated in some ways than was the defence programme in time of war, although, of course, we are freed from some of the other preoccupations which we then had. So it is of paramount importance, if we are not to disorganise the entire life of the nation, that the greatest skill, care and patience should be shown in what amounts to redeploying our entire productive apparatus.
From our past experience we certainly have much to learn, and, if we learn and early apply those lessons, I think we can avoid some costly mistakes. We must always remember the need all the time for making the maximum progress with the defence programme while inflicting the minimum amount of disturbance upon that civilian production on which the balance of our payments and the assurance of our imports vitally depend. Therefore, in the first place, it is vitally necessary that the Service Departments should appreciate more than they have ever done before the long industrial cycle which is involved in the production of modern weapons and aircraft, and that they should place with the Ministry of Supply at the earliest possible moment firm and definite demands for their requirements. Because it is only at that point that the main parts of the cycle can begin to turn. Not only have the vast requirements to be placed in the form of firm orders upon the main contractors, but there is the necessity of exploring and providing the substitutes in material, capacity and design which have to be supplied if civilian production over wide areas is not to break down under the impact of war orders.
496 This may involve long-distant and far-reaching adaptations. Therefore, the first need is early ordering. Only then can this lengthy process begin. There is the complex chain of sub-contractors, each of whom must fall into step not only at the right pace but at the right time. Most of those sub-contractors are already fully charged with work, much of it vital in its export character. An operation of this complexity has never been undertaken in any industrial nation, and we have so little slack which we can take up in order to meet the strain. The creating of new capacity, either for Service work or to accommodate the displaced civilian production, will certainly mean building operations. Building materials, building labour and building fitments are in short supply, and they must be procured well in advance of the commencing of the operations.
Reference has already been made by the First Lord to the shortage of machine tools. It is probable, once again, that this is going to be a major difficulty. I was glad to hear the First Lord's assurance that an order has already been placed for machine tools. I was glad also to hear the noble Viscount and subsequent speakers say how important it is that we come to early arrangements with our Allies, and particularly the Americans, about who is going to do what, so that we do not duplicate every kind of effort in each separate place. As the noble Viscount knows better than anybody, we went through this in aircraft production during the last war, but in the end we evolved a most workable system without which we might easily have lost the war. I am sure that we shall not have to learn all this the hard way over again, and that from the beginning there will be an agreed allocation of function. As the noble Viscount rightly said, allocating by various countries the jobs to be done, where they can best be done, does not mean segregating their use to those countries. That, indeed, would be fatal.
My Lords, the next point I would make is in regard to the giving of information. This job can be done only with the maximum good will and co-operation on all sides, and frankly I think really effective co-operation is impossible in a cloud of darkness. People must know what they are asked to do, and why they are asked to do it. We all know that security makes 497 great demands, but it is possible to exaggerate those demands. Those who have the difficult and responsible task of guarding our security are naturally sometimes slow to see the other side of the matter. This programme is going to mean a dislocation of life for large numbers of people. Industrial establishments all over the country will inevitably be up-ended and disorganised, and valuable orders, hardly won, may have to be abandoned. Demands will be made which will make life difficult indeed for managements and for men and women, and I am quite certain that it will pay us handsomely to tell all that can be told, to tell it well, and to tell it soon. There must also be considered very early— because this is going to be a very difficult problem, as it seems to me—to what extent we are going to make use of European capacity. Are we going to revive the German machine tool and scientific instrument industry, which not so long ago we were at such pains to destroy? The risks are obvious; the benefits may be great. I am sure that the Government have given much thought to this problem. This is one of the things about which I should have liked to hear something said in the course of this debate, if that is at all possible, because it is there that we meet many of those vital gaps in tools from which we suffered so much at various periods of the war.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
May I remind the noble Lord that I did say that I thought the integration of Allied production in an indissoluble whole made it so much easier and so much safer to let the Germans play a full part? I should like the noble Lord to realise that that is very much present in the minds of those who sit on this side of the House.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
Indeed, the noble Viscount did say that. I am glad that he did, and I was trying to underline his point, hoping that those who speak on behalf of the Government will be able to tell us something of what is in their minds.
My Lords, there is also great importance in considering carefully the labour supply in relation to the areas in which contracts are to be placed. Here again, we have some hard memories, and it is vitally important that this question should be kept in mind from the beginning. In the present housing shortage 498 the difficulty of moving working populations to jobs in other places, which on other grounds are desirable locations, is almost insuperable; we cannot, in time, take the people to the work, and therefore we must have regard to the necessity of taking the work to the people. In some areas where labour is available all the slack should first be taken up. These seem to me very important matters in the execution of this programme. Some are difficulties which we encountered during the war, and we shall be very glad to hear that they are well in mind and well in hand at the present juncture, as I am confident they are.
I must apologise for detaining your Lordships so long. If I have seemed to dwell upon difficulties, it is only in the hope that they may be the more speedily overcome. Saddening and disappointing as it is once again to contemplate the use of our resources and efforts for these purposes, I am sure that our people will not be dismayed. As the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, said, there can be no doubt whatever that, if we make good use of the great capacity which in company with our Allies we have, the immense superiority of invention, resource, experience and, indeed, the whole civilisation of the free people of this world, are invincible, and nothing can overcome them. I think it is important also not only to tell our own people what we are doing, but, so far as possible, to let the enemy know the greatness of our strength. That is the best deterrent.
Fortunately, our productive capacity has given such tangible evidence of its robust vitality and its astonishing fertility, that probably the Chancellor of the Exchequer was justified in the assumptions he made in that most interesting statement of last Wednesday in another place—a statement which repays re-reading, and reading yet again. If so, provided that these problems are tackled early, with care, persistence and patience, it will not be necessary to unhinge the entire civilian economy. While we are bound to be denied for some time yet those comforts and luxuries of life to which all hoped to have access by now, there may be no need, so far as most of our people are concerned, to depress the present standard of life, though there is little hope for some time to come of a continuation of improvement. Well, we 499 shall have to "take it," and I am convinced that we shall "take it." At any rate, we shall go about our heavy tasks in the knowledge that what we are doing is making certain and sure that no new enemy shall seize from us the simple habits and the freedoms of life which this generation of people, like those before them, have given so much to secure.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ EARL BEATTY
My Lords, it is my pleasant duty to be the first to congratulate the noble Lord who has just spoken on his maiden speech. I am sure that I am expressing your Lordships' wishes when I say that we consider it a most interesting and valuable speech, based on the noble Lord's knowledge as a past Minister of Supply. I am sure that I also express your Lordships' wishes when I say that I hope we shall hear him often in the future. At the same time. I am bound to say that I feel that the noble Lord has moved a long way to the Right since he made his maiden speech in another place in the full flush of his victory at East Fulham in 1933. To hear him now supporting a rearmament programme of this nature is indeed very comforting, and his speech was of such a character that I feel that if he remains— as I sincerely hope he will—a member of your Lordships' House for a number of years to come, he will soon be moving still further to the Right.
Undoubtedly, we are confronted with a most serious time in our history—probably the most serious we have ever known —and we must face the facts. The atom bomb may be our protection at the moment, but this island of ours is one in which there is such a concentration of industrial power and of ports that the bomb might easily place us in the future in the most vulnerable position in which we have ever been. I do not believe for one instant in the likelihood of any gentlemanly war in the future. Some people, of course, do. To contend that because gas was not used in the last war, therefore the atom bomb will not be used in the next is, I think, to use a criminally dangerous argument. In these circumstances, we must face the real facts of what we shall be up against in the future. I have two main plaints against His Majesty's Government, both of which 500 have already been voiced this afternoon, so I will repeat them only shortly.
My first plaint—and it is a very earnest one—is that I feel it is only in these last few months that the Government have really appreciated our weakness; they have been disposed to meet this crisis rather in the same way that they have met crises which have arisen in the course of the last six years. They have not looked sufficiently ahead. If it is right now to plan to spend £4,700,000,000 over three years, surely it was right four and a half months ago—though the sum provided at that time was only £3,600,000,000. If we are going to look ahead, let us look ahead properly; let the Government really plan ahead, and show that they can do so. My other plaint is one which has been voiced most eloquently by supporters of the Government—in particular by Lord Winster and Lord Wilmot. I hope, therefore, that on this occasion it will have some effect. I refer of course to the secrecy with which our rearmament programme has been enveloped. The veils of secrecy with which the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, when Minister of Defence in the other House, enshrouded himself, seem to have fallen upon his successor. I feel that over-accentuated secrecy can so easily be interpreted by our friends and Allies, as well as by our enemies, as a weakness, as a covering of shortcomings in the Government's rearmament programme. That is, to say the least, unfortunate, and I believe that the secrecy is unnecessary. As Lord Winster pointed out, the American public are so well-equipped with knowledge of what is going on that they give manful support to the rearmament programme in that country. But our people are not so well informed, and their full support for the Government's rearmament policy will never be forthcoming unless they are told what we have got and what is projected.
I want now to turn to more particular criticism in the field in which I have most knowledge. I should like to say at the outset that I deprecate very much the sort of remarks which one often hears—that "The Navy have got seven-eighths of what they want because they always do; the R.A.F. have got half of what they want, and the poor old Army have got only one-third of what they want." That is the sort of remark one sometimes hears. As a member of the 501 Senior Service myself, of course I say more power to the noble Viscount opposite. But nevertheless the sort of thing to which I have just referred is wrong. It is the Government's responsibility to see that priorities are given in the right way, and in the allocation of priorities they should be swayed neither by tradition nor by eloquence on the part of Chiefs of Staff. It is up to the Government to see that the right allocations of priorities are made. In my humble view, even speaking as a sailor, we must first see that we are strong enough in the air to provide enough defensive strength and at the same time—as the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has pointed out—we must have the striking power to launch a heavy blow at the heart of the enemy. That must be our first priority. A further priority, surely, must be to ensure that our supplies to this island, and to Europe, can be maintained uninterruptedly. Without that assurance we shall starve, and without that certainty no armies can fight and no air forces fly.
It is towards the last point that I wish now to make a few remarks. First, cannot we be told what our naval commitments arc? Why should we not be told? For the life of me, I cannot see why, if we are told the exact number of divisions we are to have on the Continent, we cannot be told what the operational organisation and commitments of each of the North Atlantic Treaty countries is to be on the sea. If we are not told, we can imagine only that it is because plans are very piecemeal and un-integrated at the moment. And that, of course, is a very serious condemnation, when one considers the importance of defending our sea routes, and the fact that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has now been in existence for nearly a year. From the United Kingdom point of view—and I say this without fear of contradiction— there is no doubt, whatever the Government may say, that we should enter a war at sea now in a far less favourable position than we did in 1939. And. as we are only just entering upon a new construction programme, mentioned in the vaguest terms in the First Lord's explanatory speech, that statement will be equally true for certainly two years, and more probably for three. For probably 502 three years we shall be in such a situation that we should enter a war in a less favourable position than that in which we were in 1939.
§ EARL BEATTY
Assuming that what we are told is correct—that Russian submarines are four times greater in numbers than the German submarines were in 1939—can the noble Viscount opposite say that we now have four times more escort vessels or destroyers than we had then?
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
The noble Earl might bear in mind that there is no Japanese Fleet to be taken into consideration now. Also, in 1939 we did not have the active Allies that we have to-day. Now we have the United States and other countries which were not with us at the outbreak of the last war.
§ EARL BEATTY
That is true, but I said clearly that I was speaking from Great Britain's point of view, and I repeat that, from our point of view—that is as regards our own strength—we are in such a position that we should enter a war now in a weaker position than that in which we were in 1939. All this conversion of destroyers, whilst improving their usefulness, does not increase the total number. With the advent of the Snort submarine, with high underwater speed, it is numbers we shall require to protect our convoys. The "hunter and killer" classes are out of date now because they will not be able to find submarines. That means that our big convoys will have to go out with a larger number of escort vessels than they did during the war. I am tempted to quote what I said three years ago:The danger, since the majority of our present ships were built between 1941 and 1945. is that we shall suddenly find we have an out-of-date Fleet.All these refits of old ships show that we have found that that is true, and an immense amount of effort has had to go 503 into refitting and modernising existing ships. I continued to say:I should like to reinforce the plea made by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, that in the long run it is far better and cheaper that a steady programme of replacements should be laid down and kept to.Of course, that has not been done. We have started to lay down four frigates this year; this is the replacement programme, or additions to our escort vessels. The noble Viscount said that some anti-submarine frigates will join the Fleet during this year. Does he mean new construction? That is a matter which should be clarified, because I cannot see how new anti-submarine frigates could possibly join the Fleet in under two years, and more probably three. As has been so often suggested by noble Lords in the past, if we had commenced a steady new construction programme, look how different the situation would have been to-day.
To ensure that convoys get through, we need not only escort vessels but air cover, as was proved conclusively in the last war. Shore-based aircraft were responsible for sinking 246 submarines, and ship aircraft were responsible for sinking 44 submarines; that is. 290 out of the total of 780 sunk. These figures show how important is air cover for convoys in getting supplies through to this country. What is the position of Coastal Command to-day? I am told that in the last combined exercise last year, there was not a score of Coastal Command aircraft to be put in the air; yet at the end of the war we had over 1,000 operational Coastal Command aircraft. Surely this is a pitiable state of affairs which should be put right, particularly when we realise that the aircraft that they have now are mainly Sunderlands and Lancasters, which are quite out of date. I know that new Shackletons are coming through, but again it is going to be two years before there is any quantity of them to assist escort vessels in getting supplies through.
The position of Coastal Command is bound up with the position of our escort carriers, because Coastal Command has a range of only, perhaps, 500 miles. Therefore, it is necessary for us to have escort carriers. I should like to get this position cleared up, because in another place on October 25, when the Parlia- 504 mentary Secretary to the Admiralty was asked if the construction of three escort carriers which was suspended in 1946 was being resumed, his reply at that time was:At the moment we are pushing ahead with the completion of those carriers, which is already further advanced.I noticed in the Navy Estimates of this year that the three light fleet escort carriers whose construction was stopped in 1946 still have a mark against them showing that work is suspended, and I presume, therefore, that work is being carried on only on four light fleet aircraft carriers, and not, as might have been suggested by the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary, on all seven of them. I hope that in his reply the noble Viscount will clear up that point. In any event I feel that seven or eight light fleet escort carriers—if we are going on with all of them—are insufficient to go with all our convoys. I would ask the noble Lord whether we are going to press on with the conversion of merchant ship hulls now under construction into escort carriers. They proved themselves of tremendous effect in the war. In view of the small number of light fleet escort carriers and the fact that the only escort carrier we have has been loaned to the Festival of Britain for two years, I hope that this suggestion will be seriously thought over, and that we shall press on with the conversion of merchant ship hulls.
I do not wish to detain the House too long, but I would point out that tied up with this question is the question of what is being done to assist our merchant fleet, to whom we owe so much, to withstand attack in war. Have we made provision for anti-aircraft guns and degaussing equipment, and are they ready to fit immediately? In this direction there is an important point which I raised in 1949. I pointed out that if a little more subdivision was given to cargo ships, without impairing their carrying capacity, many more could be saved after sustaining under water damage. In his reply, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said:His Majesty's Government … fully appreciate the importance of the question of sub-division of cargo ships and are already in consultation with the shipping industry and other interests concerned in order to see what measures can be taken to secure it without impairing their commercial efficiency.I should like to ask whether the Government have gone any further with that 505 proposal, which I think it an extremely important one. I hope we shall have some satisfactory answers to our questions now that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has joined us. In this more serious atmosphere, I hope he will be emboldened to give us more enlightenment on the Government's rearmament plans, particularly as our pleas from this side of the House have been reinforced by those of two of his own most prominent supporters. I think no one could fail to be impressed by the serious mood of your Lordships. May that mood be brought home to the people, for we are faced, indeed, with a serious time! May the noble Viscount show that the Government really mean to get on with the job at last and put our defences right before everything else, because in this way, and only in this way, can we avert a more terrible catastrophe in the future.
§ 6.0 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to join with my noble friend who has just sat down in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot, on his most interesting speech. I was particularly glad to hear what he had to say, because he picked on a line of country on which I myself want to say a few things. The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, devoted the latter part of his speech largely to the effect that this rearmament programme will have on our economy. I want to touch on one aspect of that; namely, the method that His Majesty's Government propose to adopt to meet the necessary— and I agree with the noble Viscount when he used the word "frightening"—expenditure, both of money and man-power.
I am afraid that I shall lay myself open to the accusation of stating a platitude when I repeat (because it has been said so many times, not necessarily in your Lordships' House this afternoon, but on other occasions elsewhere) that in modern war, which my noble friend Lord Swinton said must necessarily be total war—and, I should like to add, must necessarily be a drawn-out war—the strength of a country necessarily depends as much on its industrial potential as on its Armed Forces, however good those Armed Forces may be at the beginning of a war. What I suggest (this is just as obvious, but it is perhaps not mentioned quite so often) is that in some respects industrial capacity 506 is even more important when, as now, we are fighting a "cold" war in order to attempt to prevent a "hot" war. In these conditions of "cold" war, when, as I think Lord Wilmot mentioned, we have to attempt to keep in harness both a peace-time and a war-time economy, it surely becomes more than ever obvious that we have to see that our man-power is used to the best possible effect.
I do not propose to develop the problem of man-power as it affects the detailed considerations within the Armed Forces. I read with interest what was said about that matter in the debate in another place, when the point was made that constant guard must be kept to see that there is no excessive use of men in the "tail," as opposed to those used in the "teeth," of our Armed Forces. That is an extraordinarily difficult problem to-day, particularly with the highly technical Armed Forces with which we have to contend, and I have no doubt that it is uppermost in the minds of our Service chiefs. However, I should like to draw a parallel from that as regards the use of man-power in other spheres of life.
We have been told about this enormous bill for defence purposes that we shall have to meet during the next few years. There have been many broad hints as to how these unpleasant additional burdens, both financial and as regards man-power, are to be met. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, repeated to us the points that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made in another place last week. The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, referred to the fact, particularly on the man-power point, that it might be necessary to resort (I think he said this) to some direction of labour, and that it might be necessary to bring further compulsion on employers as to the way in which they use their operatives, which of course would have an effect on civilian demands generally. But so far, neither in the debate in another place, nor in what has been said this afternoon in your Lordships' House, except possibly in some slight reference to the need to cut capital expenditure, has there been any indication that His Majesty's Government have any intention of adopting what I should have thought—and here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Winster— would have been an obvious method of cutting their own expenditure in other directions which can hardly be regarded 507 as essential in a time of real national peril, as the present is.
We have been told that our standard of living will have to drop. It has also been made clear that that drop will depend to some extent on the corresponding increase in production that we can achieve simultaneously with the rearmament programme. I also agree with Lord Winster when he says that the estimate of a 4 per cent. increase seems rather low —I hope that it may be substantially more than that. But there is nothing, I suggest, that stifles incentive, and therefore increased production, more than excessive taxation—and that I believe to be true at all levels of income. It is clear, from what noble Lords have said this afternoon, that there are a great many who would agree with me, first, that our economy is already strained, and, secondly, that even the present level of taxation is having a stifling effect. We see that in the degree of absenteeism, in the falling off of savings, and in many other ways. It seems to me that the prospect of still further burdens in this direction will afford little encouragement to achieve that extra production that we want and, indeed, must have.
The promise, if only we could have one from His Majesty's Government, that they intend to take energetic steps to reduce existing Government expenditure in directions other than defence, would do much to help us to meet the other burdens that rearmament makes inevitable.
I am coming to that point, and I will develop it as I go along. I agree with one way mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, who said that the various Reports by the Select Committee on Estimates had drawn attention to waste—and I shall suggest that there are other ways. Not only could that mean a substantial contribution towards any additional inevitable taxation that might be necessary, but it would also, I suggest, mean a saving in man-power among those directly employed by the Government. And when I use the word "Government" I mean not only the central Government, but 508 also the various aspects of local government; and I also include in that category the administrative staffs in some of our national corporations. In addition, it could substantially assist indirectly, because as Government and local government departments grow, so also, inevitably, and I think to a greater extent, do the numbers of non-producers in civil employment, in industry, in commercial establishments, in professional offices— lawyers, surveyors, accountants and so on—grow, simply because they have to provide the statistics demanded.
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, asked me what particular Departments I would suggest might be looked into. Well, there are several, but I will mention one. I think he will agree with me that in the National Health Service to-day there is an enormous number of qualified individuals who are having their time largely taken up with purely administrative work. That is just one line of thought.
During the 1939–45 war, when the whole of the man-power of this country was virtually mobilised, industrial and professional undertakings had to carry on with a very skeleton managerial staff, but in some respects the situation was easier then than it is now, because in many cases there must have been virtually only one customer—namely, the Government. That meant that it was possible to standardise many of the products. To-day, in the cold war, we look like having to bear the worst of both worlds. We have to carry on with much of the variety of peace-time production, particularly for export demands, and that means more rather than less management and supervision, particularly to-day when the value and cost of raw materials is so extraordinarily high; and we have, as a result of many post-war Acts of Parliament, an enormously increased demand on professional men—lawyers and so on. The net result is, I suggest, that we are moving dangerously in the direction of an overgrowing non-productive section of the population, just at a time when we require more producers and more men in the Armed Forces. I submit that that trend must somehow be reversed, and that the only way to start reversing it is by the Government taking the first step and cutting their expenditure and their use of man-power. I believe that the Government hold the key to that reversal.
509 It may be argued that even if something were done along those lines, it would take a very long time for it to have much effect upon our man-power, and there I would be inclined to agree. But we must not overlook the fact that if, even with our immediate rearmament, we manage to avoid or postpone—I hope avoid altogether—the hot war, short of some unexpected and really substantial international development it is difficult to see how we can possibly avoid having to continue to wage the cold war for a considerable number of years. My noble friend Lord Swinton referred to there being a short-term and a long-term problem. But this man-power problem is surely a very long-term problem, and the sooner we get on with it the better. We have been urged, in the White Paper to give our full support to the national effort, and that, of course, is very right and proper in times of national danger. But let us be practical. Here, as in several other cases, we must cut our coat according to our cloth. Our man-power is strictly limited, and we shall not be putting what we have to the best advantage if we continue to allow so much of it (often the best brains we have) to be absorbed and employed in ways very desirable in times of real peace but hardly permissible in times like this. I suggest that the Government alone can make the first move in this direction, and I hope they will not hesitate to do so, because I think it is the least that we owe to our Allies.
§ 6.15 p.m.
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords. I shall not detain the House long, and I shall confine myself to one phase of the crisis in which we now find ourselves. The position in which we find ourselves to-day is a very different one from that in which we found ourselves in either 1914 or 1939. To-day, not only have we to prepare for a war but we are actually at war—or almost at war—with a very strong enemy, who is not only mobilised but who has already advanced forces many miles to the West of his own frontier in the direction in which he wishes to go. To-day we have no French Army, as we had in 1939, or any other Forces between the Channel Ports and the advancing enemy. It seems to me that the imminence of the danger is not sufficiently realised. The only speech I have 510 heard which showed any real sign of urgency was one made by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, on Lord De L'Isle and Dudley's Motion on the Home Guard. That speech did stir my blood. If one examines the short view, it is no comfort to be told that things are going to happen in 1952, and that in 1954 we shall be at our peak as regards war production. If we take first things first, we ought to devote all our energies to being prepared on the Continent against a surprise attack by a well-prepared enemy. Hitler's whirlwind advance in 1940 will be nothing compared to the advance of this Russian Army. Then we had our own and the French Armies deployed and ready, and there was the Maginot Line, which was supposed to be impregnable. Now there is nothing, and it is this immediate danger which should occupy our thoughts.
In his recent speech in another place, the Minister of Labour comforted himself and some of his hearers by contrasting the steel production of Russia and her satellites with that of the Western Nations. He said:Modern steel power is the best possible expression of armed strength.He went on to say:I do not believe that a nation, however large its man-power, coldly contemplates launching 25,000.000 tons of steel per annum against the combination of 140,000,000 tons per annum.Of course, it depends very much upon what condition the 25,000,000 tons is in. If it is raw, no; but if it is made up into the munitions of war it may be rather valuable. That is, of course, taking a very long view, and I am trying to confine myself to the short view. We shall all agree with that view only if—and it is a very big "if "—other things are equal, and if we all start fair. But circumstances alter cases. The Russians may well say that they have 175 trained divisions under arms, mobilised, and many of them well advanced; they no doubt have a large store of munitions accumulated during the last five years, and they may say they will organise fifth columns in several of their opponents' countries. They may feel that at the present moment they are far superior in steel made up into the use for which it is intended, to their opponents, who have twenty or thirty divisions which, if Russia chose to make 511 war at once, would not be trained divisions. Surely, then, there is every argument on the Russians' side to say: "If we are going to war we must go now, because if we allow things to develop we shall be on the losing side."
We cannot for one moment really believe that the Russians are fools, whatever else they may be, and now is their chance. If they do not want to take it they had better pack up. The point I want to make is that every endeavour should be made to accelerate the immediate preparation to increase the fighting Forces on a selected front, and to get the men where they are wanted to stem the flood which may come without warning from the East. That flood will come by road, by air, and by rail. It will be a matter of hours, not more, before great areas of our Allies' countries are overrun, their communications disrupted, and their mobilisation made almost impossible. I may be accused by the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, of talking as though we were alone on the Continent; but there are British troops in great danger, surrounded by hordes of possible enemies, and if I were among them I should like to feel that British troops would be coming to relieve. We should look after our own men and see that they are supported.
When, on a previous occasion, I put forward these views, my imagination was mocked at. There were those who said that air-power would be sufficient to prevent any such advance. I think there is growing up a school of thought which believes that, through the development of air-power, the work of ground troops has become of secondary importance. That may be so in certain circumstances, but it is not so in the circumstances which we have to face to-day. I have recently been reading a book written by an American Air Force officer, Major Seversky, who is a great advocate of air-power. His ideas —which seem to have brought him many followers—are formed from a purely American point of view—from a continent 3,000 miles from Europe. But the writer was very insistent on one thing, which was that no other operations could be undertaken until command of the air had been obtained. That having been gained, the Air Force could settle the war. I repeat that in certain circumstances that 512 may be right, but in those that exist to-day it is not right. For us, time means everything. Surely the answer to those who believe that air-power is all is being given in Korea, where the initial situation was not unlike the situation facing us to-day. There, air power, even with complete command of the air, was not able of itself to hold back the invading army. For eight months we have seen columns moving about a narrow peninsula, getting where they wanted to go. North Korean and Chinese armies do not seem to have had any great difficulty in concentrating where they wished. Only two days ago General Ridgway said that North of the 38th Parallel there were large unlocated concentrations of Chinese troops. Why unlocated? I thought that through air reports you always knew what was on the other side of the hill.
I hope no one will interpret my remarks as being in any way meant to disparage air power—on the contrary. But they are intended to influence those who may place too much reliance on air power. Large numbers of people who have not been called upon to shoulder arms imagine they can take shelter behind air power; and they whisper the mystic words "atom bomb." I do not think it is fair to the Air Force to take such a view. If war breaks out they will have very large Russian forces to fight before they can obtain command, and they will have to fight in many different directions. Loose thinking may cause the importance of being strong on the ground on the Continent to be overlooked. That tendency was visible in a speech of the Minister of Defence. In July he said that our best course was to keep any Russian advance as far East as possible; but then there was the extraordinary undertaking the other day that key men called up this year for fifteen days' training will not be called up again. I hope that our men will be kept up to date with modern inventions. The atom bomb has been mentioned. I feel quite certain that this would be the last country to advocate the use of the atom bomb. We are ourselves very vulnerable, and it would be to our advantage if we could get the atom bomb treated as gas was treated in the last war. Moreover, I do not see how we could use the atom bomb or any similar bomb with advantage in the crowded Allied territories over which Russia would be advancing: we should do too much 513 damage to our own men and to our own friends.
It seems a pity that, as the first brunt of attack must be borne by the overseas troops, the forthcoming exercises should be confined to formations in this country, and that the reserve divisions should not at least be formed to an advanced extent, if not wholly. If the danger is so grave, it is a matter for regret that the Government should not go the whole hog, have partial mobilisation, fill up the divisions already abroad and assemble the active divisions and those reserve divisions which, in the Minister's words, "would be assembled in the event of war." What is required is such a mobilisation as this; and I include with those forces the flotillas all round the coast. I suggest that the reserve divisions should assemble on the other side of the Channel, close to some of the great ports, and, at the end of their fifteen days, leave their equipment over there, in charge of the Regular cadres. There would not be many men away from productive work— 30 per cent. of the Territorial complement for a month at a time. The effect of that would be a tremendous stimulus to the morale of the people round about, and would encourage and stimulate any anti-Stalin movement. It would give the Territorials a good time, and they could be well trained, and possibly well fed. If we were to do that, mobilisation would be much simpler. Everything would be ready for the troops concerned to go into their barracks, or whatever it might be, and be able to move off at once, without congestion. Otherwise mobilisation might be a long job. This suggestion might be described as impracticable, but it is nothing of the sort. "Where there's a will there's a way." The object on that it would interfere with production leaves me cold, for, as I have said, few men would be away. There may be an objection on the ground of expense; but what would the extra expense be compared with the results, if we were even a few hours too late on the Continent to save our men from severe defeat?
We have been told to-day about the satisfactory recruiting for the Regular forces. Two days ago, however, another Government spokesman said that even yet it was not satisfactory. There is one thing which I think would make all the difference in this particular matter—if the 514 men could come forward in the knowledge that there was for widows and children and dependants of Service men who were killed on service a fixed pension on a basic rate which could be adjusted as the cost of living rose or fell. The men would then say: "That is all right. I get good pay. If I am killed or drowned my wife and children will receive enough, whether or not there is inflation."
§ 6.31 p.m.
My Lords, I was much struck by a remark made the other day, to the effect that their Lordships, the Lords of the Admiralty, always get what they want, and that the Navy always travels first class. I am afraid that I have not quite that optimistic feeling at the present time. In fact, I would say that, unless the position is carefully watched, the Navy may find itself in a different class, in spite of the fact that the command of the seas is of paramount importance to enable the supplies of war to reach this country, and so that the other two Services can operate efficiently. We have heard a great deal to-day about military rearmament and preparations, which are, of course, vitally necessary, but I think there is a danger that our naval requirements may be overlooked, unless they are repeated from time to time and properly linked with the requirements of the other two Services, as the noble Earl, Lord Beatty, said, with the right priorities which are so necessary.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, has given a general survey of the work being carried out in reconditioning the Fleet, and also of new construction, but I suggest that in new construction the plans fall far short of what is in fact required for His Majesty's Navy at the present time. As we are dealing with defence as a whole, I do not intend to go very deeply into details concerning the Naval Estimates, which your Lordships will no doubt wish to debate on another occasion; but there are one or two important aspects which I think should be raised at once. During the debate on Defence in September last year, I ventured to draw your Lordships' attention to the great shortage in escort vessels. We were then informed by the First Lord of the Admiralty that four new anti-submarine frigates were to be added to the Fleet, and I am glad to see that they now appear in the Naval Estimates. I understand that 515 this number of frigates is now to be increased to six, as is set down in the Explanatory Statement, but I suggest that a total of six new anti-submarine frigates is a totally inadequate number, and far less than is required for the Navy efficiently to carry out its anti-submarine duties.
I think it is true to say that anti-submarine measures are keeping fairly well in step with submarine developments, so far as they can, but these anti-submarine measures depend largely on a far greater number of frigates and aircraft than was found necessary in the last war. Therefore, I suggest that consideration should be given to the introduction of a far larger building programme than is foreshadowed at the present time. During the last Defence debate, we had information that a number of destroyers were being converted into anti-submarine frigates, and we have had similar information to-day. I would say that all these buildings and conversions seem to be on a rather mythical basis, because we have as yet had no definite information as to when they are to be completed and ready for service. No details whatever have so far been given as to the readiness of the Reserve Fleet. We have been told that 400-odd ships have had a refit. All we have actually been told by the Prime Minister is that the call-up would enhance this readiness. May I ask His Majesty's Government how long they think it would take to bring the ships of the Reserve Fleet into full commission in an emergency, perhaps excluding battleships?
There is no doubt that, if war should come upon us, whatever may be said to the contrary, the Navy as a whole would be far less well-equipped to protect our supply lines to-day than it was in 1939, because not only is the danger from submarine attack and mines far greater, but their tactical use has greatly improved, and as yet we have few frigates and very few minesweepers. It is all very well to produce a programme for the conversion of some destroyers to anti-submarine frigates, but the total anti-submarine force is not thereby increased. I hope that we shall hear shortly of a much larger building programme. I would say that, if the Navy is to be prepared for war within the next two years, there will need to be a complete recasting of priorities, and a considerable acceleration of construction 516 of those ships which are already on the stocks and building.
There appears to be no finality in His Majesty's Government's plans for conversion and new construction in the Fleet. I should like to ask to what time schedule they are working: whether we are to have new escort vessels in one year, two years or three years. One cannot help feeling that delay is being caused by waiting for the perfection of new improvements which are only just round the corner. I fully understand the difficulty, and the anxiety that ships should be fitted with weapons and instruments embodying the most up-to-date scientific knowledge, but it is now urgent and vital that a halt should be called, and that our ships be fitted with the latest anti-submarine and radar gear that are available at the present time. That is all-important. We cannot and must not delay any longer in the build-up of our Fleet. In this respect we can see from the Naval Estimates that the three cruisers which have been building (I forget for how many years— four or five years) are still awaiting further improvements in armament and equipment. Surely they have been waiting long enough, and should now be completed as soon as possible.
I should also like to ask His Majesty's Government a question which I believe is similar to one asked a short time ago by the noble Earl, Lord Beatty: What are the Navy's commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty? I hope that we shall hear something about this matter —perhaps to-morrow. We know perfectly well the number of Army divisions which are being prepared to go to Europe. Therefore I see no reason why the country should not be told what our commitments are as regards the Navy.
There is another point to which I should like to draw attention. In spite of frequent requests from this side of the House, and assurances from His Majesty's Government, warships are continually being transferred or sold to foreign countries. In fact, to one country not long ago three frigates and two ex-"Hunt" class destroyers were transferred, together with four minesweepers. However friendly this country may be, I suggest that no transfers of His Majesty's ships should take place at the present time, since every kind of small vessel will be of the greatest use in the event of an 517 emergency. They cannot be produced "out of the hat" in the space of a few weeks. It is to me a little disquieting to realise that no fewer than 28 cruisers, 123 destroyers, 42 frigates and 18 motor torpedo boats have been scrapped since the last war, in addition to 2 cruisers, 25 destroyers, 48 frigates and 196 motor torpedo boats being sold. I suggest that these figures indicate to your Lordships something of the numbers of ships which will have to be replaced if the Navy is to be as efficient as it was in the last war— even then there were never enough escort and anti-submarine vessels to protect our convoys.
I am sure that His Majesty's Government will agree that there is great potential danger from the mining of our principal ports around the coasts, which of course could be carried out by submarines, by aircraft or by the so-called E-boats. I think it might well happen that our main ports would have to be closed to traffic for a period owing to extensive mining. It would then become necessary to discharge our ocean-going ships into smaller ones for transit to our smaller ports. No doubt His Majesty's Government have considered this point, but I should like to have an assurance that the position of the small ship tonnage is being looked into. At the present time there is undoubtedly a shortage of suitable small ships, and it may well be necessary to earmark materials for the construction of these necessary small ships. There is little doubt that the various shipping companies concerned could and would handle this matter at once if they could be relieved of some of the excessive taxation which is hampering their requirements and their additional building, and which was debated in your Lordships' House only a short time ago.
I should like for one or two moments to deal with the question of the call-up of Royal Fleet Reserve men in the Navy. As your Lordships are aware, 6,000 Royal Fleet Reserve men, and 600 Emergency List and R.N.V.R. officers are to be called up. I would remind your Lordships that this is the first time that a call-up of Fleet Reserve men has been made on a selection basis. I should like to ask His Majesty's Government how the 518 selection of Royal Fleet Reserve men is to be made. I hope that it is not proposed that the call-up will apply largely to those men who are approaching three-and-half years' service in the Reserve, and who would therefore only just be able to carry out eighteen months' service. I think the total number of Royal Fleet Reserve men is somewhere about 21,000 men, with an establishment of about 24,000, and I suggest that it would be far better and fairer to call up all of them who are in a fit state of health, and perhaps even for twelve months instead of eighteen months, so that more ships of the Reserve Fleet could be manned. I think I am right in saying that no indication has yet been given as to how the 600 Reserve officers are also to be selected. Perhaps the noble Viscount who is to reply for the Government can, deal with that point.
Your Lordships will remember that during the emergency of 1938, the Reserve Fleet was called up for manœuvres, and I urge that this course should be carried out again as soon as possible. I am certain that this act would go a long way to demonstrate, not only to our friends but also to our enemies, that we are determined to resist any threat of aggression; and, what is of the utmost importance, it would enable the Reserve officers and men to have extended sea training and opportunities for exercising powers of command. I wonder how many of your Lordships realise that at the present time an officer of commander's rank has the opportunity of only about eighteen months' service afloat while in that rank, owing to the shortage of ships in commission.
In conclusion I suggest that His Majesty's Government have given far too little information as to the effects of the call-up on the general preparedness of the Navy. I suggest that serious consideration should be given to the complete manning of the Reserve Fleet for training and exercises as soon as possible.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Moved. That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Ismay.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.