HL Deb 22 February 1951 vol 170 cc521-70

2.36 p.m.

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved yesterday by Viscount Swinton, That there be laid before the House Papers relating to National Defence.


My Lords, for many years between the wars I was an official at the centre of the Government defence machine, and in that capacity I attended many Defence debates, both in your Lordships' House and in another place. It was then borne in upon me that it was extraordinarily difficult for anyone who was not in the inner secret circle, and, therefore not in possession of all the most up-to-date facts, figures and arguments, to discuss questions of detail in connection with this or that defence programme. Therefore, I am going to take the easy course to-day and speak on the broader issues. And I have another confession to make: that is, that, in spite of the warning given me by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, my very revered chief of twenty-five years ago, that if soldiers talk of foreign policy they nearly always put their foot in it, I am afraid I must impinge upon foreign policy because I do not see how one can separate foreign policy from defence.

With that preface, I will say this: that the size, the pace, the design and the management of any rearmament programme obviously must be governed by the particular circumstances of the situation that it is designed to meet. The situation to-day can, in my judgment, be stated in a single sentence: we are confronted with the gravest peril in our history. When I said that to a well- informed friend of mine quite recently, he said, rather pityingly: "You have lost your nerve." In case any of your Lordships should agree with my friend, I say, here and now, that I do not accept that aspersion on my nervous system, because, although I am convinced that the peril is mortal, I am equally convinced—as many noble Lords obviously were in the debate yesterday—that we can avert or overcome this peril, provided that the free peoples are resolute, vigilant and, above all, united, and provided that we put an end to wishful thinking and reluctance to face facts.

The outstanding fact at present is that for some time past a state of war has existed between the free world and Communism. It is undeclared war, but it is war nevertheless. It is called "cold war," but I find it very difficult to apply that epithet to a war in which the Americans have already had 48,000 casualties, in which we ourselves have suffered considerably, and in which the flower of the French Army is suffering severely in Indo-China. As for the North Koreans and the Chinese satellites or proxies, or whatever one may call them, of Soviet Russia, their losses must run into literally hundreds of thousands. The only nation to whose actions the term "cold war" applies is Soviet Russia. Cold and calculating, they have not yet lost a man in action or fired a shot in anger. At present it is a localised war, limited to the periphery of the Communist world. But it would be very rash to say that it might not at any time, by accident or miscalculation, or by deliberate intent, flare up into a world conflagration, a Third World War.

In view of what many of us have been through twice in our lifetimes, I should have thought it unnecessary to dwell upon what that would mean, had it not been for certain observations made in your Lordships' House during the debate on December 14 last by no less an authority than the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. I should like to quote his words, because I feel that if no reference is made to them many people may be blinded to the realities of the situation. The noble Viscount said: It is said that once a war is started, all restrictions are laid aside and war becomes total war. Well, that is not true. It is not the case. We have had two great wars and that has not happened. The Geneva Convention of the International Red Cross has, on the whole, been observed. I suppose that memory becomes blurred with time, but my own recollection of the First World War is a very different one. It corresponds exactly with the picture painted by Mr. Churchill in the first volume of his World Crisis, which was written while memories were still fresh. This is what he says: The Great War through which we have passed differed from all modern wars in the utter ruthlessness with which it was fought. All the horrors of all the ages were brought together, and not only armies, but whole populations were thrust into the midst of them. … Every outrage against humanity or international law was repaid by reprisals often on a greater scale and of longer duration … When all was over, torture and cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilised, scientific Christian States had been able to deny themselves; and these were of doubtful utility. That is my recollection of the First World War.

As for the second, surely memories are not so short as that? Surely we cannot have already forgotten the mass murder of 15,000 Polish officers at Katyn. It is true that we have not established who was responsible, though the Poles have a pretty good idea. Surely we have not forgotten all the cities, with their churches, monuments, and hospitals, which were reduced to rubble, and the thousands of old men and women and new-born babes who were buried in that rubble. If anyone has forgotten, the evidence is still there to see. Go to Canterbury, Coventry, Cologne or Hiroshima —the evidence is still there. We really must face the facts on this matter. Whatever happened in those two wars was gentlemanly compared with what will happen the next time.


My Lords, as the noble Lord has been kind enough to quote me, perhaps I may be allowed to intervene. May I say that I was then referring to the work of the Geneva Red Cross? And I said that on the whole the Convention was observed. The noble Lord says that the horrors of the last war have exceeded any in all history. I mentioned that in earlier ages it was the custom to massacre all prisoners. So far from that being done, at the end of the war millions of prisoners who had been taken were sent back to their homes; and I gave examples. I do not deny—on the contrary, I emphasise—the horrors and abominations, and, worst of all, the murder of 6,000,000 innocent civilians in Germany. But I still adhere to the fact that it was not total war; it was limited by international regulation. In my speech I was pleading that it should be further limited in a particular instance.


My Lords, I will not presume to carry on this argument, because I have made the point as I see it. I merely quoted the words of the noble Viscount, and I would not quote from his further words He said, for instance, that hospital ships sailed the seas with bright lights. I cannot remember it at all. I cannot remember other things, but, as I have made my point, I hope we may leave it at that.

Now we come to a Third World War, which we have to stop. As I see it, a Third World War would be infinitely worse than anything one could imagine. In the first place, science has placed in the hands of mankind agencies of destruction infinitely more powerful than anything we have had before. Secondly, as the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, told us yesterday, "Space has been conquered on this planet." Aircraft can carry death, disease and lasting devastation—I repeat the word "lasting" —over 5,000 miles. Yesterday, an aircraft crossed the Atlantic in four hours and forty minutes. Thirdly—and I say this with all sincerity—there is no outrage against international law, against the laws of God or man, from which the Soviet would shrink if they found it expedient so to do. What could you expect of a group of men who liquidated 5,000,000 to 10,000,000 of their own nationals, merely to establish collective farming?

No, my Lords, war is not only horrible; it is senseless. It may solve one problem, but it creates two or three others that are equally intractable. Moreover, we now know from bitter experience that the victors suffer equally with the vanquished. I am convinced that the free peoples, with their overwhelmingly superior resources, would win the war in the long run, but at the end of it civilisation would be set back for several generations. Therefore, our obvious, our supreme and our only aim should be to avoid war. I am sorry to have been so long at arriving at that obvious conclusion, which was pointed out time and again during yesterday's debate.

We ask ourselves: Can it be done, or is it too late? I am confident that it can be done, for two reasons. In the first place, there is the fundamental change in the policy of the United States. Gone is the isolationism that held them aloof for the first two years of the last war and for all the critical years that preceded that war. Instead, they are bearing the brunt and taking the lead in Korea; and, what is even more significant, they have pledged themselves to play a big part in the defence of Western Europe and are going to keep considerable forces on this side of the Atlantic, 3,000 miles from their homeland, for that purpose. What a great deterrent to aggression, and what a comfort to their Allies to have such a generous, staunch and powerful friend! The other reason for my confidence lies in Soviet policy, as I understand it. Although their abiding ambition is to spread Communism throughout the world, their first love is the safety of the Russian homeland; and they will never allow their crusading zeal to involve them in action which will endanger that security. That is why in the two decades between the wars they refrained from any action on a big scale to spread Communism. That is why Stalin made that shameful pact with Hitler in August, 1939—he was frightened for the safety of Russia.

With the end of the war, there was a new situation. Germany and Japan, who had kept the balance of power so far as Russia was concerned, had gone—I know that some people hate those words "balance of power," but they are true. The democracies made haste to disband and disperse their forces, while Russia alone remained armed to the teeth. The old balance of power had gone, and here it seemed was a chance of them to embark upon any adventure without danger to the security of Russia. That would have been so had it not been for one thing, and one thing only—namely, our overwhelming superiority in strategic air forces, coupled with the possession of the atom bomb. Here was something which could in the last resort hit Russia, and hit her very hard. That has restored, in a sensitive and unorthodox way, the old equilibrium.

People may say: "Well, that is all right. If there is this equilibrium, why worry?" My answer to that is that strategic air forces are obviously offensive and not defensive weapons; they cannot hold ground, nor can they prevent hostile forces from overrunning territory. It is not very satisfactory for our friends on the Continent, who have been through the ordeal of enemy occupation once, to be told: "That is all right; do not worry; we will win the war with strategic air forces." They do not want to be liberated at the end of a long drawn out war; they want to be defended. Therefore, we must reinforce the existing balance of power of the strategic air forces by what I may call the more orthodox—not old-fashioned, but more orthodox—balance of power that will enable our friends to hold fast. It is clear that we must do that as quickly as we can—and here I do venture into politics. I hope that, with growing strength, there will be continued patience, and that we shall continue to strive for conversations with Russia on the highest level. We must talk from strength, and we must talk with them on the highest possible level. It may be fruitless, and we may achieve nothing, but it is worth trying. Even if we cannot persuade them to change their ways, we may at least convince them that it is not the objective of the capitalist world to encircle them, as they think, or profess to think.

After that long introduction, I will now turn to the defence programme itself. So far as the size of the defence programme goes, I have only this general observation to make: that, so far as I can judge, I believe it to be on a scale which makes it clear to our friends that we regard it as our right and our duty to take a fair share in this burden; and I believe it makes it sufficiently clear to the Soviet that we should be very formidable enemies. As regards the rate, again I can only generalise, but I think that our present equilibrium may be a fleeting one and we should reinforce it by the more orthodox power as soon as possible. I am quite clear on one thing: that we shall not get the volunteers in sufficient numbers, or production sufficiently rapidly, unless the nation is told the truth in all its stark reality. After all, we well know how the nation reacts when it is told the truth. We all have precious memories of how the average man and woman—I use that word "average" with the greatest respect and affection—bore themselves in the days when we were all alone, with the enemy at the gate, and when the only certain things that our great leader could offer us were "blood, toil, tears and sweat." They shrunk from no effort and from no sacrifice. Therefore, they must be told.

Yesterday afternoon many noble Lords, from both sides of the House, gave me the impression that they felt it was better to risk giving away secrets to the enemy than not to keep our own people fully informed. I do not go all the way with the noble Lords who put forward that proposal because, as an official—and I admit to having myself been guilty in this respect—I have noticed that tremendous pressure is brought upon Ministers by their advisers in begging them not to give away information "on a plate" to the enemy. I should have thought that it was possible to give the public sufficient information to make clear not only the dangers but the necessity for sacrifice and effort. I realise that that information is not sufficiently detailed to enable Parliament to discharge its responsibilities, and I suggest that the only answer to that problem is to have a Secret Session. Having been an intelligence officer myself I say that we have to be very careful what we hand out to the other man.

Now I turn to what I call the design of this rearmament programme. Clearly, it must fit the strategy which has been decided upon, and obviously there are first charges for which this programme has to provide, such as the security of these Islands, the security of our sea communications and so forth. There is one particular point to which I should like to make reference, and that is my tremendous relief—and I am sure it is shared by nearly all your Lordships, if not by all—that we have now definitely decided to send Forces to the Continent to join in the defence of Western Europe. There is a school of thought—and it is quite a large one—which urges that we ought to concentrate on the defence of our own Islands by sea power and air power, and that we should let the Continent fend for itself.

I need not remind your Lordships—it is well known to all of you—that for over 200 years it has been the one consistent successful feature of British policy that the ports of Northern Europe should not fall into the hands of any great military Power. Five times, on five successive occasions, we have sent troops to the Continent to ensure that that does not happen—in the times of Philip of Spain, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Hitler. Each time we have headed and sustained the resistance of Europe to a military tyranny, and have emerged victorious. If we had not sent troops that would not have happened. But it is far more necessary to-day that we should have depth for our defence; with the VI, the V2 and the aeroplane it is far more important that any hostile Power should be kept back. Your Lordships will all remember Lord Baldwin saying—and I think he got into trouble for saying it— that our frontier was the Rhine. I submit, with great respect, that our frontier is now the Elbe.

I have dealt only with Europe. Yesterday there was no mention of the British Commonwealth and its various responsibilities. In my view, any defence programme must provide for the defence of certain vital strategic areas. At the moment we have considerable forces in Malaya and in the Middle East (apart from the contingent in Korea), and we are likely to have to maintain those forces, so far as I can see, for all time. Would it not be a wonderful economy in the sea haul and in the overheads, and also a wonderful manifestation of Commonwealth solidarity, if some members of the Commonwealth contributed contingents to the defence of those areas which are geographically most convenient? Suppose, for example, that India and Pakistan both agreed to send contingents to Malaya. As I say, the sea haul would be enormously reduced; Malaya would have the best troops in the world for that type of operation, and the two armies would be able and thrilled to do it. They would be able to revive their comradeship in arms which was their joy and their pride for well over a hundred years before partition. I am sure that it could not be helped, but I was sorry that when the Conference of Dominion Prime Ministers was held it was not found possible to include defence as one of the main items on the agenda.

Now I come to the management of this programme, and that gives me an excuse to talk about co-ordination and supreme control. Your Lordships must forgive me if I harp on this, but it was my job for ten years, and I feel it greatly. As I understand it, a large number of interAllied Councils and Committees have already been set up. There is the North Atlantic Council, which consists of the fourteen foreign Ministers; there is the North Atlantic Council of Deputies, which is a permanent body sitting in London; there is the Committee of Defence Ministers—fourteen of them—and the Military Committee sitting under them, and there is also the Standing Group in Washington, a very valuable body, which is in permanent session. We were told yesterday that on the production side there is a Defence Production Board. That is all to the good. That is a fundamental recognition of the principle which was stressed so strongly by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and by the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot, yester-day—that the United Nations must act as a team and not as a collection of individual nations, and that their combined resources must be produced and allocated to the best advantage of the Alliance as a whole.

Perhaps the most valuable step of all, however, has been taken in the appointment of General Eisenhower to be the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Western Europe. Every time his name was mentioned yesterday your Lordships paid tribute to him; and I can imagine no man who would give us a greater assurance than General Eisenhower that all the forces under his command would be so integrated that it would be difficult to distinguish their respective nationalities. I can remember flying on one occasion to Algiers from Casablanca and reporting at the General's office. I had flown in the early morning, and I asked "What is the news?" He said "I will speak to my G2"—the Chief Intelligence Officer—and he thereupon rang the bell. While he was waiting I said: "What nationality is he: is he British or American?" The General just looked blank, and then said "I have forgotten, but he is a jolly good intelligence officer."

The co-ordinating machinery which I have outlined seems to me a little unwieldy and complicated; it seems to be rather a lot of harness and not much horse. I feel that many of the Committees and Councils are too big for rapid and effective action. I am sure that there is a great deal of good and continuous co-ordination being done at all levels, but I believe that there is a hiatus at the summit. I do not see anything corresponding to the Combined Chiefs of Staff in the last war, set up, and directed—that is the point—by President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill. I fully appreciate all the difficulties, and I readily admit that there are circumstances and susceptibilities and considerations of which I do not know which have to be taken into account. I realise that the Combined Chiefs of Stall committee of the last war was set up at a time of acute crisis; everything was crashing, and proud nations were prepared to accept an arrangement which they would not have looked at in less dangerous circumstances. I concede that we had at our head at that time probably the greatest war leader of all time, one who commanded tremendous confidence throughout the world, and who had a marvellous record behind him, so that people were prepared to listen to him and accept his judgment. At the same time I cannot help feeling that, as I say, there is a hiatus at the summit. Unless this gap is filled we shall not get that coherent direction or unity of purpose and action which did so much to win the last war.

3.14 p.m.


My Lords, the sincerity and the broad sweep of the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down have created an atmosphere in which we felt the urgency and importance of the problem before us and the nature of the crisis—a crisis which he described as the greatest that this country has ever faced. He, like other members of your Lordships' House yesterday, spoke from personal knowledge, particularly from the side of the various Services. I do not propose to follow the noble Lord in that direction, except to say that we all appreciate what he said about the importance of the Commonwealth, and share the desire which he expressed that it will be possible for the Commonwealth to discuss defence. It is interesting that in that context the noble Lord specifically referred to only two of the members of the Commonwealth—namely, India and Pakistan. We must all be deeply conscious that the issue between Pakistan and India is of vital importance to the security of the Empire. I am sure we all feel how greatly it is to be desired that the initiative that has been taken by His Majesty's Government and by the United States at Lake Success may this time prove successful in bringing about a healing of the breach. That is of the utmost importance.

I will not follow the noble Lord on the military plane—I am not competent to do that. My only claim to speak is in relation to that part of the debate which is concerned with the production programme. It is difficult to form a clear judgment, for the reasons which the noble Lord who has just spoken expressed. I, too, have been on both sides of the fence in relation to munitions: on the official side, and now as one who looks at the matter from the other side, to whom inside information is not available. Lord Ismay quite rightly said how difficult it was to be specific and detailed in that situation; yet everyone must have been trying to answer the question which he put and which we all have in mind during this crisis: Is this programme sufficient? Obviously, it is not nearly sufficient to guarantee the security of this country if attacked; and though the noble Lord suggested it might be sufficient to check the will to aggression, a contrary view was expressed by various speakers yesterday. Clearly, it is nothing like enough to assure security.

But that is not really the form in which the question presents itself. We are not actually at war; and unless we felt certain that war was going to break out in a very short space of time, it would obviously not be wise to throw all our reserves into the scale in one desperate effort, for that would leave us greatly weakened for any effort when the actual crisis came. The fact that controls the present situation in relation to the munitions programme is that we may—no-body can be certain—have to carry on for many years in a state of high preparedness. The question, therefore, is one of judgment and balance. Are we doing the utmost possible in this crisis without vitally weakening the economy of the country? Is the military effort proposed in this programme one that can be maintained for a long period of years? It is not unreasonable to think that for the next decade—pray God it is not so— we may be facing a situation where a substantial proportion of the resources of every country will be diverted to armament production.

The most significant pointers to this question, "Is this the right sort of balance to be applied to the economy of the country?" were contained in some remarks in an important statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the Defence debate in another place. His main thesis was that during this period of strain we should not attempt to improve Britain's creditor position in the world, but, on the other hand, should endeavour not to fall into deficit; instead of trying to build up a favourable balance of trade and steadily strengthening our reserves, we should be content for this period of emergency just to pay our way. That does not precisely define the scale or the limits of the munitions programme. There are some items in that programme which do not come into that particular kind of accounting at all—for example, any munitions, raw materials and so forth, that may be provided under some variant of Lend-Lease from the United States. But that formula limits the diversion that the Government are demanding from the export drive; it restricts the export drive in amount. For the rest, it means that the impact of the munitions programme is entirely, or almost entirely, directed against the production of goods for consumption and the capital programme for developing home industries. Presumably, the scale of the programme has been designed by the Government to bring about that balance.

To what extent this pressure will impinge upon the country as a whole, it is obviously not easy to say, for there is no simple test of the strain. But, subject to various qualifications, one can make a rough approximation from a comparison of the armaments expenditure with the national income as a whole. I have mentioned before to your Lordships that during the nineteenth century it was extraordinary how evenly the cost of defence ran as a percentage of the national income. It ran steadily, so far as it is possible to give estimates, at 2 per cent., but when the rearmament prior to First World War came along it rose to about 4 per cent. of the national income. It receded a little after the First World War, but it rose again in the 'thirties to this 4 per cent. level. Then the rearmament drive of the period before the last war broke out, during the latter half of the 'thirties, and in that period it rose from 4 to 6 and then 8 per cent., of the total national income. Last year the figure was again about 7 per cent. The new programme which is before the House calls for an expenditure representing next year approximately 12 per cent. of the national income, the following year 14 per cent. (assuming that there is no substantial increase in the national income), and in the third year 16 per cent.

Rearmament before the First World War, therefore, took about 4 per cent. of the national income. Last time it was 8 per cent., and now it is something of the order of 16 per cent. Those are overall figures and, seeing that last year's expenditure included only a relatively small amount spent on the production of munitions, the increase in expenditure which is forecast represents a very rapid increase in the production. It would seem that expenditure on the munitions programme during the period is expected to rise to something like three times what it was last year. Whatever qualifications are made in the figures and whatever comments may be mads upon their justification, it is clear that they are the largest ever carried by this country in time of peace. On the other hand, they are very small compared with the need. Your Lordships will observe that I left one figure out of that analysis, the figure of the percentage spent on defence during the war, when expenditure was at its maximum. The corresponding figure spent at the peak of the war was 51 per cent. of the national income.

It will be seen, therefore, with all the qualifications considered, and taking this as the sort of picture of the amount of effort, energy and resources of the nation which are being put into this programme, that the military effort two years hence will be of the order of one-third of the effort that was made in relation to our resources at the peak of the last war. That is a large figure. But it is not an effort that will put us quickly on anything like even terms with our possible enemies. The decision of His Majesty's Government means that we are embarking on an attempt to draw level and to lessen the gap. The scale upon which we are making this effort is one which will enable us to maintain it for many years. On one hand, we prepare for a long pull; on the other, we knowingly take the risk that nothing that we can do in this first or second year can ensure that we are adequately armed in proportion to our responsibilities.

I do not think that any of us at this stage would seriously challenge the view that something like that balance is necessary in the present political situation. To take any radically different course would be wrong. But to the recognition of the inadequacy of this programme there is surely one corollary: that we must use every nerve to ensure that the programme is made as effective as possible, as soon as possible. And it is the duty of Parliament and of all of us to watch and to urge and to press upon His Majesty's Government, wherever it appears that there is something which needs to be done to increase the efficiency or speed in carrying cut the programme. I will mention only one or two small points in that connection, because it is not possible to speak with intimate background knowledge.

I noticed, for instance, that in his speech last Thursday the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that most of the orders under this present programme will be placed with the Royal Ordnance and aeroplane factories and shipyards, his reason being that there was spare capacity in those places. It is obviously common sense to use spare capacity as quickly as possible. But surely there is a further point to consider here. All the experience of the last two great wars has shown how important it was at a very early stage, if possible even before the crisis developed, to broaden the capacity for production. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House knows well the fight that materialised in the First World War on that particular subject.

The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, who is to reply to the debate, has said that we have more capacity in this country in the engineering industry now than at any other time. But as the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, pointed out, in the Defence White Paper the Prime Minister has stated that there is a very great deal of plant replacement and retooling to be done. So the required capacity has clearly not yet been achieved. Even at the expense of some momentary setback, surely that points to the importance of broadening the placing of orders, so that the factories, like the men themselves, may have a refresher course. It is essential that that tooling-up, giving those concerned some practice, so helping to ensure that defence production is in fact in working order, should be taken into account in the placing of orders.

The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, speaking of standardisation, said yesterday that His Majesty's Government took the view that It would be an unsound policy to allow standardisation or integration of programmes to deflect too much attention 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. Surely we know by now that there is the possibility of enormous waste through lack of standardisation of types and co-ordination of programmes. In the First World War the whole of the effort of the United States in the manufacture of American type guns and munitions was wasted, in the sense that they never reached the front at all. Owing to changes of type, twenty months' factory work on field guns, heavy artillery, and rifles, never reached the front. All that man-power, all the material that was used, was wasted. I do not suggest for one moment that we are going to repeat that unfortunate mistake on that scale; but the problem arose again in the Second World War. Much man-power and material was lost and wasted because of prolonged battles over type and standardisation.

In that context I would make this point: that when this country decides upon its type, and is tooled up and the jigs and gauges are all ready, it is harder for us to change than it is for the United States—very much harder, because there is not that large margin of factory space which can be used. Our whole industry, our whole man-power, is not set up in such a way as to be constantly re-tooled and rearranged. Therefore, while again an outsider would be very foolish to challenge directly the statement of the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, as to whether it was right at this stage to abandon this standardisation concept, and to proceed without it, I would only say that there is a warning yellow light, and it would be comforting if His Majesty's Government could give some assurance that pro- gress is being made in the standardisation of types for the Grand Alliance. If fourteen nations are coming into the picture, all with their own preconceptions as to what is the best weapon of this or that type, the resulting chaos is just unthinkable.

I will not follow in any detail what the noble Lord, Lord Ismay, said about the international organisation. I concur with every word. The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, also spoke about that matter yesterday. We cannot possibly regard our programme as something in isolation: it is part of one great programme. But I must say that I sympathise with the last speaker in the view, which I am sure is shared by noble Lords on the Government Benches, that there is grave danger of having far too many different committees and organisations. I should very much like to hear what hope there is of co-ordinating the war effort. Take, for example, the most important problem of the moment—that is to say, the scarcity of materials and the resulting high prices. Who is looking after that problem? Is its solution being co-ordinated with the war programme? At this moment committees of twenty-two nations are meeting to discuss the distribution and prices of certain commodities. Some of the nations are members of the North Atlantic communities, and some are not. They include producers and consumers. Again, take stockpiling. Who is trying to see that there is some co-ordination in stockpiling—a development which has produced chaos in many industries, and far more than has yet been tackled by the special committees? Apparently, it is not specifically the North Atlantic organisation. The Committees of twenty-two nations form one group, and there is another group of three that is trying to do some co-ordinating. There is also the new co-ordinating machinery of the North Atlantic Treaty Powers. These different groups give an impression of a considerable amount of disorder.

I know how difficult it is to bring into effect this international co-ordination, even in time of war. The Leader of the House knows quite well that in the First World War, the first effective inter-Allied munitions meeting, which finally settled the programme for 1918, met in January. 1918—four years after the war started. We did a little better than that in the last war; but even this time—I think the noble Lord, Lord Ismay, would agree— the efficiency of the co-ordination of the production programme did not reach its height until well on in 1944. Over four years is a very long time to wait. We are faced with this difficulty of rapid co-operation between a dozen nations. Surely it is problem number one to get that matter properly articulated. Of course, there must be some form of political authority at the top, and below there must be simplification and decentralisation. As I have urged upon the House time and time again, there should be no conflict in these matters as between what happens in Europe and what happens in the North American countries. It is a question of proper decentralisation right through the structure, from top to bottom. There are many more questions and problems of raw materials with which I should like to deal, but they must wait for another occasion. There is one other issue connected with the question of making our effort effectively and quickly—which is a matter of supreme importance. I will only mention it; I will not develop it. Surely it is whether or not Germany is to be in the defence force of Western Europe. I strongly support what was said yesterday on this point by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton.

Now I come back to the point at which I started. Lord Ismay made a most impressive statement on our danger. As I have reminded the House, in a sense we are agreed that we are not going to throw in at once everything we have got, in spite of this terror that may burst at any time. We are going to carry out our task on a long-considered, phased, steady programme. If this is so important for humanity as has been suggested, if, at the same time, we say that we are going to gird ourselves for a long, steady pull, then surely we must do our utmost to make the people of the country realise how important this programme is, so that they will put into it the kind of effort that they put in after Dunkirk and in war time generally. Is that spirit there? It is clearly necessary. Yet there is one reflection that must occur to us if we devote a few moments thought to the matter. Within our experience we have never had an impulse on that scale while there was a purely Party Government in power. A strong sense of national unity has always produced a startling effect which has manifested itself in an upward movement of munitions production, in recruiting and in general preparation for defence. It is not surprising that people are looking to us for guidance as to how unity of action can be secured. It was clearly implied in what the noble Lord, Lord Winster, said yesterday, and if your Lordships read right through the three Reports of the recent defence debates, you will find it peeping through at various times.

In a recent Gallup Poll, people were asked what sort of Government they would like to see in power. Twenty-five per cent. said that they would like to see a Coalition Government in power. That is a very high percentage, when one considers that it includes people who regularly vote for one side or the other. They went out of their way to say that they would favour a coalition. But that is not the only means of obtaining common action. In the United States there is bi-partisan policy. Twelve months before the United States came into the late war Mr. Roosevelt called into consultation, and called into his Cabinet, two Republicans, Mr. Stimson and Colonel Knox. In this country, as Mr. Grimond pointed out in another place recently, the Committee of Imperial Defence in times past included a leading member of the Opposition, who served through the time of preparation for the First World War. The possibility of having. non-Ministers in office, and of a party truce ought surely to be considered.

There are many ways in which it can be demonstrated to the country that this is a crucial situation. The country is solid. I have mentioned only some of the ways of emphasising unity and bridging the Party gap It is said that it is politically impossible to do some of these things—that it must either be a Coalition or nothing. Cannot any other way be adopted? I wonder. We naturally like to think that our political system is the best in the world. Its chief merit, or one of its chief merits, we say, is that it is unwritten, and therefore adaptable to circumstances. If our minds are as flexible as our Constitution, surely it must be possible in this emergency to find a way of meeting two pressing needs—a great demonstration of national unity and determination of which the whole world will take note, and the mobilisation of all the ability and experience that this country possesses.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, it seems to me that while there has been much criticism of the Government's policy and of their proposals, there has been one outstanding feature in this debate to-day and yesterday—and, indeed, it was to be observed in the recent two days' debate in another place. Out of all these discussions, it clearly emerges that, despite criticism, except in a few rare instances there is unanimity of support for the Government's proposals, or for the Government's decision to put this country into a position of defence against any possible enemy. I think that that unanimity is also expressed in the temper of the country. It is a remarkable thing that while a considerable war is proceeding in Korea, while there is conflict in Malaya and great danger afoot, when the Government ask for recruits for Regular service, recruiting, which has dragged in past years, leaps up. It is a strange part of human nature, of which I think this is an illustration: that men respond to danger rather than to the offer of security.

In one part of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Ismay, said that there is a longing for peace in this country. I think that is true of the people of this country in common with the peoples of the whole world. Yet it is to be noted that our people are determined at any cost to defend their liberties and their way of life. The noble Lord, Lord Ismay, made a striking speech, in which he ventured into foreign affairs, and I think he moved your Lordships deeply. The noble Lord spoke of a "hiatus." I do not know whether he used that word in order to avoid using one more accurate and expressive, but anyone who takes note of the various organisations which are now in being to bring the nations together must find them as confusing as I do. There is a hiatus in the minds of many people.

The people of this country and the men of our Armed Forces respond to personalities. While I agree with all that has been said about General Eisenhower, and have always been enthusiastic for our friendly relations with America and appreciate deeply all that they have done, I sometimes wish that we had some outstanding personality in the military, naval or air worlds to express the feelings and claim the attention of those who serve our country in the Armed Forces. Personality is the thing that matters. Of course, we have that great leader of men, General Slim, the C.I.G.S., a great and modest man, but he is at the head of our defence organisation and naturally is deeply absorbed in that work. We have Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery, but he is in another country dealing with these matters. He is a man of whom we are proud indeed, who has rendered incalculable service to this country. I wish that he, or someone like him, had a place in the eyes of the world which could put this country and the Commonwealth more in the picture. Perhaps I have said something I ought not to say, but I say what I have often felt.

The Government have shown considerable courage in coming to the hard decision to rearm this country in its present state. They have also shown considerable courage in the proposal to call up Z men. There is one aspect of that callup which has not been criticised. It has been accepted unanimously that it would be in effect an exercise in mobilisation. Something like this has been wanted for a long time. We have always been proud of the handful of Regulars who have been called up at the outbreak of war to face overwhelming forces, but it is not just to those men. The ex-soldier knows what happened on mobilisation in previous wars. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who said that in 1939 they were charging about Salisbury Plain in bakers' vans. Considerable hardship is inflicted on men who are called up suddenly at the beginning of a war. Sometimes billets are rare. I remember that in the 1914–18 war one Territorial division had to sleep for many days in the open. That may be part of a soldier's duty—as a matter of fact, I know it is—but not when he is first called up. Everybody knows of the difficulties of getting clothing, equipment and sometimes food. From the point of view of a test for mobilisation, this call-up of the Z men will be most valuable in the future. If there are any defects, they will be discovered.

One hears the criticism that in fifteen days the men will learn nothing. It must be remembered, however, that we are not calling up raw recruits, but men who have seen service. They will receive unit and group training; they will become familiar with new weapons and with the people with whom they are to serve; and, generally speaking, I believe that if the proper steps are taken—and we are told that they are to be taken, with medical examinations and other preliminaries dealt with before they actually join—there is no reason why the fifteen days' training should not be most valuable. It is a great pity and a great hardship that these men, who have so recently resettled in civilian life, should be called up again, but I feel it is necessary. But I was happier when I learned that they would be back in their own homes in little more than a fortnight, to resume normal civilian life. The fact that some of these men will be valuable men in industry, and possibly key men, ought always to be borne in mind. I was pleassd to hear the noble Lord, Lord Layton, make the point about the high percentage of the national income that would be used in connection with rearmament in about two years' time. That always must be borne in mind when this problem is considered.

It seems to me that in the face of this difficult and terrible international situation, in which it has become necessary to rearm in spite of grave economic conditions, the Government have done as much as they possibly can. I am rather in the nature of an unbiased witness in this matter, because I am not on the Front Bench—and I am not likely to be. I have thought of the general difficulty with regard to food, and the long and continued hardship that has fallen on the people of this country in that respect—although I must say, frankly, that the amazing thing is that in many industrial areas they are on the whole better fed than they have been before in my lifetime. Nevertheless, this has been a long difficult period for our people. It is worse still when one remembers that twice in the lifetime of all of us here the country has spent its resources, and great masses of lives have been lost, so that directly or indirectly there is scarcely a home that has not been touched. In view of this, it seems to me that the Government have acted most courageously in putting forward these proposals to the people of the country. I am certain that the people are prepared to face any sacrifice to carry them out.

Before I sit down I should like to say a few words to those outside this House who run these bogus peace movements, usually invented by cynically-minded men who have a fairly low estimate of the intelligence of the workpeople of this country. I know well that the estimate of the intelligence of the average worker of this country made by what is called the intelligentsia, I do not care whether they are in this country or elsewhere, is not very high; but it may be news to them that the estimate of the average worker in this country of the intelligence of the intelligentsia is not very high either. I am sure that the Government can rely upon the mass of the people to carry out the proposals which have been considered by your Lordships during the last two days, and to which Parliament generally has given assent.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the whole House will wholeheartedly agree with the closing words which fell from the noble Lord, Lord Lawson. Coming as they do from one of the most highly respected and experienced labour leaders of the country, they are of great value at the present time, I wish to call attention for a few minutes to a very important munition of war which, in this debate and in the two days' debate in another place, has perhaps not received its apt meed of attention, and that is money. Of course, it is well known that lack of money never stops a war, and that when the country's life is in danger money is of no account. On the other hand, however, we have had many instances where national bankruptcy has inevitably led to dictatorship, either Communist or Fascist, and that is the very result which we all wish to avoid. The late Field-Marshal Goering once told the Germans that they could not have both guns and butter, but apparently His Majesty's Ministers do not agree with the Field-Marshal. It is true that the Prime Minister has told us that we must prepare ourselves for a lower standing of living, and Mr. Gaitskell told the Members of the House of Commons the other day that it would be his duty in the next Budget to restrain the nation's spending power so that it would conform to the smaller supply of available goods in the shops. The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, said yesterday that we must all be prepared to make sacrifices, and many other responsible Ministers have said the same. The impression all those speeches have left upon my mind is rather that they mean to increase our burden of taxation rather than attempt to adjust the position by other means.

Let us consider for a moment the figure with which we are likely to have to deal. Of course, that figure increases almost every time a responsible Minister opens his mouth. Until Mr. Gaitskell's speech last week, we thought that £4,700,000,000 was to be the limit, but he soon disabused our minds of that idea. He told us that we must add to that amount not only the probable increased costs of all our purchases in the next two or three years, but also a sum for stockpiling. The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, said yesterday that that sum was £140,000,000. But that is only for the first year, and I think I am right in saying that Mr. Gaitskell foreshadowed an expenditure of something like £350,000,000 for stockpiling in all. He also pointed out that a considerable capital expenditure will be necessary for the manufacture of jigs, tools and so on, which are essential for the production of the munitions of war. I read a very reasoned article in the Financial Times two or three days ago which reviewed all these things and came to the conclusion that in fact an expenditure of at least £5,500,000,000, and most probably £6,000,000,000, would be necessary in the next three years, let alone what may happen after that.

Now for the purpose of my comparison I ask your Lordships to allow me to take the conservative figure of £5,400,000,000 —more particularly as it makes for easy reckoning. Our expenditure hitherto on armaments has been £800,000,000. Three times that amount is £2,400,000,000, the present expenditure for three years. Deducting that from £5,400,000,000, we arrive at a figure of £3,000,000,000 more for the next three years—that is to say, £1,000,000,000 a year additional on the amount we are now spending. Now may we roll these thousand millions over our tongue for a moment, and see what it means in relation to taxation? All these figures are no doubt well known to your Lordships, but I am sure that they are not appreciated by the general public. For instance, £1,000,000,000 is equal to 6s. 6d. on the income tax. It is also equal to the whole of the drink and tobacco duties added together. It is equal, too, to over four times the whole of the receipts from purchase tax. For those like noble Lords opposite who have a predilection for attack upon capital, it is interesting to reflect that Sir Stafford Cripps' 5 per cent. levy produced, over three years, a mere £100,000,000—one-tenth of what we propose to spend additionally in each year in this pursuit. Finally, £1,000,000,000 is almost exactly half the amount the whole nation spends annually upon food.

There are four ways in which this sum can be met. One is by taxation, another is by inflation, a third is by economy and a fourth is by increased productivity, and I have no doubt that the Government will adopt all four ways. But I feel convinced that the accent will be against the economy part. From the speeches of responsible Ministers it seems that there is to be no interference with the amenities of the Welfare State, and I should have been surprised if the leaders of any other political Party would go much further than that. But what I wish to submit to noble Lords is, first, that the saturation point in taxation has almost been reached, and that any further increase, even if it be in attacking capital and so on, is likely to come up against the law of diminishing returns, as has already occurred in the case of beer.

A NOBLE LORD: And tobacco.


And tobacco, cinema seats and so on. If you rule out any large increase of taxation, of course you are driven back upon inflation, and we know quite well what the results of inflation are. If carried too far it will lead us to exactly that position which our potential enemies are so anxious to bring about. Therefore I make one more forlorn plea on behalf of economy, because I cannot see how greatly increased productivity can be expected when there is already so little unemployment and when such a large amount of the productivity effort must be diverted to the manufacture of munitions. However, I hope I may be mistaken in that regard. I think Mr. Gaitskell expected an increased productivity of 4 per cent. a year, and I hope will all my heart that he will get it, but I must say I do not expect it.

When the cry of the nation is for rearmament it is almost treasonable to suggest that there should be any restraint in pursuit of rearmament, but past experience teaches us that the exploits of Mr. Bevan in providing wigs, dentures, bath-chairs, surgical legs and so forth, are child's play to what can be achieved by the Services once they get a free rein and the bit between their teeth. One can sympathise wholeheartedly with the Chief of Staff in that respect. The Chief of Staff naturally is responsible, and as a loyal member of the Committee he is anxious to see that it gives of its best, and fulfils its responsibilities up to the hilt. One can well understand the First Sea Lord, for instance, whose main responsibility is the protection of our lifelines, on being told that there are 300 or more Russian submarines (it is true we have never looked upon Russia as a leading naval Power, but it is a great mistake to underrate one's enemy), making his demands for anti-submarine craft and insisting that these demands be fully met.

On the other hand, one can understand Sir John Slessor, enthusiastically supported by my noble and gallant friend Lord Trenchard, saying that unless their full demands for aircraft are met a score or so of atonic bombs will be dropped on London and other cities, whereby the reduction of the population would be so drastic that the anxieties of the First Sea Lord—if he were still alive—would be completely relieved. In view of these competing claims, quite sincerely made, it is in my submission of supreme importance that the Defence Minister should be a man of great determination and discrimination, a man capable of holding the balance when exercising his complete authority. I do not know whether the present Defence Minister is such a man or not. He and I entered another place on the same day in 1922, and I have not the slightest intention of making an attack on him. But I hope that he possesses these characteristics, and is capable of talking to his Service subordinates in their own language, and telling them where they "get off."

In that connection, I am led to refer to an article which I read the other day by Mr. Ward Price, the veteran war correspondent, in which he described the American forces in Korea as having 1,000 jeeps and 1,000 lorries per division, including two field laundry units, and four field bath units. He went on to make the significant remark that the men are prisoners of their trucks; he said that many miles of road were blocked by all these vehicles and that, had the enemy any air power, they would have been annihilated. On almost the same day a question was put to the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, by the noble Viscount, Lord Long about the welfare of our own contingent of troops in Korea. Lord Long was assured that 20.000 books and a large number of wireless sets had been sent out, and that extremely good arrangements had been made for sharing canteens with the Americans and so on. My Lords, I am an old soldier myself, and I am only too pleased and anxious that troops should be made as comfortable as they can be made. But I must say that when I first went to war in 1914 nobody bothered about my laundry or bathing; and, so far as I remember, all the books and cigarettes I got were sent to me by my mother.

I am not, of course, criticising the American Army. The point I wish to make is this; Is it not possible that we may be becoming a little luxurious in our battlefield social services? If we observe the type of enemy we are now fighting in Korea—and which we may be fighting in Europe—we see that their battlefield social services may be said to be nil. There, the soldier goes to war with a bag of rice tied round his neck by way of rations. And I understand that in the Russian Army they do not even keep casualty lists. We know that one of the advantages which our potential enemy enjoys is man-power. It seems to me that if we were to take 20,000 Russian soldiers and 20,000 soldiers of a more civilised race, we should find that in proportion the number of men actually in the fighting line would be very much larger in the case of the Russian soldiers. I was in entire agreement with the excellent speech of Lord Trenchard yesterday. I think we need to satisfy ourselves that we are not getting a little too"velvet-seated"in these matters. I am speaking in the presence of the noble and gallant Field Marshal, and I stand to be corrected; but I do suggest that it is possible for mechanisation to be overdone. It has long been the proud boast of every infantry soldier that all wars are eventually settled by the"P.B.I."—which, in this rarified atmosphere, must be construed as "Poor Bally Infantry." In this latest campaign in Korea we received a lesson in that respect, when the Allied Forces were pursued in almost a helter-skelter fashion by infantrymen who were very scantily armed. Another point which occurs to me is this. I see photographs in papers such as the Illustrated London News showing infantrymen holding weapons which can be fired from the shoulder, and which it is claimed are "tank-busters. "Well, my Lords, every weapon is supposed eventually to bring about its antidote; and if it is in fact true that a tank costing many thousands of pounds can be destroyed by one of these missiles from a weapon which can be fired from the shoulder, it seems to me that we might at any rate consider whether it is wise or necessary to go in for the immense expenditure involved in the creation of an Army which is over-mechanised.

The Russian bogy is often held up to us, and I am sure rightly so. A good illustration of this was provided by the speech of Lord Ismay this afternoon. I am sure we all enjoyed that speech, and gained much from it. But, equally, we are all very bored with the Russian bogy. We may. I know, have to face it, and I agree with everything that is being done towards preparing for that eventuality. There is, however, another bogy —the bogy of extravagance and profligate finance leading to over-taxation, inflation and conditions which, if persisted in, lead to bankruptcy. I submit to your Lordships that that financial bogy is just as dangerous as the Russian bogy, because unless we keep it in check it will lead to exactly the conditions, as I said at the beginning of my speech, which we are all so anxious to avoid. So I would implore our leaders, even though it be contrary to the policy upon which their whole Party has been built, while holding the Russian bogy before their eyes in one hand, equally to hold the financial bogy before their eyes in the other, and to guard against them both.

4.31 p.m.


My Lords, not for the first time I suggest that the House should be grateful to the noble Lord who has just spoken for pouring a welcome douche of cold water upon some of our proceedings. I hope I do not embarrass him by saying that I agree with practically the whole of his speech. This has been a useful debate, of course, but a gloomy one. This has been exemplified by the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Ismay, who opened in such brilliant fashion the second day of this debate. On the one hand, according to the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, if I am not exaggerating what he said, we are threatened with national bankruptcy. On the other, according to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Ismay, we are threatened with complete destruction, the greatest peril that has ever faced us and the most mortal danger in which we have ever found ourselves.

I am reminded of the story of the Negro who was taxed in his pew by the minister:"Will you choose death or damnation?" and the Negro said:"Minister, I choose neither. I will take to the woods." I think that here is a case for taking to the woods—in other words finding a middle way. On the whole, I think the Government are doing it. From what I am told, we can bear the strain of these increased financial demands and I believe —as I gather do the noble Lord, Lord Ismay, and my noble friend Lord Lawson —that war is not inevitable. I believe there is a middle course. In the few remarks which I shall venture to address to your Lordships, I intend to elaborate that, for I believe that war is not inevitable, and almost certainly that it will not occur for some years. I think I have some fairly solid grounds for that belief.

With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, says about the extravagance and the high cost of modern weapons, surely, if we have armed forces, it is right that they should be given the most up-to-date weapons that can be provided. One advantage of having somewhat delayed and retarded this defence programme—and I think this will appeal to the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton—is that the longer you can put off the actual ordering of the weapons, the more up-to-date they will be when they are available. because great steps in research and development have been going on at a tremendous pace during the past five or six years. I instance the advances in rockets and guided missiles. That advance affects all the three Services.

There is, of course, the justification that I have mentioned for this programme. Yet for heaven's sake do not let us lose sight of the fact, especially on these Benches, that we represent a Party which is the greatest hope for peace in the world—the British Labour Party. For heaven's sake, do not let us lose sight of our fundamental faiths and beliefs! It has always been the case—and history has proved it—that armaments by themselves have never prevented war. One has only to study the history, which is within the recollection of all of us, of the outbreak of the First World War, when the overwhelming naval strength of Britain, plus the considerable navies of France and Russia, should have been a deterrent that prevented any aggression by Germany. Once again, it did not. So I repeat that armaments by themselves have never prevented war. Therefore, this rearmament programme, which is to cost us so much in sacrifice and labour, must be accompanied by the most vigorous diplomacy. I am glad to see that the. preliminary Four-Power meeting, which has not yet been mentioned and which has been under negotiation far too long, has been fixed for March 4. I am sure we all hope that it will be a success.

With regard to the whole question of armaments, I am reminded of the saying of a great American, the late "Teddy" Roosevelt (if I may use his nickname), a kinsman of the late Franklin Roosevelt, who was very fond of saying that you should "Speak softly, but carry a big stick." I suggest that that is very sound advice, and I venture to add this to it. If your stick is not as big as you think it should be, harsh words and abuse are no substitute. I hope, now that the principle of having these preliminary Four-Power Conferences, upon which so much depends, has at last been agreed upon, there will be a truce in all the countries concerned to this torrent of abuse and vilification and criticism that has been going on across all the frontiers for far too long. I wish there could be a truce.

There was some flurry in the dovecotes when Mr. Stalin gave an interview to the newspapers the other day and said some rather harsh words about my leader. But it was the first interview he had given of that sort for two years, though his minions and assistants have been very bitter and harsh in their criticisms of ourselves and friends. In the same way, we have been equally harsh and said some hard things about other people. My right honourable friend the Lord President of the Council to my amazement used the occasion of a Burns Anniversary meeting—in Scotland, of all places, where politics are generally debarred completely on such great and sentimental occasions—to speak harshly and use strong criticism against the Russians.


The Lord President did not make that an occasion for speaking like that. I think it is fair to say that the meeting was entirely non-political.


I can go only by what I saw in the papers. If the noble Earl was present I withdraw that remark at once, and I am glad to do so. But I am saying that on practically every occasion for a long time past, opportunity has been taken to exchange these un-pleasantries. I feel that, in view of the fact that this Four-Power Conference is being called, there should be a truce in verbal warfare.

With regard to this question of war not being inevitable, Mr. Stalin, in the interview to which I have referred, said that it was not inevitable now. Everybody, except a few lunatics on both sides of the Atlantic, agrees that war is not inevitable. The reason is this. First of all, why has not war taken place up to now? The noble and gallant Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, as have other noble Lords, drew attention to the reported tremendous strength of the Russian armed forces. In view of the great hordes of infantry, organised in divisions, which the Russians apparently dispose in Europe, the strong armour and their numerous air force, plus the armies of their allies and satellites, I think there is general agreement that last year or the year before, or even this year, there was not very much to prevent them from making a successful invasion of Western Europe and sweeping right across the Continent to the Channel and the Pyrenees. They have not done that. Yet to the leaders in the Kremlin there are attributed in many quarters imperialistic ambitions and a lust for conquest which may be true—I do not know. My own belief is that the real trouble is their fear of attack, just as we are afraid of attack. That is the tragedy of the situation.

Why has this great invasion not taken place? After his speech of yesterday, I think Lord Cork would agree with me that there was little to stop them, at any rate. Why has not it taken place? Of course, some would say that the deterrent is the atom bomb. Yet against an invading force the atom bomb would have to be dropped on the territory of the people whom eventually we should hope to liberate. I would point out to your Lordships that the atom bomb is available to the Americans, presumably from Japan, yet its possible use was no deterrent to the Chinese intervention in the Korean campaign. I venture to suggest that if matters are taken too far, the atom bomb will lose its deterrent effect, though of course it will not lose its awful, devastating effect; and in that regard this country is obviously the most vulnerable country of all because of our thickly populated districts. I do not think the atom bomb is the real reason that has prevented the invasion of Europe, which we are told has been in the plan of the Kremlin. If they had wished, they could have carried out this plan last year or the year before, at a time before we and our Western Allies had begun rearming.

The reason why this aggression or invasion has not taken place, and why it will not take place for some considerable time, is, I suggest, the following—and it applies to all nations. The generation that fought in the Second World War will not willingly fight in a Third World War. There must be a long breathing space to allow for a new generation to grow up. After all, it was twenty-one years after the First World War before the Second World War started. It is only six years since we stopped fighting in the last war. Although disciplined men will mobilise and march, and patriotism will play its part on both sides of the Atlantic and on both sides of the Iron Curtain—you can always make a great appeal to men if you say that their Motherland is in danger, and they will respond up to a point—nevertheless, I suggest that no politician, no leader and no professional staff officer can foretell how the matter will end if you call upon the generation that has just fought one unlimited or total war to engage in another. I believe that is the real deterrent, and we can see an open manifestation of that feeling in the strong opposition to remilitarisation both in Germany and in Japan—both countries with great martial records. There we have this strong argument against re-militarisation amongst the common people. It is the common people in Russia and everywhere else, and the private soldiers, in Russia and everywhere else, who are against war; and no leaders or Governments can call upon their people to fight a long war unless those people are willing. That, I suggest, is the real reason why, first of all, we have not had the peace broken on a large scale since the end of the Second World War, and why we have a considerable breathing space ahead of us yet. But, in spite of that, I agree that the present Government, Labour and Socialist as it is, dare not take the risk of not providing up-to-date armaments and increasing our Forces, and I think that decision should be supported. I re-echo what my noble friend Lord Lawson said. I think that the mass of the people will support this programme if it is put to them properly. They should do so not only verbally and politically but by a strong effort to increase production.

We ought to take long views and, taking a long view—though perhaps not so long —it is possible to see a situation in which the United Nations may lose its effectiveness. After all, we had tremendous hopes for the League of Nations and it developed very well for a number of years, but we know what happened to the League of Nations. We have great hopes of the Atlantic Treaty. But we have been participants in many other agreements and alliances, and they have all gone the same way. It is not impossible to visualise a situation in which the United Nations may lose its effectiveness and for all practical purposes go the way of the League of Nations; and we in Britain might find it expedient to follow the example of our ancestors, who were not all fools, and return to our old role of splendid isolation, or if you like, armed neutrality. We might find it expedient to do what the advisers of the late Queen Victoria did— namely, adopt a policy of splendid isolation. If the Americans could do it after the First World War, we can do it after the Second World War. I say that that is looking a good way ahead, and many things must happen before that situation is reached But it takes a long time to build up armaments and to train our personnel, especially a Navy. We must have plenty of time and proceed by gradual processes to build up our resources. By doing it gradually, we shall be able to avoid some of the extravagancies about which Lord Blackford warned us, I think quite rightly.

If I have been forgiven for these preliminary remarks to what I am going to say to my noble friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, I would venture to put to him one or two questions, I hope of a practical nature. The first has been mentioned by Lord Layton and other noble Lords, and I believe by my noble friend Lord Wilmot in what was a most interesting and brilliant maiden speech. I can foresee our running into the greatest difficulties, and perhaps insurmountable difficulties, over the question of the scarcity of certain raw materials. That scarcity applies at the present time through the whole range of basic materials, such as steel, aluminium, metals and certain chemicals. It affects the whole of this programme and our whole industrial effort which must be kept going as well. I hope that progress is being made and will be pressed on with in dealings with this, matter. It must be dealt with, I suggest, by international control and by the rationing of scarce raw materials. After all, we can stockpile ourselves to a standstill. The Americans have nearly done it.

If my noble friend will give the nation comfort on that first point—because everybody who knows the situation is worried about it—I will proceed to the second, which is that, along with other noble Lords who have spoken, I think that we must find some means of speeding up the procedure for giving leave to begin the building of new factories, especially for aircraft and their equipment. At present many authorities have to be consulted and the machine moves very slowly I am told that in some cases twenty different authorities have to give their permission before a new factory can be begun. That procedure must be quickened up. Thirdly (and this is analogous and was also referred to by Lord Wilmot, and I make no apology for reinforcing what he said), we must find some means of speeding up the proce- dure for placing contracts by the Minister of Supply. I need not. enlarge upon that point. The present system of placing contracts is very lengthy and slow, and it should be speeded up.

Lastly, I am not at all satisfied—and I must say this frankly to my noble friend, Lord Alexander, who has twice fulfilled a brilliant term as First Lord; I am sorry the present First Lord is away for the moment because I had given notice that I would raise this point—


I wonder whether the noble Lord will forgive me for intervening. I should not like there to be any misunderstanding about this matter. I made no complaint about the speed with which the Ministry of Supply placed their contracts. I was merely begging the Services to place their demands before the Ministry of Supply as early as possible.


Then the Ministry of Supply is obviously as perfect as it was when my noble friend was at its head. But I am informed from the other end. the unfortunate people who have to carry out the contracts, that this does take a very long time. However, I do not want to misrepresent my noble friend.

I am disturbed about what I suggest is the paucity of our naval shipbuilding programme. This was mentioned by Lord Teynham, who wound up the debate yesterday, by Earl Beatty and also, I think, by the noble Earl, Lord Cork. I am not satisfied that we are building enough new warships, especially vessels of the smaller types. I have not time to go into all the details so I will refer to only one type—the cruiser. Now that we have practically given up building battleships, the cruiser, I suggest, is of even greater importance than it was formerly. It is the very backbone of the modern fleet. We have only twenty-one cruisers on the Navy List. We started World War II with fifty-nine—and that was not enough. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, I am sure, will not dispute that statement.

Only three new cruisers are now building, and they will bring our cruiser strength on the Navy List up to twenty-four. It may be said that our potential enemies are fewer on the seas, but the oceans are just as big—they have not shrunk—and there are many trouble spots in the world. A cruiser is a self-contained unit and can go anywhere. She is quickly on the spot. Destroyers are no substitute. Even the modern destroyer, big as she is, is not self-contained; she needs a mother ship. Frigates can do a great deal, but they are too small and too weak to do the real work of the cruiser. I hope that this matter will be reconsidered. I was not clear in my own mind when listening to what the First Lord said about the shipbuilding programme, and I ventured to interrupt him about it. I am not sure, also, whether what we are told in the explanatory pamphlet on the Navy Estimates represents the final programme for the three years, or whether there will be additional ships laid down from year to year. Perhaps the noble Viscount who is to reply will be able to give us some comfort about that.

There is one more matter to which I wish to refer—I believe that it was raised to-day in another place by the Leader of the Opposition, and I gave notice yesterday that I was going to raise it here. because I feel strongly about it, as I know do many other people. There are rumours that a United States Admiral is to command all the naval forces of the Atlantic Treaty Powers. If so, he will be responsible for both shores of the Atlantic, and the ocean in between. That may be very well as a move on the lines of Lord Ismay's suggestions for co-ordination and integration but, as has been already said by another noble Lord in this debate, the British fighting man, particularly the British naval fighting man. wants a great name; he wants a leader. He wants someone whom he knows and trusts. The naval man knows that he will be carrying his life in his hands. There is no "tail" for the sailor, except when he is ashore. The man at sea during war is in danger all the time, in all conditions. And he has to be inspired and led. The American Government— any American Government, whatever its colour—will be under tremendous pressure by American public opinion, which is not the calmest in the world, and by the American Congress, which is also not the calmest body in the world, regarding requirements for the defence of the two shores of the North American Continent. And the American Government will have to be in a very strong position indeed to resist demands which may not be strategically justified. For the United States of America, a self-contained subcontinent, sea power is very important, but it is even more important for these Islands, for if we lose command of the seas we are ruined. No one knows that better than the noble Lord—indeed, all your Lordships know it well.

I have had, and have, great admiration for the United States Navy. I saw it in service during the First Great War, and I have studied its exploits in the Second World War. It is a magnificent service. I have the greatest admiration for the leading figures in the American Navy. But I think there should be reconsideration of the proposal to place our naval units, with those of the other Atlantic Powers, under the command of an American Admiral. It is not the same thing as sending troops to a European Army, to an integrated force under General Eisenhower on the Continent. The Governments will decide how many troops they will send, but once warships are mobilised they can be ordered anywhere by wireless. If the whole of the Atlantic naval forces are handed over in this way, I believe that it will create a good deal of uneasiness in Britain.

This belief is in no way due to any lack of admiration of the American Naval Staff, and certainly it is not the outcome of any anti-American feeling on my part. I have the greatest admiration for the American Navy. We have all agreed, and everyone approves, the appointment of an American General to command in Western Europe. But the seven seas are largely the responsibility, as regards the trade routes over them, of our Government, and I think that we should retain command of our fleet in the last resort Responsibility for the defence of these shores, and control of ocean routes, should be in our own traditional hands.

4.57 p.m.


My Lords, I want to be as brief as possible; therefore I hope the noble Lord who has just sat down will forgive me if I do not pursue him into the devious ways which he has followed. The noble Viscount. Lord Swinton, said yesterday—I think rightly—that this was no new international situation which had suddenly arisen, and that the trouble in Korea was only a manifestation in more aggressive form of a danger which had been apparent for two years or more. That is absolutely true. There are two new points of significance about Korea which do affect the situation. One is that it is the first time that the cold war has actually developed into a shooting war. The second it that, as a result, the United States Forces have been involved in a military commitment in the Far East. Consequently, it has been Korea, I think, more than anything else which has awakened the Government—and indeed the Governments of all nations in Europe —to the true peril which confronts them.

The fact that our Government and other Governments concerned have awakened to that danger seems to me to have both an advantage and, in one respect, a disadvantage. The advantage is obvious. It enables us to prepare rapidly to defend ourselves against that danger. The disadvantage seems to me to be that it might well be argued that it brings the danger itself sensibly nearer. The remarkable speech made this afternoon by Lord Ismay must, I think, have convinced everyone in this House how precarious is the thread by which our safety hangs. Certainly, it is in the atomic field alone that we have superiority. Elsewhere—on the ground and in the air —there is little doubt that Russia and her satellites have overwhelming superiority at the present time. In this situation, although we must all continue to hope that our atomic superiority will continue to deter the Kremlin from any aggressive action in Europe. I must say, at the risk of being called an alarmist, that we should be quite wrong to rely on it. Indeed, it seems to me that the very fact that we are now taking steps to re-arm—and from now on we must hope that our position vis-à-vis the Kremlin will progressively improve—may be the thing that will decide the Soviet leaders to act sooner rather than later.

For that reason I feel that we should take the most pessimistic view of the situation rather than the most optimistic. Therefore I entirely disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. In any case, in planning a little pessimism is not a bad thing. It is never any good planning for the most favourable eventuality. It always surprises me that a Government who, I can fairly say, take an almost exaggerated pride in their planning capabilities, never seem to have appreciated this very simple lesson. For example, in 1947 the Minister of Fuel and Power planned for a warm winter. He got a cold one; and we all know what that involved for the country. Perhaps this time if we plan for hot war we may continue to have only a cold one. I am sure that that is something that would be a great relief to us all.

We ought now to be planning for the worst eventuality, which is the possibility of Soviet aggression in Europe this year. On this ground I cannot feel happy that, from the military point of view, the recall of the Z reservists is apparently the only step that is to be taken to deal with the situation. Like other noble Lords, the last thing I wish to do is to pour cold water on the scheme for calling up Z reservists. From the point of view of reserves it no doubt will be valuable, and we must all hope that the maximum value will be derived from it; but it does not produce battalions, let alone divisions. A division cannot be produced by training a number of battalions together and sending them into battle. It has to be trained as a division, and a great deal of organisation and co-operation, which has to be learnt generally the hard way, is required before a division is really a battle-worthy formation. Therefore the recall of the Z men does not do anything but build up our reserves, as has been already said.

I do not know what the situation is likely to be, but it seems to me that if an attack were to be made in Europe this year, it would come without warning, at great speed and in overwhelming strength, as the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, said yesterday. If that is the case, it is clear that the orunt of that attack would have to be taken by the troops which were already on the ground in Europe. In due course, we should be able to mobilise the reserves, but it would be idle to suppose that they would be available for at least three months. Therefore, the size of the force in Europe is of vital importance. I do not know how large a force would be required to repel such an attack. I have heard it put at a minimum of thirty first-class divisions, with full air support. I understand that our contribution to this force is to be four divisions.

The adequacy, or otherwise, of our contribution seems to me to depend almost entirely upon what is going to be contributed by the other nations of the Atlantic Treaty. We have heard nothing in this debate about what their contribution is likely to be this year and what we may require to have on the ground in Europe by the summer of this year. There have been a number of unofficial estimates at various times, none of which appears to approach anything near the figure I have heard to be the minimum requirement. If these estimates are correct, there is no doubt that additional troops on the ground in Germany are going to be necessary this year. In these circumstances, it is a pity that the Government have not shown greater sympathy and more energy in getting these German formations going. I am convinced that we can never defend Europe without them. I hope that in his reply the noble Viscount will be able to give us some information about what is going to be contributed by other Atlantic Treaty Powers, and what we may hope to have as a defensive force available in Germany this summer.

I realise that the finding of additional troops is going to present a considerable problem to us, because with our manpower shortage we have so few men to spare. It depends a great deal on whether we can be relieved of some of the other commitments which we are at present undertaking, as the noble Lord, Lord Ismay, has said. It was stated in another place that we had no fewer than four and a third divisions on duty in other parts of the world; but if it were possible to relieve those divisions by troops from the Dominions and the Colonies, as the noble Lord, Lord Ismay, suggested, it would enable us to send extra divisions to Germany. Apart from its military value, I am sure that that would be greatly encouraging to the Allies and to the Germans as well. Finally, I should like to ask the noble Viscount whether he can tell us what is being done about raising Colonial forces. In the last war our African troops were raised from 19,000 to something like 375,000 men. They rendered yeoman service in Burma, Abyssinia and elsewhere. I understand that to-day their numbers are reduced to what they were in 1939. Surely there is an enormous field there for obtaining new troops, who would be able to take over some of our Middle and Far Eastern responsibilities and give us what I believe is the most vital necessity of all—namely, more troops immediately available in case of a sudden attack in Europe this year or next.

5.8 p.m.


My Lords, I rise only for a few moments to put to the noble Viscount who is to reply one or two questions arising out of the speech yesterday of the noble Viscount, Lord Hall. The noble Viscount said that we were to increase the number of Territorial divisions from nine to twelve. In 1948, when nine divisions was the number laid down for the Territorial Army, there was a potential intake over the next three or four years of some 700,000 men. Because National Service men have now to serve fewer years in the Territorial Army, the potential intake up to 1954 will be reduced from that figure to 300,000 men. Where are the other three divisions coming from? I should be grateful if the noble Viscount would tell us when these divisions will be ready, and when they will have the equipment which is so necessary for their training.

May I say a word now on the call-up of Class Z reservists? I will not weary the House with the figures, because noble Lords are already aware of the number that are to be attached to the. Territorial Army. Of that number a large portion will play a part in the Territorial field army. One would like an assurance—I believe that it has been given by the Minister of Defence in another place— that, of these nine Territorial divisions, the Class Z reservists will fill the ranks of the first four divisions of the Territorial Army, instead of being split up between the nine divisions. With regard to the A.A. units the matter is not so simple. The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, said yesterday that part of the scheme is to bring the Territorial units up to full establishment; but that would seem to be impossible with the total number that is likely to be available. What I believe he meant was that it was proposed to bring the first four divisions up to full strength. I wonder whether the noble Viscount, when he replies, could elucidate that.


I should like to answer that while the point is in my mind, as it is the sort of thing that might be overlooked in a long speech. The position is that there will be selected units of the Territorial Army to which certain of those called up under Class Z will be posted, as has already been announced. In those selected units it will be the endeavour to get them as near their top strength as possible. It was not intended to include A.A. units in that particular statement, but they will be dealt with as widely as possible.


I am obliged to the noble Viscount. I should now like to turn to the question of pay. This matter was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Mancroft yesterday, but as I have had telephone messages this morning from more than one commanding officer I should like to elaborate it a little further. The Territorial officer receives a £5 allowance for camp, but, as your Lordships know, that goes into a common fund for the benefit of the officers generally. If the Z officers attached to these units do not get any allowance, they will be living off the pool, which will be depreciated to that extent. I suggest that it might be possible for the Government to consider paying up to £5 per officer, even if it is done through groups and brigades at the discretion of commanding officers. Lastly, I come to the question of kit. In this respect I hope that His Majesty's Government will endeavour to see that the preliminaries are disposed of before the men go to camp. If the men arrive in camp with their civilian suits, they will have to be fitted out with uniforms and boots, and the civilian suits will have to be packed away. Along with others of your Lordships, I have had experience of a wet camp, and those suits will not benefit in any way from being packed away. I hope that some of these details will be taken from the commanding officers of Territorial units. I am confident that this scheme will be a great success.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, I cannot help thinking that the Government must feel grateful at having received, on the whole, such warm support in this House for the urgent proposals which they have brought before the country—these proposals which have as their direct object, first, to deter anyone from aggression, and, secondly, to enable us to negotiate from strength. This debate has been fairly wide, anxious and resolute, but, as I have said, it has been friendly to the proposals as a whole. I felt that it was hardly fair of the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, to say that warnings had not been given in this House for two years. With great respect, I should have thought that the records of Hansard make it abundantly clear that repeated warnings of what was happening have been given.

The noble Viscount also ventured into the political sphere, and I hope that I may be excused for putting what he said into a more correct framework. I should like to read two short passages from a book which is not unknown to your Lordships —namely, The Right Road for Britain, published in July, 1949, which is eighteen months ago, by the Conservative Central Office, and entitled "The Conservative Party's Statement of Policy." The first passage says: The first and principal aim of our Defence Policy will be the preservation of Peace. We believe that Peace must be paid for by adequate and up to date Defences. Further on, there is a passage which says: The present dangerous weakness of our Defences is due largely to mismanagement, incompetence and the lack of a coherent or suitable Defence Policy. We are shocked by the poor value for money which our few weak fighting units afford in return for the; expenditure of some £760 millions and the employment of 750,000 mail. We believe this can only be remedied by a far-reaching revision of the present indecisive policy and the adoption of a long-term plan. The Services 10-day, particularly the Army and the Air Force, arc dangerously under strength in the number of long service Regulars. I thought that was fairly clear, on the whole. As a matter of interest, I looked at another book called Let Us Win Through Together, published in 1950, just to see what the noble Viscount's Party said in regard to defence about a year ago. I searched through the book carefully, and after some trouble I found this remark about defence: … we have waged a successful defensive battle against inflation. That is the only reference in the whole of this publication to defence. In the sense that we are using the word to-day, the only reference to defence is: We will continue … to work realistically for peace. That is the attitude which was declared last year by the Party which, after all, was chosen to be the Government. It is perfectly clear that what was known on July 26, and stated by the Minister of Defence, was equally known in February of last year.


I should like to put this matter to the noble Earl. Does he deny that it was part of the programme of the Conservative Party that taxation should be reduced, that the cost of living should be reduced, and that controls should be taken off? That was the point which I made in the course of my speech yesterday.


I would deny absolutely economies at the expense of defence. But may I say that I am not anxious to enter into a political controversy unless the noble Viscount so desires. What I really wish to say is this: that I think it is more profitable at this time to draw the illustration from what I have explained as part of the workings of democracy in this country. To-day we live in a State which dislikes the words "defence" and "armaments." We live in a world, too, where a politician depends upon popularity; where the unpopular politician is virtually a contradiction in terms, for if he is unpopular he ceases to be a politician.


Unless he has a very safe seat, or is a member of this House.


It is not unfair to remember that, after all the original purpose of a political State is for self-protection: yet to-day we have developed States which consider that element in their lives of minor importance. The one thing which matters to any State to-day is its viability. If a State is not viable—I do not mean necessarily by itself but in co-operation with its neighbours; because there will be no neutrals —it is a danger, not only to itself but to its allies. We must either have wholehearted friends, or else we must expect that they may be used against us. It is no use having half-hearted allies. In all this examination we should never forget that we have immense potential advantages. There can be no question of the immense advantage we have in steel, iron and coal production. The question is whether we shall use them now, and whether we shall, to use Dean Acheson's phrase, insist that the "time for contribution is now."

We have three tremendous advantages now as compared with our position ten years ago. First, we have whole-hearted co-operation with the North American Continent, which we did not have at that time. That is of tremendous significance. Secondly, we have already appointed in General Eisenhower a man who is recognised and is capable of uniting the countries of the western world, as no man was in 1939. Thirdly, the Government have the full support of the Opposition in the programme they have put forward. Those are big advantages, and it is really a question whether the urgency of the situation is adequately grasped, and whether we can meet it and fulfil our obligations.

Although I said "urgency" I do not want to cavil with the Government's statement that they want to move over smoothly from a state of peace to a state of war. I recognise, as anyone must, that the economic situation in which they find themselves to-day is very much less satisfactory than that existing before the last war. I will not continue comparing these two periods, because I am not intending to make a comparison. In materials we are much shorter; in taxation we are much more heavily taxed. Indeed, as my noble friend Lord Blackford pointed out, it is a desperate problem to decide how the new provision is to be met. Finally, we are already in a state of inflation—inflation proceeding at a trot, but which may break into a gallop at almost any time.

Nobody has said frankly that goods have to be cut down heavily. As my noble friend Lord Blackford said: "How are we to pay for this re-armament? Many people to-day still believe that they can have guns and butter, although I do not think any noble Lord believes that that will be possible. In carrying this one step further, I thought that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot, yesterday was extremely valuable. He speaks from the very widest authority, not only as a former Minister of Supply, but also as what the Americans call a high-level executive in business. If I may say so, his advice was admirably poised, if it were possible to carry it out, as I hope it will be. He emphasised the need for early ordering, and I should like to underline that point. There are many stages in the production process before the article wanted can be made. There is the selection of the factory; there is the preparation of blue prints and layout of operation; there is the specification of machines, tools and jigs; and finally there is the making of the gauges, tools and jigs, all of which has to be done before the shop is cleared and any man is diverted from the work upon which he is engaged. The obvious thing is for a Department to come to a decision. No doubt the decisions are the conclusion of long controversy, perhaps with the Treasury or other people. But only when that decision has been made does the whole complicated cycle of industry start moving. If only some warning can be given to firms that certain types of production may be coming, they will take the necessary preliminary steps six or twelve months ahead. That would make a tremendous difference to the efficiency and speed with which this changeover could take place. We are, of course, in some difficulty about what is really wanted, because we are not given much information.

There were one or two matters which suffered pretty rough handling in the course of the discussion we have had. One of them was over-mechanisation, another was over-complicated organisation and the dangers of not having some central point to which efforts would be co-ordinated and drawn together. A third, if I may venture to raise it, is the cloud of secrecy which surrounds a great deal of what His Majesty's Government arc doing. I must press this further to find out whether it is not possible to bring the country generally a little more into the confidence of the Government. Many people talk nowadays about the need for keeping workers informed, so that plans and policy in industry may be understood. That is exactly what the Goverment are not doing now. They are keeping nobody informed. They are merely saying, "Well, it might be dangerous"' When we went over to Berlin we saw what the enemy knew. Perhaps if the enemy had come over here they would have seen a lot of things that we knew. Now what was really gained by the information available to, the enemy? What use was it put to? Can we have any indication of that? I do not, of course, refer to such things as some secret process, or some new instrument of scientific invention, but to the general layout of our plan and the knowledge of what units exist. I doubt very much whether anything would be lost by giving that information.

May I venture to remind the noble Viscount who is to reply of what the noble Viscount, Lord Portal of Hunger-ford, said on this matter? After all, he speaks with a great deal of authority on this subject. When he spoke about two years ago, he said this: … I am, of course, completely in the dark as to the Government's future plans for the Royal Air Force. To be fair, I see two sides to this question of secrecy—some reasons in favour of it and others against it. For instance, it is undeniable that a complete, authentic picture of the organisation must help to throw some light on strategic and tactical thought which the enemy would very much like to have. But on the whole I think that secrecy will lose us much more than it will gain us. particularly in what I may call general confidence and morale, because continued secrecy breeds the feeling and the fear that it may he the total inadequacy of the forces which makes it necessary to keep so quiet about them. I do ask the noble Viscount to consider that point a little further. One of the curious things which results from secrecy is that we all have to acquire what I may describe as the highly developed qualities of detectives. For instance, the noble Lord, Lord Winster, yesterday brought out one very interesting fact; he said that the Government had refitted 450 ships. It appears that about half of them were minesweepers and, further, that we are now producing an entirely new design of minesweeper. For all I know, these refitted minesweepers may be entirely out of date. I will carry that point one step further. The noble Viscount, Lord Hall, said that there were further large increases in day fighter strength. Now what does that mean? Does it mean that there are more aircraft flying? If that is so, why are no mechanics being called up? We all know they are in short supply in the Royal Air Force. Further, why were there no increases in the promotion lists early this year? I am sorry to put these questions, but one is forced to do so when one is very ignorant.

Again, why was it that the Minister of Defence said that the Class G and the Class Z and Volunteer Reserves would never be called for similar training in future years? I could not follow his reasoning. First the purpose of the exercises of the Class Z Reserve was team work. Obviously, team work which is for fourteen days only is not much good. Secondly, the mathematics were wrong, since the figure of Class Z reservists is 235,000, and next year the figure of National Service men coming in would be 120,000. Thirdly, what is really the value of the Minister's statment if it is in fact in conflict with a Statute?


I should be grateful if the noble Earl would repeat the figures he gave.


I understand that the figure of Class Z reservists to be called up this year is 235,000, and that next year the figure of National Service men coming in will be about 120,000.


I asked the noble Earl for the figure because obviously the figure of 120,000 is much smaller than the callup of National Service men in the year. It relates to part of the year, until the National Service make-up is resumed.


The point is that this year we are calling up 235,000, and next year there will be a flow of National Service men of 120,000. The figures do not add up.

I submit further that the Minister's statement cannot bind his successor. Does he mean that this year is absolutely vital? If he means that, I am prepared to accept his proposal; but we want to be absolutely clear on the matter. No one has said that it is vital, and I may be wrong. But if it is really regarded as vital, I suggest further careful consideration that the cadre of the Home Guard should be formed so that these bodies can be easily raised. Their work in anti-sabotage and anti-parachute work is all-important. I also suggest that regional commissioners should be appointed forthwith. This is not work which the Civil Service can do. I ask the Government to consider these two points, if I am correct in my hypothesis that they regard this as a vital year. One point which the White Paper emphasised is the importance attached to reserves. That does mean to a great extent a complete re-orientation of outlook towards reserve services in this country. They have now come to be of first-class importance. One noble Lord emphasised the importance of all administrative action possible being taken before the Class Z Reserve units go to camp, and I should like to support the plea that that shall be done.

I should like now to say a word about the Auxiliary Air Force. The Auxiliary Air Force to-day constitutes a most important part of the whole of our home fighter defences. I approve entirely the policy of raising their standard of training by an intensive period of concentrated training. But if we are to do that we must try to hold that standard of training and not let it fall away. After all, the fact that there is not a higher standard is because certain things have not been done. We in this House have made a number of recommendations, but I do not think a great deal of attention has been paid to them. I suggest as a further point that there should be a simplification of the mechanism by which pilots can be recruited. It is difficult for auxiliary squadrons to get their pilots. I should like to know how many pilots trained since the war have entered the Auxiliary Air Force. I guess that the number is small. Then, as regards the R.A.F. Volunteer Reserves, especially those engaged in flying duties, I think attention should be paid to their being given advanced training. Their high standard must be maintained. But again, the Government are not without responsibility for the payment of instructors in civilian schools. I think the policy of these civilian schools is good, and the Government should consider the matter of the rate of payment of some of these instructors. With regard to the reporting units, I do not see why more attention has not been given to the matter of women volunteers. Women formed a vital link in the reporting system in the last war, and as many as possible should be encouraged to come forward as early as possible. I know of at least one woman who came forward some time ago and who was told to wait.

Perhaps I may be allowed to turn for a moment to the aircraft position. I think we are all impressed and delighted with yesterday's performance of the Canberra. It has largely justified the Government's optimism about it. I shall be surprised if, on its return journey it does not travel at about the same speed as the rotation of the earth at that latitude—about 600 miles an hour. But the story of aircraft development since the war is a very sorry one. We could produce no civil aircraft immediately after the war because we had concentrated on bombers; and now we have no bombers although the Americans have at least three post-war types in service. It is a little frightening. The four-engined bomber which has been ordered recently is the first new-type four-engined bomber to be ordered for ten years. We are now obliged to fly American fighters, and we find that the American F.86 and the M.I.G. 15 of Prussia are both faster than the best we have in service in this country, although it was in this country that jets were invented. It makes one wonder what the Government do mean by research and development; it is surely about time that something began to emerge. The Government have had a great deal of money to spend.

May I say one word on the subject of long-range aircraft? The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi said he did not think that fear would have, any effect on Russia.


Fear of the atom bomb.


Be that as it may, they have taken 86,000,000 people in Eastern Europe. It was not fear that made them do that. I think that fear of injury to Russia has a very powerful deterrent effect. Their vast superiority in man-power is unquestioned. They have interior communications. The one fatal error for us would be to distribute our resources in some form of Maginot Line round the perimeter of Russian and Chinese territory.

The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, emphasised yesterday that we were now entering a new era, an era in which we have aircraft capable of a radius of action of 5,000 miles and a range of 10,000 miles. This means that the whole of Russia and very nearly the whole of China can be covered from this country. Therefore, the whole vast area of enemy territory can be turned into a potential battlefield. At no point will they be free from possible attack.


Also, vice versa, we are equally covered from their remote stations in the centre of Asia.


I agree, but as the noble Lord is aware there is no more highly defensive position system of air defence than in Great Britain. As we are a small island, it means that we are able to concentrate our defences. In the vast areas of Russia they cannot concentrate their defences. Therefore, it is easier for us to get through to their larger territory than it is for them to get through to us. If I may say so, this is not advocating a policy of bombing to destruction. I would suggest that the first purpose of the Royal Air Force is to destroy the enemy air force, whether in units, in storage or in the factories. Air superiority is a condition of success in all forms of military activity. The second task of the Royal Air Force is to get that control of communications, with the Royal Navy, which is vital to success. Maham's Influence of Sea Power says: Communications in the full meaning of the term dominate war. As an element of strategy they devour all other elements. There is a suggestion that anyone who advocates bombing is putting himself into an isolationist camp. This is not so. First let me warmly congratulate the Government because, for a second time, they have persuaded the American people that Europe is the central sphere of danger. That is something upon which His Majesty's Government are entitled to the fullest congratulation. We are making our contribution, as are the American people, to the defence and maintenance of the fortress of Europe. Long range aircraft is an essential instrument of that defence. If I may say so again, His Majesty's Government have on the whole been treated with great friendliness and have received valuable suggestions from all parts of this House. I am sure we have it in our power to save Western civilisation, but we need to act if we are going to do it. We have a world united in thought but not yet fully in action. I will add only this: that it will require a high measure of leadership to gain the confidence and the unity which we do not possess at the present time. We must play our part. We must not in any circumstances shrink from that duty of playing our full part in an integrated Alliance. We have our individual role to play and we can do it in co-ordination with others. If we all do that, we can still deter any aggressor and negotiate from strength.

Back to