HL Deb 22 February 1951 vol 170 cc571-92

Debate resumed.


My Lords, may I say, having listened to practically the whole of the debate for the two days, that there is certainly no reason for complaint on behalf of His Majesty's Government at any part of the debate, or at its general tenor. There have, of course, been one or two political references. The noble Viscount who opened the debate and the noble Earl who has just sat down made some political references. However, I feel impressed by the fact that, capable as I think myself of making a political answer, I do not think this is the occasion for it. In view of what I may call the generally objective and constructive criticisms to which we have been listening, it would be far better if I let some of the political charges go, although I am almost pulling at the bit to answer them.

Let us devote ourselves to what is, after all, the real question in the interests of the country: what is the best thing to do and how much can we afford to spend in support of a programme vast, burdensome and of great seriousness to the whole nation, in production, in finance and in sacrifice, and how can we get help, constructive criticism and general support for the effort that the nation is making? Certain main points have come out in the debate and have had special attention. There has been a great demand in various parts of this House for a lessening of secrecy and for more frank information. That criticism has come from below the gangway on this side of the House; it has come from various parts of the Benches opposite, and it was mildly supported this afternoon from the Cross-Benches from which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Ismay, made such a remarkable, acceptable and admirable speech upon the general situation in the world. He was much more cautious in his approach to this matter of secrecy than certain noble Lords who spoke on that point—and I would expect my noble friend, if I may so call him, to approach the question with caution, for other Ministries have often received, through him as the channel, advice on questions of secrecy. That experience has no doubt brought to him a good meed of caution in dealing with these matters.

After listening to the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, opening this debate, I felt constrained to refresh my memory late last night by going back and looking up an occasion that I remember very well. I am not going to argue about the detail of it now, but I should like the noble Viscount to go away and look at it again for himself. It was the occasion of the famous debate on November 17, 1938, in another place, and the issue was whether the time was not already over-ripe for having a Ministry of Supply. In the course of that debate, the question of secrecy was raised. The present Leader of the Opposition took one line and the Prime Minister of the day took another line. From the advice I get, especially from the Service authorities, whose opinion is brought into consideration to a great extent in these matters, I would say that I find myself not differing very much from the view that was expressed on November 17, 1938, by the Prime Minister at that time.

On one or two previous occasions when I have been speaking on defence, I have been happy to hear from noble Lords opposite, referring to the interesting information given them, that on those particular occasions I have been on the whole more free with information than they had expected. Let me say to them—and I am sure the noble Viscount who spoke yesterday for the Government would say the same—that I would willingly give all the information we possibly could give, but the present peculiar situation in the world in regard to intelligence and the effect of counter-intelligence is far worse in the case of Moscow and its satellites than it was in the case of Hitler. It is far worse because there is nothing that comes out from there—or very little indeed. It is most important that we should be careful as to what we say. One other aspect I should like to mention is this. We are very glad we are now united in a band of twelve nations, who are gathered together for collective defence against a common menace. In regard to many of the matters which have to be dealt with from time to time, I think it is essential that, so far as possible, any departure from the general line of secrecy upon vital matters, should not be taken unless there is agreement among all who are concerned with us in that collective defence organisation.


May I ask the noble Viscount a question in regard to information? He referred to the remarks of the noble and gallant Lord. Lord Ismay. It is true that Lord Ismay did not go quite so far as some other noble Lords in the direction of asking for further information, but I think that the noble Lord, with all his experience, did go so far as to agree with Lord Swinton that there ought to be, or might well be, a Secret Session. The noble Viscount has not mentioned that aspect of the matter.


Perhaps I did not go sufficiently into detail in my reference to November 17, 1938. If the noble Marquess will read that debate, he will see that the Prime Minister of the day replied on the question of a Secret Session, and I adopt for the purposes of my reply the language of the Prime Minister in 1938. I will leave it there.

Now I come to a question of vast importance. It is sometimes difficult in a winding-up speech not to go over a little of the ground already covered by one's colleague at the opening of the debate, but I will try to avoid doing that and will deal more with the objective part of the debate. I turn to the question of manpower. I think there has been general approval of the idea of calling up the Class Z and Class G men, but there was criticism on the part of the noble Viscount who opened the debate who felt that a longer period than fifteen days was needed. Others, too, have felt that in the circumstances that period is not sufficient in its effect upon the general defence position to be really worth while. The speeches have varied as the debate has proceeded. I found myself sometimes getting a little hot under the collar about things which were said about this matter, and then I have been brought back to sanity again by kindly speeches such as those we had from Lord Mancroft and others.

I feel that there is a balanced view generally in regard to this call-up. But on the question of whether it is fundamentally useful, let me say that I took care, especially in view of what the noble Viscount said yesterday, to talk with the highest authorities who deal with these matters, and I think that the best reply I can give to the noble Viscount is to inform him that they consider that this call-up on the basis of the fifteen days will be of very great value indeed. It was suggested that it would have been better if the period hat. been longer and if it had been possible to carry out the training more in connection with, say, formations in Germany; but obviously the time factor would be quite decisively against that unless there were to be a much longer call-up than one of fifteen days. However, I received the straight view from these authorises to-day when I made my inquiries that they have no doubt whatever of the great value and usefulness which will be obtained from the-scheme as it is outlined. Therefore, I have what might be called professional backing in my view of this matter, which is that this scheme is really worth while.


I am very much obliged to the noble Viscount, who has told us frankly the professional view, which naturally carries great weight. May I ask him whether that professional view is based not only on the fifteen days, as we understood it in the. White Paper, but also on the condition laid down by the Minister of Defence that none of the people of the Class Z Reserve called up this year would ever be called up again? Does the professional approval include both points?


I did not raise that particular point, but I am sure that the noble Viscount, with his usual forensic examination of the matter, which, from what he has just said, he has clearly given it, would know that this would be largely a political judgment of the matter. What is certain is that in the Reserve Forces Bill which is now before Parliament, power is taken to call up through the remaining years. But I agree that it is implicit in the statement of my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence the other day that, in the exercise of that power, if and when it is exercised under the Bill, it will be the specific intention not to call up the same individuals again, if it can possibly be avoided.


The Minister gave the specific assurance that they would not be called up in any circumstances.


I think that if the circumstances grew more serious than they are at the present time, other measures might have to be adopted. But we certainly intend to carry out the spirit of the assurance of my right honourable friend, that if in following years we require the same kind of call-up, we shall not, so far as it can be avoided, recall people who have been selected previously to give up their time in the service of their country. I think that is a reasonable policy politically, spreading the burden as equally as possible. The noble Viscount raised a question that I find it rather more difficult to answer. He asked how it would affect the prompting, or whatever you may call it, of called-up troops in supporting units, both at the operational end and from the point of view of corps troops. The noble Viscount included that in his inquiries in connection with units at home, or in occupational areas.


Particularly in Germany.


Upon that I took the best view that I could obtain this morning, and it is to the effect that certainly some of the men so called up will be versed in, and will in practice be put on, matters which will come within the terms of corps troops. I could not possible say at this stage that that will be applied to corps troops in a particular area, or that it would not be valuable to this training if in any subsequent mobilisation we called up men for use in that way. But, generally speaking, the fact that we will in practice have some of them called up in that connection will, I think, be all to the good.

In the main the man-power problem is limited to the Army. The Air Force have had their share of the problem in the last three or four years. But, speaking from general indications, the present recruiting, as a result of the new conditions, is doing a great deal to ease our minds upon the general man-power problem, and will continue to do so if the present intake is maintained. I noticed in a more recent speech that a point was raised about the conditions under which private soldiers are recruited, and the question was asked whether the procedure adopted is the best possible in the circumstances. I think that that and a good many similar points would best be dealt with in more detail and more frankly if they were raised on the specific debates—to which no doubt your Lordships are looking forward—on the papers attached to the Service Estimates. Those points can then be dealt with separately, and we need not take up too much time with them now.

I should like to say the same thing generally about the naval questions, but the speeches made on naval matters by the noble Earl, Lord Beatty, and by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, do, I think, make it necessary for me to say one or two things. It has to be remembered, first of all—as I hinted in the one solitary interruption which I made yesterday—that of course the general need for sea power in a Commonwealth like ours has never ceased to be recognised, and the essential nature of the policy of maintaining relative strength suitable to that responsibility has never been lost sight of. In present circumstances, to suggest any kind of naval programme in proportion to the demands which are being made upon the community for the Army and for the Air Force is to assume that this is a problem which faces this country almost alone. It would, of course, be wrong to do anything of the kind. We deal with it, therefore, on a basis of relativity. We must take account of what are the dangers. The Japanese fleet has disappeared, but it was a fundamental factor to which regard had to be paid in 1939 and in the succeeding years, until the final defeat of the Japanese in the Pacific. The existence of that fleet had a great deal to do with the arrangement of our relative strength at that time.

The Russian surface fleet to-day could hardly be said to be an outstanding menace. On the other hand, as the noble Earl, Lord Beatty, pointed out yesterday, their under-water craft do constitute a very considerable menace. These craft are certainly quite numerous, but they do not exist in strength which differs very greatly from the strength of enemy under-water craft that I, with the Board of Admiralty, found myself up against in 1940. A few months later we had the German submarine strength, the Italian submarine strength and the Japanese submarine strength all to reckon with, and I can assure the noble Earl that throughout the period during which we had to contend with that combination the menace was a pretty severe one. Nevertheless, I say that this is the greatest part of the naval menace which the Admiralty have to consider. Therefore, the plans of my noble friend Lord Hall and his Staff are directed principally to the conversion, the maintenance, the refitting and the building of craft for dealing with this under-water menace. I think that all reports which have come to us from time to time indicate that they have made very great progress in all those matters.

It was suggested by the noble Earl who has just spoken that a statement had been made by my noble friend to the effect that some 450 ships—or some figure of that kind—had been refitted. Apparently about half of those, said the noble Earl, must have been minesweepers. I had with me a copy of the actual detailed list, but if I may be excused from trying to find it at this moment I shall be glad to send copies to the two noble Earls and to Lord Winster. They will find in the list details of the actual ships which have been refitted. I can assure your Lordships that they have included aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates and, of course, minesweepers. But minesweepers do not represent anything like one half of the total number. The refitting of about 340 of the vessels was completed some little time ago, and work on the rest is now nearing completion. When it has been completed the figure will be brought up to 455. I should add, in fairness, that the figure of 455 does include other vessels, such as B.D.V.'s, netlayers, fast coastal motor- craft and other vessels of that kind. I can assure noble Lords that there have been many major refits of vessels which will now be extraordinarily valuable to us for our defence.

I should now like to turn to some of the particular points which have been raised with regard to the individual Services. Not the least important matter with which I wish to deal is that raised in the speech of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord, Trenchard, about the Air Force. There will not be time to deal with all the arguments which the noble Viscount used yesterday, backed up as they were by his authority and great knowledge, but I want to assure him—as I have tried to do on previous occasions —that there is no quarrel between him and us as to the strategic position of the heavy long-range bomber. We on the Government side have never said that we had any desire to change the general strategy that our Air Force should be composed of long-range bombers, tactical aircraft, fighters, transport aircraft and patrol units such as Coastal Command and the like. In other words, we want a properly balanced Air Force.

It has been suggested that we have succeeded very well since the war in the development of the jet fighter, as exemplified in the Venom and later types, and with the development of the Canberra. I was greatly obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Ismay, who drew attention to the extraordinary performance of the Canberra yesterday. I have not yet seen the official report, but from all I can gather concerning the general conditions in which the flight was made, strong head winds were encountered at a very great height, and the performance of the aircraft was therefore all the more magnificent. It certainly reflected great credit upon the designers, the producers and the flying crew who took the machine across the Atlantic. We have the Canberra, and we have had—I know that the noble and gallant Viscount will not be satisfied with this—improved bombers of the Lincoln type. A decision had deliberately to be made in 1945 and 1946 by the responsible authorities as to how they could, within their resources and within the limitations, on development, allocate priorities. They have never given up the idea of having a properly balanced Air Force in each one of the categories which the noble and gallant Viscount knows so well. They want, first of all, fighters, then lighter bombers, like the Canberra, and then heavier ones. They are carrying on with research and plans for production of the well-established jet bomber having four or more engines.


My Lords, I am not attacking the principle. I said that we had heard a lot about fighters and other craft, but when I spoke we had not heard what the noble Viscount has just said about the long-range bomber. That is very important. We had not heard even that orders had been given for these long-range machines. We know that America has them. It must be borne in mind that five or six years have now elapsed since the end of the war.


Work has been going on all the time. The noble and gallant Viscount knows that developments which have been taking place in America were, in the first place, of an interim character, dealing with engines of mixed character, some piston and some jet. It may be that the noble and gallant Viscount has overlooked the fact that an announcement has already been made in another place that orders have been given for the jet bomber.


Is that the long-range machine?


Certainly—one of the best bombers produced in the world we hope. The interim bomber to which the noble Earl referred should be doing its flying trials at no very distant time from now.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount again, but he suggested that I did not notice the announcement. I had noticed that it was a four-engine jet bomber, but it was not described as a long-distance bomber; the announcement did not say that it was capable of going the distance that is so essential to-day.


I shall have another look at the special point the noble Viscount has raised, and perhaps when your Lordships are debating the Air Estimates we shall say something more about it. But from the inquiries that I made to-day I am certain that great progress is being made. A great impetus has been given to this matter within the last two or three years. Without trying to raise any political bitterness, I should like to say that for more than two years we have been stopping the run-down and beginning to build up a gradual expansion of personnel. We introduced Supplementary Estimates in 1948 and 1949 in order to build up equipment. Orders have been going forward since then, and with the interim orders given at the beginning of 1950, the programme that we are now undertaking is far less precipitate than on the surface it may appear to be.

Before I leave the general questions, I think I should say a word to my noble and gallant friend Lord Ismay. Apart from his masterly survey of world conditions, and of the difficulties that we are up against, there are two points of substance to which I ought to make reference. He said, first, what a good thing it would be, with the world as it has developed, and with the responsibilities that we have taken upon ourselves, if members of the Commonwealth such as India and Pakistan could be persuaded to take off our shoulders the current work of the cold war in some of the distant parts of the Empire. I am sure no one would welcome that more than I. But the noble Lord knows the problem as well as anybody.

I remember being in the Government not many years ago when we sent the noble Lord to India to assist on a notable mission. The noble Lord knows that at present it is little more than wishful thinking to believe that India or Pakistan would undertake the kind of duties in Malaya to which he referred. On the other hand, I think we ought to pay tribute to the manner in which Commonwealth co-operation has developed in the last few years. The total arms programme of Canada, compared with what she was doing in the 1930's, is an extraordinary development, and represents as much of a change in her general attitude as that of the United States. Australia started with a five-year plan and has made great strides, compared with what happened between the two wars; and recently, when I was in Australia with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association group, I was glad to be assured that their programme is being expanded. I found a similar attitude in New Zealand. It is a great thing to see the fine loyalty of the people of the Commonwealth, and when we reckon up units of the Navy and units of the Air Force, we should not forget the contributions which they are making. That brings me to another general point that I wish to make, before I come to Lord Ismay's second point. We must not overlook the extent to which armament production is being dispersed, or I should say, aided in its dispersal, by the tasks undertaken in Australia and in Canada, in particular, and to a smaller extent in other Dominions. We shall continue to get all the development we possibly can in this direction.

The second point raised by the noble Lord, Lori Ismay, was the suggestion that there was a "hiatus at the summit" of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. He pointed to the large number of Committees: the Council of Foreign Ministers, the Committee of Defence Ministers, the Council of Deputies and the Committee for Production. In his view, this was not comparable to the old arrangement which acted in war—but, I would remind him, not before the war— called the Combined Chiefs of Staff. I have no doubt that there will be some streamlining in the Committees, and in their general tasks and operations, as time goes on, but I think anybody who has had the task of trying to build up from almost nothing an organisation such as we now have in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, combining twelve nations, knows that that requires a great deal of improvisation and a number of committees unless we are mortally to offend the very susceptibilities to which the noble Lord himself referred. Now we have the appointment, which has been so generally welcomed, of General Eisenhower as Supreme Commander, and the noble Lord may rest assured that there will be a development towards streamlining in what is done.

As regards the comparison with the Combined Chiefs of Staff, nobody knows better than the noble Lord, Lord Ismay, what is being done to-day by the Standing Group, composed of General Bradley, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Tedder, and General Eley. They are doing a job in developing this organisation of which we and they can be proud. In difficult circumstances we have never wholly dropped the basis of contact and organisation that was successfully set up in war, when the noble Lord, Lord Ismay, himself was in the principal position on the secretariat. We are very glad that it is so. When we come to more active operations, I have no doubt that on the basis of what is being done in the Standing Group we could arrive without much difficulty at the same situation as we had in the war. But at the present time we must have the opportunity of bringing into consultation all the political, military and logistical representatives of the other nine Powers who are part of this new collective defensive Alliance.

May I turn to the general question of production, on which we have had an interesting discussion? It is a tremendous task upon which we are embarking. If the plan is carried out successfully, we shall be producing more than £2,000,000,000 worth of new armaments in the course of the next three years. It must be the desire of everyone that that programme should be tackled in such a way that while we may not be able to expand our export trade, we shall at least: be able to ensure that we do not lose ground in that direction. It is the desire of the Government that the people should so understand the situation that they will bend all their energies, in whatever occupation they may find themselves, to keep both things going at the same time. There are, however, fundamental limitations, not the least of which your Lordships have raised yesterday and to-day—particularly the noble Viscount who opened, the debate, and the noble Lord, Lord Layton—namely, the question of raw materials. That is a serious matter, and one which is vital to the rearmament programme and also to the industries of: the country, many of which are engaged, in the export trade.

The way in which in the last year on so since the general move towards rearmament has gone on, shortages have developed has been most disturbing. The suggestion was made by the noble Lord, Lord Layton, that it might lead to almost chaotic conditions. If the fears of the noble Lord were realised, I think he would be right in assessing it on that basis. On the other hand, we have set up the new Commodity Groups to deal with such matters as this, and we are hopeful that as a result we shall secure effective and energetic measures to see that the raw materials which are available are properly allocated; and if that machinery is not successful, other measures will have to be taken to see that proper use is made of those raw materials. I am sure that those who are responsible for this matter will read the speeches made, both to-day and yesterday, and that every possible attention will be given to the matter. The lessening of the available supplies of scrap for the steel industry, the shortening of the supply of sulphur (very largely under the production and distribution of the United States), and the shortage of non-ferrous metals are the principal potential limiting factors in the achievement of our targets in the rearmament programme, and also in the maintenance of the exports required to keep our economy balanced.


If the noble Viscount is passing from the raw materials question, I should like to ask him one question. Do the Groups of which he has spoken have any executive power, or is it proposed to set up some executive body to ration raw materials? My noble friend speaks of the future, but this trouble is with us now.


The noble Lord already knows that, so far as we are concerned, we have sent out Lord Knollys from this country to represent us in connection with the Groups; that the various representatives come to agreement in the Groups, and refer back if there is any particular difficulty or danger to us in regard to any of these matters. If there is any special point which the noble Lord wishes me to bring to the notice of the appropriate Department, I shall be only too pleased to do so.

I would say to my noble friend Lord Wilmot that we accept almost every word of what he said as to what is required to assist industry with regard to this rearmament programme. However, I would say that the placing of contracts already accomplished shows that the matter is not being lost sight of, while the urgency of getting the Service requirements brought early to the notice of the Minister of Supply and having them put in hand, is also appreciated. I believe that my noble friend Lord Hall said yesterday that we have already placed contracts to the value of £450,000,000, although the placing of sub-contracts, and so on, has still to be accomplished. I appreciate what was said by noble Lords opposite about giving as long notice as possible to firms who may not at the moment be called upon to do certain work, but who may be required to do it in six or twelve months' time. We have already had conferences with representatives of the industrial associations in the country, and they will continue until we get further on with the programme and find it going along satisfactorily. Important as those points are. I would say that the matter which causes us the most anxiety is the question of whether we can obtain supplies, and whether we can transfer smoothly the labour engaged in those parts of our industry which are at present producing non-essential items. Constant attention is being given to that matter, and your Lordships may rest assured that the Government are doing all they can to get the best results. I would stress that we require the support and loyalty of all classes of the community if we are to come through this great crisis without serious results to ourselves.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, raised a question with regard to what he described as a rumour that an American officer had been selected—I think the words the noble Lord used were, "to command the North Atlantic Powers' Navy." It is not exactly that. I would say to the noble Lord that the Prime Minister has this afternoon answered a Question put by the Leader of the Opposition in another place, and there has been some discussion arising out of that Question. The Prime Minister answered that the North Atlantic Committee had agreed to the appointment of an American Admiral for the Atlantic. The official announcement will be made shortly. As a result of what was said in another place to-day (so far, I have seen only the tape machine report, and my words are not official), I understand that the Prime Minister is looking further into the matter.


In what respect have British Admirals been found lacking? With all respect to the American Admirals, why should the British Fleet be put under an American?


I am sure there is no lack of respect. For example, Admiral Andrew has been put in charge of the American and other Allied navies conducting operations round Korea.


A good thing, too.


A reasonable approach must be made in dealing with these collective matters. Surely, there will be no suggestion anywhere that we have not good Admirals ready to take command. However, I would rather leave that subject until the result of the statement is made known in another place.


Can the noble Viscount give me an answer next week if I put down a Private Notice Question on this point, or will he let me know when he can?


I will let the noble Lord know when I can. The matter may fall within the sphere of the First Lord of the Admiralty, so perhaps the noble Lord would let him know what information he requires.

I have a feeling that in dealing with a long two-day debate like this, one is almost bound to have omitted special questions which have been raised by different noble Lords. It is quite impossible to sit down and write out a speech in detail in answer to the kind of debate to which I have listened for two days. I hope that noble Lords will not feel that I have failed to deal with their particular points. I must say that I welcome, most of all perhaps, the spirit of the ending of the speech of the noble Earl who wound up the debate for the Opposition. I shall try at all times to give the House the fullest information I can, subject to the precautions of which I have already spoken. I hope that we may at least have sufficient of a political truce in this House on defence—I am quite sure that we shall not have a political truce on everything—so that if we continue to press a defence programme which leads to collective security, which seeks to deter an enemy from aggression, and which takes us within reach of that, we shall not always have political division on the matter.

We feel sometimes that we are fairly criticised, and at other times that we are unfairly criticised. When this country is charged with lack of leadership, I sometimes think that the leadership which has been displayed—starting with the Treaty of Dunkirk, leading up to the second Treaty of the Brussels Treaty Organisation, which evoked from Mr. Truman, as the almost immediate consequence of the setting up of the Brussels Military Organisation, a welcome Note for what we were doing, and the initiative of this country towards setting up the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation—has indeed created a situation, in face of the enemies of the world, which gentlemen of any Party in 1939 would have been very glad to have. We arc grateful to all those who have assisted us in that matter, but I do not think we ought to lose sight of the initiative which this country has displayed in building up that organisation from the very start. In consequence, it has altered the whole balance of the problem which we have to face.

I agree with the noble Earl who has just sat down that we have our individual contribution to make, with full responsibility for the solution of that task, but I do not for a moment believe that unilateral rearmament can be any answer at all. We shall do our level best to prove —as was indicated earlier in the debate —that we have recognised both our responsibility and our duty to assist La the general defence to be undertaken in Europe against Communism, if Communism raises itself in actual open attack. If it were not for that we should never be in the position we are to-day: with ten divisions contributed by the Americans and ourselves, apart from the French and the other divisions; a situation of preparation and a situation of Allied military occupation. That has certainly never happened before in my lifetime, although there may have been other cases of it in the earlier examples of history which the noble Lord, Lord Ismay, gave this afternoon. We are determined to do whatever is required to have the defence in strength from which we can negotiate. I can also assure my noble friend Lord Strabolgi that we certainly do not neglect the responsibility of avoiding war if it is at all possible; not only to rearm collectively to the greatest strength we can achieve, but also to leave no opportunity unexplored for taking part in negotiations designed to improve diplomatic relations and to avoid the causes of war. I am very much indebted to noble Lords for what has been said. The debate will be studied, and we will do our best to make use of their suggestions.


My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down, can he answer a question I asked yesterday, as to whether any information is available about how the five-day week is working out in Royal Dockyards? I have heard that work has been going to private yards because the Royal yards did not dispose of sufficient man-power to undertake it.


My Lords, I did take note of the point. It is one of those points which I should like dealt with very carefully. The First Lord of the Admiralty will no doubt answer that when the Naval Debate takes place. Of course, one often finds that quick criticism made. A five-day week does not necessarily mean that a yard is never opened on a Saturday, or that work is not done, under trade union arrangement, by which overtime is paid for the extra period worked. At such short notice, I should not like to say more about that point, but it can be raised again, and I am sure the information will be forthcoming.

6.37 p.m.


My Lords, varying views have been expressed in this two-day debate, but I think the whole House will agree in one thing, that the debate has been of the very highest value. I personally do not think I remember a debate on a higher level. We have had very remarkable speeches, like those of Lord Ismay, Lord Trenchard and Lord Wilmot—a remarkable maiden speech from one, of course, who cannot claim to be a maiden. But the term "remarkable" does not apply only to those leading speeches. I do not think there has been any speech in the debate which has not been made by a noble Lord having first-hand knowledge and experience, either in the wide fields of command and administration, or in the not less important though more limited fields of commands of fighting units and formations. It has all been constructive and, within the limits which they either assign to themselves or have assigned to them, the Government have given us a great deal of information: the speeches of the two noble Viscounts on the Government Front Bench were absolutely clear, and most helpful.

I am not going to inflict another speech upon the House, and there are only three things I wish to say. The first point is to say one word again, as I said in opening, about the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Of course, we all agree that the Atlantic Pact is the greatest and the most helpful Alliance that there has ever been in our history, or in the history of Europe and of America. But because it is so magnificent and so helpful, it seems to me to be all-important that it should be as effective as it is promising. The noble Viscount who has just sat down admitted that a Combined Chiefs of Staff organisation is necessary in war. I know what exists in Washington to-day. I know the whole organisation of the Atlantic Pact well. But the noble Viscount would be the first to admit that nothing we have to-day in the least resembles, in its character or in its efficacy the Combined Chiefs of Staff as we knew it, and from which we profited greatly in the war. And if it is true—as I am sure it is— that we should require the organisation again in the event of war, then, with the short time that would be available and the little warning that we should receive if trouble comes, it is vital that we should have our whole machine in operation from the start. I therefore beg most earnestly for a reconsideration of the question of whether it is not possible to create now that effective Combined Chiefs of Staff. The organisation must be workable; it must be composed of the ablest men. I know the susceptibilities of various countries. Most of us who have held office have encountered them, and I imagine that no single organisation would touch the individual life of a country and its people more closely, in matters of production and in the industrial and social life of the country, than the organisation for the integration of production. That affects them more closely than the work of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. But, once we had accepted—as we have, enthusiastically— a single Supreme Commander of the Army in Europe, who would be able to move any of the troops anywhere, because they would be entirely under his strategic command (and must be so) then I should have hoped that the countries of the Grand Alliance would accept what one would have thought was easier of acceptance, an organisation which I believe is vital to making the Grand Alliance all that we believe and desire it to be.

I have only two other points to make. We now know, thanks to this debate, a great deal more about the Z Reserve, and about how it is going to work, than we did before the debate started. I am much obliged to both Ministers for all that they have told us. We must and shall all try to get the best possible value out of the fifteen days' period. But, having heard all that has been said, I still maintain the view—and I do not think the Government themselves would challenge it—that, valuable as I hope the fifteen days' period is going to be, it is going, I am afraid, to be least valuable where a call-up ought to be most valuable, and that is in the front line troops in Germany. I hope that that point may be reconsidered. I think that your Lordships' House has shown itself a real Council of State during these two days, and I do not believe it is yet too late to reconsider the position in order to make these troops in Germany—upon whom, if trouble came in a dangerous year, the first impact would fall—a fighting formation: to make the whole Army there something really effective to withstand the shock if it comes.


If I am permitted to do so, I think I ought to say something I intended to say earlier. I thought the points which the noble Viscount made were exceedingly good. But by the extension of National Service to two years we are now receiving a longer period of service for each individual. That is the case with regard to the men who are going in now from time to time. They are being trained in all the different arms, and the improvement in their training, therefore, is proceeding steadily. The other thing I intended to say is that the transfer starting on April 1, which will build up the reserves from two years' service, instead of eighteen months, will assist in that improving process. Perhaps the noble Viscount will take that fact into account.


My friends and I will certainly approach this matter without any prejudice at all, but simply with a genuine desire to get the best results. We will watch how this works.

I should now like to say one word on the question of secrecy and security. I have some experience of security and, indeed, have had some responsibility for it. Of course I know that this issue continually arises, though it is not the case that everything can be said on one side and nothing on the other—there are few easy cases of that kind. It is a balance of risk and of convenience. Of course we shall always be told that we must not say anything because it might give something away. I think there are many things; which could be said which would not give anything away. I know that a great many things came out—we found them out—as a result of the last war, but I never have known precisely what were the things that were of such great value to the enemy because of disclosures made before the war. And we knew quite a lot about the enemy—not always through the publicity which they gave us.

But surely it cannot be a necessary veil of secrecy to withhold information as to the state in which the factories are, and how ready they are to accept orders—at least, I should have thought not. Have we not to remember this in striking a balance?—and it is a balance. I think that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Ismay, and others were right in saying that the Government will not carry conviction to the people unless they are told the whole truth. It is the truth which is strong and which prevails. It is not easy to-day; there are strikes, there are go-slow movements; people are tired—I am not talking politics now. It is a false idea that we shall succeed merely by giving people material inducements; and, for all I know, after the next Budget it may be more difficult still to give them material inducements, either in cash or in kind. But what else can you give? Perhaps you have nothing to offer except an opportunity for service —not an offer of extra reward but a request to the people: to approach this matter of increased production, of getting things under way, other than as a purely business proposition. You will not succeed even by nationalising this or that industry; you will get the best results only by bringing home to these men the urgency of the need and the part that every one of us must play. I beg that when the Government come to consider this matter, when they come to hold the balance between what should be hidden and what should be revealed, they will remember that without telling quite a lot of the truth they will not get people to realise what the truth is and what we have all got to do.

I am told that I should look at what somebody said in 1938. It is not really very relevant, because the whole argument of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, and of the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, was that I and others disclosed so much in 1938 that we gave away everything to the enemy, and that therefore the Government must not disclose anything like what was disclosed in 1938. If I sinned, I sinned; but it is no argument to say to me now that Mr. Chamberlain refused to disclose more, because you are saying that he and I and everybody else disclosed far too much. There are two issues here: there is what you tell the country—and on that I have nothing to add to the appeal I have made to tell the country as much as you can. Then there is what you tell Parliament. There again, what you have to tell Parliament depends on how much you have told the country. The less you feel able to disclose to the country, the more necessary, it seems to me, is it to disclose it to Parliament.

I do not think that Members of either House would abuse the confidence of a Secret Session. Do not let the Government stand on punctilio on this and treat the matter as if it were a vote of censure. Really it is again both Houses, as Councils of State, trying to do their duty by the country. If the Government cannot make things public, then I appeal to them to take us into their confidence in Secret Session. We certainly shall not abuse it. I do not think the Government will suffer from it. I do not think the Government have suffered from these two days of debate. I am sure that, whether we meet in public or in secret, we shall meet with the same sense of responsibility and of seeking to do our duty by our country in these difficult and hazardous times. I thank the House for hearing me again. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at seven minutes before seven o'clock.