§ 2.40 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH rose to call attention to the problems of Defence, with particular reference to Command Paper 8475; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I am sure it will be in the minds of your Lordships that our first duty this afternoon is to give a welcome from the House to the new Minister of Defence, the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis. He is a great national figure. He is now to undertake a task of a kind which has not exactly been his in the past. He has done great public service to the nation, of which we are all proud. We have the greatest respect for him in the military field, and he has been a most worthy representative of the Crown in a sphere of great influence overseas. I am quite sure that his personal qualities will mean that he will do a very great job in the difficult rôle which he now has to fulfil.
§ Nevertheless, I must say that the Government's choice of Minister is less fortunate than would appear from the personal qualities of the Minister. It is redolent of the kind of thing which used to go on—when, for instance, the Duke of Wellington, straight from a triumphal progress, came back to be made one of the senior statesmen in the country. We in this country have grown up more and more in the tradition that a civilian should be appointed. I have lived in the days when in matters of Imperial defence it was deemed necessary that a purely civilian representative of the Crown should be there, as it were to hear the recommendations of the Chiefs of Staff and to present the general attitude of the State in these matters to the public at large. I am sorry that the Government have found it necessary to depart from the usual practice in such matters. But I would say to Lord Alexander that, if the Government have adopted that principle, then I am quite certain that no person could have been chosen by the Government who is better 299 qualified for the appointment than Lord Alexander; and we give him a great and hearty welcome.
§ I should like to add a further personal note before I begin to call attention to the various aspects of Defence. During the last two days a certain book of a biographical character has been published; and I feel it incumbent on me to say, on this first opportunity since the appearance of that book and while we are debating defence, how greatly Marshal of the Air Force Lord Tedder, as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee during a very difficult period, has earned a tribute. I wish personally to pay him a tribute, both for the great sacrifice which he made in immediately giving up commitments in private life to go to Washington at a difficult stage, and also for his very great help and loyalty to myself and my successors. I wish him all happiness in the future.
§ There is one thing about the White Paper which appears mainly from the sizing up of the—I will not call it the balance sheet, but the summary of payments to be made (it appears on the last page of the White Paper), and that is the very rapid growth of the Ministry of Defence itself. When the Department was formed by the Government under the leadership of Mr. Attlee at the end of 1946 and the beginning of 1947, at an annual cost of something like £600,000, I remember the Prime Minister of the day then enjoining me that one of my main functions would be to see that the Ministry of Defence did not grow so large as to be likely to become a hindrance, rather than a help, to the general work of the Services Departments, their co-ordination and their efficiency. I think it is important that we should be very careful about that. I know, of course, that in the present circumstances of world change and difficulty, entailing many expansions of organisation, the Government have to add to the Budget to-day quite considerable expenditure with regard to the joint military organisations here and overseas. But the rise from £600,000 a year to something like nearly £17,500,000 a year in a matter of five years is so startling that I am sure the Minister will not take any offence if I say that, while I understand that there are some good 300 reasons for the rise in expenditure, I do hope that the Government will feel that the Ministry of Defence should not be a rapidly expanding Department, but should be kept within the proper bounds of economy.
§ I shall have a few things to say in a minute about some of the details of the White Paper, but in fairness to my own side, I think I should at the outset (to get rid of perhaps the least pressing of my remarks to-day) say how interesting it is to see evidence coming to hand now from Service sources, which are always fair and straight I think, and even from Ministries, in testimony to the great development, quality and amount of the British contribution in the military defence of free nations at large. It makes a somewhat strange contrast to what was being said and written only a few months ago. It is only fair to my own side that we should make the position quite plain.
My only complaint with regard to the quotation which I am about to make is that I wish much of it had been included in the White Paper. I was very interested to read in The Times of April 7 a short summary—not all of it, by any means—of the remarkable broadcast given by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir William Slim, in the United States of America. He included in his remarks the statement that we had contributed to the defence of democracy at the present time
the second largest fleet in the world and ten regular divisions to meet the demands of the cold war.
He continued that
Among our five divisions in Europe are three armoured, which provide the bulk of General Eisenhower's armour
and an air force contribution to the Continental set-up which is approximately one-third of the total air strength of the N.A.T.O. forces in Europe. He then asked the question, as if it were being asked by an American:
Is Britain really pulling its weight, in accordance with its man-power, resources and wealth?
He had no hesitation in saying "Yes." He continued:
We need not fear any comparison in the size of our total contribution deployed against Communist aggressions with yours"—
that is, the United States of America—
or with that of any other ally.
§ There was the remarkable statement over the week-end by the Secretary of State for War, who has been touring Germany, inspecting three or four of the largest British Army units there. He made a statement to correspondents which I happened to obtain only because it was broadcast by the B.B.C. I could not find it in The Times. He told these correspondents that he wished more of the public who grumble at the burden of taxation for rearmament could go to Germany and see what very good value they were getting for their money. He said that his tour had shown him that we had a magnificent British Army in Germany, and he considered that we had had nothing like it previously in peace time. That is a claim I made on two or three occasions in the last Parliament, and my statement was greeted with not very great enthusiasm; but I contrast it with the kind of language that was being used about the Government of which I was proud to be a member.
This is an actual article which was written for Election purposes by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and which appeared in the Bristol Evening World on October 22. I will pick out just the point that I want to make. He said:
The Socialists thought they knew better when they took office in 1945. They allowed Britain's defences to run down below the point of prudence and safety. Their foreign policy, confused and inadequate, has since reduced our prestige. The Socialists are now trying to repair the grave weaknesses which their policy has brought about. The big rearmament programme which is going to cost the country £4,700,000,000 in the next three years, and which will demand sacrifices from us all, has become necessary mainly because of their past neglect and failure to understand in time the dangers inherent in the post-war situation.
What a contrast there is between that statement and the statement by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff in the United States! What a contrast there is between that retarded and ill-advised statement and the statement of the Secretary of State for War that the British Army in Germany, built up by a Labour Government, has no precedent in peace time in the history of this country. In fact, so far from the Forces having been run down in that way, the contrary was the case.
§ In the first two or three years, demobilisation was entirely in accordance with the scheme prepared and 302 adopted by the Coalition War Cabinet. My Party stopped demobilisation before we had reached the end of the programme which had been laid down. Is that just a remarkable coincidence? I hope we may get it settled that there is no special position for any Party in this House to take in this matter, for all of us are determined to see that adequate, though not wasteful, defence expenditure is provided against the common menace to our freedom in the world to-day. There is no reason to try to make such Party points as were made during the Election and which are now proved to be completely false. I repeat that when we come to deal with the defence problem of to-day, no incoming Administration in the history of our country has ever taken over from another Party and found the Forces in such good state as they were tinder the last Government. I challenge anybody in this House to quote an instance where my statement can be proved to be not true. That is a remarkable statement to make, but it is true. I agree that the circumstances in the world are also remarkable, and that we have necessarily to provide as much as we possibly can from that point of view.
The other matter in regard to which we can take heart is that, instead of being in the position in which we found ourselves in 1939, when the disaster broke upon us, not only have we made the beginnings of a well-equipped British Force on a scale never previously contemplated in peace time, but we enter this period with an Alliance of twelve Powers the like and the power of which have not been seen before in history. However, there are two grave dangers in the situation. It is very hopeful to find that General Eisenhower, judging by the passage which was published in The Times dealing with his annual report in regard to the European Defence Organisation, has some of the great difficulties in mind. In dealing with these problems of defence at the present time, one has to be very careful that the operation is not so drastic that, though successful as an operation, the patient nevertheless succumbs. The General is quoted in the passage in The Times as saying in his report that, of the matters referred to him as head of the Forces, he found the problems were economic, political and psychological rather than purely
military; and in much longer passages he explains that point in great detail. And it is a fact. At the end of some of his comments he said:
We must be careful that we do not prove that free countries can only be defended at the cost of bankruptcy.
That is the first problem of defence with which I want to deal this afternoon.
§ One thing upon which we are all agreed, as both the Secretary of State for Air and myself were agreed upon it the other day, is that, in face of the threat to freedom in the world, there can be no question but that we must have a position of strength from which to negotiate, and adequate preliminary positioning to prevent any sudden disaster overtaking us. Those for whom I speak here are unanimous on that point; and all our actions—our preparations and our arrangements for collective strength and the build-up of N.A.T.O.—have been made in that direction. But when General Eisenhower says: "We have some seven divisions now. We are going to have fifty divisions by the end of the year, twenty-five active, twenty-five in reserve. We shall be stronger, but we are only at the beginning of security on that basis.", we have to ask ourselves, what is the exact line which we have to draw beyond which our country cannot go? What is the exact line beyond which whoever will succeed General Eisenhower as the military head of the free nations' organisation in Europe will be able to say of this, that or the other partner in the Alliance, that they cannot economically go? I quite agree with all that has been said on both sides of the House on previous occasions, that defence is essential; and we have made our position quite clear. I note what Mr. Eden said the other day—it gave material for headlines—to the effect that the danger of war seemed to be receding. Generally speaking, Mr. Eden suggested that a certain hopeful note might be struck, in view of the growing strength of the free nations which are united in this matter.
§ But there is another aspect at which we must look, and it cannot be left out of account. As Minister of Defence, three or four years ago I used to study with care the state of the armament budgets of the different countries; and, of course, I did not exclude from my examination the budget of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. But how far can we 304 go, and ought we to go, gathering strength from which to negotiate in relation to the action of Russia and her satellites? We have greatly increased our budget of expenditure: so also has Russia. I was quite concerned at one time to note that the percentage of the national income of Russia spent upon armaments had gone up to 13 per cent. But now it is 23½ per cent. And the budgets of Russia's satellites are rising with it. Where, and at what point, in economic expenditure, do we reach this limit of safety and security? That is the greatest problem facing us in regard to this armament question to-day, and it was undoubtedly that which General Eisenhower had in mind when he said that we must be careful that we do not prove that free nations can defend themselves only at the expense of bankruptcy.
§ We are dealing with a powerful potential enemy, or rather a group of potential enemies, whose political economy and general financial control are such that they can raise or lower the standard of life of their peoples by edict, or by sudden action, at any time they like. We shall never get service on that basis in a free country like this, or in any other of the free democracies which are now banded together in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. We are committed to the programme which has been adopted for the triennial period. It is already certain, for one reason or another—including shortage of raw materials, delay in obtaining all the necessary kinds of skilled labour and financial questions—that that programme will have to be spread over a longer period than three years. I am certain that those who now have the responsibility recognise as clearly as we do that all the armaments in the world will not take a nation successfully through the difficult times which face it if the nation is so top-heavy in the matter of its expenditure on armaments that the rest of its economy is unsound. I am sure that that point will be most carefully studied.
§ I turn now to the White Paper itself. Naturally, coming as it does from the Department over which I once presided, it is a good White Paper. But, from some points of view, I rather wish the Party now in office, who used to press for so much more to be included in White Papers, had been successful in getting more put into this one. Perhaps they 305 have met some of the difficulties—military difficulties; security difficulties—that we used to find ourselves up against. I should like the Minister to consider carefully the effect of such a release of information as that made by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff—who I am sure would not have done it without the knowledge of the Minister. If that information had been given—as I suggest it could have been—in the Ministry of Defence Paper (for which, of course, the Minister was not personally responsible, as he had not then taken office) all those weeks ahead, it would have been of great value to Parliament and to the British public generally.
§ The first question I want to raise with the Minister on the White Paper is this. In spite of my experience of the Department, I find it a little difficult to see exactly what the public will be able to understand from paragraphs 6, 7 and 8. A number of learned economists, and other noble Lords who are skilled in such matters, may be able to understand them, but I am very much interested in this question of counterpart funds and I should like some elucidation. This very large military budget of £1,462,000,000 is reduced to £1,377,000,000 by a process which is there set out. It is all mixed up, apparently, with the general economic aid, an intricate Treasury system of transfers and other matters. I think that what the general public would like to know is exactly how it is worked out, how it fits into our effort, and how it is that the White Paper can say this reduction does not detract from our general effort. I wish it could be put in a rather different way so that the general public, as well as myself, might fully understand what is being done.
§ Another thing I should like to say is this. Anyone who sat down and pondered for a few moments over the broadcast of Sir William Slim would have had this thought spring to his mind: What is the counterpart in the case of all the other Allied members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation? Exactly what is the sum total now of the cost of the N.A.T.O. armament organisation? What is being contributed by each member nation? How large a percentage of each one's contribution is made by counterpart and how much by direct taxation on each country? I think it would be helpful and enlightening if the Minister could make 306 public some explanation of these points. Possibly, if it were not done through his Department, the Treasury would issue some Parliamentary Paper which would show exactly what is being costed and what is being received by each of the participants?
§ When I was thinking about that matter, it led me to another point. We are often held up to some criticism as if we as a nation had been backward in helping on the general cause. I am sure the Minister, if he inquires into the matter, will find that a great many of the efforts now being made by other countries in the general defence of democracy in the world were due to the activities of our General Staffs and to the generosity of this country between the years 1946 and 1949 in helping with their initial re-equipment—the re-equipment of their air forces and their armies generally, the provision of such things as rifles and the like. I do not think we have ever yet put down in one particular place what was the sum total of the British contribution in this respect, a contribution without which there would have been no stirring of hearts or, indeed, any direct progress towards this Continental grouping and defensive unity. I feel that it is essential that the part which has been played, and which our country has played so well, should be fully recognised.
§ Another point I should like to put to the noble Earl is prompted in my mind not only by the White Paper but also by the report of General Eisenhower. General Eisenhower refers to a plan for building up to a cover force with adequate reserves and with all the equipment and accommodation necessary. Both the Minister and all the Staffs are familiar with this plan, which is a very large and ambitious project. I should like to know exactly how much we are going to spend altogether in the financial year, or perhaps over the triennial period of the rearmament programme to which we are now committed, upon depots, stores and accommodation for British troops on the Continent. What I am naturally anxious about is this: if the Eisenhower plan is for a cover force with adequate reserves, are our reserves, both man-power and equipment, to be on the Continent? Or are we spending too much or not enough on the Continent in reserves and resources accumulated in depth? That seems to me to be a point for consideration.307
§ When talking about provision already made, I promised that I would say a word or two about the cost of food and pay for troops, and about the pay of civilians employed by the Services, and I wish now to refer to that matter to support my claim about what has already been built up for the Services. At a time when we are faced with great economic difficulties, the Services must be easily the largest employer of labour, compared with any other industry in the country. The pay, food and allowances of the Services and civilian employees is costing to-day something over £500,000,000 a year. It does not seem as if we, as a nation, had been niggardly or mean in any sense in the provision we have been making. There is one other thing that needs to be said. The incoming Government took over from us a great power in making their plans for defence—they have available National Service in peace time. I must say that the more I hear about the way the National Service men have been trained by the Regulars, the more it shows the wonderful results that we have obtained. I would congratulate the Army in recruiting such a large number of National Service men into the voluntary section of the Territorial Army. That is a great success. But I do not understand why, with all the attractions of and encouragement from the Air Force, a similar percentage result has not been achieved there.
§ National Service gives the Government this great advantage, that they have a reserve force which has been already built up, as the White Paper points out, because of the extension of the time of active service of National Service men from eighteen months to two years. It would seem that about 1954 or 1955 we should be getting a considerable force. At the present time our total reserve force, including the Territorial Army, does not seem to be much above 250,000. Perhaps the Minister will be able to give us an estimate of what he thinks the available reserve force will be, both voluntary and National Service in 1954 or 1955. In the difficult circumstances we were facing eighteen months ago, it was agreed that there was need to expand our immediately available reserves by the calling up of Class Z and Class G reservists for training. Now a number of people are anxious about how long 308 this call-up is to continue, and to what ages. Last year we were calling up Class Z men from 40 to 44 years of age, and the same age groups are being called up this year. I should have thought that, with the growth of the National Service reserve, plus the Territorial Army, and with the calling up of some of the younger classes of "Z" and "G" men, we should be able to get all we need. I should like some information on how long this call-up is to continue. Obviously this source must be a diminishing return.
§ Then I should like to ask how many Regular formations will be maintained at home. When in office we used to receive many complaints because we had so much deployment of our forces to deal with the cold war. It was said that, though we had very large forces, we never seemed to have at home a very large Regular force which could form a striking force. I should like to know, especially in view of the great strain and stress which still exists on our forces in other parts of the world, what is now proposed with regard to the maintenance of Regular formations at home. There has been adequate debate on the Navy and Air Force Estimates and I need not say very much about these. But there is one point of scientific interest to me, about which I should like to know something. In view of what was said in the White Paper, I should like to know the present assessment of the value of the helicopter in anti-submarine work. I know that at the time I was in office the helicopter was already developing to perform many useful functions. Nevertheless, it would be such an easy target—a sitting bird target—to anything in the way of powerful and accurate fire from a surfaced submarine that it would probably have great difficulty in operating. Now the helicopter is being introduced into anti-submarine work, I should like to know what is its particular value in this connection.
§ I should like to make one point about the air. It is most interesting to see in the White Paper that arrangements have been made between the United States and Canada for the stepping up of our modern fighter equipment by deliveries of the F.86. I should like to know whether the House can be given any information now as to when the first squadron strength of these F.86's will be delivered. That will be very valuable 309 indeed. Incidentally, since Canada is part contributor in this, I should like to say how indebted we over here are to the extraordinary services, not only to his own country but to the general cause, given by the Canadian Minister of Defence. He is a first-class Minister, who is doing a great work.
§ I am afraid that the noble Earl the Minister will have to face a great deal of trouble, and will often be called into council, over the problems of command. We shall watch with interest how, with his new powers, he is able to unravel the business. I see that the White Paper claims with some pride that there is to be a British Admiral in command of the Allied naval forces in the Eastern Atlantic. But it is curious to observe, after all that was said by the present Prime Minister when in opposition, that the arrangement which we made with the United States of America has not been disturbed. The arrangement is as it was, and as I think it ought to be; there is hardly any difference between the arrangement made and that which obtained, in effect, from 1942. We had great help after a certain date. Once the United States had cleared their eastern coast of submarines in 1942, with British help, we were able to enter into a full partnership in the Atlantic which worked very successfully.
§ What is to happen with regard to the command in the N.A.T.O. forces is an interesting point. I cannot help saying that some of the wishful-thinking people who have been speaking and writing about the subject do not really appreciate the great need for the fullest co-operation between ourselves and the United States. If they can find the right man to take General Eisenhower's place, I think it will be better this time to be gracious from the first, and not belatedly. I have no doubt that the Government will have that in mind. But we need some consideration about command in the Middle East, where this country knows rather more about the problems. I hope that the Minister may be able to tell us how things are progressing with regard to the Middle East defence position. Of course, I am at his mercy: he has only to get up and say, "Security, security," and I, as an old Minister of Defence, am immediately silenced. But we should like to know as much about the position in the Middle East as he is able to tell us.310
§ I cannot leave out of this debate a reference to the Korean war campaign. I should like, as many other noble Lords have done on previous occasions, to pay tribute to the way in which our men are fighting out there; they are doing a wonderful job, as all the Allies have been doing. But many of the troops to whom I have spoken on their return from Korea are concerned at the length of time during which the negotiations out there have dragged on. I believe that we ought to know more about who is conducting the negotiations. Are they purely military? Are they being conducted under the special guidance of diplomatic representatives of the United Nations Organisation? Is any endeavour being made to be co-operative in order to reach a fixed armistice period? It is most extraordinary that we should have been over seven months discussing the terms of an armistice. It may be that the whole blame lies on the side of the Chinese. But some of the columnists in the United States newspapers do not seem to think so, and they are beginning to ask questions about the attitude of American negotiators. What is fundamental is that, while we give away nothing essential in principle, we should certainly do our best to step up these negotiations, and to bring to as speedy an end as possible this long-drawn-out agony there. The Service men to whom I have talked about it wonder how long this is to continue. The other thing I should like to say is this. I did not know what to make of the answer in the other place about leave for our men in Korea. In the first twelve or eighteen months many men were specially called up from civil life to go out there to bolster up the Services, because the matter was urgent. I should think the time of service has now been so long that as soon as possible some arrangement ought to be made to give them an opportunity of leave. I should have liked to say a number of other things, but I find, on looking at the clock, that I have been speaking much longer than I intended. I like to make my remarks without being committed to a read speech, and I am sure your Lordships will forgive me for having been a trifle long.
§ I would say, in conclusion, that if we can get the kind of co-operation that I am sure the country wants from all Parties in what is sound and efficient, and 311 not wasteful, and a policy which shows just how far we can go within our economy to reach the position of stability and safety we desire, then I am sure the country at large will support whatever the new Minister is able to get his colleagues to agree to in these matters. We wish him well. We hope that he will not be a Duke of Wellington, and that he will—not in answer to my importunity but in answer to the importunities which were made to me as Minister by the Conservative Commons and the Conservative Peers in the past—at least give us more information. I hope that things will so improve as we gather our strength that the world will sit up and take notice of the complete stupidity of this vast expenditure, not by us alone but by at least twenty-five countries in the world, at a time when the world is hardly able to feed itself, and when we ought to be diverting the major part of this expenditure to the reconstruction of our economic systems through which alone will the world achieve final stability, peace and welfare.
§ 3.29 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, he is a rash man who would intervene between one Alexander and another. But this is not a case of "When Greek joins Greek then comes the tug of war," for the speech of the noble Viscount who has just spoken has been non-controversial, his criticisms have been restrained, and his theme has been animated by patriotic and not by partisan considerations. He did, indeed, demur in his opening sentence to the appointment of a distinguished soldier as the head of one of the Departments concerned with defence; but he did so not on personal grounds but solely on grounds of general principle. So far as general principle is concerned, I, for my part, feel—and I am sure my noble friends on these Benches will agree—that it would be a bad thing if it became the practice to appoint military men, naval or airmen of distinction to the headship of the Service Departments. Continental countries have often looked upon our system with surprise, in that we have not had the general rule of appointing Generals as head of the Army Department and Admirals as head of the Naval Department, which to many of them seems the natural and normal course. I think the view of all of us in this country, 312 in both Houses and in all Parties, is that our principle is the better one and that it should be very exceptional that an officer of the Army or of one of the other Forces should be a Minister of State in one of those Departments.
As it happens, when the last occasion occurred of a soldier being appointed as Secretary of State for War—the case of Lord Kitchener—I was a member of the Cabinet, and I am now one of the three survivors of the Cabinet of Mr. Asquith which was in office in 1914. I am sure that Mr. Churchill and the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, would concur with me when I say that the appointment of Lord Kitchener was generally regarded as fully justified and admirable in its results at the outbreak of war. It helped to steady the nation and it gave the maximum impulse to the building up of the vast new armies that had become necessary. But after a time, from the point of view of war administration it was not a success; it would be better that a great expert should not be put at the head of a Department of that kind. In this instance, however, the noble Earl is not the head directly of the Army Department; he is rather a Minister for the co-ordination of defence. Furthermore, after a long military career of the highest distinction, he has lately been serving in a civilian capacity in the high office of Governor-General of Canada, and he has done so with signal success and with general approbation. Now that he is embarking on a third career as the head of one of the great Departments of State and its spokesman in this House of Parliament, I feel sure that the whole House, with much gratitude for his eminent services in other spheres, will welcome him with the utmost cordiality.
This debate is on a White Paper on Defence, but everyone realises that defence is intimately bound up with the economic situation and with questions of foreign policy. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, has dealt very largely with the interrelation between our economic situation and the burdens upon us that defence involves. He has said—and it is obviously true—that defence depends upon armaments, and armaments must depend upon the solvency of the nation, upon its maintaining the value of its currency and the strength of its financial reserves, and upon its not overpassing 313 the limits of taxation. I am not proposing to develop that theme, for your Lordships had a debate upon the economic situation only recently. It is not desirable that whenever we have a debate on defence we should also discuss economic and foreign policy, and similarly that whenever we have a debate on economics we should also discuss defence and foreign policy; but we must have at the back of our minds all the time the fact that we are bound not to overstrain the economic and financial resources of the nation. The question of foreign relations was hardly referred to at all in the speech of the noble Viscount, but it does form part of this very White Paper, for Section 6 of the White Paper deals with the degree of co-operation with our own efforts that can be expected from other countries. It is to that point only that I would address my observations. I therefore do not propose to deal with any specific questions relating to the Army, Navy or Air Force, such as those with which the noble Viscount has occupied our minds, because I have not the years of familiarity with those matters which he has enjoyed and I cannot speak with even a fraction of his authority.
When we consider the distribution of our heavy burdens, which are undertaken not only in our own interest but in that of the whole of the free world, we see at once that the situation is dominated by the position and the actions of the United States. With their vast resources—particularly after the development of their productive power in the course of the last war—and their immense wealth, they must play the leading rôle in the existing international situation. I came back from the United States a few days ago, after spending a month there, and if those noble Lords who have not been recently were to go there they would, I am sure, feel as surprised as I was at the signs of nervous apprehension that are obvious to anyone from the moment of landing. We knew, of course, that the Americans were taking precautions against possible air attack if there should be a war; but I did not expect, when driving through the streets of New York a few weeks ago, to see at intervals all along the road large signs "To the shelter"; to find in every hotel, in every block of apartments or offices, similar notices; to be greeted on entering my hotel bedroom with a notice 314 saying what to do and where to go in the event of an air raid, and, in driving in the neighbourhood of New York along one of the great parkways, to be confronted with an enormous notice: "In the event of enemy attack on the City of New York, this parkway will be closed." Nor did I expect to hear on certain evenings the wailings of the sirens, such as we were accustomed to hear during the war years, summoning the Civil Defence members to their exercises.
The various causes that a year ago had led the American people into a state of acute nervous apprehension were quite plain from general conversation. The sudden outbreak of the war in Korea; the heavy defeats suffered by the Forces of the United Nations at one stage; the appeals of General MacArthur for the extension of the war to the coast of China, with the possibility that the war might become a formal war with China and that Russia might enter (as she might hold herself bound to do, as China is her ally); the knowledge that Russia also had possession of the atom bomb, and the vivid recollections of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour, when so large a part of the American Fleet was suddenly destroyed, had made them feel great anxiety as to the immediate future. No on could contend that those risks were not real. No one could say that that alarm was merely fictitious. Screaming headlines in the Press had reduced the American nation to a state of almost—I will not say hysteria, but extreme nervous anxiety. A great part of the population held that a war with Russia was inevitable and imminent. That was a little more than a year and a half ago, and so far that war has not proved to be inevitable and imminent, and the nervous tension has, to a great extent, been allayed.
A very important speech was made by Mr. Churchill in another place on March 5, in which he expressed his own view as to the present situation. Your Lordships will have read the speech at the time, but I venture to recall its actual terms to your recollection Mr. Churchill said (OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons; Vol. 497, Col. 445):… I do not believe that war is imminent or inevitable.… I believe that we have more time, if we use it wisely, and more hope of warding off that frightful catastrophe …315 Then he went on to say:…the rearmament programme is much more likely to be carried out in four years than in three … as originally planned.Referring to the action of his own Government as compared with the previous policy, he said:We have pursued a definite policy of giving a somewhat higher measure of priority to materials needed for exports. The grave financial crisis under which we are labouring supplies more than sufficient explanation for this decision.He went on to elaborate that point, saying:We depend upon exports to purchase the imports of food and raw materials without which we can neither rearm nor live as a solvent economic society.He ended his speech with these words:It is a curious commentary on British politics that it should fall to a Conservative Government in the face of dire financial stress to have to reduce or slow down the military defence programme and expenditure on which the Socialist Government had embarked and to which they had committed the nation.That is a very interesting observation on the present political scene in relation to defence. For my own part, being neither a supporter of the Conservative Party nor of the Socialist Party, and exercising a sort of Olympian impartiality, I should be disposed to say that both were right in the circumstances in which they were acting; that the situation in January, 1951, when the programme was promulgated—particularly taking into account the state of public opinion in the United States, which might well have proved to be right—made it necessary that we should do our utmost, and at the utmost speed, to expand our armaments. But a year and a half later it may be right also not, indeed, to abandon or even to diminish that programme, but to extend the period of its execution. That would make a very great difference in the burden imposed upon our people.
I should like to ask the noble and gallant Earl who will reply two questions of which I have given him notice, and they are the only specific questions that I would address to him. The first is: Are the Government contemplating any further relaxation of the speed of rearmament—is it suggested that this programme may be extended over a still longer time? Secondly, could the noble Earl tell the House how far that process has been carried in the United States? I 316 was told when I was there (though I was not able to ascertain the exact facts) that there had been a similar retardation there of the programme compared with the original plan. Perhaps the noble Earl could tell us how far that has gone and how far it has fallen short of our retardation or has exceeded it.
Taking the situation as a whole, and viewing with dismay the enormous burdens that it has been necessary to place upon our economy and the detriment done to the standard of life and, indeed, the civilisation of our people, we come back to the consideration at the end of the war that really it is the business of mankind as a whole, working through the United Nations, to deal with a situation such as this. If the United Nations had been in a position during these years to fulfil the functions assigned to it by its Charter, none of these occurrences would have taken place. If the Russians had carried out the spirit of the Anglo-Russian Treaty of an alliance for twenty-five years, entered into at the end of the war, the world would not be in its present situation. The United Nations Charter contemplated in several of its Articles that that organisation should establish a force of its own, allocated from its members, with a General Staff of its own, and should intervene whenever there was a case of aggression. It has been found quite impossible to fulfil that purpose, because you cannot have a General Staff consisting of representatives of the United Nations to provide against possible aggression when all the world knows that it is from one of those members, with its associates, that aggression is likely to take place.
Furthermore, there has been the war in Korea, which has been, to my mind—and I hope noble Lords will agree with me—a great vindication of the principle of the United Nations; for the moment that that aggression took place, under the speedy and courageous leadership of President Truman and the American Congress and people, the forces of fifty nations were assembled under the flag of the United Nations to repel it. After vicissitudes they have done so, and the aggressor has been driven back to where he started. I venture to think that future generations may regard that as one of the milestones in the history of the advance of civilisation, because it is the first occasion on which the general body of 317 mankind have banded themselves together and, by definite action in the field, at the cost of enormous sacrifices and under the leadership of a world organization, repelled violent aggression from any quarter.
But as things are, we all know we cannot depend upon the United Nations to take measures that may be necessary in the event of aggression. The Disarmament Commission of the United Nations has made no progress, and I think we are obliged to come to the sad conclusion that it is unlikely that there will be any effective disarmament in any direction until there is a political detente. The noble Viscount has referred to the long-drawn-out negotiations in Korea for an Armistice, and he wanted to be informed whether a different approach might not be possible. But that is only one example of the deliberately adopted method of Russia and the Communists. It is true that this Armistice Committee and its sub-Committees have had nearly 200 meetings; but the diplomats engaged in framing a Treaty of Peace with Austria have held 250 meetings and there is still no Treaty. When it was proposed that the four Foreign Ministers of the great Powers should meet together for discussion, and that meeting was regarded with great hope throughout the world, their deputies were commissioned to draw up an agenda and before they came to the conclusion that they could not draw up an agenda they had held seventy-four meetings. So this is a well-known method of postponing a decision. I remember that someone wrote of a conference in, I think, the eighteenth century, that the Emperor of Austria had sent to the Congress his "skilled procrastinators."
If one looks at it from the point of view of Russia, why should she not draw out this Korean situation for as long as possible? Our Prime Minister and many others have said that it is highly desirable that we should bring the Korean imbroglio to an end, because not until that is done shall we be able to remove all our divisions and all the American divisions which are engaged there and place them on the European front in order to withstand possible aggression from the East. Meantime, the Russian strategy, taken as a whole, has been highly successful. With no cost at all in life and very little in treasure to herself, she has indirectly been able to ensure 318 that the United States shall be heavily engaged in Korea, and the French in Indo-China and ourselves in Malaya; and it is very unlikely that we shall come to any satisfactory solution until the situation is dealt with as a whole. The United Nations should have been able to deal with this situation as a whole, but for lack of co-operation on the part of Russia; now, in default of that, we have to look for resources elsewhere. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has been brought into being. It has been found necessary to rearm Japan, Italy and Germany, and the European Defence Community has been brought into being. I think everyone regards with very grave anxiety the proposed rearmament of Germany. It may add to our insurances against attack, or it may add to our risks. As to the restrictions imposed on the German contribution, and the arrangements for dividing their forces among international divisions, it is quite certain that, if the principle of German sovereignty is readmitted, and if the occupation comes to an end, they could never be enforced if at any moment the German Government said that they were inconsistent with German sovereignty and not expedient from the point of view of her policies.
On the whole, I think that many of us have been obliged, reluctantly, to come to the conclusion that the balance is in favour of this measure of rearmament, rather than against it. The points that must weigh very heavily in the minds of all of us are, first, that the French, who are the people principally concerned, and who have had centuries of experience of conflict with Germany, are eager for this arrangement; and, secondly, that the Americans, who are bearing the greatest part of the actual burden—more than any other country—are also strongly in favour of it. In these circumstances, I do not think it would have been possible for us to seek to veto it, or even to hold aloof.
But that is no reason why we should accept the French proposal and proposals from other Continental countries for the formation of a Federation of Europe to which these matters of defence should be relegated. I observed a speech by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, a very few days ago, reported in The Times, expressing strong opposition to this country's joining any European 319 Federation. I myself, in your Lordships' House, have expressed the same view. Perhaps I may be allowed to quote Lord Salisbury's words. He himself, unfortunately, is unable to be present to-day, owing to public business elsewhere. He said this, as reported in The Times on April 8:…if Britain were to become merged in a European Federation it would necessarily mean that control over her defence and foreign relations, both political and economic, would he transferred to the federal Government. If that were to happen, Britain would cease to be an independent sovereign State and as a result she would not be able any more to play her part in the association of independent sovereign states which together make up the Commonwealth.I think that is absolutely true. Indeed, if we were now at this moment members of such an association, the whole of this debate would be out of order. It would be unconstitutional, and we should be told that this matter was not within the province of the Parliament at Westminster, but must be referred to the Federal Government and Parliament of Europe.
if the advocates of federation did not mean federation, but simply some kind of organisation for co-operation; if it were a proposal to revive the Concert of Europe of the nineteenth century, which rendered great service, or to give further functions to the present Council and Assembly of Europe; or even if it were proposed to create something in the nature of a loose confederation—which, as your Lordships are aware, is a different thing from a federation—that would be different. But this Parliament could not consent, nor, I am sure, would the Parliaments of France, of Italy or of Holland or others consent, to being relegated to the same position in a United States of Europe as is held by the several States of the United States of America, and that we should have no more concern with these matters of defence and foreign policy than the State of New York or the State of California or of Oklahoma have to-day in the defence and the foreign policy of the United States of America.
I trust that we shall not follow the advice that is sometimes given, in the Press and elsewhere, that if we cannot have control through the United Nations we must go back to the old British policy of the balance of power. One sees that 320 suggestion continually mentioned in the Press. The balance of power was a system of shifting alliances which resulted not in lasting peace but, on the contrary, in continual wars. I once went through the history books which I had been accustomed to study at an early age when I was preparing for a degree. I wanted to see how many years Britain was at war, and how many at peace, during the period when the balance of power principle was at its height. During the period from the time when King William III had taken control of British foreign policy in 1689 until the Battle of Waterloo—that is to say a period of 126 years—apart from Colonial wars this country was at war for 63 years and at peace for 63 years. Well, my Lords, that is no great tribute to the principle of the balance of power. This shifting balance reminded one of what we are told by Thucydides, that the people of Mitylene wrote to the Lacedaemonians—Now the only sure basis of alliance is for each party to be equally afraid of the other.That cynical principle was the one which prevailed at that time.
I believe that it is only on the basis of collective security, worked with good faith, that the end we desire can ever be achieved. To arrive at that end it would be better not to try to make some new federal machinery but to use the machine that we have now, the United Nations, and to arrange, if possible, a political detente with Russia and China. There can be no effective disarmament without that, and no lasting peace without it. The Disarmament Commission of the United Nations has failed and is likely to continue to fail. I have a vivid personal experience of the Disarmament Conference of the League of Nations of twenty years ago, to which I was a Government delegate when the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, was Foreign Secretary. That Conference failed completely; and the one thing I remember about it is a rather brilliant epigram by M. Herriot, who was then French Prime Minister and the principal French delegate. He said, after listening to the discussions for weeks and months, that it seemed to him that:The verb 'to disarm' is an irregular verb, with no first person singular and only a future tense.In the meantime, our part is not to think that that which we wish to happen 321 has already happened, or even is likely to happen; for at the present moment there is no alternative but to proceed with power and resolution with this rearmament programme, though perhaps not with the same headlong speed that we thought necessary when the threat of war seemed more imminent than it is now. The Government need to tread with great caution, for we are beset with dangers on all sides. It is nothing less than an issue of peace or war which is at stake, bringing life or death to millions of human beings and bringing about the prosperity or the ruin of all nations. When the Minister of Defence rises now to address us he may feel fortified by the assurance that this Chamber will support him, with as much unanimity as any Chamber can ever attain, in his efforts to secure that the nation shall he steadfast in bearing its full share of the free world's defence of the general peace.
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE (EARL ALEXANDER OF TUNIS)
My Lords, I rise to address you for the first time since I have been a member of your Lordships' House, and I do so in all humility, being fully conscious of the importance of the occasion. I trust, therefore, that you will treat with indulgence any shortcomings in the form with which I present my case, and I would ask no more of you than that. During my speech, I shall endeavour to give you a clear picture of the problems with which we are faced and how I think we should try and overcome them. I will also do my best to answer the, noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, whose warm words of welcome I very much appreciate and whose questions, if I may say so, are both helpful and constructive. I can assure him that they will receive the attention they merit, especially since we all realise that this is a field in which he has had wide experience. I shall hope to deal with the questions put by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, in the same way. I should like to thank him for the kind way in which he has referred to myself.
Now that I have taken over my duties as Minister of Defence, my interest is to look ahead and devote my energies and what abilities I may possess to help build up the necessary deterrent forces against aggression, so that we can face the future with confidence. As your Lordships 322 Know, the United Kingdom has worldwide responsibilities to discharge in helping to preserve peace In the West, we are joined with the other N.A.T.O. Powers in strengthening the defences of the North Atlantic area. In the Middle East we shoulder the main burden of maintaining a base for the defence of this area in time of war. We also play an important part in the defence of the Far East, and during the past year our forces have been heavily engaged both in Korea and in. It was to meet these commitments in circumstances of increasing international tension that the late Government announced in January, 1951, a new and greatly expanded rearmament programme. It provided for the expenditure of £4,700,000,000 over the three years 1951–54, including the cost of Civil Defence, but it was made clear by the then Prime Minister that it might prove impossible to spend this sun with in that period.
The present Government have endorsed the general principles which have made rearmament necessary. The rate of progress must, however, be affected by the grave worsening that has taken place during the past twelve months in the United Kingdom's balance of payments. Moreover, by the fall of last year, it was clear that production difficulties would also inevitably lead to considerable delays in the execution of the programme. Nevertheless, the United Kingdom continues to make a most impressive contribution to the defence of the free world, a contribution second only in size to the gigantic programme of the United States of America. In the current year defence expenditure is expected to absorb over one-tenth of the gross output of goods and services by the community. Some 8 per cent, of the total employed population will be directly employed in defence work, including over 850,000 men and women with the Armed Forces, and over 1,000,000 employed by or on behalf of the Forces, including those engaged on the production and works programmes.
The noble Viscount asked me to explain in simple language the meaning of paragraphs 6 to 9 of the Defence White Paper. It is not very easy to deal in this way with a somewhat technical matter. Broadly, the position is that under an agreement signed in 1948 by the Government of which he was then a member, we were required to set aside in a Special 323 Account the sterling equivalent of the dollar value of economic aid granted to us by America. Five per cent. of the money paid into this account has to be made available to the United States Government, mainly for certain administrative expenditures which they incur here; and the remaining 95 per cent. should be applied to specific military expenditure, in order to demonstrate the purpose for which dollar aid has been granted. It has been agreed with the Americans that the most suitable way of bringing out this underlying purpose is to appropriate the 95 per cent, sterling counterpart in aid of the Votes of the Service Departments. I believe that similar arrangements have been or are being made by other N.A.T.O. Powers receiving U.S. aid.
I will now review the general situation in more detail. To-day, we are faced with the problem of maintaining a balance between economic stability on the one hand and rearmament on the other. The situation is further complicated by the fact that not only are we devoting our energies to the maintenance of our economic position, but in the military field we are trying to do two things at the same time—namely, to organise our strength for our commitments under the so-called cold war, whilst trying to build up our strength against a possible hot war. These are the terms forced upon us by Russian strategy. Each interferes with the other. This is especially true of the Army, on which falls the major burden in fighting the cold war.
Let us consider this phrase "the cold war" a little more closely. On our side the cold war is a struggle to prevent any further weakening of the free world by any means. In this cold war period, foreign policy and military strategy are so closely intermingled that it is difficult to distinguish where one ends and the other begins; we are faced with problems ranging from full-scale military operations in Korea and Malaya, on the one hand, to the economics of defence and the need to counter the jamming of our overseas broadcasts, on the other. In Korea, as your Lordships are aware, our land forces have been grouped with units from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India to form the First (Commonwealth) Division. As an aside, I should 324 like to inform your Lordships—I know you will like to hear it—that, in the opinion of everybody in Korea, that Commonwealth Division is the best of the whole lot.
The Royal Navy, together with ships of the Royal Canadian, Royal Australian and Royal New Zealand Navies, is playing a major role in the naval operations. Pilots from the Royal Air Force and squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force and of the South African Air Force, also form part of the United Nations Forces in that theatre. I should like to remind your Lordships that the Canadians, at the very beginning of hostilities, made their first contribution in the form of air transport squadrons for ferrying purposes throughout the Pacific. They have been on that job ever since, and have been doing a magnificent job. I should also tell your Lordships that the United Nations are making earnest endeavours to negotiate a satisfactory Armistice in Korea, but I need hardly remind the noble Viscount that it takes two to make an agreement.
In Malaya, we have been engaged in continuous operations for nearly four years. This is a conflict in which political factors complicate the military problem and where it is essential that there should be the closest integration between the civil, military and police authorities. General Templer, as the High Commissioner in Malaya, has been given direct command over all the armed forces engaged in the operations, to ensure that there is the closest integration between the military and the civil authorities. While his vigorous direction of our affairs in Malaya is beginning to have its effect, I cannot promise your Lordships an early ending of the conflict. To give you some idea of our commitments there, I may say that we have about 38,000 British, Gurkha, Malay and other Colonial troops in Malaya and Singapore, as well as about another 8,000 locally-enlisted men. There are also a number of Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force squadrons engaged in the Malayan operations.
These operations in Korea and Malaya are good examples of Communist strategy in compelling us to send forces to parts of the world where we should not in the ordinary way have to station troops either at all or in any considerable numbers. It should, moreover, be remembered that 325 the substantial force of more than four divisions, with supporting squadrons of the Royal Air Force, which we are deploying in Western Europe is playing an important role in the cold war. It marks our determination to prevent any further undermining of the free world as well as to defend it by force should the need arise.
My Lords, what has been the effect of these cold war commitments? It seems to me that the effect has been threefold. First, as the Prime Minister said in the debate in another place last month, the recent departure of two divisions overseas has left this country in a state of extreme nakedness. But I am sure your Lordships would like to know that seven more Regular infantry battalions now being raised will give us during the autumn a couple of Regular brigade groups, and this will be a useful addition to the little strength we have. Secondly, they have for the time being denuded us of a strategic reserve in the United Kingdom. Thirdly, they have made it more difficult for us to do what we should wish in the fields of man-power, production, research and development in preparing against a possible hot war. I propose to say something about all these subjects in a few minutes.
Before describing our preparations for meeting a global conflict, I should like to remind your Lordships of our commitments in the event of an outbreak of hostilities. We must be able to defend these Islands and the sea communications on which our very life depends. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, referred to helicopters. This type of aircraft, I am told, will be very useful for the visual detection of submarines in coastal waters. Now to turn back to the big strategic picture, the objects of our policy cannot in modern conditions he considered apart from the defence of Western Europe and the whole North Atlantic area. As members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation we shall play our full part in defending the free world, and in this way we shall also be defending ourselves. No country, however great or powerful can in these days, with the threat of atomic attack, defend itself by its own efforts or from within its own borders. The smaller or more vulnerable the country the less must be its power of self-defence from within its own territory and resources. The other day we celebrated the third anniversary of 326 the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty. In the space of three years, good progress has been made in building up Western defence. Much credit for this must go to that great American soldier, General Eisenhower, who is shortly to relinquish his command at S.H.A.P.E. Building on the foundations so well laid by Field-Marshal Montgomery in the Western Union field, he has been able during the twelve months that he has been in Paris, to develop a framework for the defence of the Western world. This is a good beginning, but, in General Eisenhower's own words, it is only a beginning.
I should like to say a word here about the part which the Germans can play in the defence of Western Europe. It has been widely agreed on both sides of the House that Germany, as she attains her new status under the contractual agreements, should be enabled to participate on an equal footing in the defence of the West. Her Majesty's Government regard the Paris Conference for the creation of a European Defence Community as being of vital importance. We intend to play our full part with the European Defence Force, although not ourselves becoming an actual member of the European Defence Community. A senior British officer, now an Air Vice Marshal, is the head of the United Kingdom delegation to the Paris Conference. The choice of an Air Force officer is of some significance, because we believe that it is in the air that we can be of most help to our friends in the European Defence Community, remembering that the Royal Air Force had special experience in the late war of the organisation and control of a number of allied contingents of different nationalities operating as one integrated Air Force. As soon as the European Defence Force is created, it will be placed at the disposal of the Supreme Commander in Europe and become part of the forces of N.A.T.O. General Eisenhower's headquarters have, therefore, been associated at every stage with the discussions at the Paris Conference.
In addition to the defence of Western Europe, and the protection of these Islands, we are also concerned in the defence of the Middle East. It is for this reason that we wish to see created in that area a defence organisation in which the Middle East Powers will play their proper part. I should like to say more about this, but in view of the delicacy of the 327 negotiations which are taking place in regard to Egypt, your Lordships would probably think it better if I were to leave it at that. Then, finally, within this framework, we have our great responsibilities in the Far East.
I should like now to say a word about co-operation within the Commonwealth. I have had a unique opportunity of seeing at close quarters the development of the Canadian defence effort. Canada—that splendid country, which I may call my second home—is a member of N.A.T.O., and a Canadian Brigade has now taken its place alongside our forces in Germany. Units of the Royal Canadian Air Force, ultimately destined for the forces under S.H.A.P.E., are now in this country training with Fighter Command. I have already mentioned the participation of Commonwealth Forces in Korea, so I need not refer to them again.
As a further example of the part which the Commonwealth is playing, I would mention the presence of two Australian squadrons in Malaya and the fact that by July of this year we hope to have a wing of the Royal Australian Air Force in the Middle East, just as already we have had units of their Navy with the Mediterranean Fleet. In addition, the Prime Minister of New Zealand has just announced that New Zealand, which has provided a squadron for Malaya, now proposes to send the personnel to man a squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force in the Middle East this autumn. Volunteers from Southern Rhodesia are also serving in the jungle in Malaya with the Malayan Scouts. I need hardly say that we attach the very highest importance to fostering the closest relations within the Commonwealth on defence matters, and regular exchanges of views take place between the United Kingdom and other members of the Commonwealth through the medium of the Service Liaison Staffs, as well as by periodical visits and by other means, such as interchange of students between our various military colleges like the Imperial Defence College and the Staff College, and also the interchange of personnel between units for training in Canada and the United Kingdom.
The Colonial territories also have a big part to play in Imperial defence. Two battalions of the King's African Rifles 328 from Kenya and Nyasaland have recently arrived in Malaya and have been joined there by a battalion of the Fiji Regiment. In addition, there are in East and West Africa substantial permanent local forces which are important elements in the defence of these areas. However, shortages of money, equipment and regular British personnel to train and officer these units does limit our ability to build them up and to make the fullest use of forces from our African Colonies. It is really a case here of "first things first." But we feel that we are making good use of the man-power potentialities of our Colonial territories, compatible with the proper progress of our defence preparations at home.
Now, I should like to say a few words about man-power. I have tried to make clear to noble Lords the heavy demands made on our defence resources by the so-called "cold war." The nucleus of our forces must be Regulars. Apart from the Navy, Regular recruiting fell off badly in 1949 and the first part of 1950. Then came the pay increases, announced in August, 1950. These increases, together with other measures to make the career of a Regular in the forces more attractive, are bearing fruit in much-improved recruiting in the past eighteen months. Happily, we are still able to obtain volunteers on long-service engagements for the Royal Navy in reasonably adequate numbers—over 3,500 have been entered during the first quarter of this year. The short three-year and four-year engagements in the Army and Royal Air Force are now yielding large numbers of Regulars, many of whom we hope will extend their service or re-engage for pension. In the first quarter of this year the Army has obtained about 13,000 and the Royal Air Force nearly 12,000 recruits. This is over two and a half times the number in the corresponding period two years ago. The number of men re-engaging and extending their service has increased over the past year. We particularly need the long-service Regular as a non-commissioned officer and as a technician, and we are doing what we can, for example, by the increased provision of married quarters, to encourage such men to stay on.
In man-power, as in other fields, our problems are not confined to our cold war needs. If there were another global 329 war a more rapid mobilisation of manpower would be needed than was the case in 1939. By 1954 we shall have built up a reserve under the National Service Act of about 500,000 men. In addition, we should have about 200,000 Regular and volunteer reservists. But we should still need large numbers of Class Z and Class G reservists to meet mobilisation requirements. Reservists would be recalled individually for specific duties for the most part. Especially is this the case with the Army, and we are therefore continuing this year the policy of recalling considerable numbers of men for a period of training, when they take their place in the units in which, and side by side with the men with whom, they would serve in war. As regards the future, we shall keep the position under review in the light of circumstances. We have taken care, through the appropriate Ministry of Labour machinery, to ensure, so far as possible, that we should not call up in war certain men whose civilian work would be of more value to the war effort than as fighting men.
All this places a heavy additional strain on the volunteer element of the Territorial Army, and on commanding officers in particular. In spite of all the difficulties, they continue to give their time most nobly to Territorial work, and the nation owes them a great debt of gratitude. The National Service element in the Territorial Array cannot be maintained without a strong volunteer element in the more senior ranks. We are, equally, much indebted to all those who have volunteered and are serving with the auxiliary forces of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. We also attach the very greatest importance to the Home Guard. The numbers of volunteers are still very low and we hope the units will rapidly grow in size when they become firmly established. A strong Home Guard would have a vital part to play in the defence of these islands if they were suddenly attacked, and we greatly appreciate the public spirit of those who have already offered their services.
Now, my Lords, at this stage I should like to say something about production. The £4,700,000,000 programme included over £2,000,000,000 for production. It is now clear that the cost will be more than the original estimate and that the plans will take longer to achieve. I am 330 afraid, however, in answer to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, that I cannot say over just what actual period they will have to be spread. Indeed, the period may well vary considerably for various types of equipment. Orders had been placed by the end of March amounting to nearly £1,500,000,000. The amount spent on production research for 1951–52 was £400,000,000 and provision has been made in the defence budget for 1952–53 for the expenditure of about £650,000,000. More than a quarter of the money will be spent on the latest types of aircraft, and about one-fifth on tanks and other vehicles. Other large categories are new naval construction, mostly frigates and smaller ships to counter the very serious menace of submarines and mines, ammunition and explosives, radio and radar. This year we shall need just over 1,000,000 tons of steel for defence. Last year the total consumption in the United Kingdom for all purposes was in the neighbourhood of 12,500,000 tons.
The main difficulty has been to make sure that we got the scarce materials and the skilled labour in the right places and at the right time without seriously dislocating our export trade. In fact, we have adjusted our programme in order to avoid making too great a demand on the metal-using industries. On the other hand, in order to assist in relieving unemployment in the textile areas, we have authorised extra expenditure on clothing and other textiles during the current financial year. However, in carrying out these adjustments, we have been careful not to interfere with the most vital defence needs. Indeed, as has already been announced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Air, special priority is being given to the production of the most important items in the programme, including the latest types of jet aircraft, tanks, radar equipment and certain anti-mining devices.
As regards research, the House may rest assured, as noble Lords opposite know, that our scientists, who in the past produced the asdic, radar, and that very small but war-winning device, the magnetron, are as efficient to-day as they were in the past. They are making a remarkable contribution to our defence effort. We are employing many more scientists on defence problems than we did before the war, and we are certainly 331 producing new and more powerful weapons for use on land, at sea and in the air. Improvements in the equipment of the Services do not arise entirely from statements of new requirements by military officers. Many of the most important innovations come about because scientists and engineers detect the possibility of some extension or novel application of scientific knowledge. The problems of equipping an armed force cannot be solved by either military or scientific minds working in isolation. The military officer and the technical expert each has his contribution to make, and the best results are achieved only if they meet on a footing of equality to pool their ideas.
We believe that our present arrangements secure an integration of military and scientific effort which is at least as good as anything which exists in any other country. This close co-operation ensures that our resources in science and technology are fully applied to the improvement of the equipment of the services, while the co-operation between our operational research scientists and the fighting men ensures the best use of those weapons we have. A proper allocation of resources between the different Services and their various projects—always a matter of great difficulty—is effected by the Defence Research Policy Committee. I should like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the work done during the past five years by Sir Henry Tizard. We shall greatly miss his wise help and guidance. He is succeeded in the Chairmanship of the Committee by Sir John Cockcroft, who will, I know, make an equally distinguished contribution to the solution of the many problems which face us.
One of the most difficult problems facing those responsible for planning rearmament to-day is to reconcile two largely conflicting factors: first, that the Forces should be ready to defend the country at any time; and, secondly, that if war should come, the Forces should be equipped with sufficient quantities of the most up-to-date weapons at the right time. As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Dowding, pointed out in the recent debate on air defence, it is here that the aggressor has the advantage, since he is in a position to decide his own time and to adjust his re-equipment programme 332 accordingly. We shall never be the aggressor and, consequently, we have to exercise the most careful judgment on the difficult problem of when to cease looking for perfection in any particular weapon and when to go into production. To my mind, the most dangerous line of all to take is to delay the production of obviously good weapons by waiting for the perfect article to turn up, which it may never do. In fact, we must not let the best be the enemy of the good. If we do, we are likely to find ourselves, when the time comes, with practically nothing and, consequently, almost defenceless. I mention this because I have experienced this shortage of equipment, both in quality and quantity, at the beginning of two world wars. In the first, we were far inferior to the Germans in machine-guns and heavy artillery. In the second, we started with no armoured vehicles or anti-tank weapons comparable to those which our opponents possessed; and your Lordships know the result. There was, however, another side to this picture. Thanks to the foresight of our planners before the last great conflict, we started the battle with radar and the Hurricane and Spitfire, without which we could never have won the Battle of Britain. And at sea we had the asdic, without which we could not have survived the first big submarine offensive.
What lesson can we draw from our experiences in the past? I think it is this. We must use our research and development resources to explore various weapons of war, and when we think we have found something really good we must go at once into production in quantity, and not delay in the hopes of finding something still better. By these means we can at least ensure that our men are equipped to take the field when the time comes. What we must not do is to delay our arrival at this stage by dispersing our effort on all kinds of interim equipments. If we follow this policy, our scientists will then be free, having cleared up one weapon, to devote their brains and energies to developing new and better weapons for introduction at a later stage. It is well to remember that to have weapons which are inferior to those possessed by the enemy is bad for morale, but to have a lack of even these is infinitely worse. As your Lordships know, morale is the most important single factor in war.
333 I should like to say a word here about the part which I can play as Minister of Defence in co-ordinating the country's defence effort. I was most interested in the remarks which the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, made on this subject in the air defence debate on April 3. He suggested that the creation of the Ministry of Defence had lowered the status of the Service Ministers because they were no longer members of the Cabinet. He suggested also that there might be some division of loyalties amongst serving officers in the Ministry of Defence as between the Minister of Defence and their own Service. In the short time that I have been Minister of Defence, I appreciate that there is some force in the noble Viscount's arguments. I agree with him that it is most important that the Ministers should retain their authority for the Service for which they are responsible. Any organisation for the conduct of our affairs is open to criticism, but to me the main criterion is whether the organisation works or does not work. While retaining their executive responsibility to their Ministers within their respective Departments, the Chiefs of Staff meet regularly two or three times a week so that they may provide the Government with their collective advice. In the ordinary way that advice is given to me as Minister of Defence, but in the forum of the Defence Committee they are able to express their views to Ministers in a Committee which is presided over by the Prime Minister and which is attended also by the Minister of Defence, the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the three Service Ministers and other Cabinet Ministers as occasion arises.
Apart from his responsibilities in what I may term the strategic and military sphere, the Minister of Defence must play his part in determining the general allocation of resources to defence and in dividing that allocation between the Services in accordance with strategic priorities. This task assumes particular importance in present circumstances when it is so essential to ensure the best use of the resources which can be made available for defence. The task covers the whole field, including man-power, finance, production and new construction. Moreover, as the problems of defence research become more and more inter-Service in character, the Minister of 334 Defence has an important function in this field also.
I have tried to describe some of the problems with which we are faced—as your Lordships will agree, they are formidable problems. But there is a brighter side to the picture. We do not stand alone. We are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and our forces in Europe and elsewhere would be fighting alongside those of the other N.A.T.O. countries. Moreover, we can count on the help of the Commonwealth in operations not only in Europe but in the Middle East and Far East. Finally, we are linked in the most friendly relations with the United States. We have American help in the provision of equipment. I was asked when we are likely to receive the F.86 aircraft which Canada and the United States are to make available to us. I am afraid it is as yet too early to give a firm date, but we are hoping that deliveries will begin next year. The date when the aircraft will arrive depends on the arrangements that our American and Canadian friends can make over the complicated details of supply, but, as I have said, we hope to get the first of these aircraft some time next year. That is an aside, and I must not lose this theme of not standing alone. If I may continue with that theme, in any future battle of the Atlantic, British and American naval and air forces would he co-operating closely under an Allied Headquarters. Then, finally, we have stationed in this country substantial units of the U.S. Air Force who would play a vital part in the defence of the United Kingdom and of Western Europe.
I am now coming to the end—which will probably please your Lordships. The picture I have presented may not be a very happy one, and yet when we look round the world to-day is any country's position a particularly happy one? In spite of the present weakness of our defensive armour, I am not convinced that those who are our potential enemies themselves feel sure that they are sufficiently strong to challenge us and our Allies in mortal combat. If a Third World War is less likely to-day than it was a year ago, it is because we arid our Allies have set about putting our defences in order and organising our immense potential strength to resist 335 aggression. But before we can feel ourselves secure we must, of course, endure an uncomfortable period of anxiety. Time is therefore of prime importance—time to produce, in quality and quantity, the necessary arms and equipment with which to supply our fighting forces.
This is not a matter for Party differences: it is a matter of national survival, and on that I know that we are all agreed. One of the finest qualities of the British people is their willingness to sacrifice everything, including their lives, if necessary, when the Motherland is endangered. Unity in face of danger is our greatest strength. How great that danger is today, your Lordships are as capable of judging as I am, but none can deny that we are facing a dangerous period. Therefore I have no hesitation in saying that every man and every woman who is actively engaged in war production can make no finer contribution to the safety of our homes than by doing his or her utmost to produce the goods for our fighting men, and as quickly as possible. Given the weapons to do the job, no one will employ them to better advantage, if the need to employ them should ever arise, than our sailors, soldiers, and airmen.
It has fallen to my lot in two world wars to share its horrors, and something of its dangers, alongside my fellow countrymen—men who have come from all walks of life, and from every section of our people—all of them warriors of the finest quality and of the highest courage. We suffered reverses, and even defeats, in the days when we had inferior equipment to that possessed by our enemies. But when we had the proper tools to do the job, we won our battles and gained final victory. I feel confident that this time, provided that we can arm our people with the best of equipment and material, we shall achieve something which is far better and more noble than to gain final victory on the battlefield, I believe that we shall prevent battlefield. I believe that we shall prevent the start of a Third World War.
§ 4.46 p.m.
My Lords, it is a long time since a speech was awaited with keener expectation than that to which we have just listened with such great pleasure. The theme, the occasion 336 and the man have all aroused the deepest interest. I know that I am expressing the feelings of the entire House when I congratulate the noble and gallant Earl most cordially on the success he has made of yet another task. He has given us a broad and illuminating survey. He has told us a great deal and he has breathed a most welcome note of confidence. He has given evidence not only of those soldierly qualities which we anticipated, but of a dexterity and charm of presentation which establish him at once as one of the leading figures of this House. As regards his career in Party politics, I would venture only to express the opinion that he may have chosen the wrong side. The noble Earl was a distinguished athlete, and I believe he played a leading part in one of the most famous cricket matches of history—I refer to the match between Eton and Harrow known as "Fowler's match." Through no fault of the noble Earl, Harrow, if I remember rightly, were beaten when for a long time they had looked like winning. Perhaps that will be the noble Earl's fortune in Party politics. But, in any case, that may be only a small part of his duties, and we salute him as Minister of Defence, looking after the national interest, and give him the warmest welcome and congratulations this afternoon.
I intend to restrict myself in this debate to a number of points of relative detail. Now, with the three big speeches of the occasion having been delivered, I should like to return for a moment to some questions that I put to the Government during the recent Naval debate. On that occasion the noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead, won golden opinions by the character of his reply, but he left a number of points in a somewhat unsettled condition, and I hope that we shall get more satisfaction this afternoon. I followed closely—though I did not take down all the words used—when the noble Earl was speaking about scientific integration. He said, I think, that under the existing plans our national resources—he did not use the word "national," but that is what he meant—in science and technology were being fully applied. Speaking from recent knowledge of the Admiralty, while again paying my tribute to the way in which scientists are used in the Navy and to the quality of the men themselves, I would dispute the statement made by the noble Earl, for 337 the simple reason that, in my opinion, we have nothing like enough scientists in the Admiralty. If you take the Admiralty as typical—and it may be true of the other Services—I do not agree for a moment that, nationally speaking, we are using to the fullest extent our potential supply of scientists. I hope the noble Lord who is going to reply will be able to tell us definitely this afternoon that the Admiralty scientists are not going to be reduced in number but that, if possible, their number will be increased in the future, because—I am bound to put it plainly—unless some assurance of that kind is given, the phrases used by the noble Earl are far from applicable to the situation there.
I should like to ask the noble Lord also how the Admiralty are getting on with a number of proposals mentioned last time for improving the status of the naval aviator. For the most part, the reply to the noble Earl last time amounted to saying that these proposals were under consideration. To my certain knowledge, they have been in that happy condition since the end of last summer and, though I am a great admirer of Whitehall, that is slow going, even for Whitehall. There is a phrase of Mr. Churchill's: "How long is this exalted prodding to continue?" The noble Earl will tell us how long. We are all proud of the Nelson tradition in the Navy, but the House may remember that when Nelson was applying for a pension for the lost sight of his eye, at a time when the loss of his eye was known to the entire nation, he was pressed by the Admiralty, to his extreme annoyance, to prove to their satisfaction that the sight of the eye had in fact been lost. I hope that that kind of Nelson tradition is not being reproduced at this time by our revered Lords of the Admiralty. I will not pursue these points further this afternoon. A word to the wise should be enough.
I come now to the question of aircraft, on which subject the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of inchrye, has stimulated all our thoughts in a debate quite recently. I listened to that debate and, like some other noble Lords, I have read it all through in Hansard, and I am bound to say, without any relation to Party politics, that the debate leaves on my mind a rather strange impression. I have a feeling that there was a kind of missing clue 338 in the speeches, even in the very fine speech of the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, for which all noble Lords seemed to be groping. Nobody seemed to agree with anybody else's suggestion; nobody seemed to be quite sure about his own. That last statement may be subject to correction. At any rate, there was this feeling of a missing clue. I was close to all this, though not in a sense part of it, when I was Minister of Civil Aviation and again I was close to it at the Admiralty. The story of the aircraft industry as a whole since the war is certainly not a story of failure, but I should be reluctant to describe it as a success story. Whether you lock at the military side or even at the civil side, taken as a whole there have been some remarkable achievements there.
There may be differences of opinion between us, not necessarily on Party lines, as to how far the Government should intervene in the aircraft industry, but I think we all agree (it certainly emerged from the debate last time) that the Government of the day—any Government, whatever its complexion—is bound to accept a heavy responsibility for the success or failure of the aircraft industry in delivering the goods required within reasonable time and at reasonable cost. I think that follows inevitably from the position of the Government as a large direct or indirect user of aircraft. From that it seems to follow as a platitude that there must be a co-ordinated approach by the Government as a whole to the aircraft industry as a whole, and an approach not just at certain moments, but continuously over a period of years. On the civil aviation side, that state has just about been achieved, after a good deal of trial and error in earlier years. It had just about been achieved by the time we departed from office. But on the military side, I am much more doubtful, and, taking the military and the civil side together, I should deny that there was any really high level of co-ordination at all.
That last statement—that there is no co-ordination between the Government supervision of military and civil aviation—might be questioned. I might be reminded that the Ministry of Supply have a special responsibility—they had under our Government and I expect they have still—for reviewing the position of the 339 aircraft industry and generally for supervising it. But as was brought out in an earlier debate, the Minister of Supply, besides being immensely preoccupied in a great many other ways, is not a member of the Cabinet. And even if he were, the issues here go so close to the very roots of our survival and touch so many sides of national life, that one Minister alone, in my opinion, would be quite incapable, whatever his personality, of shouldering the entire responsibility.
To summarise very briefly what I myself believe is right—and I have discussed this matter very closely with Lord Ogmore, who takes a great interest in it, and with other noble friends of mine on these Benches—I would urge the Government to set up a Cabinet Committee to deal exclusively with this problem of the aircraft industry. I do not expect a reply to that appeal to-day, though I should like to know that the noble Lord takes it seriously. I would suggest that the suitable chairman would be the Minister of Defence. The membership should include the First Lord of the Admiralty—the Admiralty is a considerable user of aircraft—the Secretary of State for Air, and—it goes without saying—the Minister of Transport, whose Ministry now covers civil aviation. The President of the Board of Trade should also be a member, because the export implications are enormous. Then I suppose our old friend the Treasury is bound to come in. If it does not come in at that stage, one will not get anywhere in the end. The Committee should report to the Cabinet at regular intervals. And I would add this: they should not conceive their task as being one of dashing hither and thither and trying to "hot up" the aircraft industry, but rather one of making plans for the wisest allocation of our aircraft resources and seeing that those plans are adhered to over a long period of years, whether or not the results produced are immediate or begin to show their full benefits only some years hence, when there may be some other Government in power. None of us is looking at this from the point of view of Party politics, but from that of the national interest. I submit that suggestion to the House. I hope that noble Lords opposite will think favourably of it, and I shall be interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye is going to say about it.
340 My only other major point concerns the Army. In preparation for this debate I have been renewing close contact with the Territorial Army and making some contacts with the Home Guard. I hope I am not falling into a fatuous complacency when I say that on the front of the Territorial Army things seem to be going extraordinarily well. I am sure that what the noble and gallant Earl said will be a further stimulus, and, on behalf of the noble Lords on the Opposition Benches, I would emphatically associate ourselves with the noble Earl in paying tribute to all those who are making such a success of the Territorial Army.
There is also the Home Guard: and there one must choose one's words very carefully. I have no intention to-day of returning to the question of whether it was or was not wise to enrol the Home Guard at this particular moment. The object of us all is to make a success of it, now that that decision has been taken. There are, of course, a number of administrative points that may be raised this afternoon, but I prefer to concentrate on one single affirmation, which should perhaps be qualified to some extent in the light of what the noble and gallant Earl has said, but which I present to you as I have prepared it for the House this afternoon. The Home Guard will succeed only if far more push is given from the top than has yet been given. That, I am sure, is the opinion of everyone concerned with the Home Guard, at any level. It is nothing to do with politics or the Government or any individual at all. I am sure that unless much more push is given, we shall finish by simply wasting the time of enthusiasts, and, in the end, that all-important enthusiasm will be destroyed.
You may say that the Territorial Army started rather slowly, or that Civil Defence started rather slowly, but that in the end it will all come right. I would not agree in that regard about the Home Guard, because there are one or two very obvious points of difference. I believe that unless the Home Guard succeeds in the first year, it will be a failure, That means that we must make it succeed in the first year. In the case of Civil Defence, everyone realises that you must have Civil Defence in war, and, therefore, no one is going to question in his mind its underlying validity. With the Territorials we have the National Service 341 people coming forward—conscripts, although we do not like to talk of them as that—who make certain that we shall get the men. But in the Home Guard we have neither of those elements operating in that way. I therefore implore the noble Earl—who has undoubtedly used words this afternoon which will be warmly welcomed—to go further. I do not know who is to make the broadcast for the enrolment which begins next Monday. I hope that it will be the noble Earl himself, if the Secretary of State for War does not decide to do it himself. At any rate, let it be made from an exalted level; and let it be brought home in detail to everybody who is thinking of joining the Home Guard, or who will be in the position of keeping it going during this difficult summer, that this is a task to which the Government attach real importance.
On these facts, as in the case of the Territorial Army, we are anxious to give our support in every way. It cannot, however, be to the Opposition that all these potential recruits and their commanders are looking: it is to the Government. They are looking for answers to two questions. In my view, they are rather separate questions, although they are after lumped together; first, how great is the national danger; and, second, how vital, in a military sense, is the rôle of the Home Guard? I appreciate that the noble Earl had a far-ranging survey with which to deal this afternoon, and perhaps he could not say much more than he did. He said that it was vital, but when it comes to the broadcast and to further publicity, I hope that that point will be elaborated in a way which brings it home to everybody. The pressure must be kept up intensively, if the Home Guard is not going to be a real failure, which none of us wants. The Press must be invoked, together with the trade unions, the employers and the National Farmers' Union (everyone agrees they are very important in the country districts); and in many other ways the Government must bestir themselves if we are going to achieve this common object.
In conclusion, I would take this problem of the Home Guard—relatively small as it will seem to some people—as a symbol of the wider problem which is before the minds of all of us: that of maintaining the fullest interest in national 342 defence and the fullest support for this rearmament programme in the next few years. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has offered an opinion that perhaps the national danger is not so great as it was, and I think that is true. The danger is not so great as it was. But the people begin to slack off when that is said unequivocally. Whatever Government are in power in the next few years they will have a very difficult task in trying to maintain public support for rearmament. That does not arise from the attitude of any gifted individuals in my Party or in other Parties. It arises from fact. I entirely agree with all that was said so effectively by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, when he pointed out that rearmament is not enough. Indeed, rearmament is only part of a policy—it is less than half a policy. Obviously, a full and thorough policy involves a constant search for reconciliation between East and West, and an unremitting effort to lift up, socially, economically and spiritually, the depressed masses of the earth.
But to-day we are discussing Defence. We are discussing how this defence programme should be carried out. I put it to noble Lords opposite that, if this defence programme is to be supported by the nation during the coming years, the Government will have to take the public into their confidence and keep them in their confidence far more fully and candidly than we have seen in the last few months. I do not say that in a Party sense: I say it simply as a fact. I believe that the supreme need throughout these years in maintaining rearmament will be the need for the full truth. There are, of course, these great difficulties of security which have been touched upon earlier, but I can only say to noble Lords opposite that if they show in their public capacity the courage and candour which we know them to possess as private persons, then I have little doubt about the national response. But much more will have to be done in that direction than has been done hitherto.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ LORD WILSON
My Lords, speaking for one of the Services, I should like to congratulate the noble Earl, the Minister of Defence, on the encouraging credits that he has given and the way that he is looking to the future for the defence of our country. The noble Earl mentioned 343 General Eisenhower. It is just over a year ago that General Eisenhower became Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and assumed operational control of the Forces of many nations provided by their Governments for the defence of Western Europe. On June 1 he is relinquishing that command to return to the United States as a candidate for the Presidency. His achievement during that period can be measured by the progress that has been made in building up the Forces of many countries to become efficient components in the plan of Defence, in the welding together of a headquarters—known as S.H.A.P.E.—with a staff composed of officers from different Services, and not all speaking the same language, as well as in the establishment of a common doctrine for battle procedure and training throughout the Forces of fourteen nations. As a result of his leadership, morale has been raised, and there is a marked increase of confidence within the nations concerned.
Since his first landing in North Africa and his first Allied Command, General Eisenhower always set himself to produce team work between Allies—with outstanding success, as exemplified by the campaigns in the Mediterranean and North-West Europe. In his last assignment, his task has been far harder, as it has been carried out under peace and not war conditions. Moreover, the problems with which he has had to deal have not been mainly problems of a military nature, but have included—as the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, mentioned—economic, political and psychological aspects, intermixed with the pulls and stresses of national feelings and sovereignty. Those of your Lordships who read his report cannot fail to be impressed by this fact. I hope that I echo your Lordships' sentiments in saying how greatly the work done by him towards the security and peace of Western Europe is appreciated.
Turning to the White Paper, there are certain points under the heading of "Man-power" to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention. I refer to the "three R's," of which educationists do not possess a monopoly. They are Recruitment, Re-engagement and Resettlement. These three are closely related, and have the aim not only of attracting young men to become Regulars 344 but also of inducing them to take up long-service engagements. The raising to 55 of the age to which a man can continue to serve has been brought in to overcome a deficiency in all ranks, especially long-service warrant officers and non-commissioned officers. At the moment there is a period of expansion which is being met by acting or temporary promotion. It is inevitable that a time of contraction will follow, which may cause many inclining towards the Services to have doubts as to the prospects of promotion in from ten to fifteen years' time. This country is not alone in having to face this problem. General Eisenhower in his Report refers to the question—to quote his words:There was an urgent need to enlist more career Service men to provide a professional core to citizen levies and who would also fill the inescapable need for skilled leaders, specialists, pilots and technicians.I suggest that "training instructors" might well have been added to the list.
The way to overcome the shortage is to make the Services an attractive career which will appeal not only to the young man in the early days of his call-up but also to parents, who may have a good deal to say on this matter. I should like to bring to your Lordships' notice this term "career Service man" and to ask you to consider whether the terms of service offered and the indications of resettlement, as outlined in the White Paper, constitute an adequate offer to a man as a career. This country has had National Service in peace time for very few years, in comparison with the Continental nations, who realise the importance of the professional core. In the case of Germany, special attention was given to the placing of non-commissioned officers in a wide field of State employment, which included police, telegraphs, railways, customs and also, I believe, certain positions in the legal profession. Our long-service man, on retirement, has to face a drop in weekly earnings, and accepts it; but, according to the pension he has earned, he will be faced with a gap of considerable variation between it and a living wage.
For instance, a man retired on pension at forty to forty-five will get a pension of about 50s. a week, whereas a warrant officer, Class I serving up to fifty-five will get approximately £5 per week. The number who attain the latter rank are 345 few, and the greater a man's age the greater the difficulty in finding him suitable employment. There is the "too old at forty" outlook to be faced. In addition, the ex-Regular on retirement and in search of a job is faced with two factors which operate adversely to his interests. Generally speaking, when a man accepts civil employment, even in such places as Royal Ordnance Factories and other Government establishments, he has to start at the bottom, regardless of his Service rank and qualifications; also the ex-Regulars' length of service in the Forces is not counted, even in Government employ, in applying the principle "Last in, first out" when redundancy occurs.
Both these factors have to be accepted if work is taken up with civilian firms, but need this be the case when employment is under the Government or in the nationalised industries? If a long-service man's engagement can be welded into continuous service, the first part in the Fighting Services, and the latter part in more sedentary work in Government or civilian employment, the solution to providing the conditions for a career will have been arrived at. This prospect should encourage a man to extend his period of service, as against an inclination to determine it at the end of one of the three-year periods and be transferred to the Reserve. This solution would also create flexibility to deal with the numbers required should redundancy occur at some future date. The numbers would not be so great as to make the proposal unworkable, and I commend the idea to your Lordships as more likely to produce career Service men than the offer of a bonus, or even an increase in pay. Government responsibility in respect of resettlement should not stop at being advisory.
With regard to the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces, I should like to endorse what has already been said in your Lordships' House and in another place commending the excellent work of the Territorial Army Association and units in dealing with the training of "Z" Reservists last year, and the keenness with which they are facing the same task this year. It must be remembered, as has already been mentioned by the noble Earl, the Minister of Defence, that the greater part of those responsible are engaged in civil employment; and this 346 giving of extra effort cannot but entail a certain strain. Two cases have recently come to my notice as regards posting of reservists to the Territorial Army. These give an indication that those responsible for administration of the scheme are inclined to deal with various county and city associations on a flat-wash basis, whereas each area has its own individuality and particular organisation. This may be an indication that there is a tendency to over-organise the Territorial Army. The voluntary spirit still exists and is too valuable to be discouraged by too heavy a burden.
The decrease in the volunteer element is mentioned. There is no foundation for statements which have appeared from time to time that this may be due to the presence in units of National Service men or "Z" Reservists. The fact is that many of these men are getting older and nearing the forty mark. With the earlier state of readiness now required of Territorial Army formations, such men would be unlikely to accompany their units, and it is only natural that commanding officers are looking about for younger men as N.C.O.'s. Many of the older ones would like to continue to serve, and if not taken on again at the conclusion of their period will probably be disappointed, and possibly disgruntled. I suggest that a Territorial Army Reserve might be formed to keep these men in touch with their units. Such a Reserve would prove useful in case of mobilisation, and could provide a cadre for the building up of second-line formations. A small point in connection with Territorial Army camps is that last year there was a shortage of waterproof clothing. It was a wet summer, and from one's experience of camps in this country one knows that they are more often wet than dry. It would be a pity if enthusiasm were damped by men being in wet clothing all the time.
In conclusion, I should like to make one reference to the Home Guard. It is hard to judge the effect of recruitment. As I understand, in some areas conditions of service have only just reached commanding officers of units. It has been brought to my notice that where counties are under cadre establishments there are many men who are willing to serve but are not keen simply to have their names on paper with no active role or training. I suggest that, in order not to lose such 347 men, Home Guard rifle clubs might be formed and financed, having a membership from those who register. Interest would thus be stimulated and the men kept up to date as regards ability to handle their arms. These points which I have put forward will, I hope, receive consideration from the Ministers when they come to study them, although I recognise that there may be many snags in what I have suggested.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ LORD KENSWOOD
My Lords, I suppose that part of the price we have to pay for our increasing desire for specialisation is an unremitting need for vigilance lest any part of our economic and political systems should suffer by undue attention to one part at the expense of the rest. If we allow that to happen, I fear that we are liable to run into danger. The White Paper under consideration seems to me to give a distorted view of the life of this country. It seems to leave out some of the important points which should be continuously in the forefront of our attention. If your Lordships turn to paragraph 25 of the White Paper you will find a fleeting reference to the number of people who are eliminated owing to physical defects. I was puzzled by the figures given, which are rather vague—between 20 per cent, and 30 per cent., including those who are exempted for family reasons. Owing to the courtesy of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, I am now in a position to state more definite figures. Apparently, on first being called up 17 per cent. of young recruits who should be in the full vigour of youth have to be turned down on account of physical ailments. That is bad enough, but when we come to Class Z and Class G reservists, we find that when they come up for re-examination, a further 18 per cent. have to be rejected on purely physical grounds. I think that is almost calamitous. When this country first concentrated attention on the physical fitness of its people, some four decades ago, in my view too little attention was paid to the prevention of disease, of illness and of physical deformity. Had we paid more attention to that aspect of health, I think we should be relieved to-day of many millions that we are now spending on hospital and medical services. I firmly believe that it is far better to bring about conditions of 348 life which will make it unnecessary for people to have to resort to the hospitals and the doctors.
I know that what I am alluding to rather comes within the framework of a long-term policy and possibly has no place, or little place, in the present discussion; but I do not apologise for making this point, because I think it is essential for the future that these factors should be borne in mind, even from a defence point of view. It has been stated by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander, that morale is of primary importance or (I forget his actual words) is the most important factor in time of war. We are in time of war, not only of cold war. We have at least two wars on our hands, and I think that that question of morale applies to this country, as well as to other people. It the people of this country are healthy, then their morale will be increased, their efficiency in industry will be better and we shall not have so much absenteeism. In general, I think this country would be stronger.
Now let me turn to another aspect, and a very serious aspect, of an omission from this White Paper. It is increasingly borne in upon us, particularly in times of stress such as those through which we are now going, that it is impossible to segregate the aspects of activity of our people into separate compartments. If we do so, we do so at our peril. The same thing applies if we look upon this country as an isolated community and not as a part of the community of the whole world. The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester said the other day thatCommunism is an armed doctrine, but a doctrine. You can conquer armies by stronger armies, but you cannot conquer Communism, which is an ideology, a religion, a way of life fanatically held, by force. This is where moral and spiritual leadership is required.My Lords, I absolutely agree with that statement. Whether that moral and spiritual leadership is forthcoming at the moment I do not wish to discuss just now, but I think that we certainly have a right to expect leadership from Her Majesty's Government, whichever Party are in power. We have a right to expect them to consider the power of the thoughts of men throughout the world, and to be courageous enough to accept its implications.
349 There is no doubt that wars can be fought only if the people comprising the combatants are convinced that they ought to fight. That was clearly seen during the war, when every combatant nation put out a tremendous amount of propaganda in order to influence the minds not only of their own people but of their opponents. Unfortunately, this aspect of defence has been rather overlooked—it has been dropped into the background. I should like to quote a few figures upon which I base my contention. In 1948–49 the total amount voted for the various services concerned with overseas information was £11,621,700. The following year the amount dropped to £11,221,000. Then it dropped still further to £10,821,000; then to £10,284,000, and for the current year it is again reduced to £9,784,000. My Lords, to me that is a disastrous way of tackling the matter.
Further, if we consider that the B.B.C. is in a more favourable position than either the Central Office of Information or the British Council, we see how disastrous it is to the working of those two bodies that these reductions have been made. The reductions I have just quoted are reductions in terms of money. In view of rising costs, they are actually considerably heavier. In 1948–49 the B.B.C. received as a grant in aid for its overseas services £4,500,000. The present amount, and the amount last year, was £4,750,000. But, my Lords, again these figures do not show the full decline in the efficacy of the work. I believe that every speaker before me has pointed out the need for keeping this country solvent. Everybody who is engaged in industry and overseas trade knows the importance of advertising—to use an expression which may be misunderstood. What I mean is that it is very important for us to let other countries know what we are doing, what our way of life is, what we believe in; to let them know why other nations look to us for leadership, why they know that we tell the truth about what is going on in the world, and why they can always look to us for support. It is important that we should make our views known, not only on the other side of the iron curtain and to our Allies and friends, but also to countries which are on the verge of passing over to Communism.
350 Let me give a few instances. To-day, in Malaya, near Singapore, we have a very large and very powerful transmitter. That transmitter is working only one shift a day; it works from nine o'clock in the morning until 4.30 in the afternoon, except Sundays when it works until a quarter to five. That is a tremendous waste of potentiality. We are to-day broadcasting from that station in no fewer than twelve languages, and your Lordships can work out how impotent are our propaganda, our views, our news and information sent out from that transmitter. We were told in another place the other day that if we increased the use of that transmitter to two sessions a day, it would cost £100,000 more. That is a poor reason for not doing it. We are spending millions of pounds in Malaya in order to combat an estimated 4,000 rebels. Would it not he better to spend a little more money on trying to influence the minds of the people in Malaya so that they will not follow the dictates of the Communists? In Malaya there is a very powerful home movement which works underground, which permeates the whole country, and is the strength of the insurgents or rebels. It is important for us to see that that movement does not take still further root. We can do that only by influencing the minds of these people.
I should like to give your Lordships a few extra figures with regard to the efficacy of the grant in aid which is paid to the B.B.C. Five years ago we broadcast abroad 650 hours a week. To-day, the time has been reduced to 540 hours. On the other hand, the U.S.S.R. five years ago broadcast for 440 hours a week; today, it is 1,140. Your Lordships will note the tremendous disparity there. The "Voice of America" too, five years ago broadcast only 240 hours a week; now it broadcasts 744 hours. I know that we do not feel obliged to follow slavishly what either Russia or even our Allies, the Americans, think right in foreign policy, but I think it is very important to examine those figures and to see whether we ought not to do something more about it.
In another place the other day—and that only after considerable pressure in the country—the Foreign Under-Secretary told us that Her Majesty's Govern- 351 ment are now reconsidering the information services in order to see whether the emphasis could not be placed better on political and strategic aspects. I should be more assured that that would be efficacious were it not for the, statement made by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, also in another place, when he told us that this had been thoroughly considered; that the whole matter had been gone into with care; that a careful, prolonged and detailed review had been made. The result was a deliberate policy on the part of the Government not materially to increase the grants to be spent on information services but to keep them more or less the same—though possibly allowing, a slight increase. And it was intimated that if more were spent on information (say to the Middle East) certain cuts would be made elsewhere. It is my contention—and I am absolutely convinced of this—that if we are to defend this country properly we must increase our information services quite considerably, and must not allow them to remain as they are. In fact, the information services should be considered as a fourth arm of our defence. They should be regarded as being of equal importance to our Fighting Services. I ask Her Majesty's Government to go into this matter again, to see whether it would not be worth while not necessarily to increase expenditure on defence—that might not be possible—but certainly to reallocate money which is being spent on defence, keeping in the forefront of their minds the importance of informing the people not only of this country but of the world what we stand for and why we should be respected.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, at the outset of my remarks—which I undertake shall be brief—I should like to associate myself with the congratulations that have been tendered to my noble and gallant friend Lord Alexander of Tunis on his maiden speech in your Lordships' House and also on his appointment to the high office which he now holds. Those congratulations were initiated by the noble Viscount who opened the debate—Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. Without stint he gave his personal congratulations to the noble Earl, but he did combine with a complete 352 personal welcome a certain measure of caution and something of regret—to use his own words—which he said that he felt concerning Lord Alexander's appointment. The principle of having an ex-military chief as a civil Minister, he intimated, was not one which attracted him. But surely the principle as regards the appointment of a Minister, or the appointment of any other person to a position of high responsibility, must be that the man selected is the best man for the job, irrespective of what his past actions, his past achievements or his past profession may have been.
If the Prime Minister, who is responsible in these matters, considers that the noble and gallant Earl is the best man for the office, then surely the Prime Minister is only following out what the previous Government did in appointing noble Lords and Members of another place to various offices if it was felt that they were the best men for those offices. That principle did not prevent Mr. Attlee from appointing ex-trade union chiefs to the Ministry of Labour; it did not prevent the Prime Minister of the day from appointing an economist to the Treasury; it did not prevent the Prime Minister of the day from appointing even an ex-naval stoker to the Board of the Admiralty. It seems to me that there is nothing new in the idea that the best man should be appointed to the position, and that the noble Earl's appointment is quite in accordance with what the previous Government did.
The second point in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, which I should like to take up is this. The noble Viscount spent some time—as indeed he was entitled to do—in justifying the record of the Administration of which he was a distinguished member, as regards its policy and achievements in matters of defence. He made a statement which he said he challenged any noble Lord to refute, that statement being to the effect that no Administration had ever before left the defences of the country in such a fine state as did the last Administration. In this connection, I recall the words of the Minister of Defence in that part of his speech in which he referred to "the present weakness of our armour." That scarcely accords with the bold, assertive challenge made by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I do not want to be misrepresented, and I am sure the noble Lord does not wish to misrepresent me. What I was following up was the statement made by the Secretary of State for War to the effect that the British Army in Germany was of such quality that it could be said that never before had there been such an Army in peace time. I went on to say—and I shall be supported in what I now say by Hansard—that no Government entering into office had ever taken over in peace time such quality and such a fine set of Forces as this Government has taken over from us.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
We have always said that our Forces consist of fine men, but they have been somewhat inadequately equipped in certain directions. Since the noble Viscount has raised this matter, I would point out that the Forces have suffered during the past five years from some measure of indecision and some measure of wrong decision from the last Government. The noble Viscount shakes his head. Let me give him a reminder as regards indecision. The original proposals for National Service were for eighteen months, until over-night the Government—due, I expect, to pressure from their own Back Benches—turned round and made the period twelve months only. Subsequently they had to make it eighteen months again, and after that they had to extend it to twenty-four months. The noble Viscount cannot but say that if they had maintained the period of eighteen months from the start, the acute manpower shortage would not have been such as it was.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I am not objecting—in fact, I like this cut and thrust in debate—but I must say that I do not agree at all with the noble Lord. The present Government have had the great advantage, when faced with the prospect of dealing with a difficult world situation, of having National Service not only achieved but accepted in every constituency in the country. If we had gone against men who pressed for alterations in the House of Commons at that time, we should have had such divisions in the constituencies that the principle of National Service would not have been nationally accepted. I warned the House of Common: at that moment of giving 354 way to the Amendment, that in fact I must take it upon myself to increase the period again if the position deteriorated—which it did. There was no interruption in training. There was, in fact, no period in which men were taken for twelve months; they were always taken for eighteen months.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
. The noble Viscount made a number of assertions in his speech, and I am sure he will not object to my giving a few replies to those assertions. It is true, as the noble Viscount says, that in a large measure we had shortages, grave shortages, of skilled men; but had National Service been kept at eighteen months at the beginning, instead of the Government reversing its policy and cutting the period down to twelve, I suggest that the shortages of man-power would not have been so severe as they have been.
Let me next refer to what the Minister of Defence said in his speech about recruiting. He gave figures showing the great improvement that has taken place in recruiting since the new pay code came into operation in, I think, March, 1950. We had debate after debate in your Lordships' House, and on each occasion noble Lords here who were then sitting on the Opposition side of the House pressed the Government to introduce an improved pay code which would make Service life comparable with civil life. Time after time we were resisted. There may have been good reasons from the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but had the pay code now in force been introduced two years earlier, the noble Viscount cannot but say that the acute shortage of man-power would have been lessened.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I want to get the facts right. The first improvement in the pay code was made after the Swift Committee Inquiry in 1946, and this set a far higher standard than ever before in peace time. The second pay adjustment was made in 1948, costing £12,000,000 a year. But this was immediately discounted in the country by Conservative criticism as "chicken feed."
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, I do not dispute those two improvements. What I say is that the late Government, of which the noble 355 Viscount was a distinguished member, took three bites at the cherry, and only the third bite was effective. That is what we kept on saying from this side. Then there was the unfortunate decision with regard to giving the Nene jet engine to Russia, which speeded up Russia's ability to produce jet fighters, so that today, to some extent, that unfortunate decision is responsible for our technical lag behind Russian M.I.G. fighters. The noble Viscount made reference to 1939 and said how ill-prepared we were under the Conservative Administration in 1939.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
Yes; but so far as the air was concerned we were strong enough to fight the Battle of Britain against the most powerful enemy facing us at that time—Nazi Germany—and we were able to win the Battle of Britain, in spite of inadequate quantity, by superior quality. Perhaps we should have been better prepared if the Party opposite had shown greater enthusiasm in the Division Lobbies for the necessary armaments and supplies, and greater enthusiasm to support the national interest in the introduction of National Service before the war than was the case.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords may I put in a last word? If the noble Lord will look up the speech of the Prime Minister in October, 1938, on the terrible occasion of the selling-out of Czechoslovakia, he will see how matters stood. A Party with an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons did not have the courage to take action.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
I was Under-Secretary of State for Air and my noble friend, Viscount Swinton, was Secretary of State before that time, both in your Lordships' House and in another place. Time and time again, whatever words may have been used in speeches, the feet of noble Lords opposite trotted through the Lobbies to vote against the Defence Estimates and in 1939 against the introduction of National Service. I am sure the noble Viscount takes no exception to my dealing with these contentious points.
But I should like now to leave this field and deal with the question I dealt with in my speech on air defence two 356 or three weeks ago—namely, supply. I hope that the noble Lord who is going to wind up for the Government will be able to give us some report on the progress of man-power and supply of houses for essential aircraft workers, and on the supply of vital machine tools from America, deliveries of which are lagging behind. I raised these points on the last occasion and I hope that now we shall be able to get in some sentences reassuring information as to progress along those lines. The noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis, dealt with the basic problem of the balance between the economic stability of the country and our arms needs. We are trying to do three things at the same time. We are trying to export to pay for essential imports; to pay for our armaments and to give a meagre, attenuated, but nevertheless continuous, supply of consumer and other goods for the home market: and we are trying to do all that with a total population of 50,250,000, of which only about 8,750,000 are in the manufacturing industries. It is a pretty big load which we are carrying at the present time.
I put two thoughts to your Lordships and the Government when we face this problem of doing so much with comparatively few people working in relation to our total population. Are we trying to do too much, in scientific, technical and design work, particularly in the aircraft industry? I believe that a review of the aircraft industry would show that approximately half of the design staff are employed on guided missile work. This is vastly important, but I wonder whether we are not letting too many firms tackle too many different projects. Ought we not to have a streamlining of design projects, so that we can get better results from the same number of men working in the drawing offices? Next, are we not basing our endeavours to build up our air effort on too narrow a basis?—although it seems a contradiction in terms to suggest that we ought to do more when we seem to be tackling too much. What I believe we ought to do is to broaden the basis of our aircraft construction by introducing civil types such as the Comet, which has given Britain a technical lead over the rest of the world, including America, which we are not going to enjoy again. If we do not take advantage now of this lead, it will be lost for ever.
357 If we did this broadening and increased our production of civil air liners, giving it the same degree of importance as the production of fighters and bombers, I believe we should be able to achieve three things. First, we should aid our economy by being able to produce an export which would earn more dollars per hundred men employed and per weight of material than almost any other export. It is far more valuable to export one airliner than hundreds of motor cars. We can get dollars easily, if we can give deliveries of this type of aircraft which is supreme in the world. Secondly, if civil aircraft were included in the basis of our aircraft construction work, we should attract more men voluntarily into the industry. Young men would be much more willing to come into the industry if it was not employed purely upon Service aircraft, because they know that at some time or another the rearmament effort must die down. They would see a security of tenure for their work which would make their transfer far more attractive to them.
Thirdly, we should build a background of communication aircraft for the R.A.F. in time of peace which could do a great deal to give economies of Service manpower by reducing the numbers in the "pipelines" between this country and the Far East and Middle East. At present it involves taking hundreds of men weeks in a ship to transport our troops to and from those fields of operation. If we carried our troops by air we should get far greater efficiency out of our limited forces. In peace time, we should thus be building a reserve communications fleet. The Under-Secretary of State said that we had cut down Transport Command, but that could be offset to some degree by reliance on civilian aircraft in time of war. There are no civil aircraft available in time of war, except those belonging to the Corporations, which, as I said in our last debate, will have to continue their work of keeping open essential world communications. Such a policy as I have suggested would, I believe, allow you to produce these communication aircraft, provided you had a civil aviation policy which gave opportunity for operators to acquire new aircraft on a commercial basis. Thus I believe you would serve the Royal Air Force in peace, and create a reserve for the Royal Air Force in war.
358 I should not like to pass judgment on the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, of a Cabinet Committee, presided over by the Minister of Defence, to review at all times the aircraft industry, but I would say that I inherently dislike increasing authorities. I believe that we tend very often in administration to increase authorities, whereas what we ought to do is to reduce the number of authorities that exist. It is a big question. I would go this far with the noble Lord and say that I feel that the present set-up is not satisfactory for the task which the Ministry of Supply have to carry out in the way of producing fighting weapons. I made certain suggestions in the last debate which I will not repeat to-day, but I do agree with the noble Lord that all is not well. I hope that the Government have this matter under review, and will be open in their minds as regards adapting administrative machinery to the requirements as and when it may be shown to be insufficient for its task. With those remarks, I should like to conclude by once more offering my congratulations to the noble and gallant Earl, the Minister of Defence, who has a great task but who, equally, has a great opportunity. I am sure that he will have the support of noble Lords on all sides of the House in the essential and vital work of securing our national defence.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, I fear that by this time the noble Earl the Minister of Defence must be a little weary of receiving congratulations upon his speech, but I hope that I may be allowed to add my quota to the many he has received. Having said that, and with no wish to look a gift Defence Minister in the mouth, I am bound to say that I am on the side of those who feel that appointment of a high-ranking and, consequently, influential Service officer to the post should be the exception rather than the rule, and that this course should not be looked upon as a precedent. I believe that to be important for the reason that this is a political post, and political experience must he a most valuable asset to the holder of that post. If the holder happens to lack political experience he is bound to be at a disadvantage, possibly in his Cabinet work, or in 359 dealing with the political issues which come before him.
I had hoped this afternoon that we might have heard something more about the situation in the Middle East, more particularly when I saw that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Wilson, was to speak. In saying that, I do not wish in any way to detract from the value of the important speech made by the noble Lord. I feel that the possibility exists of great danger arising in the Middle East: nationalism is rearing its head everywhere throughout that area. I wonder what would happen if Persia were to collapse. It has always seemed to me that a country's foreign policy is 70 or 80 per cent. dictated by geography. The reasons which have always driven Russia in the direction of a warm water port are just as operative to-day as they have ever been, and an internal collapse in Persia might leave us with a most serious situation to face. Of course, the Middle East situation is bedevilled at the moment by the apparent impossibility of reconciling the Arab States with Israel.
I noticed what was said about the Korean negotiations being unduly protracted. There is, perhaps, another side to that matter. I understand that these long-drawn-out negotiations have given General Ridgway the opportunity of carrying out the most intensive training of American troops, and that by a process of circulation and reliefs something like 150,000 American troops have been given some first-rate training in Korea. Perhaps, therefore, the negotiations have not been completely disadvantageous. I noticed, too, with great interest, what the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said about civil defence in the United States. Although some of the information that he gave your Lordships was rather remarkable, I am bound to say that I, for one, could find nothing amusing in it at all. I very much wish that the same anxiety and degree of preparation in that matter were as forward in this country as it is in the United States. When the noble Viscount added his opinion to that of those who say that the danger of war is receding, and it is not inevitable, again I must repeat what I have said before, that personally I always find that sort of opinion not only unconvincing but possibly dangerous. I much prefer to say 360 that war is not inevitable unless we neglect our preparations.
There is one matter which was mentioned by the noble Earl, the Minister of Defence, in relation to scientists, to which I should like briefly to refer. It is common ground among all of us that in our war preparations we are now in the hands of the scientists, and that it is upon their work in research and development that our chances of victory in a future war must depend. It is the old question: Are we short of scientists? Are we getting the intake of scientists that we require? That is the crux of the matter. Again I must mention that over and over again I see references to the very high salaries which are offered to scientists at the present time by the United States of America, salaries with which apparently we cannot possibly hope to compete, and which must expose the patriotism of our young scientists to most serious temptation.
I should like to refer to one or two other matters mentioned in the course of the debate. I listened to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, about his fear that there was a lack of co-ordination between military and civil aviation, and to the suggestion which the noble Lord made that it might be advisable for a Cabinet Committee to be set up to ensure that this co-ordination does exist. I should not like to oppose that suggestion; and, equally, I should not like to endorse it without hearing something more upon the subject. I should want to hear evidence in detail to convince me either that the machinery for effecting such co-ordination does not exist or that if (as I think is more probably the case) it does exist, it is not functioning as fully or as efficiently as it might and should do. I am doubtful about the advisability of appointing too many of these high-power Cabinet or Government committees, because I think that, through them, the danger exists of detracting from the authority and responsibility of the Minister whose work is under consideration by that committee. I feel quite sure that there must be many Ministers who in their time have felt hampered, obstructed and at a disability because of having to work with some such large and high-ranking committee.
I was also impressed by what has been said about publicity in this matter of 361 rearmament, of taking the public into confidence or (as I prefer to put it), keeping the public fully informed upon these matters. I remember that in a debate some time ago I expressed the hope—although the suggestion fell on barren ground—that we should hear the Service Ministers and the Minister of Defence broadcasting occasionally on these subjects. Whilst the Ministers may make speeches, the newspapers at the present moment are not in a position to give very detailed reports of such speeches. I feel that it is not so much a matter of confidence but rather that the public are ill-informed upon these matters and consequently may easily fall a victim to statements which throw doubts upon the wisdom of rearmament or upon the wisdom of the extent: of our rearmament programmes.
In moving about and talking to people, I have found, for instance, that an argument which is having some effect upon the minds of the people at the moment is this—it is a simple and easy argument. It is to the effect that the country or the countries with the biggest steel production cannot fail to win a war, and that a country with a small steel production must be at a hopeless disadvantage as against an alliance with a large steel production. I have just seen that argument repeated in a book in which Russia is credited with a steel production of 30,000,000 tons per annum, whereas the steel production at the disposal of the Western Powers is described as "grotesque," that they dispose of an annual steel production of 128,000,000 tons and have a potential output of 180,000,000 tons. The inference is that there is no better test of the military striking power of a nation than its steel consumption.
I feel that the inference we are asked to draw from that comparison is that the Allies are in a position of overwhelming superiority which Russia could not possibly hope to challenge militarily. The book also says, "This the Russian rulers know probably better than we do, and it is this knowledge that will restrain their military adventures unless they are panicked into more than limited aggression." My Lords, I think in that sort of statement there is a simple argument—and people like simple arguments. There is a certain amount of plausibility 362 about it, when you are asked to consider 30,000,000 tons of steel as against 180,000,000 tons of steel, and that is a matter upon which I should like to see a considered statement made. However, that is by the way. As I say, I should like to see more publicity, and I venture to express the hope that on suitable occasions we may have broadcasts by the Service Ministers, and especially by the Minister of Defence, giving the public the real facts behind the rearmament programme that we find ourselves compelled to adopt.
Reference has inevitably been made this afternoon to the report of General Eisenhower, which I suppose is his final report. It seemed to me a characteristically conservative and balanced report. It contained no false optimism but quite properly called attention to the fact that the land forces had been increased, that the commands had been allocated, that the supply organisation had been set up and that the expenditures were increasing. But whilst all that is quite true—and in many ways the report, as has been said, is extremely satisfactory—the fact remains that it leaves us only about half way towards the Lisbon fifty divisions and 4,000 aircraft. Yet the Russian 175 divisions, one-third of them mechanised or armoured, and the 20,000 aircraft are still there. Even the satisfactory features of the Eisenhower report cannot blind us to those facts, especially when those vast resources and the past industrial and supply potential of Russia are wielded by, and at the disposal of, one hand, and not by a multi-nation organisation or committees. We have a lot of leeway yet to make up.
I mention the allocation of commands. One command is not yet allocated—the Mediterranean Command. I do not want to say too much about it, because the matter has dragged on so long that, clearly, very delicate considerations are involved, but the noble Earl did say that morale is a tremendous factor in the Armed Forces. Some of your Lordships will always remember that, in Nelson's words, the Mediterranean is the station of honour, and it is there that the great glories of the Navy have been won. I feel that it would have a very depressing effect upon morale to see that command, with its great traditions, pass into the hands of anyone but an English Admiral.
363 I think we can feel real satisfaction at the Pact of mutual defence just concluded. It is, of course, virtually an extention of the Brussels Treaty, and I do not feel that it marks anything very new, but it is a summing up and putting into concrete form of agreements and understandings which I imagine already exist. But it is quite clear that, as a result of the conclusion of that Pact, Germany feels more reassured and guaranteed against attack from the East; that France is to some extent reassured by it about a rearmed Germany, even if she is not yet wholly satisfied; while the United States welcomes the declaration as helping forward the cause of European unity, which the United States has so very much at heart. If I may make one further very brief observation on the Pact, while I am sure that the announcement of the Pact is a good thing and will be welcomed by all of us, its main value will be if it is followed up by a strengthening of the economic relations between the countries concerned. That, to me, is the vital issue involved.
The last thing I want to speak about is a matter on which I wrote to the Minister, and it is the most important subject about which I want to speak this afternoon. I refer to guided missiles. No one expects to hear a great deal about that matter, but I have no doubt that a great deal is being done, and it is extremely secret, as one knows. In the book from which I was just quoting I saw a reference to generals who are always thinking about the next war in terms of the last. I do not know whether the general who is out on the rocket range in Australia spends his days in contemplation of the last war. It is very doubtful. Anyone who takes the trouble to read about the various exercises which have been carried out recently in Europe and elsewhere can feel pretty well reassured that our generals, and the other officers of the Armed Forces, are emphatically thinking in terms of the next war. I have no doubt whatever that they are fully alive to the fact that the next war is likely to be decided by the amount of progress which is made in this matter of guided missiles.
We have not, however, heard very much about the subject and, in particular, we have not heard very much about 364 what priorities are being accorded in this matter. We hear of something called "super-priority." I do not know what "super-priority" is. If you have "top" priority that seems to me top, but there is now something called "super-top." Is there, for instance, priority in this matter of guided missiles over the requirements of our export drive? The possibilities in this matter seem to be completely boundless. There is the possibility of attack by aircraft upon aircraft, of attack from the ground upon aircraft, of attack from aircraft on the ground and attack by robot planes. In the debate on the Navy Estimates I ventured to say that I thought perhaps we were seeing the gun on its way out, and I feel more than ever convinced that that may be true.
There is one particular question in regard to this matter of guided missiles which I should like to ask, and on which perhaps some information can be given. The design and developments programme is, of course, a matter for the Ministry of Supply, and I imagine that at the moment the work is mainly in the field of design, possibly with the construction of a few prototypes. Perhaps not a very large organisation is required for that. It may be a matter of small teams carrying out research and development. I understand the difficulty to be that, while the Ministry of Supply is naturally very anxious to get such teams together and to proceed as rapidly as possible with the development and research in progress, they want to get hold of competent men with the experience which shows they can undertake the job. But if a man of this sort comes along and says: "I can get a team together and set up the organisation and do the work you require," they say: "We cannot ask you to do any work until you have an organisation in being so that we can come down and have a look at it aid see if we think you can do the work we require."
At first sight that seems extremely reasonable. We all want to see whether the man has the means and facility for doing the job. But, equally, it is very difficult for a man to get together a team of the sort required, of technicians and engineers, who must be very highly paid, to set up premises and get ready to do such work unless he is assured of getting some work to do. It seems to me, therefore, that we are in a sort of deadlock 365 where the Ministry of Supply says: "We will give you some work to do if you can show us that you can do it," and the man concerned has to say: "I will show you that I can do the work if you will give me some promise of having work to do." As a result nothing happens. It is really the position of two boys, one of whom has snatched the other's knife while the other has snatched his cap. One boy says: "I will give you your knife if you will give me my cap," and the other boy says, "I will give you your cap if you will give me my knife." Apparently you get a sort of state of inertia in this matter.
Perhaps I may have stated the matter in too simple terms, and there may be a very good explanation of this. But I have been assured, on what I consider very credible information, that in one particular case that is the situation at the present moment, and that no headway can be made for the reasons I have stated. If it is possible for the Minister who is to reply for the Government—if it is not a confidential or secret matter—to say something on that subject, I think it would be very helpful indeed in considering this all-important matter of the guided missiles of the future.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, I am sure that the noble and gallant Earl the Minister of Defence will be patient with me in allowing me to congratulate him after all the other speakers who have said how glad they were to have heard this speech. I do not want to detain him, but I feel I must say that before he leaves the Chamber. When I consider the question of defence, the point that strikes me above all else is the impossibility of disentangling it from our foreign affairs and our economic problems. Of course, as the hour gets later, perhaps the urge to disentangle them is not so great; nevertheless, the fact remains that because of all the Treaties in which we are involved to-day—particularly in Western Europe—we are faced with the responsibility of maintaining certain armed forces. The more those Treaties progress, the more it becomes important to maintain armed forces which are a reality. Many more of our commitments to-day depend directly on the Treaties we have undertaken than they did before 1914 or before 1939. Only the other day we undertook another commitment—namely, the pro- 366 bability of an arrangement with the European Defence Community which, if it is to be effective, will have to be translated directly into the maintenance of certain forces available for the defence of Western Europe. None of these Treaties is really worth the paper on which it is written unless we have the armed forces to go with it.
Al the same time, all these Treaties are coming to fruition. The picture in Western Europe and in N.A.T.O. is a very different picture from the one which we had two or three years ago, when details of the whole affair were contained in one White Paper of a few pages, with a very complicated set of diagrams showing responsibility. Now these Treaties are coming to fruition, and in order that they may be implemented we have to see that our plans for our Armed Forces come to fruition step by step with the developments of our Treaty or diplomatic arrangements. Of course, the converse is also true: that when these Treaties are realities, it is relatively easy for those concerned and for the public at large to see whether our arrangements for defence are realities or whether they are shadows and not substance.
That brings me fairly quickly to the White Paper itself on which the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, based his Motion. If we wish we can compare it with the White Paper of two years ago and see what are the differences in their make-up and also in the two main fields of man-power and equipment. As the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, said, the make-up is not very different. But if we read the White Papers carefully, we can see that distinct progress has been made in various directions, and possibly the greatest progress is shown in the last two paragraphs, to which I will come in a moment. If we look at the man-power side, I would agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, when he said that the position is satisfactory. He said, with some justice perhaps, that the present Government took over from the previous Government a very satisfactory situation. I would not dispute that entirely. I would say that if the previous Government had come to an end two years earlier, in the middle of the disputes about the length of National Service, the picture might not have been quite satisfactory. But never mind that. It is true now that the period of two years' 367 National Service is working satisfactorily and that there is no major problem connected with recruitment.
There are, however, a certain number of minor problems, and most of those problems—I am talking now about whole-time man-power—are connected with the recruitment of the Regular forces. I was glad to hear what my noble friend Lord Wilson said on the subject of the treatment of the soldier, because I am certain that it is fundamental to good recruiting in the Regular forces that the men should find proper employment when they retire from the Army, as they do at a relatively early age compared to the retirement ages in any other walk of life, and that their pension should represent a proper level of real wages. I think it is true to say of every Government, of whatever Party, that their treatment of the Service pensioner has always lagged behind their treatment of other similar people. Surely the time has come when it ought to be a rule in the Treasury that, whenever the rate on such things as old age pensions and national assistance is raised, consideration should be given to the raising of pensions of Service pensioners who, after all, are in much the same position as that of these other people. That ought to be done not only as a means of securing that the right people join the Forces but as a measure of pure justice. However, my noble friend Lord Wilson has said a good deal about that matter and I will say no more, except to add that we do not want our Service pensioners to be a depressed class in the Welfare State.
I should like to say another word about part-time Forces. I have said these things before, but I venture to do so again, because now that the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander, is Minister of Defence, he may think fit to look into the matter again with the Minister of Labour. We shall never get our part-time manpower right until the Minister of Labour is the sponsoring Minister for the whole of our part-time defence Forces—Home Guard, Civil Defence, et cetera. These things should not be left to a "free for all" by the various Departments. Lord Wilson, in his interesting speech, spoke about a very important subject: whether the Forces of Western Union and of N.A.T.O.—all the Allied Forces—are really working together. Are the Staff officers able to understand each other? 368 Is the signal procedure satisfactory? These may seem small matters to mention in this debate, but they are in fact things upon which depend whether battles are won or lost; they are the kind of things upon which, military students find, battles have turned. If we are to make our defence of Western Union a reality, let us hope that all these matters are being attended to and that, on a very high level, inter-Service and inter-Allied Staff communications and signal procedure are satisfactory. I have no reason to doubt that it is so, but it is one of the points which we ought to consider in a debate such as this as a matter of great importance.
Man-power is in a fairly satisfactory state, but we cannot say quite the same thing about rearmament. A great deal has been said about rearmament this afternoon, and all of it, I am sure, is fully justified. Whereas we have the manpower, we have not yet got the weapons or the ships or the planes; and this call for rearmament comes just at a time when we can least afford it and also at a time when the heavy industries are in difficulty about steel and other basic requirements. All these are truisms and I do not wish to repeat them. Industrially, at the moment we are at a stage where, because of export and armament needs taking the place of our own civilian needs, a great deal of transition is, or should be, going on—and, indeed, I think it is going on. Our difficulty this year will be to ensure that that transition goes smoothly.
We talk at present as if the bottleneck is in the pace at which industry can turn out the requirements of defence, but I am not at all sure that that is so. I heard only to-day of a firm which is subcontracting for the aircraft industry being short of orders. My belief is that we must see that we are not wasting any time in this transition from making peacetime goods to making armaments. If time is wasted, it will be lost not only to our armament programme, but also to our export and other civilian needs. If we do not take care we shall lose much more working time in the factories than one cares to think of. That, again, is important because there is a certain time limit by which we must be ready to undertake our obligations under these treaties. That time limit does not seem 369 to have been much in the minds of the people at certain congresses at Easter time, about which we have read. But unless we are ready at the proper time the Treaties will be no good. Until the armaments are ready, we shall not be able to make full use of our man-power as a preventive of war.
The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham—who, I am sorry to see, is not at present in the House—mentioned the need to get on with recruitment for the Home Guard. I agree with very much of what the noble Lord said, but I would qualify his remarks by saying this. I feel—and I have the honour to hold the office of President of the Territorial Association—that sooner or later I shall have to "carry the can" in my county if recruitment is not adequate. I do not want to cry "Wolf." Neither do I want to go off at half-cock anti start a recruiting campaign until I am certain that the time for that campaign is ripe. There are two conditions for that. One is that the operational plan for the use of the Home Guard locally should have been produced, settled and made effective by the local military commander; and the other is that the Home Guard, to carry it out, should have the weapons. If it is thought necessary by the Government that the Home Guard should get going, then what is wanted are the weapons necessary to start now, and the operational plan—about which there should now be no difficulty. When those two conditions are fulfilled, I am sure everybody in the county will be anxious to get on with the Home Guard job, and I cannot see any difficulty arising.
I am not sure that I feel quite the same about Civil Defence. I was glad to see an extended reference to Civil Defence in the last paragraph of the White Paper. I hope that that means that on the operational side Civil Defence is coming more and more into the orbit of the Ministry of Defence. When the Civil Defence Bill was first introduced into Parliament some time ago, the weak link in the whole business was the separation of operational control between the defence set-up and the Home Office setup. After all, civil defence and other defences are all part of the same battle; and the enemy, whoever he may be, will recognise no distinction between the Home Office and the Ministry of 370 Defence. Possibly the present set-up does not give enough scope for strong leadership locally, and I wonder whether it would be worth while for the Minister of Defence to go into this matter with the Home Secretary. There seems in the local set-up to be something which does not make it easy to exercise leadership—something bureaucratic and remote—and I feel, as I have said before, that, now that we have got our full-time manpower on the right basis we should begin to get our part-time man-power on the right basis.
There is only one other point that I want to raise this evening. We have talked a great deal about our full-time man-power. We have taken a good deal of credit for the way in which that manpower is being handled—rightly, I think, in the great majority of cases. There is no doubt that officers in the Army have learnt a tremendous amount in the last five or six years in the matter of handling the National Service man. There is no doubt that the great majority of Regular officers of all Services are very successful in this direction. I think that the noncommissioned officers and warrant officers are coming along very nicely on the same road, though they are not perhaps absorbing new ideas quite so fast as some of the officers have done. But I think that that comment applies only to a percentage of the National Service men, not to all. If any of your Lordships has to sit on a bench of magistrates in a district where you have, shall we say, a large ordnance depôt or R.A.S.C. depôt, you will find that a large proportion of the criminals come from the substandard young men whom the Army has had to take and lock after. It is obviously right that those men should take their share of National Service—it would be deplorable if they could escape because of their bad characters or because of their attendance at Borstal—but, equally, they present a very much harder problem to the Army or Air Force, or wherever they go to, than does the ordinary soldier.
From what I have seen lately from the other side, from the magistrate's side, I am not at all certain that we have the right solution to the problem. I am not at all certain that it is a good plan for the nation that those young men should be in the large depots, where, by the very 371 nature of things, the supervision is not so close as it would be in a good unit. Equally, the units do not want them, so we are in the usual dilemma. That is a point which I feel the Service Departments, and particularly the Army and the Air Force, might look into again, because dissatisfaction with National Service will come not from the good soldier in a good regiment but from the bad soldier who has had a rough time—very largely because he is a bad soldier—and who comes out with a bad taste in his mouth. The work to be done is very largely welfare work, but it certainly needs doing at the present time. That is all need trouble your Lordships to listen to at this late hour. To sum up the Defence White Paper, I feel that it represents real progress on the Paper of two years ago. It shows that a great deal has happened in that time, under both Governments. Reading on the lines and between the lines, it shows that a very great deal has happened in Western Europe and, not less, that a very great deal has happened in strengthening the co-operation at Service level with the Dominions and the Colonies. To that extent the Defence White Paper is what it should be—not merely a sum total of the three Service White Papers which we have already discussed, but a proper and a satisfactory presentation of the state of defence of this country at the present time.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ LORD LAWSON
My Lords, in opening this debate the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough (we have to be careful with these titles), quoted from a broadcast from Sir William Slim in America testifying to the quality of the Army of this country in peace time and, I think, to the Forces generally. I was much struck, in reading the last Defence debate in another place, by what the Prime Minister himself said amounting to pretty much the same thing. He pointed Out (OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons; Volume 497, Column 436):The yearly production of more than 100,000 well-trained reservists, representing the highest physical qualities of British manhood, will not only give us reserves for the Regular Army on mobilisation of fine quality, but will also provide for the creation of a Territorial Army which, when mobilised, will be far superior in efficiency and readiness at the out- 372 break of war to anything that was previously possible.That was a very striking statement, and the noble and gallant Earl, the Minister of Defence, in his maiden speech to-day, which we were all pleased to hear, for it was most informative, told us, I think, that by 1954 we shall have half a million Reservists as a result of National Service. That is a very striking state of things in this country.
But what is equally striking is the temper and spirit of those men. When it was proposed to give the "Z" men and the "G" men a refresher course, the idea was received in some quarters with criticism. It was said that the time was all too short—and to the average person it looked as though it might be; that it would be little more than enough to enable the men to make the acquaintance of some of the new weapons. As a matter of fact, most of the Territorial organisations in the country, I think, had made arrangements to meet their men, to give them a reception when they returned from their refresher course. As President of my Territorial Association, it was my good fortune to be present at one or two of these receptions, and I was very much surprised by the spirit of those men on returning from the refresher course. I thought to myself that if I had served for several years and had been called up, I should not have been in too good a temper. But I discovered that it was a question of meeting old comrades, and that that comradeship of the Army, and of the Forces generally, which has no parallel in civilian life, had manifested itself; so that it was a perfectly delightful thing to meet those men and to see that it had not only given them the benefit of a refresher course in weapons but had revived them in spirit. I say that because that is a miracle in this country, compared with what took place after the First World War. Having regard to the state of things in this country after the First World War and, between the wars as compared with to-day, this change is altogether a miracle.
I mention that because I think it is true—in fact, I know it to be true—that, as the Minister of Defence has said, morale in the field is the first thing. But in peace time, for the civilian population, morale in the country is also the first thing. That change of outlook on the part of the people of this country did not 373 just come about of itself. Great social changes have taken place. Not only have those changes taken place, but the lives of the people have been directly affected. I speak with knowledge of the heavy industrial areas, and I know that it is no good trying, by the use of propaganda of any kind, to cover the fact that the people in the heavy industrial areas of this country have had such changes in their lives as have made them appreciate fully the value of their own country and have made them look at things in an altogether new way. That has certainly improved the morale of our citizens. I hope that nothing in the Government's policy or policies will change the outlook of the citizens of this country, but it is a fact that some of the mass of the people in the industrial areas are apprehensive.
I understood that something like £1,500,000,000 is to be spent on production by next March. I do not know whether or not I am right about that, but at the present time there are signs of unemployment—indeed, there are those who think that generally in the world there is a movement that way. That is going to affect the world vitally. If that is so, it seems to me, at any rate, that it is necessary to be expeditious in going ahead with the production of weapons and of arms generally, instead of waiting until we get into the slump. It may be there will not be a slump; I hope there will not. The Ministry of Labour and the Government generally have at their disposal facts concerning the state of trade in this country and in other countries. We have just had published the White Paper on the economic state of the country. I hope that the Government are giving close attention to this matter, instead of waiting until we are in a state which will affect adversely the minds of the people of this country.
From the angle of rearmament, I think it is also necessary to pay attention to another matter which is affecting the minds of the people. What was this conference in Russia about? What has been the nature of it? There are stories coming from America about it. I have not seen any explanation in this country, except an article to-day by one of the men who has been there. But it seems to me that this kind of thing impresses itself upon the people and that an explanation 374 is due at a very early date. It is also said that Stalin is asking for a meeting with the heads of the various Governments—a meeting of the Big Three, as they are called. I do not see why they should not do their business through the United Nations, in the normal way, or why it should not be done through the Foreign Secretaries of each country. But we cannot let this thing go on without very soon giving some official explanation of it. If we fail to do that, if we fail in our publicity, it will certainly have its effect upon the minds of the people of this country. The people thoroughly understand why we are rearming. Stage by stage they have come to an understanding of the kind of thing they are up against. We must not run the danger of the acceptance of sheer propaganda without any explanation affecting the minds of the people.
That is all I have to say to-night, because this has been a debate in which many experts have spoken upon the details of our defence arrangements and I do not intend to keep the House much longer. But I must say that, from a visit which I have just paid to America, so far as I could read the American people they were kindly and courteous, and I think they themselves have a great desire to work in close harmony with us, as well as with the people of Europe generally.
§ 6.57 p.m.
My Lords, when we are talking about Defence I cannot but cast my mind back to the days just after Dunkirk, when we had very little defence—just a few gallant airmen and a few ships. Yet we managed to keep the enemy from attacking our shores. I wonder whether to-day we are not living too much in the present and not enough in the future, and have forgotten the past. I say "too much in the present" because every day one reads about jet aircraft making fantastic flights—to Rome in two and a half hours, or whatever time it may be. One reads about atomic bombs being exploded. But all the time we are forgetting one thing—that this great country of ours is an island, and nothing that any scientists can do will stop it being an island. Our aircraft can fly all over the world at great speeds; we can have our Armed Forces; we have our workmen in the factories. 375 But they have all got to be supplied with food, oil and petrol that has to come over water.
That is a very important point, because since the development at the end of the last war of the Schnorkel under-water breathing apparatus in the U-boat, a submarine can stay under water for weeks on end. In the 1914–18 war—and, for that matter, at the beginning of the last war—one had a good opportunity of finding a submarine when it had to come to the surface, generally at night, to recharge its batteries. To-day that does not mean a thing. It will be said that we have aircraft and aircraft carriers, and aircraft are certainly of immense value in detecting submarines. But the aircraft carrier is a large and attractive target. The Japanese proved that in the Far East with their "suicide pilots." Those pilots would dive straight on to an aircraft carrier—unless they were shot down before reaching it—and they caused considerable damage. The only opponents of whom I can think, whom we might find ourselves fighting in the future, would, I feel sure, have pilots who would be just as suicidal. And there is no reason why they should not have vast numbers of submarines, with determined captains, to press home attacks against convoys. A point which arises in that connection is this. We have aircraft carriers for the protection of convoys, and aircraft carriers now have jet-propelled aircraft which are extremely fast. Some noble Lords opposite spoke of the use of helicopters, and I should think that a helicopter on a merchantman would probably prove as useful as a jet-propelled aircraft because of its greater manœuvrability.
With regard to submarines, in the last war a submarine commander had to sight his target in order to fire his torpedoes. To-day it is possible for a submarine to discharge a torpedo which will "home" automatically on to a target. This is the outcome, I think, of a German invention. What I want to know is whether we can have some assurance that this life-line of ours is to be secured by the necessary number of frigates and other ships. As we gathered from the Naval Estimates, where one frigate used to do a job, four are now required. Are we to get enough of those ships to secure that life-line?
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY)
My Lords, we have had to-day a wide-ranging debate which, personally, I have found of the greatest interest. May I begin by saying how proud I am to be winding up a debate in which the first speech from these Benches was made by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis? I had the privilege of serving under his command in Italy, and now I again have the privilege of serving with him in Her Majesty's Government.
A feature of this debate is that all noble Lords who have taken part have done so obviously with the threat that is presented to us clearly in mind the whole time. The great event which has taken place in the last year or two, as noble Lords have pointed out, has been the emergence of what I might call a great confederation of the free peoples to meet that threat. Questions have been asked from both sides of the House about the adequacy of the preparations that are being made or have been made, and about this responsibility and that responsibility. Certainly it is always debatable whether that threat was realised in time. Perhaps only history will tell us. I do not intend to follow the noble Viscount who opened this debate into the small excursion which he made into political warfare. My noble friend, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, has dealt with that; and while I find myself in broad agreement with his point of view I do not think I need reinforce it now. In fact, I do not think that I will, at this time, be drawn into what I might call "general political milling."
I hope it will not be thought improper, however, if I make just one or two general observations at the beginning of my remarks—and I promise that they will not be extensive—with regard to the relation between domestic politics and defence. It seems to me (and I am sure it has been confirmed by the speeches which have been made to-day) that a nation's power in the world—I mean its military power—is immensely enhanced if there is common ground among political Parties, in or out of office, that the Government of the day should be given the means to follow out an effective foreign and defence policy. 377 This means that our friends can look with equanimity upon a change of Government. And it is extremely important that our potential foes can gain no encouragement from the possibility that such a change would bring them advantage.
Broadly speaking, since the last war that has been the case in our country. I think it is true to say—I do not want to boast unduly of the record of the Party to which I have the honour to belong—that it has been our endeavour to bring support to the main lines of Government policy in defence and in foreign affairs. In our turn in Government, we endeavour to carry out to the full the obligations to our friends and Allies which were undertaken by our predecessors. I think we may claim that in this aspect of our affairs there has been a continuity of policy. Noble Lords opposite—and I say this without any intention of being in the least offensive—are in a much better position to assess what the feeling on that matter is, both within their own Party and outside this country. Many of your Lordships will have noted with concern that what I might call a powerful trade union passed a resolution the other day condemning National Service. The helpful remarks which Lord Lawson made about the morale aspect of National Service are certainly cherished.
We all rightly take a pride in the freedom of speech which is permitted in this country. We allow anyone to advocate not only national defence but national suicide, if he will. It seems to me, however, that a difference on a subject of this kind is one of fundamental importance, and when it occurs within the ranks of a great Party in the State it must be a matter for general concern. Though I do not seek to magnify those differences, I do urge noble Lords opposite—because on them rests a great responsibility—to make it plain at all times that the majority of their Party remains constant to the policies they adopted when they were in Government. That is all the comment I wish to make on the general political situation.
There is no doubt that the Korean war gave a great jolt to the Western nations, and plans for largely increasing the scale and scope of rearmament were conceived in haste. Therefore it has to be expected 378 that modifications and changes may become necessary. But that change of emphasis is not an admission that there was, and is, no threat, nor that it was wrong to make great efforts. The Minister of Defence has described the conflicting demands of the hot and cold war which, of course, is all one war. He pointed out, with great truth, that our position imposes great responsibilities and burdens upon us and that we must continue to bear our proportion. But, equally, we have the right to see that that burden is shared. That is why in my view, and in the view of the Government, it is so important on strategic and economic grounds that Germany should take her full place in the ranks of the Western nations. I listened with great interest and approbation to the speech made recently on that subject by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham—he is not in the Chamber now.
Within the ambit of general agreement on defence policy, noble Lords were concerned, and rightly concerned, about certain details and aspects of that policy. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, asked me one or two questions about the Royal Navy. As I am not particularly responsible for that Department, I do not feel I can speak with authority equal to that of the noble Earl, Lord Birkenhead, but I think it is fair to say, as the noble Earl asserted in his speech, that it is not the intention of the Admiralty to reduce the number of scientists in their employment. I am informed that it is not accurate to say that nothing has been done for naval aviators since last September. Arrangements have been made for officers on sub-lieutenant courses to learn to fly in their spare time without cost, and this scheme is now in operation. In future all aviation officers holding permanent commissions are to have at least one year at sea on a general service appointment, following a maximum of eight years' flying. It may not be possible in every case for various reasons, but since the Fleet Order was issued in October, sixty officers have been given the advantage of that scheme. I hope that deals with the noble Lord's naval points.
I was delighted to hear his commendation of the state of the Territorial Army, and listened with interest to his remarks about the Home Guard, as did my noble and gallant friend, Lord Alexander of 379 Tunis. Together with my noble friend Lord Bridgeman and several other noble Lords in this House, when in Opposition I pressed very hard for a Home Guard to be formed, because we thought it right to do so before an emergency and not when an emergency arose. Therefore we follow with great interest and attention the progress of the Home Guard. I know that my noble friend Lord Alexander of Tunis is extremely anxious that the Home Guard should be given a good send off, and he intends to do everything in his power, as does my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War, to see that they have all the facilities available for training and equipment.
Both the noble Lords, Lord Pakenham and Lord Balfour of Inchrye, talked about the general problem of the aircraft industry and aviation. I listened with great attention to Lord Pakenham's suggestion, which I will certainly consider and I am sure my noble friend Lord Alexander of Tunis will consider it as well, although I am a little doubtful whether a Cabinet Committee is the answer. But the problem is certainly there. The co-ordination of policies and of demands between the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, the Air Ministry and the Royal Navy, as the three principal users of aircraft, is clearly of great importance. I should not like the House to believe that there is no coordination at present: of course there is. But I do not assert that this co-ordination is perfect and cannot be improved. I entirely agree with the sentiments expressed by both noble Lords regarding the importance to our economy in general and to our defence in particular of a well-developed, integrated and broadly-based aircraft industry; and so far as it lies within my responsibility I intend to see that no narrow view is taken in the Air Ministry of the claims which they make on the industry. I am happy to find in the Air Staff and on the civilian side that there is a deep realisation of the need for a broadly-based aircraft industry and of the fact that to depend on an aircraft industry devoted solely to the manufacture of military types would be of the greatest disadvantage to the Service in the long run.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Wilson, who was kind enough to apologise 380 for not being able to stay, was rightly anxious about conditions of service in the Regular Army, and emphasised the importance for the recruiting of Regulars of a career in the Service and of some assurance of employment at the end of service. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War is keenly aware of the need for increasing the Regular content of the Army, as I am in my own Service. Of course, no Army broadly based on National Service can be effective unless it has a considerable cadre of men who devote their lives to the Service which they have joined. I repeat what I said about the twenty-two years' service giving a man a life's career in the Forces. What has been said about other ranks applies equally to officers. Provision has been made to give an officer the prospect of a long career, although he may not reach the summit or go beyond the rank of major. I think I can say with assurance that, with the present size of the Army and with the spread of the promotion pyramid, it is reasonably assured that an officer who displays merit, even though not exceptional merit, can continue up to the age of fifty or fifty-five years.
On the question of resettlement, to which the noble and gallant Lord rightly attached great importance, much has been done, and the National Council on the Relations between Employment in Service and Civilian Life have made much progress in this field. Special arrangements have been entered into with a number of important industries and services to reserve a portion of their vacancies for ex-Regulars, and discussions are proceeding with others. I think that is encouraging. Both employers and trade unions have continued to co-operate in recognising Service skills for civilian employment, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, and many of his friends have done much to help in this field. The question of the Regular officer is admittedly one of greater difficulty, but earnest attempts are being made to tackle it, not without success, particularly by calling the attention of potential employers to the valuable qualities of organisation and leadership of officers who have made their career in the Services.
The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, asked me to report progress about man-power, housing and machine 381 tools. I think perhaps he is a little impatient, because I made an inordinately long speech the other day in which I tried to explain what was being done in these fields. Progress between then and now is scarcely measurable, but I do not suggest that it has not taken place. I can say a little more about housing than I did the other day. Houses will normally be provided by local authorities under arrangements made between the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the local authorities concerned. I think that the normal method of co-operation will generally meet the needs, but where the need for houses is extremely great, use will be made of national contractors who can employ labour drawn from outside the area in which the houses are to be built. Then, of course, greater use will be made of modern methods of construction. Steps have been taken to approve types of houses requiring smaller amounts of steel.
So far as man-power is concerned, both the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, and the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, in the debate the other day asked if more information could be provided about the statistics of man-power in the aircraft industry. I have looked into the matter and find that, in fact, figures are published in the Ministry of Labour Gazette and the Monthly Digest of Statistics. I cannot pretend that I am a profound student of that immortal work, but I believe that those who have the courage and tenacity to delve into that remarkable volume will find that this information is provided. If it does not meet with the wishes of my noble friends, I shall certainly be willing to consult with them to see whether any further statistics which throw more illumination on the problem can be provided—although I make no promises in that respect.
The noble Lord, Lord Winster—who again has courteously apologised for not remaining here—raised, among other important topics, the question of guided missiles. I offer myself as a sacrifice to the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, in this respect. This is a matter in which I feel sure we shall all agree that a great deal of security is needed. They have been accorded super priority pari passu with certain types of aircraft, the Centurion tank, and so on. In proceeding with the research and 382 development of guided weapons the Ministry of Supply are certainly restricted in the field where they can place the work. The factories which have the necessary design staff, the necessary skilled electrical draftsmen and others, the skilled metallurgists and all the design and production teams necessary for this very complicated weapon, are limited. I feel that it would be misleading to the noble Lord, Lord Winster, if I told him that it would be possible in present circumstances for someone starting, as it were, from scratch to have much hope of being able to collect all the necessary ingredients for a design team, for the research equipment, for the factory space, and so on, which would make a really adequate contribution to this very important field of defence.
The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in the remarks which he addressed to these Benches, which were, on the whole, of a friendly and courteous character, rather implied that we were not telling the nation all that we might. That, of course, is a feeling common to all Oppositions; I had the same feeling when I sat on the Benches opposite. In fairness, I would refer the noble Lord to the Press reports of the speech made by my right honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air, and the reports in the Press of the speech which I had the honour to address to this House the other day. I think it not unfair to say that, although the facts which were presented to the House and to the public were not all of the most palatable character, the general comment was that they were an improvement on the facts previously given, and that they did not lack candour or courage in facing anything unpleasant in that aspect of our defences. I think it fair to both my right honourable friends, the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty, to say that they have treated the public in a similar way. I feel very strongly that the public should be kept as well informed as security will allow. But we must all be on our guard that we do not confuse censorship and security; and we must not forget the effect on public morale and morale in the Services.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, that it will be difficult to keep the public interest focused on this important matter, more especially if 383 there is any sign of a detente or what I might call a false dawn. I still remain convinced that the threat is very grave, and that if our position has improved relatively, it is due, as Mr. Gaitskell said (I quoted from his speech the other day), to the fact that we have made great efforts to rearm. Therefore, we have this twin difficulty: if we are successful in our efforts, as I believe we shall be, and if a relaxation becomes apparent, we shall have to meet the criticism that we are rearming too much. But in the state of the world as it is today, I am certain that we are not yet in the position where we can afford to relax the efforts we are making. Although we must adopt an adaptable and flexible attitude to the details of the plan, and must not overload our economy or forget the economic consequences of doing so, we must continue to call upon the people of this country to bear their share of this burden. Let us differ in matters of Party politics, but do not let us differ for narrow ends. For, in my view, civilisation itself hangs upon our wisdom, our endurance and courage. Our nation has always proved itself equal to the hour in the past, and I am certain that it will do so in the future.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, we have had an interesting debate, and I am sure that the noble Earl the Minister of Defence must be well satisfied with the reception accorded to his first speech in his new position. I feel that he has been very courteous to the House in his general answer, although I hope that the people at his disposal will not always confine his answers on such matters as helicopters to about ten words. I did not consider that reply at all adequate, although I think it was largely due to his staff, and not to the noble Earl. I agree with the spirit of what was said by the noble Lord who has just sat down. What is vital, however, is the point that I tried to make in introducing the Motion—namely, that if we are thinking along the lines of General Eisenhower's report, what we have to avoid is any idea that we should rearm to the extent of bankruptcy. With the free nations concerned with us, we must begin to think ahead and decide what will be the point at which, 384 economically, we should stabilise our forces. Beyond that point we should not carry our rearmament programme. I think that is fundamental to the situation. I have had my cut and thrust with the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye—I do not want to repeat it, although I am always ready for it—but on the main issues of the debate I believe that there is a great deal of united feeling. I thank the Minister of Defence and the noble Lord who has just sat down for the replies that they have made, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.