§ 2.36 p.m.
§ Debate resumed (according to Order), on the Motion moved yesterday by Earl Alexander of Tunis, That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1953 (Cmd. 8768).
My Lords, if I may be permitted to continue this most interesting and important debate which was opened with such a felicitous and, if I may say so, brilliant speech by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis, I would first of all remark on the extraordinary onslaught on the accepted strategy of defence, particularly on the oceans, which was made by the two Air Marshals, the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder, yesterday. They did not actually say so, but their arguments all led up to the thesis which I confess to flirting with a little myself in my younger days, when I had not so much sense as I have now—that we should rely for our whole defence and our whole striking force on air power; that we could, in effect, practically abolish the 822 Navy, except for a few coastguard cutters and that sort of thing and—this will interest the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, who I believe is intervening in the debate later—abolish the Army as well, and rely entirely on various forms of aircraft. I venture to say that that policy would be suicidal as things are now for a nation situated as we are, with our immense overseas responsibility and our complete dependence on sea borne trade for our food and raw materials and for carrying on the commerce without which our economy would collapse.
I have never been able to understand how an air force can possibly take the place of the Navy in, for example, carrying Out control of commerce and imposing blockade, unless they are going to rely on frightfulness, and say that a certain area shall be prohibited and that they are going to bomb and destroy everything in that area, as the Germans did, to the disgust of the whole civilised world, in the two great wars. I do not see how they are going to carry on the recognised and legitimate method of visit and search and holding up the trade of the enemy while not interfering with the trade of the neutrals. If you try to use aircraft indiscriminately as a blockade weapon then you must be prepared to fight the whole world, because, sooner or later, you are bound to be involved with the neutrals, as happened in the case of the Germans when they became involved with the United States in the First World War. Nor do I see how aircraft can carry out control of the sea routes at night—I do not see how even helicopters could do that. So I cannot understand how the control of commerce can be undertaken by air force alone unless we are going to embark upon an immense expenditure on large flying boats. In that case, we might just as well stick to the well-tried ships, which after all, can carry aeroplanes as well.
As for the onslaught which was made on the aircraft carriers, which the two principal navies in the world, those of Great Britain and the United. States, rather specialise in, I do not see how you can create air cover for your convoys unless you have carriers. I think it would be very much of a gamble to rely entirely on land-based aircraft when we remember how vulnerable aerodromes are. Those are a few technical arguments which I venture to pose against the vast authority 823 and experience of the two Air Marshals in their own particular sphere. And I maintain that all the lessons of history, including most recent history, show that there is no substitute for sea power, and that you have to control the sea routes by ships—aided, of course, by the aeroplane wherever you can use it; with that I most certainly agree. And, in our position, we must do that if we are to survive.
One of the complaints which I am going to voice—and I believe I am speaking for a number of my colleagues in this matter; particularly, I believe, I have the support of my own noble and learned Leader in it—is that we are unbalanced in our expenditure. I suggest that we are spending too much on the Army. We have an Army which is, perhaps, necessary in the present state of affairs, but which we cannot maintain indefinitely. I do not say that we are spending too much on the Air Force—not at all. But I am quite certain that as things are we are spending too little on the Navy. I regret very much the cuts both in expenditure and manpower which will take effect by April next year. When the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis, accepted the great office of Minister of Defence, I congratulated your Lordships and the Government on the accession of so brilliant a soldier and so experienced a statesman. But I said I thought it was a mistake to have a soldier as Minister of Defence, and I said that without any reflection of any kind on the noble and gallant Earl. I am sorry to say that I have found myself justified.
Our naval strength is insufficient for our purposes. We are making the old mistake of preparing for the next war, if it should come, in the way we should have prepared for the last. We are also making the mistake of concentrating too much on one potential enemy. We can see that in the obsession, if I may put it that way, on the so-called Russian danger. I do not minimise that danger, but it is an obsession when it becomes a fixed idea. We see an example of that in the fact that because the Russians, as least during all my professional life, have had a great reputation as minelayers, we in this country are now concentrating on minesweepers. We have a vast fleet of minesweepers, but we are woefully short 824 of cruisers—I shall come to that matter in a moment. We cannot be satisfied with a Navy suitable only for the sort of war that is filling the minds of nearly everyone in the Pentagon on the other side of the Atlantic, and on both sides of Whitehall here. We need an ocean navy, which takes a long time to build up, but which is capable of meeting any emergency or danger that may arise.
One thing I have learned in my life is that we cannot foretell who will be our possible enemy and who will be our future friend. The first time I mobilised was against France. We cleared for action because France was an ally of Russia and Russia was at war with Japan. As a result of the unfortunate business of the Baltic Fleet firing, on the British fishing fleet on the Dogger Bank, we nearly went to war with Russia, and so with France. The next time I prepared for action was when the Austrians, as the noble and gallant Earl will remember, seized Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Turks, which was one of the train of events that led to the First World War. The third time I prepared for action, and when the guns did go off, was against Germany in the First World War. In both world wars Russia was our Ally and in both wars she saved the situation for us. By their premature offensive in East Prussia our Russian Allies saved Paris in the First World War and saved the whole of the Alliance—that is admitted. And in the Second World War, by drawing off a large part of the German Army, she gave us the necessary breathing space and gave the Americans time to prepare and so saved the whole of the Allied cause. Now the whole argument is that Russia is the only enemy; that we must be prepared for war with Russia. I say that that may lead to an unbalance, a dispersion, of our Armed Forces which may be dangerous. After all, let us be realists.
A good deal has happened since March 25, the date for which this debate was first fixed. The noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis, and my noble friends Lord Alexander of Hillsborough and Lord Henderson all referred to the change which has taken place in the international situation. We have all seen how quickly the international situation can change. Our enemy of to-morrow becomes our friend of to-day. Germany is the "blue-eyed boy" at the present time, although we fought Germany in two 825 of the greatest wars in history. I understand that in the United States of America, Germany is looked on as the most important potential ally. No one can tell how the Germans will react in the future, and what the policy of a United Germany will be, or what her alliances will be. Who can tell what Japan will do, if Japan is rearmed and recovers her economic strength? Who can tell what will be the future policy of China, potentially the greatest Power in the world in population and resources? Who can tell, indeed, what will be the future of the United Nations? We on these Benches, as a fixed article of policy, believe in supporting and strengthening the United Nations and we look upon it as one of the great bulwarks of peace. But it may not last.
What I am trying to suggest to your Lordships, and I believe that I shall have your assent, is that the one thing we may be sure about is that the international situation can change very quickly. The whole climate can change. But the building up of forces for the control of the oceans of the world is a slow process. The Army can be built up fairly quickly, as we have seen; the Air Force takes a little longer; but to build up the Navy is the longest process of all. The degree of technical training required, and the adequate provision of material, take a long time, and unless our naval foundations are well laid and maintained we may find ourselves in very serious trouble. That is why I regret that cuts have taken place in the Navy, and why I regret that of this vast expenditure on armaments the Air Force has taken £498 million and the Army, £526 million—I do not grudge it to them—and the Navy only £329 million. And this at a time when in commissioned ships the Royal Navy has sunk to third place in the world. I am not a tall comfortable about that. It is not a question of pride, but of hard facts. I do not believe that at present we have the naval force available to meet all our commitments.
Take, for example, the cruiser position. We have only eleven cruisers in commission, of which I believe at one time or another seven have been employed in the Korean campaign, leaving four for the rest of the world. The cruiser is a self-contained unit which can be sent anywhere; it has considerable force of itself, and is absolutely invaluable. In every 826 war in which we have been engaged, from the War of the Spanish Succession, through the Napoleonic Wars to the First World War and the Second World War we have always been short of cruisers. Nelson complained of the lack of frigates, and our Admirals in the First and Second World Wars complained of the lack of cruisers. We were nearly defeated in consequence of this lack, because of the threatened interruption of our trade routes and food supplies. I see that work on the three cruisers that we were building has been suspended. One reason I am told—I do not know whether it is true, and I do not press for an answer from the noble and gallant Lord who is to reply to-day—is that there is still indecision about what sort of weapons they should be armed with: whether we can yet rely on guided missiles, or whether they must be armed with conventional weapons. But I feel it is a great mistake that they are not being proceeded with. We shall surely have enough suitable armaments for them, and they are badly needed at present. I do not want to be accused of being oblivious to the tremendous importance of the air arm. In this connection, I air sorry that Coastal Command has not received a greater share of the necessary expenditure and material. Coastal Command is a valuable adjunct of the Navy and should be strengthened without delay.
I should like to refer to the method of recruiting men for this vast Army that we have scattered about the world, which is a matter that has already been referred to by several noble Lords, and particularly those on this side of the House. I do not want to impinge on the debate on Foreign Affairs which I understand my noble friend Lord Henderson will initiate a little later in the Session, but I hope that it will be possible to get some settlement soon enabling us to withdraw our troops from Trieste, Austria and, indeed, from Germany, too. We have these armies of occupation, and although these young men are very fine soldiers, all history shows that the duties of an army of occupation are not good for the Army. It is difficult to keep the men properly employed, and I believe I am right in saying that, from a training point of view, an army of occupation is not a good thing at all. If we could get these armies out, so much the better. 827 I hope, also, that there will be a settlement soon with Egypt, which will enable us to reduce in numbers the 80,000 men in the Canal Zone. That is not a good place to keep a great army like that.
With these armies scattered about all over the world, we are losing tremendously all the time in the pipeline. With short service, and the need for continually replacing men, a great deal of time is spent in trooping, and great expense is incurred which does no good whatever. It is not good, either, for soldiers to take long sea trips. I hope that, with better recruiting and long-service engagements increasing in the Army, I am speaking to the converted in the person of the Minister of Defence when I repeat that our ideal Army should be a long-term body, much smaller in numbers but consisting of highly-trained, professional men; the sort of Army we had before the First World War; an Army that could go anywhere at any time, and which was armed with the latest weapons, in the use of which the men were thoroughly trained. That is the sort of Army which I believe will be required in the future, containing the long-term, professional soldier, who, incidentally, could be used with far less detriment in an army of occupation. If any of the distinguished military men in your Lordships' House are going to support me in resisting the blandishments of Lord Trenchard and Lord Tedder, I hope they will ask those two noble and gallant Lords how they propose that an Air Force should occupy territory that is required to be occupied.
I hope we are thinking a little ahead here, and looking to the day when we can abolish conscription and get enough recruits for the sort of voluntary Army which we have always found most suitable in the past; and that we shall be able to avoid this often fatal two years in the careers of young men which in many cases is doing so much harm to the youth of the country. I would add one rider to that. Is it impossible to take Army recruits for their two years' National Service training at a slightly older age, as is done in the case of university students? Many employers of labour would much prefer that. They say that the present early entry into compulsory service for two years is most unsettling to the young men. 828 They are not properly formed in their minds and in their habits when they go into the Army, and often they come out bone-lazy and difficult to train; whereas if they could go in at, say, twenty-two or twenty-three years of age, they would have learned a trade and, I should have thought, would be more useful in the Army itself, where there is always a need for skilled mechanics and men with that sort of skill. If that were done, the two years' compulsory service would not do these young men so much harm and would not so seriously interrupt their training in their professional or industrial career.
My Lords, some of my observations may have appeared to be critical. I do not differ from those noble Lords who have supported the need for this heavy expenditure on armaments with which we are faced. We know the cause of it. Let us hope that times will be better in the near future. I have made my plea, and my criticism of what I think is a mistake in the balance of our expenditure, which is affecting the Navy adversely in a way that may be most embarrassing for us in the future.
§ 2.58 p.m.
§ LORD JEFFREYS
My Lords, I have no intention of discussing in detail any matters concerning the Army, in particular, or either of the other two Services, but I will endeavour to speak on the Motion of my noble and gallant friend the Minister of Defence, which is that this House approves the Statement on Defence. That document deals with the requirements in manpower, equipment, armament and materials of the three armed Services, which three Services, I submit, are, in fact, one Service of the Crown, each with its own individuality and characteristics but none the less united as branches of the national defence organisation. Each is essential to the defence of the country, and each is essential to the other two Services; but each has its limitations. The great Lord Salisbury, if I may so venture to describe the grandfather of the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House, once said:The Navy cannot climb mountains.That expressed a great deal; they cannot climb mountains. Similarly, the Air Force can be the eyes of the other two forces; it can destroy; it can terrify; but 829 it cannot occupy or, still less, pacify. It cannot, for instance, deal with a situation such as prevails at present in Malaya. The Army cannot ford the Channel nor can it rise in the air to see for itself. Those are its limitations. And I would say that one of the duties of the Minister of Defence is to see that there is a proper balance between the three Services. Possibly the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, would agree with me at any rate that far.
His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, speaking the other day at Plymouth, said:The enemy can only be defeated by action at sea, on land and in the air.He went on to say:The only effective action is the concerted action of the total defences of this country.That sums up in very few words what the functions of the three Services are, or ought to be, Now this unity of the three Services was recognised by the creation of the Ministry of Defence, and I am certain that there will be general agreement that no one could be more appropriate to put forward this Statement than my noble and gallant friend, the Minister of Defence. Speaking yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Winster, said that it was very undesirable that Service officers should be appointed as Minister of Defence. I would say that we want the best available man for the job, and if he belongs to one of the Services and is still the best available man, there can be no objection to his appointment. I am sure we have the best available man in my noble and gallant friend, and there is certainly no man who is more trusted by, I believe, all three Services than my noble and gallant friend.
Even in these times some people forget or will not see that armed strength is necessary for us—necessary to support our national policy and to protect our national interests. No Power, great or small—and I would say particularly at this time certainly no Eastern Power—respects weakness Therefore, whatever else we are, we cannot afford to be weak in policy or in arms, and we must not only be strong but we must be prepared. There is no sounder proverb then the old Roman proverb, which says:If you want peace, be prepared for war.For if we are not strong and not prepared, we shall be taken advantage of, for absolute certainty. There was recently a 830 letter in a popular newspaper criticising some statements of that newspaper in praise of the morale, the skill and the gallantry of our Forces. The letter said, in effect: "All these things are of no account. Modern weapons, modern machines and modern explosives are all that matter." It is still the man behind the gun, or the man behind the machine, or the man behind the bomb or whatever it may be, who wins the battle, and the morale of the nation, as well as its force in particular, is a matter of the utmost importance which should never be lost sight of and which should be continually maintained and encouraged.
We must not only be prepared for war, but prepared for successful war, which is not always the same thing. A leading British soldier of the First World War, Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, used to say that there are two kinds of war: successful war and unsuccessful war. He said, "If you instruct me, I can prepare for either form of war. The first is terribly costly in treasure and in life, and the second must mean for the losing Power utter ruin." That put the case fairly plainly, and I think all noble Lords—certainly all who have any experience of war—will agree with that summing-up. It is certain that our efforts to be prepared for all eventualities, whether of the cold war or of actual war, must be continued. Those efforts were initiated by the late Government; they are being continued by the present Government: and by whatever Government they are carried out, they must cost, unfortunately, immense sums of money. The estimate for 1953–54, as shown in the White Paper, is no less than £1,636 million.
In this connection, I was glad to hear the tribute paid yesterday by the noble and gallant Earl, the Minister of Defence, to the way in which industry has worked on production during this year. Also in this connection, I am glad to hear that hitherto there has been no looking back on the part of industry anywhere. Production is at all times not only an expensive but, most unfortunately, a very lengthy business. That is one of the troubles with which we have to contend. It is all very well for a Minister to say that it is the policy to provide certain new and up-to-date armaments, new and up-to-date machinery, and so forth, but it 831 is quite another matter to get those armaments and that machinery into being and functioning. As the White Paper says in paragraph 4:… it is specially important to get the fullest possible value for our money….If this full value for money is secured, although the total expenditure will be at a level unknown before in peacetime, I feel certain that the nation will willingly shoulder the burden and will not grudge the cost.
It was undoubtedly a wise decision, made with the object of maintaining the strength of the economy, to spread rearmament over a longer period than was at first envisaged, by keeping the expenditure on a lower scale each year. Yet, in spite of the decision, a further very large contribution must be made and will be made in 1953–54 towards the modernisation, the re-equipment and the expansion of the Services and, in the words of my noble friend, the most effective use of our available resources. The summary of Estimates for 1953–54 shows that the Navy is to cost £364 million, the Army £581 million and the Air Force £548 million. That does not meet with the approval of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. If these Estimates had been put forward independently by the Ministries, I think there would have been many queries as to why the Navy is to get less than the other two, and why the Army is to cost the most of the three Services. But I feel sure that my noble friend has considered this matter from every point of view, and he has explained the special heavy burdens which are now falling on the Army, such as, for instance, Malaya, Korea and the present situation in the Suez Canal area and the Middle East. I am sure that what he recomments is a correct apportionment of the cost.
As regards manpower, I welcome the statement in paragraph 18 that the maintenance of efficient forces depends upon there being adequate numbers of Regulars serving a long-term engagement; for, as was said by my noble and gallant friend, Lord Bridgeman, from Regulars come commanders. leaders, instructors and the framework of our Forces. But if there are to be adequate numbers of Regulars the conditions of service must be good, and about this I shall have 832 something more to say a little later on. I am glad that it is recognised that two years' whole-time service must continue. Here again, I am afraid that I differ from the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. So long as we have forces abroad, one of the difficulties is that these National Service men have to be brought backwards and forwards. That takes a very long time. Moreover, in these days they have very considerable intricacies in training with which to contend, and two years is none too long to produce efficient airmen, soldiers or seamen. Necessary also is the decision to extend the terms of whole and part-time service for a further period of five years' liability to recall in emergency. It is absurd that a young man called up at eighteen years of age should be exempt at the age of twenty-three from further liability to recall in an emergency. It is right, too, in view of this decision, that the annual call-up of Class Z Reservists, who have done good service in their time, should now be discontinued.
As regards weapons, material and equipment, it is good to hear from my noble friend that the Centurion tank is now back in production in large quantities, and that for the Royal Air Force jet aircraft are also being produced. At the same time it is a matter for anxiety to be told again by my noble and gallant friend that the existing radar equipment has not, so to speak, kept up with the modern supersonic jet aircraft. I have no doubt that the steps which he told us he is taking will be effective, and that in due course radar will resume its former importance in our system.
With reference to paragraph 31 of the White Paper, it is, of course, important that as many National Service reservists as possible should undertake voluntary engagements with the Reserve or Auxiliary forces; but I would suggest that for these forces, which originally were entirely voluntary forces, some voluntary enlistments in lieu of the normal call-up might again be allowed. Those of us who have sat in the other place have had pressure put upon us to urge the exemption or deferment of certain classes from the normal call-up—for instance, such people as university students, apprentices, learners of various trades and others with special reasons. I suggest that a limited number of such 833 young men who have a definite minimum educational standard—I regard that as important—might be allowed to enlist in, for instance, the Territorial Army or Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserves for three months' elementary training, which might he a camp in the summer, followed by not less than four years and nine months part-time service under Territorial Army conditions, but with a considerably higher liability for drills and training than has hitherto been exacted from the Territorial Army. I suggest that the possibility of such a system might at any rate be carefully inquired into, for I believe that it might produce an appreciable number of desirable volunteers.
Then there is the question of what my noble friend's predecessor called the "non-fighting" element in the Services. I know that the present Secretary of State for War is keen on reducing the "tail" of the Army, and that he has, in fact, made considerable reductions in Staffs, services and departments and in semi-combatant or non-combatant corps which do not contribute to the actual fighting strength of the Army. I understand that similar reductions have been made in the other two Services, but I wonder whether further reductions could not be made. If the Geddes Axe were once more wielded, I believe that a good many superfluities could be eliminated, a good many economies made, and a good many additions made to the fighting strength of the Services.
There is one more suggestion that I would make. It is that at stations where there are mixed forces, perhaps of all three Services, there should be joint establishments. This is a matter upon which the noble Earl, Lord Lucan spoke. There should be joint establishments, such as, for instance, joint hospitals, joint supply services, and, possibly, joint transport services. I know that joint hospitals and joint supply services have been tried; I have had some experience of them myself in the Army—for instance, joint hospitals at naval ports where there is also a garrison; and joint supply services at certain stations where there are both troops and airmen. I know that various objections have been made, chiefly by medical officers, to the pooling of the medical officer system. But in these days, 834 when all three Services are largely dependent on young National Service medical officers, I think a system under which there could be some pooling and spreading of senior medical officers might be for the benefit of all. I am not suggesting that there should be joint services on board ships at sea, or for mobile branches of the Army or Air Force, but it is essential to have medical officers for the Forces in garrisons and for other stationary troops, and I do not see why something of this kind should not be done. I think it would save a great deal of money. After all, the qualifications of medical officers are the same everywhere.
We have heard a great deal about the atomic bomb. I am not going to attempt, in my ignorance, to say much about the atomic bomb, but a great many people in this country have the idea—and this is very evident when one is dealing with such matters as Civil Defence—that it is useless trying to do anything against the atomic bomb and that we had better give up the ghost. There is no doubt that proper precautions are effective, and that the damage caused by the atomic bomb can at least be modified. There are many steps which can be taken to make it less dangerous and less annihilating than it might otherwise be. But I hope we shall remember that the best form of dealing with the atomic bomb is attack on our own part against the launching stations and on the air forces which might convey the bomb.
Lastly, I would say that the conditions of service require constant attention, and they must be made sufficiently attractive if the requisite numbers of Regulars are to be attracted and retained. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and I dare say many other noble Lords, will agree with me that it is desirable to have in this country a large, effective, long-service Regular Army. If you are going to get Regular soldiers, whether for the present Army or for any other Army, you have to make the conditions sufficiently attractive for them. At present, a high proportion of the Services is serving abroad, and separation from wives and families is the rule rather than the exception. Housing conditions are mostly poor and moves are frequent. Few married officers, or warrant officers or non-commissioned officers, know what it is to have a settled home for any length of time; and, consequently, many are leaving the Service. 835 I have heard of individual cases of young, or comparatively young, and very efficient officers who, after being separated for years from their families, say that the minute they get away from Korea or Malaya, or wherever it is, they will leave the Service, although their prospects in it are good. They cannot tolerate being separated for years and years from their wives and families.
Those are some of the objections. Pay has been improved, but has barely kept pace with the fall in the value of money and the rise in the cost of living. Moreover, whilst long overdue improvements have been made in pensions for widows and children of officers and long-service other ranks, nothing has been done to give reasonable treatment to those officers who retired under the terms of the Royal Warrant and corresponding instruments of 1919—that is, practically all the officers of all three Services between the two wars. The retired pay of those officers was stabilised at 9½ per cent. below the rates of 1919, in spite of the provision in the Warrant that it should rise and fall according to the rise and fall in the cost of living. We know how the cost of living has risen since then. This unfair treatment is bitterly resented by those affected, and it acts as a very strong deterrent to their sons' and dependents' entering the Services as Regulars. Whilst I am much encouraged by the undertaking, given in a previous debate in this House by my noble and gallant friend the Minister, that the matter will be constantly kept in mind, I am disappointed to see that, whilst other concessions have been made, no concession was made for these men in the Budget which has recently been put before another place. None the less, I am perfectly certain that my noble and gallant friend means what he says. I feel confident that in the end, at long last, justice will be done for these officers.
As regards production, research and development, all I would say is that the complexity and technicality of modern arms and equipment make rearmament and re-equipment, whether of sea, land or air forces, not only a very expensive but a terribly lengthy business—I am sure your Lordships realise this. I wish I could feel that the country, too, realises it. I hope that ere long a new rifle will be made available, but in this, as in other 836 matters of armament, I hope that the advantages of standardisation of arms, equipment and ammunition used by the various forces of different nations acting in common will be borne in mind. It is not always easy to arrange—I know that well—but perhaps it might be a little less difficult at this time when quite a few nations in N.A.T.O. are practically starting from scratch.
I was glad to note from paragraph 76 that the defence policy of the United Kingdom is based on the closest possible co-operation with its partners, both in the Commonwealth and in N.A.T.O. This is important, and its importance was emphasised by the speech of my noble and gallant friend Lord Freyberg yesterday. I should like to congratulate the noble Lord upon that speech, and I hope that we shall hear him very often again, but I am certain that, if his speech brought out one lesson more than another, it was the necessity for the closest understanding between the different parts, and not only between the forces of the different parts of the British Empire but between the Governments of the respective countries.
I trust that definite plans exist now for Empire—I do not apologise for using that term; I infinitely prefer it to the term "Commonwealth"—co-operation, especially in the Far East. I hope, too, that definite agreements have been or will be come to with the Commonwealth countries concerned as to the forces and equipment which they will provide. Definite agreements are necessary, not merely airy phrases of how desirable it is that we should work together, but definite agreements for working together in certain circumstances. Here, too, I would say that organisation and preparedness are essential. Improvisation has been in many ways the curse of this country: we have a genius for improvisation, but improvisation can never take the place of real preparation, and last-minute preparations are not good enough. It is good to know that the essential experiments and trials with guided weapons are being carried out at Woomera in Central Australia, and I am sure we were glad to hear the statement made by my noble and gallant friend the Minister, that great advances have been made in these experiments and that great things are hoped for from guided weapons.
837 It is also interesting and very satisfactory to know that the atomic tests at Monte Bello were carried out in close co-operation with the Australian Government. Best of all, if I may say so, is the statement in the White Paper about the efficiency and good feeling in the Commonwealth Division in Korea. There is no doubt that that Division has done wonderfully well. I have heard from entirely independent and non-official sources about it, and of the good feeling within the Division, between its various parts. I believe that it is a wonderful preamble, if I may so call it, to a much closet integration of the forces of the Empire in the future.
I would say one word as to the Home Guard and Civil Defence. I am glad to see that both are included in the Statement on Defence, for those are essential parts of our defence organisation, and it is a matter for regret that recruiting in both eases has been somewhat disappointing. In the last war, the Home Guard was raised as an afterthought—that is the only word that one can use—when we were in desperate trouble at about the time of Dunkirk. It was kept separate from the Civil Defence organisation. I would suggest that it ought to be part of the Civil Defence organisation and, if that were the case, the most appropriate men could be assigned to the most appropriate duties in those two forces, and the whole could work as one organisation. It was a mistake not to have preserved the cadre of the war-time Home Guard. If that had been done, it would have been far easier to reconstitute it when the time came. In any case, there must be, and should be, the very closest liaison between the Civil Defence and the Home Guard.
May I interrupt the noble Lord, who is being very interesting, as always? Would he place the Home Guard under Civil Defence—he said he would make them part of it—or would Civil Defence be placed under military command?
§ LORD JEFFREYS
I would say that, for administrative purposes, both should be placed under the Territorial Army associations, which are both local bodies and intimately connected with the War Department. Then I would say that the system under which different Ministries 838 are concerned, together with the Home Office, with Civil Defence—in the last war there were fifteen Ministries concerned with Civil Defence in one form and another—is an unsatisfactory system, resulting in delays, overlapping and, not infrequently, friction.
The Home Office and civil servants-generally have much to learn about Civil Defence, and often have much to learn about local government. They are often too wedded to Civil Service methods. Regional machinery is too slow, too cumbrous, and is often a hindrance rather than a help to Civil Defence. I suggest that regional organisations should act towards local authorities in a spirit of understanding and helpfulness rather than, as certainly was too often the case in the last war, with the idea of scrutinising, querying and delaying anything that is put up to them. In the Fighting Services the function of a staff officer is to assist his own immediate chiefs and to assist also the subordinates of his chief. It would be very well if regional staff officer; for Civil Defence were to act on those lines.
Finally, I agree with both the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander, and also the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder, in hoping that the apparent adoption by Russia of a new attitude will not cause us in any way to relax our precautions, our preparations or our readiness for war. If we are strong and ready, we shall not be attacked; but if we are weak and unready we shall almost certainly have to face trouble. Modern attacks with modern weapons come terribly quickly and we shall have no time for improvisation. I hope and pray that we may never see again what many of us have seen twice—our small Regular Army offered up as a sacrifice whilst the nation is getting ready for war. Should this again occur, we might well be defeated and destroyed before we could mobilise the nation in arms.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ LORD HADEN-GUEST
My Lords, I was interested to listen to the noble Lord who has just spoken, especially so because he raised the question of Civil Defence, to which I intend particularly to address my remarks this afternoon. There was a very elaborate Civil Defence organisation in the last war, and we might well study the way in which it was 839 controlled and organised before we try anything fresh, because it was really well done.
It is rather interesting to notice in this Statement on Defence, which runs into twenty pages, that only part of a page is devoted to Civil Defence. That is not, I think, because the Government do not wish to face the matter, but because they are considering it, no doubt in various ways and through various committees, and are not yet ready to bring forward precise and concrete proposals. I hope, however, that this afternoon the Government will be able to give us some further information on the matter.
Noble Lords will remember that during the last war the Civil Defence organisation made possible the evacuation of large numbers of the population, a very large number of schoolchildren and children below school age, to areas less dangerous than their normal place of residence. Noble Lords will remember what a remarkable piece of organisation the plan of evacuation was, and how well it worked. But since that time weapons used in attack have been revolutionised—we have guided missiles, we have aeroplanes travelling at speed greater than sound, and we have the possibility of atomic attack. Before the last war large numbers of people, including members of the Government, did not consider it necessary to have any evacuation from the towns and cities of this country. I well remember debates in another place when the idea that a Civil Defence organisation and evacuation of the population might be necessary was resisted by the then Government. It was only after the most earnest discussion in the House that a special Committee was set up to consider the question of the need for and the means to be adopted in carrying out evacuation of the towns and cities. Sir John Anderson, now sitting in this House as Lord Waverley, Mr. George Doland, a Conservative Member, Mr. Percy Harris, a well-known Liberal, and myself as one who had raised the matter on a number of occasions in the House of Commons, and representing the Labour Party, were appointed to sit on this Committee.
I think it is well worth while looking back to that time, and considering the conclusions contained in the Report on Evacuation which was presented in 840 another place in July, 1938. The Committee bring the matter to a definite and concrete point. That is why I venture to read an abbreviated summary of the Conclusions which were reached and published in that Report. They were as follows:there were, in fact, found to be adequate transport facilities throughout the country.
- "(1) The whole issue in any future war may well turn on the manner in which the problem of evacuation from densely populated industrial areas is handled.
- (2) Plans of evacuation are no substitute for active and passive defence.
- (3) The necessity for the evacuation of nonessential persons must be faced.
- (4) The country will not be fully prepared for attack … until the necessary organisation has been set up and schemes of evacuation worked out.
- (5) Schemes must be voluntary (except in emergency).
- (6) Plans must be drawn up and carried out to whatever extent is decided by the authorities.
- (7) There appear to be adequate transport facilities, certainly in the London area"—The view of the Committee was that there would be no serious difficulty about feeding, and that was, in fact, found to be the case. The welfare services had to be maintained, and they were maintained, although not always up to the highest possible standard. The dispersal of the remaining population into evacuation areas was found to be absolutely essential. To a very large extent, all children of school age were dealt with, and the Government paid the whole cost of civil evacuation.
- "(8) In areas for reception the organisations should be housed in private dwellings and a scheme of billeting, voluntary as far as possible, should be established in those areas affected.
- (9) Local authorities should make at once a survey of billeting accommodation."
My Lords, I believe the situation is much the same at the present time. I do not think we can visualise a true picture of this country facing a national emergency and the possibility of attack and having itself to engage in warlike operations, without facing the fact that we shall need an elaborate Civil Defence organisation as well as an active defence organisation. With supersonic speed 'planes, guided missiles and atomic bombs, the problem of the dispersal of the population will become for us, as it will for all the nations involved in war, 841 a matter of the first priority. I suggest, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government should consider setting up a 1953 Committee on the problem of Civil Defence. In any future war this will be a much bigger problem than any with which we had to deal in 1938, and it will be one extending over a much larger area. There is already a great mass of information available for study, so that a 1953 Committee on Evacuation and Civil Defence would have ample facts at its disposal. Those facts the people of this country have a right to know. I hope we shall have an assurance from the Government that the knowledge necessary to secure the protection of the people in this matter will be available.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, I do not want to intervene out of place in the debate, but, as a matter of historical accuracy, I am anxious that an impression should not be left on the House that no one had thought anything of this matter before 1938. The fact is that it had been the subject of very detailed plans—I am able to speak only from memory, but I should say at least ten years before that time. We started on these things, I believe, in 1926, in the Committee of Imperial Defence, and the paper plans—not the plans applied in detail but the paper plans—were there before the Committee. I think it was known at the time that such plans existed although they had not been much publicised. I am not underrating the work done in 1938, but I should be sorry for anyone to go away with the impression that nothing was thought about this matter until 1938.
§ LORD HADEN-GUEST
It is true that a great deal of work had been done, but in point of fact there were no definite, concrete, useful plans put forward. Those of us who are concerned in this matter had knowledge of it. I was myself for some time before the war began an instructor in Civil Defence for an area including the London Region. I was one of the twelve instructors in this country. I therefore knew the subject. I can assure the noble Lord that in point of fact no adequate preparations whatsoever were made to deal with these questions.
§ LORD HANKEY
I would distinguish between plans and preparations. The plans were there, but the difficulty was to get any Government to put up money for implementing them. Until you could get some money, you could not get preparations. I know nothing about what is happening behind the scenes, but I am absolutely certain that the planning is adequately advanced now.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ LORD FRASER OF NORTH CAPE
My Lords, I have the greatest respect for the opinions of the two noble and gallant Lords, Marshals of the Air Force, who spoke yesterday, and I should like to pay a special tribute to Lord Tedder, who was our great leader of the Chiefs of Staff latterly, through a very difficult time. But I do wish—and perhaps it is rather a plaintive wish—that the two noble Lords would not make so continuously strong attacks on the requirements of another Service, and I would ask them whether they could not make their minds a little less rigid against argument.
There are three matters that I should like to consider—first, Coastal Command secondly, aircraft carriers and, thirdly, command, all of which were raised in yesterday's debate. In regard to Coastal Command, I must go back a little, because in 1936 I was the captain of an aircraft carrier. In those days we had on board both "Light Blues" and "Dark Blues"—half and half. The "Light Blues," as usual, were splendid fellows. I think that, on the whole, the "Light Blues" were probably better fliers than the Navy boys. But when it came to operations over the sea the Navy won every time. And it demonstrated, even in those days, how essential it is to have training in work over the sea and training for Army requirements. Sometimes it seems to me that the Air Force rather think that that comes as a matter of course. But I can assure your Lordships, from our experience in the last war, that when we had to take on shore targets we found ourselves very much adrift in Photograph analysis, interpretation of dummy targets, and all those things which go with attacking a new sort of target. So I hope that that aspect will not be neglected. Co-operation was superb, but it was clear it could 843 not go on, because we were under dual control: we served two masters. Sometimes it is bad enough to serve one master, but two masters are too many.
So, in 1938, we had that Committee which, your Lordships may remember, returned their shore-based aircraft to the Air Force and the remainder to the Royal Navy. Of course the Navy was deeply disappointed, and it led to great bitterness of feeling between our two Services—a bitterness which, fortunately, the war completely eradicated. It has completely gone now. But, when the war started, the operations of Coastal Command were not successful, and, very wisely and generously, after about a year of the war, the Air Ministry decided to put Coastal Command under the operational control of the Admiralty. For the remainder of the war the co-operation was superb; I think we could not have had better working and understanding than in those last years. I have an idea—though I may be wrong—that it was Coastal Command which suggested the occupation of the Azores, in order to increase control over the seas.
I am not claiming that the Admiralty could control Coastal Command any better than the Air Ministry. It was just that it resulted during the war in close co-operation. We had the A.O.C.C.C. coming in every day to the Admiralty—it was Sir John Slessor then, I think—to see how matters were going. In recent months there has been some talk that the Navy should take over Coastal Command, but when the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, attacks us on carriers, he must remember that he has a "Cinderella" in his own Service—namely, Coastal Command. In my view when we have a system which worked perfectly in all the last stages of the war then we should not change it now. I should be very strongly against the Navy starting an argument with the idea of taking back Coastal Command. I am sure that is wrong; and it would just start all the old bitterness over again.
With regard to my second point as to carriers, I would ask the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, this question: If you take over responsibility for the air cover for the Navy and convoys, would you abolish aircraft carriers?
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
If we are going into this question now, I will say this. I recommended yesterday that the large aircraft carriers should not be built. I suggested that they would not be usable, any more than we could use battleships in an area which could be hit by land-based aircraft. I still hold that opinion.
§ LORD FRASER OF NORTH CAPE
My Lords, the noble Viscount has not quite answered my question. I asked whether he proposed to abolish all aircraft carriers. He did not reply to that, but I assume from what he says that he would like to have small aircraft carriers. The noble Viscount said yesterday that aircraft operating from carriers cannot be quite up to the mark of shore-based aircraft. I agree with that in certain ways, but small aircraft carriers would make the position ten times worse, because the small carrier has an unsteady platform; it cannot operate in a seaway; its runway is smaller; it does not give the height to stow aircraft, and it has less protection. So that the noble Viscount is just accentuating the insecurity of the naval aircraft.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
The noble and gallant Lord asked me a question, and I would ask him one in return. Where is the enemy which carrier-based aircraft are to fight coming from?
§ LORD FRASER OF NORTH CAPE
Now, having settled the basis of the carrier, I should like to give an example of how useful we found the carrier to be. When I was Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, at the end of 1942 and the beginning of 1943, when we were getting great opposition by air and submarine to our Russian convoys—your Lordships may rememberP.Q.18, with its great 845 losses through air attack—we had no air cover, and in the summer months we had to stop the convoys. They were resumed towards the darker months, about October, when we had the good fortune to have a spare carrier available, and I sent the carrier with that convoy. The effect was terrific. On the first night that carrier, with its rather old-fashioned aircraft, sank two submarines. Previously, submarines had been attacking the convoy while submerged, then coming to the surface astern, going ahead at fifteen knots and overtaking the convoy for a second attack. And so it went on. As soon as the two submarines were sunk, that finished that manœuvre. That aircraft carrier was invaluable to us. Then there was the "von Tirpitz" in the Alten Fjord. There were only two ways of getting to it. One was by midget submarine and the other by aircraft carrier inshore. We put it out of action for the space of six months each time, but we had to leave the final sinking to the gallant Royal Air Force.
I turn to the Pacific. Here I would say that, whilst the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Tedder and Lord Trenchard, have a great deal more experience than I have, I have a certain amount of geographical width of experience. In the Pacific my post was to accompany the American Fleet from Leyte to land in the Lingayen Gulf for the final occupation of the Philippines. I went with that Fleet, which was escorted by six or eight American carriers. We lost a carrier, but that Fleet, with its convoy and its landing craft, would not have got through without the carriers. They were going up the coast line of the Philippines within thirty miles of the Japanese shore bases. I can see no other means of covering the convoy in that expedition. Then finally, the American carriers sank the last remaining Japanese battleship north of Leyte, because the Japanese did not provide air cover. To my mind, those examples, whoever the enemy is going to be, show that something of that kind is going to happen. One must take one's aerodrome about if there are likely to be sudden attacks. There is not the time to call up aircraft from shore bases, perhaps two or three hours' flying away. The case for the necessity of aircraft carriers has been absolutely proved in the last war. What is more, the two navies of the world who had the greatest experience in the last 846 war, the Americans and ourselves, are unanimous in that requirement.
The third thing about which I should like to say a word is the question of Air Force officer sin command, to which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder, referred. In my opinion a combined operation must have a General in command. The reason for that is not that someone else may not be equally good, but that the Army, surely, have to take the responsibility, if they have landed on the beach, of retreating or advancing front the beach; they have to take all the casualties; they have to take the decisions, on which the other two Services depend, about giving ground or advancing. In my view, in a combined operation the Navy and the Air Force are the servants of the Army. I think there is no question about that. In the R.2 services we have our own command. The Navy has the Commanders-in-Chief, Home Fleet and Western Approaches; the Air Force has Bomber Command, Fighter Command and the command over ground-air defences. These are most important tasks, but in the case of combined operations I in favour of having a General in command.
It is true, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder, said, that we had an Admiral in Northern Command. But that had nothing to do with naval requirements; it was at the request of General Eisenhower. And in fact the Navy were strongly against that appointment. How much we were against it may be seen from a letter that General Eisenhower wrote to me after the appointment. Perhaps I may read the letter. It says:DEAR FRASER;It would scarcely be possible for me to tell you how deeply I appreciate your fine note, to say nothing of the co-operative spirit that brought you to agree to acceptance of command in the North. I know you did not particularly care for that one—but I assure you that you've cemented some firm friendships in Denmark and Norway by taking it on.The letter goes on:
"I have a little present for the British Chiefs of Staff…. Its purpose is merely to remind you that the man means well, even though he's too often a so-and-so and a this-and-that.—Cordially, IRE." That letter was rather nice. I think that is all I have to say. I hope that I have not kept the House too long. I should 847 like to support the Motion which the Minister of Defence has put before the House.
§ 3.59 p.m.
My Lords, I find it difficult to follow the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Fraser, in view of the most interesting speech he has given us, but I hope I shall be able to steer a course between troubled air and water. I should like to refer to a remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. He said it was difficult to occupy the time of our army of occupation. I do not find that to be the case. Commanding officers and other officers have told me that never in their lives have they worked so hard as in Germany. They have never been able to train their troops so well at home. Besides, they have a great number of garrison and other duties to perform.
The questions on which I desired to say a few words were those of manpower and accommodation. A good deal has been said about manpower by several noble Lords, and particularly by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, but there are still one or two points I should like to make. I feel sure we are all agreed about the Regular Army. As has been said, it is essential to have leaders, warrant officers and non-commissioned officers. I read in the Press the other day of a boy who had been made a full sergeant after only six months' training. He must be a remarkable young man to achieve that rank after so short a time. That may be all right here in England, in peace time, but it is a very different thing for so young an N.C.O. and one with so little experience, to be good enough to fill that post abroad, under fighting conditions. When men are tired, hungry and wet through, the job of the N.C.O. is a difficult one, and experienced men are needed for it. There is now the twenty-two years' engagement, with opportunities for it to be broken at periods of three years. There are the short-service engagements in the Royal Air Force and in the Army, with which good results have been achieved. After these short engagements men have been taking on in reasonably good numbers, and that is what we want. Once the men get an interest in the Army, or in one 848 of the other Services, you find they gradually get into it and want to take on altogether.
A good deal has already been said about National Service, but I should like to say a few words on that matter. It has been said, quite rightly, that owing to our present commitments all over the world it is impossible to cut down National Service to less than two years whole-time, and three and a half years part-time. It is essential, also, that the National Service scheme should be extended for another five years, and not year by year. If the latter course were adopted, and it was extended year by year, I feel, as was said in another place, that it would discourage our friends abroad and encourage the others. It would also create uncertainty in the minds of the men to be called up as to how long they were going to be called up for, whether they would be there the whole time, or not, and when they would be called up. Another point in that regard is that it would inevitably cause trouble in the families as well; and, as noble Lords who have had experience of this know, families are difficult people to deal with when it is a question of their boys being called up. Most noble Lords with experience in the Army and in the Services generally will know that officers often get infinitely more trouble from the families of soldiers than from the soldiers themselves.
One good point about the two years' service is that a man is able to give his best service to his country for about nine months—the last nine months of his service. As has been said, in some cases it takes six months, and in other cases nine months, to train a man as a sailor, soldier or airman, and therefore it does not leave much time during which the man can give really good service. If the period is cut down by six months, it means that he takes a long time to reach a satisfactory standard, and no sooner does he reach it than his service is finished. Again, there is the question of junior N.C.O.s. It is possible in the two years to train good young junior N.C.O.s and instructors for training in minor weapons, and other such-like courses. The overheads of these training schools will remain just the same whether the period of call-up is for two years or eighteen months, because the number called up remains the same; but there 849 will not be so many National Service instructors to help out with instruction, and it will mean that more Regulars will have to be called in from the fighting units, which is the one thing that we all desire to avoid.
We have already been told that large quantities of transport aircraft will not be available for some time, and therefore the trooping will have to be done by sea—the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, has already mentioned that. It is an enormous job to take these National Service men out to the Middle East, the Far East and all over the world, and if we cut down the length of time they are abroad it is going to make it even worse; there will be a vast number of men in transit the whole time. Another point is that if we cut down service for the National Service man to eighteen months, it means that the time the men will be able to spend in Korea—a campaign which we hope will not go on for very long—in Malaya, Kenya, or wherever you like, will be considerably reduced and it is bad for any unit, whether actually fighting in those theatres or merely acting as a garrison, to have its personnel continually changed; there is no continuity, and it is not a good thing at all.
My Lords, it is too often thought that National Service is rather like going to prison for two years. I do not think it is. After the men have got over the initial shock of discipline, being orientated and told what to do, many of them rather enjoy it; perhaps they will not tell you so, but I believe they do. In many ways they get great advantages from their service. If they were not called up, possibly they would remain in one town or in one village for the rest of their lives. By being taken out of it, and in many cases going abroad, they do get a broadening of their minds and meet people from other nations; and I believe that when they come back they are better prepared for service in whatever industry they enter. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, mentioned the question of a later call-up, and said that young men should be able to do a university course before they are called up. Arrangements are already made for that. A young man's service can be deferred until he has completed his university course, or some special training course, so long as he is under the higher limit of the call-up age. I understand that the educational 850 authorities are rather in two minds about whether it is better for young men to be deferred, or to go straight from school into the Army and then learn a trade after their service is completed. In National Service the education of the soldier or airman is carried on, so far as possible, and he may easily pick up a trade whilst doing his National Service. Equally, if a man has a trade, when he becomes a National Service man every effort is made to put him into some unit in which that trade will be of use both to the nation and to him, either in making him mere proficient in his trade or to give him better experience.
The only other point I wish to make is again one which was raised by my noble friend Lord Jeffreys, and that is with regard to accommodation. Much has been done in this respect since 1949. Married quarters have been greatly improved in this country, and the improvements have been paid for mainly by funds made available to the Services under the Armed Forces (Housing Loans) Act, 1949. I notice that the White Paper mentions that a further loan is envisaged. As most of the money in that first 1949 loan has already been spent, or is at any rate committed, I consider that that is an extremely good thing. I would here make a plea for the single man, whether he is a soldier, a sailor or an airman. Of recent years the emphasis has rather been on married people. One knows that they are very important, but it is equally important that the single man should have a fair deal. Many of the barracks in which he is quartered in this country are extremely old; they have, no real modern facilities, and in many cases they have been condemned for years. There is a very good example of that within a stone's throw of this House. It is important that the single man should be looked after.
The question of married quarters abroad is, of course, a very difficult one, but I feel that everything that can be done will be done. As the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, said, one hears cases of good officers and good other ranks who are giving up the Service because of this question of always being away from their wives and families. It was suggested to me the other day that some use might be made of caravans for these men with families. I understand that the Royal Air Force use a considerable number 851 round airfields in this country, and I do not see why caravans should not be used as temporary homes for men with families. I also understand that they could be purchased at a very reasonable price. One was quoted to me at about £600 or £700, and they are not very difficult to ship. It is only a thought, but we must try to think of anything that might help the married families and to help the lot of the officers and men in all parts of the world. I am sure that would do much to achieve what the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys wanted, and what I think we all want—a really good Regular Army.
§ 4.15 p.m.
My Lords, I do not intend to detain your Lordships for long. We have been privileged to hear the opinions, the warnings and the recommendations of a number of noble Lords who were the political and military leaders of our Services before, during and since the war. It might be not inappropriate if one serving officer spoke in this debate. It is a great tribute to the noble and gallant Earl the Minister of Defence that throughout this debate there has been little real criticism of the White Paper, in spite of the enormous financial sacrifices that it demands. I feel that the really difficult decisions will come if the conciliatory attitude of Russia is maintained, for inevitably then there will be a demand for a decrease in defence expenditure and, in company with it, demands for cutting the period of National Service. I was very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Winster, reminded us yesterday of General Ridgway's statement:The threat to our way of life has not diminished one iota in the past two years.A good deal of mention has been made of National Service. No one dislikes the system of National Service more than those of us in the Regular Army, because we lose so many of the personnel just when they have learnt their job, and the field force units are denuded of the experienced N.C.O.s because of the requirements of the basic training establishments.
We have learnt from various noble Lords with great experience how great is the need for certain types of aircraft and certain types of ships. No noble 852 Lord with military affiliations has dared to ask for more soldiers, and I do not intend to do so. But I should like to remind the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi—though I am sorry he is not still in his place—that we have far fewer Regular and Territorial Army infantry battalions to-day than we had before the last war; and there is no indication that we shall need fewer infantry tanks or guns if we have to face another war. Indeed, Korea, Indo-China, Malaya, and now Kenya, have proved exactly the opposite. The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, has reminded us that almost all our Regular fighting units are serving abroad, many in conditions of real war, and usually the nearest they ever get to home service is a period of service in Germany. So short are we, indeed, that I notice that one distinguished county regiment which was flown to the Middle East for the Canal Zone emergency, and which returned only late last year, have now been shuffled off again to Kenya, presumably leaving their families behind once again. Therefore, though the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, may think that we can cut down the Army, I believe that the noble Earl the Minister of Defence will have to call up the Boy Scouts if we have to continue meeting these difficult commitments all over the world. While these conditions exist we shall not get the long-term volunteers to make up our requirements of highly trained N.C.O.s and technicians.
Lastly, I should like to assure noble Lords who have expressed hopes, and even slight misgivings, that co-operation between the Services is getting better and better all the time. It seems incredible that twelve years ago, at the Battle of Keren, I was issued with the lids of boot polish tins so that my troops could flash their whereabouts to the few aircraft that could be spared to support us. It is a very different state to-day. Now, at every level, combined training is paramount, and those two great colleges, the Imperial Defence College and the Joint Services Staff College, one double its pre-war size and the other a new institution, bring together on long courses the officers of all the Services, including the Foreign Service, and the home civil Services of all the Commonwealth countries. These are in addition to the schools of combined operations and air support which are also doing a great job. I think I am probably 853 the only member of your Lordships' House who knows all these establishments from the inside, so I should like to take the opportunity of assuring your Lordships of the grand job they are doing to make all the Services of all the Commonwealth countries appreciate each other's difficulties, learn how each other works and to evolve a common doctrine. Nor does co-operation and understanding with the United States forces take any lower place.
I hope that whatever retrenchments are forced upon us in the future, these four establishments will be kept on. It would be a really retrograde step if any of them were closed. Nevertheless, I think that there is still room for improvement, and there is a great deal in the suggestions made by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, yesterday and the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, to-day. I would go even further—though with some trepidation, as I am within combat range of the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of North Cape, and the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard—and suggest that we should not lose sight of the possibility one day of amalgamating the great colleges of Dartmouth, Sandhurst and Cranwell, so that inter-Service co-operation can be started at an even earlier stage.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CALDECOTE
My Lords, I should like to start by apologising to your Lordships, and in particular to the noble and gallant Earl the Minister of Defence, for not being here yesterday to hear him make his excellent statement on the White Paper. During the last few weeks there has been a remarkable change in the international scene, and we have to read the White Paper in a rather different light from that in which it was written. It is right to be encouraged by the new signs of co-operation. It is right that we should not be hostile, or unduly suspicious; but, as the noble and gallant Earl has said, it is far too early, on the strength of the signs we have so far had, to reshape our defence policy. Once confidence is shaken it takes a long time to build it up again, and nothing would be gained by slowing down our rearmament programme at this stage. Indeed I am sure, as the White Paper suggests, that the progress which has been made so far has been an important factor in lessening the risk of 854 war, and any wavering now could only do serious harm to the cause of freedom and peace.
We must not underestimate the intelligence of our potential enemies. Surely we have made it plain to them, and they must know, that we have no aggressive intentions. If we can further convince them not only that we shall resolutely oppose any aggression but that we can do so effectively, the stage will be set for a restoration of confidence and stability; and on that basis alone can a lasting peace be built. The building up of Western strength, towards which our rearmament programme is such an important contribution, is, I am sure, the only way of achieving that situation. In studying this White Paper I gained a slight impression that because we have made progress, and because things are a little better, because there is slightly less risk of war, there is therefore somewhat less urgency. Paragraph 4 says:In times of stringency it is specially important to get the fullest possible value for our money; we must avoid committing ourselves too deeply to equipment which will have to be replaced at heavy cost within a relatively short space of time; …In paragraph 7 there is a somewhat similar observation. The paragraph contains these words:It also appeared that if the programme were maintained in full during 1953–54, heavy expenditure would be incurred in some parts of the programme on the production of equipment which was not of the most advanced types.I do not believe that Her Majesty's Government intend to give that impression of less urgency, but I hope that the noble and gallant Earl will make that clear. It is easy to say we must not give the Communists a bloodless victory by crippling our economy. What does that mean? It means that if we are to maintain our standard of living we cannot spend larger sums on defence. No doubt that is true. But surely the important question is this: Is it safe and wise to try to maintain that standard of living if it means sacrificing security? Are we maintaining it at the expense of securing the conditions which make it possible? Or, to put it in another way, is the present rate of rearmament adequate to ensure our security? And by our security I think we mean that no sudden blow could cripple us; that our sea-lanes can be kept open 855 and that we can make an adequate contribution to the defence of Western Europe.
Much has been achieved in the past few years, but there are still disturbing gaps in our defences. In the Royal Air Force at the moment we are dependent for our fighters mainly on those supplied from across the Atlantic. And the designs which we have in any quantity are largely obsolescent. True, there are new and excellent designs, and they are being produced; but I am afraid that there will not be a large number in service within the next nine months. In the Navy, good progress has been made with minesweepers, but the number of anti-submarine vessels which has been produced and ordered seems to me alarmingly small. The cruisers—which are almost becoming an annual joke—are still awaiting the development of equipment. The construction of aircraft carriers is going ahead fairly satisfactorily, but again the modern aircraft are lagging behind. It seems to me that it will be some time before the Navy and the Royal Air Force are adequately equipped.
I hope your Lordships will not think that I am being unduly critical when I say that I get the impression from the White Paper that perhaps it does not sufficiently stress the urgency of the situation with regard to the production of equipment in these two Services. The gaps are due, as we all know, to the inevitable delays in production of modern complicated equipment. It is always necessary to get good value for money, but I do not think we can safely endure any further delay in production on the ground that when the equipment is produced it will be obsolescent. It seems to me that, whenever you start production, by the time it is finished the equipment will be obsolescent, in the sense that something better is on the drawing-board. It is natural to wish to have up-to-date and perfect equipment. It is intriguing and attractive for the Service users to lay down stringent specifications. Some will be essential and some only desirable. Some extra accuracy which is demanded may entail years of development and research. It may mean that standard parts which are available in the industry cannot be used, whereas some slight and perhaps unimportant relaxation of speci- 856 fication would mean that standard parts could be used, so that production would be accelerated and costs reduced.
These are all highly technical considerations that can be settled only in conferences between users, designers and manufacturers. I am not suggesting that we should provide second-rate equipment for our forces—far from it; but I am concerned lest, in striving to produce perfect equipment, we should produce it too late and in too small quantities. My plea would be to bring the manufacturers in earlier, so that the skill and knowledge of those who actually make the equipment can be used, not to modify some design that has been completed, as so often happens, but from the start in the development and design of the equipment, so that not only will a first-class piece of equipment be produced, but it will be a piece of equipment that can be manufactured quickly and economically. I hope that attention will be directed towards that simplification and closer co-operation which I am sure could achieve a great deal. I am sure that it would pay, in economy and in better equipment, more than the rather dangerous expedient of delaying production because the equipment may he obsolescent by the time it is finished.
I have tried to pick out a few of the less good points in the White Paper. I hope that your Lordships will not feel that I am critical of the whole White Paper. I am not. I support wholeheartedly the Motion moved by the noble and gallant Earl yesterday. It is all too easy to criticise the balance that is advocated between economy and security. But we must not forget how near to disaster we came in 1940 because of misguided and over-cautious Treasury policy in the years before. I would beg Her Majesty's Government to be honest with the country and tell us what they consider necessary, both in expenditure and in sacrifice, and not only what we can achieve without too much discomfort. The price of peace, as well as of freedom, is eternal vigilance, and we dare not yet relax.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I should like to refer for a few minutes to a subject which is rather on the periphery of this debate but which is very germane 857 to it. It has been referred to by a number of your Lordships during the course of the debate, and in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys—that is, the subject of Civil Defence. I enjoyed and agreed with a great deal that the noble Lord said. I entirely concur with him in thinking that it is a really important part of this subject and that the White Paper deals with it in a rather cursory way; but what really brings me to my feet is the suggestion which the noble Lord made, which was to put the whole of Civil Defence, apparently, into the hands of the Territorial associations—a proposal he made in reply to a very pertinent question put to him by my noble friend Lord Pakenham. Surely, Civil Defence is really the fourth arm in a war. It is not the military arm, and the very fact which the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, pointed out, that there were something like fourteen different Departments interested in the problems which were raised by Civil Defence during the last war, is an unanswerable argument against the case which the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, was putting forward.
The Home Guard should certainly be in the closest possible relationship with the Civil Defence personnel and its leadership, but the Home Guard when mobilised in war must be under military discipline and subject to military law. You cannot expect the millions of ordinary citizens who take part in the work of Civil Defence to be subject to military law and discipline in that sort of way, and, indeed, the proposal that they should be, in my view, destroys the whole balance of the Civil Defence organisation. Nor is it a feasible proposition that all these different aspects of the matter which at every single point impinge on the civil life of the community, without which the waging of war becomes impossible, can be entrusted in effect to the Minister of Defence. With all respect to the noble and gallant Earl, and with all the admiration I have for his abilities, I would suggest that it is completely impossible that he should add that to his responsibilities. When one goes into the matter, one must realise that Civil Defence impinges on almost every aspect of life in a community which is attacked during a war: industry, the factory, the workshop, the running of the hospitals 858 and the running of the police service—I could go on enumerating case after case. In those circumstances, surely the only way of carrying through Civil Defence in a satisfactory and efficient manner is to regard it as a fourth arm in war and to entrust it to its own leadership.
I might be content to have made that point but I should like to make one further one—that is, that the noble Lord, no doubt as a result of inadequate information, made what I thought was a rather unfair attack on the work of the Regional Organisations during the late war. He suggested that the Regional Organisations really regarded it as their job to suppress the initiative of the local authorities. As one who took part as a deputy commissioner for Civil Defence during a good deal of the last war, should like to say that that charge is, entirely unfounded.
§ LORD JEFFREYS
May I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? As he has said that he was a commissioner during the last war, so I should say, on the other hand, that throughout the last war I was the heat of a county Civil Defence, and I am speaking of my experience there.
§ LORD CHORLEY
There may, here and there, have been unfortunate experiences. I think one ought to remember that the Regional Commissioners were thought of during the preparatory period as officers who were to do an entirely different sort of work from that which was afterwards given to them—the co-ordination of the local Civil Defence arrangements. That was not the job for which they were originally established, and undoubtedly in the initial stages, while the organisation was being built up, the personnel collected and the arrangements made, there were growing pains and difficulties; but, if it is suggested that there was any deliberate thwarting of local authorities in that way, then I deny that emphatically. Obviously. it was essential that somebody should co-ordinate the work of all the local authorities who took part in it in the different regions. It clearly could not be done by the Minister from his headquarters in London. If the local authorities had been left completely to themselves, undoubtedly a condition of chaos would have arisen.
859 I can give instance after instance. This one comes to my mind. An important local authority built hundreds of air raid shelters and, in the hurry to do so, they constructed them using very inferior cement. As a result of this, it was possible almost to push them over. This was obviously a matter for the intervention of the Regional Commissioner. My Lords, that type of control is obviously essential in the interests both of the taxpayer and the citizens of the towns in question who have to be protected. This difficulty was discovered by the officers of the Regional Commissioner, and there was a good deal of trouble about it. Other instances of this kind could be mentioned. Surely, this is not really a case where the Commissioner has been interfering with and preventing the local authority from doing its job properly, but is the use of a very proper control.
A good deal of history relating to the Civil Defence arrangements and the part which Regional Commissioners and their staffs took in the whole problem of defending the country against air attack during the war has already been written. So far as I have been able to study it, although here and there there may be instances of the kind to which the noble Lord has referred, on the whole the improvisation of Civil Defence and the part which the Regional Commissioners and their staffs took in this matter comprised one of the most successful efforts of all in the magnificent resistance which this country put up during the war. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, will look into the matter a little more carefully and, as a result of doing so, perhaps find it in his heart to be rather fairer to the Regional Commissioners and their staffs.
§ 4.42 p.m.
My Lords, we are sometimes accused of providing too much mutual admiration in this House, but I do not think that a debate in which we have listened to contributions from Lord Alexander of Tunis, Lord Trenchard, Lord Tedder and Lord Fraser, is one that will be easily forgotten. If this goes on, I think we shall be able to charge for admittance and fill the Gallery many times over, which may help us all with our Coronation robes, or in other ways.
860 I should like to say, first, if it is necessary to say it (and I hardly think it is), that the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis, carries the complete personal confidence of everybody in your Lordships' House. As one would expect, his speech was manly and calm, and, of course, very charming. I do not think that the most depressing thing he said has been touched on directly, although it may have been in the mind of more than one speaker. He was speaking about naval aircraft and was obviously doing his best to put as bright a face as he honestly could on the situation. But all he could say about it was (OFFICIAL REPORT. Vol. 181, Col. 745):We have learned a great deal from past errors and experience, and I am hopeful that the efforts which the First Lord and the Minister of Supply have made will change this situation for the better.That is as far as he felt he could go, and I think most of us will watch the situation very closely and a shade suspiciously and, without any kind of Party bias (because, heaven knows! we all share responsibility in this particular field), many of us will wish to return to it when we come to the Naval debate.
I suppose that most noble Lords carry in their minds a short list of speeches which they would regard as the finest they have listened to in this Chamber. Some of us will remember the speech of Lord Keynes on the American Loan, and others the speech of Lord Halifax on India. I myself treasure at least one speech from the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate—for example when he was proposing the reform of your Lordships' House. But in any list, however short, I believe that the oration of the noble Lord, Lord Fraser, will find a place, delivered, as one could not help observing, without any need to refer to anything so ignominious as notes, and prepared, I rather fancy, at the last minute. I feel that that speech by itself would justify this debate, which in many other ways has been remarkable. When some minnow like myself confronts a whale like the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, with his assistant, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder, one's first temptation is simply to touch one's cap, say "Very good, sir." and hold one's tongue. But that is a temptation which, after some thought, I have decided to resist, and I shall return in a few 861 minutes quite strenuously to some of the remarks made by the noble and gallant Viscount. Let me say at this point, in order not to conceal my meaning, that he seemed to be living up to the motto of the grand Service which he, more than anyone else, first started and fostered, the Royal Air Force—"Per ardua ad astra." He made his way through a series of arguments, difficult to follow, to a conclusion lost in the clouds.
My Lords, I wish to return to that subject later but, meanwhile, to raise a number of somewhat smaller though always important points. Let me say a few words about the position of Service Ministers. For a very short time I was a Service Minister, tutored by the noble Lord, Lord Fraser. What I have to say is purely my own opinion—it does not represent any collective view. I do not know what Lord Fraser's opinion is, but, on balance, I myself believe that it would be better if the Service Ministers were included in the Cabinet. There are strong arguments either way. Undoubtedly it is more symmetrical to keep them out. I believe that this is a matter about which people could differ, and where a certain amount would depend on the personalities of the day. Now we have a Minister of Defence, which seems to me a good plan. But I do not believe that in the long run it is possible for Service Ministers, unless they are members of the Cabinet, to give that leadership which the great Services require. That is a personal view.
There are other arguments—and I submit one. By excluding the Service Ministers from the Cabinet, it may be possible to draw on younger talent than might be necessary if some of the "old boys," so to speak, who had some claim to Cabinet position, were appointed—I have been called to order, but I have not been referring to anybody present, such as the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander. Undoubtedly it would leave the Service Ministers on a slightly lower level and it would be possible to draw in younger talent, as has been clone, it seems to me, with considerable personal success by the present Prime Minister. If I felt that Her Majesty's present Administration were going to last much longer, I should suggest that in due course they should all be promoted. My personal conviction is that it would be far better if the Service Ministers were full members of the Cabinet.
862 Now let me say a word on one or two somewhat isolated points. First of all, I will deal with the Home Guard. When we were in office I remember a debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley on the Home Guard. He was knocking me all over the place for not getting on with the formation of the Home Guard and, so far as anything was left of me, the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton drove a few residual nails into my coffin. Altogether, they had a very good time. But what have the Government done? They have gone ahead, and they have started the Home Guard. I personally am not questioning that decision. I think it was a difficult decision to make and it may be a wrong decision; but it is one of those decisions which the Government of the day have to take, and they must accept responsibility. Only the Government of the day know everything relevant in a case like that.
But, having started the Home Guard, they are neglecting it. Here, I venture to criticise even the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander. I should have hoped that in his speech he could manage a stronger reference to the Home Guard, and I hope that at the end of the debate the noble and gallant Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, will reassure the Home Guardsmen. I have been making a few inquiries about them and they all tell me that matters are going a little better; but, frankly, they feel that they are a forgotten army; and at least in one area they certainly hoped before this debate that something would be said to show that the Government attach a great deal of importance to them. Well, there was a reference front which we gather that they are to have a sort of supporting role to the flying columns. There was a little passage in the noble Earl's speech about that. He told us simply that all these flying columns will be backed up by Home Guard units, and then he said a few friendly words about the Home Guard. I know how difficult it is in a world-wide speech of that kind to fit in everything, but I hope that the noble and gallant Earl and the noble and gallant Lord will say something pretty strong and clear that will reach far and wide about the importance which they attach to the Home Guard.
863 May I now say something about another isolated matter? This is something which I think we might follow up with advantage when we come to the Army debate. I refer to the education of children of Service parents. The noble and gallant Lord has had notice of this point and he is, I believe, interested. I put it to him, without going into details, that we ought to provide more assistance to enable Servicemen, both officers and other ranks, to educate their children at home when they themselves are serving abroad, if that is their wish. Of course, it must be done in a way that provides no distinction between officers and men. I feel that a good deal more could be done in this matter. I have a shrewd suspicion that the Army, if they could overcome their old enemy the Treasury, would like to do something. I counsel the noble and gallant Earl and the noble and gallant Lord to fight very hard for this. They could do it by enabling children to come home to be educated here or by providing more secondary boarding schools overseas. I know that there are some secondary boarding schools overseas which are run in a most healthy way—in particular in Malaya. I am told that there the daughter of the Chief of Staff sits on a form in such a school next to the daughter of a private soldier, so there is no question at all about class distinction. I hope that the noble and gallant Lord when he comes to reply will say something more upon this matter and will at any rate promise to labour very hard at it before we have another "go" at him in the Army debate.
There is another Army point, and it is not a question of detail this time—indeed, it involves high strategy. Can the Secretary of State tell us—if not now, then in the Army debate—in the broadest outline, of course, what our troops are doing now in the Middle East? I agree with the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis, and with my noble friend, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, that we shall have to stick to the two years' service. I do not want to suggest that if you could bring some troops back from the Middle East you could cut the length of the service. They would probably be wanted for building up a strategic reserve. But I say that, apart from the effect on the unfortunate 864 men out there and their families, it would help a great deal with the public if they felt certain that not a man was being wasted, and that we were not keeping people abroad for reasons not quite clear to anyone. On this question of the Middle East, I hope that the noble and gallant Lord will tell us to-day—certainly we shall come back to it if he does not deal with it on this occasion—even in the broadest outline, what this large force is doing, even though he cannot give us the exact numbers engaged. Are they guarding the base? If so, what against? Are they guarding it against pilfering or against attack from some hostile force as a result of war? Are they preparing themselves to act as a strategic reserve, to move hither and thither in the event of a crisis? If so, are they thinking of war against Russia or—I think it was the noble Viscount who used the term—of some kind of patrol, some minor operation against some Middle Eastern country?
I cannot help feeling that it may be that reasons of prestige have something to do with the presence of that large force in that area. That is only my view, of course, and the noble and gallant Lord can put me right at once if I am talking nonsense. But I have an idea that some of our people are there because we think that if we have a force of a certain size there it exercises more influence, in some sort of unspecified way, than a smaller force. I suggest that if that is the argument it is completely false. I am not saying anything which relates closely to the discussions with Egypt. I am not discussing the question of evacuation or settlement, because we must leave that during this difficult period to the Government. I am asking why, quite apart from the effect of any negotiations with Egypt, we have such a large force in the Middle East. And, I ask, does the noble Lord see any chance of bringing them back? I have a shrewd suspicion that the Army would like to do so, and I cannot understand who is the "nigger in the woodpile"; with whom it is that the objection lies.
Before coming to the air/sea controversy, may I say a word about the Naval programme? I do not speak with any tremendous knowledge of such matters, but I was First Lord of the Admiralty for a few months, and inevitably I follow 865 naval matters as closely as I can. The present First Lord of the Admiralty in his speech in another place referred to the re-phasing of the new construction programme, the result of which was to reduce the Navy Estimates for 1953–54 to much about the same as the figure for 1952–53. He went on to say that much of the Fleet which was of pre-war or war construction was in such a condition that the replacement programme was growing urgent. Several noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Strabolgi, think that the Navy has had the worst of the argument as we understand it. Obviously, from outside one cannot express a very potent opinion, but I am bound to express disquiet. I believe it to be shared by many who know the Navy better than I do. But during the short time when I was First Lord I could not help observing that this problem of Fleet replacement was beginning to take shape. It was obvious that many ships were nearing the end of their useful lives, unless great sums were going to be spent on re-equipment and modernisation. I would express the fear now that even if the Navy have not had the worst of it this time, they will get the worst of it unless this matter is attended to even more carefully than hitherto. I express that fear—one cannot of course be dogmatic in matters like this—and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will see fit to embark on an ordered programme of replacing ships in all classes except the battleship class. I hope that the noble and gallant Lord who is going to reply for the Government will have something to say about that, otherwise we shall raise the matter when we come to the Naval debate.
Now a word about the controversy which has been carried to a much higher plane by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Fraser. It is not for me to try to synthesise, so to speak, the views of the Air Force; we have had the thesis from one quarter, the antithesis from Lord Fraser, and we await the synthesis from the noble Lord, Lord de L'Isle and Dudley. I was rather staggered by the speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder. I am glad he is here, for otherwise I should have found myself in some embarrassment. I suppose all of us in this country owe a tremendous amount 866 —more than we probably know—to Lord Trenchard and Lord Tedder. I know that they will take that from me as representing the views of noble Lords behind me and I should think of thousands—indeed, if they have any sense, millions—of our fellow countrymen.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder, in the course of a fine statesmanlike speech, indulged in what seemed to me a rather cheap sort of partisanship at the expense of the Navy. I remember that not so long ago, when Mr. Aneurin Bevan was speaking in the House of Commons, Mr. Churchill interrupted at one point to protest against a personal reference and said, "Don't spoil a fine speech." That is how felt about Lord Tedder's speech, because so much of it was so wise and profound that I regret enormously some of his cracks and stabs at the Navy. He assumed a judicial tone. He begged us to put aside the approach of purely the point of view of one Service and suggested (I think I am quoting him accurately) that we should consider every problem objectively and "without any Service bias." But how far did he stick to that lofty doctrine? We soon found him saying, "the separate Naval Air Force sounds to me much more like a return to the last war but one …" All he wants is to abolish naval aviation, or "pinch" it—well, seize it, on behalf of the Air Force. In making the claim in that form he seemed to invalidate completely his claim to be an impartial judge between the Services.
The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, told us that by reverting to the original idea of one Service to cover all air operations we should probably save up to £100 million—the noble Viscount nods his head—but he did not explain to us how this could be achieved. I think it will need a great deal of explanation before anyone takes it seriously, even coming from such an illustrious authority as the noble Viscount. To the best of my knowledge the total expenditure on naval aviation does not amount to three-quarters of £100 million a year, so if it were abolished completely, we would not save anything, like £100 million, and I am sure the noble Viscount is not suggesting total abolition. With respect, I suggest to the noble Viscount that that is a fantastic figure, and I hope that 867 when he comes to reply he will say that the amount to be saved is more like 10 million—and I believe that even that would be an over-statement.
Two questions are involved in considering naval aviation. One is the strategic and technical question. Any claims I have to speak on that subject are based on my friendship and what contact I may have with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Fraser; and when Lord Fraser has spoken, there is no reason for me to elaborate his points. I think the noble and gallant Lord convinced us all that it was impossible in war in the foreseeable future to protect our convoys adequately without a carrier programme. It is no good my offering a further opinion. The noble Lord explained it as effectively and as authoritatively as anybody could. Everyone will agree that we should starve without adequate convoy protection. Speaking as a novice, compared to the noble Lords, Lord Tedder and Lord Trenchard, I nevertheless defer to the noble Lord, Lord Fraser, in this question of convoy protection, and if I have to choose between the two noble Lords and the noble Lord, Lord Fraser, I must choose the noble Lord who has most experience of that form of protection. No one who has heard him is going to argue that the carrier, large or small, is on the way out.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords, if another civilian may say a word, I venture to do what my noble friend says cannot be done. I express the opinion that the benighted views of my noble friend are not generally held on these Benches.
Well, this sort of "cloak and dagger" warfare shows one the character of the fourth arm in war.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY)
Of the fifth column?
It is not for me to refer in those terms to my noble colleague, though he has sent every sort of broadside into a difficult part of my anatomy. I am assured by those sitting closest to me that he speaks for himself, as always. I am only at liberty to say that when my noble friend Lord Stansgate does speak for the majority on these 868 Benches, I am sure he will say so specifically, because it will be a comparatively rare occasion. We can regard him as a gallant martyr surrounded by dissidents and standing out for a very peculiar view. I can only take the authority of my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who is in charge of this side of the House and whose authority is absolute, so far as I am concerned.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
This is quite impossible. It is absolutely intolerable that the noble Lord speaking from these Benches should claim that the noble Viscount who speaks for the Navy, being a Baptist, is expressing the views of the Party he represents.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (VISCOUNT SWINTON)
May I offer my co-ordinating services?
Until I hear anything to the contrary; until I hear that there has been a palace revolution behind me, I shall assume that my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough is Acting Leader for to-day, and is in charge of the debate for this side of the House. I shall ignore all interventions from whatever quarter, however exalted and however pernickety. I appreciate this incredible Service loyalty, although it is a little confused in the case of the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, who, I believe, has been a soldier, a sailor and an airman, and is for the moment wearing an Air Force cap.
If we are going to retain carriers, nobody seriously suggests that we should take away the aircraft from the Navy. I should think not. If we had abolished the carrier, there would be a much stronger case for seizing naval aviation. But I believe that the Government mean to stick to carriers, and I would say the case is overwhelming. And, if so, one cannot seriously believe at this time of day that anybody, unless it be my noble friend Lord Stansgate, is seriously going to suggest that the carriers should be placed under Air Force command. So long as the Navy retains the carriers, I would say it is fairly obvious that it will retain the aviators, too. I feel there is another point—noble Lords can use this either way, but I must say it. I do not think the Navy is sufficiently air-minded, 869 and I do not think the Air Force is sufficiently sea-minded. I do not think that the Services are sufficiently cognizant of each other's point of view. I believe that if anyone begins to try to filch naval aviation, he is dealing a serious blow at the prospect of rendering the Navy as air-minded as everyone would wish to see it. That is my personal opinion, and noble Lords will take it as such.
As regards Coastal Command, I am not so reticent or so discreet as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Fraser. When I was First Lord two years ago, I was strongly attracted by the logical case for placing Coastal Command fully under the Navy. I think that on paper the case is so strong as to be almost overwhelming. But I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Fraser, that it would not be a patriotic service (it certainly would not have been then: nor is it now) to start such a national controversy as that would involve. On that ground I do not think the gain would more than balance the loss.
More generally, I want to issue an appeal to the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, to the noble Lord, Lord Tedder, and to their representative on these Benches, the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate. We all honour the Royal Air Force, but I wish they would get rid of this inferiority complex. That is really the great difficulty about them. They are like newcomers who are always calling attention to their presence, when we are only too anxious to recognise it and do them the fullest honour. They want to seize some of the valued positions of the Navy, but, after all, it is not so long ago when they were practically "down and out." Noble Lords may remember that in 1948, in this very House, my noble and gallant friend Marshal of the Air Force Lord Douglas said that, unless urgent steps were taken to improve the rate of recruiting, it looked as if the Royal Air Force would before long die on its feet. These are the people—I say this with great respect—who are coming to the Navy, with her tradition of Nelson and the tradition of 1,000 years, and saying that they can do a large part of their work better than Her Majesty's Navy. This was on the testimonial of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Douglas.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
Does my noble friend suggest that Lord Douglas came here and declared that the recruitment was so poor that the Air Force was a thing of the past?
I imagine it means very much what it says, that unless the recruiting improved a great deal the Royal Air Force would die on its feet. I do not know the difference between dying on your feet and dying in bed, but the noble Lord regarded it as moribund at that time, which was only four years ago. I say, with great respect, that these are the people who come along and say they can run things so much better than Her Majesty's Navy. I know that recruiting has improved, and I am glad of it; I am glad to think that they are no longer moribund, but alive and kicking—kicking violently, and from all quarters, behind and in front, and at all ages. I hope that they will not take it amiss if I say that, while I am glad they are now alive, they really must not try to live at the expense of other people. The Royal Air Force are doing a wonderful job, and they do not hesitate to tell us so; the Royal Navy are doing a wonderful job, and they wait for us to tell them so; the Army are doing a wonderful job, and they would be astounded if anybody told them so. They have all a lot to learn from each other. I think I can leave it there.
Before concluding, I should like to say a word or two on the international aspect. We have this tremendous task in front of us, and we have a Foreign Affairs debate in which to discuss it a week from to-day. We have this duty of preparing our own national defences; we have the duty of building the Atlantic defences. Within that circle we have the duty of building the European defences, which means working out a complicated political arrangement; and we have the continued task—here I know that I shall carry with me my noble 871 friend Lord Stansgate—of seeking reconciliation between East and West. Some of these are military tasks, others economic, and others political. We cannot neglect any of them. I should like to call attention to one question which my noble friend Lord Henderson put, and to which I know he attaches special importance. The noble Lord said (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 181, col. 785):I wish, therefore, to ask the Minister to consider a practical suggestion. It is that he should propose at the coming meeting of the N.A.T.O. Council of Ministers that a report be prepared giving an up-to-date progress report of the present state of the build-up of N.A.T.O. defences, including a breakdown of the collective armed forces into national contributions. This report should then be published in this country as a White Paper….That was a question to which the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, attached particular importance, and I hope that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, will deal with it when he comes to reply.
I am afraid that I have not touched on many of the speeches made. We recall that the present Prime Minister's father ruined his career by forgetting Goschen. I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, will allow me to pass him over, without forgetting him, and that other speakers also will forgive me if I do not refer to their remarks. I believe we are all agreed about fundamentals. We are involved, as a country, through no fault of our own—we did not begin it—in an arms race. In the past, an arms race of that kind has usually led to war. That is a sobering thought. I feel sure the whole House will agree that we shall win this arms race only if we can stop it; and we can do that only by this double policy—it is easier said than carried out—of building up our own strength, in conjunction with that of friendly countries, while at the same time never missing a chance of seeking peace. I think there is fundamental agreement running throughout this House and throughout the majority of our fellow citizens as to what is most important. We are anxious to back the Government in all these objectives. We shall differ from them—naturally, we think we could do it better; that is the way of politics—but so long as they persist in the double policy of building up strength and seeking peace they will have the support of all patriotic 872 citizens, and certainly not least of noble Lords who sit on this side of the House.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ LORD LAYTON
My Lords, I should like to add a word or two to the appeal made by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in reference to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, that we should have a White Paper dealing with N.A.T.O. and similar subjects. The European Defence Treaty is of enormous importance to this country, and perhaps one of the most important statements made by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis, had relation to the ratification of that Treaty. Britain is involved because we have substantially guaranteed the Treaty, or will do so if it comes into effect. There is no official translation of the E.D.C. Treaty in existence—I think I am right in saying that—and there is no version of the Treaty available to the public, to the Press, or to Members of Parliament in this country. I would urge that, if a White Paper is issued, the Foreign Office, or the appropriate Ministry, should take steps to see that so important a Treaty is available for reading by those interested in Great Britain in public affairs.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
My Lords, we have had a long, interesting and sometimes almost heated debate. When the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, suggested in his opening remarks that we might charge admission, I turned over in my mind whether under the new Budget Resolutions we should not be exempt from entertainment tax. Now I have made up my mind that we should certainly fall within the ambit of that tax. Difficult though I find it to do so, I am going to resist the invitation to enter into inter-Service polemics, of which the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, gave such a brilliant display. If I may say so with great respect to the noble Lord, I should have thought that they were more fitting to the bars of some of the great Service clubs, where officers of middle rank love to tease and provoke each other. I will do my best, subject to the patience of the House—and I warn your Lordships that it will be necessary to be a little patient—to address myself to what I hope will be regarded as a serious argument. It may not meet the views of noble Lords in all parts of the House, but I assure 873 noble Lords that in preparing my winding-up speech I have endeavoured to prepare a connected argument. One can either reply to a series of points somewhat disjointedly, or try to adduce an argument. I have attempted to do the latter, and I declare my hand before I start. Before doing that, I should like to have the honour of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, from these Benches. We welcome him to our deliberations, and we greatly hope he will give us in the future the benefit of his tremendous experience, of which I think we can claim to be collectively justly proud.
I should like, first of all, to answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in relation to the Middle East. I can assure the noble Lord at once that Her Majesty's Government do not keep troops in the Canal Zone for the purpose of prestige. I am not going to say more than that. The strategic, administrative and local security tasks laid upon those forces make the numbers which are now there vitally necessary. To return to the main theme of this debate, I think we have had a debate which has been in a sense a debate within a debate, because we are debating not only the Motion moved by my noble friend Lord Alexander on behalf of the Government, but also the Motion of my noble friend Lord Trenchard. It is my task to-clay to try and deal with this debate within a debate, because, with my special responsibilities, I am sure noble Lords would not wish me to ride over the air aspects of the matter. The noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander, put the question very clearly in its historical perspective, and explained the many critical considerations which have combined to form the views of the Government in the White. Paper.
Now I hope it is agreed—I think it is—that, whatever our policy, it is impossible for this country to avoid running very great risks in the armed state of the world as it is to-day, and it must be an accepted fact that that is so. It is our duty to try to minimise those risks. It would be true, I think, if our resources were greater and our commitments were smaller. It has not been said in this debate, but some speakers in another place have said, "Well, cut the commitments." One Back Bench Member of the Party opposite said, "Why not move into a three-roomed villa out of the draughty, 874 unheated country house?" Leaving aside the great moral issues—and there are great moral issues—which would be involved in such abdication, in the view of Her Majesty's Government we cannot sacrifice our obligations without putting at grave risk the livelihood of the 50 million people who inhabit these Islands. Often in our history events have demanded not only courage and intelligence but endurance as well, and I am certain that endurance will continue to be demanded of us. Certainly Her Majesty's Government are not going to adopt the policy of sitting in front of the electric heater in a well-furnished villa and pottering in the back garden on sunny afternoons. I believe that that is the general view of this country and of noble Lords opposite, so well expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in his closing remarks, which I warmly reciprocate.
The differences which have appeared to-day in our debates have not been Party differences, although they have not been the less by that fact. They have rather tended to emerge in loyalty to one or other of the Armed Services—compliments, if I may say so, to the Services which have provoked such loyalties. But we all believe that in present world conditions we must have strong deterrents to adventure, and we find our greatest hope of safety in a strong alliance among freedom-loving peoples. The so-called £4,700 million programme of the late Government—which is a kind of telescopic phrase to comprise the totality of that programme—still demands great sacrifices, despite its modifications. It was a programme devised to meet a grave and immediate international danger, and Her Majesty's present Administration have not—I wish to emphasise this—in any sense abandoned the rearmament programme.
Your Lordships might be interested to know how expenditure under the all-important heading of equipment has increased over the last few years on the basis of common price levels, and I am sure we must agree as to that. Making a calculation on the basis of prices ruling in 1948 and 1949, we find that expenditure on equipment has gone up from £114 million in 1948–49 to £462 million in this year. There has been an increase of over £40 million on the same basis compared with last year, and an increase 875 of no less than £220 million compared with two years ago. I think this should well be known, so that we can see these matter in perspective. Of course, as events have unfolded themselves, it seems clear to the Government—to use the Prime Minister's words—that what is required is "not a violent jerk but a prolonged pull." We are all agreed—and I was glad to hear so many noble Lords reiterate this—that the sure way to lose any advantage we have gained would be to relapse into weakness. Our problem is to maintain, possibly for a long time, a considerable level of military power.
There is a second factor in the modern world, which is the power which now exists for a nation to strike a sudden, perhaps crippling, blow from the air. That fact, disagreeable though it is, must make us re-examine the very basis of our defence policy. It was a great advantage—an advantage which we enjoyed and, I think, exploited for a long time—when we were able, with suitable preparations, to rely upon time as our ally. That roughly speaking, was true ever since we became a great seafaring nation. But the allegiance of time has been, at any rate to a large extent, seduced by science, and science is busy undermining the loyalty of space as well.
Here I come to a point which may be said to be controversial. The most painful changes are not so much physical changes or hardships, but changes in our habits of thought. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, will forgive me, for I do it in no critical spirit, but I could not help observing that the noble Lord, who is sometimes almost revolutionary in his political thinking and in his approach to human nature and the history of human nature and its development, is so conservative—with a small "c"—where material is concerned. I have no doubt it is realised that I am Conservative with a big "C," but I find myself almost revolutionary in matters where material is concerned. Modern weapons demand of us a constant state of readiness. That is the fact, because the first blow could be the last, and preparations to mobilise after the war has started, necessary though they are, must take second place to the necessity of maintaining a very high state of readiness of the forces needed to survive the first fierce clash.
May I interrupt the noble Lord? No doubt he intends to develop his criticism of me, but otherwise, to use a phrase of Mr. Churchill, "I do not altogether feel utterly extinguished."
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
I am glad the noble Lord has quoted Mr. Churchill. The last thing I would wish to do, even if I could, would be to extinguish the noble Lord.
The one way to ensure a short war would be to lose the first round. I emphasise that I speak in priorities, because we mean to survive that first clash and we mean to have the sea borne supplies about which we have heard so much today. But we must see that the initiative does not remain with the aggressor. The power to strike back is an essential part of defence. It is also essential as a deterrent to adventure, and for the prevention of a terrible conflict which we should all so long to avoid. But it is necessary, if we are to devise a viable defence policy, to gaze without flinching on the possibilities of modern war. It is all the more important to do so clearly and with an unbiased mind because we have no surplus of resources to expend or to lay out.
It is perfectly true that my noble friend, the Minister of Defence, and my Service colleagues deeply need many additional items of equipment. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, that we want better amenities for the Services, and we should like to see a greater expenditure of resources. But I do submit that we have to face three ineluctable choices. I do not pose them in any attempt to dodge criticism or avoid the issue by manufacturing sophistical dilemmas. But those choices seem to be these: to expend more of the nation's money on defence than is now proposed; to change the existing allocation of resources—preferring some projects and abandoning others; or, thirdly, to propose economies—by paring, pruning and scraping—in existing expenditure and so release resources for the projects advocated. None of these choices are mutually exclusive.
Let me deal with the first. There are two schools of criticism. We have heard much to-day of the first and, I am glad to say, almost nothing of the second. The two schools consist of those on the one hand who say that we are not spending 877 enough, and, on the other hard, those who say we are spending too much. Now I think it is accepted that the "prolonged pull" of which I have spoken is likely to place a very great burden, not only on our internal economy but on our external position also. I would remind your Lordships that we have expanded and are expanding the Royal Air Force; we are equipping it with an entirely new range of modern machines. We have also in being and are maintaining what is perhaps the largest British Army that has ever before existed in peace time—I leave out the Indian Army. We have three armed divisions in Europe, each of which costs as much as ten modern destroyers. Perhaps I might remind your Lordships that a modern destroyer costs about £2,500,000, whereas before the war the most modern battleship, the King George V, cost something like £8,000,000. We are carrying out a formidable naval shipbuilding programme—not perhaps as spectacular as in the days when we built those great battleships, but still expensive at the modern price per ton of warship. We are maintaining a very expensive research and development programme. So I think there is a wide measure of agreement with the words of the Prime Minister: "The effort we are making on defence is the absolute maximum of which we are capable."
That is why the White Paper says we are holding defence expenditure to a "lower peak." There is already a certain amount of cancellation of orders for some aircraft—and I should like advocates of the Navy to realise that—and a stretching out of certain types of equipment and certain delays in the naval construction programme. I declare—and it is the view of Her Majesty's Government—that with, the altered emphasis on modern developments, that is a firm and logical policy and that the Government and the country may be proud of the progress we have made. I reiterate once again that it must be accepted that under any policy we run great risks. I am not going to answer the silent critics who advocate a cut in our defences, because that would mean an incursion into foreign policy into which I am riot going to be led. But I repeat that sacrificing obligations would not bring us either relief or safety.
I turn to our second choice. This is the one which has created the greatest 878 controversy and presents the greatest difficulty. I am not going to come between the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder—they are both very well able to look after themselves—but those who re-read that remarkable speech of Lord Tedder will realise that it was extremely well thought out and clearly conceived, and because you do not like the conclusion to the argument you should not damnify the steps which led up to it. I do not think that he made anything which could be called an ill-natured attack—
I never accused the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder, of ill temper or ill nature, and I must ask the noble Lord to withdraw that.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
The noble Lord did "go for" Lord Tedder, but, as I have said, Lord Tedder is capable of looking after himself. I was expressing my own view but I acquit the noble Lord of using those words and of any improper expression in relation to this.
I do not often pursue a noble Lord in such a matter as this, but I should have thought it was hardly enough to say that he acquitted me of using the words. I should have thought he might have added a word of regret.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
I have the greatest pleasure in doing that. I withdraw what was perhaps an ill-chosen word.
Now for this question of priority, which is of such critical importance. I do not think it is unfair to say that the critics who proposed this or that policy or this or that expenditure, advocating it with great force and vigour, have very often a happy knack of forgetting the all-important premise of limited resources. I think many of then are apt to forget the conditions under which a future war is likely to be fought. In fact, some of them fail to follow the curve of expectancy. I find myself to-day delicately poised between Scylla and Charybdis. I recall the motto of the famous West Kent regiment—I dwell in Kent myself—"Quo fas et gloria ducunt."
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
I am not proposing to quote it in the original. The quotation is as follows:Then Scylla grasped six of my comrades from the hollow ship who were most renowned for their strength and courage.She brandished them aloft and I heard them calling upon me for the very last time with a most pitiful sound.Of all my sufferings in my wanderings on sea and land this tried me to the uttermost.We shall see whether Scylla performed so notable a feat to-day when he winds up. I can only say this: that in our view, however passionately an opinion may be held by any member of any Service, neither prestige nor settled habits must preclude a thorough re-examination from time to time of the various means of protecting these Islands and our sea communications as well; and we must take into account modern trends of development.
Now I come to research and development. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who courteously apologised to me for not being able to be present at the end of the debate, displayed a very proper interest in this programme. I am glad to say that he gave general support to the policy, which is no more than a continuation of the late Government's policy, of devoting a considerable sum of money to this important part of our defence. He asked one or two particular questions about Ministry of Supply contracts, with which I tried to deal in a recent debate in this House on aircraft supplies. Perhaps I may repeat that all contracts for research and development with firms contain a clause to the effect that the firm must agree the price at which they may sell commercially any article resulting from the development and the share of that price which should go to the Ministry of Supply; and I think that policy has been agreed for some time as a proper Departmental policy.
On the important question of research and development we are faced with a dilemma. We feel acutely the need for many items of equipment now, but the pace of scientific development is very hot 880 and our position particularly, of all nations in the world, most forbids us to be left behind in this race. We have a guided weapons programme. That is a very formidable and expensive part of research and development. Then we have aero-engines. The aero-engine is the core about which the rest of the machine is wrapped, and a significant advance in design and performance of an aero-engine means a significant change in the balance of air power, and so of military power in general. Of course, in aero-engines we have some off-set in civil aviation. I do assure the House, with my noble and gallant friend Lord Alexander of Tunis, that that programme will continue to receive a very careful combing. We are aware that our financial resources and the resources of scientific knowledge are not only strictly limited but must be applied to the most important projects. I think I can reassure noble Lords, and particularly the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, that we do not make the awaiting of the final outcome of a project, or rather the ideal development of it, the excuse for putting off the day of production. We are going into production of a large range of very important items of equipment, of which the family of anti-tank guns is one.
The third proposition is that we can regain sufficient resources for the more important projects which are not now included by a process of pruning and scraping. Economy in general is always popular, but economies always seem to me to earn the opprobrious epithets of "narrow-minded" and "short-sighted." That is the same for all Governments at all times, and all Governments at all times are vulnerable upon this, particularly in the modern world where the range of administration is very large. I do not think it is any false humility to say that we all feel that signs of waste and extravagance which are brought to the notice of Ministers ought to be welcome, because that is the duty of Parliament, and in particular of the Opposition. This "prolonged pull" faces all free nations.
I was deeply interested in the thoughtful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, yesterday. He raised a number of questions, and he seemed to be asking for more information—a plea which was supported by the Liberal 881 Benches just now. I do not deny that it is difficult to present adequate information to the public. First of all, we have to make up our minds in the fourteen nations about what is and what is not security. Secondly, I am afraid that in an organisation of this character, there are bound to be leaks, sometimes inaccurate and sometimes accurate; it is impossible to prevent them. They get into the Press which produces this half-digested information. I assure the noble Lord that his suggestion will be carefully considered, but, as he knows, my noble and gallant friend Lord Alexander goes, I think, next week to the North Atlantic Council, and perhaps after that we can consider whether we ought to have a debate about these affairs. I hope the noble Lord will forgive me if I do not go into details answering his particular questions to-day.
To sum up, I think we ought to say that, taking a perspective view, it is only two years since General (now President) Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Commander at S.H.A.P.E. It is sometimes difficult to remember that until one forces oneself to look back. I think we can take a legitimate pride—and I admit that the late Government are entitled to a full share in that pride, because Mr. Ernest Bevin and his successor took so great a part in forming this great Alliance—that under that Supreme Commander so many nations are already taking part in full-scale exercises, that there are integrated commands and supply systems. If I may take the example of the 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force, we have British, Dutch and Belgian squadrons and wings serving under an integrated Staff, under the command of a distinguished British Air Marshal. We must not be too gloomy about this, but we must remember that the threat is very great and we must not relax our pressure to make our preparations better.
I ought to say at this point that we must beware—and I open myself to attacks from either naval or military sources—of calculating relative strengths merely in divisions, or regarding air power as a kind of bonus or supplement to land power. Her Majesty's Government attach the greatest importance to the proper weight being attached to the factor of air power when striking a balance. It is a truism, and it has often been said, that we face a world-wide threat. Our responsibilities are heavy 882 and varied. Not only have we to do our best to ensure that the vital area of Western Europe remains free, but we cannot stand by and see the cession of large and important are as of the world to Communism. It is often said that military resistance is not the cure for this disease. Whether or not that is true, I am certain that, without the means to offer resistance, no other policy could prevail. And these burdens overseas are burdens borne at arm's length. I am happy that we have had support from the Benches opposite about the necessity in present circumstances—and I emphasise those words—for a period of National Service of two years.
I do not propose to retraverse the arguments which have been used, both here and in another place, but it has been advanced that the increased use of air transport would be a very considerable alleviation of our manpower difficulties. While not denying the importance of the theme, I ought to remind the House that already we are transporting some 80 per cent. of our men and women into the Middle East theatre by air. To the Far East, sea-trooping is at the moment more economical than air transport, but air transport may well to a large extent, though never completely, displace sea transport, if the great new machines which are coming into being can be put into the service of the Armed Forces. But again we must remember the economics. To do so means a very heavy capital outlay. Some of these large aircraft, with a life provision for spares, cost as much as £1 million—I say this by way of illustration, and not to test the cogency of the argument. But, although in the long-term I think that great strategic and economic advantages will come from a much greater employment, even to the Far East, of air transport, we must face the fact that in order to get these future benefits, savings must be effected in some other part of our national economy. I have no quarrel with those who question the rate of progress in this respect, but we must not underestimate what has been and is being achieved in the air.
Last year in a debate on air matters, which was the first time I had the honour to address your Lordships' House as Minister, I tried to put the position as I saw it. Some said that I was too gloomy, or that I did scant justice to the previous 883 Administration. It is no good imagining that our relative position in the air, either then or now, is good—and I speak not so much of numbers as of performance, because a programme of this kind takes much longer to mature than is generally supposed. I say to noble Lords opposite, with great willingness, that good selected seeds were planted in fertile ground, and I regard it as my duty to tend the Growing plants and preserve the rotation in cultivation.
§ LORD HENDERSON
May I, on behalf of noble Lords on this side of the House, thank the noble Lord for that expression?
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
I leave the noble Viscount to work that out.
My Lords, there have been, and are likely to be in the future, some disappointments in the progress of production. But in reference to Civil Aviation, I told the House the other day, and at some length—soI will not detain the House to-night—that in our view super-priority has worked and is giving us greater production than we should have otherwise obtained. In air defence it might be said that there are two pillars. I will start with the first—the fighter force and its associated equipment. I tried to make it plain last year that the new swept-wing fighters were not just round the corner, and that for the time being we were behind in this race. I confess that I hoped that we should begin to see some of the new fighters in service before the middle of this year, but my noble friend Lord Alexander has already told the House that it is probable that they will come into service only towards the end of the year. The fact is that their development trials have taken longer than was hoped. But I must emphasise that it would be wrong, though it might be tempting, to dress the window. An aircraft of this kind must come into service as a fully operational machine. Those who cut the corners may get the numbers, but at a price in performance which we are not willing to pay. I am glad to say that this great new family of fighters—the Hunter, the Swift and the Javelin—all have development in them in the view 884 of those who are qualified to judge (if I may be forgiven for using technical jargon), which means that later marks can be improved and have a superior performance without a complete redesign, which is very important.
Now, my Lords, for the new star which is coming over the horizon in this question of our metropolitan defence—guided weapons. My noble friend Lord Alexander yesterday made an important announcement in this respect. I would only add that the Royal Air Force deeply appreciates this new responsibility which is laid upon it; but it in no way underestimates the magnitude of the new task. The Air Force is accustomed by habit and by circumstance to the rapid march of science and invention, and it knows that this new responsibility is a challenge to its military intellect, organising ability and technical skill. Perhaps the most difficult aspect is this last one. I make no bones about the fact that we are short of the necessary highly skilled technicians in the Air Force. This, of course, is common to the other Services—in fact it is not too much to say that it is a national shortage. This is especially so in radar and electronics, and the organisation which we set up for the handling of these guided weapons must take fully into account the need to employ these rare skills to the utmost advantage. Again, I must point out that this is not a short-term project, and that the development into operational use of guided weapons will be slow—at any rate much slower than the public mind is likely to be accustomed to.
The third factor in the home defence system is the rebirth of the radar system. As noble Lords no doubt realise, this falls into three parts. There is the provision of specialised buildings and living quarters; then the provision of an immense network of communications, work upon which is being carried out by the Post Office, and to my noble friend the Postmaster General and his Ministry I should like to pay a well-deserved tribute in that respect. Thirdly, there is the manufacture of new and far more efficient radar equipment. My noble friend Lord Alexander told the House yesterday that the radar equipment at present available has been outstripped by the present generation of air engines and machines, and every effort is being made to catch up in this vitally important sector of our 885 defence. I can say that the electronics industry and the Government research establishments are making good progress in this respect.
I have already referred to the 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force, which is a fully mobile Air Force. The fact of ensuring mobility in itself presents great difficulties and necessitates great expenditure in vehicles. We are now beginning to receive the Venoms and the Sabres. The Sabres are manufactured in Canada, and with United States' engines, for which we are very grateful. We are also to get a certain number of Sabre squadrons in Fighter Command of the Royal Air Force, thanks to United States' generosity. And there are the Neptunes in Coastal Command, a force which, I assure Lord Fraser, for quality and equipment and operational technique, is maintaining the high standards which it attained during the late war when (I am sure he will agree with this) more than half the U-boats destroyed were sunk by air action—I am not specifying under whose command lest I should again provoke a further controversy.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
My Lords, I come to the second pillar. I hope that I am not wearying the House. I warned the House that I should speak at some length. The second pillar of our defence is the power to strike back at the source of the enemy's power, wherever it may be. The instrument for that must be the long-range bomber, of which there are to be three types, the Valiant, the Vulcan and the Victor. I will not at this stage go into the arguments for and against more than one type. I can reassure my noble friend Lord Trenchard that they have the capabilities which he desires them to have. Here, again, in the modern world quality, both in aircrew and in machines, is the most vital factor.
Although we must never be terrified by anything which may occur to us, I do not think it is too much to say that the advent of the atomic bomb is the critical military factor in the world and has deeply affected relations between the nations. Earlier in my speech I spoke of the risk which its existence brings of a terribly swift blow, and I assert that, 886 whatever we may have to forgo owing to lack of resources, it surely cannot be right for us to forgo this supreme expression of military power in the modern world. Much as we value the weight and strength of the United States Air Force, we should be quite wrong to leave the counter-offensive to them. I am glad to say that the Valiant aircraft is coming on well. It is still engaged on its trials, and I am not at this stage going to prophesy exactly when it will come into service, but I should like to say that the firm who are making them—namely, Vickers—have recently been informed that they will receive the necessary follow-on orders to enable them to maintain their full rate of production. These highly costly new machines need men of the highest skill to maintain them, and this problem is very closely exercising the thoughts of the Air Council at the present moment. I am not going at this moment to lay any proposals before the House but I think it right to let the House know that this is a very critical matter in Air Force affairs.
Again, with regard to air crews, I spoke just now about the necessity of quality. Indeed, in modern times, to the venturesome young man, the air—I am not going to specify whether the Naval branch or the Royal Air Force—offers a very great career and a great opportunity for his spirit of adventure. We believe that in present circumstances we ought to reshape the plans of our air crew reserves. What we need, as we envisage things at the moment, is, first, that we should have smaller air crew reserves, of a higher state of training. That is why, with the deepest regret, we felt it right to close our connection with some of the reserve flying schools. It was a peculiarly painful task because these schools have been run so well, and many of them for so long and so faithfully, by enthusiasts for the air. But it would have been a misapplication of our resources to continue with these schools in present circumstances, because so many of the products of these schools would not have been able to make their contribution until after what we believe will be the critical stage, the initial phase, had passed.
The noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander, said yesterday, and said very rightly, that policy in these matters was all-important. Our defence policy needs 887 constant management. Our main objective, as the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said in his closing remarks, must remain the peace and security of these Islands, of our dependences, of our sister nations, and of our Allies. We have, it is true, to balance, almost on a razor edge, one risk against another, but we ought not thereby to repine. Nor do we. For as one noble Lord, Lord Winster, said yesterday, this is not the first time that we have faced great difficulties and great odds. And because history shows that we overcame them, it does not mean that the odds were smaller or the difficulties and dangers less grave. We seek peace not because we fear danger, but because we believe that it is righteous so to do. But we know that it is not to be purchased by submission or acquiescence. If necessary, we shall stay armed until the threat has gone. Even if there has been, if I may so put it, a slight thawing in international relations, I think it is fair to say that we must pay regard not so much to words as to deeds. Therefore, however much we deplore the cause we can nevertheless take pride that it is given to us as a nation to take so leading a part in the defence of the free world.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I do not propose to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper, but I should like to say just a few words. I will not repeat the speech which I made yesterday; I am sure that your Lordships would not wish to hear it again. But I made that speech after giving careful consideration to every line of it, and I stand by it—including the statement about the £100 million saving. I feel that there is little to say now, because very few arguments have been put up against my proposals, though the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Fraser, put a question to me on one matter. I will deal with that in one moment. None of the other points that I referred to—for instance, that about aircraft carriers—were controverted, except that Lord Teynham said that the aircraft carrier had replaced the battleship. I hope the fate of the aircraft carrier will not be the same as that of the battleship in the past.
With regard to the question which Lord Fraser put to me, all I need say, 888 I think, is that I heard that question twenty-five years ago. Your Lordships, I am sure, do not want to hear a debate upon it. Since the days when that question was originally put to me, we have seen the development of the atom bomb, and I thoroughly agree with the noble Lord who replied for the Government that that weapon completely alters the whole aspect of that question. Secondly, I would say that the jet-propelled machine, with treble the speed of its forerunners—it has trebled their speed, not merely added a matter of five knots—has altered it, too. Your Lordships will not wish to hear a technical discussion and there is just one last thing I wish to say. I feel rather sad at the general impression conveyed, I thought, by some of the speakers, that in their view I am doing a disservice to the country and to the Services in raising this point about what the air means to this nation. I do it with a full sense of responsibility, and I prefer to be the judge of my own duty on that.