§ 2.42 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE (EARL ALEXANDER OF TUNIS) rose to move to resolve, That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1954 (Cmd. 9075). The noble and gallant Earl said: My Lords, as I said last year, I shall always aim to give the House and the country the fullest information about the Defence Programme consistent of course with security. Accordingly, in this year's Statement on Defence I have tried to give a fuller exposition than is usual of what our defence policy is and of the main considerations upon which it is founded. Before I pass to the main part of my speech, it may interest your Lordships to hear something of the studies we have made over the past eighteen months which have led us to our present defence policy. Shortly after I took office in the spring of 1952, a thorough review of our whole global strategy was undertaken with the assistance of our military advisers. As a result of this examination it became clear that the world picture was changing, and that the time was ripe for a different emphasis in Defence.
§ In 1950, at the outbreak of the Korean war it appeared then that the possibilities of a third World War were dangerously near. This resulted in a rush to arm at any price. In view of the international situation at the time I am sure that this was the only realistic course open to the late Administration when they took the decision to build up our fighting strength as quickly as possible. But by 1952 the picture was changing, and we came to the conclusion that provided the Allies maintained their unity of effort and continued to build up a deterrent, the likelihood of early war was not so imminent as it had appeared in 1950, two years previously. But the most likely prospect was a prolonged period of international tension, although there was always the danger that a major conflict could break out, either as a result of aggression, or through accident or a miscalculation. We had known since 1949 that the Communist world had learned the secrets of the atom bomb. By 1953 we also knew that the Soviet Union had achieved thermo-nuclear explosion. No longer then were these terrible secrets in the sole possession of the Western Powers. The 358 nature of future war was therefore fundamentally changed.
§ In the new circumstances we believed that a future war would probably start with an opening phase of unparalleled intensity lasting a few weeks or perhaps only days during which both sides would use the atom bomb. Bearing in mind the tremendous strength of the American Strategic Air Command with its atomic striking power, and provided it could retaliate immediately, the aggressor would receive terrific punishment which might well destroy his whole war-making potential. This short period of intense destruction might, therefore, prove to be decisive—but if not decisive then there would follow an intermittent struggle, gradually spreading world-wide during which both sides would be recovering from the initial onslaught and rebuilding their fighting strength to carry on the struggle.
§ No purely defensive system, active or passive, can be wholly effective in these circumstances. It must follow, therefore, that the importance of deterrent forces becomes paramount. With this background and these conclusions we have decided that we must build up our fighting strength with three aims in view: first, the maintenance of sufficient forces to carry out our world-wide commitments which embrace the cold war; second, to make our maximum contribution, together with our Allies, to the deterrents to war; third, to make preparations against the risk of a major war should the deterrent fail. Although I have put these tasks in this order of priority, your Lordships, of course, realise that they are interlinked and overlapping.
§ This I submit is a realistic policy of defence because it faces the facts; and the facts are these. There never can be absolute military security. No country, however strong it may be, can afford to expend more than a certain amount of its money, manpower, materials and manufacturing capacity on armaments without causing serious injury to its economy, on which depends its ability to build up its military strength. And since we will never be the aggressors, we cannot choose a date on which we must be ready for hostilities down to the last button. Of course, we could calculate a date which would be little better than a guess and go over to a war economy, with all that that 359 would mean. But when our chosen date had arrived and if nothing happened, could we afford to maintain our fighting strength at the level it had then reached? Such a plan of preparation is neither realistic nor practical. Therefore, we have arrived at certain conclusions which have led to the policy of the "Long Haul," a policy which has since been adopted by the United States of America and the other members of N.A.T.O. In consequence, we have substituted for the rush to arm at any price, a carefully thought-out programme of rearmament within a financial and economic framework which we can afford, not only for this year, or next, but for several years ahead.
§ In framing our Defence Policy there is another aspect which we have not lost sight of, which is this. If we are faced with another war it will not be of our making and we shall not have to fight alone. We have staunch and powerful allies to share with us the burden, and none more powerful than the United States of America. This does not mean that we shall ask or expect others to do what we should rightly perform ourselves, or lean on our friends, but it does mean that we must avoid dissipating our energies and wasting our strength on duplication of effort. Therefore, as far as possible, we should pool our resources and integrate our effort so that we act as a united team—and a very powerful team it can be, and is growing, as I will show later.
§ I will now, if I may, explain briefly how we hope the general considerations of policy which I have outlined will be reflected in the programmes of the three Services. In face of mining and submarine warfare the Royal Navy is likely to have as hazardous and difficult a task in a future struggle as it has faced before in two World Wars. If our sea communications were severed and the convoys carrying our essential supplies from overseas could not reach us, I need not remind your Lordships of the grave situation with which we would be faced. It is because of this threat that the naval construction programme is concentrated on minesweepers and anti-submarine forces, which, of course, include the aircraft carriers. The first of the new antisubmarine frigates is due to be completed in 1954-55. And the research effort of 360 the Navy is devoted mainly to anti-mine, anti-submarine and anti-aircraft warfare.
§ The Royal Air Force will continue to build up its fighting strength in the United Kingdom and in Western Europe. In particular a force of jet medium bomber squadrons will be brought into service as quickly as possible with the aim of providing a highly trained and flexible force for the exercise of air power. This force will not only contribute powerfully to the Allied deterrent against war but would also be of primary importance to the defence both of these islands and of Western Europe should war come. During this coming year there will be a further increase in the size and effectiveness of the front line of the Royal Air Force. Fighter Command now has its first all-British swept-wing fighters, and this year we shall see a steady increase in the rate of equipment with the Swifts and Hunters. As your Lordships know, the Royal Air Force is dependent on the radar early warning and reporting system. In fact this is one of the main links in our whole chain of defence. From an early stage of the defence programme this project was accorded priority over all other defence work except atomic energy and guided missiles. And plans are now being made for further development of the control and reporting system and for the introduction of yet more modern types of equipment.
§ As regards the Army, the number of front line formations will, within the limits imposed upon us by our overseas commitments and our obligations to our Allies, be somewhat reduced. The re-equipment programme for the Reserve Army will be concentrated on those formations which would be the first to be mobilised and go into action. At the same time, our aim will be to build up a strategic reserve at home, when we can regain freedom of man œuvre in redeployment. I should like to expand a little on this important point. Ever since the present Government took office our aim has been to build up a mobile strategic reserve in the United Kingdom, available and ready to deal with any emergency which may arise at any place and at any time. This reserve will be formed as soon as we can be relieved of some of our world-wide commitments which are at the moment engaging too much of our fighting strength.361
§ To make a strategic reserve as effective as possible we must have the ability to move it at short notice and at great speed whenever and wherever it is needed. Movement of troops in large numbers by air is, of course, a routine part of our military arrangements. Ninety per cent, of all trooping to the Middle East is now done by air; in emergency, reinforcements have already been moved rapidly by air, notably in recent months to Kenya. But these modern means of movement must be developed, and we have decided that for the transport of troops and their equipment over long distances, a high-speed long-range aircraft will be introduced into Transport Command. For the transport of heavy military equipment as well as troops, the Beverley freighter has been ordered for Transport Command. It will carry over fifteen tons of stores for more than 600 miles, including, if need be, the equivalent of a light tank or a 25-pounder or six jeeps.
§ Briefly then our plan for the Services is as follows. Taking into account the close co-operation with our Allies, and the growing power of the N.A.T O. Alliance, we shall aim at a smaller, better equipped, better disposed and more mobile Army, an Air Force of increasing defensive/offensive power, and a Navy which, despite the grave threat of the submarine and mine, will be able to keep open our vital sea lines of communication in time of need.
§ I turn now to research and development to which, over the past year, we have been devoting a large and increasing share of our defence resources. In the next three or four years we shall be seeing the completion of many of the major projects towards which our research and development programme has been directed for some years. After the war we had not only to learn the lessons of that war but to take some major steps forward beyond what was known at the time. The process of developing important modern equipments and weapons, in most of which electronics form a major part, is inevitably now a long one, owing to the increase and complication of this electronic machinery. The Party to which noble Lords opposite belong must take a considerable part of the credit for initiating and supporting a strong research and development pro- 362 gramme during the years in which they held office. At present that programme is costing us a very large sum of money—nearly £160 million in 1954–55, which is double what we were spending in 1950, and shows clearly that the Government is not neglecting this most important work. There are however limits to what can usefully be done, and we must be very selective in deciding what to put our money on for the future. In particular we must always have in mind that there is little sense in developing great numbers of different types of equipment which we could never hope to produce in quantity. In this, as in everything else, we must be realistic and keep a due sense of proportion.
§ The three Services are already faced and will increasingly be faced with the necessity of taking some of the gravest decisions that have come up since the end of the war. We must decide how we should allot the resources available to us between improvements in the weapons with which we are familiar, for most of which we can still foresee a long and useful life, and the development and eventually the production of weapons of completely new types. These weapons are bound to be extremely expensive. We cannot therefore afford to adopt the policy of developing and producing numbers of several types of weapon to meet the same requirement in order that we might be able over a period of years to test one against another. We have been taking risks and shall continue to do so in pinning our faith to one or sometimes two out of a number of possible solutions. In making such decisions we rely on the combined judgment of experienced operational staffs and of the scientists in the defence services. I cannot guarantee that we shall always take what proves to be the right decision in every case, but we shall continue to think before we spend, and do our best to get the greatest knowledge and military advantage from every stage in research and development.
§ As noble Lords are aware there has been built up in recent years a tremendous joint project by ourselves and the Australian Government for the trial of long-range weapons at Woomera in Australia. The Australian Government have devoted very large resources to their share of this establishment and it is now coming into increasingly effective use. We 363 have also had most welcome co-operation from Australia in the matter of trials of our atomic weapons. Both our trials have been held in their territory and in each case we received most valuable help from them. In both these cases the sites that were available in Australia are far more suitable than any that can be found in the United Kingdom, and the co-operation of Australia in our weapon research and development has been indispensable.
§ You will appreciate that in deciding on the rôle and balance as between the Navy, Army and Air Force, the advent of the new weapons to which I have referred has played a very important part. As you know atom bombs are now being delivered to the R.A.F. These atomic weapons carried by our medium bombers will add immeasurably to our striking power. In addition I must mention the first of the guided missiles, the air-to-air weapon which has reached an advanced stage of development.
§ The ground-to-air guided missile will follow later, and we are already considering the part it will play in our air defences. We have decided that it should be operated by the R.A.F., because it will be operating in the same air space as the fighters and therefore must be under the some single ground control. We have also decided to push ahead with plans for providing the Commander in the field with a ground-to-ground guided missile carrying an atomic warhead. The provision of such a weapon on the battlefield will add greatly to the strength of the defence. This, however, is a longer-term project and in any case will not help the Army with their cold war commitments. The Navy's needs for both the surface-to-air guided missile and the surface-to-surface weapon are not being neglected. In fact we can foresee a day when they may become the ships' main armament.
§ In all our Staff Colleges as well as in the High Directorates the tactics of atomic warfare are under continuous and intensive study. It is still too early to lay down a firm tactical doctrine on this new phase of warfare, but much useful work has already been done which will prove of great value as a groundwork for the new tactical doctrines which will be introduced when we learn from closer practical experience the potentialities of 364 the new weapons. The arrival of atomic weapons on the battlefield is certainly going to have a great effect on tactics and organisation in the future. It will call for dispersal, mobility, camouflage and rapid movement of a high order. It will probably mean alteration in the size and shape of existing formations. But, as I said earlier, we are not yet in a position to arrive at firm decisions on all these important matters until we have more data and further opportunity to make a fuller study of these problems.
§ Nothing is more likely to weaken confidence and delay our defence preparations than to act on half-baked conclusions. And yet there are those enthusiasts who would like us to ignore the conventional weapons and go all out for the non-conventional. I am afraid it is not quite as simple as going into a shop to buy a pair of boots. The truth is that most of the weapons are several years away and we have yet to learn how successful they will turn out to be. Therefore we have got to bridge the gap between then and now, otherwise we shall find ourselves defenceless if sudden war should come in the meantime.
§ My Lords, we must never again risk a situation where we take the field with inferior armaments to those of our enemy. I have myself experienced this unhappy state of affairs at the beginning of two World Wars. In 1940, we had no tanks comparable to those of the Germans and no anti-tank weapons capable of dealing with them, not to mention a shortage of ammunition even for those inferior weapons. I would remind you that the tide of war did not swing in our favour until we had arms and equipment of such quality and in sufficient quantity with which to face the enemy on equal terms. If we enter another war as ill prepared as we have been in the past we shall not get off so lightly again. That will be a sure way to disaster. Of course it would be folly to prepare for the last war, although we can learn some useful lessons from it, and one of the most valuable lessons we can learn is that the Second World War was as different from the First World War as a boxing match is from a wrestling contest. And there is every reason to believe that another major war will prove to be of even greater difference from the last, and this difference will grow as time goes by.365
§ What I wish to emphasise here is that we cannot afford to cast aside our present shield of conventional weapons and stand naked and defenceless until a new shield of non-conventional weapons is ready to take its place. In my opinion, it is a matter of gradually phasing in the new weapons as they prove their worth and can come into production. And we must also consider this: that it will not be long after we have got the unconventional weapons before they in turn will become conventional when there is something newer and better on the horizon to take their place—as will surely happen in an age of such rapid scientific progress. I should like to give an illustration of the present need for conventional weapons. If atomic weapons are to be successful on the battlefield we must, first of all, make the enemy offer a suitable target. This can best be done by making him concentrate his force in order to get sufficient strength for a break-through. Only conventional forces on the ground can bring about that state of affairs, otherwise our atomic weapons can be over-run by hostile forces, widely dispersed, advancing on a broad front and flowing forward like water over a weir. Western Europe must be held: we cannot allow our Allies to be overrun and occupied again. We cannot afford to allow the Russians to obtain air bases and launching sites on the Channel coast within easy striking distance of these shores. But if Western Europe is to be held there must be conventional forces and weapons to hold it. That is my answer to those critics who say that we are spending too much on conventional weapons and too little on developing and producing the new ones.
§ It may also be said that we are spending too much on manpower and too little on production, research and development. In answer to that, I would point out that in 1950 about one-third of our total defence expenditure was spent on production, research and development, while in 1954, out of a total expenditure about twice as great, nearly half will be spent on production and defence research. And the proportion of our resources devoted to manpower has, by contrast, been continuously declining. Of course, in other circumstances I should agree that smaller, better equipped forces would be desirable but we have to take into account, in allocating our forces, the facts which 366 exist to-day. Our manifold commitments make it impossible at present to effect much economy in manpower, movements, supplies and all the other things which are needed to keep large forces in the field.
§ I can best make this clear by giving you a short review of our current commitments. Our commitments can be said to fall under two headings: first, those arising from our position as a world power—these are responsibilities which we all agree cannot be shirked or cast aside; secondly, those obligations which we undertake as a member of the United Nations or as one of the signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty. We have major commitments under the first heading in the Far East. In Malaya, we are engaged in active operations against the Communist bandits. All three Services are playing their part in this theatre, though it is mainly a task for the Army. Our troops are operating in Malaya under very arduous and difficult conditions and they have had considerable success. I hope that over the next few years we may be able to make some reductions in the size of our forces in Malaya. But it is vital that we do not lose the ground which we have already won at such great sacrifice. In Hong Kong, also, we have to maintain a garrison. We must leave the Communists in no doubt about our intention to defend that Colony. In Korea, though the fighting has stopped, it is still only a cease-fire. We cannot yet withdraw our support of the United Nations forces. So we intend for the present to maintain our contribution to the Commonwealth Division and our naval forces in that theatre.
§ I do not wish to dwell to-day on the position in Egypt and the reasons for keeping our forces there. But whatever the outcome of our negotiations with Egypt, we have a part to play in the Middle East. It is the British forces in this area which would provide the backbone of any elective defence of the Middle East States in the event of war. We also have our Treaties with some of these States which we must be in a position to honour. During the last two years, we have had to undertake new commitments in the Colonies. Subversive activities of the Mau Mau in Kenya have compelled us to send considerable reinforcements to assist the local forces. But we have every hope that within a reasonable period, the hatred and violence of a mis- 367 guided section of the people will be overcome by wise and firm action. Last year, we also had to send, at short notice, reinforcements to back up the local security forces in British Guiana. So far, I have only mentioned the trouble spots. But we must not forget that there are other territories where garrisons must be maintained. I admit that these garrisons are comparatively small, but in total they make heavy calls on the three Services.
§ Now we come to our obligations under N.A.T.O. and as a member of the United Nations. I will not mention Korea again because I have already said enough about it. In Trieste, we have one infantry brigade. Our troops there and the British Commander of the Zone have been carrying out their duties under very trying and difficult conditions during the past year, and carrying them out with firmness, tact and impartiality, and they deserve our congratulations. The peaceful settlement of this difficult and complicated problem will not only strengthen the Allied position in this strategically important area but will also allow us to redeploy our troops which are badly needed elsewhere. In Austria, we have recently reduced the size of our garrison, and we hope that before long a satisfactory agreement over the future of that country will allow us to withdraw the remainder of our troops.
§ Now, nearer home, we have our most important commitment, our contribution to N.A.T.O. in Europe. In Germany, as your Lordships so well know, we have the flower of our Army in the four divisions—three of them armoured, stationed in readiness and under the Command of the Supreme Allied Commander, General Gruenther. This powerful force of infantry and armour is backed up by the Second Tactical Air Force, in which the Royal Air Force's contribution to the N.A.T.O. Air Forces is second only to that of the United States. Bomber Command also has its part to play. Among its various rôles, a primary task in war would be to give the most effective assistance to the forces under S.H.A.P.E. On the sea, the Home Fleet and the Mediterranean Fleet provide a large proportion of the Allied naval forces under S.A.C.L.A.N.T. and also under S.H.A.P.E. Again, our naval contribution to N.A.T.O. is second only to that of the United States.368
§ Your Lordships will appreciate that this is only a brief survey of the lay-out of our fighting strength. But I think it will show you the magnitude of our obligations and commitments and illustrate the need for the present balance of our defence programme and, in particular, of the impossibility of reducing the length of National Service under existing conditions. We do not want to keep the National Serviceman any more than the National Serviceman wants to be kept, but under present conditions it is impossible either to let him go or to reduce the length of his service. However, that does not mean that Her Majesty's Government do not have this matter continually under review. I shall welcome the day when we can not only reduce the period of National Service, if that is possible, but do away with National Service altogether. As a military man with many years' experience of soldiering, I would much rather have an Army of volunteers than a large Army under present arrangements.
§ I have spoken at some length about the tasks of the Forces. I must now say something about the men upon whom we depend to carry out these tasks. If your Lordships study the Defence White Paper, you will see that in the coming year we expect the overall numbers of the active Forces to be maintained at little below their present size. We estimate that we shall obtain nearly as many Regular recruits in the present year as we did in 1953. Why then have we a manpower problem, and why are certain aspects of that manpower problem quite serious? The reason is that at the present time we can maintain the strength of the active Forces only by augmenting the Regular element with National Servicemen, to an extent that the latter now form 35 per cent. of the active Forces, and in the Army outnumber the Regulars. Now the National Serviceman is a very valuable member of the Armed Forces and most valuable in the last six months of his service. He has borne his part most gallantly in the fighting in Korea, and has helped to bear the burden—and is still doing so—in Malaya and Kenya, to mention only three of the trouble spots. What is more, we shall the middle of this year have built up trained reserves of half-a-million National Service Reservists, who after completing their two years colour 369 service provide the great bulk of the trained reserve of manpower upon which we should rely in the initial stages of a future war.
§ In the present conditions of the cold war, we cannot appreciably reduce the numbers in our active Forces, nor can we allow the efficiency of the National Service reserves to run down. These are the two main reasons why the Government cannot at the present time consider any reduction in the period of National Service. The unpleasant fact remains that a large proportion of our active Forces serve no more than two years with the colours under the National Service scheme. And despite recruiting figures which compare favourably with those of two or three years ago, the preponderant number of Regulars are now enlisting only on the three-year short-service engagement. Even in the Army, the new 22-year engagement, which is attracting quite good numbers of recruits, can be terminated at each three-year point, if the soldier so wishes. All this means that the Services are experiencing great difficulty in maintaining that essential core of men of experience and longer service, who provide the great bulk of the N.C.Os. and skilled tradesmen. That is the weak spot in our manpower position at the present time. We cannot in these days expect to get away from the short-period Regular engagement. This means that we must do our utmost to induce men to prolong their service, by extension and re-engagement, when their short initial Regular engagement expires. At the present time, far too large a proportion of these men go into civil life after only three years' service in the Forces. The problem therefore is how to make conditions in the Services an attractive alternative to the Regular going out into civil life, where in conditions of full employment and with acquired Service skills at his back, he readily finds employment and at attractive wages.
§ There are two main directions in which we can seek a remedy. First, we must do what we can to improve the general conditions of service, in connection with such things as the length of the overseas tour, the frequency of postings and consequent disturbance to Service men aid their families, improvements in barrack accommodation, which are long overdue and on which we hope to make early 370 progress, and the provision of married quarters. But the scope for bettering general conditions of service is very limited under cold war conditions, with the constantly recurring overseas emergencies and our world-wide commitments and obligations. What we can do is to try to secure that the Regular, when fully trained in his complicated modern weapons and in the technical skill which they require, shall receive a rate of pay comparable to what he would get if he left the Services and went to civil life. That is precisely the aim of the selective pay increases which were announced in another place in the Defence debate on March 2. They are selective, and not general pay increases for everybody in the Forces, because they are addressed to the particular problems which I have just stated that is, to keep the short-service Regular in the Forces and thus build up the hard core of experienced and skilled men without which none or the Services can be kept up to operational efficiency.
§ Before I leave manpower I should perhaps make a passing reference to the scheme, which has already been announced in another place and I think generally welcomed, for training certain National Service Reservists in civil defence duties. I will not elaborate on it now, but, if your Lordships wish, my noble friend the Secretary of State for Air can deal with it in more detail when addressing you to-morrow.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, I hate interrupting the noble Earl, but before he leaves the point of manpower, I wonder whether he can give us an estimate of what additional manpower will be required by reason of the larger numbers who, under these proposals, will be continually in the pipeline. Some of us are continually anxious about that, and I have seen no estimate of it anywhere.
§ EARL ALEXANDER OF TUNIS
My Lords, I should be reluctant to give any figure at this stage because I have not the information available with me now, but there is no doubt about it that if trooping to a distant station is done by sea, a large number of men are in the pipeline over a long period. If, however, it can be done by air, the pipeline is shorter, and fewer men are in it. They 371 do not waste so many weeks, or even months, but only a few days in the air. I do not know whether that answers the noble Viscount's question, but I can answer him much more fully, and I shall be delighted to do so, before the end of the debate.
So far I have directed my remarks primarily to our own defence policy and programme. But, as I said earlier, our build-up of fighting strength takes account of the fact that we are one of a united team in which we must pool our effort with our Allies and friends, and this brings me to N.A.T.O. Because I turn to N.A.T.O. at the end of my speech, your Lordships will not, I know, accuse me of underrating its importance. Its existence is, indeed, the most significant factor in the present world situation. It is absolutely fundamental to our security. N.A.T.O. continues to function with truly remarkable and increasing efficiency and is developing steadily the strength and cohesion needed to provide security on a long-term collective basis. My friend, General Gruenther, has expressed the opinion that we now have in Western Europe an air-ground shield of sufficient strength to make it necessary for the Russians to bring forward additional forces to be sure of overwhelming it. Of course, the Soviets can move in additional forces without much difficulty, but if they do, we should get some early warning of an impending attack. As a result of that warning, we should be able to alert our air defences and air forces and, of course, take other emergency measures which might be necessary, thereby increasing the defensive strength of the Western Front and, what is even more important, the time to take political action, together with our Allies, to try to prevent the start of hostilities.
The Supreme Allied Commander in Europe considers that the strength of the Forces at his disposal is now three to four times as effective as they were when General Eisenhower, as he then was, went to Europe three years ago. However, if the deterrent power of our forces in Europe is to remain effective, we must not only maintain our existing strength but also increase it, in so far as our resources permit, because we must realise that it is not only the Allied forces which are being supplied with new weapons.
372 The Russians, too, are continually improving the quality of their forces, and in addition the forces of the satellite States are becoming increasingly effective. No doubt your Lordships will have noted that the Soviet Minister of Defence, Marshal Bulganin, said in a recent speech:Russia's Army is the strongest in the world and is still being strengthened.N.A.T.O., therefore, cannot afford to relax. We must go on strengthening the shield behind which the full strength of the member nations can be rapidly mobilised in war. There is, however, one way by which we can add considerably to the strength of that shield, and that is by getting a German contribution to Western Defence. It is for this reason that we will continue to give our full support to E.D.C., because we believe that it is the best way of getting that contribution, while at the same time ensuring that the build-up of German divisions and the production of German arms is kept under strict control.
Although we are closely bound to N.A.T.O., we have not neglected cooperation with the sister countries of the Commonwealth. We have the closest ties with them, both in military plans and in the organisation and training of our respective forces. For example, Canada is training air pilots. Since its inception in January, 1951, over 700 pilots and over 1.200 navigators of the R.A.F. have been trained under the Canadian air training scheme at schools in Canada. Australia and New Zealand have contributed three air squadrons to the Middle East, whilst there is a continual interchange of officers between our various Headquarters engaged on Staff duties and in the attendance of Commonwealth officers in all schools of instruction.
Last year, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff visited Australia and New Zealand in order to discuss defence policy and strategy in that area with their Chiefs of Staff. The C.I.G.S. also visited Canada earlier in the year, and the First Sea Lord visited India and Pakistan. We have had a visit to the United Kingdom from General Simmonds, Chief of the Canadian Army Staff, and Admiral Sir John Collins, First Naval Member of the Australian Naval Board, is visiting, us next month. Senior officers of all the Commonwealth countries attended the 373 exercise held by the C.I.G.S. at Camberley last summer to study the problems of atomic warfare. Again, a successful meeting of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Defence Science was held in New Delhi last March.
Noble Lords will appreciate that in matters of defence there is no finality. As we speculate further into the future we run into many unknowns. Therefore, we must make full use of our imagination to try to penetrate the future without losing sight of the realities and needs of the present. New weapons and new techniques will go on changing the picture and the balance of opposing forces, as well as the shape and pattern of our own. In submitting my report to your Lordships, I am confident that the programme of rearmament as outlined in the Defence White Paper is on the right lines for the next three or four years, but no further than that. Beyond that the outlook is uncertain. But that does not mean that we are not striving to look still further ahead. We are now, in fact, engaged in studying the likely development of the world strategic situation and the pattern of our defence needs in the long term. We realise full well that it is only by the most forward-looking policy that we can continue to make the best use of our large but still limited defence resources in an era of scientific progress. And I can assure your Lordships that we are fully alive to the great issues of war and peace which in this dangerous age depend upon a right judgment on this matter. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1954 (Cmd. 9075).—(Earl Alexander of Tunis.)
§ 3.38 p.m.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, at the outset may I say one or two simple things—very simple, but not unimportant? The first is that the House is indebted to the noble and gallant Earl the Minister of Defence for the manner in which he has introduced this subject, to your Lordships. I shall be saying a good many critical things later on, but we all have an affection for the noble Earl; we overlook some of his political shortages—if I may call them so—and we accept a good deal from him that perhaps we might not accept from other people. The second thing I would say to noble Lords at large 374 is that I do not propose to divide the House against the Motion to approve the White Paper, but I hope very much that, having said that at the beginning of the debate, it will not mean that noble Lords on the opposite side will be any less faithful in their attendance at this two days' debate. I regard this debate as amongst the most important on which this House has ever entered. It is important because of all the varied circumstances, particularly those which the noble and gallant Earl the Minister of Defence has brought to our notice to-day.
The third thing I want to say, again quite simply, is with regard to my own position concerning the general problem which has to be covered by the White Paper. I want to make it clear at the start, beyond a peradventure—I know that most of my friends in all parts of the House will expect it to come front me—that I personally, and the great majority of Labour people in the country, support national defence and collective security, with a special emphasis on collective security. After all, ideals which we thought were practicable forty-five years ago were pretty rudely shaken from. 1914 to 1918; and with the failure of the League of Nations, in the absence of the United States of America from that body, and the war from 1939 to 1945, it is flue to say that anyone who argues for collective security without collective strength needs the closest self-examination, if not medical examination. In the, late war, with the exception of our own Commonwealth countries and small numbers of gallant forces from countries overrun by the enemy, we stood alone to face the greatest onslaught in history. In such circumstances, we should be false to our trust and experience if we did not support properly equipped collective security, found to be required after most careful examination.
In the light of these facts, it is not to be wondered at that the first majority Labour Government, which came into office in 1945, faced up to most difficult decisions. They included the Dunkirk and the Brussels Treaties, and the decision which laid upon my shoulders the responsibility of introducing National Service in peace time. In all these actions we took the initiative necessary to procure the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. In the immediate post- 375 war period, the late Government set up a Ministry of Defence. It was the first time that anything of that kind had been set up in peace time, but I do not regret the decision. We are considering to-day the eighth White Paper (I think it is) since the Ministry of Defence was established. The first Annual Estimate of the Ministry was comparatively small—and indeed, the last for which I personally was responsible, in 1949–50, was no more than £712,000. Since then there has been a colossal increase, and the White Paper now before us shows a gross expenditure of £24,250,000, as compared with that £712,000 in 1949–50. As the White Paper shows, the overall bill for the miscellaneous effective services is double the Estimate for 1949–50. This has happened over a period of four to five years, until the gross figure of the Defence Budget to-day is £1,640 million. That is a colossal figure, and it represents an enormous slice out of the general Budget cake of this country.
I feel that the whole nation should ponder upon this matter at this stage, especially in view of the note introduced by the Minister of Defence at the beginning of his speech to-day. He spoke on it with great freedom, probably because he practised on January 27—he ought not to have practised it then it should have been brought straight to Parliament. However, I concede that he spoke with great freedom on this issue to-day. In view of what he said about the changing circumstances, I feel that the whole nation should ponder the matter well and try to understand exactly what it means. After substantial American aid of about £85 million, and some somewhat smaller derisory appropriations in aid, the net figure that Mr. Butler, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has to find is £1,554 million. If these should turn out to be the final figures for the year—the final figures are, of course, not known yet—the Defence Budget will be about £300,000 over one-third of our national Budget expenditure. Never has there been any precedent for that in the whole peace-time history of this nation. In 1947–48 it was little over one-quarter of our national Budget expenditure, and many of us then thought it was a severe drain upon our national resources. It is right to say at once that 376 all those concerned with the build-up of what we regarded as necessary for collective security must share the responsibility for it.
Let us look at the story of the development of this matter. There were clear indications at the Paris Peace Conference in 1946 of the way in which the Communists and satellites, much to our regret and in spite of our endeavours to persuade them into more co-operative channels, intended to go in the post-war period. From the moment that we agreed to the military organisation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which I signed in Washington in October, 1949, the further increase in national expenditure was inevitable. On the other hand, it is true to say, as the Minister of Defence pointed out this afternoon, that there were periods in that build-up—and the noble and gallant Earl did not dissent from this—when the urge and the emphasis of the moment was on getting something quickly linked up inside the Treaty Organisation which would offer some real deterrent to what it seemed might be a fairly early move to a major war. We had our part in that. There were attempts to get a triennial programme in two stages of magnitude and cost to the nation. It was first put at between £3,000 million and £4,000 million over a triennial period. It was raised in December, 1950, to something like £4.700 million within the triennial period.
That triennial period has now just about lapsed, and in the meantime we have seen one or two things of great interest. We have seen, for example, that the present Government found when they took office, for a number of reasons, that it was impossible to fulfil that triennial programme at the tempo which was contemplated when that programme was drawn up; that is to say, that it was to cover a period of three years. From that moment onwards, for a number of reasons, the pace was slowed down, at any rate, on the production side of the programme. If any noble Lord took the trouble, as I did, to read the full debates in another place on the various Estimates for the Services, he would find attention drawn from time to time to the retarding of this or that particular section of a productive programme. But now, at the end of the triennial period, we face the fact that, in spite of the non-achievement 377 of the original production programme (as I say, I am not blaming anybody; it is for a number of reasons) the actual annual cost is much higher than was contemplated in the triennial programme first laid down, of about £3,500 million.
As I read an article by a great and able friend of mine, Mr. Hugh Gaitskell, in a Sunday newspaper about ten days ago, I wondered whether he was right in taking comfort from the thought that probably this rate of national expenditure upon these vital services had reached a peak. We have had no real indication from the Minister to-day whether or not that is his conviction. But it is a question about which the nation as a whole is thirsting to have information, because so many things have to be kept in mind. What is as essential at this time as I felt it was in 1947, when we had to put the National Service Act on the Statute Book, is that if this measure of national and individual sacrifice is to be maintained, the nation as a whole should approve of it aid should be certain that in every respect for which the money is paid money's worth is being obtained. It is largely from that point of view that I wish to speak this afternoon.
I said just now, rather jokingly, that the Minister probably had a little exercise on January 27 in the kind of statement that he has made this afternoon. Since he made that speech with, I will not say the same, but similar phraseology, Judging from the report in The Times on January 28, I think many people in the country have been disappointed that he has been unable to announce some reduction in expenditure. Because of the new orientation which people thought had been made, when he said that with the advice of their military experts the Government had formulated a plan of rearmament which would carry us forward in the years to come within the limits of what we could afford, people believed there was to be some reduction in the charges upon the nation for this vital service. It might have been better not to have whetted our appetites in that way, unless it was going to be possible within the limits of the Service requirements.
On the other hand, to be absolutely fair to the noble and gallant Earl—I will quote from the Press report itself—he did use words which, I think, were more 378 specific than those he used this afternoon with regard to the relation of the national Defence position to our economy. He said:… no country can afford to expend more than a certain amount of its money, manpower, materials, and manufacturing capacity on armaments without wrecking its economy. Unless we can limit taxation, we can never hope to have a healthy and progressive economy and maintain our place as a leading world Power. On all this depends our ability to build up our military strength.I looked at that speech carefully, and I have also read with a good deal of interest and care the fairly long and detailed introduction to the White Paper, from which he will agree he has not—and no one would expect him to do so—departed to any great extent this afternoon. Whilst I would agree that in some respects that introduction endeavours to face unpleasant facts, there must be a fairly widespread feeling of disappointment in the country that there is no hope of any kind of relief offered in the White Paper itself.
Now let us look for a few moments at the facts which this White Paper reveals. There is the national expenditure—this year, let us say, £1,640 million. Is that, in the Minister's view, within the limit of taxation? On the policy he has adumbrated and supported this afternoon, is that to be a minimum amount for the future? Is it to be a reducing amount? Is it not possible, from reading other parts of the White Paper, to think that it may be an increasing amount in the future? And where, in the Minister's mind, as he speaks at the Constitutional Club or here, or as he prepares his White Paper, is the point at which our expenditure on defence will reach the maximum from our economic resources which we can use for that purpose? I expect it will be argued that that is fairly difficult to define. On the other hand, the third paragraph in the White Paper quotes the Prime Minister as saying:"This would be a most fatal moment for the free nations to relax their comradeship and preparations.On that we all agree. We do not want to relax proper preparations, and certainly we do not wish to interfere with good will and comradeship. Paragraph 3 goes on:To fail to maintain our defence effort up to the limit of our strength would be to paralyse every beneficial tendency towards peace.…379 That is one way of putting it. When do we reach the limit? Was there any intention in the Minister's mind, in putting a policy before us, that we could hope for a reduction from the present enormous burden of more than one-third of our national Budget expenditure? That is a very important issue. Let us look at the wording used by the Minister's own Department, or in his own presentation of the case. The first two and a half lines in paragraph 5 say:It is therefore essential that we, our Commonwealth partners and our Allies should continue to build up our armed strength to the maximum of our ability.What proportion is the maximum of our national expenditure? It has risen now every year since 1947 by almost fantastic figures. What is the maximum? The country wants to know. You may say that I am being unfair about how I project the question, but one is bound to fear the increase that is coming unless we know more from the Government Front Bench.
Let us take infrastructure—a horrible word. I wish the Minister would somehow get the leaders of other countries to produce some other description of this piece of machinery known as infrastructure. Nevertheless, one thing is clear: we are to spend a large proportion of this great increase in the Ministry of Defence Estimates in this particular channel. But is it finished? No; it seems to me that the increase has by no means finished. The Secretary of State for Air will be replying to the debate and I hope he will let us know more about it.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY)
Since I have been mentioned, may I take this opportunity of asking the noble Viscount this question, because I think it is relevant to the debate? When he was in the office held by my noble and gallant friend the Minister of Defence, he initiated, with our approval, a great programme of rearmament.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
Did the noble Viscount know what the cost of that programme would be in three 380 or four years' time? Had he costed it? And did he tell Parliament?
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
Of course no one could estimate, particularly then. We were at a very different stage in the nation's economy.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
A very different stage indeed. In view of the way in which the Government now put forward their policy, we ought to have further calculations, because so much more of our national resources is taken up.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
I am making no Party point. I have already said that I take my full share of responsibility for the policy which by the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty inevitably—that was the word I used—meant increased expenditure.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
But the present position is being looked at from another point of view. You talk about the change in international circumstances; you talk about the receding danger of a major war; you talk about taking the view, in those circumstances, of what should be the maximum effort in the case of both conventional and non-conventional weapons. I am not being controversial for the sake of controversy. I am much too concerned as an individual and a citizen—as well as having some responsibility when speaking in this position—that the nation should be right behind the policy which I believe the great majority of them want—that is, the obtaining of the greatest amount of security within the limits of what they can afford. I said that before.
381 To return to my point. I have been asking, have we reached the peak? I quoted the Prime Minister and I quoted paragraph 5. I am taking the Government's White Paper itself. If you look at the middle of paragraph 7 your Lordships will see:It is essential that we should maintain and strengthen the soundness of our economy. It will, therefore, continue to be necessary to hold a careful balance between the demands of defence and those of other sectors of the economy and, in particular, to ensure by close co-operation with our partners that our share of the common burden does not impose an undue strain on our balance of payments.Those statements are all in such general terms that it is almost impossible for the ordinary citizen to form any idea of where these defence expenditures, at their present size, will lead us.
I was dealing, when I was interrupted, also with the question of the future costs of infrastructure. Two items of expenditure are already mentioned in this White Paper, one a supplementary Budget of about £67 million, part of which I imagine has already been spent, although it is not clear whether or not it has been, and a further commitment of another £250 million for the setting up of bases on the Continent. I am not clear from the White Paper—I think may be the case—whether, in respect of those two sums, we shall be committed only to what has now, I gather, been stabilised at 11.45 per cent. of the whole cost, to be borne by this country, or whether, indeed, this is the figure which is to be charged to this country over the whole of the cost of what is being undertaken there.
May we turn to paragraph 10 of the White Paper? I sympathise greatly with the Minister in his exposition there. It states:In the cold war, World Communism has great advantages.In dealing with this paragraph, I want to call attention to the reference contained in the sixth line:In addition, we have to meet our worldwide commitments as a Colonial Power.Those words are inadequate and, if I may say so, in the present difficult circumstances with which the Secretary of State for the Colonies has to deal throughout the Colonial Territories for which we are responsible, "'ham-fisted." I should prefer it to be said, on any similar occasion in any similar document, that 382 we have to maintain our responsibilities to the peoples of the Colonial Territories in the Commonwealth, and see to their education and the development of their resources in the preparation for free self-government, as well as the organisation of their defence. It would make it much less difficult for the Secretary of State for the Colonies, against whom your Lordships have not heard me utter any severe criticisms in the last few weeks. We have to wait to see what is going to be the actual result of his policy. I have not uttered criticisms here, but I am sure the way in which we comment upon his actions will be more helpful psychologically in the area which he is now responsibly administering.
With regard to this question of expense, what struck me about paragraph 11 was the following statement:The primary deterrent remains the atomic bomb and the ability of the highly organised and trained United States strategic air power to use it.It seems to me that the country will understand from that that already there is little hope left in the minds of Ministers in our Government, or the Ministers of other Governments in the organisation of free nations, of relying upon any kind of agreement or convention to prevent the use of atomic weapons on the outbreak of another war. That is a disastrous state of affairs at which to arrive. It throws enormous responsibility upon the Russians for the rigid attitude that they have taken in either their resistance to our proposals or the projection of their own proposals with regard to the control of this fearful and wonderful power now in the hands of mankind.
I hope that the Ministers will not take it amiss if I say that, having regard to that decision, the references in paragraph 11 to the further equipment of the Royal Air Force seem to me to be rather inadequate, although I recognise that in the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for Air as a preliminary to his Estimates other particulars are given. But we are not getting a really clear picture of what it is we intend to do in arming our Air Force with atomic weapons. In this particular paragraph stress seems to be laid mostly upon medium bombers. There is a reference somewhere else, I think, to what is called the "V" Bomber, but we have not much information about 383 that; nor, so far, have we had any indication at all from the Minister that it is the intention, in regard to our national defence, to use both the long-range and medium-range bomber from the moment that war breaks out. I am confirmed in my general view on this by paragraph 13, a very lengthy paragraph. If the basis of the main programme of the Government's defence policy is that the main deterrent is the atomic weapon, I shall regret more than ever the decision in 1945, which was taken without the knowledge of many of us—namely, to use the atomic bomb at Hiroshima.
The Minister this afternoon said that over the years the non-conventional weapon becomes the conventional weapon—those were his words. I say, emphatically, that it need not be so if we can get reasonable accommodation between all the Powers concerned. I remember what the Prime Minister, as Mr. Churchill, said firmly in the war to the enemy in respect of gas, which had been the subject of a convention. It had a great effect upon the situation, and even Hitler, with all his power of arms, including gas, then took the warning. I was more encouraged by some later words in the Minister's speech, in which he said it was his intention, and that of the Government, to do all that could be done in the meantime to try to get agreement on this point. But I hate to think that at the present moment we are producing a White Paper which uses the atomic bomb as the greatest deterrent. Does the noble Marquess wish to intervene?
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
I was only going to say to the noble Viscount that the point of the deterrent with regard to gas in the war was that we had gas. The point of the deterrent in regard to the atomic bomb is that we have the atomic bomb.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH: Certainly. The main
stress in the Minister's White Paper is with regard to the power—the strength and the stocks of the United States of America. If I may say so with great frankness, we are somewhat nervous about the reference as to how a war might break out, and what would happen, for it says in paragraph 13: 384If, by some miscalculation in Communist policy or by deliberate design, a global war were to be forced upon us,…Such a reference in a public document containing a Government policy makes one feel that there is a danger that people may wonder whether we are thinking of a preventive war. I do not think there has been any danger that we should initiate that here, but in the last few years there has been the danger that it might have been initiated elsewhere. That is a very serious position indeed to contemplate.
However, I want to turn next to the point made this afternoon by the Minister, and reinforced by the end of paragraph 15 of the White Paper, where the noble and gallant Earl saysClearly, within a limited defence budget, we may not be able to afford both new weapons and conventional forces of the present size. But the balance between the two can he decided only in the light of the situation as it develops over the years ahead.I wonder whether that is really sufficient. I quite see what he means with regard to the major non-conventional weapons that we have, as against the conventional weapons at the present time, but I was thinking about research and development, in regard to which he says that we have to be highly selective, and that in some cases we may have to pick one or two examples only out of a number of projects which may be available to us. I agree that that is all very reasonable; but, dealing with this general point in paragraph 15, of research and development, may I ask whether it is intended in the main to confine the selection to weapons which are not already covered by convention? I think that is a point which ought to be answered, because, as many of your Lordships will know, it has reference to other horrors which can be produced within the sphere at present covered by existing conventions. I do not go into more detail than that, because it would not be wise.
Then I turn to paragraph 17, which purports to decide the rôles of the three Services. I say that they are far too general to be really effective in regard to the forming by the public of a judgment as to the present magnitude of effort, and the possibility of an increased magnitude of effort in the future. That brings me to the changing situation and to the Berlin Conference. The European Defence 385 Community occupies a large part of my thoughts in this particular direction. In recent weeks there has been a good deal of controversy within my Party as to what ought to be done in the light of the Berlin Conference, and it was only by a majority that the members of my Party agreed to the Government's decision to support the rearmament of Germany under the arrangements contemplated with the European Defence Community. It is the first time that we have gone as far as that.
I say here and now that I, as an individual, have always in the post-war years opposed with all my strength the rearmament of Germany. I have done it inside and outside the Government. But if any sane person reads the White Paper on the Berlin Conference, and the printed statement submitted by the U.S.S.R. to that Conference, and is quite fair about it, he cannot but be convinced that what the Russians intend is to have a united Germany from their point of view, and, within that point of view, to give full power to the Germans as an independent State to have their own armaments under their own control, and to include the provision of an Army, a Navy and an Air Force. Whilst it talks about some control of the frontiers, in my judgment there is no real possibility of securing that control or of the possible growth of the German General Staff, which, in the present and future circumstances of Europe, may be exceedingly dangerous. From that point of view, I felt that it was proper and wise to support this proposal—wherever it emanated from—for making Germany free to make her contribution through the European Defence Community, where it can be used in defence of the safety of the free nations and be under Allied control.
The Minister has told us, in his own words, that we are now endeavouring to organise our defence programme having regard to the changed circumstances of long-haul, instead of looking upon ourselves as being in imminent danger of what we call a "hot war" or a "shooting war." I should like to ask: How does that programme now fit in with the national economy? It would fit in very well, I think, if we could be assured that the annual expenditure upon national defence would not exceed the 386 kind of amount that was contemplated in the triennial programme for a limited number of years. I sympathise with the Government in this respect. Since 1950, when the triennial programme was made, there have been vast movements in costs and prices. Nevertheless, in my view, it is essential that we should find out what is the certain amount of money quoted in the White Paper and the materials, manufacturing capacity and manpower that we can afford. The case I am going to put will all build up to what I propose to end with, and that is a request for a top-level inquiry.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (VISCOUNT SWINTON)
Do you mean "by the Government "?
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
While they are about it, the Government, no doubt, would consider any request that was made. The Government would be in the position of having a large part of the choice, would they not? I have asked before, and I ask again, this question: Upon what does the Minister propose to base his limit of taxation? Is it to be upon the absolute priority of what is to be presumed to be the minimum requirement of defence? Is that limit of taxation to be based on a limit of social advancement? I can find no answer in the White Paper, or any indication of which way this matter is going. Have we reached the peak of expenditure? I referred to this matter earlier, but I refer to it again because I feel it is very important. There are not only the infrastructure facts which I have mentioned, but there are new items of expenditure which were announced in a rather unusual way in the debate on the White Paper, and which have been mentioned since by the Secretary of State for War in another place. I mean expenditure involved in emoluments for the Forces, new arrangements for leave and other proposals designed to improve conditions. Could we know whether the cost of these items which have been announced is covered in the Estimates as printed, or do they require a Supplementary Estimate?
And now a question about new weapons. One of the greatest shortcomings in the White Paper is that there is not much to help us in this connection.
387 I ask: What is the appreciation of the Government with regard to the different types of new weapons? I would agree that the noble and gallant Earl the Minister to-day has said rather more in explanation of these weapons and their ultimate use than we have heard on any previous occasion. I am obliged to him for going as far as he has gone in that matter. But when one comes to look at the references to training, one is bound to be filled with some concern as to how much of the training of the Forces of the future is to be devoted to the use of conventional weapons and how much to the use of non-conventional weapons. If reliance is going to be placed on the value of the new weapons as a deterrent, how much training is to be given with them? How much of their time will the Forces devote to the different types? What will the actual balance be? And, arising from that, I would ask what will be the additional training of the Forces, and what will be the cost of the variety of training required.
In dealing further with the matter of new weapons, may I just say a word about the costs of research and development? What I am going to say deals with something which is very important. I speak from experience. Before 1939, in connection with the rearmament programme of that time there was a general understanding that tenders could not be obtained for all the work that had to be done, and so a rate of profit was fixed. The basis was stated to be "cost plus 10 per cent." This, I discovered when I went to the Admiralty in 1940, must mean a very large return upon the capital employed. When I came to examine how these costs were arrived at, I found that the capital employed was regarded as being not only the money capital but the whole of the capital equipment employed by the producing firm, whether it had been written off or not, whatever its position in the balance sheet. It was all brought into the calculation of the profit to be earned. Could we know from the Minister in charge of research and development exactly how all this great expenditure is being settled in regard to the rate of profit? Once you have got away from fundamental research and production is under way, first of prototypes and later the articles en masse, you have arrived at stages when the profits 388 come in. How are the profits settled? Is it by tender or is it done by some overall arrangement of the kind that existed in the past? If so, what is the basis of the profit which comes into these huge sums of expenditure? I believe that it may well be that there are places in which large economy could be effected.
I turn now to a matter of great interest which has been referred to again in the debates in another place. I wish to look at the rôles of the Services. In this connection, I find little to help me in paragraph 17. It is just a short and ordinary statement in each case. It is no use trying to mask the fact that in the Services—and sometimes not far from top levels—there is a good deal of uncertainty and argument about the rôles of the Services. We have in the past had, from time to time, arguments arising as between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, and it has taken more than one inquiry to get the situation even where it is now as the result of the activities of the Inskip Committee just before the war. Undoubtedly, the changing course of events since the war—the extraordinary change reflected in modern unconventional weapons as well as in the types of conventional weapons—is making many people think seriously about what the rôle of each of the Services is going to be. It is interesting to take note of the speeches in another place. First, I would mention the speech of Mr. Callaghan, which interested me very much, and next that of Captain Ryder, V.C., a very gallant officer who was in charge of our expedition to St. Nazaire. He is a member of the Party to which noble Lords opposite belong, and he undoubtedly has been of great assistance to the Service that he serves so well. He spoke of frustration and anger in the Services because of the lack of certainty about the rôles that the respective Services have to perform. I think that is a matter upon which we need to have a full inquiry, because it is even more important at the present time than it was in 1938 and 1939.
The way in which the noble and gallant Earl passed over the rôle of the Royal Navy in the course of his speech did not exactly satisfy me. When he spoke about the sea lanes of communication, I am not sure that he appreciated 389 what that meant. I am certain that if— as God forbid ! — a great war of the character of the last war should come upon us, we could not meet easily all our commitments requiring these great far-flung sea lanes as well as those connected with the waters around this island. We should certainly have difficulty in maintaining our ability to bring supplies. In view of my past connection with the Ministry of Defence as well as with the Admiralty, I do not want to take strong sides at the moment, but I think this matter needs clearing up, to get rid of the sense of frustration on such questions as whether the aircraft carrier will be of major importance in the future, or whether shore-based aircraft will he able to cover all our air commitments in the defence of sea areas. These are important points which certainly ought to come within the general inquiry for which I am asking.
There are outstanding dangers, but the people of this country, who have borne danger in the past, have indicated not only during the war but since the war their capacity to endure sacrifice and hardship. They did that right through all kinds of political criticism from 1945 to 1951. The international situation is full of danger, and there are dangers of an economic as well as of a military character. We need to make the position clear to our people, because without their understanding and support all policies must fail. There are still long overdue reforms, and there is still no relief in sight to the burden of direct and indirect taxation. I have not looked at this year's returns up to date, but already our national defence expenditure must wipe out all receipts from income tax, and that is a heavy position to face. It is in these conditions that we must try, as I believe the noble Earl wants to do, to fit our defence programme within our national economy. But we must remember that unemployment lurks round the corner. Those of us who have been through the early stages of other periods of danger know how to look for these things. We had the experience of 1929, which started in Wall Street. We have had one or two tremors in the United States in the last three years which have been overcome, but there has been an increase of 500,000 unemployed in the United States in one month, and it is not without signi- 390 ficance that the United States Government have announced severe retrenchments in their own military expenditure and manpower.
I have spoken rather longer than I had expected, bin we have not many speakers from this side of the House and I want to put our case effectively to the Government. It is difficult to see how we can make our defence expenditure any higher than we are dang if we are to meet the needs of the present situation. If we are to compete in the world's markets, we have to get a lot more horsepower behind the British worker. We have made some strides since the war but not nearly sufficient to put ourselves on the basis of equal competition with other Powers. That cannot be done without having sufficient money available for capital investment. What will be the situation in a week or two when we get the Review of agricultural prices? Agriculture is an important factor in our economy. These are all points which the poor worried and bewildered Chancellor of the Exchequer has to face when dealing with defence expenditure. We fundamentally need a continued high rate of agricultural production, if we are to have anything like a stable exchange position in present monetary circumstances. What will be the extent of Mr. Butler's commitments? He will surely have to reveal them, but I am convinced that the people of this country will not go on in forbearance in the face of a lack throughout of a settled policy consistent with a balanced economy.
Of course, there are the policies put forward by the Government's leaders and supporters in 1953. Some of them have matured; many have not. So this afternoon I am going to make this request of the Government, through the medium of your Lordships' House, with the sincere conviction that the time has arrived for it. The situation revealed by the White Paper is so critical that it demands the immediate setting up of a very high level inquiry of an independent character to inquire into the position to-day of national defence in relation to its requirements within the national economy, and, in making that inquiry, to bear in mind the financial question I have raised, the question of manpower and the need for a satisfactory settlement of the rô les of the Services.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, I do not want to prolong the noble Viscount's speech unduly, but he said that this was what it was all leading up to. He asked for an inquiry, so far as I can see, into every matter covered by the Defence White Paper and the three White Papers of the Services, which have been the result of exhaustive inquiries by the Chiefs of Staff, the Committee of Imperial Defence and the whole Government. Would he answer this, because it is very important if this is the whole point of the claim of the Labour Party. Would he say who, in place of the Government, are to conduct that inquiry?
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
I have asked for an independent inquiry because, from my somewhat imperfect study of the political history of this country, I have found there have been stages when an independent inquiry was fundamental. Take the Esher Committee—the noble Viscount was a civilian. It is true that in dealing with Army recruiting and in advising upon the reconstruction of the Committee of Imperial Defence, he had the assistance of Admiral Sir John Fisher, but he also had an independent adviser in Sir George Sydenham Clarke, and no one denies the effect upon the organisation of our Forces of the Committee's work. The noble Viscount who interrupted me referred to the fact that I wanted to cover most of the matters in the White Paper. That can hardly be my fault, as the White Paper says that what we must do is to organise our Defence programme to our maximum resources within the limits of taxation and a sound economy. Everything in defence comes within that, and that must be the first foothold which leads us into the inquiry. I do not think that is unreasonable.
I do not know what other people may say, but I deplore the attack on the Prime Minister made this morning in a widely-distributed newspaper. Nobody in public office can expect to escape criticism, but I feel that kind of attack is not the best type of attack to produce even the change they say they want to obtain, because it raises resentment in the minds of reasonable people. I would say this, and this alone. There was one sentence in it which did strike me as being absolutely true, and that was that, in the ten years he spent on the Back Benches in 392 another place down yonder, he never once put Party in front of country and his general handling of the situation and his warnings to the nation will never be forgotten and were never without their effect. I do not judge any great restlessness, from the first reaction from the Front Bench opposite, but I would say to the Minister that I hope he will convey to the Prime Minister that I believe sincerely that at the present time these problems are so complex, and it is so fundamental to get the whole nation united behind the national Defence campaign, that he would do well in the remaining years of his office to set up such an inquiry as I am asking for. The exact details for which the noble Viscount was asking would be as much a matter for the Government as anybody else. I want an independent inquiry which can call before it all the witnesses, persons and papers it needs. I am sure that what our nation needs at the present time is a fundamental inquiry, and I hope we shall get it. And I hope that we, as a nation. shall look at the situation also—you will be surprised at what I am going to say—after having read the first Chapter of the Book of Isaiah.
§ 4.42 p.m.
My Lords, I propose to detain your Lordships for only about ten minutes, for I know the House is anxious to hear the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha. I stand here always with extreme diffidence— not one of my usual failings, but I suffer from it when I have to ask questions of the Minister. It is, however, tempered with considerable comfort by feeling that our defence affairs are in such safe, good and experienced hands. I was sitting closer to the noble and gallant Field Marshal just now, and I was even more cheered to see that he had not got a single white hair in his head— and I hope that will long remain so.
I want to ask one or two small Staff questions. I suppose that the set-up for mobilisation as regards the Staff is now on a firm basis. I remember that in 1914 D.M.I. and D.M.O. were denuded in a week because every officer wanted to get overseas and most of them managed to do so. I hope there is some good arrangement for filling up places. I remember that when the late Lord Derby, was raising units in Lancashire he came to me—I was brigade major— 393 and said, "Can you give me a corporal to make my sergeant-major?" I was able to do so. I hope we get a good intake of Staff officers, people who in the future will be like Sir Henry Wilson and Sir William Robertson and who show a great deal of keenness in their profession. I hope the young Staff officer has the same ideas and ambitions. My own grandsons look upon things in a rather detached style.
The second question I wanted to ask the noble and gallant Lord is whether we maintain a satisfactory liaison with the Germans. I have a great belief in the knowledge of the Germans and I daresay we may now benefit from it. I remember the late Lord Milne saying that he used to get nearly all his satisfactory information about Russia through the Germans. I hope that liaison is maintained. I recollect a friend of mine, a relative of the noble and gallant Field Marshal and of the noble Earl on the Labour Benches, Colonel Frank Bingham, a most able and devoted officer, went on an Army mission to Berlin in 1919: he went there in a rather critical frame of mind concerning the Grosse General Stab. We thought they were wooden-headed and hidebound. He found it was not so at all, but that they were sophisticated, urbane and full of useful ideas. I trust we shall not neglect liaison with the Germans, especially now, when we hope they are going to be our Allies.
I do not know whether or not the intake of officers generally is good. I sometimes wonder whether we do enough in the way of popularising the military profession. Has anyone ever thought of publishing a little brochure about what a successful officer can do—the career of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal would be a case in point—to show how an officer who takes trouble to learn Russian, for instance, and to travel, as time goes on benefits himself and his country? It is nowadays most important to get that idea into young people's heads.
My third question, my Lords, is about women. Are we making enough potential use of women, not only in casualty clearing stations but in driving cars and working in Staff offices? At the end of the First World War I was commanding a military mission in Paris. I had officers and thirty-four young women with me. They were quite wonderful. They worked 394 like blacks, were never ill-tempered and did not talk. I think they could replace a great many back services, at any rate up to corps headquarters—I do not know about divisional headquarters. They dc not have to march and I do not see why they cannot carry a light rifle— but I suppose that would be a calamitous thing to suggest. In recent years I have been Chairman of the Deputy Lieutenant's Committee in Westminster for Territorials, and I have been amazed at the smartness, keenness and intelligence of the Women's Services. Sometimes they really put the men in the background. It is something new for them and they like it.
These are my only points and, if they are of any use, I hope they will be answered. If they are futile or inconvenient, I hope the noble and gallant Lord will leave them alone. I once had to write answers to questions myself, and I know what tiresome things questions can be. I have read in the press that the restoration of the cut in officers' pensions is at last going to be granted, largely owing to the initiative and persistence of my noble friend Lord Jeffrey's, who is not merely a distinguished officer and a serving soldier but also Colonel of the First Regiment of Foot of the British Army.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ LORD HORE-BELISHA
My Lords, every one of your Lordships will realise what an ordeal it is to rise in your Lordships' House for the first time; and, strangely enough, this ordeal is not made any the less by reason of the more controversial atmosphere of another place in which I was schooled. In the circumstances I can only most sincerely ask your Lordships for your indulgence.
I am very glad that the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, so graciously interposed himself between the two first speakers and myself. Every schoolboy is taught that the famous namesake and prototype of my noble and gallant friend, the Minister of Defence, after his stupendous victories, wept because there were no further worlds to conquer. Following, as I thought I should have to do, not one Alexander but two, I feared that there might be no further arguments to deploy. But I may tell your Lordships at once that, despite the amplitude of the survey 395 to which we have listened from my noble and gallant friend, the Minister of Defence, and the scrutiny to which it was subjected by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, I think there is still much to say. Indeed, I think I could speak for almost as long as the noble Viscount in expressing amazement at the suggestion which he made that a Committee should be appointed to usurp the functions of Government. All the matters which he asks such a Committee to investigate are within the sphere of ministerial responsibility. I should like to know who these impartial persons are who would reach a more responsible verdict or one more likely to commend itself to this House and the country than is the case under the present procedure.
In trying to understand as well as I could The speech of my noble and gallant friend who introduced this White Paper, I think the chief problem which he desired to pose was this: What is the true balance which should be struck in modern fighting forces between conventional weapons, on the one hand, and atomic weapons on the other? But that problem is not immediately operative, for, as the White Paper says,There will be no major changes in the character of the production programmes of any of the three Services in the current year.The dilemma will be for future Ministers of Defence. If my noble and gallant friend has not yet achieved— and has not yet felt called upon to achieve— a technical balance within his own Defence Estimates, he has, at any rate, succeeded in achieving a balance between the Defence Budget and the national Budget. In that respect he should give satisfaction to the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. The noble Viscount, however, thinks that the balance should have been achieved at a lower figure, and, of course, we must agree that our economic strength is, as it were, a para-military formation sustaining our military strength. If, however, the noble Viscount feels that the sum allocated for defence expenditure in this country is too great, it behoves him specifically to say in what particulars he would reduce it. That is the task which has fallen to my noble and gallant friend. He has retarded the building of cruisers, he is reducing or hoping to reduce the number of first-line formations in the 396 Army, and, indeed— this in me evokes a poignant reminiscence— he is not going to provide the Territorial Army, or all of it, with modern technical equipment, conventional or otherwise. Despite the fact, as I am glad to learn this afternoon, that he is ordering a new transport freighter, he has also to some extent sacrificed his Transport aircraft and Coastal Command aircraft to medium bomber production.
Those are very harsh and blunt decisions. They were not referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. If they had come from a civilian Minister I do not think they would have been accepted in such good spirit by the Forces. The fact that they have been so accepted is a measure of the confidence which is reposed in my noble and gallant friend. I have heard it said that it is wrong to have a soldier as Minister of Defence. Here, at any rate, is an instance to the contrary. What matters, it seems to me, is not so much what the output of any particular article of equipment may be as whether the production base is right. Otherwise it is difficult to understand that passage in the White Paper which says thatOur active forces must be able to withstand the initial shock. Our reserve forces must be capable of rapid mobilisation behind the shield which our active forces provide and be ready to perform their combat tasks at the earliest possible moment.Now, my Lords, we know that it takes much longer to produce equipment to-day than formerly. No doubt some of your Lordships have read the statement made by Sir John Boothman, Controller of Supplies (Air) Ministry of Supply, till, I think, yesterday, that the interval between the time that a Service Department stated its requirements and the time that the Ministry of Supply could push them out for operational purposes varied approximately from seven and a half to ten years. He added that the Russians did the job in a very much shorter time.
It seems to me that this is an aspect of defence activity to which particular attention should be given. And there is another remark by the same officer. He stated:We view with concern our complete dependence on foreign suppliers for certain types—to the extent of nearly a quarter—of all the machine tools ordered from abroad. We 397 recommend that the Ministry of Supply should consult with the industry to discover how this strategic weakness can be remedied.I do not know whether my noble and gallant friend the Secretary of State for Air, who is to speak to-morrow, can give us any assurance on this point. The White Paper stresses that our main activity is to be in the production of jet medium bombers. We are giving up much in order that we may have these jet medium bombers. In view of the rather leisurely way in which the White Paper says that we will turn out these jet medium bombersas early as production allows,I should like to hear from my noble aid gallant friend whether they are likely to compare favourably with the heavy, long-range bombers that are being turned out in America and in Russia. All the figures of performance of these machines have been published, and they are striking. The Russian TU-4 has a maximum speed of 350 miles an hour and a range of 3,000 miles, which means that it could not only bomb this country directly from Germany, but could do so by going to the north and west in an effort to avoid our radar system. The Russian IL-28 has a maximum speed of 600 miles an hour. The Russian TUG-75, a four-engined plane, is believed to have a maximum speed of 415 miles an hoar at a height of 30,000 feet and a range of 7,650 miles. I only want to be assured that our productive system is such that we can turn out our bombers by dates and in numbers which will not leave them at a disadvantage by comparison with these bombers.
I should also like to know—of course, the Javelin is coming along as a fighter— that our fighters are being produced:In sufficient quantity, because large numbers of them, obviously, will be required. I say that because it has an effect upon the manpower arrangements. There is in the active Air Force, as I see it, insufficient personnel to do the job of manning the fighters and bombers required for the defence of this country. There are at the moment 277,000 men in the Air Force, compared with 291,000 at the time of the Battle of Britain, and 420,000 in 1950. This is an aspect of manpower which seems to me to be particularly serious, because more men are required in relation to each aeroplane than pre- 398 viously, owing to the growing complexity of aircraft.
If there might be some cause for worry about the manpower situation in the Air Force, I do not think that is the case, in the Army. There is a tendency to speak as if our commitments were burdensome, and as if we found some difficulty in sustaining them; and the Army is spoken of 'as being "strained" and "overstrained" and "sprawling alt over the world." But that has always been the case. There are in our garrisons abroad to-day, including the pipeline, 125,000 men, I think—it may be 135,000; it is published in Vote A in the Army Estimates. But there were before the war 100,000 men in our garrisons overseas: there were 99,000 in 1938, and a not dissimilar number in all the pre-war years. There were, even before the war (I have looked up the figures, and they may interest your Lordships) 17,271 men in the Middle East, in addition to 7,653 in the Mediterranean; and there were 15,084 men in China and Malaya. These were all British troops, having no succour whatever from a national intake, or from women, on which subject the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, expressed such interesting opinions just now. These men had a tour of duty, not of three years, as is the case to-day, but of between five and six and a half years. So valiantly did they bear the tasks that were cast upon them that we actually used to appeal for recruits with the slogan," Join the Army and see the world." There is nothing new in this situation. Of course, those men had better accommodation, on the whole; and they needed it, because of the long tour of duty.
It is our responsibility to see that, wherever possible, in this respect and in others the conditions of the Service man are eased. Front this point of view, I am sure that all your Lordships will have welcomed the striking concessions made by the Government, and announced by the Secretary of State for War in the masterly speech he made in another place. It is a most imaginative act of the Government to give these air passages to Africa, not only for the men but for their families— and I doubt if that has ever been done to the same extent in the Army of any country in the world. In addition, a number of other concessions were announced. We must ease 399 their conditions. In no sense do we minimise what they are doing for this country, and we are proud of it. We all read with admiration of the gallant action in which the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, was engaged in Kenya— and I mention the noble Lord in this connection because he was one of the advocates in this House of better conditions in the Army. Recognising, as we do, what we owe to the soldiers, we must, I feel, avoid creating a climate of opinion hostile to service abroad. That is part of our heritage—our mission—and I hope that we shall not lay it down or lapse into a feeling of lethargy.
The military system of this country, as I understood it at the War Office, and as it was progressively developed, rested on three pillars. The first pillar was home defence. We have in this country 250,000 soldiers in uniform. We have never had so great a number in peace time. It is true that they are in the course of training, but they are there. We are told that out of this number have been formed 450 columns of mobile troops, all active and imbued with a martial spirit. That, at any rate, is a source for some satisfaction. The next pillar of our military system is the garrisons abroad. On that matter I have offered your Lordships some reflections. The third pillar is the one which seems to be preoccupying Her Majesty's Government at this moment, and that is the strategic reserve. The term ".strategic reserve" was applied to the residue of troops remaining in this country after our overseas obligations had been discharged. It was Lord Haldane who put this inchoate mass into regular formations, out of which the Expeditionary Force was born.
Just before the last war— and I see no reason for any revision of the concept— we decided, in view of the greater dangers from aircraft and submarines. to have not one strategic reserve, but three. One was to be in the Far East and based on India— and in view of the fluid situation in that part of the world no further examination need be made of that question now— and one strategic reserve was to be here. It was out of this strategic reserve that, following the precedent of Lord Haldane, we created the Expeditionary Force of 1939. But that body of troops which normally we should 400 speak of as the strategic reserve is now in position on the Continent. That is exactly where we want it. It is buttressed by the troops of our Allies and is there to keep a potential aggressor at bay, thus fulfilling our traditional foreign policy in an extended form and keeping the Channel ports and their hinterland free from attack by an aggressor.
Owing to the strategic reserve being on the Continent and not here, we can maintain our radar system. We can have the whole of this infrastructure about which my noble and gallant friend has so interestingly spoken. We can have our advanced bomber bases far away from this country, which adds to their power and strength and the rapidity of their turn-round. We can keep parachute troops out of this country, because they cannot be escorted. The range of a V.1, I understand, was about 150 miles, and of a V.2 190 miles. Such weapons, at any rate, cannot be launched against us as long as we are maintaining the frontier in Germany—a frontier which I join with my noble and gallant friend in hoping will be further strengthened by the formation of E.D.C. and the accession of German troops. Therefore, I do not think that we have any complaint to make about the actual position of what, if it were here, would be called the home strategic reserve In fact, never in our history, in relation to the dangers which confront us, have we had better strategic dispositions.
The other strategic reserve was to be, and is, in the Middle East. My noble friend Lord Killearn has said that the Suez Canal is one question, and the base another. He has also said, in a telling phrase, that whereas you can move the base, you cannot move the Suez Canal. Well, I am not sure that I agree with him. For what it is worth, I think that, in view of our dependence upon that single artery, we might well consider whether we could not create another. Of the oil consumed in Western Europe, including this country, 95 per cent., if not more, comes from the Middle East, 75 per cent. of it through the Suez Canal. Military dispositions consist not only in placing men, but in placing material. They consist in infrastructure. The oil to sustain a future campaign—if it should occur—will be needed in Turkey as well as here. If it has to go round the Cape in the 401 event of trouble in the Suez Canal, that is going to be very expensive in shipping and very costly and dilatory. I think it ought to be considered whether or not we could construct a pipeline at moderate cost, in relation to our obligations, front the Gulf of Akabah to the Mediterranean. I think it would make a big difference to our strategic strength, and it is for further consideration whether in time this could not lead to the construction of an alternative canal.
About the base I make no comment which could possibly impinge upon a Foreign Office debate, or in the least embarrass the Government. Quite the contrary, I would sustain them by every means in my power in this difficult situation. I only say in reference to the last war that we chose a good site for our base in the Canal Zone. We had the danger from Italy, across the Mediterranean, sustained by Germany, and we had the danger from Libya and from Eritrea. Whether or not we stay in this particular base, the fact is that the dangers now come not from the South or West or North-West, but from the North-East. Of course, all that will he considered by Her Majesty's Government, who will, I am sure, receive the support of the House and of the country in whatever decision they reach, having all the facts before them. I do not wish, like the noble Viscount, to ask them to hold an inquiry into this matter.
Now, if that is our manpower situation, which I think is satisfactory, I do not feel quite so happy about this reference to the atomic bomb, and if my noble friends on the Front Bench will forgive me I think we must have it elucidated. The reference to the atomic bomb in paragraph 11 of the White Paper is the first substantive reference made to the subject in any White Paper. I have read them all over the week-end—I cannot say that they are cheerful reading— and I ask myself why it is that in the year 1954 we choose to make the statement that the primary deterrent against aggression remains the atomic bomb. Why do we say that in 1954? The atomic bomb is not a recent invention. There is no secret about its effects, even if there be about its manufacture. It was used in 1945 when one bomb, carried by a single aeroplane, fell on Hiroshima. It killed 402 75,000 people and it wounded or deformed a similar number. Everybody knows what the effect of the atomic bomb is.
From the occurrence at Hiroshima until the year 1950 or 1951, as the noble and gallant Earl has told us this afternoon or as I gathered from his speech, the United States had a virtual monopoly of the atomic bomb; but it was during this very period that all the aggressions occurred. It was in this period that the Czechoslovakian Government was overthrown—an act of aggression. It was during this period that Berlin was blockaded— an act of aggression. It was during this period that the Russians helped and sustained their friends in an attack on South Korea— an act of aggression. Why should we, therefore, now speak of the atomic bomb as a deterrent when it was not a deterrent at the time at which the United States had the monopoly? I should like to have some elucidation of that point. I think I know the answer and, with your Lordships' permission, I am going to lead up to it.
The next statement that is made in the White Paper is that this deterrent is in the hands of the United States, in the hands of their trained and strategic Air Force. I want to know, and I am sure the country does too, in what conditions the United States are going to use this atomic bomb? Mr. Dulles— this goes to the root of our security and of our salvation— made a speech on January 17 in which he said:Local defences must be reinforced by the further deterrent of massive retaliatory power. The basic decision is to depend primarily upon a great capacity to retaliate instantly.Whose basic decision is it? I think that the Government can afford to be perfectly frank about that. Mr. Nixon, the Vice President of the United States, in a broadcast last night or the night before, reiterated more or less what Mr. Dulles said:We have adopted a new principle. Rather than let the Communists nibble us to death all over the world in little wars we would rely in the future primarily on our massive mobile retaliatory power.A new principle!I am sorry that it was left to Mr. Pearson, the Minister far Overseas Affairs in Canada, to protest strongly against Mr. Dulles's statement. I hope that something will be said on this side of the Atlantic.
403 We have been spending our time building up a combination of Powers the like of which has never been seen in the world— the Atlantic Union, as I prefer to call it, rather than N.A.T.O. We have been building that up. We have been told in every previous White Paper that that was the primary deterrent, and I have noticed that the tension, if it has been relieved, has been relieved since we began to build up those forces. We are building them up in Europe. They are contributed by many nations, several of which were neutral, some of which were enemies in the last War. They are all there, they are all in position. They are supposed to have unity of command and they have unity of command. They are supposed to have unity in action and I hope they will have unity in action. There is supposed to be unity of decision. We make our contribution to that organisation of the Powers in the most generous measure in relation to our resources. We provide more in scientific skill and ability per head of population than any other country. We are involved in this. Who is in fact to take the decisions?
This morning it is stated by the United States' Secretary for Defence, Mr. Wilson, who was asked whether other Powers would be consulted—this was before the Senate Appropriations Committee—that:I am sure that in all cases where their interests—that is, the interests of other countries—are involved, they would be consulted.But our interests are fundamentally involved in the use of the atomic bomb. France has not the atomic bomb, Belgium has not the atomic bomb, Italy has not the atomic bomb: Germany may be on the road to having it. But all the nations are vitally concerned with this decision; and therefore I conclude, without in the least blaming the Government, because they did not make this statement, that a Defence White Paper purporting to give our programme of defence on a purely national basis is anachronistic. Accompanying the White Papers of the future we should have a statement about the Atlantic defences as a whole and—I hope—the united policy which directs them.
I also conclude that there is great room for bringing those nations which form 404 the Atlantic Union into closer cohesion so that research may not overlap, so that production may not overlap, so that we may not all be building the same kind of lethal weapons, the cost of each one of which is now inordinate; so that there may be some cohesion between the bomber-building policy, aircraft-carrier-building policy and every other aspect of defence production; and, above all, that it should be clearly established by the insistence of Her Majesty's Government with our friends on the other side of the Atlantic that we are engaged in a combined effort in which our views will not be overridden, and that if a decision to launch a war upon the world ever has to be taken it will be taken in combination. There is another passage on the atomic bomb in this White Paper. It says that the first phase will be the atomic phase and the next phase will be the broken-backed warfare phase. This gives added point to my plea that if we are to play our part in that second phase and the nations who have not the atomic bomb are to play their part, they should be parties in the first phase to any decision upon the use of the atomic bomb.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, by a happy chance it falls to my lot to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, upon the weighty speech which he has delivered. The noble Lord and myself began our political careers in the Liberal Party, but we both departed from the true orthodox faith and he went on to rise to great heights. But then, by one of those unhappy vicissitudes which must always be part and parcel of political life, his political career has been for some time interrupted. The same fate once befell the present Prime Minister. Well, the noble Lord is now resuming his political career, and his speech this afternoon has shown that a little temporary disuse has in no way weakened his debating powers. I am quite sure all your Lordships are glad to think that in future debates we shall have the advantage of his great experience and ability.
My Lords. I noticed with great interest the suggestion thrown out by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, in favour of something in the nature of an Esher Committee, to inquire into all aspects of our defence policy. So far, his proposal has met with a hostile 405 reception from noble Lords on the opposite side of the House. My mind is not quite clear about all the aspects of the Esher Committee, but, speaking from recollection, I think its inquiries must have trenched in some degree upon matters which were within the sphere of Ministerial responsibility, and surely it is now a matter of history that the Esher Committee did a great work and conferred great benefits upon our defence system. On principle, I believe that all old ideas and old institutions derive great benefit from being inquired into from time to time; and of this, I am quite sure: that, as the years go on and the burden of our defence expenditure falls increasingly heavily upon the people and comes more and more into their lives, the demand for such an inquiry as the noble Viscount has suggested is likely to grow.
§ LORD CALVERLEY
Will the noble Lord, Lord Winster, forgive my interrupting? At one time, when he was Secretary of State for War, the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat had a special committee of his own.
§ LORD WINSTER
Well, I do not think that fact was referred to by the noble Viscount, so I leave it for the moment. But there is one other matter which, I think, arises from the speeches which have already been made. I am sure your Lordships will have noticed, as I have, the great interest displayed in another place in the Service Estimates this year— much greater interest, much more pro-longed and, if I may say so, much better-informed criticism than is very often shown in discussions in those debates. I think that emphasises the necessity in future of giving ample time to the discussion of Service Estimates and of the Defence White Paper. After all, the Service Estimates and the Defence White Paper now deal with the largest single item of expenditure in our Budget, and therefore I think it is right that ample time should be afforded for the discussion of those matters.
The White Paper that we are discussing this afternoon has met with some weighty and well-merited criticism by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough; but, in one sense, I think it is a good White Paper. Nowadays, the public are hearing constantly of new weapons, of extraordinary machines and of new equipment, and this White Paper 406 at least endeavours to weave all those things into a picture of the shape of wars to come. I thought that this afternoon the noble Earl, the Minister of Defence, filled in that picture to an interesting and considerable extent. Nevertheless, while the White Paper does its best, it remains very difficult indeed to get a clear-cut, consistent picture inter-relating the functions of the three Services; of what will be the future defence requirements, and of how the military, political and economic: problems which they involve are to be solved.
The problem in the solving of which the Minister of Defence has to take his share with the representatives of other countries is how is the free world to be defended? It is to do with matters arising out of that problem that I venture mainly to occupy myself in the remarks I have to make. A comparison of N.A.T.O. and of Russian manpower on figures demonstrates the difficulty of defending Western Europe against the huge Russian standing army. I do not know whether that is the reason why we shy off joining in a European Army. According to my information, an Appreciation was prepared by our Chiefs of Staff, was presented to the Americans in 1952, a ad was discussed at a Conference in Washington. The Appreciation stressed the huge task confronting the free world in containing Russia, the satellite States, and China, and it recommended that, in place of trying to effect this containment by manpower, we should rely on superior weapons, since the free world has a superior production potential. Intercontinental bombers carrying atomic or hydrogen bombs, backed by interceptor fighters, et cetera, should be set against the vastly superior Communist manpower.
In support of that argument on manpower, I think it is pertinent to remark that the Lisbon 1952 target of 100 divisions and 9,000 aircraft has since been abandoned. Although it was always considered inadequate, even that inadequate target has had to go by the board. The ground defence of Western Europe could not in any case succeed unless N.A T.O. controlled the air; and even if those ground forces were successful in their task, there could be no reply to Russian atomic attacks from, amongst others, Arctic bases. N.A.T.O. is 407 admittedly short of aircraft. In that connection I should like to ask this question: Are there any plans made, or on foot, for building up N.A.T.O. air supremacy? If there is not to be N.A.T.O. air supremacy, what happens about supplies reaching N.A.T.O. forces by sea? Suppose N.A.T.O. had enough ground forces, and suppose those forces were victorious; they would still need supplies.
I am told that the Appreciation of the Chiefs of Staff was based upon a full exploitation of air power and of atomic and hydrogen bombs, in order to get at Russian production situated deep in the interior of Russia. The Appreciation is said to have shown little enthusiasm for the aircraft carrier, and anti-aircraft guns were thought not very reliable at high altitudes; it seemed that, instead, we should have fighter interceptors launching guided missiles, able to seek their target, instead of carrying machine guns and cannon. In other words, what the Appreciation set out was that we should abandon the idea of relying upon manpower and seek our safety and security in new weapons. Well, the American military authorities agreed with the authors of the Appreciation, that air power is a dominant factor, but they did not agree that strategic bombing can be a decisive factor. They were prepared to give priority to the air only on the condition that there was no whittling away of the traditional rôles of the Navy and the Army. The American Army leaders argued that ground forces are less costly than air power and just as great a deterrent. They expressed their belief in atomic weapons. In other words, they want to substitute fire power for manpower. Inferior manpower can be compensated for by atomic cannon, but guided missiles will surely not be in use in the very near future.
I should say that the British representatives in this Appreciation had the best of the arguments. But these were cold-shouldered and the N.A.T.O. policy of ground defence seems to hold the field to-day. In that connection, I notice that America has cut the Air Force appropriation for 1954 by some £1,666 million which, after all. does not make for global air supremacy. The ground force appropriation has, at the same time, been increased. What is certain is that Russia can to-day launch a full-scale atomic 408 attack on Europe and, possibly, America while the West is short of fighter-interceptors. Under these conditions N.A.T.O. has to fend Russia off with inferior ground forces supported by a weak and inferior air force which might be entirely destroyed—destroyed while the Russian Army is the largest Army in the world, and while she has 20,000 aircraft, 10,000 of them first-line machines. Inferiority in ground and in air forces at the same time is likely to be quite a handicap. I am sure that whatever your Lordships may feel about these arguments one thing is perfectly clear—that the Chiefs of Staff in 1952 were advocating new ideas and new weapons and pointing out the implications of inferior manpower. In other words, they were showing an ability to face up to new facts and to think out the problem of how to counter them. But a division of opinion between them and their American opposite numbers does seem to exist on a very fundamental question indeed.
Now I gather that Sir John Slessor, who was at the Washington Conference. has been putting forward in broadcasts views in line with those expressed in the Appreciation. He sets forward a very simple thesis—that America and Britain can prevent World War III by being ready to attack an aggressor with atomic weapons. I agree with him that if such a war occurs, atomic weapons will most certainly be used, and I think there is a great deal to be said for letting it be known, with the greatest publicity, that if it looks the right thing to do we shall use. them. And we had better begin to accustom our people to such facts as that. After all, we can say that with a good conscience, because we are not going to start a war. The duty of a British Government, when at war, is to prevent Britain from being defeated. In certain circumstances, the only hope of achieving that objective would be the immediate use of atomic weapons. The White Paper can, I think, be interpreted to show that this is, in fact, already Government policy, because an atomic striking force is in being and is being supplied with atom bombs.
As all this is so, it is no use shirking the fact that an aggressor will hit back with the same weapons. Sir John Slessor seems to hold that we can stave off this retaliation with an atomic bomber force. I can only say that I sincerely hope he is 409 right in that assumption. But he does make some tremendous assumptions about air power having altered everything in the whole field of human affairs, and made everything in the sphere of war things of the past and quite obsolete. I can only say that similar things have been said about every new weapon as it has been introduced. There is this amount of support for Sir John Slessor's thesis. America's sale possession of the atom bomb for a long period coincided with Russia's not attacking the West, although there were times when the going looked very good for her if she had decided to do so. If it is the case that in the past the sole possession of the atom bomb by America has protected us, it might be that the knowledge that it would be immediately and unsparingly used in the case of aggression might prolong the protection.
There is one matter I feel very strongly, and that is that our hesitations about the use of the atomic bomb land us in a quandary which inures to the advantage of Russia. If our position is that we should use the atom bomb against Russia but should not use it in lesser affairs, it seems to me the Russians will say, "That's fine! We will take care to give the West no casus belli but we will weaken the West and attain our objective of ultimately bringing the West down by inciting non-atomic wars in any part of the world where we can fan one on." They will aim at achieving their objective without a direct attack upon the West. There is a case at the present moment. What happens, for instance, if the French lose in Indo-China? After all. if there is to be negotiation about Indo-China, that means an evacuation, and if evacuation comes about, then what? It would mean a tremendous victory for Communism without waging a major war and without the atomic weapons ever being employed. I should say that American opinion, being further away across the Atlantic, probably leans towards the use of atomic weapons rather more than, perhaps, we do. The point has been touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, but I venture to stress it again. Have we a common policy with the Ally upon whom all rests in this all-important matter? Who decides if N.A.T.O. is to use the bomb or not? Is that already settled, or 410 do we begin to settle it after the atom bombs have begun to drop on us?
One final point about Sir John Slessor's remarks. I think he has in mind a period during which a threatening aggressor would be told of what would be done to him should he persist in his intentions. The Prime Minister also, in a recent speech, seemed to set great store by his conception of an "alert period." And I got something of the same impression from an article written by the noble and gallant: Viscount, Lord Cunningham of Hyndhope, about which I will say something. I am not very much impressed by those views about an "alert period and so on. If attack comes, I think it will come in Pearl Harbour style, and the decision to retaliate may well come along after retaliation has become impossible. What seems clear is that failure to come to a decision about the use of the atomic bomb is throwing our defence plans into some confusion, which will persist until we come to such a decision.
As regards what I said about the noble and gallant Admiral Lord Cunningham, in the article to which I referred, speaking of the Commonwealth, he said:It is inconceivable that its Governments would agree to the use of atomic bombs on the immediate outbreak of war. It would be folly for any British Government to act otherwise, for it is this country that is the most likely initial target.But surely, the initial use of the atom bomb may well be the only means of averting defeat; and, if that is the case, it would be dereliction on the part of the Government to hesitate for a moment about its use. The noble and gallant Viscount went on to say:So long as our form of Government remains we shall never be fully prepared for war. An aggressor will at first possess the strategic initiative; our initial strategy must of necessity be defensive. During that phase we must preserve these islands intact and strengthen the bases overseas; we must gain time to change our economy from a peace to a war footing.I do not admit the "necessity" that our strategy must always be entirely defensive. I do not think there will be the, "phase" which is mentioned, and I am sure that we shall not have the time to do all the switching over which the noble and gallant Viscount mentioned in his article. A defensive strategy may well be 411 suicidal. Whatever else is true about the next war, this most certainly is true: there will be no prize for second place. We have to get off the mark quickly. I have in mind the old and very good saying:Much is he blessed who has his quarrel just, Thrice is he blessed who gets his blow in first.I think that is true in dealing with atom bombs.
I should like to say a few words about N.A.T.O. I have one question to put and it is this: is there now enough pooling of knowledge about atomic weapons to enable N.A.T.O. forces to make full use of them? I am not talking about any pooling of secrets of manufacture or of know-how— those secrets are necessary and there is no reason why they should be known to the heads of N.A.T.O. forces. But, surely, it is necessary that there should be sufficient knowledge of atomic weapons to enable full effective use to be made of them, and I should like to ask whether that is the case. I think N.A.T.O. has done a tremendous work. As General Gruenther said, a war in Europe will no longer be what he calles "a push-over" for Russia. I think N.A.T.O. is the great hope of the future, and anything the Government can do to support N.A.T.O as a priority in policy will be right, not only from the military point of view but also from the political and economic points of view. It should be remembered in all seriousness that the war with Communism is a war of ideas, a war for men's souls; and it would also be a good thing if N.A.T.O. were encouraged to develop a cultural side to its work. But in Lord Ismay we have a great servant, and let all of us give him every encouragement we possibly can in his work.
May I say a word about the question of conventional weapons, which has so often been discussed this afternoon? The Ministry of Supply are getting £27 million more than their Vote, so presumably we are getting atomic weapons. I notice, too, that the development of these weapons in the United States has permitted a reduction in their total defence expenditure. I think Mr. Shinwell, in spite of his great experience at the War Office and the Ministry of Defence, simplifies too much in advising us to scrap 412 conventional weapons and get on with the new ones. It seems to me he forgets that there are many sorts of war—big wars and little wars, general wars and localised wars, what I will call Marquess-of-Queensberry wars and ruthless wars, atomic wars and non-atomic wars, and some of these will continue to call for conventional forces and weapons. I think the idea of scrapping all conventional weapons is an over-simplification and not at all practical. Another point about new weapons is that it must be very hard to decide when to abandon research and development and go into production. That must be a most vexatious problem for those who have to make the decision, because in research and development as you go round one corner you always see another improvement round another corner, and the temptation to go on trying to improve must be very great. But the decision when to abandon development and go into production must be taken, for if we do not and war comes we shall find that we will have wonderful weapons on the drawing boards and in prototypes, but the armouries and magazines and hangars will be full of what is obsolescent.
Another important decision which must be difficult to make is that of securing a financial balance between defence and the demands of general economy. Russia wants to see us overspend on defence and so wreck our economy. The United States, more fortunately placed than we are, seems to be able to provide "guns and butter" and also to get on with capital investment. The Labour Party programme was over-ambitious— well, that is not at all to their discredit; I would say the opposite. But Mr. Bevan turned out to be right when he considered it was beyond our financial capacity, and the Prime Minister came round to his way of thinking. It does not seem to make for happiness to spend so much on defence that we have a bad standard of living; and it makes for even less happiness in the end if we have a high standard of living at the cost of starving defence and so falling victim to an aggressor. Professor Seton Watson has said:"It is more important for both individuals and nations to be alive than to be prosperous.The other day I heard a cynic say that our Budget divides itself into spending 413 one-third on defence and two-thirds on the next General Election—that is to say, spending two-thirds on benefits in order to make happy voters when the General Election comes. We must hope that the present figure of some £1,600 million is about the right figure.
In conclusion, I have often heard it said in conversation that the new weapons, machines and equipment really seem able to talk for themselves. I remember that when that remark was made, it was said," That, at any rate, will relieve the generals of their most detested responsibility." Well, of course, that remark is not at all true. It is a remark which dates from Lord Cardigan and Lord Lucan, who were interestingly portrayed in a recent book The Reason Why. But I think the White Paper, the Appreciation to which I have referred, and the debates which took place on the Service Estimates, show that our Service chiefs have in a high degree the ability to think out the new problems. I feel, too, that they have fully grasped the domestic political issues involved—for example, the question of manpower versus industrial production. They have to grapple with intricate and novel problems. They show great ability in doing so, and the Estimates also show their great willingness to grasp the psychological problems of the rank and file and to ameliorate their conditions of life. The debates on the Service Estimates also show another thing. They bear witness to the very troublous days in which we live, and I am afraid one has to go back to the remark attributed to Trotsky, that "anyone who wants to live a quiet life has made a mistake in getting himself horn in the twentieth century."
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords. I should like to add my congratulations to those of the noble Lord, Lord Winster, for the maiden speech made this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha. It was full of what I like to call "food for thought." It touched a number of points, all of which will be discussed time and again in your Lordships' House, and I hope we shall have the pleasure of hearing the noble Lord very often.
I am not going to repeat the speeches I made in October and April last year, except to say that two points must be 414 remembered. Every bit of energy must be put in to avoid another Battle of Britain over England. If that is not done, then we shall be in a very difficult position. The other is that I hope noble Lords will look up the figures which were given by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, in the last debate on the Admiralty White Paper. I should like to thank the noble and gallant Earl for this White Paper. He faced some of the facts of the world to-day— not all. but some—and I feel that one must get a decision on the remaining facts before a White Paper is presented next year. It must be remembered that in all matters of defence it is hard to come to any decision— especially an unpopular decision— before actual hostilities break out.
A book was published recently called Old Men Forget. I rather disagree with that title. I feel that old men generally remember what happened between the ages of fifteen and sixty, and the author of that book said sixty was "old age.'' I believe it is a custom in your Lordships' House to acknowledge any personal interest in questions under discussion. I must acknowledge a personal interest in a question of old age. But, seriously, when we come to matters of defence, so many of us remember how we fought in the past. The noble and gallant Earl in his speech last October said that if war came now, he did not think there would be much change from what it was in the past. Well, my Lords, he has issued this White Paper. I say the "now" is over. A great change, a tremendous change, has been shown in the White Paper. It shows what has to be done in the future. It shows the enormous responsibility that is put on the R.A.F. I hope that the Secretary of State for Air and R.A.F. officers and men will realise what they have to do to accept that responsibility. That responsibility can be carried out only if the production of equipment to go with the machines is parallel with the production of machines, and only if training and recruitment are parallel with the machines. It is bound to be at the same time, or the machines will be useless.
One other point, which was not mentioned in this White Paper or in the last, or, I think, in the one before, has been touched upon this afternoon. I am referring to the troops used in garrisons 415 overseas. Many years ago, after the First World War, there were garrisons all over the world, and I remember Mr. Churchill who was then Secretary of State for War and Air, saying that the Air Force must be able to shoulder some of the responsibilities for keeping peace more economically than under the old method. From that came the question of the Estimates, which were put forward by the Army in those days, and which asked for something in the neighbourhood of two divisions. There was the Mad Mullah of Somaliland, and the Army asked for two divisions to mobilise and go to Somaliland. After much talk it was done by the Camel Corps and six aeroplanes. Again, there was Aden, the Sudan and Iraq. New machines were sent, and the cost of the Estimates was reduced from £23 million to under £6 million and, for Somaliland, from £4 million down to under £100,000. There is always a tendency after a big war to increase the garrisons. I feel very much that the pipeline and the garrisons overseas might be looked at in view of the new weapons in existence to-day, to see whether manpower, which is so vital to this country cannot be economised.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CUNNINGHAM OF HYNDHOPE
My Lords. I hope the noble and gallant Viscount who has just spoken will allow me to congratulate him on overcoming his difficulties in speaking in this House. His speeches are always stimulating, but I have not been always able to agree with him. The explanation of the White Paper given by the noble and gallant Earl, the Minister of Defence, was highly interesting and I found few points on which to disagree with him. In the White Paper, on the other hand, I found what I thought were many statements and assumptions open to question. It is certainly to be hoped that our superiority in atomic weapons, and that of our Allies, together with the ability to use them, may in fact provide a deterrent to war. But it seems necessary to point out that, although we enjoy this superiority now, it by no means follows as certain that we shall enjoy it in two or three or four years' time. But one can hope that the horror of a war with 416 both sides using atomic weapons freely may be so deeply felt that it will never come to pass.
In the White Paper it is assumed that in a future war both sides will use atomic weapons. I hope this does not imply that the Government are fully prepared now to shoulder the responsibility of being the first to use them. I also hope that there is still some chance of the banning of these weapons by international agreement. Nevertheless, whether such agreement comes to pass or not, we must be fully prepared to have them used against us. In paragraph 13 of the White Paper the Government view the course which a future war might take. It is expected that we are to have a heavy exchange of atom bombs and after a few weeks or a short time both sides will be broken-backed. I suggest that even with the help of our Allies this country is at a grave disadvantage in regard to Russia in a contest of this nature. A vast country like Russia, where so little is known of the whereabouts of her war industries and concentration areas, can surely absorb a far greater number of atom bombs without being paralysed than would be possible in this country with our concentrated industries and our thickly-populated centres. It would be a very different matter here unless we had a really good defence.
To me it seems rather a policy of despair that we should assume that after a week or two of war we should be broken-backed. It seems self-evident that two things are vital to the survival of this country in any future war, and that nothing else much matters, at first anyway. The first is a system of defence against bombing from the air, as nearly impenetrable as men, money, and material can make it, and in this I would include the necessary measures to support the Army holding the line on the Continent. The second essential is secure communications. This latter is dismissed rather lightly in the White Paper and I began to think that it had been forgotten that this country can be defeated just as effectively by having its communications severed as by atom bombs.
It is, however, with what I have stated as the first essential that I am more concerned. I am left in some doubt by the White Paper as to whether sufficient 417 of our resources are being devoted to the defence of this country against air attack. I am well aware that it is difficult in these days of high-speed bombers and constantly-changing methods of attack and defence to have a watertight—or perhaps I should say a bombtight—defence.I shall be told that it is impossible in fact the noble and gallant Earl, the Minister of Defence, has already told me so, and I shall doubtless be told that the bomber must always get through. I do not accept that as necessarily true. Everybody has seen many an occasion when the bomber, faced with a really good defence, has turned back and failed to get through. I suggest that our aim should be "The bomber shall not get through."
Therefore, as I have already said, the question arises in my mind as to whet her we are devoting sufficient of our resources to the defence of this country against air attack. Is the research into defence measures, guided missiles, and so forth, being pushed with all the energy and money which can be used and which is required? The White Paper is certainly not reassuring on this point. A country like ours is always at a disadvantage as compared with a dictatorship in that it can never be as fully prepared for war. This country has always entered on hostilities badly prepared and lacking many things essential for the prosecution of the war. And for this reason, I think, that at the start of any future war it must act on the defensive until the military power is built up. At the same time it must have sufficient forces in immediate readiness to defeat the first shock of the enemy attack and prevent this country from being initially crippled. This is recognised in the White Paper, which states that our active forces must be able to withstand the initial shock. This is surely so, but if the result of the operations of our active forces is that we would be broken-backed in two or three weeks, perhaps their size and composition need consideration.
The emphasis in the White Paper is on bombing and 'bombers. It says:… to build up in the Royal Air Force a force of modern bombers capable of using the atomic weapon to the fullest extent.I do not wish it to be thought that I ant against retaliation bombing— far from it. But I am suggesting that at the start of any war the first priority task of our Air 418 Force should be the defence of this country. It is agreed that a bombing force may be a deterrent; but if the deterrent fads to deter, I cannot see that a bombing force will be much good, or make much contribution to the security of this country, and certainly not in the initial stages.
We seem to be in danger of repeating the mistakes that we made at the beginning of the last war when—and I do not think this is in dispute—too little of oar air effort was devoted to the fighter defence of this country and of our overseas bases, with the result that, when the test came, the fighters and fighter pilots in this country were so short that we only just pulled through, and then only due to the courage and tenacity of those same fighter pilots. But, even so, considerable damage was done up and down the country which might have been avoided. Our bombers certainly made many gallant sorties over Germany at considerable cost to themselves, but it cannot be claimed that they contributed in any way to the actual defence of this country. Overseas the lack of fighter defence was even more apparent. I should like to recall to your Lordships that other island, Malta, which at the start of the war had no fighter defence whatsoever. This, I think, was due to a decision of the then Air Staff that Malta was not capable of being defended. But when a reasonably strong and efficient fighter defence was provided, Malta became pretty well the linchpin of the Mediterranean and North African campaigns. Later on, our position at sea was jeopardised by not diverting long-range bombers to the Atlantic battle in time—and one could quote many other instances.
In recalling these early mistakes in the last war, I hope that I shall not be taken as underestimating in any way the immense contribution to victory of our bombers in the later years. But I am insisting that in the first stage of a future war our stategy, of necessity, and as always heretofore, must be defensive, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Winster, has said. I am sure that I shall be accused of living in the past; but every war has lessons which are applicable to a future war, and which we ignore at our peril. It would certainly be a comforting thought to know that we were in a strong position to retaliate on the 419 enemy;but it would be a much happier one if we could be reasonably sure that this country would not be brought into a condition of "broken-backness" by enemy attack. I am quite sure that if we do not bend all our energies and every resource required initially to the defence of this country against air attack, we shall not only be broken-backed, but we shall be out.
§ 6.26 p.m.
THE EARL OF LIMERICK
My Lords, bearing in mind the scope which has been covered in dealing with this immense subject, it would be presumptuous of me were I to deal with any aspect of it other than that minor one in which I, in common with many of your Lordships, have a lifetime's experience. I refer to our reserve Army, on which considerable reliance is placed and always has been placed, to implement the decisions of the Government of the time being in carrying out policy; and with that reserve Army, the Territorial Army, I would link the start and the finish—namely, the cadets and the Home Guard. But only a word on both of those, because I have some confidence that my noble friend Lord Bridgeman, than whom nobody is better qualified, will deal with both those subjects. I hope that it will be found possible to improve the throughput of suitable young men, from both the combined cadet force (which is making a good contribution) and from the Army cadet force (from which the contribution could very well be improved) to the Territorial Army, and also through to the Regular Army.
With regard to the Home Guard, fairly recently, when the Home Guard was re-formed, the organisation was rather thrown together in some haste—perhaps perforce. The easy solution, quite clearly, was to take the line: "What have we got as a good analogy?"—hoping it is a good analogy. "Oh, yes, we have the Territorial Army. Well, that in peace time is partly a civil and partly a military organisation, the training being military and the organisation civil. Let us do the same with the Home Guard." But I should like to submit—and I hope for the support of my noble friend Lord Bridgeman—a plea that that organisation may be reviewed, because it will not work: on the outbreak of war 420 it cannot work. The Regular Army will be too busy mobilising, moving and absorbing the Army emergency Reserve to handle the Home Guard. The Home Guard is essentially a static local force. Therefore, I should like to enter a plea that in due course this matter will be reviewed on the basis that the approved practice of the war years in handling that static force may be adopted and put in place of the present organisation. Those remarks, on the beginning and the end of our services, as I say, are almost in parenthesis and with some apology, because certainly in the matter of cadets my experience is small.
Fortunately, in your Lordships' House there are many who can speak from the status of young officers, now serving in the Territorial Army, through the status of commanding officers and chairmen of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces organisations, members of the council of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces organisations, and right through to the giddy heights with which we opened to-day, in having no fewer than two stars from the firmament of the Defence Ministry performing, to our great content. Therefore, no assembly is better equipped to understand sympathetically, and to deal wisely with. the problems of our Reserve Army. We know its immense diversity. We know, for instance, that in Northern Ireland the National Service Act does not run. We know that solutions which are applicable, let us say, to Argyll and the Highland,. are hopelessly inapplicable to the City of London. We know, in fact, that no two units and no two districts are identical. We know, however, that for nearly fifty years now, owing to the wisdom, initially, of the great Lord Haldane, the system has worked. It has worked, partly, I think, because of the innate wisdom of the structure of the conception and partly because of its extraordinary, proved flexibility throughout the years and throughout two major wars. Without that flexibility, and without a constant youthful outlook and ability to grasp new ideas, to re-shape old methods, and always to study what is best for the coming phase, I do not think we should be very good. But, fortunately, we have that flexibility, and always have had.
That rests, I think, partly upon the fact that our roots are fixed in every aspect of British life. We draw our 421 strength and our experience from the manufacturing community, the agricultural community, and from every one of our activities, and we try to blend them through our associations into a local organisation understanding local problems. This, in its turn, has two duties. The first is to carry out the policy of the Government to the best of its ability and, the second, when it thinks fit, to do some original thinking and to tender advice to the Service Ministries—a duty which we do not shirk and which we have been fulfilling fairly frequently in the last twelve months. To leave that point without adding a word on the extraordinarily close and helpful co-operation which we on the civil administration side receive from the Service Ministries would be ungracious, and I wish here and now to pay that tribute. I may say that in the last few months we have had many anxious problems to sort out with the War Office, and that the atmosphere in which we have dealt with our mutual problems could not have been more helpful or more cordial. And if this debate had been upon the Air Estimates, I should have been happy to make the same remark about the Air Ministry.
There remain, however, certain real troubles, and I thought perhaps your Lordships would not think it inappropriate if, in our desire to make the Reserve Army as useful as it can be, I were to take this opportunity of mentioning them. After what I have just said, it is almost needless for me to add that all these problems are well known to the War Office, and have been the subject of the closest study aid collaboration. Not all of them are settled, but I am hopeful that the most urgent and most important of them will be settled in the sense which we believe to be necessary. One point I should bring out is the maldistribution of officers which arises quite inescapably from the W.O.S.B., O.C.T.U., system, which is completely right for the Regular Army. Of course, not only do we regard ourselves as serving the Regular Army as Reserves, but we remember always that for all our expert tuition we rely entirely on the supply of experienced officers, warrant officers and non-commissioned officers for our own efficiency at all stages. Therefore, if I say a word which may sound critical of the existing officer supply system, let it not be thought 422 for a moment that I am, in fact, critical of it. I believe it is the only system which serves the prime need—namely, that of the Regular Army. Unfortunately, however, the whole of the emphasis is on quality and none on a territorial basis and, good as it is for the Regular Army, it has some grave defects for the Territorial Army. This is thrown into great prominence by the maldistribution of officers as between north and south. Many reasons have been adduced. I think many factors combine, and this is not the time or place to go closely into them, but I am glad to know that the Secretary of State has already announced certain measures which are designed to alleviate that maldistribution.
There are various other important points which have been considered. There is that strain, as many of your Lordships know, on the seniors of all ranks in the Territorial Army. Some measure of relief has been given by the proposed use of retired officers which is promised in certain cases. A measure of relief is promised through clerical relief. That is required mainly at company level, and particularly for sub-units in scattered areas. There are other little things which I am sure will be within the knowledge of your Lordships. I apologise for mentioning them, because they are small points in a debate of this character, bat they are pinpricks of a character which militate against success in units' minds. There are such things as more amenities at camp. The high preparedness for war has been a great strain, as we all know, and we are hoping now that with the announced plan for a spread of the training period over three or four years, more amenities will be possible at camp—perhaps recreational transport and perhaps a better motor mileage allowance, which is a real need.
As I say, those are rather small points, but there is one winch has exercised us greatly. We have done our utmost to collect throughout the country, from all units which could he consulted in time and through all associations, opinions on that thing which is most important to provide—the continuing service of experienced officers and non-commissioned officers; for all in the future depends on the maintenance of the volunteer structure. It always a cardinal principle with us that a 423 man should not suffer by reason of his patriotism, and the opinion has been expressed all round the country, with extraordinary unanimity, both through the civil organisations and through the military network, that there is a financial strain. In this, not unnaturally, the opinion of the family as a whole bears rather strongly on the result. Is a man suffering by reason of his patriotism? The answer which has been received, both through the military and civil network is, "Yes." Admittedly, the present could not be a more difficult time to put forward any proposal which results in a strain on the Exchequer, and we are acutely conscious of that. In this game we are accustomed all our lives to making the maximum of bricks with the minimum of straw: but we have expressed in the proper quarters a definite opinion that the future structure of the Territorial Army, relying as it does, upon experienced volunteers, will be in jeopardy unless something of a financial nature, fairly substantial and by way of a bounty, is forthcoming.
I was a little disturbed to read in the official Report of the debate in another place that the Under-Secretary of State had used words suggesting that the case I have just stated for an increased bounty was not fully proved. I was a little comforted, however, to learn that he had spoken in the very small hours of the morning, when we should be willing to understand that the choice of words was not so easy as it is at the more usual time at which your Lordships conduct your business. I hope also that, when he used these words, he, with an honourable record as an ex-commanding officer of a Scottish yeomanry regiment, was thinking much more of the days of his youth. when money was more plentiful and when yeomen rather prided themselves on being very independent persons—I was one myself—than he was of the realities with which we are now dealing, when we are addressing ourselves partly to those who have given very good service in the past but who are not too old to continue and who have just that experience which we need for leadership in the next phase, but mainly to the young man who is now emerging from his National Service: whether as a volunteer or not it does not matter. He has had experience, he has had two years' Regular 424 service, he has had his Reserve service. He is the man upon whom we rely for our success in the future.
Finally, we have seen the amazing success of good will in this Territorial Army, this Reserve Army, on which so much depends if we are given the time and the opportunity to mobilise and to deploy. We have seen it through its voluntary stages for a great many years. We have seen it in recent years absorb the idea of combining with the National Service element, for very good reasons. We have even seen the success which occurred when it was necessary to call up the Z Reservists and to initiate that very difficult experiment of combining four different categories of men for a training period—the Z Reservist, the old-type volunteer, the National Service volunteer and the National Serviceman being not a volunteer. There were many men of experience who forecast a complete failure. They were wrong. It was a complete success. The administration was very good, for which we have to thank the Regular Army. The good will throughout was amazing, for which we have to thank that curiously responsive instrument, the British public.
May I conclude with this little plea? Knowing how bad a time it is to beg things from the Exchequer, I am yet well assured that some financial assistance by way of a bounty, following the scheme that we have put forward and which is now under close examination in the War Office, is essential. At the end of just on fifty years' service in one capacity or another in the Auxiliary Forces of the Crown, I should be a sad man if I felt that this help which we believe to be essential was not forthcoming.
§ 6.45 p.m.
My Lords, the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has emphasised the great changes indicated in the White Paper. I will go so far as to say that this Statement on Defence forecasts perhaps one of the most momentous changes in warfare since the introduction of steam into the Navy. We have only to look at paragraph 60 of the White Paper to read that in the near future manned aircraft may for certain purposes be superseded by the guided weapon. What a vision this conjures up!Push-button warfare almost beneath the fingertips, but not quite. It 425 is, of course, easy to listen too long to the scientists, wait just that little bit longer for the perfect weapon, and neglect to build up and maintain our present conventional ones. I am glad to note that Her Majesty's Government are fully aware of this danger.
It has been suggested by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, that, in view of the advent of these new weapons, the rôles of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force might be radically modified, and that a Committee should be set up to examine these matters fully. I suggest that nothing whatever is to be gained by setting up such a Committee. The facts are known to the Minister of Defence and the Chiefs of Staff Committee, who are well able to appreciate and guide the tactical rôle of the Services in the right direction. I suspect the propagandists of the antiaircraft carriers and anti-Fleet Air Arm are putting their heads together again, as we have seen recently in a number of articles which have appeared in some of the Air Force journals. It is perhaps true that a time may come when the Air Force may be very different from what it is to-day, but I am suggesting that we do not require a Committee to deal with a matter of evolution.
The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, said that he was disappointed that no relief as to cost at the end of the triennial period was indicated in the White Paper. I should like to ask him in what branch of the Services he suggests that a reduction should take place. It is no use making these statements unless you make some reasoned arguments as to what reduction could be made. He also said that the nation is worried about the expense on defence. That may be true, but I suggest that they are more worried as to whether we have yet been able to build up sufficient strength to prevent aggression. I suggest we have gone a long way in that direction, but even yet not far enough.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
What I was saying—the noble Lord challenges me—means this: that people are worried, not only about the expense but as to whether they are at present, with the retarded programme, getting value for the money they are paying. I want an inquiry which will help the noble Lord to come to a decision 426 on the first point: that is, in which Department, if in any, we can afford to economise more than we are doing at the moment. At least, we ought to start with a proper relationship between the three Services.
I thought I made it clear a few minutes ago when I said that a Committee was unnecessary to decide the rôles of the three Services. The noble Viscount said that Captain Ryder in another place referred to the anger and frustration at the rôle of the anti-aircraft carrier. I suggest that the noble Viscount has entirely misunderstood the remarks of Captain Ryder. What did Captain Ryder say? He said very clearly that aircraft carriers were necessary for the protection of our convoys outside the radius of shore-based fighters. That is a very different opinion from the one the noble Viscount expressed in your Lordships' House. Captain Ryder went on to say that one day the aircraft carrier may become obsolete but that that day had not yet arrived. He did say that there was a danger that the Admiralty might hold on to the aircraft carrier too long after it might have become obsolete. That might well happen; but I would say to the noble Viscount that that day has not yet arrived. I maintain that the noble Viscount has put a completely wrong complexion on the words of Captain Ryder in another place.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am challenged again, but if the noble Lord examines the OFFICIAL REPORT he will see exactly What I said, and that he is misrepresenting me. I quoted the exact words from the statement made in another place in regard to frustration and anger in the Fleet. What I understood it to mean was that there was general frustration and anger because there was no clear line yet given to the Fleet upon many of the rôles to be observed, and not these other matters which are referred to.
I cannot help feeling that the noble Viscount must have been misled. I can assure him that at the present time there is no anger or frustration in the Fleet on those lines. I was very interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha in his 427 most interesting and, I would say, very thoughtful speech, had to say about the atomic bomb as a deterrent to war. I think it would be true to say that the atomic bomb has certainly been a deterrent to war on a large scale but, as the noble Lord pointed out, it does not seem to have been very effective in local wars. But surely it is still right to say, as does the White Paper, that the primary deterrent to war on a large scale is still the atomic bomb. Surely that is the position at the present time. The recent statement by, I think, Senator Nixon, that in future the United States would not allow the Communists to nibble them away by a succession of local wars, is, I agree, a statement of vital importance, and I, too, should like to know whether there is to be a collective decision as to when the atomic bomb is to be used.
I agree with the policy outlined in the White Paper, that the Royal Navy is to continue to concentrate on building up and modernising its anti-submarine and anti-mine forces and the completion of the aircraft carriers; but I hope that this concentration will not be to the exclusion of considering very soon the rebuilding of our cruiser force, about which I expect many noble Lords will have something to say when we debate the Naval Estimates. I suggest to your Lordships that perhaps one of the most dangerous forces of attack that we must circumvent is the hidden atomic bomb. It is perfectly possible for enemy merchant ships to enter one of our large and principal harbours during that twilight period before war has commenced with a time atomic bomb, which might well have the effect of putting the harbour and its installations out of action for a considerable period. I understand that the United States are carrying out examinations of certain ships before they are permitted to enter harbour. It might be difficult, of course, to hide a large atomic type bomb in an ordinary dry-cargo ship, but with a timber-carrying ship it is a different matter altogether, because such a bomb could easily be hidden in the middle of the timber and involve almost insurmountable difficulties in regard to finding it before the cargo was completely discharged. I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government if tests are being carried out to detect bombs in these circumstances. I do not know whether this is possible or 428 not, but I hope that research is being carried out in that direction.
It has been said that we spend more than we should on manpower and far too little on production, research and development. What are the facts? I think they were mentioned by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis, but I want to repeat them again because, if he will forgive me. I do not think he made them complete. I would say that in 1950, when we had a Socialist Administration, about one-third of the total defence expenditure went on production and research and just over one-quarter of the total sum was spent on Service manpower. In 1954, out of a total expenditure of more than twice that of 1950, nearly one-half will go on production and research and less than one-fifth on manpower. I think that is an important point which the Opposition would like to know about. I suggest that the percentage of defence expenditure allocated for production and research is certainly adequate.
I should like to add my welcome to the statement on pay and pensions, and to congratulate Her Majesty's Government on relieving the hardship of retired officers who were affected by the 9½ per cent, cut. I also feel sure that the pay increases for long service, skill and experience will go a long way to stop the drain of experienced men from the Services. I have appreciated reading the information contained in this most informative White Paper and listening to the amplifications and explanations which have been given us to-day by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis. I am sure your Lordships will agree that our defence organisation is in very good hands.
§ 6.55 p.m.
My Lords, I hope that at this rather late hour in the evening I may be forgiven for introducing into the debate what might be a slightly discordant note, on the subject of German participation in E.D.C., which is mentioned in the White Paper which your Lordships are debating. I am quite aware that next week there is a debate on foreign affairs when, I have no doubt, the matter in its most general and widest terms will be mentioned and debated. Therefore, as I said, at this time in the evening I will try and confine myself to 429 the purely military aspect of German participation in E.D.C.
There are two points that I should like to put forward. I have no particular knowledge in regard to the first one, and therefore I put it very briefly. I do not want to embarrass my very old friend, if I may so call him, the noble and gallant Lord the Secretary of State for Air. He may not want to answer at all on this point, or at any rate, not in any detail at this moment—it may not be politic for him to do so—but many people in this country are concerned about again giving fighters to the Germans. Whether a tactical air force of their own is envisaged or whether they are merely to operate wings or squadrons of fighters do not know; nor, I think, does anybody, except perhaps the planners who are mentioned in the White Paper. But the number of men which the Bonn Government are to be authorised to raise for this purpose, I understand, by selective conscription, has been estimated at about 75,000. That figure may be quite wrong, but it is the figure given to me. That is a fairly large number of men, and obviously it must include ground staff, because 75,000 in fighter crew would mean a great many fighters. Therefore, presumably it also includes ground staff. How far back could it go—into the aircraft factories or net? Are the Germans to be allowed to build aircraft? Will the jigs and tools necessary for building aircraft eventually become available, so that factories which are not officially now used for that purpose could be made available at short notice for such a purpose? I think many people would like to know the answer to that question. Certainly I should.
A month or two ago the Press gave some publicity to the story of ten or twelve German pilots who were coming over here for training. The story in the Press went on to say that none of those men had ever flown operationally over this country. That is the sort of remark one got used to when one was in Germany after the war. I was there for two and a half years, and in those days it was hard to find there a Nazi or even a Nazi sympathiser. The statement in the Press, that these officers from Germany were corning here as trainees and that none of them had ever flown operationally over this country, sounded rather a familiar note. In case I should be 430 thought to be taking too cynical a view I will leave it at that. Perhaps the noble and gallant Lord the Secretary of State for Air will be able to tell us a little about it to-morrow evening.
My second point, on which I have a little more detailed knowledge, is a purely military point. There, again, German participation in E.D.C. has been invited, I understand, again unofficially, at twelve divisions, of which I imagine perhaps half will be armoured, to fill the manpower gap which must certainly exist in E.D.C. I would not query that. But how will this German contribution be controlled? I think the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis, mentioned in his speech "properly controlled German forces." I should like to know more about that. I served on the General Staff for a good many years, and I know something of what is and what is not possible in the way of control of formations.
Now twelve separate divisions, each on their own, with their own staff and their own tail, as it is known in the Services, are not a very formidable proposition. But twelve divisions formed up into, say, four corps, each of three divisions, and those corn; formed into two armies, each of two carps, each with their own general staff and their own tail, is quite another matter. This is a point which I should like to make. The reemergence of the German General Staff is taking place. The officer corps has been re-formed in recent months. Are we to have this threat again? The German General Staff, when you think of it, were entirely responsible for the assumption of leadership by Hitler. They made the rise of Hitler to power possible. He could not have got there without their support. A lot of the members of that staff, actual individuals, are still, I think, at large—but perhaps that is rather an offensive term, so, shall we say, they are available to reform a German Army in the West.
As I said at the beginning of my remarks, the general and much longer-term proposition of what we can do in Western Germany is another matter, which can perhaps be discussed next week, but I hope that something will be said of the actual mechanics, and how to control this contribution. I believe it is an all-important matter, and I have 431 no doubt that the noble and gallant Earl, the Minister of Defence, has it very much in mind. If this contribution were included in N.A.T.O., and, therefore, these divisions were included in corps and armies under French, American and British command, then I think we should have a substantial measure of control. But if this is not done, then soon these divisions will become corps and the corps will become armies. I should like to emphasise this point because it may well be that some of your Lordships who have not been in Germany, may not know the Germans very well. Even those who have fought in the Services against the Germans have, in many cases, not met them to speak to until they were in prisoner-of-war camps. But I lived among them and I got a good idea of the sort of people they are. The German General Staff is virtually in being now, and at any moment may have every reason, officially or unofficially, to go ahead with its plans.
I do not wish to detain your Lordships, but I should like to know who will carry out the actual process of controlling these people. Will it be the Civil Commissioners of the three Occupying Powers in Germany? They are admirable people, but their staffs have been reduced tremendously since I was there in 1945. They consisted then of about half civil and half military personnel. There were a great many of us altogether. I was there on loan for some time. A great many at that time were anxious to get home, but if the Control Commission was really not a very efficient instrument, at least it was a very large one. Now it is tremendously reduced in numbers; I cannot see the Civil Commissioners possibly controlling this contribution once it is started.
Who else is there? We have the British Army of the Rhine, but they have their own problems. They have to train to he ready for operations, as the noble and gallant Earl has explained; they are really the spearhead of the whole organisation there, from the military point of view. Therefore, they have no time to chase round seeing what is going on in drill halls and so on. So who is going to control this contribution and how? I really believe people in this country would be glad to know. Even those who 432 are, in principle, in favour of German participation in E.D.C. would be glad to be enlightened. We have not to look back very far—only to 1919, or the early 1920's after the 1914–18 war. The terms of the Treaty of Versailles confined the German Army to 100,000 men—a negligible number. But in no time at all, through the brilliance of General Hans Von Seeckt a new army had been caused to emerge by the simple expedient of including in the number of 100,000 an enormously high proportion of officers of whom, in turn, an enormous proportion were staff officers. What has been done once can be done again.
Another point I would commend to the notice of your Lordships is this. In this country and in other democratic countries one finds that the three Armed Services are non-political. We like it so and we think it is quite right. But in Germany the Army, the Wehrmacht, is not only a power, it is the power. I doubt if anything that Dr. Adenauer can do will ever change that. The story of the German General Staff over the last 120 years is a frightening one. I would advise your Lordships to read the history of it if you have the time—which, unfortunately, so few people have nowadays. You will find it tells us that people do not change as quickly as all that. In Germany, we shall have a warlike people to contend with, either under our command or alongside us. They are warlike. They like it, and they do it very well. We should be wary as to what we are taking on.
Before sitting down, I should like to commend to your Lordships' notice an excellent work of contemporary history, called Nemesis of Power. If I may, I will quote a few lines from that work:No country has been so roundly and truly defeated as was Prussia at Jena and as Germany was in the First and Second World Wars. No country has displayed a more phenomenal capacity for military resilience or for beating ploughshares into swords….In each case, the victors were outwitted to their subsequent detriment.My Lords, I have little to add. I know that the noble and gallant Earl, the Minister of Defence, has all these matters in mind. I have no doubt that in the end all will be well. I hope I shall be forgiven for making what may have sounded somewhat of an alarmist speech. Certainly, if I made it in America I 433 should incur the displeasure of Senator McCarthy, which I should try to receive with as much equanimity as I could summon. One has only to criticise German participation to be looked at, if not as an absolute Red, then at least as being absolutely pink. I can assure your Lordships that I am neither. But I think we shall hardly be doing our duty, and we shall even be doing a positive disservice to posterity, if, in our anxiety to make secure the future, we forget the lessons of the past.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ LORD GLYN
My Lords, I do not propose to take up your Lordships' time for more than a few moments. The noble Lord who has just sat down, in the course of his speech expressed what is felt by a great many of the people of this country. I am sure that all of us who have had experience of the two great world wars feel what an enormous responsibility rests upon those in authority in this country who understand the European situation and the teal psychological danger to-day; as there are so many people on the other side of the Atlantic who have not had the experience which we have had, and, therefore, do not face up to the issues quite in the same way.
No mention has been made in the course of the debate of the extraordinarily interesting broadcasts made by the late Chief of the Air Staff, an officer for whom I have great personal regard and who, I believe, is a very notable officer. His broadcasts on these issues were of immense interest. They have aroused a great deal of attention in the country. Sir John Slessor made the point that he thought it was absolutely essential at this juncture that all of us should realise how previous conceptions of war strategy and tactics have become obsolete. He went on to suggest that we ought to look again at that instrument of foreign policy, the Brussels Treaty, and see how far it is possible to expand that in such a way that the words of the Treaty, which state that there should be such force used of a military nature immediately to stop aggression, and that the United States and ourselves should give a solemn undertaking that that force would be used, can be made effective.
434 I think Sir John Slessor's argument gave some hope that we may see some way to take the initiative now, while not relying entirely on that, because that would be more than foolish. He worked it out in considerable detail and held it forward as a scheme which reinforces the speeches made by the Prime Minister on November 3 and May 11. I think the Brussels Treaty is a background on which we could display the prospects of something which would enable this tremendous burden of armament to be lightened in course of time. I am convinced, as the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, said in his remarkably interesting speech, that one of the things to be considered is whether this atomic threat is really going to be within our control or whether it may be used by one nation without the consent of the rest. That seems to me to be a most serious position. At the moment no other country in the West, except the United States, ourselves and, of course, Canada, has the atom bomb, and the United States and Canada are not parties to the Brussels Treaty. Obviously it is necessary that they should be asked to join. I commend to your Lordships those two broadcasts because they were given by an officer of distinction who served long as Chief of the Air Staff, and I think it is well worth while anybody who does not have a practical knowledge to read what he says and learn from it.
I should like to raise a question in which I have had some experience while acting as Chairman of the Estimates Committee in another place for twelve years. During the war and since it was my good fortune to have to go round all our research stations, and I do not think this debate should be concluded without someone who has had experience of the work which is being done by these research establishments indicating the enormous debt this country owes to that work. These establishments were well supported both by the late Administration and by Her Majesty's Government. In the past it has always been a fatal economy to cut research and development first. The progress that has been made by eminent scientists and practical men has given our Services the lead over all other countries. The money we give to research is small compared with what is spent by the United States, but our results are infinitely better. We do not want to have our best people taken away at a 435 time when they will be most useful to the country by, the competitive powers of industry, which can offer much higher salaries. It is a matter of some concern in some of these establishments that men with families to educate and other commitments should feel they have to think of their own personal conditions and have to resign and go somewhere else. I wonder whether there is one thing the Minister of Defence can do—that is, to place what I call a "Butler's float" at the discretion of the men in charge of these establishments, so that they could give some extra help to men who need it. I think something like that would be of enormous assistance and would lead to a great deal more contentment and satisfaction.
I know this is not a popular thing to say, but sometimes while listening to our debates I feel that we seem to be talking in a vacuum and do not understand that our potential foes are great masters of psychology. The Russians are spending enormous sums in studying the character of the British working man. A word ought to be said about the wonderful work being done by the trade union leaders, quietly and without much fuss, in keeping control of their industries in spite of the machinations of these people. I would ask noble Lords to throw their minds back to some recent cases which have been deliberately brought about by those who wish this country no good. I remember when they called out the drivers of petrol tankers. They wanted to see how long it would be before that would hold up London. It was held up in thirty-six hours, because the storage capacity is insufficient, and they learned what they wanted to know. Yesterday there was this case at London Airport. They say they are not going to decocoon (that is a dreadful word) the Hermes aircraft, which a Select Committee of Parliament recommended should be used and which are being sold by B.O.A.C. This is being done for a purely political reason. These people, who are very much influenced by these extreme views, say they do not approve of it and are going to be against it. But the common sense of the ordinary British workman is great and he is impervious to these arguments unless there is some argument about his being disloyal to his companions; and 436 of that trait the enemies of this country, the enemies within our gates, make use. I feel that the question of security is of the greatest importance; it is a necessary part of our preparation for defence. We must be prepared not only for the enemy outside but also for those few people inside who could be a menace and a real danger.
Finally, I want to say a word about the reference in the White Paper to the strategic force. I do not think this is a time to mention the matter in any detail, but those of us who served in the middle East know that we cannot have a base in a country which is discontented and difficult. It will take at least two years to take away from the Canal Zone base the material that is there, and by that time the Treaty comes to an end. There is a good deal of material there which has deteriorated and I think it would help the country if a fuller statement could be made as to the value of the material and how long it will take to get it away, if we want to get it away. Can it be got away by the time the Treaty comes to an end in 1956, always supposing it is not going to be renewed? Anybody who has been to the Canal Zone knows the appalling conditions under which British troops have to serve there. As stated in the White Paper, it is obviously wrong to spend large sums in improving accommodation out there which cannot be used at the end of two years. I think that there we have a situation which has done more damage to recruiting for the Army than almost any other thing, because the great bulk of troops serving there have had to serve under conditions of discomfort and of danger from snipers—unpleasant conditions for which we are unable to find a remedy. I think that when the Army Estimates are to be debated it would be a good thing to publish a special White Paper to show the true position about the liabilities of the British Government and the value of material in store in these depôts. It has been said that it is something in the nature of £40 million. Whether the material is worth £40 million or not, I do not know. Whether it is worth taking away I do not know, but at any rate if a start were made now it would not all be removed by 1956.
437 Finally I think this is a White Paper which has been wanted for a very long time; it is frank and puts things clearly, and it is a paper which can be understood. I only hope it will be understood by the schools of this country. It is strange how seldom any attempt is made to circulate through the schools the facts of our country's defence. If you go to most schools of this country you find they have never heard much about it. I believe it would be a good thing to do. Most of us feel that we have done what we can for our country and it would be a good thing for the children in the schools to realise what their fathers have done before them and what, indeed, may be their duty; and you cannot expect them to understand these things unless they have occasion to be taught about them in the schools.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ LORD AMMON
My Lords, the reentry of the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, reminds me that we were old colleagues in another place; but it does not necessarily mean that I agree with all he said when I congratulate him on his speech and welcome him here among us. The state of the Chamber indicates that one must not talk for very long, but there are one or two things I want to say and which have not yet been brought before your Lordships. The Paper which is the basis of our debate one welcomes and accepts as a very fair statement of war conditions and expectation of war. I am bound to say that I, for one, view it with some foreboding and some disappointment, because it seems to take for granted that we are bound to be plunged into the horrors of a third world war; and it also sets out the dreadful prospect that if this situation continues much longer no nation will be able to stand up economically or in any other way without coming to disaster. In that connection, if I understood the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, correctly when he talked about the Committee, I did not understand it in the way some others, who ridiculed it, did. It occurred to me that he might have in mind something on the lines of the Geddes Committee. When war broke out, I was a member of a Committee to survey national expenditure and to inquire into matters concerning it, and I imagine that if the 438 noble Viscount meant something along that line then, indeed, there might be room for it.
The White Paper before us says there are signs of an alleviation of international tension. I hope that is true, but one may be excused for being a little doubtful when one looks at the condition of the world, the division of the nations in regard to the arming of Germany, the Japanese Agreement and the fact that an American journal has this week an article saying that in about two years' time China will have 150 modern divisions, fully equipped and up to date. These things are something to give us pause in order that we may indeed be a little careful in thinking we are even passing out of the wood. Nevertheless I see some change. Three years ago I said in this House that our policy was driving China into the arms of Russia. That is why I regret there is nothing in this White Paper that gives the suggestion that anything is being done to prevent war or prevent the spread of those things that are the causes of it. I then ventured to say that if we opened up commerce and trade in China we should do more to injure Russia and draw China away from her than anything There has been some improvement in that direction. Opinion has changed, and even America itself is taking a fresh view of it.
In one of our shipping journals there is an article by Professor Forster, who has been many years in China and Hong Kong. He says:The recent movement to resume commercial relations with us and with the Japanese, by China, shows that while the world can do without China, China herself cannot do without the products of the world if she is to become an industrial power. She needs, on a grand scale, the machinery for factories, engines of all kinds, electrical equipment and such things as gasometers, power stations, motor cars, aeroplane and railway shops—and these must be imported. This expansion, so eagerly sought for, cannot materialise in the near future unless the war effort is finally disposed of and unless the international situation is greatly improved. What we look for is not a grudging resumption of trade but a whole-hearted and eager co-operation between China and ourselves. In short we want to, return to the spirit of the past and a greatly increased and extended exchange of goods to the advantage of us both.I ventured to say last time I spoke that from my own experience of a visit to China one could not marvel if they went Communist. One saw dreadful economic 439 conditions, poverty and misery unbelievable; and that is the basis of the trouble that is springing up in other nations. One of the best ways to meet it is to draw her off, if we can in some way do so, from association with Russia. All the time we are suggesting we may drive out war with atomic bombs, the Communists are winning all along the line by pointing out that it is poverty which is at the bottom of it and that if the Chinese only join with them it is bound to end.
Not only in that but in other ways there is something to be said for trade. I had a letter last night from a friend in New Zealand. He says:The shops are full of foreign goods. What is wrong with the British manufacturer?The reason I bring this point in is that in paragraph 44 of the White Paper now before us we have the statement that America bought from us 460 million dollars worth of goods, but they were all war goods. That, in itself, indicates that some time or another that trade is going to come to an end, and the prospect will not be very cheerful for us. Now is the time, surely, when we, of all people, ought to be doing whatever we can, by patient service and work, in order that we may be able to get at Russia in that way and draw off her friends and supporters. In that I support very strongly what the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Cunningham of Hyndhope, said a little while ago. We want to use N.A.T.O. as a means of cultural integration as well as for strengthening our military powers. We should use every initial effort we possibly can to make more difficult the possibility of war breaking out. I suggest it is along those lines, and along those lines only, that we shall destroy, or help to overpower, Communism.
In the White Paper we are told that there are signs of better understanding and that perhaps we can come to an agreement with other people. But in paragraph 11, which deals with the forces in Europe and in other strategic areas overseas, we are told of the steps taken to meet the threat of war, and that the primary deterrent is the atom bomb. May I draw your Lordships' attention to what Secretary of State Dulles said the other day? He uttered a warning to 440 Chinese and Russian leaders that, should they start another limited Korean-type war, the homeland of neither China nor Russia would afford sanctuary from direct atomic attack by the strategic Air Force of the United States. That is pretty good, but what does it mean? The United States is doing much to widen the guarantees of N.A.T.O. Attempts are being made even to include countries in the Eastern Mediterranean. Who is going to give the orders, and where is it to stop? We have seen American air bases and naval bases rapidly encircling the globe. I, for one, give wholehearted thanks to the Americans for what they have done in many ways, but it must be borne in mind that they are in a highly nervous state of tension, which makes it possible for them to take action, and such action would prompt retaliation.
I agree entirely with those who say that we have got to keep our defences as strong as we possibly can. I am only suggesting that there are other means and other spheres of activity that we ought to pursue, in order that we may awaken public opinion and the public conscience to the situation and that interest may be deflected in other ways. At the bottom of it all there is not the slightest doubt that there is world hunger. The peoples want a place at the table, a share in the abundance of nature. We shall not overcome that by atom bombs—we may destroy the human race, but we shall not overcome this feeling except by better ideas and by following them out and endeavouring, so far as we can, to open up trade and commerce with all countries. I suggest that, while we are thinking of what is contained in the White Paper, we should also give thought and consideration to other things. No country will suffer worse or more quickly than this country should war break out. The atom bomb might be sent against us without warning. We have also to remember that the strain of the situation must be felt equally by other people.
I feel that our nation deserves better than to go down as other nations and Empires have done, having missed the road at the end. We have twice tried the way of war. Need it happen a third time? If we give thought to that, it will be well worth while and we shall find the better way. Those whom we look upon as our potential enemies may 441 be only too glad to fall in and find I a way out of these present difficulties. I am glad that that should be the last word in to-day's debate.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(;Viscount Swinton.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.