§ 2.39 p.m.
§ Debate resumed (according to Order), on the Motion moved yesterday by Earl Alexander of Tunis, to resolve That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1954 (Cmd. 9075).
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (VISCOUNT SWINTON)
My Lords, I propose to intervene only briefly in this debate, but we on this Bench felt that the Acting Leader of the Opposition was entitled to an early and authoritative reply to the suggestion which he made yesterday for an independent inquiry. He said, indeed, that all his speech led up to that. So, if I may, I will deal with one or two of his more detailed criticisms before I come to the pièce de résistance of his speech. As I, in turn, shall have to be somewhat critical. I should like to begin with a topic on which I am sure we can all agree. I should like to thank the noble Viscount sincerely for what he said about the Prime Minister. That is a tribute in which noble Lords in all quarters of the House can join.
The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough—it is difficult with two Alexanders—criticised the vagueness of the White Paper. I think the House will agree that it is by far the most informative and, I would say, also the most readable, of all the statements on Defence we have had from any Government. He went on to say that the country was disappointed that expenditure on defence was not getting less. Well, that is a sentiment with which we should all agree; we are all in favour of fine weather. But it is not our fault, or the fault of this country, or of any of our Allies, that we have to maintain a high level of defence expenditure. That expenditure is the insurance premium of peace.
The expenditure on defence this year has been most carefully fixed as striking the fairest balance we can between what I may call legitimate defence demands and economic needs. It must always be in the nature of a balance, because the two are interdependent. Defence, defence expenditure, and defence production, bear directly on the balance of payments; and, in the last resort, the needs of the balance of payments set the limits of our 445 defence effort. We cannot be strong in defence unless we are economically sound and strong as well. The noble Viscount went on to say that expenditure on defence was rising rapidly. I do not think that is a fair way of putting it. The defence programme has, in fact, been stabilised. That is one of the advantages of the long review we have had. The House will see from paragraph 23 of the White Paper that the actual Estimates for 1954–55 at £1,640 million is only £3 million higher than the Estimate last year.
Then the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has cited as instances of the vagueness of which he complained that the Government had riot stated in figures what would be the amount devoted to defence in coming years, or what was the exact proportion of the national income which the Government thought should be devoted to defence expenditure in those years. I might answer by saying that the Socialist Government were themselves often changing their Estimates, and always in an upward direction; but I will not reply by a tu quoque or make any complaint about that. The noble Viscount himself said how difficult it is to estimate either rising prices or changing conditions. We certainly have never complained of what the Socialist Government did in this respect; and, indeed, that was most emphatically stated by the Minister of Defence yesterday. But, surely, it would be foolish and unrealistic to try to state exactly what will be the Estimate a year hence. In defence, as in other expenditure, while you have a general policy laid down ahead, the rate at which you can carry out that policy must be subject to varying conditions. The only businesslike and sensible way to frame your Estimates is to take into account the resources of the country, the economic situation and the political situation—I mean international politics—and frame your Estimates accordingly. I think I can fairly say to the noble Viscount that unless he can tell me precisely what will be the national product and the national income next year and the year after: how successful we shall be in the export field; what will be our trade balance and the state of our reserves, and what will be the international situation—unless he can give me those figures for certain. then I should be indeed foolish and wrong 446 to attempt to forecast the figure of defence expenditure.
The noble Viscount also said that the Defence White Paper did not give in sufficient detail the rôle of the Services. He must remember that in addition to the White Paper on Defence (which has always painted rather a broad picture, though this year I think rather a comprehensive picture) there are long detailed memoranda which are published with the Estimates for each Service, and there are the Service Ministers' speeches. If he takes those together, he will find that the rôle of the Services is clearly stated. The noble Viscount went on to say, I thought rather unfairly to the Minister of Defence, that the Services felt frustrated —that was his expression—because my noble friend had not taken decisions. The noble Viscount was answered in this by other speakers in the debate yesterday, but I should like to say—I am sure the House will not mind my saying it of a colleague—that I have not encountered that frustration, and certainly I have never known a Minister of Defence more ready to take decisions. Of course, those decisions may not be agreeable to everybody—few difficult decisions are. But surely it is much better that those decisions should be taken and should be based on what I may call the highest common factor of efficiency, rather than on the lowest common denominator of compromise. I think, as was said yesterday by more than one speaker, that all the Services feel that the decisions which my noble friend gave are not only most carefully considered but are taken with an exceptional and. I think I might say, unique and sympathetic understanding of all three Services; and all the Services accept them in that spirit.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I am much obliged to the noble Viscount. May I put it this way? I am anxious, as always, to support what: I would call the Minister of Defence's authority in all these difficult and interdepartmental matters, but, as I have understood it, whatever the noble Viscount may have heard, the questions to be settled between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, questions of rôle, have now been under discussion for about two years, and it is said fairly freely by some officers to be causing this kind of 447 frustration. It is surely one of those matters that could bear some inquiry which would help the Government in the matter.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
That may be widely or narrowly said: I do not know. But I can say to the House, with confidence, that it bears no relation to the truth. Quite a lot of things are said out-of-doors, but there is no need for any inquiry. I will deal with that question more fully in a moment. Certainly, in regard to the particular matter which the noble Lord has now raised there has been no absence of decision—about that I can give the noble Viscount a firm assurance. And I am sure that those decisions will be loyally accepted.
I now come to the inquiry and I shall certainly not shirk the matter. The noble Viscount concluded his speech with what I think most of the House regarded as a very odd suggestion. He proposed that the whole of defence policy should be subjected to an independent inquiry. Now this inquiry was not, as I understand it (I have carefully looked at the report in Hansard) merely to cover the whole defence field of all three Services—their rôles, their strategy, their armaments —but it was also to embrace the whole of our economic and financial position and prospects. The noble Viscount did not tell us, though I ventured to invite him to do so, who were the gentlemen who were to conduct this inquiry and who were to perform, as my noble friend Lord Hore-Belisha said, all the functions of government.
Even if this proposal deserved more consideration on merit, I can give the noble Viscount one reason why I think it would be impossible for any independent body to conduct such an inquiry. If these gentlemen were to conduct their inquiry effectively—and it would be no good having an inquiry unless it was completely comprehensive and effective—they would have to know every secret which is known to the innermost circles of Government. It would be completely ineffective and, I would say, impotent if they did not. They would have to know every secret about weapons, everything about atomic development and atomic weapons, everything about the most secret research; all our intelligence would have 448 to be open to them, and a wide range of international political information as well. As an old Minister himself, I think on consideration the noble Viscount will realise, first of all, that those are matters without a complete knowledge of which no effective inquiry could be undertaken; and secondly, that those are matters which no Government should impart to outsiders, however eminent or however worthy.
Really, my Lords, the suggestion has been carefully considered already—do not let the noble Viscount think we have not considered it, for we have—but the more one thinks of it the more one realises that it has only to be made to carry its own condemnation. I do not know how the noble Viscount conducted business when he was Minister of Defence, but I must say this to him, with the full authority of the Government: that, in our view, the formulation of defence policy is one of the most important functions of Government. Not only are the Minister of Defence, the Service Ministers and the Chiefs of Staff involved; but so also are the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Minister of Supply and other Ministers as well. This is a function that can be discharged only by men working together year in, year out: and that is how the policy, as set out in the Statement on Defence, was arrived at. I must say, with the full considered authority of this Government, that, in our view, no Government could possibly devolve that duty on anyone else; and they would indeed deserve censure if they attempted to do so.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Perhaps the noble Viscount will allow me to say that if such an inquiry were thought to be proper by the Government they would not be without precedent in dealing with such matters as were described yesterday as being the special functions of Government. The Esher Committee itself is an example. It dealt not only with the whole reorganisation of the War Office but also with amendments to the whole set-up of the Committee of Imperial Defence—very important questions. The economies, for example—although they were differently constituted from those I suggested yesterday—that were brought about in the 449 Services, as well as in other State Departments, by the Geddes Committee on National Economy, were equally important. If I have asked your Lordships to look at this matter very carefully from this point of view, it is largely because the anxiety has expressed itself within the terms of the White Paper as to how far the economy of the country can be related to the expenditure required on defence.
On the question of secrets, Governments have never hesitated to appoint what may be regarded as outside-the-Government people to deal with matters of great secrecy. For example, the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, has assisted Governments on more than one occasion when they have been conducting independent inquiries. There are people to whom secrets are already known and who can certainly not be suspect if they are asked to share other secrets in coming to what is the basic thing required—a firm view and a firm plan on which to base any question which rises.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
The noble Viscount's intervention frankly does not move me in the least. All the matters which he dealt with there, and which figured in his rather long speech yesterday, have been fully within our consideration. Of course my colleagues and I know all about the Esher Committee, and we know all we owe to my noble friend Lord Waverley. It was rather interesting to hear one of the noble Viscount's citations, which referred to the May Committee. think. I did not know the May Committee was such a prototype of excellence in the minds of Socialist Ministers or ex-Ministers.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
There was the Geddes Committee and there was the May Committee. I did not know they were to be taken as models. But they really did not have a lot of secrets entrusted to them. The matters they had to consider were open to all the world—in the case of the May Committee, the very openness of them nearly landed us in disaster. The Esher Committee dealt with nothing like what the noble Viscount is proposing now—the whole function of defence, the whole field of economy and finance. The Esher Committee was an admirable body making useful recommendations 450 on the machinery of government. It is quite true that the machinery of the War Office called for a great deal of improvement in those days. From these reforms in the War Office, Lord Haldane was afterwards able to build up the Expeditionary Force. But that is nothing to do with the whole policy of defence and economics. In matters of machinery an outside Committee may be useful. Certainly if we trusted anybody we should trust the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, with anything. The noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, has helped us over matters a good deal. But again where he helped us lately was in the machinery of Government and the form an Atomic Agency should take.
Do not let the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, shirk the issue. If he wants only to know whether the machine in the War Office or somewhere else is working well, that is a different matter. I think he would probably admit—he knows about it—that the machinery of the Ministry of Defence and the whole way in which these matters are dealt with could hardly work better than it does to-day. I will not say that none of us could be better; of course, we could all improve; but the actual machine which we do our best to work is much the best machine: it is a tried and proved machine for its purpose. The noble Viscount cannot ride away by saying that all he is asking for is a sort of second Esher Committee. He is not asking for that. If he reads the words, he will see that it is to cover the whole field of defence, what the Forces are to be, what their rôles are to be, what their strategy is to he, what their armaments are to be arid what the secret research is to be.
The noble Viscount says that the people want to know and are worried, or may be worried, about the economic position of the country. He asks, what should be the policy of defence having regard to the economic conditions and. prospects of this country? Naturally, those are matters which exercise us. They not only exercise us; they are matters with which we are deeply concerned every day of the week and on which our policy is based. Whether the results we give you are good or bad—and believe me. I am talking about what I know; I am in the heart of this—those: are the very things with which we are 451 concerned and which we are doing. I think I shall carry nearly all the House with me when I say, and say emphatically, that this subject really covers about three-quarters of the whole field of government, certainly some of its most important aspects, and that no Government worthy of the name would attempt to devolve those vital functions and duties on to anyone else. If they did do so, they should cease to be the Government. I am sure that, if they did so, we should find in another place, if not here, a Motion of censure upon the Order Paper. It would tax even my noble Leader, who is more adroit than I am, to find an adequate answer to such a Motion of censure. I have tried to reply to the noble Viscount fully and frankly.
The House will excuse me if I do not attempt to answer a number of other speeches, most of them as interesting as they were informed and instructive. I have read those which I was unable to hear. We have a long list of speakers again to-day and my noble friend the Secretary of State for Air will be replying at the end of this debate. Indeed, a number of the matters raised lie within his particular province, and he will be able to reply with a first-hand knowledge which I once used to have, but which I am afraid I can now no longer claim.
But there is one other speech about which I should like to say a word or two, and that was the remarkable maiden speech made by my noble friend, Lord Hore-Belisha. He claimed a maiden's indulgence, but he proved himself, as we should have expected, a very experienced virgin. In the course of his speech, the noble Lord fastened on one passage in the White Paper about the atom bomb, and asked why it was mentioned in a White Paper for the first time. I am afraid I have not had time, as he has had, to re-read all the White Papers, and it may well be that this is the first time the atom bomb has so figured. If the noble Lord says so, I certainly take it from him that that is so. But what is written in the White Paper has been said over and over again by the Prime Minister and by other Ministers in this country and by Ministers in the United States.
It is true—indeed I should have thought it was almost a truism—that the 452 atom bomb is the greatest deterent to war. It is, of course, also true that the Russians now possess this weapon, though with this, as with other novel weapons, there is a great advantage in having had the lead, both in development, in construction, and in the capacity and technique of delivery. It is also true that scientific developments have made existing atomic weapons far more destructive than those which were used in the last war; so it is not only probable but also certain, I suppose, that future scientific developments will make those weapons incomparably more destructive still. Indeed, if those weapons were used, there is a prospect of overwhelming destruction. No one would deny the truth of that, or minimise the danger.
But in that prospect of increasing universal devastation, may there not also lie the hope of the future? If a situation is reached in which war would not only destroy civilisation but could destroy all humanity, may that not be the universal deterrent which would restrain all nations from a war which could end only in the annihilation of all of them? The noble Viscount went on to pose some questions about policy and intention. Here, again, the policy both of this country and of the United States has been definitely stated to the world. It was indeed repeated by both the American Secretary of State and by our own Secretary of State during the Berlin Conference. From the very start, as to-day, the United States, the United Kingdom, and all the countries who are parties to N.A.T.O. and the Grand Alliance have stated firmly that that Alliance is purely defensive and that none of us will ever resort to aggression. That is, and remains, our policy. My Lords, to say that in the event of attack there could be instantaneous retaliation is not to threaten aggression or a preventive war; it is surely to emphasise the effectiveness of the deterrent and the consequences which would immediately and inevitably follow in the event of a major war, if that deterrent should prove ineffective.
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, it seems to me that this debate is remarkable, even among debates in your Lordships' House, for the great wealth of 453 experience, Ministerial and in high rank in the services, which is contributing to it. Not the least remarkable of the contributions has, I think, been that from the former Secretary of State for War, the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha. I can well remember the feeling in the Army when the noble Lord was Secretary of State, that at least somebody had come to the War Office who was really determined on reforms. We began to see things moving after the long stagnation since the First World War. We saw new barracks being planned and some of them even being built; there were improvements in promotion prospects and in the status of warrant officers and non-commissioned officers; and there was even a sort of preliminary attack—skirmishes, one might say on, some of the old-established practices in the Army that are sometimes called"spit and polish,"and sometimes called by less complimentary words. But the way of a reformer is always hard and when the reforms are overtaken or forestalled by urgent preparations for war, and then by war itself, it is easy to understand why the noble Lord was robbed of the title he might have attained, as one of the great Army reformers.
May I turn now to my noble Leader's speech yesterday? His main theme was that in this White Paper many questions remain unanswered, and many questions admittedly are solved only as a result of a balance between conflicting claims and uncertainties as to the future. All these are clearly and repeatedly stated in the White Paper, and to our mind amply justify our asking for an inquiry. The noble Viscount who has just sat down poured scorn on the idea, but I must say that, for myself (and I suspect I am also speaking for my noble friends), I am not convinced, and I still think that there are many things, such as questions unanswered, that an inquiry of the type mentioned by my noble Leader would answer, or at any rate subject to discussion, to the greater satisfaction of the people of this country—who, after all, have to pay the bill.
The noble Viscount opposite answered one or two questions that arose from yesterday's speeches, but other questions were asked and I hope a Government spokesman will say something about them. There is the question of the relation of defence expenditure to the country's economy. The noble Viscount said that 454 we cannot have adequate defence unless we are economically sound and strong, But at what point? How big a proportion of our national wealth can we devote to defence and. still remain sound and strong economically? That is a question that nobody has answered. it is a matter of opinion. It has been said that the present level of expenditure is 11 per cent. of the national income of the country. We are warned that that expenditure will have to continue for a number of years to come. The White Paper expresses the opinion that that figure is within our economic capacity; but there are other well-qualified people who consider that it is not. That is one ground for thinking that the position should be investigated by an independent body.
Other questions arise from the defence. situation. Is it a fact that as soon as. E.D.C. is ratified we shall be faced with the additional expense of the British Army of the Rhine, which is now being borne by West Germany? Is it the case, therefore, that the £1,640 million now allotted for defence ill be increased by some £120 million in the near future? Another very important point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, whose speech was, it seemed to me, evidence of the wide and deep feeling of uneasiness that exists in the country, not by any means confined to one Party, about the consequences of German rearmament. The noble Lord who speaks with long military experience, asked the Government what measures were going to be taken to ensure that when they came into being, the German armed forces can never be a danger to their neighbours. We think that question should be answered.
I said that parts of the White Paper are far from clear. I should like to go through some of them and point out what seem to me to be contradictions and discrepancies; but first If should like to congratulate the Government on their courage in corning out with a perfectly definite forecast of the course of the next war, if it should ever come. I should think that such a forecast has never before been attempted by a Government. But I think their courage will have to be its own reward, because the Government cannot expect to put forward a controversial forecast or appreciation of that sort without its being examined most 455 critically. The White Paper starts, logically, in paragraph 9, with the three main aims of our defence policy. First —if I may paraphrase it—there is the resistance in the cold war, and, a function slightly different, what I might call,"imperial policing."Secondly, there is the building up of the deterrent which we hope will prevent a third world war from breaking out. And, finally, there are the preparations to be made to fight a global war if one should come.
Those three aims, the White Paper states, are overlapping and conflicting. They are certainly conflicting. For the first one—to fight the cold war and to carry out our commitments in the Commonwealth—we want large numbers of men. They must be mainly infantry; they must be mobile. They need not be heavily armed, but the primary need is for large numbers of trained men. But these lightly armed infantry units which we need for the first rôle will be of no use in the second or third. A battalion trained and equipped to fight in Kenya or Malaya will be no use if it is put in among armoured formations on the Continent of Europe. For the second rôle, the deterrent, we need primarily—and it is called the primary deterrent—a strategic air force of great power and strength, equipped with the atomic weapon. Ancillary to those, the deterrent calls for land forces on the Continent of Europe. Those forces must be heavily armed, include a high proportion of armoured formations, and be equipped with the latest and the heaviest armament. So there is a conflict. The manpower that we need for research and development and the production of the equipment for these heavily armed forces is at present scattered all over the world carrying out the first aim—the cold war. And do not let us delude ourselves into thinking that the possession of a strategic air force armed with atom bombs will have any effect on the cold war. In spite of what the White Paper says. I cannot believe that the possession of that arm would prevent any other Communist adventures such as that in Korea, because, by the nature of that arm—the strategic air force with its atom bombs—it could be used only with the risk, or indeed the certainty. of provoking retaliation in the same kind.
456 If the deterrent should fail in its effect and global war should break out, we should need not only a strategic air force but also land forces of the maximum possible numbers and strength, supported by tactical air forces, with the seas kept open by a powerful Navy with numerous units, and behind, in the home country, all the innumerable agencies which are required to keep those forces supplied and equipped. The experience of the years 1939 to 1945, I think, was that it required the entire manpower and womanpower of the country available for that purpose, to produce the weapons to keep our forces adequately equipped for the whole of that war. Now weapons and equipment are becoming more and more complex, and it seems to me that the proportion of manpower in industry to that in the fighting forces will not, in the future, be the same as it was in 1939 to 1945. There will be a need for much greater numbers producing the equipment for the forces. Furthermore, to equip these forces with the most up-to-date weapons, constantly changing as we know they do, will need a very large research organisation, quite apart from the means of production.
So those three aims of our defence policy are mutually conflicting, and it is worth examining the programme which the Government propose in order to fulfil them. We read, first of all, that they are proposing to devote a bigger proportion of our effort to the Royal Air Force, to build up both strategic and medium bomber forces and guided missiles for anti-aircraft defence. No one will quarrel with that. It is an obvious and logical step following from the present state of weapon development. Then, the Government will continue to modernise the Royal Navy for its vital rôle of keeping open sea communications. No one will quarrel with that. As to the Army there is a rather cryptic statement in paragraph 17 which I think we should have elucidated, because I cannot understand the purport of it. The Government say that they will reduce somewhat the number of front line formations in the active Army, within limits—the statement is qualified. If in that sentence the word"formations"is used in its accepted technical sense as a grouping of a number of military units in brigades, divisions and so on, it seems that what is in question is a comparatively minor matter of 457 reorganisation which will have little effect one way or the other on the capacity of the Army to carry out its rôle. If, however, the word is used loosely and is meant to include units—that is battalions —then it presumably means that manpower is being redistributed in order to bring units up to strength, to have a smaller number of full strength units rather than a larger number of units under strength. We should all welcome the reduction in administrative and supporting units consequent upon that reduction in formations, but I feel a certain scepticism because it is hard to see how ancillary, administrative and supporting units can be reduced if the accepted standards of amenities and comfort for the troops in the field are not to be reduced. I think we should have a little more elucidation of the proposals on the Army.
Now I come to this famous paragraph 13, which is an appreciation and forecast of the next war. At once it seems to me we are met with a fallacy. If the war, in fact, is to open with intensive atomic attacks from both sides, what is the rôle of the ground forces and where is the relevance of the Communist preponderance in manpower? For if atomic attacks are going to be used as a strategic weapon, they are going to be used against the nerve centres and the centres of industrial production and population on both sides, and it seems to me that land forces will be largely irrelevant. If, as another statement asserts, these intense atomic attacks are going to inflict great destruction and damage on their targets, where then is the capacity for any country to conduct even a broken-hacked war? When we think of the dislocation caused by the almost trivial (according to present standards) bombardment from the air in the last war, surely these intense atomic attacks, causing great destruction and damage, are going to mean that anything in the nature of mobilisation of reserve forces or continuation of the war by anything other than sticks and stones will be impossible. The Government must have made this statement after the most serious consideration on the part of their most qualified advisers, and I wonder whether this is really their appreciation, because if there is great destruction and damage in the first few 458 weeks of war, then it is impossible to reconcile that with the rest of the paragraph.
But supposing our anti-aircraft defences reduce the weight of the atomic air attack by a considerable extent and we are able to mobilise part of our reserve army and continue the battle across the water, how rapid must that mobilisation be if it is going to be of any use? It seems to me that equipment is so much more complicated now that it is doubtful whether we could improve on the times we found to he necessary in previous wars in order to bring reserve formations up to fighting level and place them in the battle line on the Continent.
There is some mention of Civil Defence in the White Paper, in a separate chapter; but again, if this appreciation of atomic attacks is to be taken seriously, surely Civil Defence ought to bulk much larger in the defence effort. The material side of Civil Defence takes much longer to organise and bring to a state of readiness than the manpower side. I wonder whether this is not one of those matters in which the Government's policy does not flow logically from the problem as they state it. Finally, there is the matter of the Home Guard. Although it is not stated explicitly in paragraph 13, since they have teen in office the Government have set great store on forming the Home Guard and setting up home defences against the threat of airborne invasion and raids on this country. If our antiaircraft defences are considered to be capable of dealing with jet bombers flying near the stratosphere at about the speed of sound, can we believe that they will not be able to deal with streams of troop-carrying aircraft, slow, low-flying, aiming at well-known objectives? Surely the day of airborne attacks on thickly populated, heavily defended areas are over. Surely there will rot be another Rotterdam, or Arnhem for that matter, in view of the present state of ground to air and fighter defences.
There is another arm of the defence effort which is not mentioned at all in the White paper—that is, psychological warfare. I find in a book written just before the war the following:But it is not enough to match strength with strength. We must penetrate the minds of the peoples who may oppose us and weaken their will to aggression. We should constantly 459 and clearly expound and proclaim the principles of freedom, personal liberty, self-government and humane policy on which our systems are founded.That is from the book Security, written by the noble Lord. Lord Salter, just before the war. Surely this should be regarded as a fourth arm, or fifth arm, if you like, of the defence effort. With our so-called Overseas Information Service, this should be the responsibility of the Minister of Defence. There is only one completely unarguable statement in the paragraph about the next war, where it says:… emphasise vet again the prime necessity of basing our defence policy upon the prevention of war.I think there is ample there that needs answering.
I should like to say a few words about manpower, because it is clear that, apart from finance, manpower is the crux of the whole problem. Our manpower is stretched to the limit, and beyond the limit. The question I should like to ask is whether Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that they are not asking this country to bear more than a fair share of the burden of defence. According to the White Paper, we have 855,000 men and women in the active Forces of the United Kingdom, and that is not including those in the Reserve or the Territorials. If the population of this country is between 50 and 51 million, that means that one man or woman out of every 61 in the whole United Kingdom is serving in the Forces. I have not made any research, but I doubt whether in the past there has ever been that proportion of manpower devoted solely to defence, except in the height of a war. I have tried to compare those figures with those of other countries associated with us in the Western defence. My figures may not be up to date, and they may not be entirely accurate, but it appears that a year or two ago the United States of America had about 1,500,000 persons under arms, out of a population of 150 million; that is, one in every 100 of their population. In Canada, it appears that the proportion is about one in 136 of the population; and in Australia and New Zealand it appears to be in about one in 150. I have not been able to find any figures relating to our Continental Allies.
460 Let me make it quite clear that we have the most intense gratitude for all that the Commonwealth countries have done, and are doing, for us. We have had the inspiring example of the Commonwealth Division in Korea. We are fully mindful of the magnificent contribution that Canada is making in providing an infantry brigade in Germany and an infantry brigade in the Commonwealth Division; and we know that the Australians have made contributions in land forces, ships and air forces, not only in Korea, but elsewhere. Do not let us forget, also, the outstanding contribution the Australians are making in providing the long-range weapons establishment in Australia. But, when all is said and done, I think it is fair to speak plainly between friends—and if we cannot have plain speaking between members of the Commonwealth, where can we have it? Have Her Majesty's Government ever said to the Commonwealth countries:"We are stretched to the absolute limit. Is it not possible for you to take on a little more of the burden here and there?"The aggregate population of Canada, Australia and New Zealand is 25 million, which represents about one half of our own; and the aggregate defence forces, so far as I can make them out, are 175,000, representing about one-fifth of the aggregate forces of the United Kingdom.
Turning from the Commonwealth to the question of Colonial manpower, we are told in the White Paper that 65,000 is the total of the Colonial Forces. The Secretary of State for War spoke in the other place of thirteen fresh battalions being formed overseas between 1953 and 1955, mostly in Malaya. I think we are entitled to ask, first, whether it is possible to get any more voluntary recruits from Colonial territories that might help to share the burden of our commitments; and secondly, if there are forces in existence in some of the Colonies, whether they are being used to the maximum effect. For instance, there is a large number of battalions in the Royal West African Frontier Force. We have never heard of any of them being employed since the war in any theatre where there are British troops. In the war, I believe, there was a West African Division which did magnificent service in Burma, alongside an East African Division. I should 461 like to ask whether it has been put to the West African Governments that some of their forces might be employed to relieve the general strain.
In the West Indies, we hear that one battalion was planned, but has now been deferred. I wonder whether Her Majesty's Government are going ahead with the plan to raise a unit from the West Indies. Many years ago there was a famous regiment called the West India Regiment—it was disbanded a quarter of a century ago. Would it not have the capacity to be of aid to the Federation of the West Indies if a unit could be formed composed of men from all the Islands? It would have a great effect. It would further the feeling of pride of the people of the West Indies in the new Federation, and also they would feel that they were contributing directly to the common cause. One other overseas unit has been mentioned—I see it listed in the Army List—namely, the High Commission Territories Corps. If that is in being, I wonder whether it is serving anywhere. Because the record of the men from the High Commission Territories during the war was quite outstanding: they were enlisted in large numbers, originally for pioneers; but they were trained for combatant duties, and they fought well in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East. One could go right round the Colonial Territories. I feel that Her Majesty's Government should tell us whether they have exhausted all the possibilities of inviting help from the people of the Colonial territories.
I am sure the Government will reply that the shortage of British officers and N.C.Os. makes it quite impossible to expand Colonial units, but I suspect that if the differential in pay and conditions that existed before the war were restored there would be no difficulty in getting young officers and N.C.Os. to volunteer for service in those Colonial corps. There used to be no difficulty in filling the junior ranks in the Colonial corps with the best type of young officer. Admittedly, conditions in the Regular Army, as a whole, have improved, and therefore, the conditions in the Colonial corps must be just that much better in order to attract people to that kind of service. Lastly, of course. we need not feel nowadays that black troops must necessarily be commanded by white officers. A 462 start has been made in West Africa. That is one answer to the difficulty of officering these corps.
I hope I have not taken up too much of your Lordships' time, and that I have shown that there are ample questions left unanswered by this White Paper and that we are justified in saying that they are matters which must be looked into. With regard to the cost of the defence programme in relation to the national economy, is it within our capacity to go on for a long period at this level, without irreparable damage to the country's economy? Reviewing the whole manpower resources of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, and seeing whether we are using them to the best advantage, is there a proper balance between manpower allotted to the fighting Forces and manpower allotted to production research? Is there any means by which we can draw on further sources of manpower? Finally, there are the respective rôles of the Services and the proportions of the total defence effort to be devoted to each of the Services. We have scaled the heights in this three years' intensive rearmament programme, and we are setting out, as we are often told, on the long haul across this plateau at a level of expenditure never before known in peace time for this country. In setting out on this journey we are beset by the mists and uncertainties of new developments in science and armaments and weapons. Surely, this is a moment when it is legitimate to tell the Government that the country want to be reassured that the course they have set for us is the best one, and that the journey is really within our capacity, carrying the load that we have upon our backs.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, I should like at the outset to express my regret to your Lordships that I was unable, owing to unavoidable circumstances, to be; present at the debate yesterday, the more so because my absence denied me the opportunity of hearing that forceful maiden speech (which I had the pleasure of reading, but to which I did not have the privilege of listening) by my noble friend Lord Hore-Belisha who, I understand, made a contribution which created a great impression in your Lordships' House. I was also denied the opportunity of hearing the noble Viscount, Lord 463 Alexander of Hillsborough, make that remarkable suggestion which I read about in to-day's Hansard, for a super-committee which, generally speaking, was to supersede the functions of Government policy-making—a suggestion all the more remarkable as he himself was advocating the speedy completion and the efficient planning of our rearmament programme. The suggestion he made would, in fact, have diverted all the senior staffs of the Service Departments, all the planners and many of the financial experts in civil Departments from the primary task that he himself wished to see fulfilled.
It seems to me that the theme of the White Paper is a cautious approach to those words spoken by Lord Montgomery when he said:The first and great principle of war is that you must first win your air battle.The White Paper says that the Government have come to a decision to bring abouta gradual change … in the direction and balance of our defence effort.Then it says that the newemphasis will take time to reveal itself in increased allocations of funds to the Air Ministry.It adds:Expenditure an the Army will tend to decline ….The question one asks oneself is: Is this emphasis strong enough, and is its speed of application swift enough? Of course, as a nation we can do only what we can afford to do; but does this cautious approach of the White Paper take sufficient account of the fact that this country has not the financial resources or the manufacturing capacity, first, to live as we have decided as a nation, secondly, to endow itself with adequate air power, and, thirdly, at the same time to be ready to go to war with land and sea forces on the scale we should wish? As we all know, the very complicated nature of the machinery of government tends to make action lag behind an accepted and admitted need. One question must be whether a decision for what I would term this New look"in defence is likely to be implemented within the time given to us, before we face, maybe. an enemy, or have some economic setback.
464 I would submit to your Lordships that unless this new emphasis is translated quickly into concentration on all aspects of air power needs—including the subject about which I wish to speak for a few minutes to your Lordships to-day, the regrettable and deplorable neglect of vital Service air transport—we shall be jeopardising our ability to use such forces as we have to their maximum efficiency. My noble and gallant friend Lord Alexander of Tunis, referring to the strategic force, said yesterday (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 186 (No. 47), col. 363):… we must have the ability to move it at short notice and at great speed whenever and wherever it is needed.If we are going on as we are at the present time in Service air transport—which, let me remind your Lordships, is a service that must be given to the Air Force, the Army and the Navy—I believe we shall deprive ourselves of our ability to supply properly our troops on the Continent. Next, we shall render the Royal Air Force, which should be the most mobile of our forces, comparatively speaking an immobile force. Thirdly, we shall cripple our ability to concentrate arms, men, equipment and general supplies in reinforcing and building our distant bases, whether they be military, naval or air.
On this first question of supplying troops on the Continent, I would point out that we have in this country about twenty ports, but the majority of traffic is worked from six of them. All ports are vulnerable to air attack, and the bombs of to-day, and particularly the atomic weapon, if it be used, could quickly reduce the availability of those ports. Then only air transport could maintain the supplies to our land forces on the Continent. The strategic reserve which my noble friend Lord Alexander of Tunis foreshadows is to be stationed in Britain—that is, on the fringe and not near the centre of possible fields of action. Therefore, I would submit that it is absolutely essential that we transport this force by air and then supply it and reinforce it, because movement of this force by slow surface transport is an unthinkable proposition. Secondly, on the question of the mobility of the Air Force, I would point out that our Air Force bomber or fighter formations cannot operate without links with the land forces, for spares, for equipment and for bombs. Thirdly, all 465 our overseas garrisons should be planned to be maintained clear of surface transport, which may be interrupted in war.
If I have succeeded in convincing your Lordships that there is a need for this Service air transport for the three Services, may I ask your Lordships to allow rue to examine for a moment the existing resources and the likely resources which, so far as I can see, we shall have for the next two or three years? The Royal Air Force Transport Command is the Cinderella of the Royal Air Force. It is being progressively run down. No blame at all is to be attached to the Secretary of State for Air or to the Air Council because of that position. The money allocated to the Secretary of State for Air is limited t he does not get all that he asks for, and, naturally, he puts what he deems to be first things first: he builds up his combat forces. Only by what I would term exposing the "nakedness of the land' can he draw public attention to a deficiency which may cripple the Army's efforts and limit the striking power of the Royal Air Force.
I propose to state what I understand to be the strength of Transport Command to-day. I make no breach of security. It is not like mentioning figures of fighters and bombers, and if I am substantially wrong I shall be glad to be corrected by the Secretary of State for Air. Transport command has some 40 Hastings four-engined transport aircraft. They are largely worn out and it is probable that the Air Ministry cannot make more than 25 of them serviceable at any one time. Then, Transport Command has nine squadrons of an old type of aircraft called the Valetta: three squadrons in the Middle East, three in the Far East and three at home. That is a total of some 56 aircraft, of which perhaps 30 are serviceable at any one time. Proof of this pathetic condition of Transport Command was shown in last year's emergency sandbag lift for flood relief. That disaster will still be fresh in your Lordships' minds. Transport Command organised an emergency sandbag airlift comparable to a military operation. The Air Ministry's statement at the time said that this was given top priority. The statement said the Command was: 466to put aside all its training and most other commitments.The effort which was made put out 14 Hastings and 6 Valetta aircraft. That was, in fact, all that could be done, in spite of according to the matter top priority and virtually dropping all other commitments.
Let us turn to what other resources the Secretary of State for Air can put his hand on in an emergency. One thinks at once of aircraft operated by independent operators. There is no salvation from this shortage and difficulty in the independent operators. Their aircraft are small in number, not many of them are modern and none are constructed with the necessary doors, strengthened floors or layout required to carry heavy equipment or to drop guns, vehicles and stores by parachute. Yesterday, the noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis, speaking of this transport position in what I may say were very general terms, said that 40 per cent. of our trooping to the Middle East was done by air. I understand that about 80 per cent, of the total trooping of the Forces—and it is splendid that it is so—is done by air and by contract with civil operators. But something less than 20 aircraft, fully employed, will fulfil all the contracts required for trooping for next year, so that there is no great potential feat to be carried out there. A few years ago there was a much-heralded scheme for creating Civil Aviation Transport Reserve squadrons. Nothing has been heard of that scheme. I understand that it has died, but there has been no funeral oration. Perhaps the Secretary of State for Air could give us some news as to what happened to the single squadron which was formed.
May I now deal with future prospects, first, the Royal Air Force and then civil aviation. Future prospects for Royal Air Force supply of Service transport aircraft are what I would describe as distant and insufficient. The noble Earl, Lord Alexander of Tunis. yesterday said that Beverleys have been ordered—a fine aircraft: it carries fifteen tons. I understand that twenty of these aircraft have been ordered, which gives a 300-ton fleet capacity lift, equalling 20 twenty-five pounder guns or 120 Jeeps at any one time. Then the noble Earl said that it had been decided that high-speed, long-range aircraft should be introduced into 467 Transport Command for the transport of troops and equipment over long distances. That is fine, but the real question is, when is that going to happen? I understand that a type is not yet selected, so it means that it will be four or five years before the type of civil aircraft under development will be in these squadrons. Against this poor present and lean future, we ought to look for a moment at the United States. There, Service air transport has been, as it were, brought up parallel with military and air combat growth. The United States Army and Air Force count their transports in hundreds. They include more than 500 stratofreighters, the largest transports in operation. I know that we have not the resources and that we cannot compare our numbers with those of America, but the point which I should like to make is that American Service air transport has increased alongside with, and not behind, the growth of their combat units.
What are the future prospects of our being able to solve our difficulties from civil aviation resources? Again, there is no easy get-out here. We found in the last war that the national Corporation fleets of civil aircraft are unsuitable for military use in time of war. They are unsuitable for requisition, and they are needed to keep open world communications. As regards private operators, here I think there is some hope for the future, because we are now seeing a marriage of great shipping concerns with civil aviation, and this is bringing new strength to our national aviation resources. But these are business concerns and they are not going to order more aircraft than traffic justifies. They are not going to buy aircraft in order that they shall be held in reserve for time of war. They will order aircraft when they are justified commercially in so doing, and I do not see the building up of any great fleet in that direction. Wherever we look—Service or civil—we see no escape from this continuing grave deficiency in the present or future if we go on as we are at present.
I should like to make two suggestions to the Government. Remembering the Secretary of State's difficulties and priority needs, I believe that this new deal for Service air transport must be lifted above any one Department, so far as finance is 468 concerned. Transport serves all three Services—the Army, the Navy and the Air Force— so let all three Services contribute to a pool of money common to all three. This would spread the cost of obtaining the load carriers that the Army must have, and would ensure transport to far-distant naval bases. Such a fund, if instituted, might in the long run develop into a scheme for assisting private operators to obtain and maintain transport aircraft of designs suitable for military use in time of war.
My second suggestion is as regards the civil field. I believe the Government might devise means for helping private operators to finance purchases of large transports. More important still, I believe the Government might put new thought and imagination into new ways of profitable employment for civil aircraft, particularly in the Colonial Empire. The Americans and the Canadians are opening up Northern Canada, Labrador, and Quebec, using aircraft in ways that have never been thought of before; they are building railways by moving in supplies by aircraft. We might well copy the same sort of thing in our Colonial Empire. For example, in Tanganyika there are big brown coal deposits of immense value. They await the construction of a 450-mile railway. If the Government gave encouragement and the necessary financial guarantees, one could build that railway, moving in the supplies very quickly by the use of air transport.
One more example is groundnuts—which is rather a touchy word to use, politically. However, some of your Lordships may remember that at Kano in West Africa there was a great pile of groundnuts which could not be moved, while we were not growing groundnuts with great success elsewhere. Thousands and thousands of tons could not be moved because of a shortage of railway engines on the Nigerian Railways. Aircraft might have been employed for moving that store of groundnuts. I throw out those two ideas to support my contention that we should have a new outlook as regards the use of commercial aircraft in Colonial development, and by so doing we may help to build up that essential fleet which we lack at the present time.
I have endeavoured to prove the need and to convince your Lordships of the gravity of our present position in regard 469 to military air transport. I have tried to show your Lordships that there is no automatic solution if we just let things slide or continue in terms of general reassurance without specific action. I have even been so bold as to make two or three tentative proposals. But the final responsibility for remedying the position lies squarely on the shoulders of Her Majesty's Government. I, for one, am quite convinced that, if Her Majesty's Government will tackle this matter as they have tackled so many other graver but scarcely more important matters, we shall see attending their efforts the success that we have seen in other directions.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ LORD FREYBERG
My Lords, I rise to support the Resolution moved by the noble and gallant Earl. May I start by apologising for not being present at the latter part of the debate last night? I am sorry I missed the speeches by the noble and gallant Viscounts, Lord Trenchant and Lord Cunningham of Hyndhope. After hearing a great part of this debate, I realise that the most difficult aspect of the present problem is that there can be no precision when the principles of war have to be applied to a hypothetical future. We can all remember the fate of an Army Council in 1937 who were asked what the implications of guaranteeing Czechoslovakia were before the war. They said that, if it meant anything, it meant intervening on the Continent against Herr Hitler, and that would mean the carrying of conscription without delay. The then Government did not like that advice and got rid of the whole Army Council. There is no doubt that those who are planning our defences at the present time have equally unattractive advice to offer, and we are grateful to the Minister of Defence for the courage he has shown in facing up to his difficult task.
May I turn now to the subject of the conduct of possible future wars. We are faced with the atom and hydrogen bomb and the directed missile, which make accurate forecast impossible. Moreover, the modern submarine has increased range and speed, and in addition it is relatively non-detectable. It may be almost as great a menace to our existence as the atom bomb. It seems likely, therefore, that, because of the importance of these new weapons and their great 470 power, both sides will concentrate their early attacks upon centres of communication, including air bases, air ports, ports, centres of production, storage and, especially, the whole petroleum industry. I think a very high premium would be required by an insurance company to insure an oil field or a refinery in the Middle East, or in. Europe for that matter, and any atomic bomb exploding within half a mile of an oil storage system would send it up in smoke and flames. It has been pointed out in this debate that we must anticipate a change in the whole pattern of warfare. In all theatres of war, new strategy and new tactics will have to be evolved which will ensure the wide dispersal of troops and a wide layout of stores at base, to avoid offering targets of sufficient importance to justify atom bomb attacks. At the same time, armies must retain sufficient concentration of force and fire power to avoid defeat by orthodox tactical methods, at any rate in so far as the Western Front is concerned.
At the moment the Western Powers would appear to have a clear lead in the scientific field. We may be forced to abandon manufacturing our equipment and munitions in Great Britain, but, with the freedom of the seas, we shall have America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which could be our factory areas well outside the effective range of Communist air attack. Foremost in our plans, we trust maintain our naval supremacy, to guarantee freedom of the seas for the movement of our shipping and to ensure the supply of raw materials and warlike stores to our Allies as well as to ourselves. At least one of our most pressing problems has been tackled—the standardisation of the arms and equipment for ourselves and our Allies. We offer our congratulations to the Minister of Defence for adopting a standard round for Allied small arms. When I was passed unfit for peace-time soldiering in 1934, I joined the directorate of a heavy steel industry in Birmingham, where we were making armoured cars as well as small arms for the Services, so I can claim to know about both sides of the problem—production as well as the Service side. When the First World War was over we realised that we had a badly planned and pensive rifle. Because it had a rimmed 471 cartridge, the breech contained a difficult mechanism which had to be machined with special machine tools. Moreover, it was not proof against the sand of Palestine and Gallipoli or the mud of Flanders. But it cost £26 million to alter the small arms weapon for the Services, and we could not afford to do it between the wars. Therefore, when the Second World War came we had to fight with a very inferior and, what was worse, a very expensive weapon.
On my return in 1946, I saw my colleagues in Birmingham, and they told me that the Government were prepared to standardise a weapon and to adopt a fresh round of ammunition without a rim, and were considering going over to the same weapon as the Americans—a.300 weapon. On their side, the Americans said they were delighted for us to join them, but they were not satisfied with their own weapon; they expected an alteration to a .280. We could not face the prospect of having to change twice within five years. I inquired what it cost over and above what it would have cost if we had had rimless ammunition and an easily-made small arms weapon, and they said that having a badly designed weapon cost us hundreds of millions more during the six years of war than it would have done if we had had a normally made weapon.
As your Lordships know, the first thing to do is to standardise the round. I congratulate the Government on having adopted a standard round. What is even more important, it now looks as if we are going to get a standard small-arms weapon as well. I see in debates in another place, that it has been said,"You have taken a foreign, a Belgian, weapon."But that is not new. After all, we fought the war with a Swiss and a Swedish light anti-aircraft gun, the Oërlikon and the Bofors, and right at the beginning of the war we adopted a light Czech machine gun, the Besa. We adopted it and flew out the blue print as Germany marched in, and we fought the war with the Besa light machine gun. I congratulate the Defence Minister on a successful start on the standardisation of our equipment. I hope he will be able to carry on and obtain a standard field-gun round. It is not so important to get a standard field gun as it is to standardise the round, because 472 if you have the same ammunition as your Allies, even though your manufacturing plant may be knocked out, you can still continue to fight.
There is the tendency on the part of some theorists to suggest that at the beginning of a war we should shelter behind the Royal Air Force. I am afraid I am in total disagreement with that. In war one of our greatest assets against our potential Eastern enemies is the fact that they are surrounded by a number of satellite countries which, if they were invaded, might rise in our favour and join us. I think that in any plan we have we should aim at advancing as quickly as possible into the satellite countries and try to stir up trouble. As the war progresses, bases will be neutralised and oil supplies may become intermittent; and although the combined Air Forces and Navies of the Western Powers will play the major part in the initial stages of any future war, eventually conditions will change and it will be the land forces, armed with conventional arms, which will advance and occupy the areas from which peace will be dictated. I hope the Defence Minister is paying great attention to the conventional weapons. If we have to start a war we shall have the complete G.1098 equipment, but as war goes on replacements may become difficult, and it may be a much depleted force that advances as a result.
I should like now to call attention to the new pattern of modern warfare. The more one reads the contemporary histories, the more one realises that not only policy but now strategy is in the hands of the political leaders. Only the training and movement of troops on the battlefield remain in the hands of the generals. That was obvious in Crete. Every decision that was taken had to be referred to Whitehall—and rightly so, because they had the whole picture. The information that I was getting came direct from the War Office Intelligence room. It was accurate intelligence—nobody has been better served than we were. The decisions could be taken just as well in Whitehall as they could by the Commander-in-Chief. It is the speed and perfection of modern communications that have made these changes inevitable. None the less, this change is accompanied by grave dangers, the principal one being that few political leaders are trained to 473 take military decisions. Hitler was a case in point. Hitler's handling of his army in Russia bad as much to do with his defeat as did the Russian generals.
There is an important matter to which I wish to draw attention. I can best put it in the form of a question—namely, to what extent has our experience in the last war enabled us to solve the problems of obtaining effective co-operation between the contingents from the independent nations that form the British Commonwealth? I put that question on the White Paper last year, and I put it again now. In the Middle East there were British, Indian, Australian, South African and New Zealand forces, and as soon as the fighting began we found that we were all out of step—we were all at sixes and sevens. The lessons of the First World War had not been thought out; indeed, they had never even been considered. I quote now from the second volume of the recently-published Australian history, in which Mr. Gavin Long said:When they"—that is, the Australian Government—were sending their troops to the Middle East they had to ask the Director of the Australian War Memorial to search the Archives for a copy of General Bridges' Charter of 1914.General Bridges commanded the Australian forces at Gallipoli.
When I took over on November 22, 1939, there was no official publication or instruction issued by the War Office to put me in the picture. They told me of the difficulties I was going to have. I went to my friend the Director of Military Operations, who said:"I will tell you this verbally. You are in for a very difficult time. The history of the integration of these forces has not been a happy one. You will have friction. You will have hard words. What is more, I must warn you that you should reserve for yourself certain powers, and your Government also should reserve certain powers for themselves. You should decide the channels of communication between yourself and the New Zealand Government."I went next to Lord Birdwood and General Sir Alexander Godley, who commanded the First New Zealand Expeditionary Force, and they confirmed what I had been told. They said the best man to consult on this question was an Australian, General Sir Brudenell White. He was an authority 474 on the subject. I flew out to Australia on December 4, and had my meeting with General Brudenell White. I handed him my charter, and he strengthened it in several places, and told me that when the agreement was arrived at between the British and New Zealand Governments, it should be a matter of Government to Government and not a matter of Dominions Office to War Office. I tell your Lordships that, because I want you to realise that a lot of precautions were taken to avoid having unnecessary friction.
When I got overseas, after two years we evolved a system which was made to work. But in the days of Greece and Crete, in 1940 and 1941, the senior British commanders failed to take Blamey or me into their confidence or to comprehend our special status and special responsibilities. All the time this was going on our Governments were complaining to us, with justification, that we were not keeping them sufficiently in touch with our problems. I quote again from the Australian history—it is a very interesting book written with a scholar's accuracy and heavily documented. Mr. Gavin Long writes that when reporting to the Australian Advisory War Council in November, 1941, Blamey could justly say that the British commanders stillhad difficulty in recognising the independent status of the Dominions and their responsibility for the control of their own forces.Another legacy from the delegation of all senior commands to the British Army was that, as a result, they drew their senior officers, commanders and staffs practically entirely from the United Kingdom, and this led to waste of the great and varied talent that was always available in the Colonial Forces. We largely lost the special and valuable contribution which Dominion officers could make to the higher management of operations in terrain and climates different from those of Western Europe, but commonplace to Dominion officers. For example, to mast Europeans, the weather, dust storms and droughts of North Africa were strange and forbidding, but to many South Africans, and even Australians, these conditions were familiar. Their everyday experience had solved many of the problems that faced us in the Western Desert, such as those of transport, engineering, water supply and mere living in such conditions.
475 My Lords, to sum up our lessons. Let us find out what is at fault. The faults are on both sides, for the Commonwealth Governments, probably without reflection, accepted the time-honoured system of delegated command to British generals, yet reserved to their own commanders administrative control, the right of refusing to accept an order, and the right in such case, of appeal to their own respective Governments. This faulty system was productive of great friction, and could have been anticipated and avoided if the problem of the integration of Dominions contingents had been thoroughly examined and studied at the staff colleges between the wars. I trust that the noble and gallant Earl, the Defence Minister, will take notice of these problems, because in any future war at least one-third of the British forces will be from Commonwealth countries overseas. These forces must be used in the best way possible. Promotion to the highest positions of command and on the staff should be open to all commanders, irrespective of their country of origin.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ LORD TEDDER
My Lords, I was especially interested in one remark made by the noble Lord who has just spoken, on the subject of communications. I, myself, even before the war, and especially when overseas, was so much impressed by the effect of modern communications that I coined a phrase:"Good communications corrupt great Empires."I think there is a certain amount of truth in that. I hasten to add that that is said with all due respect to the political authorities of the war period. Fortunately, in the Middle East my neighbour and I had a certain amount of freedom because communications were, happily, not always impeccable. I will not venture to enter into the difficult and delicate fields of relationships between British and Dominion troops and commanders. I saw it, of course, in the Middle East; but in the Air Force, presumably because we were younger and smaller in size, the question never arose. But I know it was there so far as the Army was concerned, and I had sympathy with both sides.
The last time I spoke in your Lordships' House, I ventured to urge that the British people should be told frankly the real implications of the advent of 476 atomic weapons. Naturally, therefore, I welcome the White Paper. Here, at last, is a frank statement of the reasoning and an outline of the guesswork—because, after all, it is guesswork—on which our Defence policy is based. Naturally, there is no precision here. The answer is a compromise. But, at least, there has obviously been a genuine endeavour to avoid not only the usual error of preparing for the last war, or the last war but one, but also, perhaps, the error, which is more dangerous nowadays, of preparing for the next war but one. About seven years ago, I had to give a series of lectures at Cambridge in which I attempted to analyse the development, the employment and the effect of air power during the last war, and at the end I summarised the position, as I saw it, in the following words:We started by fighting in the last ditch and it was four years before the land, sea and air Goliath we were building was ready to fight to win. On neither military nor economic grounds can we afford to risk a repetition of that. We must re-assess the problem of our security and re-allocate our defence effort so as to ensure the maximum power with the minimum expenditure of manpower and material.I still hold by that, and it seems to me that that is what we are trying to face up to now. We are trying to get security without bankruptcy. Of course, it is a platitude to say that one of the most important elements in national solvency is economy in manpower, and it is clear that in the new defence policy there has been an attempt to make some manpower economies by re-allocation of defence effort. But has it gone far enough? The immense strain on the Army of all its commitments overseas in what we used to call small wars is rightly emphasised—but I wonder. Yesterday the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, reminded us of certain long past controversies about what was called"air control,"of Aden, Iraq, Somaliland and Sudan, where millions of pounds and thousands of men were saved by using air power as the principal element in the maintenance of law and order. I can remember well that when the noble and gallant Viscount accepted those responsibilities on behalf of the Air Force it was said by many people that this was a criminally dangerous gamble. But it worked and it paid.
Not long before the tragic division of India I dropped in at Peshawar and paid 477 a visit to an Indian Air Force squadron there—incidentally, manned almost entirely by Indians. That squadron had just successfully settled in three days' operations one of those tribal affairs up on the Frontier which in the old days would have called for a brigade operation over some weeks at great cost in money and possibly in casualties. In that squadron's operations the casualties on both sides were one—an accident to an airman owing to the incorrect fusing of a bomb. Is none of all that very practical experience under very differing conditions applicable now? I have seen enough of the jungle in Malaya to realise the difficulties of action there, but I wonder whether the difficulties are any worse than, or even as bad as, those facing troops going through jungle to try and beat the native at his own game and on his own chosen ground. I know that aircraft are being used in Malaya and, at last, in Kenya, but only to a very small extent, and only—and the distinction is an important one—to assist the troops, not in any way to relieve them and avoid their having to go into the jungle. Yet, every man who goes into the jungle, is a tempting target to the native and, still more, his rifle and ammunition are most tempting baits. On the other hand, against aircraft the native is impotent.
I suggest that our problems in Malaya and Kenya and places like these should be re-examined with a view to the possibility of adopting there the proven methods of air-control, thereby relieving the Army of at least some of its heavy load and getting our troops back where they can do the training they should be doing for their main functions. In making this proposal I am ignoring, I think rightly, that strange little coterie of reactionary and muddle-headed sentimentalists who still regard the bomb as a slightly indecent and certainly immoral weapon. Actually, of course, its use has proved again and again that the bomb is far more economical in human life than old-fashioned methods of maintaining law and order.
Nevertheless, I have seen signs of a revival of this strange mental twist in wider circles. My noble and gallant friend Lord Cunningham of Hyndhope and I often have a certain amount of fun out of airing our differences, yet I have always felt that on most issues we 478 have been in agreement, though we would never admit it in public. I was surprised and disappointed to hear him yesterday saying that he hoped the day would come when the atom bomb would be banned. He did not say that war should be banned—I should be with him there, if it could be worked—but that this particular weapon should be banned. I must remind him that it is not so many years ago since it was widely proposed that the submarine and the aircraft bomb should be banned, a proposal which I think had a fair amount of support in this country because it was felt that we were particularly vulnerable to both these methods of attack, as is felt about the atom bomb. But I must also remind my noble friend that it was he himself who pointed out to your Lordships yesterday that it was aircraft and submarines which strangled Rommel's supplies and made Alamein and its sequel possible.
This urge to ban new weapons is not a new phenomenon. It has occurred again and again in the history of war, and the results have always been the same. The fact is that the atom bomb and its successors are with us and we must adjust ourselves to all the very unpleasant implications, just as knights in armour had to adjust themselves to the introduction of gunpowder. To do anything else is simply to imitate the ostrich. Surely we need not be defeatists about atom bombs, any more than we were about the submarine and the normal aircraft bomb.
On a previous occasion I tried to stress the deterrent effect of potential atomic attack, so on that point I would merely like to record my entire agreement with the White Paper's thesis on that subject. On the other hand, there have been, and there still are, in certain quarters, very wide misconceptions about bombing operations during the last war, and consequently misconceptions concerning what is generally called strategic bombing. By strategic bombing I mean bombing which is directly linked with operations on land and at sea. I emphasise the word"directly,"because all military operations are to a certain extent related to each other, in whichever element they take place. For example, the bombing of the submarine assembly yards, where the 479 prefabricated submarines were put together in Hamburg, was related to the anti-submarine campaign, while being at the same time one facet of the main strategic attack on German industry. Equally, the long series of attacks on German oil installations was purely a facet of the battle for air superiority; but it was also complementary to the attack on rail communications, which was designed primarily to help the landings in Normandy.
I believe there are some people who think that strategic bombing is merely a grim, blind, futile game of"tit for tat"—an opinion which, frankly. I feel is sometimes fortified by the use of the phrase"retaliatory bombing."After all, all war against an aggressor is retaliatory, and the bomb is no more and no less retaliatory than any other weapon used against the aggressor. It is true that there have been cases of"tit for tat"bombing. One can think, particularly, of the German series of so-called Baedekerraids, which I believe was a"tit for tat"for a stray bomb that happened to go by accident somewhere near Heidelberg. That was"tit for tat,"and it was an excellent example of the military futility of that sort of operation.
I should be the last to claim that in the Allied bombing operations during the last war no mistakes were made. The very flexibility of air power, which is one of its greatest assets, at the same time makes its direction one of the most complex of military problems. The determination of bombing policy, the continuing reassessment of that policy, and the daily selection of actual targets, involves literally a continuous process of examination and re-examination of a host of varying factors, military, economic, political, scientific, and technical intelligence, in addition to all the normal operational factors of weather, forces available, enemy reactions, and that sort of thing. Since all those processes, and still more since the operations themselves, are unseen and unheard except by those actually engaged in them, it is not surprising that there is still a good deal of ignorance about the conduct and effect of strategic bombing.
I was surprised to hear it stated yesterday in your Lordships' House that our bombing operations during the last war 480 did not contribute in any way to the defence of this country. Nothing, I believe, could be further from the truth than that. The bomber force is a vital —and when I say vital, I mean just that—element in our defence. At the outset of the last war we were on the defensive, and inevitably so, since the Germans had a bomber force more than three times the strength of Bomber Command. It was not until 1941 that our bomber operations really began to make their weight felt, and in the meantime we had had a dangerously close call. But even by the latter part of 1942—as early as that—the German bomber force had been allowed to drop to one-tenth of its initial strength, while their home defence fighter force had begun an increase which ultimately trebled its strength. The initiative had passed. I should like to quote a German Staff Report written in 1944. It says:At the beginning of the war the Luftwaffe determined the character of events. The initiative has now, however, since 1941, been in the hands of the enemy.I think the Germans should be taken as fairly good judges on that issue—they were on the receiving end. I should like to quote a further passage which a German staff officer expressed in a lecture in 1944. He said:The decisive battle with the British-American air forces is being fought over our vital living space.That is what our strategic air attack meant to the Germans, and I feel that, on that basis, one can hardly say that it had no effect on the defence of our own vital living space.
Some people say,"What about the rocket?"So far as the rocket is concerned, it seems to me that apart from any tricks that our scientists and electronic experts may be able to devise, the bomber provides the only conceivable defence—that is, apart from digging your-self in a hole and staying there. The rocket can he dealt with only at its source: launching points—they are difficult targets—storage depôts, supply lines and factories. I have no doubt your Lordships will remember that the advent of the German V weapons was delayed for invaluable months prior to D-Day by the devastating attack on the research and development centre at Peenemunde. It may not, perhaps, be so generally appreciated that later the strategic attack on lines of communication in Western 481 and Northern Europe in 1944 and 1945 was in itself a potent factor in reducing the scale of attack by these weapons, simply by interrupting their supply and maintenance. On whatever count you take it, now or in the push-button days, the bomber force is a vital element in defence.
I do not want to weary your Lordships by dwelling too long on the past, but I should like to offer one or two points on the offensive aspect of the bomber force. It is interesting, and I think illuminating, to notice that the first directive given to Bomber Command in 1940 indicated oil installations and marshalling yards as priority targets. The last directive given to Bomber Command in 1945 specified oil installations and lines of communications as priority targets. The only difference between 1940 and 1945 was the simple one of ways and means—but it was rather an important one. In 1940, we had not the strength, the equipment or the technique to make what was obviously the sound military policy plan feasible or effective. But by 1944 the story was different, and I should like to give one or two other quotations from German sources—not, I hasten to add, apologia by German generals after the event, but current remarks.
For instance, in May, 1944, this was in a report to Hitler by Herr Speer: thatthe attacks on the hydrogenisation plants and and systematic bombing raids on economic targets has started at a most dangerous point.He goes on—I do not quite like this—The only hope is that the enemy, too, has an Air Staff. Only if it has as little comprehension of economic targets as ours would there be some hope that after a few attacks on this decisive target it would turn its attentions elsewhere.Well, we had an Air Staff, but we did not change our policy. A month later he reports to Hitler the losses of fuel and the need for rapid repair and protection of the plantsotherwise it will he absolutely impossible to cover the most urgent of the necessary supplies for the Wehrnmacht by September"—that is, two months later.In other words, from that time onwards there will be an unbridgeable gap which must lead to tragic results.Well, it did. Now just two quotations on the communications side—the last was 482 on oil. This was in November, 1944. He said:The planned attacks on the installations of the Reichsbahn are of decisive significance. Successful continuance of these attacks would be capable of resulting in a production catastrophe of decisive significance for the further conduct of the war.A month later, he said to Hitler:The enemy has recognised that systematic attacks on our communications may have a most decisive effect on all spheres in our conduct of the war.There is one final quotation, when he really begins to feel the pinch of coal. This was in March, 1945:These figures mean that neither the coal supplies for shipping, for the Reichsbahn, for the gas and electricity plants, for the food economy or for the armament economy"—which occupies the last place, which is an interesting point—can by any means be assured. The final collapse of the German economy can therefore be counted on with certainty within four to eight weeks. After this collapse, even military continuance of the war will be impossible.There is the answer as to whether strategic bombing is an effective military policy.
I feel that I have already occupied too much of your Lordships' time, but there are two final points upon which I should like to touch. There has been a lot of talk and writing about so-called push-button warfare. I think there is frequently an idea that the push-button business will simplify everything. Personally, I think the contrary is nearer the truth. I wonder how many people really appreciate what a fantastic menagerie of electronic ingenuity the guided projectile is. This is no simple gadget which you make by the hundreds of thousands and fill the air with them. This is an intensely complicated device, whose design, production and control is a highly expensive and delicate matter. It is a wonderful job and, no doubt, will become more wonderful. But it will become more expensive and more delicate and, moreover, I see no reason why it should be so unanswerable. These electronic brains are wonderful inventions, but, as we ought to know from our experience of that fascinating campaign known as"radio counter measures,"some strange things can be made to happen in the electronic atmosphere or field, whatever it is.
483 In that connection, I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, pay a tribute to our research and development establishments—a very well-earned tribute, in which I would include our scientists. I believe that this country and, indeed, the whole free world, can never be too grateful for the amazing skill, initiative and imagination of our scientists, and not least to Sir Henry Tizard, whose leadership in that field has meant so much. I hope that our scientists are still active, with as loose a rein as they had in the war, with our defence problems. I also hope that they are occasionally ahead of the military staffs, as did occasionally happen during the last war. One example of that, of course, was the jet engine to which we owe our leadership now in that field. I wonder whether our scientists or designers have offered the Air Staff anything as truly revolutionary in the aircraft field as the jet engine was in the engine field. One hears of supersonic fighters, which, I suspect, are not truly supersonic—they can do it at a stretch. But has anybody offered, or have the Air Staff demanded, a truly supersonic bomber? If not, why not? It might well be much more reliable and more economical as a weapon than a misguided projectile.
One final point. In another place it has been suggested that since the Americans have a large atomic bomber force, Britain need have no strategic bomber force. I hope I have said enough about the strategic bomber in relation to home defence to dispose of that idea. I would turn down such a proposal for another reason. I have been fortunate enough to have considerable and, I may add, happy experience of working with our American friends. I have a great admiration for their qualities, but I also have considerable confidence in certain British qualities. I must say that again and again when we were working with the Americans I found strong points in the American make-up which compensated for corresponding weaknesses in our sort of temperament and character. Conversely, I found that there were British qualities which were a valuable offset to certain, what we call, limitations in the American character. To put it bluntly, I would say that the British tendency was to be very sound in judgment, but rather slow in decision and action, whereas the American tended to be very quick on the draw. 484 quick in decision and action, and, perhaps, not quite so thorough or reliable in his judgment. If ever there was a case of having the best of both worlds, it was mixing up British and American together. I feel that those considerations matter probably most of all in operations involving atomic weapons. I am strongly of the opinion that two heads are better than one—an American head and a British head. But the British head will be of no account in such a duet unless it has power and experience behind it.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ LORD JEFFREYS
My Lords, last year in the debate on defence one or two noble Lords said that it was undesirable that a Service officer should be a Minister of Defence. I differed then from that opinion and the present Statement on Defence, which appears to be in every way excellent, makes me, if possible, more sure, that my noble and gallant friend is the right man in the right place. I believe that the White Paper will meet with general approval. Few thinking persons will differ from the conclusions which are reached in the first ten paragraphs of it, nor from the proposal to continue last year's policy and for the next few years to maintain our defence effort at the maximum we can afford—and I know all your Lordships agree that that is a very high price indeed.
The forecast of what may be the opening stages of a future war in the event of atomic weapons being made use of at the beginning, is in the nature of intelligent anticipation. I think that is perhaps putting it rather favourably. It is impossible to know what will happen, but we can guess at it; and I do not know that this particular bit of guesswork is a bad bit of guesswork. I can only trust that such a war will not come and that possibly, as in the case of gas in the last war, the knowledge that our side has atomic weapons, and atomic weapons ready for use, may deter even our potential enemies from employing them. But if they are employed it must be recognised that their effect, if no counter precautions or counter measures are taken, will be even more devastating than if such measures had in fact been taken.
In this connection the responsibility of Civil Defence is very great, and I sometimes wonder whether it is sufficiently 485 realised in this country. It is good to know that atomic weapons are now in production in this country and that delivery to the Forces has in fact begun. Paragraph 16 states that a general gradual change is to come in the direction and balance of our defence effort. There is to be a greater emphasis on the Royal Air Force on account of the need for strategic bombers and guided missiles, and, I would add, as stated by the noble Viscount, Lord Cunningham of Hyndhope, yesterday, also for air protection for this country at the outset of operations. The total size of the Army is to be gradually reduced and a strategic reserve is to be built up. Expenditure on the Royal Navy is unlikely to be below the present level, and I am sure that this will be agreed if the Royal Navy is to provide, as it should provide and I am sure will provide, the necessary protection for our own communications and supplies in this country.
While, on the face of it, this plan appears to be sound, and while there should be no rivalry except the most friendly rivalry between the three Services—they should be regarded, in my humble opinion, as three branches of the one great armed Service of the Crown— yet I wonder whether it is possible, unless conditions change greatly, to form a strategic reserve and at the same time reduce the Army. The calls upon the Army are continuous and world-wide. There are certain things that the Army can do which I would submit, with great respect to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Tedder, the Air Force quite often cannot do. Perhaps he will agree with me in general upon that. The Air Force can certainly terrify and destroy and—very important in a different way—can see what cannot possibly be seen from the ground; but I wonder whether it is possible for the Air Force to occupy positions, to administer, to get people out of holes in the jungle or elsewhere—things which can only be done by people on the ground. The Army of recent ;ears has been tremendously called upon, and looks like being called upon still, in such places as Malaya, Kenya, the Suez Canal Zone and Korea.
In spite of atomic power, what are called conventional forces are still necessary—necessary for occupation, for escorts and for garrisons. It is only by 486 holding ground with conventional forces—as, indeed, my noble friend the Minister himself said—that the enemy can be made to concentrate and to offer targets for nuclear or guided weapons. Incidentally, the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha—whose maiden speech in this House I am sure your Lordships were delighted to hear—spoke of the forces in Germany now being a strategic reserve. But these are front line troops, not a strategic reserve which may be quickly moved to wherever it is required. That can be obtained only by drawing units from the Forces which are now spread all over the. world in various directions, engaged on various tasks, and concentrating them on some more or less central point, or possibly at home, from which they can quickly be moved to where they are wanted.
Paragraph 39 deals with Home Defence, and I would only say, in the first place, that it is absolutely necessary at the beginning of a war to have available sufficient air strength to defeat early air attacks. We must do everything possible to counteract the danger of a crushing air attack which will very nearly knock us out at the beginning of the war, and I cannot see how we can do that unless we have the necessary air strength at home. Then there is the Home Guard. It was very efficient indeed in the last war. It did wonderful work and it would certainly, in my opinion, be necessary again. If only the cadres of the Home Guard had been kept in being, it would have been far easier to re-raise it when the time came. It should be run, in my submission, on the same lines as in the last war, and it should be closely associated with and work with the Civil Defence organisations. I think that is of great importance.
A chapter in the White Paper is devoted to Civil Defence. I suggest that Civil Defence ought to be what I understand it is not at the moment—under the Ministry of Defence. The Ministry of Defence devotes the last chapter in the White Paper to Civil Defence, and yet the Civil Defence organisation is not under its control. I think it ought to be under the control of the Ministry of Defence and not under the Home Office. In the counties. Civil Defence might very well be administered by the Territorial 487 Army and Air Force associations, which are local civilian bodies. It is sometimes forgotten that they are civilian bodies but intimately connected with both the War Office and the Air Ministry. Home Office officials know little about civil or any other defence, and mostly they have a good deal to learn about local government itself and local feeling. Recently strong criticism was made of Civil Defence by a Committee in another place, and I suggest that the whole business needs putting under new management, and the organisation needs going into very carefully and with a clear imagination. It is essential that the citizens of this country in general should realise the extreme necessity of Civil Defence, and I am not by any means sure that they do so at the present time. A great many of them think,"It will be all right when the time comes": or, alternatively, some are apt to say,"The effect of atomic bombs is so terrible that it does not matter whether we prepare for it or not. We shall certainly be blown to pieces."
Paragraph 85 deals with the importance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Defence. E.D.C., including a German contribution, is indeed essential. It is not difficult to understand why the French fear and hate German militarism, and there are some people in this country who are undoubtedly against any German rearmament. But the enemy now is not Germany; it is farther East; and Western Germany must be defended. It must be defended to defend our own country and France. How can this be possible if Germans are to take no part in that defence? Anyhow, Germany is divided, and it appears unlikely in the foreseeable future that she will be reunited. Surely it must be possible to devise an organisation of European defence which could meet any reasonable French objections and bring in Western Germany as an ally in Western defence.
Then there is the case of Egypt, where a large British force is now locked up and is practically immobile. Surely recent events, the deposition and reinstatement of Neguib, must have convinced everyone, even certain of our Allies, that a stable and dependable Government in Egypt is non-existent. We hear very much about Egyptian independence, but it was Britain which 488 gave her independence in the first instance. She was not independent before, and Neguib's Government is at best a revolutionary Government. In the East, the one fatal attitude is weakness or the appearance of weakness. Is it not about time that we took some strong action in Egypt, beyond just sitting there and having insults flung at us? If we were to take some strong action to put an end to the state of affairs that has kept such a large British force immobile in the Canal Zone, I believe matters would look very different. And there might be some chance of bringing away some British forces to form the nucleus of that strategic reserve which my noble and gallant friend wishes to set up. My Lords, I would ask, can the Canal and all it means be safely put in the hands of a Power which we have found neither trustworthy nor efficient?
Finally, I regard this Statement on Defence as generally satisfactory. The cost of defence is enormous, even though it is greatly reduced from the figure forecast a few years ago. But it is worth anything not to be found unprepared, as we have been twice in the recent past. Modern attacks with modern weapons come with lightning speed and there is no time for improvisation or for last minute preparation. Improvision and last-minute preparation have been the curses of this country in the past. We do it rather well, as a matter of fact, but it has cost us many many British lives and many millions of British money. I pray that if ever the time comes—and I trust very greatly it will not—we shall not again be found unready.
§ 5.27 p.m.
My Lords, I intervene for a few minutes only and on a point in relation to the reserve forces. There are few matters in this White Paper on which I feel qualified to touch, but on the question of the Territorial Army I would plead a lifelong connection—with the Territorial Army and Territorial Army associations. I am struck by the fact that in another place my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War paid a high tribute to the Territorial Army when presenting the Army Estimates, and brought out the point that we are the only nation in the world with national service which runs its part-time Army on a voluntary basis. That is surely 489 well worth preserving. But there are certain features in the White Paper which give one disquiet. In paragraph 35 it is brought out that only 30 per cent of the National Service reservists who had passed into the Territorial Army by the end of 1953 had taken on voluntary engagements. There is still an increasing and continuing need for further service as volunteers to replace the older men who are now coming to an end of their engagement, and so help to maintain a strong volunteer nucleus on which the efficiency of the reserve force so greatly depends.
Not very much is said about the Territorial Army, but the significant thing appears to be at the very end, in the second Annex, which shows the division of the Defence Budget under principal headings. Under the heading of"Pay,"while Service personnel of the Regular Forces cost £265 million and pay for civilians £155 million, the Reserve, Territorial Army and Auxiliary Forces under this heading come out at £20.8 million. The contrast is very great. It is most important to preserve this voluntary element, because Her Majesty's Government are getting a bargain at present—previous Governments did, too—in being able to work the Reserve Army to same extent on a voluntary basis. Recently, the question of the bounty has been under consideration. The bounty payable for a volunteer is £12. It is a view widely held that that bounty should be increased. I was rather concerned to note the remarks of the Under-Secretary of State for War in another place recently, after an all-night debate, when he said that he felt that the Territorial was not so greatly concerned about the amount of the bounty. This may have been true of the Territorial soldier of yesterday, but it would be hazardous to say that the young National Servicemen, who must, to a great extent, form the fountain for future volunteers, are not concerned with the size of the bounty.
The young National Serviceman has proved himself a gallant soldier on many fields, not one whit behind his volunteer predecessor in that regard, but perhaps it is indicative of the age that many people—including the Members in another place—are concerned with their emoluments. In my experience, the National Serviceman does consider the 490 value of this bounty. An inquiry was recently made through Territorial associations which brought out a unanimous view that the bounty should be enlarged to provide a further inducement to get more volunteers. An inquiry was also made through military channels, and I believe that the same result ensued. Therefore, I urge Her Majesty's Government to pay attention to this question and, when my noble and gallant friend, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, winds up the debate, I hope he will be able to give a more considered answer to the question than perhaps was given in the early hours of the morning in another place—at least, to state that the unanimous opinion gathered through Territorial Association and military channels is receiving the earnest consideration of Her Majesty's Government. I should like to say that, in my own experience, I find that the contacts between the War Office and the organisation that covers the Territorial associations are close and helpful. We find a sympathetic ear when problems of real magnitude and which have been carefully thought out are raised. Many things have been done to improve the status of a Territorial soldier. Many imaginative steps have been taken. I recognise that money is by no means the only thing, but I hope it will not be overlooked.
There have been improvements to help in alleviating administrative work by the provision of Regular officers and of permanent staff instructors at a time when it is difficult for the Regular Army to find them. Speaking of a rather more local matter, the re-raising of the 52nd Lowland Division in Scotland was an imaginative step which has done good to local recruiting in the Lowlands of that country. It has been my experience that projects put forward through the proper channels and which have been really thought out by the associations receive sympathetic guidance. But, when we come to the bounty, of course another Department, the Treasury, very properly, come in and they are anxious to take no step in the dark. I earnestly ask Her Majesty's Government to remember the nature of the bargain they are getting over the Auxiliary Forces at the present time and not to spoil a good ship for a ha'porth of tar.
§ 5.34 p.m.
LORD FAIRFAX OF CAMERON
My Lords, I think one can fairly safely draw one conclusion from the White Paper, and that is that never again shall we be able to hold out, as an Island, in isolation, with an enemy on the Channel, as we did during the Battle of Britain. Our destiny, as we are told in the White Paper, is firmly linked with that of our Allies on the Continent and elsewhere. We have a common frontier which we want to keep as far to the East as possible, but the question to which I cannot find an answer, and which I do not think has yet been answered, is: How are we, in the event of a hot war, to reinforce those people at our front?
Paragraph 13 of the White Paper concludes with this sentence:Our reserve forces must be capable of rapid mobilisation behind the shield which our active forces provide …The White Paper also tells us, as we know, what the Government expect to happen during the first phase of a future war: there will be violent atomic attacks, and, no doubt, we shall get our share of that, with the result that probably all our communications, or most of them at any rate, will be completely smashed—certainly our rail communications. That would happen if a bomb were dropped on London. At the same time, it is possible that many of our major ports would be put out of action, too. We should then be unable to move our strategic reserves or our Territorial divisions at all. The sea, which has been our friend in the past, would most effectively bottle us up and cut us off from the Continent.
Some reference has been made in this debate to the use of air power, but, in such circumstances, we should be completely dependent upon air transport for moving our troops out of the country to where they were wanted. The question I should like to feel is being gone into is: Have we enough air transport of all kinds? The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, has already gone carefully into this particular point, but I do not think there is any harm in mentioning it again. In the case of taking troops to the Continent, one would not need very expensive, long-range, high-speed aircraft; rather one would need a vast quantity of aircraft of no special speed but so that we could quickly, as the White Paper 492 says, move a large number of men to where they would be urgently required. I think it is desirable that the idea of troop-carrying helicopters should be explored, with a view to their being used where airfields are knocked out of commission and there is only a small space for aircraft to use. The noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, yesterday proposed that the strategic reserve should, in future, be kept on the Continent of Europe. Whether or not that is right, I think that as soon as there is an amber warning of possible Russian offensive action, at once there should be sent to the Continent not only our strategic reserve but also as many of the Territorial divisions as it is possible to mobilise in a short time.
Turning from the hot war aspect to the deterrent side, I should like to direct your Lordships' attention for a moment to paragraph 85, which refers to the reinforcement of N.A.T.O. by the European Defence Community, together with a German contribution. The same paragraph also refers to proposals which the United Kingdom has made for closer military co-operation with the E.D.C., but those proposals are not yet known. I think such proposals will, at any rate, be highly welcomed, because, whether the United Kingdom is inside or outside the E.D.C., her leadership is, I believe, none the less vital for the bringing into action of that body and also, perhaps, for its proper functioning in the future. I think the disunity in this country on the question of the German contribution is most unfortunate, because, if there is uncertainty in this country about that, it will certainly add to the uncertainty that already exists overseas.
Personally, I think that the facts of the situation should allay such fears. The Germans have already accepted the rigorous military control that would come into action under the E.D.C., and if the opportunity is now missed to bring in the German contribution, not only will it greatly weaken Western Defence but at the same time—and I think this is more serious—it will weaken and discredit the democratic, moderate elements in Germany which have supported the ratification of E.D.C. and support international co-operation. If those elements were to be discredited, it would be the 493 chance that the German Nationalists have been looking for. Mutual confidence between the Western European nations is essential to E.D.C., and the longer this period of suspicion and mistrust goes on the harder it will be to ratify the E.D.C. Treaty, and the harder it will be to make it work when eventually it is ratified. Probably the most important point of all, which the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, made yesterday, was that if Germany is inside E.D.C. she can be controlled, but if she is outside then there is no control over her; and if at a later date she has to arm herself, she will do it as an independent nation, which may mean greater ground for fear.
Finally, I turn for a brief moment to the question of personnel. I suppose there is no one who does not view seriously the decline in Regular service men. The more National Service men that one has in the Services the more Regular long-term service men will he needed to train them. With all the non-conventional weapons in the world, with push-button gadgets, we shall still require the same old traditional military virtues of discipline, esprit de corps and skill in the use of operational weapons. It is only this backbone of the Services, if I may so call it, that can provide and inculcate those virtues into the National Service man in the short time—two years—that he is in the Service. Naturally, we all hope most sincerely that the Government measures to attract more long-service men into the Services will succeed, and we shall all watch their efforts with a great deal of interest. But if they do not succeed, we should be prepared to go even further in regard to finance, pensions, amenities and so on, to try to attract people into the Services. During that process we shall also have to remember that we are in competition with industry, which pays much higher wages than many people can obtain at the moment in the Services. I believe we should be prepared to undertake this added expenditure if necessary, because unless that backbone to the Services is adequate a great deal of the money that is being spent upon other things may be wasted.
§ 5.44 p.m.
My Lords, I apologise for not being present in your Lordships' House yesterday, owing to circumstances 494 outside my control. I beg to support Her Majesty's Government on the Defence White Paper which the noble and gallant Earl introduced yesterday as the subject of your Lordships' debate. I am sure that your Lordships and the majority of the country will feel confidence in the fact that there are men of the calibre of our Prime Minister and the noble and gallant Earl to control these new and fantastic weapons. But there is many a slip between the pressing of a button by the noble and gallant Earl in Whitehall and the actual firing of these new non-conventional weapons by the scientists at Harwell and such other establishments where these weapons live. I feel sure that most of us would beg and possibly pray that these scientists are good and straight shots.
My Lords, I much value the lucid appreciation which the noble and gallant Earl gave of the views of Her Majesty's Government of defence and which I read as reported this morning, and I regret that the views which I express this afternoon may be somewhat narrow and very conventional indeed. I am only a young and conventional amateur soldier, but I have no doubt that when the day occurs of this terrible broken-backed warfare to which the noble and gallant Earl devoted 30 much time, I shall be given some orders in a very conventional manner and shall have to use conventional weapons about which none of us in the Territorial Army are happy to-day. It is mainly about these weapons that I wish to speak.
We realise, as the noble and gallant Earl said, that all branches of the Services must have priorities. We in the units appreciate that one unit will have a higher priority and another a lower priority, and no doubt some of us wish we had different priorities. If the measures which the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, suggested with regard to committees to look into these priorities were adopted, there would no doubt be even more changes from day to day than there are at present. What is evident about priorities is that if there are no experienced N.C.Os. who have had battle experience in the Forces, then the Territorial Army cannot function in the way spoken of by the noble and gallant Earl, in regard to carrying out this broken-backed war which Her Majesty's Government visualise. It is not 495 necessary in your Lordships' House to say that N.C.Os. are the backbone of the British Army,, but in view of the White Paper it is necessary to say that these same N.C.Os. are daily leaving the Territorial Army, and that they are getting very few in number.
I would beg to put before the noble and gallant Earl the suggestion that some priority should be given to the Territorial Army to enable them to secure and retain the services of these N.C.Os. I wish to put forward these few points. Regimental esprit de corps is the first and most important thing to keep good men and true in a good unit. Would it be possible for colonels to have money made available to spend as they think fit, on welfare and sporting activities, and so forth? This may not be possible now but could it be given a slightly higher priority? Secondly, and I believe most important, the morale of the Territorial Army unit is never higher than after a really good and happy camp. I do not think that to-day the Regular Army gives sufficient priority to the well-being, the well-building, and the well-planning of Territorial camps, which must necessarily be in unpleasant and tiresome places. Drying rooms which do not dry clothes, shower baths which provide either stone-cold or boiling hot water as the case may be, leaking tents and so forth, can be laughed over for a day or two, but after a fortnight of cold and wet weather such things do not help to secure National Service volunteers in the Territorial Army or to keep the services of experienced N.C.Os. Last year the excuse for leaking tents was that all the A.1 tents were being used for the Coronation. It will be most interesting to hear what the excuse will be this year should the tents still be leaking.
I now wish to refer to Territorial Army equipment. There is no doubt that the men are ready to go. I believe there is no Territorial unit which cannot concentrate and possibly mobilise within its specified priority time. I fancy that all our units could muster at least 75 per cent. of their strength forthwith. It is a matter of telegrams. The remaining percentage which could not be mustered would consist of men Who are sick or men who are away. But what happens when that unit is concentrated at its 496 base? The equipment that we have for our units now is conventional; not only that, it is out of date for the main part, and that which is not out of date but still useful to some degree is worn out. Certainly, in the case of the majority of Territorial units, it is not suitable for active service conditions. That is especially so in the case of the more technical and complicated items such as armoured vehicles, wireless equipment, machine gun equipment and so on. I very much doubt whether there is a big pool somewhere or a dump of conventional equipment to go to, from which, when we have to concentrate, all the arms used and the equipment needed for our priority duties can be drawn.
There do not appear to be any replacements which it is necesary that a Territorial Force should have if it is to carry out the role for which we have been trying to train on these Monday nights and in our fortnightly camps. When we get to our centres for concentration, we shall find that a number of items in this equipment will not stand up to active service conditions. I took my unit on a twenty-four-hour scheme and attempted to do 500 miles. It was impossible. The weather was extremely bad and we had many narrow roads to traverse. One car got ditched completely, two wireless sets were burnt out and the clutch of a Chevrolet scout car burnt out. That clutch will, I understand, take anything from six Weeks to several months to repair. I own a similar type of car on my estate and I should be very much annoyed if the maintenance men in my repair shop took more than two days to put right the damage. If it takes that long to rehabilitate a conventional scout car of American manufacture, how long will it take to rehabilitate a burnt-out part of a Centurion tank, for accidents of that kind may easily happen in some Territorial Army tank regiment during a training exercise? I cannot believe that the equipment we are using is capable of standing broken-backed warfare conditions, of which so much has been said.
Yet in the same test which I have mentioned there were college boys and girls, too, driving motor cars of the latest continental sporting type and also little saloon cars, and they carried on to the end, despite the appalling weather conditions, whereas our cars could not; it was 497 a physical impossibility to drive them in such conditions. There is no cross-country armoured vehicle that is cheap and which could be used for Territorial Army training, and I submit there is nothing of the sort available to Her Majesty's Forces to-day. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, has spoken of the effect of the transport aeroplane. He was referring to the Beverley. The noble and gallant Earl, the Minister of Defence, told us that it would carry a light tank. To the best of my knowledge, no light tank is being produced in this country to-day.
I see—the equivalent of a light tank. I take it that it must be something on the lines of the new armoured car. That is not yet in production. There is an excellent light scout car, but that mounts but the lightest of machine guns. There is the vehicle known as the Land Rover, which is in use in, bat in very short supply to, Her Majesty's Forces, and which will take a body of men and a machine gun across country. I beg to submit this idea—I regret that I have not been able to talk the matter over with the noble and gallant Earl. Medium agricultural tractors can be produced in vast numbers in this country at a very reasonable cost. Furthermore, they are very economical, using the lowest grade of fuel. Is there any reason why the noble and gallant Earl and his technical staffs could not invent some sort of armour-plated shield to be affixed on the exterior, so as to convert such an agricultural tractor into a three-man armoured fighting vehicle? It would be light on fuel and it would do practically everything which I think a T.A. unit requires. I feel there is practically no task which this cheap armoured fighting vehicle would not do. It would certainly have completed much more of that twenty-four-hours scheme than our conventional weapons did. It is a fact that there is not a cross-country vehicle which can carry a machine gun and has a reasonable amount of armoured protection in our Forces to-day.
My final Territorial Army point relates to training. As a conventional soldier, I have not been told anything 498 much about atomic warfare. No doubt there is a pamphlet in process of being printed which will circulate down to my very conventional level. I am certain that the noble and gallant Earl and his staff have that matter in hand, and we have entire confidence in what will be produced for us in that direction. But there are two other points which I believe to be more serious. I offered my unit to go and take part in a Civil Defence exercise. It was called"Exercise Acorn:' Another which is to take place shortly, I understand, is to be called"Exercise Nutmeg"or"Exercise Oak-leaf,"or something similar. But on each occasion when I made the offer it was declined politely by the Civil Defence authorities. They told me that on no account was the Civil Defence organisation to co-operate with Territorial Army or military units, because, should this broken-backed warfare, or the hot warfare which the noble and gallant Earl refers to in the White Paper, come about, there will not be any military units available for the Civil Defence organisation to use. I cannot help thinking that it should be the duty of military units to know the ins and outs of Civil Defence, and they should take every opportunity to co-operate all down the line. That is especially so in the case of the highly mobile, or relatively highly mobile, unit such as the armoured car regiment. But apparently the order forbidding this still stands. I bring that up only for the purpose of asking whether the noble and gallant Earl considers it is a wise one or not.
Thirdly, I come to the question of the young officer and the terrible business of civil control. I believe that sabotage is certainly the cheapest and most effective method of carrying on hostilities, whether it is in hot warfare, cold warfare, broken-backed warfare or whatever other term may be used. Certainly sabotage seems to have gone a considerable distance already. I feel certain that sabotage will be the first instrument that our potential enemies, the international Communists, will use against us. What instruction does the Territorial Army officer or a military officer receive with regard to the ins and outs—which are most complicated and dangerous—of controlling an 499 ugly crowd? I believe that one or two lectures from the police authorities would be of tremendous value.
I bring this forward, again, because a friend who is a contemporary and a Regular soldier was ordered with his half-squadron during the petrol strike to take over a petrol depôt worth many thousands of pounds. If that strike had gone on for two more days, the lack of petrol would have brought almost every mechanical bakery in London to a standstill, as well as such services as sewage disposal and milk pasteurisation. That seems to be a pretty good start in the cold-war or broken-backed war. This officer and his half squadron were completely equipped—I shall say no more. I asked him what might have happened if the situation had turned ugly and his telephone lines and outside communications had been severed. He said he had no instructions whatever and had no idea of what might have to be done. He had only his own initiative and his own judgment. Your Lordships can think of what would happen to a lance-corporal driving proudly in a petrol tanker, possibly with a cigarette in his mouth, if it had been waylaid, and he is armed. What would be his next move? I feel that civil control lessons should be started and should be taught to all of us who are Territorial Army members or in the Regular Forces.
It happened to be my misfortune when the Jewish"Exercise Exodus"was under way to have to look after one of their camps. An ugly situation did arise. I disobeyed certain regulations in the interests of keeping the peace, and luckily the peace was kept. I could do that only with the knowledge that I should have the complete support of my commanding officer. But in such a situation, arising in the broken-backed warfare visualised by the noble and gallant Earl, who supports whom when it comes to the job of controlling civil disturbances?
My last point is with regard to civilians who are employed at Royal Air Force aerodromes. When the Air Estimates were discussed in another place we heard with regret of the tremendous shortage of highly-trained personnel in the R.A.F. Most of the complicated maintenance work is apparently done by highly-skilled civilian technicians—no doubt all ex-Service 500 men. What discipline do these men come under should such a situation occur as the noble and gallant Earl has visualised? It seems to me that it is inconceivable that the British workman can willingly sabotage some vital piece of Her Majesty's equipment; yet we read, I do not like to say daily, but one can certainly pick up a newspaper and read, of aircraft carriers and frigates being sabotaged. Apparently, it is even possible for a man to sabotage a submarine, according to the reports. To what terrible depths can a person be driven or led? If that is the position, is there any reason why a similar type of organisation or a similar type of man cannot exist in these vast R.A.F. maintenance units and be able to sabotage the new Vulcan and V-aeroplanes to which the noble and gallant Earl referred yesterday? It seems possible that the Royal Air Force could be hamstrung on the ground unless, of course, there is already some organisation to control that kind of thing in these enormous units. These are the few points I wish to put before your Lordships. I only regret that I have not been able to inform the noble and gallant Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, of these points beforehand, and, naturally, I do not expect answers to all of them to-day.
§ 6.5 p.m.
My Lords, I welcome the Statement on Defence, because I believe it says clearly what we are trying to do in the field of defence and why we are doing it. I feel that unless we put the reasons clearly before the people, we cannot expect their co-operation and support. We expect them to bear a tremendous financial burden. We are trying to improve recruitment. We expect all our young men to undergo a long period of National Service, but unless they see the reasons for all this, their morale will not be good. Our potential enemy realises this only too fully. I understand that one of their finest generals is in charge of morale within their forces, and there is no doubt that on their side morale is very good indeed.
The keynote of our defence in Europe is N.A.T.O. I do not think enough has been done in this country to explain to the man in the street what N.A.T.O. is all about. For instance, I wonder how 501 many people could name the fourteen countries who are members of N.A.T.O. When I visited S.H.A.P.E. early this year, I was glad to find how keen General Gruenther is to receive visitors and"put over"what his Organisation is doing. As he so rightly points out, N.A.T.O. is an organisation of free, democratic peoples, and it would cease to exist if the peoples, through their Parliaments, refused to give it support. I was also interested to find that something new has grown up in N.A.T.O.—what I might call a N.A.T.O. public opinion. As all the members of N.A.T.O. now know pretty well what every country is capable of—if one member nation should say, for example, that they cannot produce another brigade of infantry. and the officers of the other countries in the Organisation know that they ought to be able to do so—the representative of that country gets such a bad time from his opposite numbers that often he goes back home with his tail between his legs and asks for something to be done, sometimes with the desired results I was interested also to find that there has developed what I might call a N.A.T.O. outlook. For example, a British officer in the Organisation almost forgets he is British and is prepared to fight his own country just as hard as he would fight another country for what he thinks is right and proper for N.A.T.O.
From a naval point of view, I was glad to see that the need for aircraft carriers was stressed in the White Paper. I was also pleased to note how much this country is in the forefront in new inventions connected with deck landing—the angle deck and the steam catapult, bath of which have been adopted in America. Now I see there is a new device, what one might call the mechanical or electrical batsman. I am sure the aircraft carrier will continue to be necessary, particularly where sudden conflict breaks out in some far-off part of the world. It may then be the only way of getting your power to the spot quickly. I conclude by saying once more that I welcome the White Paper, for the reasons I have stated.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CALDECOTE
My Lords, I also should like to apologise to the noble and gallant Earl, the Minister of Defence, for not being present yesterday 502 to hear his introduction of this debate, but I was unavoidably kept away. I, too, welcome this White Paper. It seems to me that we can look back on the past few years, since the rearmament programme restarted, and see clearly the advantages that strength has brought us and the disadvantages we have faced when we have been too weak to stand up for our rights. When we have been unable to stand up for those rights, we have lost not only those rights but our prestige as well, and that has brought in its train troubles in other places. But now we are launched on what has been described as a"long steady pull."That appears to be bringing its own difficulties in its train.
There seem to be two outstanding points in the White Paper. The first, that of manpower, has already been touched upon by my noble friends Lord Fairfax of Cameron and Lord Bathurst. It is not a matter of calling into question the fighting qualities of our men: they have been shown, in Korea and Malaya and all over the world, in all the difficult tasks they have had to perform. But the White Paper reveals a serious situation, particularly as regards the re-engagement of experienced men. It seems to me that the very easing of tension which is noted in the White Paper, and for which we are all most grateful, has had an effect on the recruiting and re-engagement of men for the Forces. We live now in a scientific age. We all agree on the importance of developing the most modern weapons and the most up-to-date fighting techniques. But we have not yet got to the stage when we can dispense with determined, experienced men. There was a saying current in the Navy in the war:"Ports are no good, ships rot, and men go to the devil."I think those rather crude words have a more general application in these quieter days.
It is not only pay and conditions, amenities and that sort of thing, that attract people to the Services. People go into the Services because they want a different life: they want, perhaps, the spice of variety and adventure. If you give them something that is tame and try to make the amenities as pleasant as those they have in their own life at home, I do not think you will necessarily get them in. I believe, there has been an unfortunate tendency, since the war, to 503 take away the glamour of the Services. We have cut down on ceremony and the uniform that goes with it, and on entertaining; commanding officers have been criticised if they have pressed junior officers to take part in the life of their unit after working hours. There has been too much tendency to treat men as pawns to be moved about to solve a difficult drafting situation. Regimental identities have been blurred, and ships have been manned with men from all the different manning stations.
In passing, I may say that I am not sure that the new arrangements that are being made for shortening foreign service for naval personnel will be altogether successful, unless great care is taken not to disturb ships' companies more than they are disturbed at present. You cannot build a good, happy, efficient ship's company in a year, if you are going to have half the men taken away to go home. I hope that the responsible Ministers will give that point some consideration, possibly with a view to bringing a whole ship home, even though it may mean more expenditure on fuel.
We were, thank goodness! spared the ultimate crowning mistake, which was suggested, of abandoning the regimental system after the war. But, alas! recruitment and training of naval officers has been subjected to what I can only call the most unfortunate political interference. In a recent article by a well-known soldier it was stated that men in battle draw from the capital store of courage in their unit, to which they themselves have a duty to contribute. I believe that, too, has a more general application in these days. For it is only if every officer and man contributes to the esprit de corps of his unit, his ship, regiment or squadron, whatever it is, that he can draw from it that same spirit of pride and affection for the unit which makes the unit an efficient and happy one. It is sad to recall over the past few years all the sneering that has gone on at tradition, and the confusion there has been between tradition and reaction. I believe that some of these difficulties which we hear about now, particularly those of getting men to sign on for longer periods, are due, to a large extent, to the change in circumstances which I have tried to describe—to the falling off of esprit de corps, 504 of pride and of affection for the unit.
It is easy to diagnose, but not so easy to prescribe—I have not the knowledge to make detailed suggestions, in any case. Points of that sort can be dealt with only by the officers and N.C.Os. themselves. However, I believe that if the Government could give more support than they have over the past years to encourage that esprit de corps, which is so essential and which must be restored, it would be of great assistance. But it cannot be done without expenditure. Let us not have so much economising with things that are called non-essentials, such as ceremony, uniforms, and entertaining. They are not really non-essentials. If officers cannot nowadays supply their own full-dress uniform, then let the Government supply them. I am sure that that would be money well spent. When there is practical training to be done, let it not be done too economically. Let us not have ships steaming about the ocean at economical speed; there is not much glamour in that; but there is quite a lot of glamour in a destroyer going at full speed. I feel that we are perhaps sacrificing a little too much to the idol of efficiency. It is not really efficiency; it is economising on what I have described as non-essentials, to leave more money for scientific development, new weapons and that kind of thing. If we think we are going to get efficiency by spending money on new weapons, but are not going to have the men of courage and determination to man them, then we are making a great mistake.
My plea, then, would be for rather more resources and greater priority, as my noble friend Lord Bathurst said, to be given to these imponderables. They are difficult to describe, but I think anyone who has been in the Services will know what I mean. Unless we can do that, and restore the esprit de corps of our regiments and units in all the Forces, I do not believe we shall make the proper use of all these clever and expensive scientific weapons.
The second point, though important, is much less important than that of manpower. It is clear from the White Paper that there have been unfortunate delays in the delivery of aircraft and ships. I know only too well how many fences there are to cross between the design 505 and the production stage. But, in spite of all the super-priority schemes and such like, there is still a terrible lag before we get the aircraft and the ships into production. I see in the White Paper that only this year is the first of the antisubmarine frigates, upon which we largely depend for coping with the new fast submarines, coming into service. I believe that one of the troubles is that Government Departments do not always appreciate the effect of delays in coming to decisions to place an order. I will give just one example. The design of modern warships, particularly small ones, calls for the use of special steel sections to make the ships light and efficient. Now, those special sections are not used much, apart from this special work, and, therefore, the steel companies do not roll them continuously, but only at intervals. Suppose an order is delayed a week or two, due to some indecision, the chance of ordering these special sections from the steel works may have been missed, and they may not be rolled again for another few months. That may mean a serious delay to the completion of the ship, caused by one or two weeks' delay in taking a decision. That is only one example, and I am sure that there are many others.
Not only is delay serious in itself, but it is also expensive, because it disturbs the even flow of production and makes the finished article more expensive, for which the country has to pay; and we do not get the full value for the money which we should. On a slightly similar point, I think a great deal more could be done if Service Departments co-operated more with industry so that standard designs were used whenever possible. They may not be quite so good as the perfect design the user would like, but it would be a great deal better to have one hundred 90 per cent. efficient devices than two perfect ones. I feel that those points could be improved by a little more co-operation between the ordering Departments and industry. There is one other relatively small point. We see from paragraph 67 of the White Paper that work is being done to improve the facilities in the deck-yards. I wonder whether anything is being done to put some of the machine tools in the dockyards underground. If the dockyards are subjected to atomic attack early in hostilities, it may well be 506 that all of them will be put out of action, with a serious effect on our ability to keep open our sea lanes in the next period. During the last war we had a good example of the value of that sort of protection in Malta, where there were always a small number of machines available, in spite of heavy bombing attacks.
We have come a long way since 1949, when noble Lords who now sit on this side of the House used to press the Government of the day to do something about rearmament. We may well be proud of our attainments and the sacrifices we have had to make to get them. We should be thankful, too, for the support and the co-operation which we have had from the Commonwealth and the United States. We are taking part in a great combined operation. 'We are concerned not only to defend ourselves, but to play our part in that combined operation, in the larger plan. That we can do if we have not only the most modern and the most up-to-date weapons, but also a great body of experienced and determined men to operate them. We should all agree that neglect: of what I may call the human side will be made at our peril. To get the necessary men is not only a question of improving the pay and conditions, and not only a question of the provision of beer and bounties. We need a definite policy of encouraging and restoring, the esprit de corps in every unit of our Forces, without which all other efforts will be largely wasted.
§ LORD LAYTON
My Lords, it has been suggested, and I understand it veil be for the convenience of the House, if the concluding stage of this debate is taken to-morrow afternoon. I therefore beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Layton.)
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, it was understood that we should meet a little earlier to-morrow. Has the suggestion we discussed earlier been cancelled?
§ EARL FORTESCUE
My Lords, I thought I had made it plain to the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, that it would be for the convenience of the House if we met at four o'clock. The noble Lord, Lord 507 Nathan, is going to open the debate at four o'clock to-morrow, and not the noble Lord, Lord Layton.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.