§ 2.42 p.m.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (VISCOUNT SWINTCN) rose to move to resolve, That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1955 (Cmd. 9391). The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I think it is a great advantage that in this House we have our Defence debate not only after we have had the Defence White Papers and the Memoranda issued by the Service Departments with their Estimates but also after we have been able to study the general and particular debates in another place. That makes a debate on Defence in this House rather more in the nature of a post-graduate exercise. It certainly relieves anybody who is opening it from such a detailed exposition of all that is in the White Paper and the Estimates as would otherwise be necessary.
I think I can serve the House better if I try to give a broader picture of the facts and factors on which our defence policy and strategy are based, and try to show why we are doing what we are doing. That is specially important this year when there are new factors which involve far-reaching changes. This year, only a few weeks before the Defence White Paper was produced, the United Kingdom Government had the great advantage of full discussions with the Commonwealth Prime Ministers on all these, matters. It was indeed gratifying to find how unanimous was our thinking at that meeting, and how united our resolve. Noble Lords will have read the communiquè subscribed by all the Commonwealth Governments who took part in our defence discussions in which we reviewed
our plans for the defence of each area. I should like to quote one most pregnant paragraph from that communiquè it reads as follows:
The representatives of the Commonwealth countries concerned with these regional defence plans recognised that the advent of thereto-nuclear weapons involves fundamental changes in the strategic approach to defence problems. They agreed that the overwhelming superiority of the Western Powers in nuclear weapons offers at the present time the most effective and practical assurance that world peace will not be disturbed by any deliberate act of aggression. They agreed that their defence policies should be founded on the principle that world war can be prevented if the free democracies are resolved to maintain in readiness forces sufficiently strong to deter any potential aggressor.
My Lords, the Defence White Paper which I am asking your Lordships to approve to-day, is based on these maxims. Our policy—which, indeed, is the policy of all the Commonwealth Governments who stand together to-day and who would be together in case of need—has a twofold aim: first, security through the strength of the deterrent; and, secondly, real, comprehensive disarmament. First, let me say a word or two about disarmament. I have said advisedly "comprehensive" disarmament, and here again I would quote from the Commonwealth communiquè where that was clearly laid down:
It is the aim of the Commonwealth countries to work for a disarmament agreement, which includes forces and weapons of all kinds and is both comprehensive and effective.
I emphasise the words "comprehensive and effective." It would be a complete illusion to suppose that there can be any halfway house; that would be either surrender or destruction. Disarmament must cover all weapons. To tell the Communists that they were free to attack with conventional weapons, in which, as in manpower, they have a huge preponderance, would be to invite aggression and to guarantee them victory.
§ This work for disarmament is nothing new. All last year we worked at it—I was going to say week in, week out. That is almost literally true; we worked hard for weeks. The Conference in London, in which Canada worked tirelessly with us, was followed almost as soon as it was finished, as noble Lords know by months of discussion at the United Nations. Russia was recalcitrant until just at the end, when there was a new 1127 gleam of hope. Did this mean a new attitude? Well, the United Nations resolved that we should continue. We did not need that stimulus to continue. We are continuing in London now to work on constructive, comprehensive proposals, because nothing less will suffice. So I say, in regard to this vital matter of disarmament, let us go forward hopefully, but realistically—illusion would be delusion.
May I recall to the House—because I think they are relevant to so many of the difficulties with which we are faced today—some words of Lord Salisbury, then Prime Minister, spoken more than eighty years ago. His is a name that, generation after generation, commands respect in this House, and he said this:
Peace and good will will not be the result of some clever contrivance which men, by much debating and many experiments, may hope to hit upon. If they obtain it at all it will be by routing out the selfishness which good fortune nurtures and the recklessness which springs from misery.
We, at any rate, shall strive unceasingly for real, comprehensive disarmament.
§ In the meantime, and concurrently, we must follow the other part of the twin policy, the pursuit of security through strength. It is strange, but true, that the new horrifying discoveries of science, with all the possible devastation and annihilation they present, yet offer the best hope of security and peace. The temptation to an aggressor is the probability that he will succeed. That is nothing new; it was so in 1914. In 1914, the German General Staff promised the German Emperor a quick success. He believed it, and in that conviction Germany struck. It was the same with Hitler. Both were wrong. Perhaps both forgot the maxim of Napoleon, that in war the value of the moral to the physical is as three to one.
§ Until the advent of the nuclear weapon, the Communist world, with its vast preponderance of manpower and conventional weapons had exactly the same temptations. Now, that is changed. To-day, the United States has a vast superiority in the new arm. A major aggression could to-day be met by instantaneous, overwhelming counter-attack such as the Prime Minister has described. In that lies the deterrent. That is, therefore, the basis of our new strategy and our plans. The aggressor cannot win.1128
§ The range and the destructive power of these terrible new weapons discounts distance and wide spaces; continents become almost as vulnerable as islands, and—another complete change—the exterior lines become more valuable than the interior lines. To all of us who have served in any war, that is a completely novel idea. We remember that in the First World War (and it was almost as true in the Second World War) we nearly came to disaster because Germany with her interior lines of communication, was able to shift troops from one front to another. Now these have a new and different significance. The inner circle is no longer the great protection; indeed the outer circle is the more important. The ability to have, behind the outer circle, many widely dispersed bases from which aircraft can move in and concentrate on any target inside the interior lines of communication has entirely altered that aspect of strategy.
§ Again, this new form of warfare largely reduces the value of a preponderance in vast armies and conventional weapons. They have to move forward and be sustained by vast lines of communications and supplies and all the logistics of war. But under the impact of widespread and devastating nuclear retaliation the ability of those vast armies to deploy and to maintain themselves becomes enormously reduced, and that gives a new significance and a greatly increased value to what we call the forward strategy. Even if saturation point should be reached—that is, a situation in which, though one side is still superior in its supply of weapons, the other has enough to cause irretrievable devastation—there can still be no hope of victory. The best an aggressor could hope for would be co-destruction, co-annihilation in place of co-existence. The retribution which lies in the deterrent remains certain, inexorable, though all might be engulfed. So it may come to pass, in the Prime Minister's prophetic words, that safety will be the sturdy child of terror and survival the twin brother of annihilation.
§ Bearing in mind this new fundamental of security and strategy, how much the free world owes to America, to that partnership with America, which is the fundamental of United Kingdom and Commonwealth policy! On that partnership we in the Commonwealth are united. 1129 How right the late Government were to make the atom bomb, and how right we are now in the decision to make the hydrogen bomb! I think there are very few who support the, argument that we should rely solely on America.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear!
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
That was rejected by the late Government when they made the atom bomb. That would not be partnership; we should neither pull our weight nor wield our influence if we left it all to our partner. Moreover, in spite of all the co-ordination which can be achieved in the Grand Alliance, we have our own responsibilities for the safety of this country. We must be sure that we can take care of targets which would be vital to our own safety. We must have a bomber force which could destroy the airfields from which, and the aircraft with which, an enemy could attack with these thermo-nuclear weapons. We must therefore have the bombs and the bombers.
I said earlier that these nuclear weapons have given a new significance and importance to our forward strategy. It has always been an essential feature, indeed the fundamental strategy, of N.A.T.O. policy and planning to hold an enemy as far to the East as possible. That is vital to Western Europe but it is equally important for our own safety here. That is why all the N.A.T.O. countries must maintain their full complement of troops and tactical aircraft. If we failed to do this, the Communists would be tempted to try to overrun Europe with their huge armies. If that happened, not only would our peril on this island be greatly increased, but could Europe ever be liberated again? I doubt it. Certainly Europe could be liberated only by the intensive use of nuclear weapons, and that would mean our causing the devastation of the very lanes we sought to liberate. That is why the N.A.T.O. shield on land and in the air remains vital. That is why the ratification of the London and Paris Agreements and the consolidation of the Western European Union are so essential. That is why the great majority of us, in spite of all that has happened in the past, are prepared to welcome the German contribution in this difficult task.
1130 We must try to build a force by land and air, at the same time retaining command of the sea, which will hold the line until the full effect of the thermo-nuclear counter attack has been felt. In this, as in so many other respects, in Europe, in the Middle East and in the Far East, we cannot think of war, should it ever come—which God forbid!—in terms of past wars. It is all utterly different from the old days. Then you could take your time. In two great wars we were pretty slow at the start. We had a bad year or two or even more, but then the tide turned. Now all is changed, and there is no longer that time factor in our favour. Readiness is of supreme importance. I have spoken of the deterrent at some length because that is the key of our strategy and the one hope of sanity and peace in this distracted world to-day. I have explained our forward strategy, its continued importance, the reinforcement it receives from the nuclear potential, and its value to our own defence by keeping an enemy far from our shores. All this new strategy interacts for us and our Allies.
Let me turn, for a moment, to the internal defence of this country in face of attack. The first line of defence must rest upon the fighter aircraft, and in the foreseeable future will continue so to do even when guided missiles come along to reinforce the fighters. Radar, of course, also retains its full importance. But in modern global war, certainly in this country, the anti-aircraft gun would have a value only for special tasks—for defence against low-flying attack. Enough, certainly, must be kept for that. In what we are doing there is nothing in any way inconsistent with what General Gruenther said yesterday about targets open to low-flying, or relatively low-flying, attack in Europe. But only a limited amount of anti-aircraft guns would be required for this purpose. It has therefore been decided—I am sure rightly—to abolish the Anti-Aircraft Command. That, as noble Lords will remember, was an integral part of the whole of the chain of air defence, and a very vital one, in the last war. The traditions of the anti-aircraft regiments, both Regular and Territorial, are indeed fine, but I am sure the officers and men of these regiments will be the first to realise that we must all concentrate on what is really necessary, and they will want to devote themselves to new opportunities of effective service. It is in the 1131 force of the counter-attack that our main defence lies. Next to that, we must rely primarily upon our fighter aircraft. The full story of the development of these aircraft is set out in the White Paper on The Supply of Military Aircraft. My noble friend the Secretary of State for Air will be speaking to-morrow, and he will be able to deal more fully with this aspect. I would only say now that, on the facts stated in the White Paper, which have been amplified by Ministers in another place, I think we can say with confidence that our ability to meet an attack has been established. So much for the first line of defence—active defence.
I come now to the second line of defence—if the bomber gets through. That is Civil Defence, as it is called, which is, equally a part of Home Defence. In Section VIII of the White Paper (I am glad to see that it is called "Home Defence" there) we have tried to set out the problem as far as we can assess it at the present time, and the proposals we have to make at this stage. In counter-attack, the deterrent, in forward strategy, in air defence, in what we scrap and in what we are increasing, I do not think anyone can say that we are not forward-looking. I submit that that is equally true of the new plans for Civil Defence.
The first echelon (I am not sure that that is the right word), or the first line, is the Civil Defence Services on the spot. They will always be in the front line. Then what I may call the third line, behind, will consist of all the formed and disciplined bodies which may be in this island during the battle of the air, the Regular soldiers, the Territorials, the reservists of all three Services and the Home Guard. But we felt that, between these two, we needed a link, and in order to forge that link we have decided to create as the second line a new formation—the Mobile Defence Corps. The proposal for this is fully set out in the White Paper. Noble Lords will see that we hope to get forty-eight battalions, each with a strength of about 600; and to pass about 10,000 men a year through special training depôts. I think I am justified in saying that this inter-linking plan of Home Defence is not only new but forward-looking and realistic. It gives everyone a chance of making as effective a contribution as he or she can. It, too, has its 1132 deterrent effect in showing preparedness and firm resolution.
My Lords, most of what I have said has been directed to the prevention of global war, "hot war," as it is called, and our preparation to meet it should madness or wickedness ever force it upon us; that and our steady pursuit of effective disarmament, in which we shall not weary or waver. But we must be always on watch and in action in the cold war. Indeed, it may well be that, in the immediate future, the more Communist countries realise that they could not succeed in a global war, the more they may seek, by infiltration and subversion, by covertly—or, indeed, overtly—fomenting trouble or strife, to undermine the strength of the free world. In that, our Armed Forces have their part to play. The House heard with pride of the tribute which the Foreign Secretary, when he visited our troops in Malaya, paid to the morale and the success of our Forces there. In Malaya and in Kenya our troops could have no more difficult country to fight in.
But it is not only in action that these forces of ours can play their part. As the Minister of Defence said in another place, the British soldier is often Britain's best ambassador; and that goes for the sailor and the airman, too. It has been truly said that global war would be total in every sense. That is equally true of the cold war. The cold war, indeed, is like smog—it is all-pervading and it has to be fought and won in every sphere. It is not just a matter of military and physical security. In this twilight contest, the mind is as important as the body, and there must be faith and will. Doctors tell us that when a patient is sick or debilitated the will to resist is as important as any prescription. So it is in the fight against Communism. There must be economic security, as well as physical security, and we are trying to help in that all the time—for instance, with the Colombo Plan.
Even that, however, is not enough. There must be a burning faith in freedom. In this often bloodless battle, like Cromwell's Ironsides, men must know what they fight for and love what they know. And surely we of the Commonwealth of Nations, with whom liberty is the breath of life, and free institutions the core of our existence, can do much 1133 to kindle and fan this flame of faith in others. The struggle will be hard and long, but, given faith and perseverance, I do not believe that the ultimate issue is in doubt. In this new Elizabethan age, the deeds and the words of Sir Francis Drake are much in men's minds and on their lips. May I remind the House of some words of Drake's—the prayer he wrote for his sailors and soldiers on the eve of one of the earliest and most successful of combined operations? They were these:—O Lord God, when thou givest to thy servants to endeavour any great matter, grant to us also to know that it is not the beginning, but the continuing of the same until it be finished, which yieldeth the true glory.If we continue united in that spirit and resolution, we may indeed achieve the true glory of peace; and peace not only in our time but in the time of our children's children. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1955 (Cmd. 9391).—(Viscount Swinton.)
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am sure the whole House will be glad to acknowledge the competence, the lucidity and the restrained manner in which the noble Viscount, I ord Swinton, has moved the approval of this notable White Paper on Defence. It would be strange if in certain quarters it did not give rise to anxieties and perhaps some controversies, but I hope that on our side of the House we shall endeavour to meet the noble Viscount in much the spirit in which he has presented the White Paper to your Lordships for approval. I should like to deal shortly with some of the smaller points in the latter parts of the White Paper before I come to deal with what obviously the noble Viscount recognised as the most important part of his presentation. However we approach this White Paper, however rumours and bothers arise, the country can rest assured that the great working-class population of this country is, and will be at all times, concerned, and concerned to the last man, with the defence of their country and the maintenance by that defence of the principles of liberty, and that they are more than ever anxious to do so because they see how much conditions of freedom in this country go towards making their case for progress in the social changes they 1134 desire. Whatever we may say in approaching the question of general defence, I hope we shall always bear that in mind. Noble Lords in all parts of the House will be able to give testimony of how that worked out in the unity which existed during the last great war we had to go through together.
In regard to some of the technical and structural parts of the White Paper, I could not help feeling, as I listened to the debate in another place the other day, that a good many matters dealt with there would have been far better dealt with in detail on the Service Estimates than in the not always pleasant atmosphere of the debate on the White Paper. I understand that the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Air will answer any special points tomorrow, but I have not given him notice of the one or two points I am going to raise because I did not feel that they were of sufficient importance. For the last two years, I have asked that we might have a major inquiry into the general position of our armaments finance, into the manner in which it is allocated amongst the defence Services and into the extent to which any specific check needs to be exercised upon the rising costs of production of the very large programme we have to fulfil. It seems to me that so many changes are going to be made in the general structure of our defence as a result of the policy laid out in the White Paper that what I have asked for is all the more necessary.
It is true that we have some reason to be gratified that the net expenditure for all three Services will be less than last year, after taking into account the appropriations in aid we receive by the generosity of the United States of America, but the amount is comparatively small—between £50 million and £60 million—and the changes in the White Paper may lead to such big alterations that I wonder (I do not say this at all critically, but because I want to know) whether that financial adjustment has been made more or less upon the pressure naturally brought from time to time by the Treasury, or whether it is an actual net saving from the comprehensive longterm planning of the new defence policy to be followed. Without labouring the point, I should still like to press the plea which I have made for the last two years, that there ought to be a comprehensive 1135 inquiry. We have never had such a huge expenditure in so-called peace time before. We are expending something like £1,500 million a year on armaments. When I read some of the economic critics, and when I realise, as one who has been in office during a great war, how fundamental a factor in the defence programme is the general economic position, I feel it is essential that we should ask for such an inquiry to be made.
I should like now to say a few words on a question which we have discussed before in this House, and to which I dare-say some reference will be made in the debates on the Service Estimates—namely, what is the exact future rôle of the Forces? I recognise that there is a good deal more in the White Paper this year than there was last year. If I may say so, in the First Lord's Paper on the Navy Estimates the old Chiefs of the Admiralty and their successors, with whom I was so proud to be associated for so many years, have made a vastly improved statement on the situation compared with that made in their Paper last year.
There is still a great deal of rather curious thinking going on about the actual rôles to be performed in the new conditions in which we now have to plan our military defences. In reading yesterday's debate in another place, I observed that an old friend of mine in the Navy put forward a plea for the amalgamation of the Navy and Air Force into some kind of united maritime force. I must say that I am concerned about that idea getting too big a hold before we have properly considered the position. There is no doubt at all that the performance of Coastal Command under the operational directions of the Navy—it was taken over fairly well on in the last war—was a magnificent example of united action against the submarine menace and certain other characteristic operations. But at a time when we are in this great N.A.T.O. Alliance, for which I feel so much personal responsibility, having signed the military constitution of the Alliance in Washington in 1949, it is important to recognise that whatever is proposed about the organisation of the Services must have reference to the main strategic policy of our possible Allies.
In spite of some of the things which have been said from time to time by the 1136 various sections of the professional Services, I am bound to observe that, compared to the time when I was negotiating with Mr. Lou Johnson for the military signature to N.A.T.O., there has been a vast change. There was then an attempt to get rid of a good part of the United States Navy aviation section. At that time, the air force of the United States forces remained with the army. But today this vast and most powerful force in the world is strictly divided into the three main services of army, navy and air force. In the new and modern conditions of warfare, such as the noble Viscount has referred to, the navy aviation section is being used to such an extent in planning as to be a most important factor for us to take into account before we are led too quickly to say that the aircraft carrier is no use, that naval control of aircraft or protection of the sea lanes will be no use in future, and that all must go to the air force or for a combined operation. Were we to do that, I think we should have difficulty in fitting in with the considered findings of the actual planning and production at present of the American forces.
I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, about the change in the military values of interior and exterior communications. He will remember that I always had a particular fancy for the value of our exterior communications in the last war. I well recollect saying to Admiral Darlan in 1940 that if he would sail his fleet and use the positions of exterior communication we should probably come through much better. But in fact, in the judgment of a good many professional critics, the Navy still has a position in the future in mounting attack, as well as in exercising sea lane defence from those exterior positions. That is a matter that can perhaps be debated in more detail when we come to a discussion of the various professional Services.
The other thing I want to mention, in case I cannot be here for the Navy debate (and it may be possible for someone on the Government Front Bench to say a word or two about it) is this. It seems to me, as an old naval Minister, that we have been rather behind the Americans in relation to the development of the modern long-distance and long-endurance submarine. While I understand that a good many experiments have been going on—and I would pay tribute to those who have 1137 been engaged in them—the submarine of the future will be of such vast importance in any period of atomic warfare that I had hoped we might be making more rapid progress in that direction. Certainly the Americans seem to be well ahead of us in that respect.
I observed with great interest what the noble Viscount had to say about the partial reorganisation already started on our Army displacements, and especially what he said about the considerable reduction in the proposed establishment of our anti-aircraft forces. No doubt the professional advisers to the Government have studied the matter carefully. I hope it is all right. I do not offer any sort of wrecking criticism of it. The low-flying aircraft coming in certainly requires anti-aircraft reply to it, and the suggestion that we may not get any low-flying aircraft attack of that kind against our homeland is perhaps not wholly borne out by the prospects.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I did not make any such suggestion. On the contrary, I made it clear that, whereas obviously the great nuclear attack would come from high-flying aircraft, which the anti-aircraft guns could not reach, certainly there was the prospect of attack by relatively low-flying aircraft—for example, against airfields and special targets on which precision bombing was necessary. For that purpose I said the anti-aircraft guns would be retained.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I hope it will be made clear that the extent to which anti-aircraft is to be retained will be adequate to meet a threatened attack, because in these days attacks of that kind are possible from long distances, and the extent to which the Russian naval and naval aviation forces have been extended is such that an attack of that kind might well come from there. I am informed that there are 750,000 men in the Russian Navy, and there might be a supplementing of their attacks in that direction. General Gruenther says that the Continent is quite different. I do not think that is so. In any event, for all these purposes we in this island have to regard ourselves as being nearly a part of the Continent, since we are so near and so exposed in relation to the mass of the attack that can be brought against us.
The next point I want to mention is this. I am disappointed (I do not know 1138 whether it is a matter of particular secrecy, and no doubt it will be pointed out to me if I am wrong) that I cannot discover from the White Paper exactly what we are spending on research and development. One of the most important decisions that was ever taken was taken by the Government to which I belonged in 1945, when for the first time we got out of a naturally stoney-hearted Treasury a fixed amount for research and development. I have no doubt that the sum now being spent is considerable; from what I gather from the White Paper, I should estimate it at in the neighbourhood of £160 to £180 million. One of the things that ought to be brought within the review of the inquiry that I want set up, if and when such an inquiry is set up—and I should like to be told in the course of the debate—is the actual amount of research cost allocated, and how much is allocated to each of the Services concerned.
I should like to say a word or two about the remarkable speech on supply in another place the other day by Mr. Selwyn Lloyd. I do not want to comment in general upon the speech, but I do want to tell the noble and gallant Lord who is presiding over our Air Ministry at the moment, and who will speak later in the debate, first of all, that my colleagues and I, and especially my noble and learned Leader, are grateful to him for his courtesy in arranging for us to see in the Eastern counties the other day an actual demonstration of what, I suppose, is our most refined modern fighter, the Hunter. It was an instruction and education for us to talk to the pilots. I had heard se many criticisms of the plane, that I was a little anxious about it. The formation flying which we saw there, and the general confident tone of all the pilots to whom we talked as to the handling of the plane, gave us increased confidence.
However, my noble and learned Leader and I feel perhaps a little anxious about one assurance that was given in the other place by Mr. Selwyn Lloyd—I think the noble Marquess the Leader of the House will allow me to quote it as it was a ministerial statement. He said in regard to the Hunter:If war were to begin tomorrow the Hunter could go into action as an extremely effective fighter, comparing favourably with any other in general service in any other country.1139 That is a fine statement, if it is completely accurate. I think my noble and learned Leader—I have not consulted him—would say that that was not the impression that he received: that there is an immediate availability of the aircraft pending the elimination of particular faults, not so much in the structure of the aircraft, but as to the perfection which is required of the gun. However, I do not want to make any trouble about it. We were generally most encouraged by what we saw of the plane itself, but I am anxious that that should not go out to the country at large as a statement made by the Minister of Supply if it is not 100 per cent. justified.
We welcome what the noble Viscount said with regard to—as I, with him, prefer to call it—home defence. I am not quite sure why so much time has had to elapse before we could be specific in our statements with regard to the second and the third echelon of defence. I remember that in 1949 and 1950 we were already planning for the formation, as soon as we had the forces available, of mobile links to be used in the home defence of our country. It was certainly much more difficult to do it then, when we could hardly muster the elements of a brigade in this country after we had met our commitments overseas. But I am glad to know that the scheme will give this kind of aid in home defence in the future, and I will leave any further comment upon that to my noble friends who will be following me in the debate either to-day or to-morrow.
Your Lordships have been very patient with me, but I must detain you a little longer, because I want to turn to the general opening which the noble Viscount made and refer to the subject which is dominating the minds of the country at the present time—thermo-nuclear weapons, their effect upon us, their effect upon the world at large, their effect upon present international relations and the like. I do not think anybody can deny that this White Paper, in its complete frankness—I have seen it described in places as "ambiguous"—with regard to the intention concerning the use of thermo-nuclear power in the future, marks the beginning of a new epoch in arrangements for the defence of this country or, in conjunction with other countries, for warfare in any part of the 1140 world. It is also true to say that the Prime Minister, in his extraordinary speech in another place the other day, faced quite frankly what the dangers and the terrors of the use of that weapon would be.
It is rather terrifying for those of us who have loved for so long the thought that we in this country were on the side of the highest morality and greatness in these matters, to think that this new and most damaging weapon against humanity should have been used first by the Allies in 1945, in circumstances which I have always deplored. The decision was taken by a mere handful of people, without the knowledge of many responsible Ministers. And now the White Paper establishes us as the first to take the actual decision to use nuclear energy weapons in any future war. That must give us cause to think. Indeed, it is fair to say that the authors of the White Paper, in their presentation to Parliament, said—if I may paraphrase their words—that it was undoubtedly a great shock to human conscience to think that this was actually going to happen or might happen because of the policy here adopted.
I was struck by a phrase used the other day by my old friend Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett in another place, in advancing a general argument with which I did not agree, when he said, "The sanction of nuclear weapons has grown so tremendous." That was how he opened the argument he went on to make. That view has been steadily built up in the last nine or ten years. From time to time I have complained in this House that year after year has gone by without any reference to these matters by Ministers, and policy has been made largely by public statements by leading military officers. Strangely enough, there has been a fresh statement to-day by General Gruenther on the general wide use of the thermonuclear bomb. Of course, he very carefully said that that will be a matter for Ministers, for the political people, to decide. I do not know whether your Lordships listened last night, as I did, to the B.B.C. news. There is a slight difference in my recollection of what was said on the wireless last night and the presentation of it which I have seen in the Press to-day. The General said—and perhaps the noble Viscount will check 1141 my words—"Of course, any commander-in-chief of a force must always consider it his first duty to save himself and his forces, and therefore there may be circumstances in which I shall have to take the decision myself."
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
A general does not think of himself—he thinks of the army under his command. The same applies to all high-ranking officers.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I appreciate the noble and gallant Earl's interpretation of it and I am sure that he must be right. On the other hand, I can only give the House my impression of what I heard in the wireless broadcast. I think the noble Viscount will agree that it is essential that we should go into this business as most of us want to go into it, with the whole of the people behind us, and we should indicate quite clearly what is to be the general procedure in dealing with such a vital matter. Side by side with General Gruenther's statement in the newspapers this morning there is a statement made by Mr. John Dulles yesterday about nuclear weapons now becoming increasingly conventional. It is just as well to get rid of any nonsense there may he about the difference between conventional damage and non-conventional damage, because in the last war conventional damage was pretty horrible. Nevertheless, it all shows the trend of things.
May I quote front one of those fine provincial newspapers which often report things which are carefully edited in the London national Press? The East Anglian Doily Times this morning reports as follows:Mr. Dulles said it was known that certain types of atomic missiles were becoming conventional weapons within the U.S. armed services. These weapons were of relatively small dimensions, but with considerably more explosive power than was contained in conventional weapons. He imagined that if America became engaged"—I hope the Ministers are listening to this part especially; I am quoting Mr. Dulles now—in major military activity anywhere in the world those weapons would be used, because they were becoming more and more conventional and replacing what used to be called conventional weapons.1142 We have here a country full of people whom we have to persuade as to the rightness of the action we take. We have been gradually led up to this position by the constant pouring out of professional military leaders' opinions and at times decisions, instead of having that very important safeguard inherent in our democratic systems, both here and in the United States—the people's will expressed through their elected Ministers and statesmen in their representative Houses of Parliament.
Therefore, those of us who were responsible and who felt that the one great principle had to be observed must be excused if we say to the noble Viscount and his colleagues that we could not let our country remain without at least the same armaments as had been acquired by those who were our potential enemies. That meant that it was necessary for us to enter into the manufacture of nuclear weapons. We could not possibly contemplate leaving that to be done entirely by our American allies, because that would have interfered with our independence and freedom of action. Yet it is important, if we are to carry behind us the people, whose morale and unity must be there if the struggle comes, that we should say to them much earlier than we have done, and very clearly, what it is that we intend to do.
I have said that the White Paper is very frank, but there is one point which is not yet completely clear to me. I have read the speech of the Minister of Defence in another place in winding up the two days' debate there. He made a very good speech, from the Government's point of view, but I feel that there is to-day so much anxiety in the country about the whole situation that noble Lords on these Benches must support the efforts which are being made in another place to have the most urgent possible action taken. We concede absolutely the rightness of the case stated that we must have the weapons; we concede absolutely the fact that, unless we have those weapons, we may be put into a much more dangerous situation than would otherwise be the case. But, in face of the horrifying thing about which the noble Viscount spoke, we feel that it is essential that we should try on the highest possible level to get an agreement. That agreement, I concede, must be comprehensive and effective. The question arises, however, as to 1143 when the effort is to be made. On that, I confess that I am very anxious.
First, let me say this. Here in this House we can be far less partisan on these matters than sometimes one has to be when one is in a purely elected House. I have admired the devotion, the patience and the skill with which the Foreign Secretary has been seeking in various places in the world the removal of obstacles to the possible establishment of world peace. He has done very effective work and it would be churlish not to say so. The Prime Minister, when we made our suggestions to him in another place just over twelve months ago, certainly had peculiar ill-fortune in his attempt to get the high-level discussions on this matter that we desired should be held. It was unfortunate for him that he had that illness. I may say that I have not met a single member of my Party who has not rejoiced that the Prime Minister showed such courage in getting over the serious illness he had at that time—because it must have taken courage as well as the doctors' skill to get over such an attack as he had. But no one can blind himself to the fact that when the attempt to get high-level discussions was made the Prime Minister's approach to General Eisenhower was met by what amounted to a blank refusal. Nor can we hide from ourselves the fact that obviously in the Prime Minister's mind is the idea that he would have been able to hold straight conversations if necessary between himself and some leader from Moscow; but the reason which he gives for then delaying to do so—namely, because of certain actions of the Russians—I think, is not to be so much appreciated.
I think it is fundamental that we should have an immediate approach to get negotiations going in the world. I would refer your Lordships to the quotation made on Monday in another place by the Leader of the Opposition there from a leading article in The Times of that day. I thought The Times took a very big and broad view of the situation: that we should not be deterred, by fear either of gibes or of danger of misunderstanding by our Allies from establishing the leadership of this nation in pressing for such agreements as would bring us peace. If it is a question of the German position, 1144 let me say that I and my colleagues have supported the Government in this matter all the way through, and we would support their policy in regard to German rearmament. I think it was on November 26 that the debate on that question took place. I refer noble Lords to what was said in that debate, if I need a "character" in the matter. But when it conies to dealing with the urgent anxiety in the minds of our people about this question, it is imperative that the Government themselves should take action to hold conversations at the highest possible level at the earliest possible moment.
Now may I ask for a word of reply from the Government Bench later on in the debate on another matter which was raised by my Party Leader in another place, and that is the anxiety felt by the population—an anxiety which, by the way, has since then been accentuated by the Motion put on to the Order Paper in another place by women Members of Parliament—about the growing dangers to the world at large, and to human beings in particular, from the ever-increasing number of thermo-nuclear experiments and their effect upon both the composition of the world and the genetics of the human race. That is a very important matter. We asked in another place that there should be an attempt to try and hold up experiments of this kind on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and that there should be a conference of highest level scientists to give us more information about it and see what could be done to avoid these dangers. I did not feel quite so complimentary towards the Foreign Secretary regarding his answer to that question as I have felt regarding many other of his actions in the last three and a half years. I do not see why that question should not be taken up. Again, it is significant that in The Times this morning there appears a leading article supporting the request of Mr. Attlee for a conference and ending in these words:An investigation in some form must be urgently made, for the anxiety itself is urgent.My Lords, I apologise once again for keeping your attention so long. In conclusion, I would only say that it is obvious that if we are going to get very far in an adjustment of these international matters, it is vital that the leaders and the people of this country, as well as of other countries concerned, should take a more 1145 spiritual and brotherly view of the whole, situation. In all the countries concerned there is badly needed a spiritual revival, and perhaps in none more so than in the countries behind the Iron Curtain, where it is so difficult for those who preach the gospel of peace to be effectively heard. But the more I have read articles on this matter in the last two years and the more I have read of the divisions of opinion, the more I have marvelled that the great benefits of science which are offered to us should become now a threat of the greatest danger to humanity. The line which has been taken by Moscow and which has largely imposed itself upon other statesmen reminds me of a kind of poker game, in which gradually the smaller States and countries are ignored and it comes down to the final holders of the trump cards. The jackpot, bound to come to somebody when the bluff is called, is death and destruction if you lose, and possibly death and destruction if you win. It is time the peoples of the nations concerned realised that there is something more than materialistic science in the world, and that ultimately, unless they can deal with their fellow men upon some foundation of faith which will lead them to higher things, we are headed straight for destruction.
§ 3.53 p.m.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
My Lords, I do not rise to speak on the general subject of defence, for there are many in this House who can do so with far greater authority and knowledge than I can claim. I propose to confine myself to one aspect of the Defence White Paper—namely, the decision of the Government to make hydrogen bombs. I think that decision raises moral and ethical questions of the first importance. Only a day or two ago The Times, in a leading article, described this as "a moral crisis," for undoubtedly there is in this matter a tremendous crisis. This decision may easily have been the most important decision ever taken in the history of this nation: the future survival of the nation may depend upon it.
Some little time ago, after the first shock of the atomic bombs had passed away, there was some tendency to minimise the damage which could be done by these nuclear weapons; but in the case of the hydrogen bomb there have been no signs of this tendency. The White 1146 Paper has, I think, been advisedly but brutally frank. It states that the use of these bombs would cause destruction, both human and material, on an unprecedented scale. Your Lordships may have seen, a few clays ago, a diagram in the Manchester Guardian illustrating the extent of the destruction if a bomb should be dropped on the City of Liverpool. Not only would it completely destroy that city, but if there were a light westerly wind behind it its radioactivity would kill everyone who had not taken precautions—I stress that proviso—in a path between Liverpool and the North Sea. That is a wide area, including great cities like Manchester, Leeds, Bradford and Halifax. The mind is unable to grasp the full horror of the ruin which would be caused by the use of these appalling weapons; and it is still more difficult for us to realise that, within three or four years, these weapons may be used against this country, bringing complete ruin to our cities and to our countryside.
The first duty of a Government must therefore be to devise means by which its people can be saved from this horrible fate. At one time, a few years ago, the solution seemed to be comparatively simple—namely, that an international agency should be set up which would control the use of nuclear weapons and would gradually obtain possession of these weapons; and, if necessary, would use them against an aggressive Power. At one time that solution seemed fairly simple. I remember advocating it on at least two occasions in this House, when I drew your Lordships' attention to the dangers which would come from the atomic bomb; and I know that the noble Viscount opposite has on more than one occasion brought this matter before the House. To-day, however, that solution is no longer possible. It is not only America which possesses these bombs and has the secret of their making. Other nations also possess them, and there are a sufficient number of bombs in existence to-day to make it easy to conceal them. In the present state of tension no nation would trust the other nations to have destroyed all their bombs, however strong the pact might be to that effect. Russia certainly would not trust the United States or Great Britain; the United States and Great Britain would not trust Russia, and China would trust neither Russia nor the Allies. That policy has 1147 therefore, most unhappily, to be abandoned.
But if this kind of control is no longer practicable, it is more important than ever that there should be some protection against the use of these bombs. From every direction there comes the urgent demand that the use of these bombs should be prohibited. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, did not exaggerate in the least when he said that throughout the whole country there is widespread anxiety about this problem. Like most of your Lordships, I receive almost daily resolutions and letters, passionate in their intensity, calling for some action. When an Englishman is deeply stirred he will find some relief of his anxiety in passing resolutions, by writing to Members of Parliament and by blaming the Church because it has not done something.
I hate and detest as much as any of my correspondents the making of these hateful weapons: I would to God they had never been invented! If the world is destroyed by their use it would be the defeat of the purpose for which God made it, as a home in which men of all nations and races might live together in fellowship. But it is very difficult to bring most of those who make these protests to the realisation that the decision as to whether or not the bombs are used does not rest with this nation alone. The decision will rest with those who will be quite uninfluenced by protests and petitions. If sermons were preached from every pulpit during the rest of the year against the manufacture and use of these bombs, and if Members in every constituency were given a mandate to vote for the abolition of the use of nuclear weapons, the Communist States would continue on their chosen path, regardless of remonstrances and reckless of human life.
The decision whether these bombs shall be used, as I say, will not rest on this country alone. There are many who recognise this but who yet go on to say that, whatever other countries do, our duty is plain—namely, to have nothing whatever to do with something regarded as inherently evil. They ask that the State should set an example to the world; that it should destroy any stock of weapons it may possess and pledge itself not to make them. In support of this view two 1148 arguments are advanced, one of expediency, the other of principle. The argument of expediency is that if the nation abandoned these weapons it would remain unharmed as a neutral. I cannot seriously accept this argument. We should be far more likely to be the first victims of war, destroyed by Russia or occupied by the United States of America in case their enemy should seek to use this island as a base for their attack. And, in any case, without these weapons the United Kingdom would soon become a defenceless satellite of one of those two great Powers, fearful of incurring the displeasure of either.
The other reason advanced for refusing to make these weapons is much stronger: that they are so horrible, and so contrary to all that is right and best in man, that it would be better for the nation to suffer anything rather than make them; that it would be better for the nation to die, rather than to save itself by wholesale destruction of its enemies. I will not hide from your Lordships that I feel tremendously the force of this appeal. It is an argument which must appeal to every Christian and make an agonising challenge to conscience. But I am sure that no democratic Government could agree to this demand unless it was certain that it voiced the deliberate conviction of the great majority of those it represented. The strongest pacifist could not claim that this is the case to-day; and even if the Government consisted of pacifists it would not be entitled to leave the nation defenceless unless the whole nation had so demanded.
Quite apart from the State, this is a challenge to the individual conscience, and I am bound to ask myself: which course is the more likely to prevent the use of the bomb—to make the bomb or to refuse to make it? I am greatly influenced by the fact that the Conference of Commonwealth Ministers, practically everybody of responsibility in this country, on both sides of the other House, and practically all the leaders and statesmen of our country, are agreed in saying that at this moment, whatever may be the position in the future, the hydrogen bomb is a deterrent to war, and that our possession of it, hateful as it is, may prevent that bomb from ever being used. Our statesmen, and others who take this position, argue that the mere fact that a peace-loving nation like our own 1149 possesses these bombs may prevent the bomb from ever being used for fear of the retaliation which would follow. I am greatly impressed by this argument. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, referred to it as the one hope of sanity in this troubled world. It is possible that this hope may prove tragically wrong; but certainly at the moment the possession of the bomb seems to be the one possibility of preserving peace in the years immediately ahead. If so, it would be madness to close the door to this possibility.
Yet fear by itself is a frail and temporary deterrent. It will not long restrain a nation obsessed with hatred and burning for revenge. The chief justification for making the bombs must be that they will provide a shield beneath which the work of peace-making can be continued. The breathing space afforded by the Allies' present superiority in this weapon must be used to the full for peace-making. A desperate and continuous effort must be made to create an atmosphere in which peace will be lasting. I hope that our leaders and statesmen will be prepared to take great risks in this matter, and that, in the search for ways which lead to peace, they will be patient under rebuffs and misunderstandings. I hope that the Foreign Secretary, who has recently done so much for the peace of the world, will use his wisdom and skill in every effort to reach a peaceable understanding with the Soviet nations. Almost any road is worth exploring if it leads to peace. Almost any risk is worth taking if it will help to disperse suspicion and feat which lead to war. The making of the bomb, therefore, is not an end in itself, so far as this country is concerned, but a means to win time for peace-making. This appears to be its chief justification. As part of this peace-making the nations must be made fully aware of the destructiveness of this weapon. The more fully the nations understand the ghastly nature of these weapons, and the horror and great darkness which would fall over the earth if they were ever used upon it, the stronger will be the determination of the nations to see that they are never used.
In this country, through the White Paper, the speech of the Prime Minister and in other ways, people are generally aware of the ruin which these bombs would bring, though many still hold optimistically to the view that "It can 1150 never happen in our country or in our time." But if people in this country know about the results which would follow the use of the bomb, I wonder whether the same is true of those living behind the Iron Curtain. No doubt they are told that they possess the bomb with which they can destroy other nations, but I wonder whether they realise what it would mean if the bomb were used upon their own country. Far better that the peoples of the world should feel the menace of fear, rather than continue eating and drinking, as in the days of Noah, until swept away by the flood. It is doubtful whether the gruesome possibilities of the bomb have penetrated to those who are living on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
It ought to be possible—I put it no stronger—for men of science of all nations to draw up a simple statement of the ruin which nuclear warfare would bring to the world. That is a proposal, I understand, which has been made by the Leader of the Opposition. But it would be vital that such a statement should be translated into every language, and, somehow or other, circulated to every land. If this proves impossible however; if such an agreed statement cannot be drawn up; if the Communist Powers refuse to allow it to be circulated; then the democracies, by propaganda, by the wireless, by every possible means, should enlighten the people of the world of the destruction which will fall upon them if their rulers use these bombs. Side by side with this, there must be perpetual search for peace and repeated overtures of good will. Fear and good will combined will help to build up a horror of war and a passionate desire for peace throughout the world. Until that day comes, our nation must stand armed, not solely for the preservation of our own freedom, or for our own safety, but in the hope that its resolution and its peace-making may deter any nation from the wickedness of using these weapons of awful destruction.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD
My Lords, the most reverend Primate never fails to impress the House, but I think that to-day he has made the most impressive speech that we have ever heard from him. So far as I myself am concerned, I will not attempt to lessen 1151 its effect by making any comment upon it, except to say that it exactly expresses my own views and, I very much hope, the views of a great many noble Lords. I look at the list of speakers and I see that it is very long. It contains the names of a great many noble Lords who are well entitled to take part in this debate. I am therefore going to try to be very short and to restrict myself to a single question—a very urgent question, and a question which I do not think has found sufficient attention in the White Paper. It is this. We are spending £1,500 million upon the three Defence Services; we are spending, so far as I can make out, between £600 million and £700 million upon research, production and development. The question which I ask is this: are we likely, in present conditions, and in a Welfare State with no unemployment, to obtain in, say, five years' time, the number of skilled men who will be able to make effective use of these terrific inventions and discoveries?
I look at the White Papers of the three Departments, I follow the debates in another place, and I find that each Minister in turn points to the shortage of trained skilled men. It is not sufficient to say that we have 788,000 men and women in the three Services. What matters is the highly trained, skilled men who will be able to work these technical Services in the future. If we look at the recruiting figures—I am referring to the figures for the Regular Services—we find that year by year they are falling. I have the figures here. Taking the three Services together they have fallen from 99,500 in 1951 to 73,200 estimated for this year. But that is not the whole story, because, of these long-service recruits, many—the majority I am told—are found to be unsuitable for highly-skilled training during their service.
Now spokesmen of each of the Service Departments have called attention to this shortage. The First Lord of the Admiralty could not have spoken more seriously about it. The Secretary of State for War has drawn attention to the fact that in some of the highly-skilled trades in the Army no less than 70 per cent. of the personnel are short-service National Service men, who will fade out of the Services in a few months or, at most, in a year or two's time. In the Air Force we are told that in the radio engineering trade group—I suppose one of the most 1152 essential trade groups in the Air Force of the future—the manpower is far below the strength it ought to be. Even more striking than the observations in the White Paper, there is the evidence given to the Select Committee on Expenditure in another place by the Air Officer Commanding Technical Training. This is what he said.Regular airmen with enough ability and high enough educational standard will not come along; we just cannot get them".He went on to say, after pointing out that with the National Service men it is possible to get only a comparatively few weeks of skilled service out of them when they have done their various types of training:It would be cheaper to give them £1,500 a year, if we could keep them.I do not think I need elaborate this state of affairs. I will only say that unless, somehow or other, in the years immediately before us we can get many more skilled men into the three Services than we are getting now, a great deal of this immense programme of machines and development, wireless and so on, will be wasted.
How are we to deal with the situation? First of all, we ought, without further delay, to remove the more glaring disabilities that fall upon Service personnel as compared with civil personnel. I could give noble Lords many examples of what is in my mind, but I take only one: I take the case of educational facilities for Service personnel to which I alluded a year ago and upon which I shall ask two or three questions this evening. I do not think I need argue it at great length. There is the fact that in modern conditions Service families are constantly moved from place to place. That is particularly the case with the Air Force, where families are moved two, three and four times in a year. In view of that, I ventured to suggest to the House last year that the Government, as good employers, should provide facilities in boarding schools for cases of this kind. I pointed further to the fact that this is no revolutionary proposal, because it is already in operation in the civil departments. I quoted the case of the overseas departments—for instance, in Branch A of the Foreign Service, £150 a year is given for each child in a boarding school. I want to ask the Secretary of State for Air, who 1153 I understand is to reply to this part of the debate, why is this, differentiation made against the Service Departments? If it is possible to provide these grants for the families of the personnel of the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office and the Board of Trade, why is it not possible to give them to Service families? From letters I have received in the last year, I know how bitterly this question is felt by many Service families in all three Services.
Last year, when I raised the question (perhaps I was over-optimistic), I thought that I had impressed the Secretary of State for Air; I thought that a great many noble Lords agreed with my point of view and, that being so, I thought that something would have been done to meet this grievance long ago. Yet what is the position? So far as I can understand the question has been going backwards and forwards between one Department and another; it has been considered by an inter-departmental committee; there has been every kind of idea expressed about it. But nothing whatever has been done. I must say that unless glaring grievances of this kind are removed, and without delay, we cannot possibly hope to attract to the three Services the kind of men who are absolutely essential in this chapter of nuclear warfare, with all its demands upon the best scientific and technical brains of the country. That is the first proposal that once more I venture to make to the House.
The second is of a rather wider kind. I believe that even if such grievances are removed, there will still be the big new problem of how we are to get the scientists and technicians, in competition with industry, in the years to come. Hitherto we have rather avoided this question. We have looked the other way and we have hoped that this or that palliative, by putting the pay up a little bit or making some other concession of some kind to this or that Service, would do what we want. I do not believe that that will be the case. I believe that this is a new problem of tremendous complexity, which should not be dealt with by some small departmental committee, or by this or that Service Minister. I believe that it is essentially a question that the Minister of Defence himself should regard as one of the key issues of the future, and that here and now he should make the widest possible 1154 inquiry and estimate of what is likely to happen, say, in the next five years.
In the old days it was the kind of question that would have been dealt with by the Committee of Imperial Defence, with the Prime Minister in the chair and the Ministers of the various Departments concerned attending tie inquiry. I understand that that kind of machinery is now obsolete. That being so, I imagine that the proper kind of inquiry should be an inquiry by the Minister of Defence himself calling into his counsels representatives of industry, of science and of the universities. To-day I do not attempt to dogmatise upon the form that the inquiry should take. By nature I am always somewhat loath to set up a new Committee, and I leave it to the Minister of Defence to choose his own methods. What I venture to say to him to-day is that unless this question is faced immediately, this great programme contemplated in the White Paper will be either, at the worst, frustrated or, at the best, delayed. I have now made the points I wish to make. I hope that I have not taken up too much of the time of the House. I hope also that more attention will be paid to what I have said about educational facilities in the three Service Departments than apparently has been paid to the subject in the last twelve months.
§ 4.28 p.m.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
My Lords, as this is the first time on which I have had the honour of addressing your Lordships' House I crave the indulgence which I understand you give on such an occasion. The reason I have asked to speak in this debate is that it is only two months ago to-day since I ceased active duty after twenty-odd years in the Royal Air Force, having fallen foul of the doctors. I welcome this White Paper, since it is the first time in this century that a British Government have paid any attention in peace time to the old military maxim that offence is the best form of defence. We all know that unless we have 100 per cent. protection in air defence—and that is something which Fighter Command cannot guarantee—we must find some other way of preventing this hideous weapon from coming in our direction. There is no doubt that the nuclear bomb has prevented the vastly superior Communist ground forces in the West from overwhelming us long ago, and with any 1155 luck it will continue to do so. To state that we will not use this bomb unless it is used against us is surely to invite an attack by those greater forces, which would soon sweep to the north coast of France and the Atlantic. And we know what that means.
I am told that a maiden speech should be short, somewhat like a first solo flight in an aircraft—one circuit and a landing only—and I intend to be short by referring to only one paragraph in the White Paper, paragraph 46 on page 11, which mentions, all too briefly, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. In December last year the R.Aux.A.F. were told that squadrons would more than likely be reduced to flights, and that pilots, all those suitable, would be affiliated to Regular fighter squadrons at some other station where they would carry out training on the latest type of fighter, since the Auxiliary squadrons themselves could not be equipped with the latest types for some time to come, and also because—not as was said at the time by certain sections of the Press, that the pilots were unable to fly the aircraft, which I think was a gross malignment of confident and serious men—the actual number of hours which those pilots can put in over the year does not reach anything like the minimum required to reach the standard of training which our fighter pilots must have to-day.
The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, had a Motion down to debate the subject next week, but in view of a statement which has since been made by the Air Ministry he has withdrawn his Motion. That is why I venture to speak about it to-day. It has now been decided that the Auxiliary squadrons should be kept up to their full establishment of fighter aircraft; that they will keep their present Meteors and Vampires, which are unable to compete with the high-flying bomber but which the Air Ministry state could be used against low-level attacks. Further, their suitably qualified junior pilots under twenty-five years of age will, as was suggested in the first place, be affiliated to some neighbouring fighter squadron to carry out practice training on Hunters and any other future aircraft that may arrive.
Although I was a Regular officer, during the years 1941 and 1942 I had the honour for eighteen months to command No. 613 City of Manchester Squadron, 1156 Royal Auxiliary Air Force, and a finer body of officers and men I should not, and could not, wish to meet. The squadron had a wonderful team spirit which had been built up over the years, since, unlike Regular squadrons, the officers and men had remained together over a long period, which, as we all know, is not possible in the Regular squadrons owing to necessary postings. If certain pilots of these squadrons are to be affiliated to fighter squadrons, this can only mean that in war time those Auxiliary squadrons will be deprived of those pilots automatically and straight away. That cannot be good for the morale of the Auxiliary squadron, nor do I think it will have anything but an adverse effect on recruiting. These squadrons amply proved their worth during the Battle of Britain and afterwards, and I feel that they deserve better treatment than they are getting.
I do not understand how affiliation with the fighter squadrons is going to work, because Regular R.A.F. stations work on a week-time basis, from Monday to Saturday, whereas Auxiliary squadrons, of necessity, work at week-ends only, because the pilots and ground crews have to be back at their normal civilian jobs on Monday morning. Does this mean that Fighter Command is going over to weekend flying? If it does not, then it obviously means that some members of the station will have to be there at weekends, and this cannot, in the long run, do other than cause friction between the two, which is the last thing that is wanted. Furthermore, it is intended that these junior pilots should go to these fighter squadrons only every other week-end. That might be all right if we could guarantee the weather week-end in and week-end out; but we all know what the weather is like in this country. Pilots will not be able to go if they are at all frightened that they may not get back to their own station on the Sunday night, in order to be at the office on Monday morning. This will inevitably cut down even further this small amount of training. Will the Auxiliary squadrons be assessed—as I am afraid they are going to be; and maybe this is the point—on the standard that these young pilots achieve, with an idea in the end of abolishing them? They are squadrons with a wonderful spirit, and in my view the last thing that this country can afford to do is to dispense with that spirit.
1157 Having talked to many officers on the subject, I should like to suggest to your Lordships three rôles alternative to that already suggested. The first is that they should become all-weather squadrons equipped with Meteor 11s or Meteor 14s; and, surely, it would be a fairly easy step eventually to the Javelin. If it is not possible to obtain navigation radar operators from Auxiliary squadron sources, there must be many ex-National Service navigation radar operators who would be willing to be absorbed into the Auxiliary Air Force.
My second suggestion I make from personal experience, in that last year I spent six months as land/air warfare officer or Air Adviser to the Army, Western Command. One of my duties was to lay on air co-operation with the Army in its week-end exercises, in the case of Territorials, or weekday exercises, in the case of Regulars, and for their summer camps. This was virtually impossible, inasmuch as there is no Tactical Air Force in this country, the Second Tactical Air Force being in Germany. Fighter Command agreed, albeit grudgingly, to send an occasional flight of aircraft to do ground attacks on troops on the ground, but I would say that, in the main, apart from being a good show for the Army troops to watch, it was of no real training value whatsoever.
I should, therefore, like to recommend, as my second point, that the Air Minister should consider using certain Auxiliary squadrons, those which are strategically best placed, in the Tactical Air Force rôle—or Army co-operation, as we used to call it. There is a precedent for this. Although most people consider that Auxiliary squadrons pre-war were all fighter squadrons, that was not so; there was, in fact, one Army Co-operation Auxiliary squadron. Therefore, this is no new suggestion. Furthermore, it gives the lie to the suggestion that the Auxiliary Air Force would fail to get any more recruits if the fighter rôle were removed from it—indeed, I believe that the Army co-operation squadron was more sought after than the fighter squadrons. After all, some of these Auxiliary pilots like to remain there until their flying days are over, and not be cut short too early, as they are if they are in the fighter rôle, where, as we know, twenty-five and above is considered old.
1158 My third and last suggestion is this. I understand that a new aircraft, the Sea-mew, is being given to Coastal Command for inshore reconnaissance for detecting enemy submarines near our own coasts. I suggest that certain Auxiliary squadrons might be used for this rôle. They would at least be literally defending their own shores. Whilst on the subject of Coastal Command (this is my last point, and I will come in to land, I hope, not too bumpily—and it is a point which has already been mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough), there is a strong rumour going round the Air Force to-day that Coastal Command is shortly to be taken over in toto by the Royal Navy. I will not go into the rights or wrongs of that, but I am only saying that that rumour is causing great uneasiness, particularly among the personnel of Coastal Command. It is affecting their morale in the same way that the morale of the Auxiliary squadrons is being affected at the moment by the phase of uncertainty through which they are going. I am sure there is absolutely nothing in this rumour, and I would suggest to the Air Minister that, in order to prevent further harm being done, this rumour be categorically denied as soon as it is humanly possible.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I feel that I must on your behalf congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, on his maiden speech. It was packed full of knowledge and was temperately and clearly put. It was also full of suggestions to overcome the difficulties that he mentioned, and I hope your Lordships will have many opportunities of hearing him in your Lordships' House, especially on questions of defence. The fact that he has spoken, and that it has fallen to me to thank him, on behalf of the House, for his speech, brings back many memories to me. It was only fifteen years ago that he, a skilled pilot, was deputed by the Air Ministry to take me round the headquarters of the air forces of the French and our own in France. I went out about the 4th or 5th April. That was a momentous time in 1940. We visited many stations, and especially the French. I will not bore your Lordships with details of all those experiences.
The following night I was dining with the Commander-in-Chief when a message came in to say that Lubeck had been 1159 visited in a reconnaissance by the Air Force on the return from one of those useless errands of dropping leaflets all over Germany. At Lubeck they saw all the roads leading into the town lit up, and every lorry and car had its headlights on. The quays were lit up, and the ships were also lit up. There was a scene of intense military activity, as if troops were moving overseas from Lubeck. They told me that at dinner, and also that it had been reported to London. I remember wondering how many minutes it would be before the message came through. All I can tell your Lordships is that those troops and vehicles were not bombed, nor was any attempt made to bomb them. This was the beginning of the invasion of Norway. I hope that that sort of thing will not occur in the future with nuclear weapons. I know the seriousness of the position and the difficulties, but are we going to wait, next time, until the enemy have dropped the bomb and destroyed us, or are we going to know that, when they do that sort of thing, we can hit them without sending long telegrams and getting no answers? I beg your Lordships to remember the danger of that sort of thing, particularly now, with the nuclear bomb in existence.
There was another point in the noble Earl's speech which interested me enormously, and that was the fact that, not long ago, on a Motion moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, there was a debate in your Lordships' House on the reform of this House. If I remember rightly—and I do not want to misinterpret him—the noble Marquess the Leader of the House said something to the effect that one of the great advantages of the hereditary system was that it brought young men in the House, and that they were of great use in running its business. If that is a correct interpretation of what the noble Marquess said, may I add that these debates ought to be by the young men and not by men of my age. They know subjects that we do not understand, and I believe that to have had the contribution of the noble Earl who has just spoken is a tremendous advantage. I felt that his speech was full of knowledge.
My next point is a little different, but it concerns a subject which I consider of the utmost importance. The whole theme of the noble Earl's speech was on the 1160 Auxiliary Air Force squadrons. I remember that in 1919 (again I hope that I shall not weary your Lordships with these old stories) Mr. Winston Churchill, as he then was, who was Secretary of State for Air, came to see me with regard to the Paper we were preparing to show how the Air Force was to be formed. It was made into a Cabinet Paper. We were debating it on a hot summer's day. Mr. Winston Churchill was there, and also his predecessor as Secretary of State for Air. We were discussing the question of forming the six territorial squadrons. They could not keep that name, because it would have confused them with the Army. I was very keen indeed that they should be formed. They were being formed at the same time as the Royal Air Force; they were almost of the same seniority. One of the reasons why I did not affiliate them to any squadron was that they were just as much a separate squadron as the squadrons in the Regular forces. I was very keen to connect the Regular Air Force with the citizens of this country, so that in time every family would have had one or more men in the Auxiliary Air Force. Another reason for the Auxiliary Air Force was that I thought it would be invaluable. After what the noble Earl has told your Lordships, it requires no words from me to make you realise the spirit those squadrons had as operational squadrons in the last war. At the end of last year, there was a certain amount of misapprehension, and the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Air, has gone a long way in trying to put that right. I hope the suggestions of the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, who knows much more about this subject than I do, will be considered.
Now may I turn for a moment to the White Paper? I should like to congratulate the Government on the White Paper. It is, by a long way, the best White Paper I have seen since the war. It discloses some facts very clearly. I will not go through all of it—others can do that much more competently than I can—but there are two points that I wish to make about it, both, in my opinion, important. The first thing I must point out is that the Government have stated in no uncertain terms that the nuclear bomb, which everybody knew would have to be used in the next major war, will be used if it is forced upon them.
1161 In the White Paper the Government talk about the urgency and priority of many points. They talk about the importance of the Hunter type of fighter, the Swift, the Javelin, the Jaguar and other machines. I cannot give all the names correctly, but the Paper refers to all those new delta-wing type of fighter. One of the Papers on aircraft production issued about the same time stated what a wonderful machine the Hunter was; that it could take on anything that could attack it; that it was going to be one of the finest in the world. We also hear a great deal, in the White Papers, in the Press and in statements made, about guided missiles. One could almost feel that we were safe; that the guided missile was going to replace the antiaircraft guns altogether. It looked as if we were well on the road to getting an effective defence. The most important sentence in the White Paper so far as I am concerned, however, is the one to the effect that the Valiant type of bomber, a machine in which I flew over two and a half years ago, must have priority. I hope that all the equipment for that machine is available. How many of those squadrons are formed in the Air Force to-day? It is no good having the atomic or hydrogen bomb if it cannot be delivered.
General Gruenther, in his speech yesterday on the Continent, said that of 50 per cent. importance was the means to carry that bomb. Have we got that? Have we no other medium bomber, as it was called a year or so ago? When will the Valiant and the Vulcan come? Have we any others? The general feeling about that Paper, good as it is, is that it leaves the public with the impression that we have a defence equal to that which we had in the days of the Spitfire, the Hurricane, the anti-aircraft guns and radar in the Battle of Britain. I agree that we won the Battle of Britain. It added enormous prestige to this Empire and saved it. But I want to say to your Lordships something which cannot be contradicted by anybody, either in this House or anywhere else: that offence to-day is a thousand times more important, and defence a hundred times less important, than it was at the time of the Battle of Britain. Due to supersonic speeds and the unlimited space in the air, offence can come through every 1162 time. It does not require a great many machines to deposit the nuclear bomb.
I ask the Ministry of Defence to give every support to the Secretary of State for Air who I know is keen on doing his utmost to press those machines forward. I know that he wants them. No man knows better that they are absolutely vital. Other Air Force officers think that the White Paper rather implies that defence is now very good. I desire only to say that offence will be more than ever imperative now. The noble Earl, Lord Gosford, and the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench, both mentioned Coastal Command. We built the Air Force for unity. The noble Viscount talked about amalgamating the Royal Air Force again. Would it not be as well to amalgamate the two air forces as they were and as it was laid down by Parliament they should be amalgamated? They were not split up until ten years after I left them. Should that not be done? I should not have raised this question if the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, had not raised it, but since the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, mentioned it, I felt that I had to refer to it, too. I hope that the Secretary of State who will reply for the Government at the end of this debate will be able to assure the House that this question will not be raised again after all the inquiries we have had and after the wonderful work that the Air Force did in the last war.
§ 4.57 p.m.
My Lords, this White Paper on Defence is the most complete and frank document that has ever been placed before the country. I greatly welcomed the statement of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough—who, I am sorry, cannot be in his place at the moment—that he was sure that all classes in the country were behind Her Majesty's Government in the defence of these islands, but I certainly cannot support him in regard to his request for a financial committee to go into the question of the distribution of finances to the three Services. Surely that is already covered through the Ministry of Defence. Therefore, I would say that such a committee is completely unnecessary.
1163 I should like to offer my congratulations to Her Majesty's Government upon taking the people into their confidence and making clear above all doubt the appalling situation in which the free world stands to-day. We have seen from the White Paper that the Soviet Union and her Eastern European satellites have some 6 million men under arms, backed by enormous reserves. I would say that anyone who thinks that this massive force, far superior in numbers to ourselves and our Allies, can be countered except by the use of nuclear weapons is living in a fool's paradise. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, complains that the atomic bomb was dropped in the last war on the advice and knowledge of only a small group. Surely, as a Minister of the Crown, he should have had that knowledge, and, of course, he had a collective responsibility. I thoroughly agree with the appreciation by Her Majesty's Government that Europe cannot be protected from invasion and occupation unless the full weight of our nuclear power is used immediately aggression takes place, whether this aggression is by conventional or by nuclear weapons. In spite of what has been said in some quarters, surely the use of these nuclear weapons is preferable to an attitude of subservience to militant Communism, with national and individual humiliation.
I was delighted to see from the White Paper that the Royal Navy has at last been given an indication of its rôle in nuclear warfare. Not only has its rôle been clearly defined, but care has also been taken to point out that the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force are really complementary to one another. From time to time arguments are advanced that the Navy should take over Coastal Command, or that the Navy should have only small ships, and that aircraft carriers are useless, and so on. The noble Earl, Lord Gosford, has voiced a fear that the Admiralty may shortly take over Coastal Command. I do not think amalgamation will take that form. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has also advanced the theory that the Air Force should take over the air force side of the Navy. But I do not think fusion will come in that form either. I suggest to your Lordships that there is a growing 1164 realisation amongst many Naval officers and Air Force officers that the functions of the two Services are becoming so bound up together that a fusion may be necessary, and perhaps desirable, some time in the future. I do not think anyone would suggest that such a fusion should take place straight away. I think it may well come by the process of evolution.
We are told in the White Paper that the manned bomber may eventually be supplemented by the ballistic rocket, and possibly manned fighters by guided missiles. We shall certainly require the guided missile at sea, and probably the light bomber as well. I think I am correct in saying that in the near future air-to-air ballistic rocket weapons are to be maintained and serviced by the Royal Navy at the Gunnery School at Whale Island. I mention this matter to show that fusion of the two Services is already taking place in minor ways, and I feel sure will continue as time goes on. But the fact remains that the long and, particularly, the short sea routes cannot be protected except by a combination of naval and air power. I am sure that the closer the two Services come together the more efficient and effective will be the protection of our trade routes, which in the long run must be the ultimate objective of our air-sea forces.
I am sure the Navy will take comfort from the very clear statement by the First Lord of the Admiralty, when opening the debate on the Naval Estimates in another place, on the future of the Navy. It is perfectly clear that warships will be just as necessary in the future as they are to-day, although their tactical conception may be entirely different. I would say that the recent manoeuvres in the Mediterranean have shown quite clearly that this is true. I certainly do not wish to enter into the arguments for and against aircraft carriers, except to point out the one outstanding fact, that in the carrier we have a movable aerodrome which may prove of inestimable value if our shore-based aerodromes have been destroyed. We must not forget that after a spate of nuclear warfare we may find ourselves in a state which I think is commonly called "broken back" warfare, when conventional weapons may well be used effectively to maintain our supplies across the seas. I suggest that we must never in any circumstances neglect our conven 1165 tional weapons, and even the aircraft carriers, vulnerable as they may be, will be necessary for some years to come.
The country owes a great debt of gratitude to Her Majesty's Government for producing such a realistic document as this White Paper, which has shirked nothing and which explains in simple language the whole ghastly state into which the free world has drifted. I support wholeheartedly the policy contained in it, with perhaps one reservation: I doubt whether time is wholly on our side, and I think we should proceed ahead with the utmost speed in the production of our new weapons, and at the same time try and create the atmosphere which may lead to peace.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ LORD SHERWOOD
My Lords, I should like to congratulate not only the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, but also ourselves in this House on the fact that he has now joined us. The noble Earl has a most distinguished record and is held in high esteem in the Royal Air Force; he is a great asset to your Lordships' House. I shall refer to him later in regard to some of the points raised in connection with the Auxiliary Air Force, because I see that we have a great deal in common on that very important subject.
Many of us who have taken part in defence debates in another place know full well the difficulty which is felt by the Opposition, in that, unlike those who sit on the Government Benches, who have at their command all the so-called knowledge of what is happening in other countries, we in Opposition do not know; and therefore our estimates of what the strength of our enemy may be cannot be as accurate as theirs. I remember well a defence debate in another place during the course of which I was strongly rebuked for naming Germany and Italy as the enemies against whom we had to protect and to arm ourselves. The Government were then most friendly with the Italian Government and I was rebuked for saying that they were our enemies; well, I was not so far wrong. The Government were then friendly with the German Government; again, I was not so far wrong. One must have something in view.
A curious thing has happened now, when everybody seems to have formed the view that Russia is our enemy. I, as 1166 a Liberal, find myself, not for the first time, in disagreement with that view. I do not think Russia is the enemy. The enemy to-day is a nationalist sovereign body having at its command and under its influence a nuclear bomb. That is the enemy—not Russia. That is the weapon and that is what the Government have got to face.
I would say to them: do not pin all your ideas on building up armaments against Russia; as has been so well said by many speakers, including the most reverend Primate, the real menace which faces civilisation to-day is the nuclear bomb. At the moment we know to a certain extent who holds it. America has the most stocks. We are told that to a limited extent Russia also has it, but that she will have many more in four years time. I should like to ask the Government whether they are quite certain that Germany has not got it. After all, they were very near it after the last war. They are not entirely dependent on their own country, but it can be made in other countries. Is it certain that they have not got it too?
I agree entirely with the Government's policy. I agree that we ourselves have got to make the nuclear bomb—there is no escape from it, hideous though the thought may be. We have decided to go ahead. The arguments which have been put against this decision are that it means we are making ourselves—and we are, remember, the most vulnerable target for this weapon—more vulnerable. I think the arguments against that view are that already the Americans have arrangements for launching nuclear weapons from this country, and therefore at this moment, according to the views of other countries, we are vulnerable and might be aggressive.
Then there is the view that if a nation makes them it immediately becomes vulnerable. These bombs are not as big as many people think, and they can be despatched from countries which we may not even know are doing it—we may not be quite certain who the enemy is. The weapon which may be sent against us may be sent by fanatical people, either religious or political. Remember what happened with the Jesuits and the Mohammedans in regard to religion, and, politically, what happened with the Germans, who believed in their political 1167 faith. Fanatical people present an impossible problem. Their creed is one of the most terrifying of all. It is that you must first destroy everything before you can build up your own. Destruction has no fear for them: they believe in their creed, as Germany did in 1914 and 1939. Then there is the other dangerous fanatical creed—that of those who believe that even their own destruction is worth while in order to destroy what is considered evil. That is a dangerous frame of mind, but not an uncommon one. The deterrent effect cannot usefully be counted upon with such people.
Let it be made clear that this weapon can never be used on the decision of Generals, Admirals or Air Marshals. The decision must be made by politicians at the highest level. I was disturbed recently to learn that an American General had stated that he had the right to use this weapon when he needed it. Control must be at the highest level and not by those in uniform. How are these ideas to be defeated? We know that in every country there are both people of extreme nationalist views and those who still believe that there is some advantage and benefit for man in the continuance of civilisation. It is our duty to get on terms with those latter people. There is much debate now about a high-power conference, when it should be held, who should attend and whether it should be between the four great Powers or the United Nations. That is not the question at all. What is much more alarming to-day is the immense interference with trade. Until that is broken down, no progress will be made.
Noble Lords speak of the Iron Curtain which has come down, but there is an iron curtain in England which does not allow an Englishman to go out with more than £100. There are other iron curtains in tariffs, in duties, in currencies and other existing regulations. Until it is accepted that the Foreign Secretary comes below the Treasury and trade, there will be no further progress towards solving this question of international politics. We on these Liberal Benches have always held that view, and we do so more strongly to-day. The solution does not lie in a meeting between Sir Winston Churchill, Mr. Malenkov and President Eisenhower. There must be the understanding that people have the 1168 right to live. We view with dismay the slowness with which trade barriers are being pulled down. We regret the speed at which in many places they are being put up.
Turning to defence, I believe that on the basis of the White Paper the taxpayer must feel that he has been "sold a pup" when he considers the amount of money spent on armaments and the results achieved. It is a deplorable picture. We speak now of "conventional" weapons, which seems to me a very quaint description, for it turns a flame-thrower into something as respectable as a Hoover. There is no such thing as a "conventional weapon." The term represents an idle way of thought. The Navy now has a mass of Admirals, 90 per cent. of them ashore. There are masses of Generals and many untrained troops. There is a large Air Force, with many Air Marshals, but with very few machines of any value. That is the picture of defence now offered by Her Majesty's Government, one of the most deplorable pictures they have ever produced. They try to suggest that the Labour Party and various other causes are responsible, but they have had power enough. There has been every opportunity for them to improve the state of our defences; yet at the moment they are poorer.
Speaking with no personal feeling against those involved, I say that the present system in this country has made our Service Secretaries of State third-rate people. We have a Prime Minister primarily responsible for the defence of this country, with his added personal power which no one can deny is greatest of all. There is also his personality. Then there is the Minister of Defence, until a short time ago a very able General, whom no one could call a politician. Even if he resigned because he could not get his own way, there was not even a stir in the Press. These three Ministers, the Secretaries of State for the Services, come third rung down the ladder in submitting their views. Because of the system they have failed to get their views through. One can see the effect in production. Consider the question of our present aircraft resources. We had, as Minister of Aircraft Production, the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook. He was a very powerful Minister who got things done. Yet Her Majesty's Government have long been 1169 content to have as the Minister responsible the Minister of Supply, who has had many other responsibilities, some of the highest political nature—for example, the "unscrambling" of the iron and steel industry. The production of aeroplanes came last. He had to do his Party business from every point of view. He could not resign from that. Therefore, you have now got no aeroplanes of any real value at all.
I read that the Minister got up in another place and sail that "We have the finest night fighter force in the world." We have the only night fighter force in the world, so it is easy for us to have the best. There is no night fighter force in Germany; none in France. They do not use it in America. They do not use it or need it in Russia. To fob off the public by saying that you have the finest night fighter force shows the weakness of your case. It shows weakness to bring that forward as being the best you can offer for all the days that you have been in power.
Now I come to a matter with which the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, has dealt, a subject upon which I feel very strongly—the Auxiliary Air Squadrons. Lord Gosford spoke with full knowledge from the Regular Air Force point of view. I speak from the fullest knowledge from the Auxiliary Air Force point of view, and I could not be in greater agreement with the noble Earl. The Auxiliary Air Force was a great conception of Lord Templewood. The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, was really the man who, with Sir Philip Sassoon, made it possible to put the matter through and get the money in order that the force should be formed. It had to be put through, and the noble Viscount ought to be proud to-day of the part which he played and of what that Auxiliary Air Force achieved before the war, during the war and after the war. I have knowledge of all those periods, and I appreciate that it is a matter of great difficulty to re-form such a voluntary force after the war. But it has been re-formed—and now what has happened? It has been forgotten.
I note that the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Air, is not present but I wish to say this. He wrote and sent round a letter to many of us explaining what his idea was with regard to the Auxiliary Air Force. In my opinion it was the death knell of all the standards 1170 on which we built the Auxiliary Air Force. It did away with it all; it put an end to every fundamental effort to try to bring in the right kind of citizens and to get them to give their services at the week-ends. Our aim was to get people who were highly respected in their districts. Lord de L'Isle and Dudley's proposals were going to destroy all that. But he now has changed his plan; a new plan replaces that which he first put forward. Of that first plan I should like to say more if he were here. I think it was thoroughly dishonest, because he said to us in that letter that we were not able to fly Hunters and the new machines. Three years before, in the squadron I raised to take to war—the 504 Nottingham Squadron—we were told by the Labour Government that they were hoping to get us Hunters in a year's time. It was not suggested that we were incapable of flying them. Of course we were capable of flying them. But the Government were incapable of producing them, even for the Regular Air Force. That is where responsibility lies. Do not let Secretaries of State try to say that something is wrong when it is not the real reason.
What you are going to do with the Auxiliary Air Force is very difficult. The noble Earl, Lord Gosford, expressed some ideas, all of which I understand. But I would say that the present idea of Her Majesty's Government will not succeed, and I would rather the Auxiliary Air Force were disbanded, with all the honours which it has gained and the record of service which it gave to this country during the period when it existed, than be allowed to deteriorate by becoming a second-rate force flying only secondhand machines. That will not get you the right men. I cannot go and ask people in Nottingham to give up their week-ends and serve, nor can I ask their wives to allow them to do so; I cannot ask them to risk everything they have and give up all their pleasures merely to become second rate and not first rate, as they would expect to be. Therefore, I would rather that this Force were disbanded and re-formed in some other way.
If you thought of re-forming it I think there would be great difficulty. I do not mind there being no aircraft in this country; I do not mind that the rifles are not in existence; I do not mind if 1171 we have no ships. What I do mind, however, is that we have no brains that are really thinking out these Service questions. I do not believe that after a war like the last war, and with these new weapons that have come into being, you can continue on the same lines as before. You have to think again. After all, thought-out schemes were brought in, as many of your Lordships may remember, when in 1906 Lord Haldane dealt with the Army after its failure in the Boer War. Lord Haldane's appointment was considered a very odd one indeed by both military people and civilians. Yet he built up by brain something which enabled us to win the First World War. We brought in for the Navy—there was no Air Force then in existence—Mr. Winston Churchill, who was then a young man. He did a great deal to make it possible for the Navy to do what it did in the First World War. The position which Mr. Churchill, as he then was, held, was considered to be one which called for a Secretary of State with brains. Get a plan, and the machines and the engines will come after. But there is no plan to-day.
We in the Air Force were luckier than anyone else between the wars, in that we had two people with brains to deal with that Force. One was the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, who, everyone must admit, never wavered in his conception of what would be needed for the war in the air which came twenty-one or twenty-two years later in 1939. He never wavered and he pressed forward with his plans. We were lucky to have him, and the country owes him a great debt. Between the wars we also had another Air Minister with brains—I did not recognise it myself at the time, but I must admit it now—in the person of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. He had the misfortune—though I hardly dare say this in this place—to be a Member of this House at a very critical moment; therefore the strong views and the energy he had could not be put across in another place, and as a result he failed. But, after reflection and with the knowledge which I have gained, I think we in the Royal Air Force owe a great debt to him which I never recognised at the time. Do not let the Generals and the Admirals and the Air Marshals think only of the nuclear bomb. Let them 1172 think of making the Services to which they belong as efficient as they should be in every way—and I am not certain that any of them is. Too much attention is paid by Service men to political questions. Let them be quite clear about what their duties are. I am certain that once all three Services are efficient we shall regain the respect in which the whole world held us in 1940.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, before proceeding in what I have to say I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, for his great courtesy in making it possible for me to speak at this moment. Hitherto, I have not ventured to address any remarks to your Lordships in Service debates because I was only too much aware of the limited nature of my experience. An analysis of the military situation by an ex-platoon commander of the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, however much it might be a masterpiece in itself, would hardly rank as coming from that reservoir of experts about which we have heard so much in your Lordships' House in recent weeks. Although I was for a time Under-Secretary of State for Air, in joint harness with the noble Lord who has just regained his seat—a very happy connection, if he will allow me to say so, under the patronage of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso (as he is now)—I feel that a great deal has happened since that time which renders obsolete what little knowledge I ever possessed.
This is a debate which ranges much wider than technical questions. I am, perhaps, one of the youngest of the generation of those who can still remember what it was like before 1914 and how secure we were then behind the impregnable rampart of the Royal Navy and in political control of so large a portion of the world outside Europe. The history of the years since that time has been largely a story of how one material advantage after another has been wrested from us, seemingly for ever. In the last war it was still true that the geographical position of this country as an island, in addition to the courage of our people, enabled us to win in the end; but even that advantage is now only of relative importance.
I am not one of those who believe that the human race will be destroyed by the 1173 nuclear bomb. I do not think that America would be destroyed and I do not think that even Russia would be destroyed. I am sure that vast areas of the world would be unaffected by it. But in the event of a major war, I have no doubt, and I believe many other people have no doubt, that the place where we are now sitting and debating would be destroyed; and if anything remained of our country, it world be something so mutilated and scarred that those who survived—they might be few—would hardly recognise Britain as the country which they had known. Therefore this people, as no other, is dedicated to the cause of peace, knowing that a false step or a false move means for us annihilation, something which will call from us, for many years to come. I fear, a degree of patriotism and vision which probably no other people has ever in the history of the world been called upon to show. It is for that reason that I venture to speak wholeheartedly in support of the Government White Paper.
I do not believe that, in the long run, the possession of deterrents will prove a secure basis for peace for the human family of nations. I believe that in the long run there will be no security unless and until the source of atomic and nuclear power is in the hands of an international agency; but at the moment that solution, the only permanent solution, is not even within sight. Until then, I am perfectly convinced that the policy of the White Paper is the only policy to follow and, what is more, that it is a policy which will call for support of a devoted kind from those who have the vision to see its inevitability. I believe that we are at the beginning of a period in public opinion of this country when all the support that can be mustered behind the Government and this policy, from whatever source it comes—and most welcome when it comes from sources not ordinarily associated with the Government—will be required if the steadfastness of the people is to be maintained.
In contrast with our past position, our position at the present time is so unenviable that ready counsellors of various kinds will be found to suggest to us easy intellectual solutions, easy ways out of our problems, as they think. Already those counsellors are beginning to proliferate, each, I believe, with a different recipe for disaster. There is a great 1174 recrudescence, of the demand for neutralism or pacifism. I had thought in 1945, when the last war was ended, that that heresy at least had been exorcised during my lifetime, because if there is one fact which is more certain than another it is, in my view, that the strong streak of pacifism in British public opinion before the last war was one of the major contributory causes of it. If we are to go back to that, this is where I, at any rate, "came in."
I feel perfectly certain that, far from being a means out of our present difficulties and danger, pacifism and neutralism are a sure road to another world war and a sure way of getting this country bombed. That has to be said and said again to the people of this country. We can influence events with our Allies and with our potential opponents precisely because we are able to take our part in them. This country has trodden the path that leads to glory, and back along that path there is no return. We cannot forswear, by abdicating our means of self-preservation, the power to influence events in the world, to counsel wisdom and restraint to other people, a counsel which would be listened to precisely in the proportion in which we are unflinching in facing our responsibilities. So that way out is one to be avoided.
There are those who say that, while we ought not to be pacifists or neutral, we ought not to make the bomb ourselves. Their attitude is: "Leave that dirty work to our Allies; shelter behind their protection; but do not let us touch the accursed thing ourselves." I wonder what good that would do. It has been pointed out again and again that our friendship, which I believe to be valued on the other side of the Atlantic, is valued precisely in proportion as it is worth having. We are not to be for the rest of our lives satellites of, and subordinates to, one protagonist or another. Still less are we to be so if we believe, as I profoundly believe, that we are able to influence events in the direction of peace by influencing the policies of both great Powers. As the noble Viscount who introduced this Motion pointed out with great force, experience has taught us that, closely as we are bound to our Allies, over a period of years there have been, and there will be in future, various 1175 matters in which their scale of priorities is not the same as ours. There may come moments when we wish, in order to protect ourselves, to attack targets, or to assert policies which are not those that preoccupy our great Allies on the other side of the Atlantic. If we are to forswear the manufacture of what may be the decisive weapon in modern warfare, the ability to survive will depend on wills other than our own; and I trust that this House and Parliament will never consent to a position of subordination which that course of action would imply.
The rôle of this country is its historic rôle. There never has been a time in modern history in which Britain has not been the smallest of the great Powers and the greatest of the small Powers; and the possession by the greatest of the small Powers of the hydrogen bomb is one of the great hopes for the future of mankind at the present time. If we are to manufacture it, there are other counsellors who say: "Well, let us have the bomb, the whole bomb and nothing but the bomb. Let us abandon conscription and conventional weapons of all sorts. All these ancillaries of power have been rendered obsolete by the new invention which we are now to embrace." In a sense, that is the most dangerous policy of all. We must be prepared for war either with or without atomic warheads. To put ourselves in a position where we have either to use this most frightful of modern weapons or, alternatively, to run away altogether is to make it relatively certain within a measurable distance of time both that there will be a war and that the weapon will be used; and it will give us no kind of ultimate safety.
The dominant factor in the present military situation, as I see it, is not so much the hydrogen bomb as the Soviet Army. We should not be making the hydrogen bomb at the present time if the Soviet Army were not so disproportionately large. We should not require or have to think about the use of nuclear weapons against any other possible antagonist. The thing that makes the danger which we all fear, and which we all want to avoid, is the possession by the Communists of an army vastly greater than they require for defence; and the knowledge, which all those who have watched Communist policy over forty 1176 years and have studied Communist literature, have, that Communists, by the very essence of their doctrine, believe in the desirability of world revolution and violence as a means of achieving it. The coupling of those two facts renders it inevitable that we should be afraid, and that we should summon to ourselves whatever sources of power we may possess.
But the danger does not rest only, or even primarily, in the fear, which is undoubtedly a real one, or the danger, which is undoubtedly a present one, that the Communists may drop a hydrogen bomb or nuclear bomb on London. They could achieve the same result in almost as short a time by advancing to the Channel Ports and bombarding us with V1s and V2s; and they could reach the same result, and more cheaply, by constantly nibbling away at our resources with conventional weapons, always going so far, but never far enough to excite nuclear retaliation. In the end, they would place us in the position where we had no means of self-defence and no means of escape. It follows that we must of necessity undergo the severe discipline of preparing for war in both of these immensely expensive fields, and over a long and perhaps an indefinite period of time. It may well be that such a preparation will impose a great strain upon our people. But I believe that, when the facts and the issues are explained to our people, the strain will be borne with that fortitude which they have always shown.
Let us, however, console ourselves with the reflection, which I do not believe to be vain, that the Communists are under a similar and, perhaps, direr strain. We are often told that capitalism and free society destroys itself by virtue of its own internal contradiction. If that be a criticism of a society which prides itself upon having the means in its own body of renewing itself in changing circumstances, it is a criticism which we need not deny. But let us not forget that the weakness of Communism lies in its inability to face its internal contradictions at all. And inside the Communist Powers there are internal contradictions, probably as difficult to overcome, which, given time, will inevitably prove their own destruction. We may have been witnessing within the last few weeks, in the resignations to which they were subject, signs of such strain. But no one who has 1177 witnessed the great body of the Communist organisation lurching from purge to crisis, and from crisis to new purge; nobody who observed the immense folly of the Russo-Finnish War in 1939, or the suicidal idiocy of the pact with Hitler, can believe that Communist policy either is infallible or, left to itself, will fail to meet with its own disaster.
Therefore, I say, let us not fear the cold war. It is the policy of the long haul; it is the policy of infinite danger; but in steadfastness of purpose and clarity of vision will lie our safety. Given time, the Communist societies will either destroy themselves, by virtue of their own internal contradictions, or they will so modify their character that they will be able to demonstrate in friendship with us which is the best way of life. We have a long way before us. Before the war I used to indulge in the doubtful pleasure of mountain climbing. For a long time, when you are on the rope, you know that there are about fifteen different ways in which you can land your companions in disaster, and only if, over a long period of hours, you avoid them can you get safely home. We may be in for a period of twenty-five or forty years' strain and stress; but I believe that the resources, the imagination and the vision of our people will be adequate for whatever is demanded of them.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF HUNTINGDON
My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, on his maiden speech, and I hope he will often come and take part in our debates. I want to make only one or two points in connection with what I suppose is the most important aspect of the debate to-day—that is, the decision of Her Majesty's Government to go ahead with the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb. A decision of that kind, to manufacture a bomb of that magnitude, is a thing which one does not comprehend at once. I do not think the British public have quite taken in the effects of those bombs. They have read about them, and have heard of the awful effects of the atom bomb dropped on, Japan. I saw in the Press recently that two Japanese women have come over here and have given some account of the awful happenings in Japan. What to me is far worse than that is the after-effects. One woman thought she was well, and 1178 yet six years later developed symptoms and died in great pain. There is also the actual fear of monsters being born as a result of this radioactivity. I want to stress the importance of the new weapon of destruction, which to my mind supersedes any other factor. It is not just a bigger and better bomb; it brings in new factors and a new menace. As the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, pointed out, we in this island will be vulnerable from any such attack. If there are some survivors left sitting on ruins, there will be little for them to survey except rubble and rubbish. It is for that reason that I must confess I was dismayed when I heard of the decision of the Government to manufacture the hydrogen bomb.
I should like to say a word on what I consider the moral aspect of the bomb, which is an important one. The noble Viscount who opened the debate quoted a remark which I think he said Napoleon used to some of his marshals. I hope I quote him correctly, but I think he said that "To be morally right is three times as valuable as to be physically right." I think it is vital, for our own safety as well as our consciences, that we should be completely clear on this major and most unfortunate issue. It seems to me that if we take the decision to manufacture this bomb, we accept the implication of what is going to happen when we drop it. Where we may drop it, I do not know—nobody knows—but hundreds of thousands of people are going to suffer, and it seems to me that there is only one justification which can salve our consciences on this matter, and that is, as the noble Viscount has pointed out, the absolute necessity of self-defence. Nothing else can justify the manufacture of such a horrible weapon with such terrible implications for the human race.
I am afraid we are in the position where if we manufacture this bomb we cannot say that we have the ultimate word of when, how or if it should be used. The noble Viscount who has just spoken has poured great scorn on neutralism, but I think there is a good case for it in a situation of this kind. I believe that if this country had stood out as a neutral, we should have had round us half the world at this time. But we did not do it. What makes me uneasy is that we have got into the position of being the junior partner in a partnership, without the ulti- 1179 mate word of what is going to be done with the bomb, and yet we may find ourselves forced to use it on other people and, which is perhaps even worse, of having the bomb used on us. The very fact that we have provided bases for the American Air Force in this country to loose the bomb from here in a way exposes us as an obvious target for any aggressor nation wanting to get a blow in first. As has been said, if we are a target there will be little left of us.
What is going to happen? There are these two giants in the arena, the United States and the Soviet Union, both equal in different ways. What is going to happen, supposing a war should break out in the Far East? I read in the Press that at this moment there is a ship loaded with some sort of fuel which the Americans want to stop reaching China, and which China obviously wishes to receive. It may well be some instance of that kind—Nationalist China intercepting the ship and the Communists trying to get it back; some sort of invasion of the coastal islands; an admiral or a general a little too fearsome or too rash, who launches a big attack on the mainland—and before we know where we are a war may have developed between the two protagonists. Are we automatically bound to use our hydrogen bombs? I do not know what is the unwritten agreement of the Government with the United States, but that is a position which I must say frightens me and fills me with dread and discomfort of every kind—the fact that we are making this huge weapon and we have not the last say as to when it shall be used.
If we go ahead with the weapon, whatever happens we should somehow have complete control, so that we shall not be brought into a war, or not be made to use the bomb, in any circumstances which our Government, supported by our own people, have not determined and decided. I believe that means that, as a first priority, we must, if we make this bomb, ask the Americans to withdraw their training forces from our shores. Unless we can do that, we are inviting aggression and inviting an attack which I think would be utterly disastrous. I do not want to keep your Lordships further discussing this White Paper. That is the one point I wish to make. I think that before we enter into the full implications 1180 of this policy we must consider where it may lead us, and remember that if a war does come and if we are involved there will be no victor—there will just be ruins on every side.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ LORD WISE
My Lords, I wish to endorse from this side of the House the congratulations which were extended to the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, on his maiden speech. I was interested to hear him speak of the R.A.F. and its difficulties. Like the noble Viscount who sits on the Bench below him at the present time, I can remember the fairly early days of the R.F.C. and the amalgamation of the two forces. I am glad to know that the present R.A.F. will have a good advocate in your Lordships' House in the future.
Before I embark upon the contents of the White Paper, I wish to make a few remarks on the question of the Territorial Army. I understand that the Territorial Army will be fully dealt with to-morrow, but as I am not speaking to-morrow I thought I might be able to raise tonight one or two matters which are causing disquiet among the members of the Territorial Army. Noble Lords will notice that in the White Paper, in the figures given on page 28, Annex I, the normal volunteers have increased by 5,000, and the volunteers from National Service have decreased during the year by approximately 1,000. There must be some reason for this, and one wonders whether the boys who have done their National Service are rather tired of Army life and do not seek to do further recognised service—the short-term service—in the Territorial Army. At any rate, I am impressed by the fact that, on balance, the Territorial Army has increased in volunteer personnel.
I understand, however, that there is a feeling of discouragement and frustration amongst the experienced officers and N.C.Os. in the Territorials. Major reorganisations have taken place, as well as many minor adjustments. Some of these amalgamations, and certainly some disbandments of units and parts of units, may not have made for efficiency; and sometimes they have created difficulties. I know of an instance where, under re-organisation, one battery of a county regiment has been formed in another county over a hundred miles away from the headquarters of the regiment. The 1181 difficulty of running the administration and training of that particular battery in that regiment must be apparent. It is outside the county boundary and for the commanding officer or senior officers to go to and from that battery is a matter of some difficulty.
The senior officers and N.C.Os. are aware of these difficulties. They know they must be, and will be, overcome, but there is a feeling of some depression among the Territorial senior officers and others that there is not a proper realisation of the voluntary efforts which these particular officers have to make in order to keep units alive and effective. Doing this work is no easy matter. It calls far expenditure of time and labour, and it should be properly appreciated by the powers that be. I want to impress upon those in authority that the Territorial Army service is of inestimable value at the present time. There is no doubt about it; it should be recognised in a big and full way, and rewarded accordingly.
There is another matter which possibly affects the personnel in the Territorial Army. I understand that last year Territorial Army volunteers were virtually promised an increased bounty up to £25 but that, although this was agreed to by the Army Council, it was turned down by the Treasury. The additional bounty has not been received. That is somewhat of a poor show on the part of the Treasury. I hope that this year, in view of the £1,500 million which we are spending on the Forces, this matter may be put right. Officers get no bounty at all. Another thing which is troubling people is the question of retirement. I understand that upon retirement a stereotyped letter from the Secretary of State is sent with a formal notice of retirement, a very ordinary affair for an officer who has possibly done some twenty or more years' service in the Territorials. It has even happened that, when that letter has been received by the officer concerned, a small account has been enclosed with it for a minor detail, a badge or something of that sort, which has not been handed in and paid for. That sort of thing is frightfully irritating, and I hope that it will not prevail in the future. In the Territorial Army the nation is getting a very good and efficient reserve. We do not want the Territorial Army to be run "on the cheap." Therefore, I hope that the Secretary of State, if he reads, as he probably will, 1182 the OFFICIAL REPORT of this debate, will note what has been said.
I want, in a short moment or so, to deal with other aspects of the White Paper. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, gave a graphic description of the contents of the Paper and of the intentions of the Government. The most reverend Primate described the White Paper as being "brutally frank." And it is: it is a very grave document indeed. I wonder whether, in the last year or so, at any rate, a more momentous and grave document has been discussed in your Lordships' House. It is tragic that there should be cause for such a document to be issued by the Government of a Christian democracy in these times. It will produce, or has produced, profound anxiety at home. In connection with this anxiety, it would be desirable, I think, for the Government to produce a short explanatory document dealing with the first part, paragraphs 1 to 32, of the White Paper. This is envisaged by the Government in paragraph 6, where they say:It is essential that these facts should be known not only to our people but to all the world. All should realise the magnitude of the disaster war would bring.Again, in the final paragraph of the White Paper, it is said:The Government believe, however, that the country is entitled to know the gravity of the possible threat and to be given an indication of the lines on which they are working to meet it.Not all our people see the White Paper. It is read by a comparatively few. Therefore, I hope that it may be possible in some short pamphlet form, either through general circulation or possibly by the Press taking greater notice of the importance of this Paper, for our people here to be given an opportunity of realising exactly what the position is and what the Government intend to do in regard to disarmament and trying to establish peace throughout the world.
I should have liked to read to the House certain sentences in paragraphs 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the White Paper. They are extremely important, and the people of this country should know about them. They are drastic; they show exactly the power of the weapons which may be used in a global or even in a minor war. I hope that some such suggestion as I have made may be carried out. I am glad to see, in paragraph 8, reference to dis 1183 armament. I am certain that we must pursue the course, not only of manufacturing the hydrogen bomb but of making, as a nation, some sort of contribution to the discussions on disarmament.
Mention has been made, not only by the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood, but by other noble Lords, of the position of this country. We have no quarrel either with the United States of America or with the Soviet Union; nor do we seek one. But by our geographical position we find ourselves midway between two great Powers who may eventually be at enmity with each other. For that reason, it has been truly said this afternoon that we are most vulnerable—in fact, unpleasantly vulnerable: a diplomatic mistake might embroil us in a war. We may even be committed in existing circumstances to aid our American friends. This fact may put us into a position of the direst peril. A moment or two ago my noble friend Lord Huntingdon mentioned the presence in this country of American personnel, camps and aircraft. That fact creates for us a grave risk which may outweigh the benefits accruing from their presence here. An unexpected night attack with hydrogen bombs to put out of action the American bases here might destroy not only those objectives but ourselves as well.
The White Paper envisages counterattacks with nuclear weapons against any aggression with conventional or other weapons. A surprise night attack might leave us helpless and hopeless in the morning. We could not counter-attack, we could not retaliate, and in the morning our schemes for defence would have disappeared in the "dew" or "mist" of radioactivity. If Russia is called upon to fight, or fears that this may happen, she will not restrict her attacks to the use of conventional weapons; nor may we know at what time or on what day she will attack. I am told that fifteen hydrogen bombs would completely paralyse or wipe out this country. Perhaps in his reply to-morrow, the noble Marquess may be able to say whether or not that information is correct; and also whether a smaller number of bombs might be sufficient to close our shipping routes, our ports and our harbours, and so paralyse our naval and commercial shipping.
What rôle should Britain play? In present circumstances, there is only one 1184 rôle which I think we can play. We can carry out our intentions with regard to defence—we must still continue to think of that. But in my view we can endeavour to extend our powers of international good will, upholding our prestige for fair dealing, and using our best endeavours to bring the "sparring partners" to a peaceful settlement of their jealousies, rivalries and misunderstandings. We have been Allies in war with both of them. We have all experienced the horrors of war, and I am quite certain that our people want no more. We in this country have no aggressive intentions; we are a tolerant race, and are therefore well fitted for the task of world peace making.
Earlier this week a debate took place in another place, and I want to appeal to the Prime Minister to forget, if possible, his past disappointments and frustrations in regard to negotiation with other nations, and once again seek to meet those in authority in the Soviet Union. In my view, no time or place is inappropriate in the cause of peace and good will, and if delay takes place before a meeting can be held (as is apparently the Government's view) then, in order to strengthen the hand of the Prime Minister and to bring a realisation of our desires nearer to fruition. I hope that it will be found possible for the people of both our countries to meet together more often and to discuss the differences, if any, between us. Let our people meet together in trade, in sport, in co-operative life, through peaceful international organisations, through ecclesiastical activities. And, what is almost as important, let the children of the schools meet, for on them rests the future of the world and the road to peace.
Although the most reverend Primate has left, I should like to conclude with these words. It is my practice daily to read a chapter of the Bible. I do this in the morning. A few days ago (I think this is appropriate to our debate) I read some words in Proverbs written about 1,000 B.C., some 3,000 years ago, when apparently they had the same difficulties as we are having at present with wars and rumours of wars. The words, which occur in Chapter 21, verse 31, were:The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord.I commend those words to your Lordships.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ LORD HADEN-GUEST
My Lords, I wish to ask some questions, particularly with regard to civil defence, in the hope of getting an answer from Her Majesty's Government at the end of the debate. I have heard querulous people say that it is no good doing anything under atomic attack, so one may as well give up. That is not the feeling of this or the other House, and I am sure it is not the feeling of the country. We shall need to do a great many very difficult things, and civil defence is doubtless one of the most difficult. The view that it is impossible to do anything was contradicted by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery, who said that, unless civil defence measures could be produced in this country, a situation of the utmost gravity might result should we commit ourselves to the use of the nuclear weapon. The noble Viscount would not make such a statement unless he knew, as is the case, that such defence measures could be produced.
A number of those measures are set out in the Statement on Defence. I want Her Majesty's Government to make clear what those arrangements will be. Dealing with evacuation, I would point out that all parts of the country will not be equally affected, even in the case of considerable attack with many bombs being dropped on this country. One remembers the exaggerated views held by some people before the war as to what would happen if war came. When London was bombed those people found that their view was wrong, and in all probability the exaggerated views now held by some people will again be found to be wrong if we are so unfortunate as to come down to the abyss of nuclear war. At the same time, it ought to be made known as clearly as possible what Her Majesty's Government propose to do with regard to the provision of evacuation areas for the child population and younger people of the country in case of a threatened nuclear attack. Is there to be any large-scale provision of areas, presumed to be relatively safe, which can shelter the younger generation and the aged?
The Statement says that there will be an obvious need for tire and rescue services, and mentions the Civil Defence Corps, the Industrial Civil Defence Service, the Auxiliary Fire Service, the Women's Voluntary Services, the 1186 National Hospital Services and the National Hospital Service Reserve. I am sure those are the facts, for I am certain Her Majesty's Government would not have made a statement enumerating all these possible efforts if the whole thing was a pretext meaning nothing. A very elaborate organisation is to be set up to do the best possible in the very difficult circumstances of a war in which nuclear weapons will be used.
I have seen no reference to doctors in this connection. A nuclear war will be particularly hard on the medical profession, because in my opinion (and I have some special knowledge of this matter) the whole of the medical profession would be required to give their services. Nobody could possibly be exempted except for very special reasons. This would present a very serious problem. We should probably have to use students who were in the latter part of their training and their qualification, and, of course, a great many nurses. Does Her Majesty's Government agree or disagree that that will be the position? It is extremely important to realise that we can get safety and a relative degree of protection from the Civil Defence services only by employing, if not 100 per cent. of our doctors, at least a very large proportion of the total number in a country where many doctors are now already greatly overworked.
I had a great deal of experience in Civil Defence in the London area in the last war, and before the war began I gave a series of lectures on Civil Defence to doctors in that area, so I know something of the problem at that time. The problem in the future will be a more serious one, but I am convinced it will be soluble, and I hope the Minister will agree that it is a soluble problem and one of which we can make a very good job. How we are to arrange about doctors, nurses and hospital accommodation is another question. Which areas of the country shall we use as evacuation areas? We certainly should evacuate large cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham, and we should know which areas are to be used for evacuation, perhaps not designating names and places, but the requisite conditions. The whole country cannot possibly be subjected to attack unless by the hydrogen bomb, which is unlikely. I hope it will be possible for Her 1187 Majesty's Government to give reassuring answers to these questions and to make evacuation, at any rate for the younger people, a possibility during a war.
§ 6.29 p.m.
My Lords, this debate has covered a very wide field. I propose to confine myself to one point: the statement by the Secretary of State for Air on future policy with regard to flying boats. I very much deplore the decision not to develop a further type of flying boat for military purposes after the Sunderland, although I am pleased to know that it is intended to keep the Sunderland in service for as long as possible. I consider the decision is a pity because it may mean the dispersal of a great fund of technical knowledge and of technical people in the aircraft industry who, for many years, have been concerned with the production of flying boats, a field in which this country at one time led the world. It is particularly unfortunate that this continuity should be broken at this time, because I believe we were reaching the threshold of a new era for the flying boat, when the flying boat was going to become the flying ship. The three great Princess flying boats are still in cocoons at Calshot. I hope it will be possible to find engines for them, and that either Transport Command or some civil operator will be encouraged to make use of these flying boats at the earliest possible moment. I am sure that they would be of great use for trooping and transport purposes of all kinds. I am also convinced that the flying boat can be of great use when a war takes place at the ends of the earth. Flying boats do not require very elaborate bases. It is now possible, I believe, to carry by air pontoons which will give them quite an adequate base. There is no question of providing expensive runways or airfields.
I believe it would be possible to design to-day a flying ship which could alight in the Atlantic, say, on four or five days out of seven, which could refuel on the water if necessary and then take off again. It would be possible to-day, I believe, to design a flying boat the performance of which would compare with that of land planes. As the flying boat gets larger, its disadvantages diminish. I should like your Lordships to imagine a scaling down of the "Queen Elizabeth," for instance, to the size of the present flying boat. 1188 Her hull would be as thin as paper and her anchors would be like those of a model boat. As a flying boat hull gets larger there is an enormous comparative saving of weight in its plating and structure. I believe that for military purposes it would be possible to have a vessel for convoy escort which one might call a "flying frigate." I do not want to be controversial upon this subject, but if the Air Ministry do not feel that they can go on with the development of the flying boat, possibly naval influence might be brought to bear, and the Navy might, in future days, develop the flying frigate, which I am sure has a future for antisubmarine work. As I say, I do not wish at the moment to indulge in any controversy about Coastal Command or anything of that sort. That is all I have to say. I hope that further thought will be given to this decision, because I am sure that it would be a great pity if this knowledge and workmanship were lost. America still believes in the flying boat and development is going ahead there. We ought not to fall behind.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, this debate has covered many vitally important matters relating to defence policy and the Defence Services. I think we shall all agree that it has been conducted throughout in a serious and responsible vein. There have been a number of notable speeches from noble Lords whose knowledge and experience lends authority to their contributions. There has also been an excellent maiden speech by the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, on which I should like, on behalf of those noble Lords who sit on these Benches, to congratulate him. We also had, I think we shall all agree, an impressive contribution of great weight from the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York. I speak with no such authority, but I share the concern which we must all feel in confronting and deciding the grave issues that are before us. And it is for this reason that I shall occupy a little of your Lordships' time.
I do not think that any one of us can have studied the Defence White Paper without heart-searchings, or without appreciating to the full his personal responsibility in approving or opposing the major lines of policy which it sets out. I doubt whether any one of us 1189 would dispute the opening statement that:Overshadowing all else in the year 1954 has been the emergence of the thermo-nuclear bomb.It is that startling discovery which governs the main lines of defence policy now before the House. A single decade has sufficed to carry the world from conventional warfare to the possibility of nuclear warfare. First, the atomic bomb; now, the hydrogen bomb; and soon, maybe, the cobalt bomb; and a parallel development in the means of delivery until we reach in a few years, perhaps, some form of inter-continental ballistic rocket. It is a frightening prospect for the human race.
These fateful discoveries and near-discoveries by the scientists are proceeding at a pace that baffles ordinary comprehension. Last year we were asked to think and plan in terms of a global war in which it had to be assumed that atomic weapons would be employed by both sides; and we had to contemplate a period of "broken-back" warfare, if no decisive result was achieved in the opening stage. That prospect has been made infinitely worse by the advent of the hydrogen bomb. We are now told that a war in which thermo-nuclear weapons were used would be a "struggle for survival of the grimmest kind." I have heard people express the wish—indeed, the most reverend Primate did so this afternoon—that the atomic and the hydrogen bombs had never been invented. I share that wish; but it is, of course, a quite futile one. The fact is that we cannot put the clock back. Once the scientists have wrested secrets from nature, the secrets cannot be returned to nature. But it is within the power of man, if he will use his power, to see that scientific discoveries are not used to destroy mankind.
As things stand, we must all recognise that in a thermo-nuclear war—that is to say, total war, in which all the modern weapons of mass destruction would be used—the result would be total destruction. But do not let us think that conventional war was a tolerable, if not a genteel, operation by comparison. I would remind your Lordships that, according to an estimate made by the late General Smuts, the casualties of the 1190 two world wars amounted to 80 million, of which at least 30 million were killed—an appalling human cost. The inescapable truth is that the world cannot afford another major war—either nuclear or conventional. That is what I, at any rate, profoundly believe.
There is no room for illusions about nuclear war. We must be realists. The Prime Minister has told us that there is no absolute defence against the hydrogen bomb; nor is any method in sight by which any nation or any country can be completely guaranteed against the devastating injury which even a score of them might inflict on wide regions. This statement is supported by a great deal of detailed information which has been made available in the free world by official sources and by scientists. In particular, there has been the Report on The Effects of High Yield Nuclear Explosion, which was issued by the United States Atomic Energy Commission on February 15 of this year. I do not know—and the most reverend Primate raised the same point—whether similar information is being made available to the peoples behind the Iron Curtain. It should certainly be given to them. They are entitled to know what nuclear war would mean, to them and to us.
I believe that if they were allowed to know, their reactions would be similar to those of the Western peoples, and that together we should form an irresistible force of world public opinion demanding a comprehensive disarmament agreement that would remove the instruments of war from all nations and lift the crushing burden of armaments which now oppresses all peoples. How can we help being suspicious of the Soviet Governments intentions when they keep putting forward with monotonous regularity a disarmament programme that would guarantee Communist armed superiority at each stage of the process of reduction? Were disarmament efforts to be thwarted by the West's insistence on a scheme which would guarantee the Western nations such superiority, is there any one of us who doubts that Western public opinion would not soon make itself decisively felt? Until there is agreed disarmament, we must surely do everything we can, by deterrent measures, to safeguard the world from being plunged into a war that would imperil all.
1191 If that is the correct policy for this country to pursue, then three things seem logically to follow. We must have the hydrogen bomb; we must have a bomber force capable of carrying and delivering the bomb; and we must be prepared to say that in the event of a major aggression we should be prepared to use nuclear retaliation. This three-fold policy is rejected, of course, by the genuine pacifist and by those who believe in unilateral disarmament. I respect their sincerity, but I do not agree with them. I do not accept the policy of unilateral disarmament or the policy of neutralism. But many others, like myself, have had to ask themselves: Are we justified in supporting this three-fold policy?
I have posed to myself three serious questions. The first is: is it morally wrong for this country to produce the hydrogen bomb, but morally right for us to be protected by the deterrent power of a similar bomb produced in the United States? I have often thought that, but for the American possession of the atomic bomb and the means of delivery, the Soviet Government might well have been tempted in recent years to press forward their advance in Europe beyond the frontier at which it stands to-day, and that the security of the free world, including our own country, might have become seriously jeopardised. In my view, if we really believe in Western collective defence, we must make our full contribution towards collective deterrence.
The second question is: was it right for us to produce the atomic bomb and is it wrong to manufacture its successor? Here again I can see no moral difference. If the West is to rely on a policy of deterrence, we ought not unilaterally to deprive ourselves of the chief deterrent weapon. But on the practical plane, once we have produced the hydrogen bomb, is there need for us to go on building up a stockpile of our own? An alternative was suggested in another place—namely, that the United States stockpile should feed both the American strategic bomber force and the British V-bomber force when it comes into being. If this could be arranged and duplication of production avoided, it would release British resources, scientific, technical, economic and productive, to be applied more intensely to research and development of 1192 other new weapons that belong to the common armoury of deterrents. That is an important consideration. We are, after all, Allies in the same great cause.
The hard fact is, my Lords—and we must keep it clearly in our minds—that both the United States and Soviet Russia have far greater resources than this country can hope to have at its disposal. It is impossible for us to keep abreast with them in the whole wide range of conventional forces, nuclear weapons and guided missiles. Defence is a costly business, and every new weapon adds greatly to the cost. We have made the atomic bomb by our own resources. We are making the hydrogen bomb by our own resources. According to the Prime Minister, we occupy a high place in fundamental science. It seems to me, therefore, that not only should there be a protected exchange of scientific data, but also there should be a practical working arrangement by which duplication of resources in production should be minimised, so as to secure the maximum of common results in research, development and manufacture of new weapons. What is important is not that the United States and Britain should compete along parallel lines, but that the West should keep ahead of the East in our efforts to build up effective deterrent power. I hope, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government will make this a matter for frank discussion between two Allies who carry the main responsibility for deterring aggression.
My third question is: would it be wrong to threaten to use the hydrogen bomb against major aggression? What I had in mind was open aggression against Western Europe, which, if it were to succeed, would lead to whole nations on the Continent who are our Allies in the defence of freedom being overrun, occupied and enslaved by overwhelming Communist conventional attack. We can be sure that a similar fate would then soon threaten our own people. It seems to me both right and necessary that we should make it clear that, in the event of open aggression, the West would use all its means of instant retaliation. To do so, I believe, would be the most likely way of preventing such an aggression from being started. What I have said indicates that I regard the policy of 1193 defence by deterrent as the right one and as the one most likely to deter aggression.
If we can deter aggression, we can prevent a hydrogen war. But the hydrogen bomb by itself is not the great deterrent; there must also be the means of delivery. The sooner, therefore, we have a strategic force of modern bombers, the greater will be the power of the deterrent. There will be, I imagine, general agreement with the view of the Government that the first task of the Royal Air Force is to build up the V-bomber force and its weapons. We have been told that our atomic stockpile is accumulating. But if we are still in the process of making our first hydrogen bomb, it may be a long time before we have our own hydrogen stockpile, and this shows that the suggestion I have made has considerable force.
The position appears to be that the United States is the only country which is able to deliver to-day a full scale nuclear attack with hydrogen bombs at a few hours' notice. Russia, on the other hand, according to the Prime Minister's information, so far has tested by explosion only a type of bomb of intermediate power. But the Foreign Secretary said in another place on Monday that, as a result of the advance of science, an explosion is no longer the final expression of what is going on. He added:We cannot exclude the possibility of experiments being carried on without explosions.It may be, therefore, that the Soviet Union have now a bomb of greater power—greater power, I mean, in relation to the bomb which they had before; not greater than the one that the United States have. We have reason to believe that Russia possesses something like 3,000 bombers capable of reaching this country, and that they are following up with 4-jet swept-wing heavy bombers which compare with the best strategic bombers (the B.52s) which the United States have to-day. Do we know whether Russia has the apparatus necessary to enable her long distance bombers to carry the hydrogen bomb? It is obvious that the Americans have it. It also seems reasonable to suppose that, as we are making the bomb and the bombers, we are also engaged in developing the carrying apparatus.
We have been told that the Valiant is now coming into squadron service, but we do not know at what rate. The Under-Secretary of State for Air has said that 1194 the Valiant has a better performance than the American B.47. If that is true it would seem that the Valiant is one of the best bombers in existence. But even better is foreshadowed. It is claimed that both the Vulcan and the Victor promise considerable improvements on the Valiant. In development flights they have flown at over 50,000 ft. at just under the speed of sound. The Vulcan is to come into squadron service in 1956, and is to be followed not very much later by the Victor—I think my times are right, but I am sure that the noble and gallant Lord, the Secretary of State, will correct me if I am wrong. If all these planes fulfil expectations—and these are important words—they should provide a firm basis for an effective strategic bomber force, which is what this country must have. The Under-Secretary in another place spoke about the need to build up a "powerful bomber force." I agree, provided the emphasis is laid on quality rather than on numbers. I am not going to ask the noble and gallant Lord, the Secretary of State for Air, to tell us what number of front line bombers he is aiming at, because I am quite sure he will not tell the House. I make no complaint. Governments come and Governments go, but security secrecy seems to go on for ever. But I am sure we are not able, for obvious and strong reasons, to plan in terms of the great bomber armadas of the last war. Quality—which mean the finest planes, manned by highly efficient crews—is vital; and if that governs the size of our strategic bomber force, it will he a far better striking force than it will be if we sacrifice quality for quantity.
The last point I want to make is this. To have the bomb and the bombers that can deliver it will form the heart of deterrence. But there must also be dispersal. I understand that Bomber Command are to have their main bases, and also a widely dispersed network of operational sites, at home and abroad. This is of the highest importance. We have to think in terms of a surprise attack, an attack without warning on the lines of the Pearl Harbour attack. We may be sure that the United States will not ignore the lessons taught by that attack. We must learn from it, too.
The value of the policy of deterrent lies in the certainty of the West's ability to retaliate immediately if a surprise attack is launched. Unless a surprise 1195 attack could destroy, or at least seriously cripple, the power to retaliate immediately, it would be a perilous gamble by the aggressor. The more we and the Americans had our strategic bombers dispersed at suitable spots in different parts of the world, the larger would be the number of points which the aggressor would have to attack simultaneously; the more difficult it would be for him to succeed in his widely diffused attack; and the longer would be the warning we should all get, since the zero hour for simultaneous attack would have to be fixed in relation to the most distant point, which is the United States, where a great retaliatory bomber force would be stationed. So, from the standpoint of a would-be aggressor, this vital problem would be extremely difficult to solve, and it is one which adds great strength to the policy of defence by deterrent.
A related factor is the radar warning system. The Americans and the Canadians have three radar chains and are now adding one in mid-Atlantic. We have our own network, which is highly efficient. Then there is the N.A.T.O. radar chain across Western Europe. The responsibility for each set is different. They all serve the same purpose: to warn the Western nations of the approach of an attack. I assume that there is the closest interdependence between the several chains, and that, in fact, they are functioning as a single warning system. But I would ask the noble and gallant Lord, the Secretary of State, to tell the House that my assumption is a correct one; that these reporting chains are operating as an integrated warning system, so as to ensure that no time will be lost in getting both the British and the American bombers into the air and on their retaliatory mission in the event of a surprise attack being launched against the West.
I have restricted my remarks to only a few of the broad issues involved in the policy and means of defence by deterrent. 1196 I would just add this. Unless something is done about it, progress in the weapons of mass-destruction and in the means of delivery will go on. Science shows no signs of coming to the end of the road in these matters. The question that presses urgently for answer is this: cannot political and diplomatic effort find the way to save mankind from the threat of a terrible fate? I do not know whether noble Lords have confidence that the world will be able to go on living in precarious safety for ten, twenty or more years of cold war, with armaments becoming ever more destructive and their burden ever more costly. The policy of defence by deterrence can never be more than a halfway house. We must go further and get real peace with security. To attain that goal nothing less than a supreme and sustained effort will suffice, because the nations dare not—I repeat, dare not—accept the ultimate dreadful alternative to world co-existence and comprehensive disarmament.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY)
My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord De L'Isle and Dudley.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn. In doing so, I should like to announce that the debate will be resumed at 2.30 to-morrow instead of 3 o'clock, owing to the very large number of noble Lords who wish to take part.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at one minute past seven o'clock.