§ 2.47 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON rose to call attention to the organisation of the Service Departments and the Fighting Services; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I think defence debates in this House are always useful because of the wealth of experience, Service, ministerial and administrative, that is to be found here. That experience must, I think, always be helpful to a Government when they are considering and plotting their course. On great matters like defence, which transcend all political issues, everyone in this House wants to help. I do not know whether in this debate we shall all be unanimous, but even if we are not, in a multitude of counsellors is wisdom. To-day, in this age, defence problems are so new that they should be considered without prejudice or preconceived ideas, with open minds, looking forward and not back. Nuclear developments have already revolutionised strategy and strategic thinking. In the debates we had in this House and in another place earlier this year, and in our defence discussions at the Commonwealth Conference, that fact was universally accepted. New discoveries have necessitated revolutionary changes in strategic planning, and these, I know, are already under way at home and in the Commonwealth.
§ The proposition I want to put to the House this afternoon is this: that the present situation necessitates changes not less far-reaching in our defence organisation. I shall not venture to speak on technical aspects, the structure of the Fighting Forces or their armaments. Nor do I think that they would be strictly relevant to the matters I wish to bring before the House. But on the Governmental, administrative side, on the relationships with the Services to each other, on ministerial responsibility and on coordination and action, I can speak from long experience. In recent months I have thought a great deal cm these matters and talked with many whose opinions I value: and having arrived at Definite conclusions I felt I ought to express them and invite the opinion of those in your Lordships' House who are so familiar with these matters and can speak with such authority.327
§ So, at the beginning of October, I tabled the Motion which has been on the Order Paper for a considerable time. I ought perhaps to say that at that time, at the beginning of last month. I had no idea that the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery, was going to make a speech or of what was in his mind; so this is not in any way a concerted campaign, or even a combined operation. I must say that with much of what the noble and gallant Viscount said I profoundly agree. It is surely axiomatic that in any war, and indeed in almost any operation in another war, all three Services must be involved. Therefore, there must be the most complete co-operation and co-ordination all through, absolute team work from start to finish—and that means now.
§ The better the preparation, the closer the integration, the greater the chance that war will never take place and the greater the insurance of peace. That, as I say, demands team spirit all the time. It means co-operation at all levels, but—and I want to insist upon this—it also means decisions firmly taken, loyally accepted and effectively carried out. We came very near this—no, that is not enough: we did achieve it—in the war. Of course, in the war daily events forced common thinking, co-operation and combined action on all the Services; and in the war we had the crowning mercy of the courage, the incisive decision and the supreme control of the Prime Minister. We have none of those things to-day. I know that in peace time it is much more difficult. The assault of the enemy no longer forces that unity of thought and action on Service chiefs. The enemy at the gate is a great unifier. No single Minister to-day has the power that Sir Winston Churchill had in war as Minister of Defence to take and enforce decisions. I believe it is essential to-day that the Minister of Defence should have that power. Without that, inevitably, we have delay; we have waste of money and we have dissipation of resources; and, when decisions are taken, I think it is true to say that they often tend to be the lowest common denominator of compromise that all will accept rather than the highest common factor of efficiency.
§ Defence, of course, is terribly expensive, and gets more and more expensive. 328 There is never enough to satisfy everyone. The tendency therefore is to give something, but not enough, to everyone in the queue. When that happens, nobody gets the right ration. In this—which I think few would deny—I am not imputing any blame to any individual: it is inevitable in the system. There is all the difference in the world between a Minister of Defence who is an arbitrator, and no more than an arbitrator, between three competing claimants, all of whom have a right of appeal to the Cabinet, and a Minister of Defence who is solely responsible for initiating and executing policy over the whole field.
§ Therefore, I beg that we may go back to the war practice where the Minister of Defence had complete authority over all three Services, and the Service Ministers were, in fact, his deputies. The Minister of Defence should also be responsible for deciding what research programmes should be undertaken, and their priority. In passing, I would say that, without attempting any complete integration of the Services, about which I shall have a word or two to say in a moment, there surely could now be an integration, partial if not complete, of some of the ancillary branches in the Services which do the same kind of work—for example, medical services and hospitals, catering, clothing and, maybe, education. The further that integration can be carried, the better it will be for economy and efficiency. In asking that the Minister of Defence should be given real power, I do not mean that he should be responsible for detailed administration—I am quite clear that he should not: that should rest with the Service Deputy Ministers, the sole function in that respect of the Minister of Defence being to ensure that administration is in conformity with his general policy. That also was the way it worked in the war, and it worked well. Therefore, I would most sincerely beg of the Government to give to the Minister of Defence real power and authority.
§ The next proposition I would ask the House to consider is what should be the position of the Chiefs of Staff and their relation to the Minister. From time to time the idea has been bruited of a separate organisation, a separate strategic staff, a sort of independent "Brains Trust" working to the Minister of Defence. Those of your Lordships who are of riper years will remember that in the 329 First World War the late Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, before he became C.I.G.S., was a rather keen advocate of this idea, though I think that after he became C.I.G.S. we did not hear much more about it. I should like to say, with all the experience I have had in over thirty years, that I am absolutely against this independent staff, this independent "Brains Trust." The Chiefs of Staff are the professional heads of their Services. They have the responsibility for action, and the Services look to them. They, and they alone, must carry out their full function and play their full part. But just because they are the heads of their Services, they must humanly light their Services' battles. They have inevitably a sort of dual loyalty, especially in peace time. It is remarkable how well successive Chiefs of Staff and Chiefs of Staff Committees have done their job. We all owe them a great debt. But there must inevitably be a tendency to compromise. I am not saying that the Chiefs of Staff ought not to express their opinion frankly and forcefully—indeed, where they feel that they are right, they ought to fight their corner as hard as they can. But no one of them can be the final judge; it is there that I see this tendency to compromise.
§ I have long thought that the right solution of that particular problem—I am delighted that the Government have adopted it—is to have an independent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, a Service Chief responsible to the Minister of Defence. I know that that is not a new idea, and that it has been said by foreign critics in some countries where the idea of having an independent Service Chairman was not altogether successful that the Chairman should be a layman. I do not think so. I think that the layman is the Minister of Defence, and that the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee must be a Service man who knows the Services throughout. But when he has got that post, that must be the last post he holds in the Services. I do not say that he may not have a great post at N.A.T.O., but he ought not to look, or to go back to one of the Services, to his own Service. In that way he will be able to give of his best; he will have no divided loyalty, and he will be a real defence Chief of Staff. Again, I congratulate the Government on having done this. May I also congratulate them on their first appointment? The first Chair- 330 man is a man of great ability and broad vision. But we shall not get the results which I am sure the Government themselves seek unless the Minister of Defence is given effective power and is, in reality as well as in name, Minister of Defence.
§ My Lords, so much for organisation at the top. I believe that it is necessary—I am sure it is; I am sure we cannot get either the results or the spirit without it. But a change at the top will not, by itself, create the spirit, unless all through the Services members of the Services believe that what is done is right for the whole and for themselves. That will come only if there is co-operation all through and at all levels. To-day, we have the combined Imperial Defence College for senior officers—an admirable institution, as appreciated in the Commonwealth as it is here. That is excellent. But why have only that? Why have unified, combined training only when officers have reached a high degree of seniority—a captain in the Navy, a colonel in the: Army, or a group captain in the Air Force, or even higher ranks? Why not start at the beginning? Why not start with a Cadet College common to all three Services? No doubt each Service would want its own training, but a good deal of the basic training would be common to all. Above all, the spirit of co-operation and the feeling of integration would be there from the start, when the boys go in.
§ This is not just a theoretical proposition. It is working very well in the Commonwealth. Anybody who has been to Kingston in Canada will have seen the working of the Academy, and seen how enormously successful is this College. The cadets of all three Services enter the same school and stay there for three or four years. They spend half the year in training together, and when the spring comes they go off for six months to their individual Service—the Navy, the Army, or the Air Force. That scheme is working very well. Incidentally, the Ministry of Defence in Canada controls all three Services and is completely integrated throughout. Therefore, my appeal is for a combined Cadet College. I know that money is difficult to get, but this is worth spending money on. After all, we should begin at the beginning; it is not a bad place to start.
§ After the officers join their Services, should there not also be closer co-operation, integration and exchange? The 331 operational training must more and more become combined training. The development of strategy and weapons alike will increasingly require this. Of course the air will more and more come into everything. The offensive-defensive of the strategic bomber force is the major deterrent; there is also fighter defence. Then, too, the air is, and will increasingly be, an essential element in reconnaissance and in attack on submarine and surface vessels at sea; and the air will co-operate ever more closely with the Army. To-day, a tactical air force is a necessary adjunct or ally of every army in the field. But it is not only that. To-day, when people prepare for nuclear war—please God, it may not come!—the emphasis all the time is on mobility, on avoiding great concentrations. Does that not mean that the Air has to come in more and more with the Army in transport, from the largest carrying transports to the helicopter?
§ Guided missiles will also play an increasing part in all three Services. As I understand it guided missiles are to-day primarily the responsibility of the Air Ministry and the Royal Air Force. But surely all must be in this. I am sure that the right way, from every point of view—and not least from the financial point of view—is not to split the Services or divide functions, but to integrate them more closely. Let me take an example—I hope the Admirals will not bay, because I think that they will not disagree with my final remark. I should be very sorry to see Coastal Command transferred to the Navy, but I should be very glad to see an Admiral who was a sailor and an airman Commander-in-Chief of Coastal Command. Similarly, an airman might well have a leading rôle in the Navy's guided missiles. I am sure that these new developments will provide new opportunities for, and indeed will compel, closer co-operation.
§ My Lords, last but not least important, there is the human side to all this. We want to draw the best of our young men to the Services—the young men with keen minds and adventurous spirits. But if they are to be drawn they must see a future. To-day, they are uncertain how the Services will develop—which Service will expand, which will contract; so they hesitate to join any Service. Let us never forget the value of tradition and long 332 associations: the families who for generations have joined the Navy, the families who for generations have gone into a particular regiment. We shall lose these men unless there is opened a highway to talent in the Services as a whole, irrespective of the particular Service a man joins.
I appreciate that these suggestions which I have made fall a long way short of the complete unification of the Services which some have advocated. I remember one of the best co-operators with whom I ever worked—a great sailor and a Member of this House—saying to me, twenty years ago: "Shall we ever get it right until we all wear the same overalls?" That may come some day, but the time is not yet; and even if that should be the ultimate objective (about which I am by no means sure) let us remember to-day the wise French proverb, that
The better is the enemy of the good.
For my part, I believe that, given a Minister with real power; given the spirit and the will to co-operate; and given the opportunities at all levels in the Services, we can achieve all that is necessary to-day.
§ In framing this Motion I have deliberately kept it wide. I have tried to frame my speech on the broadest lines, and I venture to hope that the debate may follow those broad lines. We have many opportunities—we had one last week—of discussing the mass of detail affecting this or that Service; and very valuable those discussions in this House are. But in considering a proposition as wide as the whole structure of the Ministry of Defence, the Service Ministries and the organisation of the Services as a whole, we should be wise—I say it respectfully—not to get into too much detail about this or that particular Service. If we were to do so there might be a danger of some of us failing to see the wood through the trees. So I have deliberately framed this Motion widely, and have tried to open in the same way: and in the suggestions I have laid before your Lordships' House I have tried to be constructive and practical. I can assure the House, though I do not think that the assurance is needed, that these suggestions are offered in a sincere desire to help in that endless adventure in which for many years I was privileged to play a part. I beg to move for Papers.333
§ 3.14 p.m.
THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF' SALISBURY)
My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I intervene early in this debate and make a broad statement of Government policy on the subject with which we are concerned this afternoon, leaving my noble friend Lord Carrington to deal with questions of more detail in his reply. I do not imagine there will be many of those, for I gather from his last words that the purpose of my noble friend Lord Swinton has been to concentrate the debate rather upon the wider aspects of our defence machinery. I should like first to say how grateful Her Majesty's Government are to the noble Earl for tabling this Motion on defence organisation. We are grateful, first, for the reason which the noble Earl himself gave—for the opportunity which a debate of this kind, especially in your Lordships' House, provides for drawing upon the wealth of knowledge and experience of those who will be taking part in it. We are equally grateful because it provides an opportunity for those who represent Her Majesty's Government to re-state and perhaps to amplify the broad lines of policy on which the Government are proceeding.
I imagine that there can be no more important subject for discussion in this House. The heavy burden which defence imposes on our economy would, by itself, I believe, justify the continuous and close attention which your Lordships give to these matters. But there is also the far wider question of our continued standing as a world Power and our ability to sustain effectively the varied and heavy responsibilities which our position as a great Power lays upon us. In this sense, foreign and defence policy are one. I am sure that no one who has studied this subject at all will be tempted to underrate the size and complexity of the task facing our country. Our most vital interest, as always, is the maintenance of peace. That is what one may call the king-pin of all our policy.
But in the modern world that is an infinitely more complex business than it used to be in the past. It means that we must seek to prevent global war, to resist infiltration and subversion, and also that we must play our part in winning a limited war, should another, like Korea, be forced upon us; and that we should 334 be in some position to survive a global war should that catastrophe ever unhappily take place. All this must be achieved, as the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, has said, against the background of an age of technical revolution, which is perpetually shifting and altering our whole conception of war, so that anything we plan may well become obsolete almost before our plan is put into operation. To deal with such a situation as that, we must clearly have not only a sound but a flexible organisation at the centre. We must be prepared to change with the times; yet we must always be careful not so to impair our existing organisation in the search for a better alternative that we prejudice our abilily to carry on with the tasks immediately lacing us. As I am sure the noble Earl, and indeed the whole House, will agree, these two processes—improvement in the central structure and ability to meet our day-to-day commitments—must go hand in hand.
I imagine that there will be no difference of view in any part of the House as to the broad lines of that defence policy which I have tried very briefly to sketch. Yet, possibly just because of the importance of our defence organisation and the new and unexplored field in which it has to operate, there is, perhaps, no subject on which a greater variety of opinion is expressed, and on which men of outstanding ability and experience seem able to reach more widely differing conclusions. Certainly up to now there has been discovered no agreed answer, no short cut to a perfect defence organisation. As your Lordships will know, all kinds of experiments have been tried over the years, both in this country and in other countries, and more and more are being tried to-day. No doubt each has its own particular merits and demerits; but, so far as I know, none of them has yet given proof of that outstanding superiority which alone could make it universally acceptable.
Nevertheless, I believe that we can now at least identify certain broad factors in the situation which we must certainly take into account if we are to decide on the right policy. I suggest that the first and in many ways the most important—and it is none the less important because in public discussions it is often overlooked—is the human element. This has already been stressed by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and. I entirely agree 335 with him. And, in particular, I would say that no organisation can be made to work unless it commands the loyalty and confidence of those who have to operate it. Even a theoretically perfect organisation will be useless, unless it is operated by the right men in the right spirit. This may well be essential for its success. It is one thing to know in theory what ought to be done, but it is another and far more difficult thing to decide exactly how and when a far-reaching change is to be carried through. There must, of course, be no unavoidable delay: but to rush in without adequate preparation of the ground might well be to court failure.
This brings me directly to the second factor I have mentioned, which in a sense flows directly from the first. I could, perhaps, best describe it as the evolutionary factor. The organisation of the Services is, as many of your Lordships know better than I, a tremendously complicated business. It is complicated in the first place by the physical size of the problem: the administration, the training, the transport, and the welfare of the officers and men of all the three Services in every part of the world. And it is complicated in a more subtle way by traditions, by history, and by Service loyalties, to which the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, has rightly referred. There seems to be in some quarters in this country—though I am sure not in your Lordships' House—a tendency, I notice, to underestimate these things, to regard the traditions of the Services as being, perhaps, a little old-fashioned, and ripe to be swept away in a mechanised age of automation, co-ordination, guided weapons, press-button warfare, and so on. But I believe that to be an entirely misconceived idea. Whatever the future may hold for us in the way of technical advance, our ability to meet our defence responsibilities must continue to depend very largely on men as well as on machines: and, if he is to give of his best, a man must be inspired, in my view, by something more than a mere consciousness that he is doing a job of work for which he is being paid, and which provides him with food, shelter, clothing and so on.
As anyone who has been in the Navy, Army or Air Force will know, that extra something—which means so much; 336 which, indeed, in my view, means everything—is intimately bound up with Service loyalties and traditions: and I would remind your Lordships that those traditions, once destroyed, may take generations to re-create. This means in practical terms that these changes—which we all believe to be right—must in their nature be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. But that certainly does not mean that our attitude should be negative or supine or even static. An evolution may be slow or it may be fast. This one, in my view, is likely to be rapid, especially in one vital respect. The history of the last war, reinforced by every military operation and every technical advance that has taken place since then, has made clear that there is no longer scope for a land or an air or a sea war. On this I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Earl, Lord Swinton. Modern war already demands, and will increasingly demand, the closest possible co-operation and, indeed, integration of all arms of all the three Services with—and here again I entirely agree with the noble Earl, Lord Swinton—increasing emphasis on the air. That, as I see it, must be our long-term objective. It must be to secure ever-increasing co-operation, an ever-increasing measure of common doctrine and common thinking between the three Services, and the ultimate merging of present traditions and present loyalties in a wider whole.
It is against that background that the Prime Minister announced in another place last week the changes which the Government have decided to make in the central direction of defence. As he explained, it is our intention that the authority and influence of the Minister of Defence himself should be strengthened. Henceforth, his responsibility for the apportionment of available resources between the three Services will, as my right honourable friend explained, extend to a responsibility for seeing that the composition and balance of forces within individual Services meets the strategic policy laid down, or which may at any time be laid down, by the Defence Committee. To assist him, as the noble Earl has already said, a new post, the post of Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, has been created, and I was delighted to hear from the noble Earl's speech that he himself approves of that important step. This officer, and the three other Chiefs of Staff will jointly be the 337 professional military advisers of the Government. The new officer will normally be the United Kingdom representative on the Military Committee of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and on other international defence organisations.
I may say, without going further into that matter, that I have not the slightest doubt that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister will take full account of the comments which the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, made on this particular aspect. In addition, the Minister of Defence will co-ordinate planning and training for the joint action of civil and military forces in Home Defence. Finally, the Ministry of Supply has been brought more closely within the scope of his co-ordinating powers. All this is, I submit—if I may use such an expression in your Lordships' House in this connection—"very much up the noble Earl's street." We may not have gone as far or as fast as some people might wish. But no one, I think, could deny that we have taken a very definite step forward; and, as I have already said, in a field so vast and complex, there may be advantages in proceeding step by step rather than trying to do everything at once.
Having set out our broad objective, I hope the House will allow me to turn aside for a moment to explain what has already been done in the way of implementing it. There is in some quarters; I think, still some misunderstanding about the progress which has been made. This is possibly due to criticisms by past members of one or other of the Armed Services who may, rather naturally, find the new conception in some ways slightly unpalatable. In fact there is, as I think the majority of your Lordships know, extremely good co-operation to-day between serving members of all three Services. It is, of course, not yet perfect. There is still plenty of room for improvement. But my information is that the co-operation and relationship between the three Services is to-day closer in this country than in any other country in the world.
The noble Earl rightly referred to the Imperial Defence College. But he seemed—unless I misunderstood him—to be under the impression that co-operative study does not begin until the rank of captain. Royal Navy, or colonel is 338 reached. I am glad to be able to tell your Lordships that that is no longer the case. That gap was, to a great extent, at any rate, filled by the setting up after the war of the Joint Services Staff College at Latimer. The aim of the course at the Joint Services Staff College is to train officers to fill appointments on joint staffs, to widen their knowledge of subjects with which, as joint staff officers, they may have to deal, and, at the same time, to develop a mutual understanding and efficient working between the Services. There are about seventy-two students—fifty-one of them members of the United Kingdom Armed Forces—on each course. Their average age is thirty-eight years, and their ranks are, generally speaking, commander, major or lieutenant-colonel and wing commander. There are two courses a year, each of twenty-seven weeks' duration. That should go some considerable way to meeting my noble friend's criticism.
I can tell the House that, so far, between 800 and 900 officers of all three Services have passed through this College. These are picked officers who are expected to go high i7 their respective Services. There is no doubt about the success of the College, and of its value in developing mutual understanding of inter-Service problems. In addition, a certain number of members of each Service to-day attend the Staff College of another Service, as your Lordships will probably know. There are also specialised schools devoted to the study of inter-Service problems—the School of Amphibious Warfare, the Land-Air Warfare School and the Joint Anti-Submarine School. One does not hear much about the work of these schools but I am sure your Lordships will agree about their value in fostering inter-Service co-operation and an appreciation of problems from the wider point of view. I thought the noble Earl made some extremely interesting suggestions about a combined cadet college. I certainly would not rule that out; but, as he will know much better than I do, it raises big problems. I fully appreciate what he said about the Canadian precedent. I am sure that what is extremely successful, but it must be remembered that in that case the numbers involved are far smaller than they would he here. In considering matters of this kind, I know he will agree that the issue of size 339 cannot be left out of account. However, I will pass on what he has said.
In conclusion, I return for a moment to the central organisation. Here, as I have already explained to your Lordships, we are steadily moving by stages towards a stronger central control of policy and a better co-ordination between the policies of the three Services. It is our prime object, as it is the noble Earl's, that the Services should work together, each contributing their special skills to achieve a common end. I know that that is in harmony with his ideas, and I think with the ideas of the vast majority of people who have given time and study to this question. Indeed, in one particular field we have already gone a good deal further than the noble Earl quite recognises, judging from his speech. He spoke about the necessity of giving the Minister of Defence responsibility for research. In fact, the Minister of Defence has already been given responsibility for the framing of general policy governing research and development. This means that, of necessity, it is he who holds the balance between the requirements of the three Services and endorses the orders of priority on which the programme as a whole is based. I think that that is what the noble Earl had in mind.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, I am not quite sure whether the Minister of Defence has responsibility for initiating or whether he is an arbitrator.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am continuing on the same subject. In this task the Minister of Defence is advised by the Defence Research Policy Committee, over which his scientific adviser presides. The members of the Committee are drawn from all three Services and the Ministry of Supply. There is one other matter in regard to central organisation to which I think I ought to refer. As the House will remember, the 1946 White Paper provided for the setting up of a Standing Committee of the Service Ministers under the chairmanship of the Minister of Defence for the consideration of common administrative problems. This machinery has now been thoroughly expanded and developed in the light of experience. The Minister of defence has constant meetings with the Service Ministers and their senior advisers. The Minister of Supply attends 340 these meetings when matters affecting production or research are discussed. In this way there has been set up within the defence field what I think may be described as a forum for the discussion of major problems on an inter-Service basis. By this machinery the Minister of Defence is able both to keep in touch with new developments and to make his views known to his Service colleagues.
Further, I am sure that your Lordships will have heard with great satisfaction of the appointment of General Mansergh as Commander-in-Chief, United Kingdom Land Forces. In that capacity he will act as chairman of the Commanders-in-Chief (United Kingdom) Committee. This is another step towards unified direction of policy and planning. Our aim throughout has been to proceed by steps so that, as each step is taken, we may learn by experience and see more clearly where the next step should lie. In fact, our approach has not been dogmatic but, as in my view it should be, empirical and flexible. It is just because we propose to work forward in the light of experience rather than to leap in the dark that we welcome so warmly a debate of this kind in your Lordships' House. We are conscious, very conscious, that there is still a great deal to be learned. The noble Earl has immense experience in this field and I can assure him that we shall give full attention to what is said this afternoon by him and by others who have great experience, as being helpful and valuable contributions to our understanding of a subject which is complex and technical, yet so vital to us all.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am sure the House will agree that we have listened to two very able speeches on a difficult and important subject—what is the best central organisation for the defence of this great land and the Commonwealth. I could not honestly prepare a speech for this debate on the Motion which the noble Earl put on the Order Paper, because I did not know how short he would be in his aims or how much head he would give me in this matter. I did not put down anything on paper and came to listen, as he requested, with an open mind to what he had to say. From his speech and the statement of policy made by the noble Marquess the Leader 341 of the House, who followed him—a convenient arrangement for which we should all be grateful—I have tried to find what there was left to debate.
One thing is certain, and that is that the claim made by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, for the success of the former Prime Minister as Minister of Defence during the war is justified and cannot be over-emphasised. Nor can it be doubted, I think, that there were many things which had to be done, inescapably, in war time to which there would be quite different reactions if we attempted to do them in peace time. I think we are faced with such a situation that we ought not to be too chary of going even that far, if it were found to be absolutely necessary. We must approach this with an open mind. The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said that there was a great variety of opinion on these matters. He will remember that in 1946, when the Government discussed with our professional advisers the changing situation which had come about, to our sharp regret, after the "war to end wars" was over, we decided that it would be essential to create a permanent Ministry of Defence—a scheme which we submitted in the 1946 White Paper to which the noble Marquess referred. At that time it was apparent that there was to be found a great variety of opinion on central organisation.
At the risk of wearying the House for a minute or two, perhaps I might refer to section XVI of the White Paper of 1946, in which reference was made to the suggestion put forward in some quarters of a combined General Staff. I was interested at the time to see that the draft that was put into our hands included this statement:Our own experience, however, and a close study of captured German Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (O.K.W.), combine to demonstrate that this conception is not only inferior to our Joint Staff system, but has defects which in practice proved disastrous.That again shows another piece of wisdom expressed by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House: that in these matters, although we may sometimes have to work up the execution of a project quickly, we must be sure of our ground before we embark upon revolutionary changes.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
I hope I made it clear that I entirely rejected the parallel staff organisation and was all for the Chiefs of Staff Committee.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I rather gathered that from what was said but, recalling the White Paper, I wanted to show how we had gone into that matter in 1946. The state of the world is such that, with all the urgent problems facing us, we might be inclined to doubt the successes which have been obtained by the Ministry of Defence system in peace time since 1946. Those successes have been quite remarkable. I doubt very much whether—though I do not deprecate it at all; we shall see what happens—the appointment of an independent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee will prove to have added an enormous factor in the situation. My experience for over three years in the first period of the Ministry was that I never had any difficulty with a system in which the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee was appointed from any of the Services. Indeed, I shall never cease to recollect what I owe to the unselfish and quite impartial service that Marshal of the Air Force Lord Tedder gave as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee; he was a tower of strength to me. I doubt very much whether any independent staff officer would be of any more support to the present Minister of Defence.
The one thing I do see is what has been revealed by the noble Marquess. Lord Salisbury: that the new independent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee will represent us in the United Kingdom delegation to the Military Committee of N.A.T.O., or any similar international body that might arise. I believe that would be most valuable. Not only would it strengthen the hands of the Minister of Defence, but one might hope that it would lead to some change in the present practice which seems to have grown up—that of international staff officers who are permanent members for the time being of the N.A.T.O. Military Organisation making important public pronouncements, sometimes at most awkward stages. I have raised this matter before in this House, and perhaps something can now be done by the present Minister of Defence, through his new international representative on the 343 Military Committee, to prevent the kind of thing that happened the other day when, just as the Foreign Secretary was going off to make peace at Geneva (as we hoped), we had television interviews with principal staff officers of N.A.T.O. The things that were said on that occasion about the countries we were going to negotiate with seemed to me to be almost likely to lead to disaster in the efforts which are so properly being made with Her Majesty's Government in these international conferences. That these public pronouncements should be taken out of the hands of the elected Ministers of the democratic countries belonging to N.A.T.O. seems to be contrary to all the principles I had in mind when the late Mr. Ernest Bevin and I were negotiating in the beginning for the organisation, which finally led to the military constitution of the organisation in 1949. I hope that that position may be improved. It seemed to me to be almost intolerable for a Foreign Secretary to have to go to Geneva after the sort of things that were said in that television interview the other day.
I turn now to the point made by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, in reply to the reference by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, to combined education and training of the staffs. I should like to support what the noble Marquess said, because this is one of the things that has grown out of the Chiefs of Staff organisation, through the Ministry of Defence. There is no doubt in my mind, from my experience of it and from many visits to it, sometimes to give a talk, that the Imperial Defence Staff College has grown enormously in its usefulness and its breadth of study and vision; and I should say that the Joint Staff College at Latimer has gone on from success to success. It has been wise not to have too great numbers there. The cumulative effect of the work in that College has undoubtedly shown itself right through the Services. What I liked on my visits there was the extremely good relationship between all members of the three Services. The debates and discussions we had after lectures revealed not only a complete openness of statement about their convictions but a general spirit of a desire for co-operation for the national good—a spirit, incidentally, which might be 344 adopted with benefit to the country in a good many other places than military circles.
The other success of the Chiefs of Staff Organisation of the Ministry of Defence has been the development of those other joint schools to which the noble Marquess referred—namely, the amphibious, the land and air and the joint anti-submarine warfare schools. Every one of them has shown up any weaknesses that may have existed in the past and how much real co-operation is required. The noble Earl who introduced the Motion said something about at least part of the air issue in connection with the Royal Navy when he said that he would not favour the return of Coastal Command to the Royal Naval Air Service. While this is not the sort of occasion to go into a detailed debate upon that matter, I am sure he will remember that it was of great importance to us in the war that we were able to join up the efforts of the two Services by having a Naval Operational Command of Coastal Command, which led to great improvement in the efficiency of the air anti-submarine service. I was also delighted, when at the Admiralty in those days, with the way in which the Commanding Officer and all ranks in Coastal Command worked wholeheartedly and achieved such success in their operations in the anti-submarine war. It is advisable that there should be, as far as possible, closer and closer integration of these two functions—the air function and the naval function—in dealing with submarine warfare.
As the noble Earl was speaking it reminded me of something I said, I think, in the last debate on the Ministry of Defence White Paper, some months ago. I hope I am not judging him wrongly, but I should say that what the noble Earl wants is a gradual or, at least, a steady move towards complete integration of the Forces. But when you have to face the sort of world situation as we have now, you must have some regard to what is likely to be the basis of organisation of your principal allies. I think I said in the last debate on the White Paper on Defence that the situation in the United States of America is such that I do not think you could counter it altogether by quoting an example in a single sphere such as Canada. My final negotiations 345 on the military constitution of N.A.T.O. were made with the United States Minister of Defence, Mr. Lew Johnson. Within a few weeks of our having signed the Agreement in 1949, he sought to incorporate the naval aviation forces in a new central air force to be built up in the United States. But he was completely defeated in his project, and to-day the United States Navy appears to me to be concentrating so much upon the power of its air force that it will no longer be regarded merely as a force against other naval forces of a foreign country or in guarding the sea lanes, but as a powerful part of any new build-up for carrying the assault to the enemy. Perhaps whether that is right or not in every respect will still have to be proved, but certainly it would be a great advantage to go on steadily in these matters and to keep in mind that the basis of organisation of our principal ally will have some effect upon what we ought to decide to do in this country.
We have had a good many successes as a result of the setting up of the Ministry of Defence. I am absolutely certain that we can achieve still further successes by a steady overhauling of the machine and, where necessary, granting further power. I hesitate even to appear to be throwing a little cold water on the proposals made by the Government the other day, but in peace time—and it seemed to me, from the general trend of his language, that this was not altogether absent from the mind of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House—the country is not anxious to accept Ministers with dictatorial powers. The powers exercised in peace time must always he within the free will of the electorate, and because of that must be exercised by the will of the Government. I have not the words exactly in mind, but if the noble Marquess will go back to the original White Paper in 1946 he will find that it made fairly plain that it is vital that the main authority in this matter must be the whole Cabinet. I should he exceedingly nervous if this other trend were to be developed in such a way that the Chiefs of Staff and the Minister, with greater powers, were able to dictate what the policy should be. If I can find the words from the White Paper the noble Marquess will see what I mean.
I think that the human element, about which the noble Marquess talked, which 346 is required to carry the work of the Forces to success, is just as important in regard to the Minister of Defence. It is a good thing to know that the system of a Standing Committee of Ministers, which we set up in 1947, is being s lecifically expanded. It was always expanded as we went along. Any major problem which touched upon all three Forces meant at once a calling of the Ministers, under the chairmanship of the Minister of Defence, to see what could be done to help each other and to come to a common solution. That worked perfectly well. As to the question dealt with in the original White Paper, the apportionment of the resources available, I may say that we were in an exceedingly difficult period in 1946–49. We had the cold war growing on our hands; we had the new expense of going into National Service, and we had a rather sticky financial time for the Treasury as a whole in 1947 and 1948. We were not able to do all we wanted; but, approached in a reasonable spirit, all the Services of the day did their best to meet the situation, and I do not think it was ever on a basis of cutting off what was urgent in one case, to supply to another Service something which was not nearly so urgently required. There was a spirit of real co-operation and give and take amongst the Chiefs of Staff, although, of course, there were from time to time differences of opinion. I believe that that again showed that the setting up of the Ministry in 1946 has been completely justified by results.
There is one other matter. When the noble Earl was talking about a cadet college—and, I tell him frankly, I do not feel competent to express a view on the details of such a scheme without further examination; I have heard about it only to-day—he referred to the expense of running it and, in general, to the expense of defence. The noble Marquess said that the strain upon our national economy of the defence charges we have to meet necessitates at all times that we should have an open mind and see what is necessary in order to proceed in an evolutionary way. The expense of our defence to-day is fantastic in relation to the national economy. I looked at the White Papers just before I came into the House this afternoon, and I found that over the three years, 1952. 1953 and 1954, the cost of the Fighting Services and their equipment has been 30 to 32 per cent. of our 347 current revenue, according to the year, with an average of 31 per cent. over the three years. That is an enormous proportion of our resources in relation to all the other costs we have to meet as a nation. Yet we are now faced with such a world situation that when one looks at the potential dangers one wonders sometimes whether it is advisable to propose any reduction at all.
The situation in the Middle East is vital. Whatever has been said about it from time to time in debates, the fact is that no base has yet been found to replace the base in Egypt, held under the old Agreement of 1936, in order to keep anything like a stable control over the difficulties which are likely to arise there. The move to Cyprus does not yet seem to have accomplished any solution of that general difficulty for us nor is it likely, it would seem, to do so. Then there are the new developments of the contacts between Egypt and the Soviet countries. Following the supply of arms to Egypt, new contracts have been signed—at least so I understand—for the supply of heavy industrial material from East Germany to Egypt. That emphasises the situation there. The vote in the Saar the other day and the general attitude at Geneva in the last few days all seem to point to the fact that we are by no means yet in sight of a reasonable solution of the international and political difficulties. And yet the cost of it all is so crippling.
For three years I have been asking for an inquiry. I wish that an inquiry could be held. I am not looking at it from the point of view of what reduction we can make in National Service. That has been asked for in another connection, but it is not my thought for debate to-day. I wish that we could inquire into some of the questions that the noble Earl, by this Motion, has raised—whether, for instance, we are getting what we want for our money, and whether it will be effective. We are still spending £1,512 million a year, yet we have not been able to keep pace with the original triennial programme of production for the Forces which was laid down in 1950–51, partly because of difficulties over materials and partly because of the rising costs. We ought to have an inquiry as to how we are situated and whether we are getting value for our money. Both Houses of 348 Parliament ought to be informed in far more detail exactly how the money is being spent. I am glad to note that more responsibility is being attached to the Ministry of Defence in that connection. I do not think that I myself should have looked for any more when I was there. I was consulted upon everything, and I am quite sure that the present Minister also is being consulted and will have a great deal to say.
The present expenditure upon research is not known to us. We started with a fixed sum of £30 million. The figure has gone up and up, naturally, because in that Vote is included the cost of development, as well as the original basic and fundamental research. How is the money apportioned in the production programme? Is it on a cost-plus basis and, if so, at what rate? How is it calculated? To whom does it go? When I went to the Admiralty in 1940, I found a great many difficulties arising out of the immediately pre-war situation in which preparations for war were made on a cost-plus basis. The basis upon which prices and profits were being assessed was simply fantastic—I like that word because the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, used it to me a few months ago: I do ask the noble Marquess to pay a little attention to what I am saying. There ought to be an inquiry. It is satisfactory to have evidence that the Government have been thinking about defence problems, and have been making moves. We need to be satisfied that we are making the best use of our money and manpower, and I am not at all satisfied yet that we are getting full value for our money. I hope that there will be an inquiry and that it will be possible to show Parliament, within reason, exactly how the money is being spent and what is the basic system for payment in this enormous production programme which is connected with the present Estimates.
I am sure that I have not dealt adequately, because I did not know exactly what he was going to say, with all that the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, had to say to-day. I welcome very much the opportunity of having this debate. I shall go away and read carefully both the noble Earl's speech and the speech of the Leader of the House. It may be that in the course of the months that ensue we shall be coming again to 349 debates upon defence, upon the White Paper or upon the Defence Estimates, and then we may have something more to say. In the meantime, I think every Member of your Lordships' House would do well to regard the present situation with anxiety. And let us be sure that each one of us contributes all he possibly can to finding the best solution.
§ 4.6 p.m.
My Lords, in view of the rather long list of speakers who wish to address your Lordships' House, and because most of us, I am sure, wish to hear from those who are far better qualified than I to speak on this important subject. I propose to keep your Lordships for only a short time. First, I would say that I welcome this trend towards the centralisation of the supreme military authority in one Ministry, the Ministry of Defence. We must all have sympathy with those who are serving, or who have served, in the Regular Forces in the partial abrogation of autonomy of the individual branches; but the time has come when tradition must, to some extent, yield to the demands of modern warfare, although would support the noble Marquess in saying how very important is the particular pride of each branch of the Army, of each ship and of each unit of the Air Force, and how we must at all costs retain the spirit which has inspired these Forces for so long.
Up to now each Service, perfectly properly, has had its own individual outlook. In the case of the Navy, it was natural and proper that in time of war the chief preoccupation and hope should be those of a major victory at sea; and the other rôles of the senior Service—defence of our shores, interruption of enemy supply and communication lines and support of the land and air forces—took, broadly speaking, a secondary place in the heart of the sailor. With the Army, every soldier dreams of overrunning and routing the enemy in the field of battle, rather than "containing" him for attack by the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force. The Air Force pushes forward primarily with the target of major bombing attacks, with its magnificent record of defence and of "cover" for the other two arms taking rather second place in its operational aspirations.
In the past, the emphasis in each case has been upon the individual primary rôle 350 of scoring a direct and damaging hit upon the enemy. That, indeed, is an admirable emphasis. But in to-day's warfare the interplay between the Services is so intimate and interrelated that it is no longer realistic to have a tripartite command where an admiral, a general and an air marshal may, with all integrity, take completely divergent views on one subject. It is natural, of course, that those who are advising Her Majesty's Government should be guided by their own experience and by the long and great traditions of their respective Services, but I would suggest that the immensely accelerating rate of scientific discovery to-day imposes upon Her Majesty's Government a great responsibility to assess the future in terms which no individual past training, and even no experience over the centuries, can fulfil.
Even in these early days of the development of nuclear power, is it not clear that in time of war the manpower of any given unit of attack or of defence is likely to be numerically infinitely smaller than has traditionally been necessary in the past? With these considerations in mind, I submit that we should look again and look constantly at the problem of National Service, a problem which the noble Viscount who has just resumed his seat did not pursue beat which I think comes within the ambit of the Motion.
Forty years ago the question of conscription ceased to be a Party issue and became a national necessity. But the principle of coercion is basically alien to British thought, and the necessity for its continuance is queried in many minds—not the least, incidentally, in those of the mothers and fathers of the young men whose careers are being interrupted for a gesture of perhaps questionable value. The shortcomings of conscription are various, but they are not all obvious. In entering, even for a short term, a career which he has not chosen and does not intend to pursue, a man can hardly be expected to give to it a full measure either of enthusiasm or of application. Consequently, the material to be worked upon needs more tools—that is, more training personnel—than would he required proportionately for an ordinary intake of career Servicemen. As a result, not only is our front line military strength depleted by an overlarge allocation to training duties, but the results are, I suggest, 351 inferior compared with the training of voluntary and interested regular entrants.
The repetition of constant training, bringing the intake up from scratch, so to speak, to a certain degree of proficiency, then losing them and starting the whole business over again, must surely be undermining the morale of those of the Regular Forces to whom training duties are allocated. Constant obsolescence due to the advance of nuclear development surely makes the value of any mass training rather a doubtful quantity and, again, if that be so, is surely undermining to the morale of both trainer and trainee. The misgivings about the efficacy of our present system lie not importantly with the young men who are concerned, who have not much experience by which to judge, apart from their own inclinations; they lie far more importantly with the relatives and friends of these young men, a very strong body of opinion indeed in this country. Of equal importance, or economically perhaps of greater importance, is the frustration of the commercial employer who cannot get the manpower for the vital increase in productivity which is essential for our export trade.
As a result of our National Service system, I suggest, we rather fall between two stools. We have a vast mass of civilians whose training, in a crisis, will be not only two-thirds forgotten but almost certainly out of date and therefore rather useless or perhaps worse than useless; we have standing forces partially undertrained as fighting units; and, by these training demands, the best of our front line strength will have been starved of the ancillary support which, instead of serving them towards perfection in their own line, has been dissipated in grappling with the teaching of possibly obsolete warfare.
The overriding consideration from every aspect is, of course, that of security. A general objection in principle to conscription must be, has been and always, I hope, will be, subservient to the national interest. I ask Her Majesty's Government to consider not a weakening of our military power—quite the reverse; I ask them to investigate jointly with our good friends of N.A.T.O., the new re-allocation of manpower between the Services and productivity in a balance which should give us greater power than ever. 352 And I suggest that this problem entails two major considerations: first, the establishment of the three Services on a considerably restricted numerical basis, but with a high standard of efficiency, achieved mainly, as the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, has suggested, through higher rates of pay and particularly through good career prospects. In this nuclear age the small, concentrated, expert unit surely replaces the hordes of mediæval bowmen of the Middle Ages, and the battalions and brigades of the last two world wars. There is a point, probably hitherto unknown to strategists, at which numbers, per se, can be a disadvantage, and even an embarrassment.
The second consideration is, whether, in a future crisis, we shall not need a far greater proportion of the war effort concentrated upon production and productivity by highly-trained civilians whose value is far greater in their professional expertise than as rather rusty National Service men. My Lords, in welcoming the new relaxation in National Service duties, I urge Her Majesty's Government to look not only at to-day, not only at to-morrow, but to look most urgently at the day after to-morrow.
§ 4.15 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, to whom we are indebted for initiating this debate, illustrates in his career and person the advantage to which he drew attention and which this House enjoys, of being able to draw upon a wide and varied experience. No man has given longer service or been more deeply versed in the matters which we are discussing than he. I also feel that the time has yet to come when he will be given the full credit for the work which he did at the Air Ministry and which, in no minor sense, enabled us to achieve the result which we did achieve in the Battle of Britain.
The noble Marquess, the Leader of the House, with great wisdom, laid down the principles which should guide us in our discussion. He said that we should have regard, in considering matters of organisation, first of all to the human element. It is indeed true—it is axiomatic—that organisations depend for their efficient working upon the personalities engaged in them, and no suggestion that I shall make is intended to leave that out of account. We must recognise that those 353 who have the responsibility for running the machine must be the ultimate judges of its character. He also advised us to have regard to the evolutionary character of our institutions. It is true that we are not symmetrical architects, but we try and adjust our constructions to the setting of nature in which they are to be placed. Therefore, once again, any proposals which may be made cannot be made in a dogmatic sense merely because they are logical, but as indicating a tendency which is fully in accord with the tenor of our development. Finally, he said that we must pay regard to tradition. Well, I think, with humility, that this was very good counsel.
The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said that people who reached office and responsibility were not always true to the convictions which they had expressed in a private station, and he instanced the case of Field-Marshal Wilson who had proposed the creation of a super-General Staff but did not do very much about it when he had the opportunity. I permit myself the wry inquiry whether we should have listened to exactly the same speech from my noble friend if, but a few months ago, the Motion that he has moved had been put forward by someone else and he had been called upon to reply. But that is purely light-hearted and by the way.
I was alarmed, as doubtless several of your Lordships must have been, by the hypothesis upon which the noble Earl based his argument. He told us that the immense impact of nuclear fission on our strategy had not yet been reflected in our central organisation for defence. That is a very disturbing statement. Looking at the White Paper concerned with the Central Organisation for Defence—that is the constitution under which we are operating for these purposes—I find that it states, in paragraph 10:Experience during the war showed that any future development of our central organisation for defence would be incomplete if it did not provide throughout for the closest possible integration of scientific and military men.That is a very proper recognition of the overwhelmingly important place occupied by scientists in the formulation of our preparedness.
I looked further to see how that principle had been carried out. Part of the answer is to be found in paragraph 32 of the White Paper: 354The problem here is to secure the continued and complete integration of military and scientific thought…For this purpose there will be a Committee on Defence Research Policy, consisting of those responsible both from the operational and scientific angle, for research and development in the Service Departments"—Note, "in" the Service Departments—and the Ministry of Supply.But this Committee has nothing like the status of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. None of its members, not even its chairman, attends the Defence Committee automatically but only when summoned. The Chiefs of Staff ate there as of right.
If this were the only outlet that scientists had for bringing their influence to bear there would be a grievous omission in our defence organisation; but when we consider the origin of the atomic bomb what do we find? This was not a military conception. This was not a bomb made to fulfil a specification laid down in a Service Department. It is true that at every appropriate stage it was encouraged (much to their credit) by the Chiefs of Staff; but it was a civilian vision. It was a vision of scientists, and the research and experiment was done in universities and elsewhere, with the co-operation of the engineering industry, under the direction of civilian Government Departments. The whole project was a matter of infinite secrecy guarded from almost everybody. The decision to use the bomb was not a military decision. It was a civilian decision taken in the highest quarter. The briefing was a civilian briefing. Two pilots were engaged in the enterprise, I believe. They received their instructions from the scientists. This was not a military operation in the ordinary sense, but a Para-military operation. Clausewitz said that war, as we have hitherto understood it, was a means of implementing national policy when methods of diplomacy no longer availed. Nuclear war has been shown to be a method of implementing national policy when conventional war no longer avails.
There is a clear-cut and fundamental distinction, in my judgment, historically and philosophically, between nuclear war, by which is meant a war of mass destruction, sudden, catastrophic, devastating, annihilating and complete—which I say is a matter for scientists and politicians, the responsible political authority—and conventional war. Our military preparation tends perhaps to be 355 confused on occasion by our trying to think simultaneously of, and intermingling the ideas of, these two separate kinds of war. Some military experts speak of nuclear war as if it applied to land warfare and suggest that, because of its implications, the results will be too quick for a reserve army to be of any avail. But when one looks deeper into what they are saying one finds that they are referring, not to the use of the atom bomb, the hydrogen bomb or the cobalt bomb, but to the application, to their weapons, of atomic warheads. Yet these are weapons which will be used upon the battlefield, such as shells with atomic warheads in cannon and other ballistic devices.
I agree with what was said by the noble and gallant Marshal of the Air Force, Lord Tedder, that in these wars which we are envisaging—as distinct, I think, from the atomic war—the principles of warfare have not changed. The factors of speed, surprise and hitting power have been accelerated or intensified, of course, and, naturally, tactics must be modified to suit the conditions; but all that is in the line of historical development. In my submission, the Chiefs of Staff have a heavy task in adjusting themselves to these problems together with their responsibilities for overall strategy, and this is complicated if their minds are continually turned from one kind of warfare to another. There is a limit to what a human being can master, digest and act upon. Already, almost everyone in the Government Service—and I suppose it is inevitable—is overwhelmed with documents. The military leaders are warhorses, in the sense that they have nosebags filled with paper put about their necks every morning. We must not overwhelm them, and we must not allow their mission to be confused. Their main mission is to give us a military organisation fitted to the needs of conventional war. It does not, as I say, exclude the use of nuclear weapons. That is their mission.
Is this organisation suited to that purpose? Well, it has been modified. We are now to be given an independent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee—an additional member, another airman, a distinguished Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Sir William Dickson. He is to be an additional member, and 356 he is to be Chairman. With great submission, I do not agree with the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, in his spontaneous approval of this step. I am open to conviction for, as I say, one would be foolish to be dogmatic. But I should like to hear some further explanation. The Minister of Defence already has a Chief of Staff, General Brownjohn—he has not been mentioned in these proposals. He is the constituted adviser of the Minister of Defence and he follows a very distinguished predecessor, Lord Ismay. What is his function? He sat on the Chiefs of Staff Committee representing the Minister of Defence. No mention is made of him. He has been levitated out of the whole business. That is the first question.
Then I ask this further question. We are told in paragraph 17 of the White Paper of 1946 that:It has always been a cardinal principle of the British organisation that, alike in the Chiefs of Staff Committee and in the Joint Staffs, it should be the men responsible in the Service Departments for carrying out the approved policy who are brought together in the central machine to formulate it.If that principle is to be revised, I think those who read this White Paper in the first instance and approved it should have some explanation offered to them. The White Paper further states:The soundness of this principle has been amply proved in practical experience in war.Amply proved—amply proved that those who sit on the Chiefs of Staff Committee should have responsibility for a Department. That is a cardinal principle proved, the White Paper says, in war. The paragraph continues:The methods employed in the British organisation were adopted without alteration in the machinery of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, and at the various Anglo-American headquarters formed in the field.That is a very powerful—I would almost say dogmatic—rejection of the proposal to appoint an additional member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee who has no responsibility for a Department. As I say, I do not reject the idea, because as one is not in the machine one does not understand it. But I think we are entitled to some explanation, and I have no doubt that the noble Lord who is to reply on behalf of Her Majesty's Government tomorrow will give it.
357 But that is not all. Paragraph 18 of the White Paper states:It has sometimes been suggested that, even though our Joint Staff system is based on sound principles, it would be improved by the appointment of an independent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committe, either a civilian of wide experience and proved ability or an ex-Chief of Staff.The White Paper continues:This suggestion ignores the facts as they exist, and as they have existed for many years. It has always been recognised that, whenever he sees fit, the Prime Minister can himself preside at the meetings of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.He has taken, says the White Paper:a most active part in directing the work of the Committee.…And your Lordships may think it right that he should have this close association. Then the White Paper goes on:By this means the Prime Minister was able to place ideas before the Chiefs of Staff for professional examination, to keep them in touch with political matters which had military implications, and thus to direct in a broad way the work of the Joint Staffs as a whole.That is what we are told. There should not be another Service man or civilian as Chairman of this Chiefs of Staff Committee because there is an advantage in a political Minister—in this case the Prime Minister—being in close association to help to mould the policy, as, in fact, the Minister of Defence did during the war. And because, the White Paper says, the Prime Minister has not the time to do this —,that is, to take the chair, to give these political instructions, or this guidance and information to the Chiefs of Staff—we will have a Minister of Defence to do it. That was a ground upon which the Minister of Defence was appointed. Suddenly, we find the platform taken away from beneath our feet. A summary statement is now made that we are to have a Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee who will be another Service man. As, I say, I await some explanation of that step.
There is great force in having a Minister closely associated with the Chiefs of Staff: it is only by such a process that you can get a decision on merits. But it is quite illusory, in my judgment, to talk about the idea of a single-Service mentality which will obviate differences of outlook. It does not matter whether you have one Service or three Services, there must be conflicting interests and arguments at a Committee such as this, 358 or at any vital Committee; and the Minister's function is to make a decision, and give guidance, not by achieving what the noble Earl wished to avoid—the lowest common denominator—but by giving a verdict or reaching a conclusion on the merits of the case. No one has better illustrated the usefulness of such a power and such an influence than my noble friend Lord Swinton. He was the Minister, when we were in the Cabinet together before the war, who settled the difference of opinion—a perfectly legitimate and understandable difference of opinion, and one of long standing— between the Admiralty and the Royal Air Force on Coastal Command. He gave a verdict in favour of the Royal Air Force being responsible for Coastal Command; his proposal was accepted and was carried out during the war, and still prevails_ There is an illustration of a Minister going right inside the Service minds, hearing arguments, and making a recommendation which has endured.
We were less fortunate at the War Office. It was my view, and it has always been my view, that one does not necessarily have to wear a blue uniform and be trained in the Air Force to fly an aeroplane, any more than one has to be trained at Pickford's in order to drive a motor lorry. There are certain ancillary services which a Service Department should fulfil from its own resources. I was constantly pleading that the Army should have its close support aircraft and, in the fullness of time, its own air supply service. The helicopter has since been developed and would be ideal for that purpose. The problem has never been satisfactorily settled, and it should be settled one way or another; it is a matter of continued controversy. As I say, in the case of Coastal Command the problem was settled by a political Minister, and that shows forcibly the usefulness of a Minister of Defence.
While I do not think that integration is any more than an ideal, I agree with the noble Earl that there are many respects in which it could be achieved, and I was glad to hear from the noble Marquess the Leader of the House that that principle prevailed to a greater extent than had been imagined. The Minister of Defence is responsible, of course, for all inter-Service organisations—the Joint Staff College, the Imperial College of Defence and other such institutions. I 359 should like to take that a step further, which I think would be practicable. I think the Minister of Defence ought to be responsible for the higher appointments of an inter-Service character. For that purpose he must have his own military secretary. If officers go to these Colleges, which we owe to the wisdom of men who came before us, like the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, they should be judged subsequently and reported upon from an inter-Service angle. Therefore, I think the Minister of Defence ought to have his own military secretary. He ought to have something else; he ought to have an inter-Service inspectorate of men who have graduated into the inter-Service class in the way we are discussing and who can report on the duplication or triplication, whichever it may be, of services such as catering, medical and any others. I think that would give him more "teeth."
There is no doubt that this proposal is only a transition. It is not good enough to have just a co-ordinator, with a few additional powers thrown to him here and there. The noble Marquess has described how the Minister of Defence can now enter into Service Departments and apportion their allowance in such a way as to fulfil the strategic overall prescriptions of the Cabinet. That is an advance. But we must have something more than a co-ordinator. We have had experience of the idea of a Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. When the office was at first established I believe it was Sir Winston Churchill who first said, not, I hope, with reference to the Minister, but to his indeterminate function, that no more astonishing appointment had been made since Caligula made his horse a Consul. I do not identify myself with any criticism of the holder of the office, whom I esteemed: it is the system which is at fault. I can say from my experience that a co-ordinator is a person who doubles the work. There is no end to argument, which is iterated and reiterated, and through every crevice the Treasury creep in and eat up some of the resources which might have been available. I think that, if this kind of arangement is to prevail, the time must come when we shall have to remove the ambiguities. Responsibility without power is bad. I was thinking of what Mr. Baldwin said about 360 the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.
§ LORD HORE-BELISHA
Ah, well, it is the reverse which applies to the harlot. In this case, it is responsibility without power. I do not say that this embarrasses the present Minister of Defence but it may be, or become, embarrassing to the Service Ministers, who bear high and ancient offices. They are constitutionally responsible, formally responsible, to Parliament and to the Crown for the conduct of their Departments. Actually, fact no longer corresponds with theory—or, at least, it corresponds less and less; and the time must come when this matter must he adjusted one way or the other. Probably it will result in the Minister of Defence being vested with additional and formal powers. I think that then we shall have a much clearer situation.
Apart from the nuclear war and the conventional war, there is one other kind of war which is not covered by this organisation—that is, the cold war. This war is in progress. It is not a war for which we are preparing; it is a war which is being waged day by day and hour by hour, in which we are frequently outmanœuvred. We also have our successes, but it is a rapidly moving war, a war in which there is a mixture of military and political considerations. We may leave Egypt for political reasons, with which the military authority has to comply. We may go into Cyprus for military reasons, with which the political authority has to comply. There is a close interlocking. In this Central Organisation for Defence, is there any means of waging that war with improving quickness of reaction? The noble Marquess made some interesting observations about our responsibilities for conducting that war, but it seems to me that some adjustment is required in our organisation so that there may really be a central brain working on these problems which can speedily interrelate the means and the factors involved. And if there is to be a central brain, I can think of no better person to activate it than the present Minister of Defence. I think that the Prime Minister has shown great foresight in the appointments which he previously gave to the Minister of Defence. He has served in the Foreign Office and he has served in 361 the Ministry of Supply, and now he has contact with the Service Departments. That is the kind of training that is invaluable in the conduct of a cold war. When I was looking at Mr. Selwyn Lloyd the other night, I noticed his physical resemblance to the Duke of Wellington. Nobody in peace time in this country has borne such a heavy responsibility for our safety since the Duke of Wellington. Whether the suggestions that have been made to-day be adopted or not, I am sure that every one of your Lordships will wish the Minister of Defence great success in his task.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ LORD CHATFIELD
My Lords, it is with some hesitation that I speak this afternoon, because t have had no touch with any of the three Services for a great many years. I do not pretend to know what are their feelings to-day on these problems, which is what I am sure your Lordships would very much like to hear. We have had some fine speeches this afternoon. I particularly appreciate that the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, should have told me he was going to move this Motion and should have pressed me to speak on it. I do so with great humility, and I do not ask your Lordships to take what I say as being accurate, except in so far as I can make it so; nor can I let off any "fireworks." such as the last speaker has done. The basis of this debate is the defence organisation White Paper of October, 1946. Some of your Lordships may have been here nine years ago and will remember that we had a long and interesting debate on a Motion that I introduced. In all the discussion of the paragraphs of that White Paper the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and I entirely agreed that it was a really good organisation which the Labour Government had then set up. I had spoken in your Lordships' House on two occasions previously and made many of the recommendations which were put into that organisation. My noble friend and I both agreed on that occasion that it was essential that the Minister of Defence should be a planner and, so far as possible, should not be cluttered up with the burden of administrative problems.
The question has arisen this afternoon about the difficulty, in inter-Service problems, of avoiding an undesirable and weak compromise. The word "compromise" has been thrown about as 362 something rather contemptible and undesirable. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, implied, that is hardly a fair judgment on that particular word: you must have compromise where you have differences of opinion; and if you have no differences of opinion, then there is nothing to discuss. The mere fact that there is a Committee such as the Chiefs of Staff Committee to discuss some difficult problem which affects the three Services means that a compromise is inevitable. The same is true of the Minister of Defence: he can do nothing but compromise; that is the basis of his position. He takes the advice of the Chiefs of Staff on some question. He then meets the members of the Defence Committee, and they discuss it; and he makes up his mind what is the best thing to do. After that, he goes to the Cabinet and tells them, "Here are the pros and cons, and this, in my opinion, is the best thing to do." If he were a man like Sir Winston Churchill he would probably take such a strong line that he would ignore all the Chiefs of Staff said and would say to the Cabinet, "That is what we must do." But you will not find many men with the experience and knowledge of the character of all three Services who can act like that, and you have to cater for lesser human beings in life, however able, good and wise they may be.
It is sometimes said—indeed, it was said in another place by the Prime Minister the other day—that the duty of the Minister of Defence is to apportion the resources between the three Services. That does not strictly define what he has to do, according to the White Paper. What he has to do is to make up his mind, after hearing the Chiefs of Staff, and having discussed the matter in the Defence Committee, on what is the best solution. He does not then say, "That is the answer," but goes to the Cabinet and advises the Cabinet as to what should be done. It is the Cabinet, not the Minister of Defence, who always have to make these big decisions; as I understand it, he is the great adviser in big things.
The view has been strongly expressed in the other place and in the Press, and it has been stressed here to-day, that the Minister of Defence should have more power. As the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha said, power brings with it more responsibility. If the Minister of Defence 363 is given too much power and too many things to control, he will be unable completely to fulfil his task, because the strain will break him down. Moreover, it is not as though the present Minister of Defence were a long-serving man in a post, like (shall I say?) that of the Prime Minister at the beginning of the first Session of the new Government. He is a man who has served only a short time. We have had no fewer than five different Ministers of Defence since this White Paper was published. I have written many times and spoken in your Lordships' House of how dangerous it is not to let Service Ministers—that is to say, Ministers of the three Services—serve for as long a period as possible. I quoted many cases before the war where I had three First Lords during my time as First Sea Lord. If one has held a post of that kind, one knows how difficult it is when the Minister, who is a layman, comes to the head of a technical department. It takes six months before he understands the papers that have passed through in the few months before, quite apart from time spent visiting the Services and their establishments and learning to understand the spirit which governs the things over which he is to preside.
I was glad, when the present Conservative Government came into power in 1951, that they appointed three young Service Ministers who have all stayed there for four years. I am certain that the fact that those three young Ministers, all of them of ability, have spent four years as the head of those Services, will have had a most effective result as regards the administration of the Services. They now know their Services; and the Services know them, and know that they can have confidence in them—or, at any rate, know how far they can have confidence in their ability to achieve what they desire. I feel that when the request is made that the Defence Minister should be given more power, it should be realised that he has been only a few months in his present office, and that he is not only controlling one Service but three Services, each of an entirely different type and with entirely different thoughts—sea, land and air. I really cannot understand how he does it, and how he can give a sound judgment on some difficult problem between the three Services.
364 If you want the Defence Minister to be a success and to accomplish what you want, you must make it a five-year appointment. At any rate, he should be appointed for the whole period of the Government's office. Unfortunately, I know it is not easy to accomplish things of that kind which you look to for perfection. An Election comes, or somebody is or something happens which upsets the whole cup of tea. The Minister of Defence disappears, a new layman comes in and starts to control the whole of the defence of the country and Empire afresh, and has to learn all about it. Can you really say that although that organisation is absolutely sound in principle, it is working in every way satisfactorily in practice? I feel inclined to agree with what the noble Lord. Lord Hore-Belisha, said, that one would like to have some information about how successful this great experiment (which I have the greatest faith in myself) has been, and where it has failed, and why.
The question was raised about the Chiefs of Staff chairman. As I was chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee for nearly six years, naturally I have some interest in that particular appointment. What I would say about it, broadly, is that the Prime Minister said that this appointment had the approval of his best technical advice. If that is so, I have nothing more to say. I am perfectly confident that the Chiefs of Staff, if they have advised that this is the best thing to do, should be supported, and that the Prime Minister should also be supported. But I think it should be elucidated, perhaps for the information of us all, by the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate, why it is wise to make this fine officer, who is to Abe the representative of the Chiefs of Staff Committee in international discussions, the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. The Chiefs of Staff Committee meet frequently; we always met twice a week during my time, The chairman must get the thread of things in his mind and be in close touch with the secretary, and be prepared, before he goes to the meeting, on all the questions that are to come before the Committee. How can he do that if he is in New York or Rome? I should have thought the natural thing would be to have a high officer, such as Air Marshal Dickson, as a representative of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. He should be an 365 ex-officio member and should be always present and in touch with them, and they should depute to him their feelings on all the subjects which he is going to discuss when he goes abroad or to N.A.T.O. Perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply will be able to explain that point. I have no doubt that it may have been well considered and that the present way is the best.
The only other thing I should like to talk about is this difficult question of integration. I agree in spirit entirely with the noble Earl, Lord Swinton. In fact, I noted a paragraph in my speech in October, 1946, referring to paragraph 15, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, referred. I said [OFFICIAL REPORT, V01. 143, col. 281]:Paragraph 15 is an important one. It concerns the complete amalgamation of the three Services, which 'could not and should not be taken here and now'.Then I added:Whether we ever amalgamate the three Services remains for a younger generation to determine, but I do say that everything short of complete amalgamation should be sought by the Government.I still have that view. But I think it is very difficult to carry out. You cannot impose close integration—not that that has been suggested to-day, but it has been suggested in writings in newspapers and other speeches—on three entirely different Services, serving in different elements with different responsibilities, and with an entirely different way of life. I prefer to try and integrate the spirit of the Services, not their bodies, not their organisation and administration. We should foster the spirit and traditions of all the three Services, as the noble Lord has said. There is an intense pride in each Service, and a loyalty and feeling of great responsibility to their country and to those who are in command of them. It must not be upset by some jumble of—perhaps it is hardly polite to say—political thought, by well meaning people who write and make speeches.
I agree with the noble Earl that what we want is a right frame of mind. That is a valuable idea. We must let each Service acknowledge more fully the importance of the other two. I believe that there is Service comradeship to-day that is warmer than it has ever been, but it might he stronger. I have been to Latimer College on more than one occasion and seen the officers under instruc- 366 tion there and the splendid spirit and comradeship which they have. What we need is more restraint in inter-Service criticism by all sorts of people which does untold harm. I wish some of your Lordships would read a book that has recently been written. It is called, Direction of War by Air Marshal McCloughry, and is I think wholly admirable. It expresses the feeling of some of the higher officers in the Service at the present time.
I would say, let the highest authority impress on all three Services their duty to respect each other and not to be envious of each other or to try and get advantage over each other; but to be loyal to each other. In short, I think we should seek an inter-Service faith, something more spiritual than integration which has been talked about to-day. It can be done. We can get that spirit into the Services if a proper lead is given. I believe that the Services themselves are waiting for it and would respond to it. Let the Minister of Defence do all he can to foster such a faith through the three Service Ministers, to whom it should be an important part of their responsibilities; but the Minister of Defence must visit the Services and he must be known and trusted by them. He can do that only if he is given time. That is the main point I would make: he must be given time. Do not overburden him with impossible responsibilities.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ LORD JEFFREYS
My Lords, in submitting some remarks on the Motion of my noble friend Lord Swinton, may I say, to begin with, how much I agree with the policy that was outlined by the Prime Minister in another place on October 25 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 545 (No. 1), col. 34]. If I may summarise that policy, I would say that the first point, the co-ordination under the Minister of Defence ofplanning and training for the joint action of civil and military forces in Home Defenceis an excellent thing and will represent a real advance on the position in the last war. If it means, as I assume it does, that Civil Defence and Home Defence are to be co-ordinated under the command of a Naval, Army or Air Force officer, instead of being tinder the Home Office, then I believe that it is a very great advance indeed I would only say that, having had some experience of 367 Civil Defence in the period of the last war, I think the Home Office were inadequate although well-meaning; they did not know nearly enough about the principles of defence to be in charge of the national effort in that line.
The next point made by the Prime Minister was that the Ministry of Supply, owing to certain factors,has become mainly a fourth Defence Department within the co-ordinating powers of the Minister of Defence.That, it seems to me, is mere common sense. The next point was that the Minister of Defence is responsiblefor the apportionment of available resources between the three Services,including—seeing that the composition and balance of forces within individual services meets the strategic policy laid down by the Defence Committee.That seems to me, in modern circumstances, to be in every way not merely good policy but common sense. Finally, there is the point about the appointment of the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staffs Committee. We know from what we have been told by the noble and gallant Lord who has just sat down, and also from what we have been told by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, that the Chiefs of Staff Committee and its Chairman have constant meetings with the three Service members. Whilst I am in entire agreement with the policy outlined by the Prime Minister, does it not inevitably lead to further reforms and, I should hope, to some simplifications in our organisation? Does it not, in fact, mean, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Swinton, unless I misunderstood him, that the complete autonomy of each of the Service Departments must cease; that they must all become subordinate to the Minister of Defence, who will be solely responsible for the initiation and the carrying out of policy and for strategic matters generally, and who will have to make recommendations to the Prime Minister and to the Cabinet on all such matters?
My noble friend also laid stress—and it was mentioned by the noble and gallant Lord who has just sat down—on the integration of Service personnel. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House told 368 us that there was already close co-operation between the various Services, and that is all to the good. But I would say that the three Services are the three branches of the Armed Forces of the Crown, and I should like to see it laid down in writing, and in Regulations, that that is the case: that they are the three branches of the Armed Forces of the Crown. They are, in fact, three in one, and one in three. They are comrades in arms, not rivals, still less opponents, as we have heard some protagonists hint in the past. I am sure that any rivalry, if it ever existed, has now ceased. But I feel strongly, as I say, that it should be clearly laid down that the three Services are the three branches of the Armed Forces of the Crown. They are separate in a sense, as, for instance, in the Army, are the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers —they have separate trainings in certain ways but they are all part of a great whole and should work together as such.
My noble friend says that, without attempting complete integration of the Services, there should be partial integration of at least some ancillary services—for instance, medical, catering and clothing. I agree most strongly with that, and I would add, if I may, as a further suggestion, the Ordnance branch. Men have to be doctored; they have to be fed; they have to be clothed and armed, and they have to be supplied. I cannot but feel that some integration of departments might well take place, with consequent improved efficiency and economy. When, in the past, I held a certain command, one experiment was made—I believe that others have been made since—in integration, if I may call it so, or amalgamation for the time being of the hospital services at stations where there were mixed forces of the Army and of the Navy. I believe that this amalgamation worked out extremely well although, if my memory is accurate, the principal opponents to anything of the kind were the medical officers themselves.
My noble friend also said that the Minister of Defence need not and should not be responsible for detailed administration: that that should rest with the Service Ministers. Further, he said that the Minister of Defence should ensure that administration was in conformity with his general policy. Again I agree, but I would say that if they are to advise adequately on policy and on strategical 369 matters, the Chiefs of Staff must have a Combined General Staff working under their direction. We must have some administrative staff to keep the Minister to some extent in touch with the administrative side of Service matters, though I am far from saying that it should be a big one.
My Lords, a further recommendation of my noble friend is that, for basic training, there should be a cadet college common to the three Services. That sounds all right in theory; in fact, it sounds ideal. But I wonder whether, in practice, it might not be unnecessarily expensive, quite apart from other difficulties. I think I am right in saying that no one of the existing cadet colleges is sufficiently large to cater for all three Services; and to lay out and build a new one would involve very great expense. With a view to attaining the same object as I think my noble friend has in mind, I would suggest that an approved course of basic training should be laid down for each of the existing cadet colleges—that is to say, when a cadet from one of the Services went to a cadet college, before he specialised in matters of his Service he should start by going through a short approved course in matters of discipline, of duty and many other things which are common to the three Services and which ought to he taught in the same way in all three Services. He would, of course, afterwards go on to the necessary specialised courses which are, and must be, still required for the three Services and for their branches.
I would suggest that, in addition to a basic course of training common to the three Services, there should be even closer co-operation than there is now between the Services and intercourse between their personnel. The more that that can be encouraged, the better in every way. I would go further, and say that transfers and exchanges of officers between the Services, so long as they are not officers of too senior a rank, might well be encouraged and would be to the advantage of each Service. There must always be, however, some functions which one of the Services can perform better than the others. Many years ago, when there were discussions about the relative powers and functions of the Navy and the Army, the great Lord Salisbury (if the noble Marquess were here pehaps he would allow me to use that expression 370 about his grandfather) remarked, "The Navy cannot climb mountains." That was a simple remark, but it was true in those days and it is equally true now. It is also the fact that neither the Army nor the Air Force can navigate ships; and that the Air Force, though it has marvellous vision and can terrify and destroy, cannot occupy, administer or pacify. There is, in fact, need for each of the Services in its proper place, and each must have its place in our scheme of defence.
Yet, when all the steps outlined by the Prime Minister have been taken, when the Chiefs of Staff Committee with the General Staff working under it, are functioning, will there not be still much to be done before we get a satisfactory organisation; much to be clone to integrate, with due regard to economy, the administrative departments of the Services? And would not the appointment—I make this suggestion in all humility—of a strong committee of senior officers of the three Service to examine these questions and to report to the Minister of Defence, be an appropriate method of dealing with this matter? I feel that in the past we have sometimes been a little too apt to take one step, only to find that that has involved taking another step, perhaps not premeditated. This has happened in rather too haphazard a way. We need, in my view, to think these matters out beforehand, having regard to the great changes in the nature of warfare, and to the fact that there are now, as there were not in former days, three Services instead of two, as well as the Ministry of Supply. I shall venture to make only one more point and that is with regard to the position in war of the Commonwealth Forces. They are not, and of course could not be, under the United Kingdom Government; but if they are to work efficiently with the United Kingdom Forces there must be an arranged and an agreed plan of operations. I suggest that this matter should receive attention and should be carefully considered in good time, and should not be left, for instance, until the outbreak of war before it is thought about at all.
§ 5.29 p.m.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, stated that the three Services are three branches of the service of the Crown. With that, we 371 all agree. Unfortunately, that is the problem. The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said that there was not enough to go round to meet the demands of all three branches. My Lords, the purpose of the Government's changes in the powers of the Minister of Defence and in the organisation of the Chiefs of Staff Committee is presumably to facilitate the apportioning out of what is required amongst the three Services in the manner best suited to each Service. But it seems to me that the problem is not so much to apportion out to the three Services what is available, but to decide at the highest level (and then to see that the decision is carried out) what is strategically and defensively the most important problem to see that the organisation is there to deal with that problem when it arrives that the Service, or the portion of each Service, which will be used to combat that problem, will be 100 per cent. equipped; and that lower priorities wait. When total war comes, it will come at once, and those who will first have to meet it will have to be 100 per cent. ready—not 99 per cent.
I welcome the new organisation. I feel that the Minister of Defence will have more powers to decide what, operationally, is at the top of the tree, and to see that the forces, from whatever Services they may come, are operationally and administratively ready to play their part. I was a little concerned to hear the noble Marquess the Leader of the House imply that the Minister of Defence will have administrative responsibilities. I trust that I heard wrongly. I feel that he should not be bogged down with administration or administrative responsibilities of any kind, except in so far as he will have power to see that the Services concerned carry out the work of administration to implement the operational priority decisions which he has made. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield, suggested that the fourth member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee should not be the chairman but should be—as it seemed to me—a lackey, to go hither and yon at the bidding of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. I do not agree with the noble and gallant Lord. I am wholeheartedly in agreement with the decision which Her Majesty's Government have now made.
The noble Marquess the Leader of the House mentioned the integration of units which are perhaps little known to the 372 outside world—the School of Land-Air Warfare (at which all three Services are represented), the Joint Services Staff College and others. Officers of all ranks (not only staff officers) go to other units where they become up-to-date, not only in the staff work of their own and other Services, but in the operations of their own and other Services. I shall be the first to welcome any extension of this practice though I consider that the steps already taken are adequate. Officers of each Service are, from time to time, attached to other Services and, unless they are particularly bigoted, usually come away broader-minded and wiser men. There is no doubt that knowledge breeds respect and the more each Service knows of the other Services, the more respect it should, and will, have for them. I have on many occasions been attached to the Army and I consider that the time so spent was invaluable to me. I went back to the Royal Air Force able to appreciate Army problems so much better.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Chatfield, mentioned that the Services should have respect for each other. I hope that the noble and gallant Lord will pass that comment on to the Service from which he came. There are continual rumours of the dismemberment of the Royal Air Force, and all seem to come from only one source. I do not wish to bring a spirit of asperity into this debate, but as that matter has been referred to I mention it now. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, mentioned pay. The Minister of Defence said in another place that if sufficient Regulars came forward into the Services, National Service would not be necessary. I wonder whether the Minister really meant that. If he did, it seems to me a most enlightened statement. If Her Majesty's Government would agree to give to Regulars—officers, N.C.O.s and men —pay and conditions commensurate with those they would get in civilian life, and if we could in that way attract into the Services sufficient Regulars so that, in the words of the Minister of Defence, we should not need National Service, surely that would be far better and cheaper.
Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, mentioned integration of medical, catering, and, I believe, clothing services. In regard to medical services, I cannot speak for the Navy, but the problems of the Royal Air Force and the Army are entirely different except in relation to the 373 tactical air force in the field. The bulk of the Royal Air Force is based on prearranged, pre-built, long-standing airfields. The R.A.F. does not want to train its own doctors to carry out complicated operations on the spot. The whole basis of the R.A.F. medical service is the provision of first aid, personnel then being sent to the nearest established civil or Service hospital. The Army has to carry with it, in the field, doctors capable of performing presumably complicated operations. These two systems are not the same and I cannot see that integration would help in any way. Catering is already integrated, in that the Army provides the bulk of the food for R.A.F. units in this country. I cannot speak at first hand on clothing services, but assume that this is centralised under the Ministry of Supply.
I welcome the remarks of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House on the changes which Her Majesty's Government have made and intend to make.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, while we are discussing these matters here, I imagine that the machinery by which the Service Estimates are prepared is creaking into action. Each Service will be working out its own Estimates to put before the Minister of Defence, and the Minister of Defence will then begin skirmishing with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on how large a slice of the cake he can secure for each of his importunate children. And behind these activities N.A.T.O. will be working out its requirements in the certain knowledge that all too many of its members will not "ante-up" with what is required of them. But behind all these cogitations in high places there is the general public to consider. I believe there is genuine uneasiness and puzzlement amongst the genera] public with regard to our Defence Services.
For instance, the public has a feeling, with great sentimental regret, that the Royal Navy is no longer our first line of defence; that though it is still an absolutely indispensable Service, indispensable to each of the other Services and to the nation, it is no longer the senior Service, not quite holding the position of prestige which it once held. I cannot say that I enjoyed reading these remarks but I have to admit that there is a great deal in what 374 Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Joubert wrote:The perennial talking point of world Powers, of politicians everywhere, is no longer of naval tonnage, but of the power of a single aircraft carrying to the remotest destinations a single bomb.There is great force in that, and I think it reflects the uneasiness and uncertainty of which I have spoken, which exists in the public mind to-day.
In going about, I find that the idea of the amalgamation of the Navy and the Air Force into one Service is meeting with a great deal of public approval as a measure in accordance with the facts of modern warfare and one calculated to effect considerable economies and promote greater efficiency. But public opinion does not seem as yet to be prepared for going a farther step forward and bringing in the Army to make one Service out of the three. However, on the question of amalgamating the Navy and the Royal Air Force, people are beginning to think and talk and to express considerable approval. If we cannot go that far at present, I feel that we might long ago have taken a step in the right direction towards amalgamation later.
If he will allow me to say so, I was most delighted that the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, lent the great weight of his authority to the idea of a combined cadet college. That is an idea which I have had very much at heart for many years. But I felt that the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, was really not quite on the target in the remarks he made on that subject. He was talking about Staff colleges, and so on, which of course come at a much later date, and not directly of the proposal of the noble Earl, whose idea I venture to support very strongly. Equally, I do not think: that the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, met the point by talking about basic training for the cadets of the three Service. I think we want something that goes further than that. I confess that the other day, as I. went over the Naval College at Dartmouth to look at the arrangements which were being made for the new entry of cadets, I felt what a pity it was to have spent all that money on inaugurating this new system and not to have taken advantage of the new system of entry into the Navy to inaugurate such a combined cadet college as has been mentioned to-day.
375 As often happens in these instances. I looked to sec what Admiral Sir John Fisher said about this matter. I looked it up because I remembered that he made revolutionary proposals about common entry for officers in the Navy. I say at once that the quotation which, with your Lordships' permission, I am going to read, does not exactly fit the case which we are considering at this moment, but I think these words are well worth while considering. Speaking of his proposals, Admiral Sir John Fisher said:The result aimed at is, to a certain point, community of knowledge, and lifelong community of sentiment.Those are the words:lifelong community of sentiment.Of course, the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, would not meet that. Admiral Sir John Fisher went on:The only machinery which can produce this result is early companionship and community of instruction. These opportunities will be secured by one system of entry, one system of training.The last few words do not, of course, precisely apply now, but I think the sense of the passage is extraordinarily appropriate to the situation facing us today. Many previous speakers have already touched on the question of the amalgamation of the Services. It is very much in my memory that James Forrestal killed himself working for that proposal—amalgamation of the Services—in the United States of America. Such was the strain, such was the pressure, and such was the hostility and the obstacles that he met in so many directions, that it was the end of him.
But if we cannot have, at this moment, amalgamation of the three Services, I feel that an immediate reform, a step somewhat towards that direction, is already possible. The Prime Minister wishes to increase the influence of the Minister of Defence. Of course, it is perfectly obvious that the influence of the Minister of Defence can be increased only at the expense of the political heads of the Services. That has got to be firmly grasped. I do not say that I object; in fact, from something which I shall say later it will be seen that I am far from objecting: but that fact must be appreciated—otherwise, I would certainly agree that the influence and authority of 376 the Minister of Defence needs to be increased. My noble friend, Lord HoreBelisha, said that we are not always very symmetrical in our architecture. That is true. Hence we have flying buttresses which I have always understood are an architect's trick for shoring up works of his which possibly might not stand very well. The fact remains that in a great many of our buildings and cathedrals we see these flying buttresses, these accretions to the plan, standing up very satisfactorily indeed. I think that the defence organisation to-day is out of date and is very much in need of some flying buttresses to shore it up and to make it a more workmanlike building.
I have noticed some figures which show that the Minister of Defence rules over forty-six civil servants, whereas his colleague the Minister of Supply has under him civil servants the catalogue of whom fills no fewer than ninety-six pages. There is a slight discrepancy there perhaps between the powers of the two Ministers. What powers does the Minister of Defence enjoy? Can he exercise authority over the composition of the Services? That, again, is a vital point as I see it. I should like to make it clear that I am not in the least suggesting anything in the way of a dictatorship. Do not let us have a Minister of Defence who is a dictator.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
The Minister of Defence would not be in any way a dictator. He would be responsible, but responsible to Parliament.
§ LORD WINSTER
We have seen a Minister of Defence usurping slightly dictatorial powers for very good reason —and thank God he did! But, still, I fee! the Minister of Defence has little power to compel, but has to achieve his aims by a process of genteel sapping and mining. He must work by a sort of infiltration. The Minister of Defence has a tremendous job, and I do not think that the present very small reorganisation will equip him with the increased influence and authority which he must have in order to perform his task. But there is a way—it has crossed my mind—by which his influence might be increased. I say at once that T doubt that it is going to be done by adding, another wheel to the Chiefs of Staff coach. I have not had time to think it out in all respects, but I doubt whether another Chief of Staff— 377 which is what it really comes to, very largely—is going to make all that difference. We have a Minister of Defence, as I understand it, in order that we may obtain a broad, strategic view of our defence needs, not only from the point of view of the necessity of getting our strategy right but also for the elimination of waste and overlapping. I have often wondered if to these ends a single defence budget is not a logical, and also a possible, conclusion. That is his task. He comes before Parliament and presents his single Defence Estimate covering every aspect of our strategy and needs; and the Ministers, if they are still there, explain the details in due course. I cannot see a valid objection, but I know that this is a very conservative country and people tend to be congenitally opposed to new ideas.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, is that not the existing situation? At the end of the White Paper every year there appears a summarised statement of the expenditure as allocated between the three Services and the branches of the Services, and it is possible to have a detailed financial debate on the administrative programme in the White Paper as it is.
§ LORD WINSTER
My noble friend is quite right: such a statement is printed, but I find a great difference between that and the preparation by the Minister of Defence of a unified budget covering all our strategic necessities. I mentioned something about the political heads of the three Services. Certainly by such proposals as I have made, the political heads of the three Services would be diminished in importance and in regard to some of their tasks might even become redundant. But these Ministers have long ceased to he Cabinet Ministers, and I feel that no great harm would be done if they were now to be re-created as Parliamentary Secretaries.
§ LORD WINSTER
I would not quarrel for a moment about the ointment which is rubbed into the wound, but that would make them de jure what they are already to-day de facto.
But would the noble Lord abolish the Board of 378 Admiralty and the corresponding bodies in the case of the Army and Air Force at the same time? I ask only for information, and not by way of criticism at this stage.
§ LORD WINSTER
I am not to be drawn into such a question at the present moment. I have seen suggestions about a Navy Board and an Army Board and an Air Force Board put forward by people who do not like the present traditional titles. I ask to be forgiven for not going too far into that matter.
This is essentially a debate on defence organisation, and I pay attention to the words of the noble Earl, Lord Swinton: we do not want to go too far into matters of detail and away from the broad lines of the debate which he has initiated. But I think it would put into relief the nature of the enormous task of the Minister of Defence if we were to consider what has happened during this century alone in regard to the one Service of which I have any knowledge—though I am sure the same story could be told very largely of the other two Services. At the moment, for the second time in this century, the Navy is confronted by a great transitional period. Twice during this century the Navy has been entirely made over. At the beginning of the century the Navy still had a steam-cum-sail mentality. There were many steam-cum-sail ships in commission. The Naval gods were a trinity composed of Seamanship Discipline and Paintwork, with his brother Brightwork. These three ruled the Fleet.
Guns, torpedoes and fighting efficiency were like silver in the days of Solomon, little accounted of. Gun practices were carried out, when they were carried out —and that was not always—at short ranges. There were no electrical control instruments. Rangefinders were inaccurate and gunsights were so badly made that they were inefficient. The rounds allocated for quarterly practice to the after-turret were fired, very likely, from the forward turret in order to run no risk of cracking or breaking the enamel on which the commander lead spent so much of his own hard-earned money in the hope of achieving promotion. Then came Fisher. He had not much time at his disposal. War was in the offing, but before war came a Feet of oddments had been replaced by a Fleet of some forty dreadnoughts. The battle cruiser 379 appeared, and we had fast cruisers, 150 destroyers and many submarines—a brand-new Fleet. The gunnery ranges I spoke of had gone up from 2,000 to 20,000 yards, and torpedo ranges had gone up from 800 to 10,000 yards. A new type of captain had replaced those grand old dinosaurs who knew their seamanship, but not much else. That enormous transition was carried out in the first decade of the century.
To-day we face another amazing transition. The dreadnoughts and battle cruisers are sunk, converted into scrap or in "mothballs." Even the destroyer is on its way out. The gun is yielding place to the guided missile, and we face the rocket missile. Aircraft carriers may soon send off pilotless aircraft. Tactical atom weapons, at least, must be reckoned with. Radar has added a fourth to the three R's. In Nelson's battleships the lookouts were as far up the masthead as a man could possibly get to look out for the enemy's topsails; now the lookout is as low down as possible and looks at a radar screen. Sea power is now an affair of sea and air. The ship is a mass of mechanical ingenuity. Steam replaced sail; coal was replaced by oil; now oil is to be replaced by atomic propulsion—and greater marvels and worse horrors than these, I imagine, are already round the corner. If war comes, the demands made upon the human nervous system will be such as has never previously been known at sea. Here, so soon after the first, is the second transition, in which what is new to-clay is likely to be obsolete or obsolescent to-morrow. It is almost impossible to know in what direction progress will move. Empiricism largely must rule thought and development. I confess to feeling a great pleasure that at this moment Admiral Earl Mountbatten comes to the Admiralty. He has a forward-looking and questing mind. We have reason to believe that, as with Fisher, we shall once again find that the man matches the hour.
I turn briefly to one other point. N.A.T.O. is planning on the basis of employing tactical nuclear weapons. Perhaps it is useful to try to consider what the public think at this moment. I think they will take a great deal of convincing that if a war breaks out between major Powers it will not soon 380 turn into an H-bomb war, however it may begin. People ask: "Why must we use manpower and money preparing for conventional weapons warfare, in which we are unlikely to become involved?" I do not put that forward necessarily as my own idea, but it is a question that people are asking; and they will ask it increasingly as time goes on. So far as I can see, the answer to that has not yet been given clearly. I have no doubt that it has been given here and there, but it has not yet been given in a way which carries conviction to the public who try to think about these things. At the Edinburgh Tattoo this year the Scots Guards gave a display of drill which was very good—it was almost as good as the Marines could have given. But I heard remarks around me that that sort of thing was out of date in this nuclear age. That is how it strikes the man in the street.
We are told that the deterrent of the H-bomb renders major war very unlikely —that is the Sir John Slessor thesis: that war has abolished itself. I do not believe that that thesis is carrying much comfort to the general public to-day. It seems to me that that thesis is mainly dialectics—one of those neat and ingenious arguments which are good publicity but which get disproved by events because they leave out the factor of human nature. Moreover, the scientists at Geneva have told us that the H-bomb will not always be the sole property of a few major Powers; they have told us that comparatively poor countries will soon be able to make H-bombs easily and cheaply. We shall all have them, and my working theory is that any weapon which exists is pretty sure to get used. It always has been so. It will perhaps be cold comfort to Sir John Slessor, but I do not find a shred of evidence anywhere in history to show that the invention of more destructive weapons has promoted the cause of peace. If Sir John Slessor can find any such evidence I hope he will let us know of it. I will conclude with a quotation from Trotsky, who said on one occasion that anyone who was looking for a quiet life should not have got himself born in the twentieth century. Whoever becomes Minister of Defence in this century is likely to wish that he had got himself born either in the last century or, possibly, in the next.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ LORD FREYBERG
My Lords, I rise to support the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Swinton. In that Motion he calls attention to two points—namely, the reorganisation of the Service Departments, and of the Fighting Services. In this debate we have heard a lot about the reorganisation of the Service Departments. I agree that we must reorganise the Fighting Services, but I should hesitate to say that we should reorganise the Service Departments. I have had a long experience both inside the War Office and dealing with the War Office as a Commander of an Allied Force, and I realise that if we lost the War Department, or if anything should happen to it, we should lose a very well balanced Service Department; and I believe that naval officers feel the same about the Admiralty.
In a statement on October 25 the Prime Minister said in another place [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 545 (No. 1), col. 34]:While the Prime Minister must retain ultimate responsibility in Defence matters, it is the Government's intention that the authority and influence of the Minister of Defence should he strengthened.In peace time that is necessary, out in war time I do not think strengthening the Defence Ministry would meet the case. The Defence Ministry is so important that the Prime Minister would have to be the Defence Minister as well.
The noble Earl who moved the Motion dealt with the integration of the British Forces, and we have heard the word "integration" mentioned a good deal this afternoon. I should have liked to hear more about the integration of the Commonwealth and the British Forces. When I took over command of the New Zealand Forces in November, 1939, I went to the War Office. I saw the Director of Operations there and he said: "I must warn you that you must have powers to enable you to keep your forces intact"; and he and I sat down and drafted the powers to enable us to retain our troops together as a fighting force. When I went to Australia and saw General Brudenell-White, who was the Chief of Staff to General Birdwood, I said to him: "Would you look through the special powers that I was told in the War Office I should have?" He read through them and said: "They are not strong enough"; and he re-wrote them for me. 382 We had one or two attempts to integrate the New Zealand Forces with the British. We started on the staff level and it was agreed that we should exchange staff officers, but the scheme broke down.
The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, defined the policy of Her Majesty's Government as one to prevent a global war; to limit small wars; to improve organisation against a background of technical invention; and to provide the ability to deal with day-to-day problems. What is wanted, I feel, if you are to reorganise the British Army, is a forecast of the effect of scientific invention upon the conduct of future wars. This is necessary before we can organise or train our Services to meet the changed conditions. But there is a side of the problem -that is not realised. Nobody outside those who are responsible for research knows either the aim to which scientific invention extends, or what has already been accomplished.
I will give your Lordships an instance. Before the war, in August, 1939, a young man came to me and said he was an inventor. He asked whether I could put him in touch with the War Office branch dealing with inventions, because he thought his invention would be of help. He said, I believe, that he could hit an aeroplane he could not see by firing up a beam of sound. It did not appear to me to be a feasible operation, and I said, "Have you ever done it?" He said, "No, but I am certain I can do it." I said to him: "What is your job in ordinary life?" He said: "I am a mathematician, a highly qualified engineer, and I am in the research branch of an important steel and engineering concern." I wrote to the War Office Department telling them what this young man had told me, and I got no answer. Years afterwards, in 1946, I went into the branch and asked them whether they received the letter. They said, "Yes." I said, "Did you answer?" and they replied, "No." I asked why, and they said: "We could already do that. We had finalised radar, and we did not want to discuss it with anybody." We did not hear about radar for some months afterwards, but it shows the limitations of knowledge of the outside public to questions of research and scientific invention.
Since the last war research has been more organised and less haphazard. At the present moment the Western Powers would appear to be in advance of Communist-controlled countries in both 383 invention and research. But as both sides have hydrogen bombs, directed missiles and long-range submarines, and as these are such destructive weapons, if we are to avoid destruction at the outset every available plane will have to concentrate nuclear air attack upon counter measures to destroy enemy bases, oil refineries, airfields, ports, naval bases and enemy emplacements which could launch nuclear attacks against Great Britain and the Western Powers. The pressing home of the first attacks will, in the opinion of many people, reduce the scale of hostile air attack, and may even ground the air forces of both sides. But so long as rival air forces have any aircraft available they must continue to fight one another. Only when a clear nuclear superiority has been established will aircraft be available to attack factories, equipment, ammunition and civilian population.
The deployed field armies, already on their mobilisation stations, are dispersed, and in the opinion of many people will not present a target sufficiently large to justify a nuclear attack. I have discussed it with many people who believe it is fair to assume that the enemy oilfields, which are known, and oil refineries and storage plants, will be attacked at once. Nobody can foresee the effect that this stage of the attack will have upon the maintenance of the fighting Services. Although navies, armies and air forces may start the war with their complete equipment, after the first phase of nuclear war the army will be forced to fight with greatly reduced equipment and transport. But when conditions stabilise, in my opinion it is the land forces, the infantry divisions, with a much reduced scale of personal equipment and much reduced transport, who will advance to occupy vital areas.
There is at least one of our problems which should be tackled without delay, and that is the standardisation of the arms and equipment of all the nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It is too much to hope that we shall get complete standardisation of weapons, ammunition and equipment, but if we can standardise the round of ammunition —the small arms round, the machine-gun round, the field artillery round and the medium artillery round—we shall, even if our factories are put out of action, be able to continue to fight with the ammu- 384 nition that comes from the N.A.T.O. and Commonwealth countries that are outside nuclear attack.
I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Winster: I would not abolish the Admiralty. I feel that the principles of war, as has been said earlier, have not changed; that the concentration of our troops at the decisive point and at the decisive time is still the important thing, and that foremost in any plans we must maintain our Navy and our Merchant Navy. We must do it if we are to survive. They must be able to guarantee freedom of movement for all our shipping and so maintain the supplies we must have of raw material, warlike stores and food for ourselves and our allies.
§ LORD WINSTER
May I interrupt the noble Lord? It is recognised that that protection of our Merchant Fleet can only be given by a sea-air combination.
§ LORD FREYBERG
It is possible that our Fleet and our Merchant Navy will be based abroad. There is one ray of hope—a faint one it is true—and it is this. Just as nations in World War II refrained from using poison gas and germ warfare, so let us pray that the nations of the world will come to their senses and refrain from committing us to the devastation of nuclear war. My Lords, I beg to support the Motion.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, I confess that on this occasion I feel rather like a junior officer up for promotion examination. In some anticipation of my predicament, I thought it wise to concentrate on two aspects of defence which I felt would not receive so much attention—the one concerned with the active rôle of the Armed Forces, and the other with the welfare of those Forces, or, to be more precise, their education, which is, in fact, just another aspect of their welfare. If we survey the general trend of thought and higher planning that has been devoted to defence during these post-war years we can all recognise the consistent common pattern, whether it be in our debate today or in the debate last week. It is fear of the thermo-nuclear war and fear of a dilemma: a dilemma in that, on the one hand, we have to prepare four divisions as our contribution to N.A.T.O. and, on the other, have to build up this country and maintain it as a firm base in face of 385 the devastating attack which would shatter all communication and administration—indeed, the normal life of the nation as we know it. Whether it be measures to interpose an independent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, for the greater strengthening of the Ministry of Defence, for the setting up of the Mobile Defence Corps, or whatever it be, it all reflects our fear of the nuclear war and our hopes that the deterrent may prevent it.
Yet during all these nine years, while our thoughts have been moving towards drastic remedies, what in fact has been happening on the ground? With the single exception of Korea, we have seen a number of small operations all over the world in which no weapon more formidable than a 25-pounder has yet been fired. The troubles in Malaya, Kenya, British Guiana, Aden and, to-day, Cyprus are all wars which may be termed "police" wars or, to use a horrid expression, "conventional" wars. When I use the term "police," I am surely nearer the exact truth, especially when one remembers that troops to-day in Cyprus are armed with shields and truncheons.
What, for example, would be the immediate call on our arms to-day before we had to face those distant tragic events which we have been anticipating? Might it not be a call on our forces in connection with that tripartite Treaty of Guarantee to preserve the mutual frontier between Israel and the Arab States? If we had to move in connection with that, we should not need atom bombs or guided missiles. The object of that kind of action is to prevent two deadly enemies from flying at each other's throats and, so far as possible, in the process to preserve, rather than destroy, land and life in the theatre of war. It is true that the United States and France have put their signatures to that Guarantee, but it is we who would have to move. I take it that that guarantee was given in some great sense of responsibility, and that that sense of responsibility covers the situation to-day. If so, we are nearer to having to implement the terms of that guarantee than we have ever been before. In other words, what I am trying to say is that we do not need to employ sledgehammers to destroy, say, flies.
It would assist us greatly in meeting up to these numerous local situations which 386 are appearing all osier the world if we could rely more and more on local indigenous forces. Such forces as the King's African Rifles, apart from their role in internal security, might surely he regarded as effective nation-building agencies. I know there are difficulties in that, from a political point of view, it is difficult to visualise moving forces outside their own territories; and yet your Lordships may recall that, on a purely voluntary basis, we moved African troops to Burma during the last war. In fact, I think I am correct in saying that at one time more than half the troops fighting the Burma campaign were Africans.
There is another aspect to this particular problem: some of these territories of which I am speaking will soon be full member States of the Commonwealth, and their armies will be comparable with the forces of the Pakistan Army. I think he would be a bold man who to-day would say that the forces of Pakistan were never going to he regarded as available for use outside their own territory. I understand that earlier in the year General Templer visited Uganda and put in a report on the use of local forces. Whether or not that report is available I do not know. All I would ask Her Majesty's Government is that, while this distant and more terrible situation should continue to govern planning, they should at the same time hear in mind the need constantly to expand local forces, and to expand their scope as a contribution to the general picture of international strategy.
I now pass to the second and more technical aspect to which I wish to draw your Lordships' attention. Before bringing up the matter of the Forces' education, I took some advice as to whether it would be appropriate in a wide debate of this nature on defence. I shall hope to show, before I sit down, that the scope of the Services' education represents not only a contribution to the welfare of the Services but a contribution to the welfare of the nation. It so happens that it has been my good fortune and privilege from time to time to talk to the Forces and to initiate discussions, and it would be useful if I passed on, briefly, some of my conclusions. The idea of the amalgamation of certain services common to all three Services has been mooted (I understand that it was originally suggested in the 1946 White Paper), services such as medical, chaplaincy and the one I shall 387 concentrate on, education. First, I would insist that it is a complete distortion, if not a myth, to represent National Service as destroying the hopes, fears and ambitions of thousands of young men who otherwise would be taking their university degrees or making their indispensable contributions. I think I could produce evidence to show that the average boy leaving a secondary modern school can be regarded as semi-illiterate and that it is the Services which give him his first dose of education sufficient at least to bring him up to the standard of being able to write a coherent letter home to his parents.
One task of the Royal Army Educational Corps, then, is to brush off the rust of illiteracy from a great percentage of National Servicemen and to bring them up to the very modest standard of being able to take the Army third-class certificate of education. To do that, the Army have built up five preliminary education centres to deal with the numbers of boys who are more terrifyingly ignorant. The truth is that education in the Services is providing its vital contribution to the education of the youth of the nation. I think it could be claimed that the standard of teaching in the Services is higher than the standard of teaching in secondary modern schools, and with the broad value of Service education in mind I would draw attention to certain common aspects of education within the three arms of the Services which could profit from integration or amalgamation or whatever you care to call it.
First, I do not believe it is commonly realised that at any given time some 23,000 Service children are being educated in the garrisons and stations abroad, and that the writ of the Ministry of Education does not run abroad. I think I am correct in saying that the Royal Army Educational Corps operate on behalf of the Ministry in garrisons and stations abroad and employ some 1,000 seconded civilian teachers. The child of a Service man, whether it be the son of a fitter in the Air Force or a stoker in the Navy, still requires the same basic kind of education, and there is, clearly, a case for the complete integration of children's education abroad. To do so would but be to simplify and to regularise a situation which already partially exists.
388 Secondly, the Army have their Institute of Army Education at Elton Palace. The Navy and Royal Air Force have no such institution. That Institute carries out a great deal of research work of a remarkable nature. At the moment, it is carrying out a thorough research into the whole question of illiteracy among National Service men in the Forces. There is one report to be brought out, I think, on the reading habits of Service men. Those of us who sometimes view with dismay the standard of tabloid literature read by the youth of the country may be interested to know the results of that particular report. But what is obvious is that there is a clear case for the expansion of the activities of Elton Palace to the other two Services. Thirdly, I would point out that the Army and the Royal Air Force have separate institutions to train their own instructors. Surely Army and Royal Air Force instructors in education are working towards the same objective, and it might be logical to suppose that they should be trained in the same establishment.
Finally—and this is a most important point—there is a clear case for taking exactly the same step in the Service educational branches as has been taken in the case of the higher direction of war. Just as an independent Chairman has been appointed to the Chiefs of Staff Committee so there is a case for the appointment of an independent educational chairman to take charge of the present Committee, known as the Director's Educational Co-ordinating Committee, which meets once a quarter and whose present chairman is the Director of Army Education. At present, if there is disagreement within that Committee on matters of policy they just have to agree to disagree.
My Lords, I have spoken of the part played by the educational forces in combating illiteracy. In conclusion, I would refer to a slightly different kind of contribution, one which I believe to be more profound. Those of your Lordships who have studied the Report on the treatment of our prisoners of war in Chinese hands, may have been struck by the fact that, when pressed, few of them were able coherently to say exactly what it was they had been fighting to defend. The Statement on Defence published in 389 February of this year, states in paragraph 14:Political unity and armed strength would be of little value if the will of the free peoples to maintain, and if necessary defend, their independence and way of life were in doubt.The will is certainly there, but surely to benefit all it must be capable of being expressed clearly; and it must be supported by a little knowledge. The Army take this particular aspect of their work most seriously, and month by month a pamphlet called Current Affairs Discussion Briefs goes down to platoon level. Here there is a disagreement of method—the kind of disagreement to which I referred just now. In the Army, the principle is supported that the man who commands troops in the field should be responsible for every aspect of their lives —that applies to education in international current affairs. In the Royal Air Force they view the matter differently; it is all concentrated in the hands of Royal Air Force educational officers. Without saying which system is either right or wrong, here is a clear case for an important aspect of education in the Forces to be argued out round the table and for a decision to be arrived at. As I see it, that cannot be achieved unless there is an independent chairman of the Co-ordinating Committee for Education.
The thought that I should like to leave with your Lordships is this; surely here the real significance of the opportunity presented is that it is an opportunity to arm a great sector of the population of this country with weapons of a kind which are generally regarded as the supplement of physical defence. Day in, day out, the manhood of the nation is coming into and out of this hard school of National Service. Here is the chance to teach not only a few facts about current affairs but just a little more about the part that the citizen has to play, when he comes out of the Forces, as his contribution to the moulding of international events. In the excellent Report of he King George VI Jubilee Trust, entitled Citizens of To-morrow, which has just been published, there is this rather perfunctory comment:The generally satisfactory means of educational advancement offered by the Services requires to he more widely known.That I regard as an understatement which, though it might perhaps be acceptable to 390 the modesty of the Services, is rather misleading if we are to regard education within the Services, while we have the chance of National Service with us, as a challenge and an opportunity that operates far beyond the parade ground or the potential battlefield.
§ 6.36 p.m.
My Lords, I am afraid that I find myself a great deal more pessimistic, though I hope that I may show myself to be rather more realistic, than some noble Lords who have spoken this evening. Those of your Lordships who have read the Statement on Defence, 1955, will realise that the emphasis is laid on the necessity for protection against nuclear weapons, and on the necessity for using nuclear weapons ourselves in any war in which we may he engaged. This applies equally to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation which, at its meeting in Paris in December last, approved a Report by the Military Committee on the most effective pattern of N.A.T.O. military strength, which assumed the use of nuclear weapons in a major war. The Report will henceforward form the basis of N.A.T.O. Defence planning. Whereas decisions for putting such plans into effect are specifically reserved to Governments, that is in fact what will have to be done. We are committed to that action.
Those of us who have looked into the matter (I presume that includes all of your Lordships here present tonight), know that that means that we are committed to using nuclear weapons and, therefore, that nuclear weapons will be used against us. Anyone who has studied the technique of the question of defence, as of attack, realises what enormous destruction will be brought about in any country. Recently I have heard discussions by well-intentioned people as to whether it will be possible to remain in the suburbs of large towns, and similar speculations of that kind, which would seem to be almost nonsensical. Large industrial towns, such as Birmingham, would probably be attacked; we should be attacking other centres on the Continent of Europe. It is therefore more than ever necessary at present to see whether there is not some way of stopping this insane race to destruction by the greater nations of the world. As those of us who are interested in the matter will know, it is only a matter of hours before 391 the destruction of major installations, of business, of industry and large towns in this country could be completed. People have spoken about the beginning and the end of the war. The beginning of a war with nuclear weapons might occur at any time. Presumably, it would not go on over days, but over hours. It might take only one hour.
We are discussing this matter seriously in this House, and I think we must face the facts. I do not see any way out of these difficulties. Paragraph 25 of the Statement says:We must therefore contribute to the deterrent"—that is, the arming of the West with these weapons—and to our own defence by building up our own stock of nuclear weapons of all types and by developing the most up-to-date means of delivery. We must, moreover, in making our plans for dealing with aggression against our alliance, not flinch from the necessity to use these weapons. For in the knowledge of our resolve lies the best hope, and it is a real hope, that it may never be put to the test.I think that is true. I think there is a real hope that it will never be put to the test, because the amount of destruction which can be achieved by these weapons is so tremendous that it is difficult to see how two more or less evenly balanced Powers would have much left at the end of a war of this kind. I believe that that is the real deterrent. At the same time, it is of no use talking at the present time about whether or not we shall have the Navy, Army, and Air Force under one command. The real question is: are we going to have a war at all? If we do, 392 are we going to use those weapons? We are committed to that course, for the Statement on Defence, published in February of this year, is a Government publication, giving Government policy. If we are to do so, let us realise the facts and discuss in realistic terms what steps we have to take to defend ourselves, to the best of our ability, to secure that we are not the vanquished but the victors in this most terrible of wars.
§ Moved, that the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Balfour of Inchrye.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.