§ 2.52 p.m.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (VISCOUNT CILCENNIN) rose to move to resolve, That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1956. (Cmd. 9691.) The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in moving the Motion which stands in my name, I must, like the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, who spoke last week, crave the indulgence of your Lordships' House for my maiden speech after so many years in another place. Indeed, I ask for a far greater indulgence. There was no critical eye of a predecessor watching the noble Earl when he spoke last week, for he is the only ex-Prime Minister in this House but your Lordships can muster seven of my predecessors as First Lord of the Admiralty, including my war-time chief, to whose kindness I owe so much. In addition, to starboard of me on the Cross Benches there can always be a formidable array of ex-First Sea Lords and Commanders-in-Chief with their guns ready to fire. Some of those noble Lords have been good enough to apologise for not being present to-day, but I understand that they are holding their fire until the debate on the Navy.
§ To-day I am speaking for all three Services but I do not propose to go into details of each. If I did so, I should keep your Lordships an unconscionable time. I therefore propose this afternoon to confine myself to the broad aims of Her Majesty's Government and to leave for our later discussions in separate debates on the respective Services the Government's detailed plans for carrying them out. In commending this year's Statement on Defence, the first main point which I feel your Lordships would wish me to make is that we must avoid regarding the problem of our defence as a purely national problem. Defence in isolation is to-day a contradiction in terms. We can preserve our security only if we stand together with our Allies and pool our efforts in the common cause. That is why Her Majesty's Government attach so much importance to the alliances represented by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the South East Asia Treaty Organisation and the Baghdad Pact.
§ Your Lordships will, I know, agree that the primary deterrent to war must 633 now be the nuclear weapon and the air forces which are the present means of delivering it. But this must be supplemented, as the White Paper explains, by an effective early warning system and by the ability of the forces of N.A.T.O. to hold the line until the nuclear counteroffensive has broken the force of the enemy assault. This demands a concerted effort, from land, sea and air forces alike. We need an effective shield of land and air forces to hold the line as far to the East in Western Europe as possible. Our contribution to that is the four divisions of the British Army of the Rhine and the 2nd Tactical Air Force. Even then they are only part of the integrated international force, under the command of General Gruenther, which is deployed over a vast it area from Norway to Turkey.
§ We also need strong naval and maritime forces to protect the sea communications on which Western Europe and, in a special degree, the United Kingdom depend. We could not possibly meet alone the mounting Soviet threat to these communications, and our co-operation with the other navies of the Alliance under the N.A.T.O. commands in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the Channel is an essential part of the deterrent. Your Lordships would be comforted to see—as I see—at close quarters how thorough that naval co-operation is. As for the air defence of his country, your Lordships will no doubt recall that at their meeting in December the N.A.T.O. Council accepted recommendations for improving the air defences in N.A.T.O. Europe. As a result the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, now has authority to co-ordinate the various national air defence systems and bring about the closest possible integration and the maximum economy of effort. The linking of our radar screen with the Continental network will give us greatly improved warning of attack, and the co-ordination of fighter and other defences will much increase the hazards which any bomber attacking this country would have to meet.
§ There are, of course, many shades of opinion, even among those who accept the vital importance of N.A.T.O., as to how far we in this country should go in arming ourselves. The extremists of one kind would like us to build up forces capable of taking on all corners; but that policy would lead us rapidly into national bank- 634 ruptcy. At the other extreme, we have those hardly generous spirits who would leave all expenditure on armaments to America. Then there are those who would arm only so far as necessary to fight the cold war; it does not occur to them that this policy would spell the end of N.A.T.O. Others, again, would have us invest heavily in thermo-nuclear weapons and apply a ruthless axe to our conventional forces.
§ We have decided, as I hope the White Paper shows, to steer a middle course between these various unpractical alternatives. After all, we are members of the "N.A.T.O. club" and we are also the centre of the Commonwealth and a first-class Power. As N.A.T.O. members we have to pay our way. More than this, we have to make a big enough contribution to give us a voice in the planning and the strategy. I heard some very friendly but very plain speaking on this subject during my recent visit to the United States, from my opposite number who was then my namesake, the Honourable Charles S. Thomas, Secretary of the American Navy. At the same time we must build properly balanced British forces, capable of carrying out our other commitments, which are not limited to Europe and the North Atlantic but are world-wide. Our strategic interests demand not only the defence of Western Europe but the defence of the Middle East and South East Asia as well. We must therefore have forces deployed in these areas, both to show our determination to help defend them against aggression and to bolster the morale and resistance of countries which are threatened by subversion.
§ Your Lordships know well that, in addition to our international obligations, we have responsibilities for maintaining law and order in colonial and dependent territories, if the local security forces fail. There are those who are not slow to exploit any opportunity for intrigue and subversion amongst people without the sophistication to see through their schemes. We must therefore always be ready to give assistance in widely separated areas and at very short notice. Since we cannot afford to be strong everywhere at once, we are bound to rely partly on our highly mobile Naval Forces and partly on the Army's strategic reserve in the United Kingdom as the most 635 flexible and most economic means of reinforcing trouble points.
§ How do we deploy our forces to meet these world-wide commitments? It is sometimes said, I know, that we are trying to do a little everywhere and not really doing anything anywhere. I hope the White Paper shows that this criticism is not justified. I will take first the Royal Air Force. We must have the Medium Bomber Force, which constitutes our most important contribution to the deterrent. We have to maintain an adequate air defence, whether by means of fighters to-day or, later on, when they come along, by guided weapons. And we have to make our contribution to N.A.T.O. air power on the Continent in the shape of the Second Tactical Air Force. In the Middle East and the Far East, air forces are deployed for the protection of British interests. To move troops and freight rapidly across the world between the various theatres there is a rather modest Transport Command, which some critics suggest should be bigger: and finally, there is a small Coastal Command. I believe your Lordships will agree that none of these activities could be dropped.
§ So far as the Army is concerned, the main function is, of course, its traditional one of preserving our security and contributing to the deterrent against world war. For this purpose troops are distributed all over the world, from the Caribbean to the China Sea. The principal concentration of power is, however, in Europe, where we have to meet our obligations within the N.A.T.O. Alliance. There are at present—as I have said previously in my speech—four divisions and their supporting troops in Germany at a high standard of training and a high standard of readiness. As your Lordships will have read in the Statement on Defence, the Army in Germany has been carrying out extensive trials to determine the best organisation for nuclear war, which has imposed, of course, new problems of tactical organisation. In addition, the Army is building up a strategic reserve as fast as its many other overseas commitments will allow.
§ But, my Lords, the Army must not only be capable of fighting in a global war. During the last ten years the principal task of the Army has been the support of civil government in overseas territories 636 for which the United Kingdom is responsible. This support has varied from anti-bandit operations in the jungle to internal security operations of the type now being carried out in Cyprus. I think it is a matter of general agreement that wherever our troops have had to undertake these difficult and unenviable tasks, they have acquitted themselves with courage and distinction.
§ May I now turn to the Royal Navy? In peace time the ships of the Royal Navy are spread out across the globe to protect the interests of this country and of the Commonwealth. They have undertaken these duties for centuries and to-day they are as necessary as ever. In addition, there are the Flag-showing visits all over the world. No one should imagine that these visits are merely gestures to maintain a prestige which we can no longer afford. Most of them are made at the request of the Foreign Office, Colonial Office or Commonwealth Relations Office, to places which, for various reasons, they wish to be specially singled out. The very successful exchange of visits between British and Soviet ships the other day is a good example. These requests to show the Flag are very frequent, and the Navy is often severely strained in order to meet them.
§ As for global war—should that occur in spite of all our efforts—the duty of the Navy would continue to be the protection of the supply lines to these Islands and to our Allied bases overseas. We have to reckon with a Power that could send to sea, before any nuclear bombardment began, a force of cruisers and a great fleet of submarines much larger than anything we had to face in the last war. Whatever the outcome of the nuclear bombing, if these Islands are to be saved from starvation, our Naval Forces and those of our Allies must be capable of defeating those of any potential enemy,
§ I do not propose to repeat this afternoon much of what is said in the Statement on Defence, but there are two points that I should like to underline. The first concerns our Reserve Forces and Home Defence. The possibility of thermo-nuclear war brings about, of course, a big change of emphasis in our policy with regard to Reserve Forces. Some trained Reservists would still be used to reinforce the Regular Services, but the majority would be needed—at 637 least in the first place—for the defence of this country and especially to help the civilian population. The struggle for survival would be a joint effort by the military and civil defence services—in fact all the Armed Forces stationed in this country would have a major rôle to play in those circumstances. We have made considerable progress, and we intend to make more during the coming year, in developing this co-operation between the Armed Forces at home and the essential civilian services.
§ I should like to refer especially to three aspects of Home Defence planning. We must have an adequate warning system not only against the approach of aircraft but also, of course, against radio-active fall-out. We roust work out instructions to explain to the public what are the dangers to be faced and what they can best de for their own safety and their own protection. And we must have a plan for the dispersal and re-deployment of our population thoroughly worked out with the heal authorities and other organisations concerned. We intend to make progress this year in all these matters I have mentioned, together, of course, with the continued development of local Civil Defence services and their essential control systems and communications. There is no doubt, I am assured by all those who know best, that we can very greatly reduce the losses and casualties that would otherwise be inevitable in an all-out attack upon us. It is, of course, generally agreed that, in dividing our resources, we must give first priority to what we believe is necessary to avoid war. On the other hand, we must face the fact that we may fail to avoid war. Personally, my Lords, I have no use for those individuals who are so appalled by the very prospect of nuclear war that they would have us de nothing to mitigate its impact upon our people. Such a hopeless attitude really does, I hope you agree, simply presuppose defeat.
My second point on the Defence White Paper is the second sentence in the opening paragraph, which says:
The main task of the past year, a task that will continue, has been to translate the policy set out in the 1955 Statement into a defence programme.
In practice, that statement comes down to a question of priorities. There are certain things we must have and there are certain things that we have to agree to forgo. But there is a very wide range in
between, in regard to which there is no simple answer. Let me illustrate this from the field of research and development. A thoroughly good case can be made out for nearly everything that gets into the research programme, but our aim must be to carry through quickly as much as can be done within a deliberately restricted field. We have to decide whether certain things on which, say, the Navy sets store are of less or more importance than other things on which the other two Services set store; and to get the greatest benefit any cut must obviously be made in projects which either have not been started or are in an early stage of development. Even so, I assure your Lordships that if some part of the programme becomes seriously overloaded we must still be prepared from time to time to cut our losses and quite ruthlessly stop work on some project which has almost reached completion. The review goes on all the time. It means close liaison between the Service Departments, the Minister of Defence and officials of those Departments. There is an official committee, under the chairmanship of ithe Chief Scientific Adviser to the Minister of Defence, which meets regularly and often to work out recommendations; and these are considered by the three Service Ministers and the Minister of Supply, with the Minister of Defence in the chair.
§ Though some noble Lords will doubtless criticise details, I think—at least I hope—I can safely say that the Government's broad priorities for directing our defence efforts have met with general acceptance in the country. We must prevent another global war. We must be able to deal with the cold war and with outbreaks of limited war; and we must be able to play our part effectively in global war if that should, alas, break out. In allocating our resources, we bear those four aims in mind in the order which I have given.
§ But then, of course, comes the headache of money and manpower. I will say a little more about manpower later in my speech, but in terms of money we shall be providing for the year 1956–57, the year which lies ahead, much the same sum as we provided for the current year, although this year there was some under-spending on the Royal Air Force, due to under-deliveries of aircraft. We must, alas! face the fact that the cost of defence tends to 639 increase rather than diminish. The new weapons are more effective and more deadly than ever; but they are also much more costly.
§ If I may give your Lordships an example or two, the anti-aircraft guided weapon is obviously bound to be very much more expensive than the gun; and some idea of the cost and complexity of modern aircraft may be gained from the fact that merely to check the full range of electronic equipment in a V-bomber calls for the use of 500 items of test gear. I am therefore afraid that there is not much comfort to be found in argument of that kind which suggests that, now that we have the H-bomb, we can stop producing rifles and send half our troops home. It is an attractive theory but in fact our forces must still be equipped to fight any kind of war; otherwise, unless we are prepared to drop the bomb, we can play no part in preventing aggression. For the most part the new weapons are additional to conventional weapons, and not in substitution for them. This may certainly prove to be only a transitional period for armaments, but for the present, at all events, the torpedo still has to live along side the atom bomb, and the gun has to live alongside the guided missile.
§ On the other hand I hope that I have also made it clear that this does not mean we are going on with things because we have always done them, or maintaining particular types of forces because they have always existed. On the contrary, we aim to get rid at the earliest possible moment of everything and anything that is obsolete. We have to remember, however, that we and our Allies are most unlikely to be the aggressors, so that we cannot say that any particular date will be the vital one. Most of us would agree that within the next ten to fifteen years the pattern of defence will change very radically from that which we see to-day. We can largely foresee now what the principal changes will be and what weapons we shall have at the end of that period; but we must provide for the intervening period as well.
§ In certain matters we do take a calculated risk. For example, we have disbanded Anti-Aircraft Command in this country; we are abolishing coastal artillery; we are drastically reducing the number of ships in the Reserve Fleet. 640 What we cannot do is to say that there is no need to worry about anything before, say, 1970. In the 1930s the "No war for ten years" rule came under serious criticism. No such rule now exists and I believe most noble Lords will agree that that is wise. It is therefore quite illogical—indeed it is very dangerous—to suppose that we can scrap this or that now because in the 1960s we shall have a much more effective replacement. In the Services this kind of approach is called the "skip-distance mentality." It is the approach of the man so fascinated by thinking ten years ahead that he forgets we have commitments now. We are all in favour of looking ahead as far as we can, but we have to take good care not to get lost in the realm of pure speculation.
§ I turn now to the question of manpower. We have made, and will go on making, a considerable reduction in the actual numbers in the Forces. Three years ago the total active strength of the Forces was just over 870,000. By the 1st April this year the number will be down to just over 770,000, and in the next two years there will be a further reduction of 70,000. The full reduction of 170,000 over the five-year period will therefore be roughly 20 per cent. of the strength of the Forces as it was in April, 1953. This represents a major effort, for if it is true that some of our commitments have disappeared I would remind your Lordships that others have come along. I hope these figures dispose of the argument that the Services and the Ministry of Defence are indifferent to their claims on the nation's manpower. I can assure noble Lords that my Service colleagues and myself, with the Minister of Defence, are constantly making every effort to secure the most economical use of manpower that we can arrange.
§ Though this may be a rather obvious point, I would remark that the total numbers in each Service are affected by the proportion of Regulars and again by the division of those Regulars into shorter-service and longer-service groups. For example, an Army composed entirely of Regulars could certainly afford to be substantially smaller than an Army half of whom were National Servicemen, mainly, of course, because the training commitment would be reduced. And, again, an 641 Army of Regulars on nine-year engagements could meet its commitments with fewer men than an Army on three or four year engagements. That is obvious; but I think that perhaps it bears repeating.
§ In the Navy we have never introduced a very short Regular engagement, as your Lordships know. The Army and the Air Force are glad to have short-term Regulars. But all three Services now want men to come in on the longer engagements and to sign on again for pension in due course when the time comes. Your Lordships will be aware of another White Paper which shows what we have done in the matter of pay and pensions to make the Service career attractive. I should like to underline the fact that the new departure here is the higher rate of pay from the very beginning for the man who commits himself to the longer engagement. We hope that this will help materially to build up the long-service Regular elements which are so badly wanted. With the same object in view, we have substantially increased the rates of pay for petty and non-commissioned officers, and we have made improvements in pensions.
§ It will be some time before we can tell how far these plans have succeeded. Some immediate increase, I feel sure, will happen, both in recruiting and in re-engagement, but it will not necessarily be a sure indication of the eventual outcome. These, as I tell your Lordships, are long-term plans to reverse a very long-standing unsatisfactory trend, and personally I shall want to wait at all events for a couple of years before risking a firm opinion on the ultimate success of these new pay and pension schemes. Meanwhile I should not like the House to feel that the Service Departments and the Ministry of Defence, having produced these new pay and pension schemes, are content to sit back with folded hands to await results. There are many other things to be done. In particular, we are doing—and we intend to go on doing—everything we can to improve living conditions, both for the married and for the single man in the Forces.
§ A few figures—if your Lordships will bear with me—may give some idea of the colossal amount of work to be done. More than half of the Navy's shore buildings were never designed in the first place as permanent accommodation. And three-quarters of our permanent buildings were 642 put up before 1914. We think that we shall have to spend about £70 million to house our officers; and men in satisfactory conditions. The Army have started work on a barrack rebuilding programme for the United Kingdom, which, when it gets into full swing, will call for an average expenditure of about £20 million a year spread over twenty years. The Royal Air Force, as the youngest Service, have not the same heritage of elderly buildings, but they still occupy a large number of hutted camps built during the last war—and, indeed, a few built during the First World War. They are giving up these as fast as they can build new ones. In all three Services we are going ahead with the building of married quarters. In the Admiralty we are also giving all possible attention to our additional problem of making Her Majesty's ships more comfortable to live in. Soldiers do not have to live for long in their tanks; nor airmen, mercifully, in their V-bombers; but a ship is a sailor's home for long periods, and we must spare no effort to make it a reasonably pleasant home. Both in new construction and in modernisation and conversions your Lordships will find, if you have the opportunity of making an inspection (and if you have the opportunity I hope you will take it), that we are improving living conditions in every way we can.
§ My Lords, I think I have spoken long enough. To sum up, I submit that the Government's defence policy is sound and practicable. The broad priorities which we recognise for planning purposes, will. I hope, be accepted by your Lordships as sensible and also realistic. We believe that in applying these priorities to regulate our various efforts we are managing to keep these most important programmes flexible and reasonably well balanced. We should all, of course, like to see a reduction in the burden which the defence programme imposes upon the nation, for it is a tremendous burden. We shall continue to do all we can to secure a workable scheme of disarmament through the meetings of the Disarmament Sub-Committee of the United Nations now being resumed here in London, but I must frankly say that, until we see promising and concrete results in that field, we must continue our defence measures on the lines which I have sketched very broadly to your Lordships this afternoon. I commend this year's Statement on Defence 643 to your Lordships' House, and beg to move the Motion.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1956 (Cmd. 9691).—(Viscount Cilcennin.)
§ 3.27 p.m.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, it is a peculiar pleasure to me that I should be accorded the privilege of being the first to congratulate the noble Viscount who has just spoken on his maiden speech in your Lordships' House. His attractive manner (which has not, apparently, let him down with the ladies, for he is still a bachelor) is always an asset. And his delivery, if rather inconvenient in its pace for the shorthand reporters, is so clear that we shall look forward to listening to him on many future occasions. I should like to take this opportunity of saying how grateful I have always been for the loyal and continuous co-operation he gave me as Financial Secretary to the Admiralty in our darkest days in the war.
To-day is to me a very important day, not only because it is the occasion of the debate on the National Defence White Paper but also because we meet to discuss that Paper, dealing with an exceedingly difficult national and international situation, on the four hundredth anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Cranmer. When I consider the circumstances of that time, I hope that the conditions in which we meet to-day may prove to be as they were in Oxford in 1556—one of the darkest hours before the dawn—because I have always felt that we owe our greatness and our influence as a Power and as a community to the changes which took place in those times. We certainly have an exceedingly difficult position to face now.
I am glad to see that in this White Paper great care is taken to devote a special section to the economic factors in defence. I am glad that that has been done. I have been requesting Her Majesty's Government for some three years past to have a real inquiry into the condition of the Forces and their requirements, because, as I stressed again last year, the economic position of the country is one of the most vital factors in its ability to organise an effective defence. No-one who held office during the last Great War, through which we came 644 with some success after a very poor start, can deny that fact. The economic position is vital. The Government have been bound to consider the economic position in relation to defence because of other reasons.
Reading the two White Papers, I observed that while there was no special section on economic factors, there was a reference to the economic position in Section 3 of last year's White Paper, where it said:Despite the economic progress of the United Kingdom,this was only last March—the importance of maintaining a proper balance between the demands of defence and other claims on our resources necessarily imposes a financial limitation on the defence programme.It is put much more specifically, and I think much more wisely, in this year's White Paper.The continued economic strength of the free world is an essential element in our ability to resist Soviet aggression and the burden of defence cannot be allowed to rise to a level which would endanger our economic future.I am glad that some of our warnings are beginning at last to take some effect. I wish, however, that we could have had the detailed inquiries for which I have pressed for so long, and been able to get more quickly the results with regard to both the Services and our general economic position.
In view of what has been said from these Benches during the last three years, it is astonishing to see, in paragraph 47 of the White Paper thatThe economy of the United Kingdom has been overstrained during the past year by the demands placed upon it.The paragraph ends by saying:Particular attention is being given to the prices paid by the Defence Departments and to the efficient management of Service stockholdings.It is a little late in the day to talk about prices for Service requirements, but perhaps better late than never. Although one Minister last year was kind enough to make some inquiries and write me about them, I have never had any real answer to my query about how this enormous production programme for the Services is being dealt with in regard to the settling of prices and contracts on the basis of sound finance. We all know 645 that it is impossible to obtain competitive tenders, whether for main contracts for off-the-line production or for development work following on the application of the results of fundamental research.
In my own experience at the Admiralty in the war—and my noble friend, Lord Winster, was kind enough to call attention to this in his speech on the White Paper last year—we were successful in getting a new basis for dealing with these things and we saved the country millions in this connection. I think it is time for us to be given an answer about how these finances are being arranged. Are the Government getting competitive tenders? I do not think they are—or very few; only a small percentage of our total requirements. If not, are they working on a cost-plus-profit basis? Thirdly, is that profit a fixed percentage? And fourthly, in relation to the assessment of the profit required on that basis, how are the costs arrived at, especially in respect of capital and overhead allowances? On that particular matter, I remember that during the war we found a considerable leaking hole which had to be stopped up. With the present economic pressure upon us, I regard it as vital that the country should be reassured on these matters. Suffice it to say that, when I went into office in 1940, I still found in use the old basis of cost-plus-profit, the profit on the turnover of 10 per cent. I should like some more specific assurances on this matter than I have yet had in the defence debates. It is the sort of information which the public, who are asked to foot the bill, should be able to obtain.
Turning from the general economic position, it is interesting to think that this debate on the Statement on Defence is preceding the projected visit of two of the, perhaps the two, principal visitors from Russia—Marshal Bulganin and Mr. Krushchev. As I said last week, I hope that some good will come from this visit As I look at the details of this White Paper, however, supported by the extraordinary details of every one of the Service Estimates and the Ministry of Supply Estimates, I cannot help thinking that perhaps it would be much easier for us to deal with the general situation in the world if our representative visitors from Russia could understand how much we already tell our people and how much good it would do the world if they would 646 be equally free with us. I think that this position might be plainly stated to them. Although I wish them nothing but good will in what might have been—as I hope it will be—a concerted effort, towards changing the threatening situation in the world, I am bound to say, as I look at these successive White Papers, showing these increasing expenditures since 1947 and how we have had to link up into a great federal organisation for the defence of the free Western democracies, that nearly all of this could have been avoided if a different policy had been adopted by the U.S.S.R. in 1946.
All this effort has stemmed from the period of the Paris Peace Conference. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Attlee will support what I say. We went into the general question of international relations in the initial post-war period, bent upon having that same kind of good will and mutually helpful co-operation that we had had in defending ourselves against the common enemy during the war. If there has been any breakdown in that co-operation, it certainly has not been through any Western initiative: it has been entirely in the other direction. And if good will is to come out of this mission, I think it is far better for me, speaking from the Opposition Benches to-day, to say that that is the kind of thing we hope our visitors will recognise. With all the changes in their thought which seem to be going on, from what we read and the strange commentaries we hear on the wireless and television about the late Joseph Stalin, I should be prepared to see our country coming to a close understanding, on a basis of a co-existence which recognised the Russians' own specific political theory, but gave us equal freedom to carry out our own desires in our own way.
If that could be achieved we could get down to the part of this White Paper dealing with disarmament, and possibly make it effective. There is certainly little hope of rapid disarmament unless the feelings in the world greatly improve on what they have been up to the present time. In that respect, therefore, I agree, with the First Lord of the Admiralty that we must have a defence programme which will provide for an interim period before the programme on what is regarded as the major deterrent to a global war. You have to meet your commitments as they 647 arise. Therefore, I agree with the noble Viscount on that point.
Looking at the White Paper from the strategical angle, I should like to make some reference to the relation between paragraph 6 and paragraph 8 (iii). I do not disagree with what the First Lord said about other kinds of trouble that might arise apart from such a dire and dread thing as a global war; but I am anxious about how the policy, which was widely approved last year, of going ahead with our thermo-nuclear programme and using it as a deterrent is going to be affected by these two paragraphs. The last words in paragraph 6 are:In such limited wars the possible use of nuclear weapons cannot be excluded.In paragraph 8 (iii) it says that our Forcesmust be capable of dealing with outbreaks of limited war should they occur.Although we had a good, general speech on the nuclear position from the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, in the debate last year, I did not get any real answer to what I then said about the public statements of Mr. John Dulles—with which I need not weary your Lordships now, because they are in Hansard of last year—to the effect that nuclear weapons, other than the main deterrent bomb, had now been introduced into the American Forces as conventional weapons.
We are no doubt proceeding in this country with the production of, and in the training for the use of, nuclear weapons which are not in the category of the strategical bomb; but perhaps we would regard them as smaller weapons. However, they will spread, to a more limited degree but certainly to some degree, the same harmful effects as are to be expected from the heavier and more centralised thermo-nuclear bomb. The question I want to ask is: what is the policy of the Government? If you come to a limited war, a local war, an area war, and you use these so-called conventional nuclear weapons, do you anticipate that that would be replied to by a major use of thermo-nuclear power? If so, where do we begin and end; and who makes the final decision as to how that is to be done? We have the general assurance in the White Paper—and I am sure that when the Government put it in their White 648 Paper they mean it sincerely—that the Western Powers will never be the aggressor. What if you are, in a limited war, the first user of nuclear weapons, although they are now regarded as conventional? What is the policy of the Government on that matter? I should like to know that, because in these matters, where we have taken such big decisions as were taken last year, we must be sure that we have the common people behind us. I have had no answer to that question yet, but I hope I may get one to-day.
The First Lord of the Admiralty spoke about the reductions which are taking place. When one looks at the figures in the financial Estimates we cannot be said to have achieved any great saving this year. To us in this country, after allowing for the receipt of American aid, the cost represents a net increase of round about £4 million. I know that the White Paper tells us that, in fact, the figures include the estimated cost of the heavy increases in pay and emoluments of members of the Armed Forces. One thing stands out from this fact, and it is this: that the actual volume of modern equipment that was expected in the triennial programme of armament development that we had fixed in 1950–51 has certainly not arrived. It has not arrived for two reasons. The first is that the pound has lost value—the paper costs have gone up—and our figures to-day include an estimated substantial increase in the future pay of the Services. At the same time, we are proposing to reduce our national personnel over a period of just over five years from the original date taken, from 870,000 down to 700,000; and it is partly argued or implicit in the White Paper that that is being done not merely because you want to economise in men, as such, but because unless you do you will not have enough money to spend on your needed progressive equipment.
In fact, we are now facing—let us be sure about the facts—a situation in which you propose to reduce your personnel partly for that purpose, and you will be getting a much shorter delivery of modern equipment than was contemplated by the Labour Government in their triennial programme of 1950–51. I am not saying for a moment that, the economic pressure having arisen in 1951, as it did, we 649 should have been able to go on at quite the same rate; but the failure to recover from that position—indeed, the continuous decline in our economic situation—has only emphasised still further the difficulty of obtaining both the men and the equipment. Therefore, it is certainly to be doubted whether, relatively speaking, we are in a much stronger position than we were four years ago, in spite of what has been said. I do not think the country ought to be under any misapprehension on that point.
With regard to the proposals for the reduction of the personnel, I would remark that this is justified at times and in some quarters on the basis that you will get a much more efficient use of money if it is spent on Regular members of the Services instead of on National Service men. I am sure that if we had not decided upon National Service at the end of 1946—we introduced it early in l947—we could not have maintained the position of this country with our commitments from then until now. The personnel was certainly not there to be got, and even with promises of higher pay than was then ruling they could not be induced to volunteer. You are now going to rely upon your principal method of organising in that direction: on really substantial increases of expenditure. But, with great respect, there is not a single step-up in Regular personnel which has been permanent. It was wise for the First Lord to be cautious when he was dealing with the subject this afternoon. He said that he would have to wait a year or two to see exactly what the position was after the first rush, if there was a rush, had passed.
If that is so, how are you going to deal with the relationship between the total forces required and National Service? I ask that question not because I think the Government have not thought about it. I am sure they have many advisers who have thought about it. But the real suggestion in the White Paper is that the purpose of the kind of Reserve which was being raised under National Service is to be almost entirely changed. We were then hoping to have a sort of joint National Service and volunteer Territorial Army, which would give us ten divisions to be used for whatever purpose required in case of a major conflict. Under the new proposals,the use of the present National Service reserve 650 is apparently to be different. There are certain reasons why, in regard to Home Defence and assistance of the Civil Defence authorities, something mere needs to be done in that direction. That I admit. But in respect to the First Lord's remarks about there being no lack of new troubles to deal with abroad, I should have thought that you would need to go very steadily indeed with regard to promises to the people. I know that many people want—and I am with them in their want—to be free, if possible, from the burden of National Service. But you should be exceedingly cautious in any promises you give with regard to the end of National Service, if you are not able to meet your commitments all over the world. I hope that care will be taken of that point. Incidentally, perhaps the First Lord will not mind if I recall one statement from his speech which I hope was not entirely a slip of the tongue. If I have it down correctly, he said that for reinforcing abroad we should be relying upon the Royal Navy and upon the strategic reserves of the Army. I wondered whether the use of the Air Force had gone out of his mind. It might be as much needed as the Navy and the Army.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
If that is so, I missed it. I will read the noble Viscount's speech carefully in the morning and see whether I can support what he has said. But the need for having forces for that purpose has been so demonstrated in the last few months that I hope special care will be given to it.
I do not propose to say anything about Civil Defence: there is somebody much more able to speak about it from our point of view than I am—my noble friend Lord Nathan, who will speak later in the debate. When one listened to the First Lord's remarks about the rôle of the Services, one felt one was going over much familiar ground again. I like the new argument, with which I entirely agree—I have not heard it put quite so well before—that one of the justifications of the Royal Navy is the service it could render before a thermo-nuclear bomb was dropped. But I saw in another part of the White Paper that we could do without the coastal artillery in the future 651 because that is a job which could be done by air defence and the Royal Navy. I assure your Lordships that if we were engaged in a global war the Royal Navy would have to be used in other stations than merely as artillery against attacks upon our shores. We should be much more happy in our faith in the future of the Royal Navy—those of us who have served in it and love it so much—if we could find a real understanding of how to deal with the major problem of covering our exterior communications; of having some substitution for our bases, which could be wiped out in no time. How is the Royal Navy to function efficiently unless it can have adequate bases to serve the ships properly? We want to know what the Government have in mind about that matter.
Of course, in times gone by we did extraordinary things with a couple of strong tugs and a floating dock here and there, although they sometimes met with tragic experiences. But in a global war of the kind envisaged—I think we must almost thank God on our knees that it could not be for a very long period; somebody would have to give in—we should be in an exceedingly difficult position. I do not want the people of this country to be misled by statements that this will happen or that will happen unless they get real facts to give them faith. I want to say a word about the equipment of the three Services in general. I like what the First Lord said about trying to improve accommodation in the ships. If he can do so without reducing the protection of the ships that would be a good thing. I suppose in the between-the-wars period there was no ship which gave so much general comfort to the troops on board as the 10,000 ton "County" class cruiser—some of them were larger than that. They had good accommodation for the troops, but there was no protection on them at all except round the gun mountings. On the whole, we probably did much better with the smaller armoured cruiser with much less roomy accommodation for the troops. Please be careful about that matter. You can go on increasing everything at an enormous cost, but I do not want promises to be made which, if carried out, would threaten a greater risk to life. More of these points can be dealt with 652 in detail when we come to the Service Estimates.
I did not hear much about the Air Force, but I expect the First Lord intended it to be left to the Service Estimates. Many of us feel that we have had nothing like the deliveries that we ought to have had to keep pace with the general situation. As I said to the Secretary of State for Air, as he then was, we were pleased with what we had seen of the Hunter aircraft. In spite of the promises then given, I understand that there are still difficulties in getting completely effective use of the Hunter as a fighter, owing to its gun mountings and their use. I hope I can be assured that that is not so. I should not like it to be so. We have much to congratulate the Air Force upon in other respects. It was good to read the news this morning that we have now regular equipped squadrons of Valiants, with very heavy hitting power. But we are sadly lacking in adequate transport craft. I hope we shall not have to go on indefinitely chartering old Yorks in which to carry our Service personnel at undue risk.
Time goes so rapidly when I get interested in these matters that I must apologise to your Lordships for having taken so long. Nevertheless, in conclusion, I would say that the whole nation should be better informed than it is about the general position. I do not think it is anything like so well informed about it as it ought to be. Moving about amongst the people every day, one notices that they seem, perhaps because they do not want to have to deal with such an unpleasant subject, almost oblivious of the developments which are going on around them. As I saw it put once last year in a debate, it would be a good thing not to try to have a constant upheaval of the dramatic, but plainly to state the facts of the situation and recapitulate them so that our people really understood it. I maintain, as I did last year, that if we wish to get a better feeling in the world it is high time that we and other nations turned more to spiritual things and to desirable human aspirations. In other words, we want peace. We love peace and certainly we want to live in the best of relationships with our fellow-men all over the world; but it must be made clear to them that we like freedom too. We love our 653 liberty, and we are anxious for the liberty and freedom of all other nations. And if our liberty is involved, then we shall have to defend it.
§ 4.3 p.m.
My Lords, I feel that we should welcome this Statement on Defence as a good step forward in the right direction. However, coming as it does in the transitionary period between conventional and nuclear weapons it never seems to be certain where the emphasis should be laid and how much we can afford on the one or the other. I well remember, as a small child in the First World War, listening to my father saying with horror "This war is costing us £1 million a day." I know that the pound has depreciated considerably since those times but it is terrible to think that, in times of so-called peace, we are spending practically five times that amount—and it does not appear, for the moment at any rate, that we can reduce this amount to any great extent.
The possibility of disarmament, much as we should all like to see a world-wide spirit in that direction, seems to me to be more remote than it has been for a long time. One has only to look at Cyprus and the Middle East to observe the tempers of certain of the peoples of the world at the present time. It is also difficult to reconcile real disarmament with paragraph 2 of the White Paper, which says thatthere is no change in Soviet long-term policy which, fundamentally, aims at work domination.A few smiling faces in this country do not make any difference to the real seriousness of those words. When it comes to the question of cost, £1,500 million is a tremendous amount. We on these Benches are worried about it. We know that the nation cannot afford it. We cannot afford many things that we are doing to-day, particularly if we go on in this country as we have been for the last few years. Whether £1,500 million is right or not is not really the point—it might be £100 million; it might be £4,000 million. The real point is whether Her Majesty's Government can guarantee that, with the money, they are giving us real defence. Our liabilities to-day might be considerably less if, in the year; before the war, the position of armaments had been considered much more carefully.
654 The White Paper, however, leaves a considerable number of things in the air. While there is a great deal about Civil Defence, it all seems to be rather vague and with no sense of urgency at all. The responsibility of the householder is emphasised strongly but there is little about detailed plans. The Territorial Army is once more put in the background. The Commonwealth, on whom, surely, victory or defeat largely depends in a global or nuclear war, is not mentioned at all, except for the defence of Malaya and Singapore and one very small paragraph which refers todiscussions and formal agreements on specific aspects of defence planning.The noble Viscount who is to follow me had the misfortune to follow me in our debate on defence last year, and to-day he will again have to sit through my speech. He told me last year that I should read between the lines when I came to the Commonwealth. Since last year, I have had to wear glasses. I have also taken the largest magnifying glass I can find, but still I can see nothing in that paragraph, even reading between the lines. So may I come right out in the open this year and ask Her Majesty's Government: What are these discussions, what are these formal Agreements, that are taking place? May I ask them, when I come to this point in a few minutes' time, whether they agree in principle with what I have to say?
Again, the integration of the Services, which would save a great deal of money, and which must, in my opinion, inevitably come in the long run, is not mentioned. The whole problem of defence is too Hutch for one speech this afternoon. Therefore, I want to leave out the question of conventional forces, our obligations to the United Nations, our problems under a limited war or the present cold war, and deal purely and simply with a global war in which nuclear weapons will be used. For it is the cost of these weapons, and the far more terrifying weapons that will probably be invented in the years to come, that is the real worry when the whole cost of the Services is considered. There is nothing in the Dee-fence White Paper this year, just as there was nothing in the White Paper last year, to spur me to think that we in this country are capable of defending ourselves in a nuclear war. We have not yet reached 655 the stage, even if we ever shall, when we can say definitely that no hostile aircraft carrying a nuclear weapon or nuclear guided missile can reach this country. But if that were to happen, even if our Civil Defence were ready, there would be very few of our cities left and, far more important, very few of our population left.
We call these nuclear weapons "deterrents" in the hope that any country, however vast, will not go to war because they are frightened of what will happen to them if these weapons are once released. Our position geographically, our size and the number of people in these Islands, means that we are by far the most vulnerable and that we shall be the first to be hit. Surely, therefore, the first thing we must do, if at all possible, is to prevent this danger. Let us therefore try to be the strongest in this nuclear weapon field, rather than one of the weakest. And with the help of the Commonwealth we can do that. I said last year—and I do not mind repeating it—that if we can bring the Commonwealth fully into our plans for defence, and can arrange to distribute our stocks of nuclear weapons, with the planes capable of dropping them, if necessary, throughout the Commonwealth, then surely they would come in with us, for their own protection as well as for ours, quite apart from the close bond that exists between us. At the same time I feel that Her Majesty's Government should continue to make it plain—I was delighted to read the speech to this effect the other day—that we have no intention of surrendering any of our possessions which are essential to our welfare and our prosperity in the future.
This principle of a Commonwealth and Empire pact surely should be our chief aim. It would be the chief deterrent to any hostile country, as it would be also most important in securing a lasting peace throughout the world. So I should like to repeat my question to the noble Lord who is to reply: Do the Government agree in principle with the idea of our joining with the Empire and Commonwealth in a common defence pact? And do they also agree, or have they in actual fact started, on plans for the dispersal of nuclear weapons, which surely is the chief means of minimising war? It may seem that I am suggesting isolating ourselves 656 from the rest of the free world. Of course, I am doing nothing of the kind; but through the strength of our Commonwealth and of ourselves together, we can lead in this direction. The type of people that we now have as possible enemies are people who believe in the old-fashioned saying that "Might is right," and it is only through strength that our word will be respected in the future.
Turning now to Civil Defence, I would point out that without such an agreement with the Commonwealth we shall be placed in a serious difficulty. That does not in any way mean, however, that we should minimise our efforts to prevent disaster from coming to this country were a war to start. There are several people who think that a nuclear war would last only a few days, so horrible would be the result. If that is the case, there is little we can do about it, because, however good our Civil Defence, it would never get into its stride, and nothing could be done. But although, in all probability, this idea is an exaggeration, the fact remains that, even now, we are quite unprepared to tackle a nuclear war.
About eighteen months ago, I went on a short journey to New York, where even in the theatres one sees large notices of what to do in an air raid. We may think that that precaution is far-fetched, but what it means is that they do not intend to go through another Pearl Harbour. Can we in this country say the same? So far, we in Civil Defence have promises only, although the noble Viscount who initiated this debate (and may I add my congratulations on his speech and welcome him to this House?) said that considerable progress was being made and that a lot has been done this year. That is good news, but in my opinion the matter is still not being tackled urgently enough. It assumes that we should have notice of when a war would start. There is the proposal of mass evacuation; we are told that the plans are going to be made. But they are not here yet. We do not know who is going to be evacuated, nor to where; nor, in fact, if evacuation is a possibility in a nuclear war.
Then there is the all-important question of food. How are we in this country, in a nuclear war, to get food? Is the Navy still going to be responsible? Is the convoy system possible in a nuclear war? Are these questions being tackled? 657 It does not matter what plans we have; they will be no good unless we have the food to keep ourselves alive.
A good deal of emphasis is still placed upon the recruitment of National Service men for the Mobile Defence Corps and for fire-lighting. If the ultimate object is the abolition of National Service, is it not rather dangerous to put such an emphasis on the National Service man for this important task. We have the new pay claims—and may I say how welcome they are? I think they thoroughly deserve to succeed, and I sincerely hope that, when the two years are up, we shall see that they have succeeded. But it they have succeeded who is going to take the place of the National Service man in Civil Defence? Will it be the Regulars, who will cost more money, or will it be the Territorial Army? Once again, the poor old Territorial Army is relegated to the background—though since I am an ex-Territorial officer, I will not labour that point this afternoon.
The Territorial Army has proved itself time and time again. The standard during the last war of both its officers and men, with very little pre-war training, was such that I think they are quite essential in the defence of this country in any type of war. But they are volunteers, and we must realise that the Welfare State, and particularly the present attitude of the trade unions, is against voluntary service. There is a wish in everyone's mind in this country to help when there is danger afoot; but it is much too late now to wait for that time. If we want voluntary service, we must get it in time of peace. There is no need to offer material gains; this will not cost any more money. All that is needed is to offer a worth-while job.
To sum up then, we have two different points on this question of a nuclear war; there is the home point and the point abroad. At home, we must have a strong Civil Defence, and in my opinion it should be made up of volunteers who are offered a good hard job, with no chopping and changing, as seems to have been happening in the last few years. I assure your Lordships that no job is too hard for these people, and that they are still necessary for the defence of this country. If we have them, it will, of course, reduce the overall bill of the Services. This, then seems to be the 658 home problem. As for the problem abroad, surely it is simply that of achieving an understanding with all countries, in complete co-operation with our Commonwealth, whereby we can help to build a true and genuine defence for all our peoples.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, it is a real pleasure to me to be the first speaker to rise from these Benches to congratulate my noble friend Lord Cilcennin on his maiden speech. I am bound to say that if one had come into the House a little late and had missed the conventional opening, one could not possibly have guessed that he had not been addressing your Lordships for years and years. Likewise, there is no need to express the hope that we shall often hear him in these debates, because as long as he sits on the Front Bench—and long may he do so—we can be certain of having the pleasure of hearing him often.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, will pardon me if I do not follow him in all the points he made. I am not going to try to follow him on matters affecting the Territorial Army, if only for the reason that we shall have another debate after Easter and that may provide an opportunity to say more then. Likewise I feel, like him, that the subject is so great that I should not venture into the problem of Commonwealth and N.A.T.O. co-operation, because that would lead one into all the story of various regional pacts, where I think time forbids me to go. I will follow him on what he said about home defence, but perhaps he will not mind if I do that a little later on in what I have to say.
My noble friend asked this House for the approval of the Defence White Paper, and so we ought to see on what grounds we can give that approval. The first ground is, I think, that this 1956 While Paper is a logical development of the White Paper of 1955. That White Paper of 1955, as we all know, was the one which first stated definitely what type of future war this country should prepare for: namely, deterrence relying on nuclear warfare. That was made plain in paragraph 19 of the 1955 White Paper, and it is the dominating note of this 1956 White Paper. Looking, as I did, rather quickly at all the White Papers since the first one in about 659 1946, it struck me that there was a great deal more continuity between the 1955 and 1956 White Papers than between any previous White Papers in the post-war series.
However that may be, we have come definitely to the point where, by this White Paper, we can take further steps towards the implementation of the policy which was laid down in 1955. When my noble friend said that in implementing that policy we were steering a middle course, it seemed to me the policy was none the worse for that. In fact, although we are a great deal clearer about the future of a good many matters than we were a year ago, we are certainly not so clear that we can take the line that every form of future warfare will be nuclear or any such thing. However much we may dislike it, we find ourselves still in the position where we must prepare for a good many more different eventualities than we want to pay for or envisage, although I should say that we are having to prepare for a good many fewer eventualities than I think the Socialist Government had to prepare for in 1951. The position is much clearer than it was at the time of which the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, was speaking. That is because inventions have developed and it is possible for policy to be formed. We are lucky in that we are not still in the nebulous stage of invention which the previous Government were in.
We have reached the stage where it is clear that nuclear warfare, although it may be likely if any warfare is likely in the future, does not exclude the possibility of what we still call conventional warfare, if conventional warfare at any given point turns out to be more attractive or rewarding to the enemy. I am beginning to think that we have come to the time when we shall seriously mislead ourselves if we go on trying to draw a dividing line between nuclear war and conventional war. As we get more accustomed to the idea of nuclear and atomic warfare, so we shall find the differences between the two types of warfare are not so fundamental as we thought, but, as looked at in better perspective, have become a question of degree. The dividing line between so-called nuclear warfare and so-called conventional warfare will disappear very quickly on the day when someone invents a nuclear weapon which can be put into 660 the hands of the infantry for tactical use on the battlefield.
We have now arrived at the position where we are working on certain distinct types of nuclear and atomic weapons, and where we are working on them for a certain number of objectives. Those objectives relate to three definite types of reality: deterrence; cold war; and small wars, and, as I think the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, said, the support of civil government. But whether the steps we are taking are the right ones is certainly something which needs to be continually under inquiry—and when I say "under inquiry" I do not mean the sort of inquiry the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough suggested, not for the first time. I believe that the way we can streamline our equipment policy is not by sending in a team of back-seat drivers. The decision whether to proceed with one weapon, do away with another or discontinue a third is a decision which can be taken only by Ministers, and the Ministers must listen to the best professional advice they can get and then, having heard that, decide. We have passed the stage where we can afford, so to speak, to go into the paddock and back all the horses we see there to win. That is very expensive, whether it be in the Cabinet Room or on the racecourse. But, quite apart from that, we have reached the time when one would have thought, as a layman, that enough was known about the different types of weapons to know what we can safely discontinue or discard, where the weight of money and professional skill has to go in the way of research, and which weapons are worth developing.
One thing is quite certain: that unless we take decisions of this sort we shall end up in our weapons policy by being jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none, and we shall fail to make use of the developments and the research potential which, as we all know, is there in ever-increasing quantity, not merely in places like the Royal Aircraft Establishment but also in the various industrial concerns in this country which are capable of taking in hand developments of Service equipment and Service weapons step by step with the development of the same forces for industrial purposes. That is the point to which we have come. If it 661 means that the Government are under criticism for discarding this weapon or that, that, of course, would be a natural consequence of a state of affairs where we are not backing all the horses to win. I feel quite certain that my noble friend in front of me and his colleagues will be equal to the task of making up their minds and seeing that the best use is made of our power of producing these weapons.
It is certainly a pity that it could not be said in this White Paper that we could co-operate more closely with the United States. That is, I think, something which we all regret deeply, and this co-operation is something I hope will come. We must go on working towards than: end in the hope that sooner of later we can reach the stage where our community of interests and our community of outlook are really so dose that they justify abandoning certain lines of development in this country which are being carried on in the United States; whereas if we were to do that now there would almost certainly be a serious risk.
To come back for a moment to this question of conventional and non-conventional warfare, it strikes me forcibly that the unconventional type of warfare is that type which one might call unarmed combat—psychological warfare, propaganda, subversive movements dressed up as nationalist organisations, and so forth. That is something which has been consistently soft-pedalled in every White Paper and Estimates Statement which I can remember since the war. I sincerely hope that the fact that Her Majesty's Government do not see fit to say a great deal about it in print does not mean that they are not devoting resources and money to dealing with this serious situation; for if we do not take proper steps to combat that type of unconventional warfare with which we are now faced, we shall surely find that our efforts in conventional or nuclear weapons, or our preparations for a normal type of war, will be defeated by this flank attack of psychological and political warfare. I do not think there has ever been a time since 1945 when psychological and political warfare has been more intense.
I agree with those noble Lords who have said that home defence problems are not presented in a sufficiently arresting manner in this White Paper. I feel that 662 there is considerable scope for improvement in presentation. I wish to say a word or two about home defence and sonic subjects related to it. First, manpower. When we had our debate on conditions in the Services, I ventured to say that we might before long have an opportunity to give thanks for the improvements in pay, and I should now like to do that. I feel that the improvements given are both generous and imaginative, and if they do not do the trick, no amount of improvement in pay will do so—certainly not in the present employment conditions in this country. But I am bound to go on to say that I do not feel inclined to expect a startling increase in recruits merely because of these increases in pay. After all, service in the Forces is a way of life; and, other things being equal, the service will attract only a certain number of people, and that number will not vary very much from one year to another. I hope to see the improvement come through those people who have decided to join the Regular Forces, staying on when the first period of their engagement is over. It is at that time that we shall get the results, or so I hope and believe.
I should feel quite sure we should get that result if only I were certain that the barrack policy was keeping step with the married quarters policy. The barrack policy has always suffered from the full effect of what is called, in business circles, "L.I.F.O."—last in, first out. It is only at times when things are good, and the Welfare State has built enough homes for babies or what you will, that people begin to think of doing something for unmarried members of the Forces and when that point arises one can be fairly certain that a recession is round the corner. It would be too bad if, now that we have reached the time when the barrack policy is being taken seriously, it should be squeezed out by the credit squeeze, because until now that is how the "L.I.F.0." policy has worked with proposals for barracks. Let us hope that it will not happen this time.
I now come to a rather more thorny question. I feel that one of the reasons why Treasury or ministerial agreement was secured for this large expenditure was the possibility of cutting down National Service. As the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, said, we have to be careful of that; we must be sure that we all realise what National Service 663 is meant for. I feel (and I do not think I am wrong) that National Service is meant for two distinct things. First, it is wanted if we are to have ready-trained reserves who can be called up and used operationally whenever they are required to be mobilised. That is a requirement which we want all the time, as long as we think we may have to fight any war, whether conventional or not. The other requirement we have been asking from National Service is to supply the difference between peace establishment and war, establishment, when we have to keep units up to a high strength to deal with the cold war, Mau Mau, Cyprus and other problems. Those are two distinct things. I hope, though I am not sure, that the increased number of Regulars attracted by improved pay may do away with the need for the second requirement, and I certainly hope that it will do away with the need to have National Servicemen of two years' service as full-rank N.C.Os. in the Army or Air Force; but what it cannot do is to remove the need for fully-trained reserves to be called up for national defence at very short notice.
If one studies some of these problems of Home and Civil Defence, which are more and more merging into the same thing, one sees how plainly the National Serviceman is required to form the backbone of a disciplined nation, and whether he is shooting parachutists or taking part in fire-fighting makes very little difference. When we are thinking of the future of National Service, therefore, I strongly suggest that we should think of it in those two separate aspects. While we hope to do away with it in peace time for the purpose of operations, I feel that some form of national training is absolutely essential if our arrangements for home defence, as we now see them, are ever to make sense.
Coming to Home Defence, I do not share all the fears of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, though I feel that this is a matter which could be concentrated on much more seriously. All the same, the paragraph on Civil Defence in the White Paper is much improved on last year's paragraph, just as that, in my humble opinion, was an improvement on the reference the year before. I believe that in the field the position has improved a good deal. If I were to try to pinpoint one of the chief sources of improvement, 664 I should mention the regional directors appointed last year, who, individually, are persons of very high calibre and, where I have had experience, have already made their influence felt, very much for good. Fire-fighting is still a weak link and will remain so as long as too much reliance is placed on the Army Emergency Reserve battalions, which, I repeat, will never be right under the present constitution. These improvements should not obscure what I believe to be the real need, that of much-improved arrangements for command, communication and control. I will say no more on that and will leave out reference to the Territorial Army and Reserve Forces till the debate which I hope will follow after Easter.
I come back to this question of intelligence, information and psychological warfare. Before I finish, I would again stress the need to deal with this problem, however difficult it may be, since as we know, it straddles across the borderline between defence and foreign affairs. Our own people are soused in psychological warfare for twenty-four hours out of twenty-four. Are we hitting back enough, and do we really know how to do so? After all, however much this costs, it will surely be a good deal cheaper, if we are to evaluate things in terms of money, than spending money on an aircraft prototype which is not going to fly. If we can make savings in those directions, I would not grudge expense in that other direction, however much it is necessary to conceal it.
We shall this year, I have no doubt, make considerable savings, nearly all of which will flow from decisions as to what equipment we are going to back and what we are not. We can make a lot of savings in store-holding for that reason, and for a number of others; and if my noble friends in front of me would like a fruitful line of inquiry, I recommend the stores of the various Services and the systems under which those stocks are held. I have taken up your Lordships' time for too long and I apologise for doing that. May I conclude by saying that I am very glad to support the Motion on the Order Paper?
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ LORD NATHAN
My Lords, the noble Viscount who has just spoken and the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, will forgive me if I do not follow them in the matters to which they variously referred. As the 665 noble Viscount, Lord Bridgman has mentioned, there is to be an opportunity later of discussing matters that relate to the Army, in particular. I have to-day a particular matter to which I wish to refer which has been indicated by my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough—that is, Home Defence—because I feel that in that respect I have some unfinished business to complete. It is just short of five months since I was to open the debate in your Lordships' House on defence matters, but I was, in fact, swept away to hospital. I have felt since then that there was an outstanding obligation on me which, when I could, I wanted to discharge, and I am glad of the chance to-day, now that I am at last able, to return to the service of your Lordships' House.
In November my theme was to have been Home Defence embracing Civil Defence. Since then we have had the Statement on Defence, and I should like to join in congratulating the First Lord on the agreeable manner in which he presented the Statement on Defence to your Lordships' House, and also upon his maiden speech, because I remember the occasion when the noble Viscount, almost as a stripling, first appeared in another place and made his maiden speech there. In this Statement on Defence six pages are devoted to Home Defence. The factor in them which impresses one most is that the only certainty is that most things are uncertain. Perhaps that is true—though I should hope not quite to the extent which the White Paper indicates. Rightly, the White Paper states that full protection in the event of nuclear attack is impossible. It goes on to say that to attempt it would cripple our deterrent strength, as well as the national economy—and the noble Viscount referred to that to-day, as did the Leader of the Opposition in this House.
The White Paper also sets out at last the dangers to be faced, above all the fatal contamination by "fall-out" ranging far beyond the destruction by heat and blast. It records the kind of precautions that should be tried by way of dispersal, shelter, first aid and fire-fighting. It points out the indispensable tasks of keeping communications and public services going while under attacks. It speaks of theprecautions without which ordered society could not survive.666 But it says pretty bluntly that on Civil Defence no more can be spent than is being spent at present. On the problem of evacuation, shelter and casualties it merely says that: "surveys are proceeding," and that was repeated in other words to-day by the noble Viscount the First Lord of the Admiralty. Therefore, my Lords, this Statement on Defence is once again an interim Statement, seeming to imply this time that we cannot really afford, and perhaps do not need to afford, Civil Defence. The outbreak of a nuclear war would involve these islands immediately and inevitably in a life-and-death struggle to survive. To carry on for years under bombardment, as in the last war, will next time be impossible. The aim, as the White Paper remarks, will be to preserve what we can of our population and our industry for the moment when life and work can begin again. It may be a matter not of years or months but of weeks or days.
What can be done? What has been done? It is in no carping spirit that these are the questions we are bound to ask. I think it must be common ground by now that there are only two principles of survival. The first is dispersal, to spread the population thinly and take it away from the most congested target areas. The second is shelter, to protect every person possible against the deadly outward spreading effects of the bomb. The only sure shelter, we are advised, is a hole in the ground like an inspection pit for motor cars with head cover. The White Paper admits that these are the two essential principles which require to be carried into effect, and I ask: what is to be done and who is to do it? My question is much the same as that asked by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, but in, perhaps, a rather different context.
Is it unreasonable to suggest, in the light of what we know or think we know, that every house, every building, every factory, every school, every hospital, certainly every new building everywhere, should have its hole in the ground or, more costly, its refuge rooms protected by concrete or lead? I think we must take it now that there is no such thing as protective clothing; that the only safe place is a hole in the ground. Clearly, dispersal and shelter are interlocked. The White Paper speaks about defining evacuation areas, 667 but surely it must be almost common ground among us now that in a nuclear war there will be no safe areas in this small country. There must be holes in the ground and refuge rooms for the spread-out population where we have them. They cannot go under canvas or camp in the woods without courting death. It is not enough to say that preparations will be made to move 12 million people. I ask: Where? How? Under what conditions? Take the special case of hospitals. They will need, wherever they are, the facilities and equipment to do their essential work of operating and caring for the casualties below ground. As the White Paper says, the ordinary services could not come near to coping with the casualties of a nuclear attack. What is being done about the hospitals in the conditions of the knowledge that we have to-day?
It is not enough to state these problems. What is being done? That is what we want to know. Have firm decisions yet been taken, or action taken about dispersal? Or about shelter? Are there actual plans, and is there money for holes in the ground, for refuge rooms and for sandbags? What is the time-table for these things? Are the materials available? Are there any realistic arrangements for the removal and protection of hospitals? What provision is there for dealing with probably the largest hazard to health—contamination of water supplies, by fall-out? I understand that this could be coped with by water softeners. Is there money for water softeners? I am not expecting that the noble Lord who will reply on behalf of Her Majesty's Government will answer to-day each of the questions which I have put, but I am gravely concerned about this question of water supply, which is vital, and also with regard to hospitals and the care of casualties. I suggest that it is not enough at this stage just to say that contamination has "revolutionary implications." Until there are positive assurances on these crucial matters, we must assume that there is, in the large sense, no Civil Defence.
Of course, there is Civil Defence in the narrower meaning of air raid precautions—A.R.P., as we knew it in the old 668 days. There are the trained and disciplined men, to whom the noble Viscount referred just now, under military command, whose mobile defence battalions, racing to bombed places, will cope, outside the areas of total destruction, with the physical consequences of the bombing. There are, again, the civilian volunteers—too few of them but most publicspirited—the wardens, rescue workers, firemen and the rest. There are the good neighbours, invaluable in the work of salvage and preservation around the periphery of the bombed area. Yet here, perhaps, still, despite the new appointments and the plans for military-civilian co-operation, confusion seems manifest. For there is the divided command: the military formations under the Ministry of Defence and the Commander-in-Chief, United Kingdom Land Forces; and the civilian services under the Home Office with a distinguished soldier as civilian Director-General. Does anyone believe that this system of Civil Defence will last for half an hour in the event of actual war, when the whole structure of administration would, in any case, be under devastating fire.
Judged by numbers, by training, by fitness for the battle, the present Civil Defence organisation, in spite of much devoted labour by a few, is still very largely, I fear, make-believe. It may well be a good plan that is outlined in the White Paper. It may very possibly be the right plan. But there is little in existence yet on this sector of the home front that would help us at all if war came now. Our task to-day is to ask: why should this be? Is the reason financial? At any rate, the money available for Civil Defence as a whole is almost derisory in relation to what even the present embryonic arrangements require.
I wonder how many of your Lordships realise that in the Civil Estimates the sum of only £45 million is provided for Civil Defence out of the whole £1,500 million to be spent on defence. I say that that is derisory. Or does the present situation arise from the confusion of command and direction which has made Civil Defence the Cinderella of defence? Is the reason either that the Government and their advisers are still not decided on what to do (and the problems are without doubt immensely difficult), or, alternatively, is it that they have, in effect, decided that, 669 in face of such a threat, there is little that can be done and little of what could be done that can be afforded? Is that their deliberate decision? We should like to know. If the answer to the question is: "It cannot be done," or: "It cannot be afforded," or both, I think the public should know. Although I cannot accept those answers, I can understand, on a certain view, why the Government put them forward. But I think they are wrong. I am not using this occasion, as I know noble Lords opposite will apreciate, for partisan argument. The difficulties, technical and financial, are very real and very large. Certainly the first call upon all our resources must be to build up, in concert with our Allies, an offensive power capable of delivering instantly a crippling nuclear blow against the aggressor. Indeed, in the new conditions, the only guarantee of survival for this country is to have no war. That is the best home defence of all. But I remain quite convinced that home defence is an essential and indispensable part both of the deterrent itself and of the conduct of any war. Defence, like charity, begins at home.
I do not believe that we can, or should, allow ourselves to say, "It cannot be done," or, "It cannot be afforded." What, after all, is the purpose of defence? It is to defend our home. And this is not just our home; it is our base. It is the seat of our Government. It is the focus of all we do and all we are. Reference was made by the noble Viscount, the First Lord, to the assumption upon which home defence planning rests, which is that there will be a warning period. That is not the warning that the Americans expect of fours hours or more from when the enemy bombers take off. It is the warning of war—that is the warning to which the First Lord referred. Ten days, or so, is the idea; ten days or so of mounting tension while the aggressor gathers his strength and teeters on the awful brink. And in that time, it seems to be reckoned, some troops can be mobilised, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force can be thinned out, the strategic reserves can be deployed and civilians, hospitals, industries and the rest can be evacuated—all of them on the same congested roads and railways (I have said this before), all of them scattering at the same time from the wrath to come.
670 This assumption of a warning, waiting period frankly troubles me. What an invitation to the aggressor to speed up his blow might be the crowded roads, ports, railway lines, dockyards and airfields! Why should the aggressor wait if he is going, undeterred, to strike in the end? Can anyone really believe that this is enough? Ought not the strategic reserve, the Fleet, and the Air Force to be spread abroad beforehand? Ought not the stores and munitions of the Territorials bound for N.A.T.O. (two crack divisions, remember) to be housed abroad now? Ought not the country to be covered now with holes in the ground and ref age rooms against the sudden exodus? Ought not emergency below-ground hospitals, industrial storehouses, and stocks of food and materials to be scattered over the countryside as soon as may be? These are only a few of the questions anyone charged with the responsibility of these grave matters must consider, questions to which this House now or in the near future must have a considered reply. I hope we may be given that reply in due course and that the appropriate action may result. For we dare not risk having to inscribe on a million epitaphs that should have been unnecessary:The Departments were still considering the problems involved.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ LORD JEFFREYS
My Lords, as a former colleague in another place, may I venture to join in congratulating my noble friend Lord Cilcennin on his maiden speech. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, in the course of his extremely interesting speech, referred to the fact that the people in general seem to be largely oblivious to the defence position. I think that was a very fair comment. It seems to point to the fact that we ought to talk more directly to the people and that they ought to be instructed more in the essentials of Civil Defence, at any rate, and of what amounts, in the case of a great many of them, to self-protection.
The international position, as regards the various Powers in the world, remains the same. We are to have the same grouping of Powers. Undoubtedly, it is a dangerous position for us in many ways. In the Middle East we have the Baghdad Pact, which I think is a source of strength to this country because although there are differences of opinion 671 in the Middle East between the various Mohammedan Powers (if I may so call them), and there seems to be a chance of actual war supervening, on our side, in the Baghdad Pact, we have by far the strongest, most war-like, and most efficient of the Eastern Powers—I need not particularise them. Nowadays, we have in the hydrogen bomb and the atomic bomb a factor which has to be considered, but our potential enemies also have them. The hydrogen bomb undoubtedly must be regarded as a deterrent, because it is well known to our potential enemies that if the hydrogen bomb should be used against us, we have the power of immediate and overwhelming retaliation; and undoubtedly we should retaliate.
There are, however, other forms of warfare. We have warfare of a kind in Malaya, in Kenya and now in Cyprus —all these, I suppose, one might describe as operations involving the Forces as armed police. But they are operations and they require considerable forces. Then there were in Korea operations which may be described as operations with conventional weapons but not in conventional circumstances. In addition, there is the necessity for garrisoning various places and, as I hope is recognised, for keeping our fleets in different parts of the world. For all these purposes, conventional troops and conventional weapons are still required and must be used. It is only armed men who can occupy localities and, above all, who can pacify. It is no good merely having weapons of destruction. We must also have men who can occupy and pacify, and that can be clone only by organised and disciplined Forces.
It is difficult, therefore, to see how the numbers of the Forces can be materially reduced so long as matters remain as they are. The Navy has been reduced already—some people would say that it has been reduced too much. The Air Force, we shall all agree, is absolutely necessary to our national and Imperial defence. The Army has its hands full and has no appreciable strategic reserve. The new weapons may not be used. The atomic bomb may be used tactically, but it is certain that both the hydrogen bomb and the atomic bomb would be used if we were to fail to prepare against them I think that is one thing that we must 672 always bear in mind. Dispersal and smaller, self-supporting units seem to be the order of the day. Probably the division may have to be reduced in numbers. Those of us who can look back a little way remember that in the time of the South African War the division consisted of only two brigades, instead of three as at present, and it may be that it will again become much smaller. Possibly the division may be abolished and we may have in its place what is now known as the brigade group. It is almost certain that troops and supplies must be largely airborne in future and that mass movements of transport on the roads will be a thing of the past.
My noble friend Lord Bridgeman referred to the question of barracks as affecting the supply of the troops for all Services. Of course, they are very bad indeed. They are nowhere worse than in London. Close to where we are sitting are the Wellington Barracks, built in the reign of King William IV—you can see "W.R." on the gates as you go past. I think they are about as bad as any barracks can possibly be. They ought to be rebuilt. I am told that it is contemplated that they will be rebuilt in roughly ten years' time. The Army, unfortunately, has very old barracks, which cannot all be rebuilt at once, and to that extent the Army is worse off than either the Navy or the Air Force, whose barracks and hutments are much newer. But it is most important that there should be good housing for all ranks of all services. If the ideal of having Regular personnel for all the Services could be realised, then I think (and here I agree with my noble friend Lord Bridgeman) that a reserve of short-service personnel would still be required. I believe that the first result of the improved conditions of pay, and so forth, will be that we shall get the backbone of warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, petty officers and so on for the Services; and those we particularly need. If we can get them, we shall be some way ahead of our present position.
In the Defence White Paper it is said that only two Territorial Army divisions are to be trained and equipped for overseas service. It will be fatal to the spirit and the recruiting of the Territorial Army, however, if the idea gets about that the men in the Territorial Army are no more than adjuncts to Civil Defence. 673 Is it not possible for all the Territorial divisions to be trained for overseas service? They would not be any less efficient for Home Defence purposes, and I do not think it would cost a great deal more money. I cannot help feeling that it would be far better to train them all for overseas service, and it would be better for the spirit of the territorial Army. As has been pointed out by one or two speakers to-day, Home Defence and Civil Defence are of great importance, and I hope we shall take a little more trouble than we have in the past to put over their importance to the whole population of this country. In my view, we have not perhaps emphasised that importance sufficiently.
Another point—and this has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan—is that at the present time there is a divided command. I doubt whether that would last very long in actual war time, as the noble Lord said, but at the moment the Home Office are responsible for Civil Defence and the War Office for defence generally. I agree that there is no longer any justification for maintaining coast artillery, but I am glad to note that, if possible, the identity of the Territorial units which have been coast defence units is to be preserved. That has not always been done in the past. For instance, in my own county of Hampshire, the oldest Territorial unit—that is, the County Yeomanry, which is a much older unit than any other; and the same thing has occurred in practically every county —was turned into anti-aircraft artillery, and when the anti-aircraft artillery were done away with the County Yeomanry were done away with, too. That was a great pity, and I believe it was only for want of a little thought that they were not transferred to some other form of Territorial service.
The policy of the Government is to encourage skilled, long-service Regulars, and to this end great improvements in pay and conditions have been promised. It is still too early to know whether these improvements will have the desired effect. As I have already said, however, I think they will have, and are having, the desired effect in so far as they are causing warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and the necessary men in the ranks to extend their service. Whether the inducements are strong enough to induce recruits to come forward in sufficient 674 numbers to create a long-service Army remains to be seen. It is perhaps early days, but there is not much sign of that at the moment; and I feel that the high wages paid now to boys and unskilled young men keep them out of the ranks of the Regular Army.
The pay of officers has been much improved, and the chief criticism I have heard is that in the case of junior officers pay compares unfavourably with that of some other ranks. I do not believe that many junior officers would complain of their pay comparing unfavourably with that of the ranks of senior warrant officers and non-commissioned officers, but it is another matter when it compares unfavourably with the pay of lance-corporals of fifteen years' service, for instance. A lance-corporal or a private soldier with fifteen years' service is not really a very distinguished member of the other ranks. He may be quite satisfactory and reliable, but he is not a particilarly good soldier, or, in the case of the Navy or Air Force, a particularly good sailor or airman. The fact remains that he gets more than some junior officers, which is perhaps a pity.
One form of saving that I feel must be considered is the saving on inflated staffs and Departments. I imagine that the War Office, the Admiralty and the Air Ministry have all enormously increased in numbers as compared with pre-war days. My own experience, for what it is worth, is that certain commands I held now have much larger staffs than they did in my day. While I can see that there is a necessity for an increased number of technical personnel, I am not so certain that there is any reason for having largely increased operational and administrative staffs. Then, I believe there might be saving on some of what I might call the semi-combatant services. I am not at all sure, for instance, that in the Air Force and the Army, and possibly in the Navy, too, there might not with advantage be a combination of such things as the Ordnance Departments. I certainly feel that there might be a combination of the medical services with advantage to everybody concerned. After all, a doctor is a doctor, whether he functions in the Navy, the Air Force, or the Army.
§ LORD HADEN-GUEST
Perhaps I might be permitted to say that that view is rejected by the medical branches of all 675 three Services. The conditions are so different that they are determined that they will not have that combined service, as it would lead to inefficiency.
§ LORD JEFFREYS
The noble Lord is a good judge, and I am certainly not going to argue with him about inefficiency. I would merely say that I know from personal experience that in certain places where the Army and the Navy are together there have been experiments, and I believe that in some instances those experiments are still going on. Whether they have led to inefficiency or not I hesitate to say. Certainly I should hesitate in the face of the professional opinion of the noble Lord.
There is one more word I would say about the increased pay conditions, and that is about retired pay, a matter with which I have wearied your Lordships in the past. The new rates, and especially the terminal grants are undoubtedly a great improvement. Most of them will apply only to people who leave the Services in the future, but they will undoubtedly be some inducement. The chief complaints are as to past members, first of all, as to the rates under the 1919 Code. That Code provided for a sliding scale—incidentally, it was introduced by our late Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, when he was Secretary of State for War and, at the same time, Secretary of State for Air, in 1919. It provided that pensions should rise and fall to an extent not exceeding 20 per cent. according to how the cost of living rose or fell. As long as the cost of living fell, the pensions were reduced. When it started to rise, they were stabilised (that was the expression used) in 1935 at 9½ per cent. below the basic rates of 1919. Now this 10 per cent. increase which is to be given to officers who are over sixty—not those under sixty—is to be calculated on the reduced, or stabilised, rates of 1935 instead of on the basic rates of 1919. Surely, that is a bit of miserable pinching on the part of the Treasury, who have always objected to this rise and fall according to the cost of living. None the less, that has been justified over and over again, although the cost of living since 1919 has risen something like 200 per cent.
There is another point which I think is causing comment, and that is the ques- 676 tion of officers' widows. Their pensions, very small ones indeed, are to be increased only by 5 per cent., because they were increased in 1952. But previous to that there had been no increase for 100 years, and there is a great difference in the value of money now and what it was 100 years ago. Surely, there should be an increase now of 10 per cent., which would not be over-generous in any way. I have mentioned this matter of retired pay because it is undoubtedly stopping a great many officers from coming into the Services. It is making a great many people who are out of pocket, and who see other people getting increased pensions, say to their sons and dependants, "Well, the Service is not good enough, and you had better keep out of it." The amount involved is a very small item in these large amounts of expenditure which are to be made on increasing the pay and increasing modern pensions. Surely, it would not be unreasonable to spend the small amount of money which would satisfy these men of 1919 who, to put it mildly, went through considerable hardships in the First World War and who are really deserving of more consideration than they have received from what should be a grateful country. I beg to support the Motion.
§ 5.25 p.m.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
My Lords,, I, too, should like to offer my congratulations to the First Lord of the Admiralty the noble Viscount, Lord Cilcennin, on his maiden speech. If I may say so without impertinence, I was glad to see that there was a cloud of Admirals present to sustain him: I was only sorry that there was not an atmosphere of Air Marshals on the other side. In this connection, I should like to wish the noble Viscount, Lord Portal of Hungerford, a happy result on his recent operation.
I, too, agree with the White Paper. It is a natural follow-on of the White Paper of last year, and I consider that it has an excellent sense of proportion. It has a sensible division between global and local wars, and I am also glad to see that there is a realisation in print that this time there will not be any "phony war" period. There will be no question of working men up it will be a question of using those who are fully trained at the time. I do not intend to cry over spilt milk—the spilt milk of fighter and bomber production. The Government have stated their 677 case, and they have agreed to the rationalisation of the aircraft industry. I, for one, should like to suggest that we let the aircraft industry get on with it. In this connection, the announcement released in the Press this morning about the Valiant bombers was an excellent thing. This carping about aircraft production does no good whatever to morale, and only helps our enemies. I do not intend to go into any great detail, because I understand that there will be debates in your Lordships' House on the separate Service Estimates.
There are one or two points that I should like to make that have not already been mentioned. First of all, many people seem to think that push-button warfare is just round the corner. This, to some extent is having an adverse effect upon the recruitment of pilots for the Royal Air Force. As we have already read in the Press and elsewhere, there are guided missiles, air-to-air and ground-to-air missiles, et cetera, on their way, but this does not mean push-button warfare as a whole. Piloted aircraft will be needed for at least a generation to come. Another misconception which has appeared in the Press is that our bombers will be used for bombing guided-weapon bases on enemy territory. That is a quite impossible task. Our bomber force is to be used on proper targets, and in this connection I should like to ask the Minister—he may not wish to give me an answer whether we have world-wide bases from which Bomber Command can operate.
Coastal Command, I am sorry to see, is rather played down in the White Paper. It will have an important job to do, particularly, I think, in view of the speed of the submarine to come. Like the analogy of the air, the nearer the speed of the bomber to the fighter, the harder it is for the fighter to catch the bomber. The same applies, surely, at sea. The faster the submarine, the greater the distance which an attacking destroyer has to cover in order to defeat it, and the more its chances are thereby lessened. Surely this is where Coastal Commend can help. This must not be forgotten.
So far as the Army is concerned, I hope that a really high priority for aircraft of Transport Command to carry the strategic force proposed for the Army will be given to the building of these aircraft, since without them the strategic 678 force is of no value whatsoever. Perhaps the Minister would tell us something about that. The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, mentioned that the day of surface transport had disappeared and that everything should go by air. I am not quite certain what the noble Lord meant. If he meant in the field itself, then I should say, if he will forgive me, that this is a certain amount of wishful thinking, since aircraft are still—
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
I apologise to the noble Lord. I am glad that that is the case. Another point in regard to transport for the Army is the use of helicopters in the field. I am sure that this ought to be discounted for the time being because helicopters are as much dependent as, if not more dependent than, other aircraft on good weather for their operation. If the Army depends on them at the expense of surface transport, we may find that, just when helicopters are most needed, they will not be able to operate. With regard to remarks made by a noble Viscount about the Navy "showing the Flag," surely the Royal Air Force can "show the Flag" equally well. I cite as an example the visit of the Canberra squadrons, headed by the present Chief of Air Staff, to South America, where they created a great impression.
On the point of control and reporting system, if our radar network of early warning and control reporting is not fully integrated with that of the Continent, then, when almost split seconds will be required to mount our defence against what, if global war comes, will be a Pearl Harbour attack, our defence will break down entirely. Our defence must be as near 100 per cent. perfect as possible. If one bomber gets through, we all know what will happen. The White Paper is being optimistic in its statement about the preparedness of the Continental air forces in this respect. I have been told that they are being somewhat recalcitrant in this matter.
A most important consideration is the research and development on guided weapons in particular, and naturally other engines of war in the future. We are forgetting that we are, a Commonwealth. The resources of this Island alone are not 679 big, but the resources of the Commonwealth are. At the moment, research and development and, in fact, the building of aircraft are taking place separately in the various countries of the Commonwealth, more or less in penny packets. I know that Australia is co-operating in helping us at Woomera, but that is not the same as integrated development or helping us financially. I beg the Government to co-ordinate both research and development on weapons, guided and otherwise, in the Commonwealth. I hope that a decision will be taken on aircraft production, that fighters may be made in Canada and bombers may be made here, or whatever is considered to be the best arrangement. At the moment, we seem to be working in watertight compartments, and we cannot afford to do so.
I am sorry to see that there is no mention of the place of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. I am not surprised that the only mention is that there is a drop in volunteers. That does not surprise me. I will not go into further detail because I hope to bring this point up in a debate on the Royal Air Force Estimates, but Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadrons are uncertain about their future. They are being called "second line" and it is not surprising that there is a drop in volunteers. In the last war, they were first-class backers-up of Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain. I am certain that, if more authority is given them and more dependence is placed upon them, they will answer the call as well as their predecessors did.
The noble Lords, Lord Moynihan and Lord Nathan, mentioned 12 million evacuees. I will not labour this point but people cannot be evacuated once global war has started. We cannot become a nation of troglodytes. The White Paper mentions the improbability of enemy gas attack. This is being passed off too lightly. I do not mean conventional gas as we have known it in the past; there are other gases which may well be used. To say that this is most unlikely is not justified by the facts. I ask the Government to think again on this question. I ask, too, where does the Commander-in-Chief, United Kingdom Land Forces, fit into the picture of Home Defence? What is his relationship with 680 the Home Office, who are responsible for Civil Defence, with the Commander-in-Chief, Fighter Command, who will presumably conduct the United Kingdom air battle, and also with the county Territorial and Air Force associations, which are statutorily responsible for raising our volunteer forces? Let us avoid setting up any new and complicated machinery for raising our Home Defence requirements. The Territorial and Air Force associations were set up by Lord Haldane to be a connecting link between the Regular Forces and the civilian population. They are to-day even more suited to our purpose than when they were first created. Their membership covers not only district commanders and the commanding officers of all Auxiliary units, but also representatives of all county and local civilian authorities. These organisations have stood the passage of time and are there. For Heaven's sake, let us use them!
I welcome, too, the new pay code already mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys. It is a fine step forward—not, as the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has said, a heavy one, but still a fine one, for all that. The Services are happy about it for the most part—provided, of course, that the cost of living, N.A.A.F.I. prices, the cost of accommodation generally and of other concessions do not rise. It is a pity that, when this was announced, it was not made clear in the White Paper—and the Press did not underline the fact—that, in comparing the actual pay given to other ranks with the equivalent pay given in civil life, there was no addition for the various "perks"—in the case of single men, free board and lodging and, in the case of married men, an additional figure for marriage allowance and the comparatively small cost of lodging, fuel and light. The figures mentioned in the papers were the direct figures of pay against pay. Surely that was a piece of propaganda for the Services which was badly missed.
There are, I think, only two comments which I have heard, apart from those already made about pay and allowances. One was that more must be done about schools. As I remarked in a previous speech, it is most unfair to children that they should have anything up to thirty-two different schools by the time they 681 reach the age of fifteen. It is one matter that the Services must think about. The other matter is the disturbance allowance. The White Paper states that the new pay code covers disturbance allowance; but disturbance allowance is unfair as between officer and officer. Some move frequently, some move hardly at all. Why should those who move frequently and possibly have great expense in doing so, through no fault of their own, bear a burden which others do not have to bear?
On the question of the gratuity, I should like to suggest that when an officer or other rank reaches the period of service at which he is entitled to retire on pension, he should then be given an option of receiving part of his gratuity, with which he can start to buy a house or to establish himself in a small business for the time when eventually he is going to retire. I should like to commend that suggestion to Her Majesty's Government. On the question of pensions, I would merely ask: why is it, for instance, that a wing commander who retired last year or the year before, should get £675 a year for the rest of his life, whereas one who retired this year gets £800? Surely it is only equitable that every retired Regular should receive the same rate of pension throughout his life.
Finally, my Lords, I turn to one rather thorny point—morale. It seems to me that officers, certainly this side of the war, through no fault of their own, have not been allowed to take the personal responsibility which they should have. This applies particularly to junior officers. Senior officers are not willing to delegate responsibility for fear a mistake may be made, with the result that some malcontent writes to a Member of either House of Parliament, and then a query comes down and the whole searching business starts. Nobody dares take a risk any more in any of the Services for fear of slipping up. Surely it is leadership that we need, not how best to cover up mistakes. My Lords, I agree with this White Paper but I should like to end with a maxim for the future of the Forces which was always used by the past editor of the Aeroplane, Mr. C. G. Grey: namely, "Simplificate and add more lightness." That is what we must do with our forces. I beg to support the Motion.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ EARL ATTLEE
My Lords, it would be presumptuous in one who has so recently made his maiden speech in this House to offer congratulations to the First Lord of the Admiralty, but I would say that it was extremely pleasant to hear again his mellifluous accents. He spoke so charmingly and persuasively that one might almost be tempted to think that, like the noble Earl who has just addressed the House, one was fully in favour of this White Paper; but I am not. I intend to offer to your Lordships only a few remarks, because there are many noble Lords to address the House with more knowledge than I have, but I should like to deal with one or two points with which I have been concerned.
First of all, there is the position of the Ministry of Defence. I believe that I had the honour of introducing in another place the Bill to set up the Ministry of Defence. My conception was that a Minister of Defence must be one of the most important people in the Government and that he should hold his office as long as possible, to gain experience. What we have now is an extraordinarily rapid change. So far from being an important Ministry, the Ministry of Defence is a mere siding into which people are shunted before they go on somewhere else—it is, in fact, most awkward from the point of view of the Opposition. It is like going to a fair, where targets pop up and, before you get a chance to shoot at them, have gone. I am wondering whether this extraordinarily rapid transit of Ministers accounts for the fact that we now have in Marshal of the Air Force Sir William Dickson a super Chief of Staff. It was not my purpose to say a word against individuals, but I did not approve of this appointment at the time and I do not approve of it now.
I was concerned with the Ministry of Defence for a short time while the war with Japan was going on. But both during the war and after it we always had the conception of the three Chefs of Staff as being a Chief of Staff in commission. That is a possible way of regarding it. We were strengthened in that view because in war time we had such extraordinarily good co-operation between the Chiefs of Staff. It was not so before the war; it may not be so now. But I do not think the right way is to put over the Chiefs of Staff one 683 distinguished officer from one of the Fighting Services. With the best will in the world he cannot shake himself off from his background. If a change is desired, it seems to me that the right thing is to give the Minister of Defence high-ranking officers of all the three Fighting Services who would be detached from their Ministries. I think that is a possible solution, but in my view the present one makes the worst of both worlds. I hope that the Minister who is to reply this evening will be able to give us an estimate of how long it is expected that the present Minister of Defence will stay before moving on somewhere else. As to the general position of the Ministry of Defence, I never conceived that it would be wise to make it a great Department. I felt that the departmental work should be done in Ministries and that an adequate technical staff of advisers was needed, particularly in the field of science, because of the immense importance of that subject in defence at the present time. I rather get the impression, when I look at this White Paper—no doubt owing to the shifting of Ministers—that there has not been that co-operation for which one could wish; that the Estimates put forward by the various Ministers amount to a kind of competition.
The next point which I should like to deal with, and which I find thoroughly unsatisfactory, is the position in regard to National Service. The Labour Government were responsible for introducing National Service in peace time. It was not a very popular thing to do, but it had to be done at that time. One must remember, however, that the position then was quite different from the position to-day—the hydrogen bomb was still in the future; the atomic bomb was only in the hands of the United States of America. The danger at that time was that the immense conventional forces of Russia would sweep right across Europe. That was why we had to have conscription—not for the purpose of putting into the field an enormous Army. The whole stress then was on the need for building up trained reserves which would be ready at a moment's notice because, we said, experience showed that in a future war we should not have the breathing time that 684 we had in both the 1914 war and the 1939 war. Therefore we had conscription; and we had to lengthen the term of the service because of various commitments all over the world.
To-day, things have changed entirely. To-day, the whole emphasis is on the fact that, if a major war occurs, it will be hydrogen bomb warfare, and that we shall have to fight with whatever forces we have on the Continent, since it is most unlikely that we shall be able to reinforce them from this country by masses of divisions. In spite of this, it seems to me that we are still keeping on National Service, and I very much regret the passage in the Defence White Paper which shows that the Government, instead of facing up to this problem, are merely postponing it—because that is what they are doing, by putting off for another two years the time when they must come to a decision.
Meanwhile, what are they doing, with the National Service people? It is very difficult to find out. We had a conception of Territorial divisions based on the Territorial Army and filled with the National Servicemen fit and ready to fight. Now, so far as I can make out, they are a kind of dispersed Civil Defence force. I do not know what they are doing with the Air Force boys—they do not seem to be doing anything particularly. I am quite sure that the present system is extraordinarily wasteful. If a great number of National Servicemen are coming in, very big training cadres are required. It was said that the need for continued National Service was due to our commitments. At that time we had the commitments in Korea, and we were still in Egypt. Those commitments have now gone. Unfortunately—and, as I think, wholly unnecessarily—we have started another in Cyprus. We had the difficulty in Malaya; we had the difficulty in Kenya; but they are being reduced. We must really consider, I think, what we need to-day.
I notice another phrase that surprises me, with regard to N.A.T.O. Does anybody think that N.A.T.O. is in a satisfactory position to-day? We always had difficulties with the French contribution, which should be the greatest contribution. First of all, the French could not do anything because they were "hung up" in Indo-China. No sooner had they got out, 685 or been pushed out, of that than they had trouble in North Africa. Therefore we are extremely weak there. The German forces, of course, will not be ready for two or three years. In fact, N.A.T.O. is extremely weak, on the confession of its commander himself. He cannot afford to put masses of infantry into the field there.
We have to consider the whole of the position. I am one of those who believe that if you proceed to a hydrogen war it will be the effective end of this country, certainly as a fighting force and probably as an economic force. We have now, I think, departed, so far as I can see from the White Paper, from that curious phrase used a year or two ago, in which the Paper envisaged" broken-back" warfare after the hydrogen bomb part had ended. I am perfectly sure that if the hydrogen warfare started, and a few hydrogen bombs fell on this country, you would not be thinking of how to fight; you would be thinking of how a few people could survive. I do not think you could run the industries. It is doubtful about agriculture. The only thing you would save would be the British way of life by a few people. I think it is best to face up to that.
I am not very enthusiastic over the Civil Defence preparations. It seems to me that they are very illusory, particularly with regard to evacuation. The idea of evacuating 12 million people somewhere, when you do not know which way the wind is going to blow, seems to me to be utterly ridiculous. I do not agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, said about holes in the ground. I am inclined to agree with what the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, said: that we cannot live troglodytic existences. That is what happens in a major war, and we must not have one.
The other thing is what is called gradual war. It is very difficult to say that a small war will not grow into a big one, particularly with the use of atomic weapons. What we have to think of, first, is the deterrent, the hope that neither side will ever use these weapons. After that we must talk of a screen. I doubt whether very much can be done by a screen in N.A.T.O. Some forces may be available, and I think they could be reorganised. The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, suggested that the division is now 686 out of date. I agree. We need smaller and more mobile forces, which would fit in better with our other function of providing something in the nature of a Commonwealth police force, a body which can be sent to wherever there are difficulties and disturbances. Their work would be much more police work, as in Kenya and so on, than fighting an actual war. I think the thing has got to be keyed up to that. To-day we are spending enormous amounts of money. I doubt whether we are getting value for it.
I end with one more point. We need a very thorough inventory to see that we are not keeping a whole mass of weapons which will never be used again. I had a great deal of trouble, when I was Prime Minister, because we were told there were millions of pounds' worth of stores in Egypt. I could not get these stores unpacked to find out what they were. There is a kind of "quartermaster" instinct to keep all kinds of things. The Services love to have something stowed away, even though it is something that will probably never he used again—it is the joy of their lives. I am sure that, if you looked through the Services, you would find an immense amount of this material, which is waste and costs a lot of money to look after. Unless we let a real drive in that matter we shall have enormous expenses. I stress what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough: that the crux of all this is the economic factor which is vitally important to any defence and any winning of the cold war.
§ 5.59 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
My Lords, perhaps I may also, from this Bench, congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Cilcennin, on his maiden speech and express the wish that his old friend the late Archbishop of York were here to felicitate him. I read the Statement on Defence last year with great interest and I have read the present Statement with similar interest, and I personally find present Statement more hopeful than that of last year. I find in it some stress on a relaxation of tension. I wish to refer to three factors: the political factor, the moral factor and the connection of defence with disarmament.
First, the political factor. It seems to me that by far the most important event 687 in the political scene is Soviet Russia's repudiation of Stalin. Where it will lead nobody knows, but there is a certain rocking and a certain instability which makes it most unlikely that Soviet Russia would now be contemplating a major war. This may not be a good time for negotiations, but it may well make negotiations easier at a later stage. Therefore, it seems to me that this is not the time to stress the necessity of the hydrogen bomb as a shield to cover negotiations; nor a time in which the Western Powers should prepare more force than is reasonably necessary for defence.
I come to my second point, the moral factor. If there is anything in what I have just said, this is the time to weigh the moral factors affecting the conduct of war with special care. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, said that in his opinion it was not possible to-day to make a clear distinction between nuclear and conventional warfare. That is an important statement of a challengeable kind, for restrictions on the conduct of hostilities have been recognised for many centuries. Even during hostilities it has been taken as a matter of course among civilised nations that there are certain things which civilised nations will not do, certain violations to which they will not be party. It has been a long and laborious process but at its back has been a respect for human rights. This sense of restriction has found expression in a number of international conventions. The Hague Conference of 1907 said in the clearest way that the right of the belligerent to choose the means of inflicting damage upon the enemy is not unlimited. At that time international law, under a very eminent international lawyer, was at its zenith.
Underlying international law are two basic principles: that all deliberately cruel actions are illegal and that no more force than is reasonably necessary for the defence of a combatant is permissible. To quote just two examples of international conventions, there is the Treaty of Washington of 1922, which forbade the use of poison gas, chemical and bacteriological warfare; and the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which secured the agreement of many great Powers to forswearing the use of poison gas and bacteriological weapons. The latest 688 official condemnation of unrestricted conduct of hostilities was that delivered by the British, American, French and Russian judges, under the presidency of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Oaksey, in the international military tribunal at Nuremberg, when they said in a very clear way that the majority of the war crimes of which those war criminals were guilty arose from the Nazi conception of total war in which—and I quote the words of the tribunal:the moral ideas underlying the conventions which seek to make war more humane are no longer regarded as having force or validity. Everything is made subordinate to the overmastering dictates of war.I venture to suggest to your Lordships that it is not in accordance with our tradition that we should put ourselves in the position that everything is made subordinate to the overmastering dictates of war.
During the last eleven years far more destructive and cruel weapons have been invented than any forbidden under the Treaty of Washington or the Protocol of Geneva. Your Lordships will remember that on March 1, 1955, Sir Winston Churchill, in another place, spoke of the immense gulf between the hydrogen bomb and the atomic bombs, because the former is outside the scope of human control or manageable events in thought or action, peace or war. I do not wish to exaggerate, or speak much, about the hydrogen bomb, but it is incapable of discrimination. It is intended to and does, terrorise the civilian population, and, if authorities are to be believed—though I know there is a diversity of opinion—it has unprecedented genetic effects. So I personally find it impossible to reconcile the initiative in using the hydrogen bomb with the principles of the Hague Convention or the moral ideas underlying it.
Moreover, as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has just said, anyone who initiates the hydrogen bomb must realise that retaliation is inescapable, so that the Power which first fires it embarks upon a process of international suicide of which it is impossible to see the end. I well understand the argument that the hydrogen bomb is the great deterrent and that if Russia has these bombs we have no choice but must possess them too. But politicians and planners must surely face 689 the fact, or at least the imminent possibility of a complete deadlock. I should like to ask the politicians and planners these questions: with weapons of such vast destructive power as the hydrogen bomb, is there a saturation point beyond which it is both purposeless and a waste to add more to the pile? In other words, is it necessary to pile up more hydrogen bombs?
So I come to my third and last point: the connection of defence with the discussions of the United Nations Sub-Committee on Disarmament. The very important letter of President Eisenhower to Marshal Bulganin has perhaps rather significant implications. In the Manchester Guardian a day or so ago, the American member of the Disarmament Sub-Committee was reported as saying that studies in the United States of America proved that it is now accepted as possible to control effectively production of nuclear weapons, and he said that the idea behind President Eisenhower's letter was that agreement should be reached to "freeze" existing nuclear stockpiling, and that after such agreement had been reached it would be possible effectively to ensure, through international control, that fissionable material was in future used exclusively for peaceful purposes. I believe that with this statement of Mr. Stassen, we have to compare Mr. Dulles' speech of December 8, 1955, in which he said:Our capacity to retaliate would be selective and adapted to the occasionand he added:The free world must not put itself in the position where the only response open to it is general war.That is very near the policy of graduated deterrents, a subject which seems to be of great importance and to which more and more thought is being given, notably under the leadership of Admiral Buzzard and Captain Liddell Hart.
There were few signs surely, even before this purge, this rewriting of history in Soviet Russia, that Soviet Russia wants a major war. But, of course, we are obliged to face the possibility of a limited war and it seems to me that there are two alternatives before us: first, that we should "play up" the hydrogen bomb; and secondly, that we should "play it down." By "playing up" the hydrogen bomb I mean speak of massive 690 retaliation, as was the case last year, and particularly as was the case in Mr. Dulles' speech of January 12, 1954. But if we "play up" the hydrogen bomb, then we keep the international tension and, indeed, increase it; we make negotiations, in my opinion, much more difficult, and, what is extremely important, we alienate the uncommitted nations, especially in Asia. By "playing down" the hydrogen bomb I mean that we keep it, while it exists, very much in reserve and do not parade it as the weapon on which we place our great reliance.
And I think we should—and this is what the advocates of graduated deterrents are constantly saying—make it plain that all nuclear weapons are not in the same category of destructive force. Mr. Lester Pearson said last year thatnow … small atomic weapons, with an explosive power amounting to only a few per cent. of the large mass destructive nuclear weapons, are common.I believe that we should make that distinction publicly and clearly between the tactical and the strategic use of nuclear weapons and between an attack deliberately aimed at armed forces as such and an attack deliberately made at centres of population.
My Lords, to sum up and conclude, I should wish Her Majesty's Government to say publicly in emphatic terms: "We are out for the abolition of war and the settlement of international disputes without resort to violence. We will do everything in our power to secure a comprehensive disarmament agreement covering both conventional and nuclear armament. We have no intention to use aggression in any circumstances but if you use aggression we will, if necessary, use atomic weapons against armed forces. We will not use hydrogen bombs unless you do. We will not use atomic weapons against centres of population unless you do." Your Lordships may well imagine that to contemplate the use of any kind of atomic weapon against any kind of person is not at all agreeable, but it does seem to me that the establishment of such a policy would reduce the tension, would give an adequate defence and would make limited war even much less likely.
I see these advantages: first, that it would reduce the tension. It would achieve a tactical balance of power 691 essential to convincing Soviet Russia that there is no alternative to negotiations and disarmament and it would take a real step forward to the abolition of global war and serious limited wars. Secondly, it would set free resources for much needed purposes of a peaceful kind at home and also for use in undeveloped countries. Thirdly, it would go far to secure, and I believe indeed it would secure, the confidence of the uncommitted nations in Asia and elsewhere whose support is vital to the West. Lastly, it would strengthen our own morale in peace and in war with the assurance that we have done everything in our power to maintain the principles of international law and justice and are not prepared to surrender them to the overmastering dictates of war.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, the First Lord of the Admiralty seems to have a great many friends in this House, and I must begin by saying that he and I worked together in another association for many years. I have long had the highest admiration for him, and I was not surprised to hear him make the fine speech that he did tonight. I find it extremely difficult to follow the most impressive speech made by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester. I have the deepest sympathy in all that he has said and I thought that his suggestion as to the statement that might be issued by the Government was profoundly impressive; but naturally, it would want the most careful study in detail before I could assent to it altogether.
One point which cropped up frequently in his speech and which made me a little dubious was the need for agreement on disarmament. I have been associated with every disarmament conference that has been held in my lifetime except the early Hague Conference. I have been associated with the only successful disarmament conferences—for instance, the Washington Conference in 1922, which was successful but had the fatal disadvantage (as I thought at the time and as I think now) that it smashed the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. As a pure disarmament conference it was successful, and, so far as I can remember, its decisions were carried out. I was associated with 692 the later conference after the war into which the Germans were brought. Although we got through the conference successfully, I am sorry to say its decisions were not always carried out—the rules were broken. But there is one difficulty that always arises at these conferences which no one has been able to solve—I have given hours and hours to it on many occasions—and that is how to ensure that their decisions are carried out. In no connection is this harder than in that of nuclear weapons and even fissile materials. An ingenious scheme was worked out by scientists but it broke down on the human factor: how were you to find people to do this boring job of watching the passage of goods trains, or I do not know what, with your uranium or whatever the fissile materials are, and keep a check on them, without being liable to all the seductions that arise for a young fellow living in a foreign country and leading rather a tedious life? Several scientists in the early days, as we all know, did unfortunately fall for Communism, and in consequence of that great difficulties arise still.
One thing I noticed about the speech of the right reverend Prelate was that in his proposals there was no suggestion of our not making the hydrogen bomb. I think he agreed that we must make the hydrogen bomb. That, I think is absolutely indispensable. Without it we cannot get the deterrence that is necessary. Although we are trying to limit the numbers of the bombs, I feel very dubious whether we can succeed. Indeed, I feel convinced that we must go "all out" to develop the hydrogen bomb. I therefore support the general policy of the White Paper and I support it, for the most part, in detail. But there are just one or two passages about which I am doubtful. I cannot go quite so far as to accept the statement that the increased power of the deterrent—that is, the nuclear weapon and the means of delivering it—has made global warfare more frightening and less likely. More frightening, yes, but I am not at all sure about "less likely." If we have the advantage in the possession of numbers of these bombs at the present moment, in so much as we are a non-aggressive group of nations then war is less likely. If the other side has the advantage in this respect—well, I am not sure. But in time we shall cone down 693 probably—unless war is precipitated first —to a balance of power. We generally do come to something like a balance of power in these things. In that case, I do not think war would be less likely.
After wars new generations grow up. We saw it after the First World War. After that war we older ones were very strong against anything of the sort happening again. Gradually there grew up new generations, especially on the Continent and among the German people, who forgot all about the horrors of war. Meanwhile, armaments were developing and massive attacks by aircraft came into the picture. And yet they did not prove a deterrent to war as they ought to have done. So I rather doubt that proposition, even as an abstract statement. But still more I criticise the statement at the end of paragraph 5 which reads:The objective of the Western Powers is defensive.Agreed.They will never be the aggressors,"—that is agreed—but they must have, and be known to have, the power of instant and overwhelming retaliation if attacked.I feel that it was not necessary to put in "retaliation if attacked."
As I understand the position, as regards the atomic weapon, especially the hydrogen bomb, its power is so great that it will wipe out whole provinces; it would practically put England out of action. There is an old saying which I should like to quote: it is a chestnut and no doubt all your Lordships remember it:Blessed is he who fights because he mast;Twice blessed he who fights because his cause is just;Thrice blessed he who gets his blow in fust.That is the essence of warfare with the atomic, and still more with the hydrogen, bomb. If an aggressor gets his blow in first it means annihilation for the other side. There is no possibility of retaliation, or at any rate the retaliatory power will be enormously reduced. I do not think we should say to any country against which we are measuring our strength: "Gentlemen, please shoot first." I think that that reminiscence of mediævalism is a mistake. It seems to me it would be encouraging an enemy to suggest that we are the only people who are non-aggressive. So I think that the 694 phrase to which I have referred is unsuitable as the basis of an otherwise admirable Statement on Defence.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ LORD HADEN-GUEST
My Lords, I intervene only because I want to put a practical point to the House with regard to protection against attack. What is expected does not seem to be accurately defined, and we have not got very far in making suggestions for dealing with the situation when it arises. In the Statement on Defence, towards the end, there are some paragraphs headed, "The Mobile Defence Corps;" "Training of Reservists in Fire Fighting;" "Other Emergency Fire Preparations," and "Evacuation." The last paragraph, which is perhaps the most important paragraph in the Statement, simply says:The Government have carried out a review of evacuation policy. They have reached the conclusion, which they are sure will find general support, that first attention must be given to the evacuation of the 'priority classes,' the definition of which they propose to extend to include mothers, young children and adolescents generally and the aged and infirm.That is practically all that is said with regard to evacuation.
In the event of a nuclear attack, one of the first essentials would be to have a completely informed medical profession, which knows what is likely to happen, what can he done to prevent the ill-effects from extending any further than can be helped, and what is the plan for dealing with the population. The White Paper refers to evacuation. How much does that mean? Our population is something over 50 million. How many of these millions are to be moved? It is no good leaving them in industrial areas where they will at once be bombed; they must be protected in some way. A noble Lord suggested that people should dig holes in the ground. The holes would have to be so deep that it would amount to the excavation of mines on a large scale. That is an impracticable thing, and it could not be done. There is only one way of dealing with the situation and it has been discussed a great deal in expert circles. We ought to have a practical plan ready
May I recall what happened before the last world war? The question of Civil Defence was carefully studied, and a number of medical instructors were 695 appointed to inform the medical profession of what could be done to mitigate the effects of attacks as they were expected at that time, and as, in fact, we received them. I speak of this matter particularly because I was the doctor instructed to inform the medical profession in the Harley Street area. My instructions were circulated and carried out. We made definite plans about where people should be evacuated, how they should be treated and the number of people required to carry out the treatment—in fact, the whole details of a system dealing with the Civil Defence problem at that time. It was more simple than anything we should have to face, unfortunately, in future. What we want now is not a lot of general conversation and statements from one side of the House or the other but definitely drawn plans of the best means of saving the maximum number of people under the conditions of attack by mobile atomic missiles and hydrogen bombs.
I have not the slightest doubt that it is extremely difficult to plan how we should deal with that situation as a practical problem, but it is possible to give the medical profession, by lecturers appointed to give instructions and demonstrations, the information which is necessary. I believe that we shall not get very far until this question is settled: how many of our 51 million people will have to be removed. It is no good leaving them where there are large works, because these places will inescapably be bombed. It may be considered necessary to move them to another country, out of range, and that would be a tremendously big problem. I do not pretend that it is an easy problem, but I do say that it should be approached from a practical point of view and not merely by using generalisations, such as "People must be taken out of range," or "They must be evacuated." Evacuation must be dealt with in such a way that some people will be left to carry on civilisation after the war, which may not last very long but which will be incredibly destructive.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, at this time of the evening I should like to raise only one or two points, in particular those where there appears to be a discrepancy between what is stated in the 696 White Paper and what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Cilcennin, who moved the Motion and who I am sorry to see is not here at the moment. From an early paragraph in the White Paper we know that it is hoped and believed that the nuclear deterrent will prevent a global war from breaking out. If, however, the deterrent should fail, and a global war should break out, we are told in paragraph 7 thatIts course would be unpredictable after the initial intense phase.The same paragraph goes on to say that in the military field we must have forces that areflexible, mobile, well-trained, well-equipped and versatile.If the future is unpredictable, how do we know that these forces will be wanted at all after the initial stage? Moreover, the noble Viscount, Lord Cilcennin, talked of the need for land forces to hold the line as far East as possible. That argues that the ground forces in a global war will have a part to play. What is the distance from the boundaries of the Western zone of Germany and what is the range of a modern bomber? Is there any object in holding the line as far East as possible when bombers can take off from points farther East of that? Then, so far as the Naval picture goes, the noble Viscount spoke of cruisers and submarines possibly being at sea before any nuclear attack takes place.
We see also, from paragraph 24 of the White Paper, that a great deal of emphasis is placed on the submarine threat to this country. In the 1954 and 1955 White Papers the picture painted by Her Majesty's Government was that any global war would start with intensive atomic or hydrogen bomb attacks. There is this conflict between the statement that there will be an "initial intense" attack and that war in the future will be "unpredictable," and the reference to this naval blockade begun before the outbreak of nuclear attacks. If there is a possibility of hostile action at the start of a war and before nuclear attacks begin, then a complete re-thinking is necessary on our whole strategy. We have dismissed the possibility of mobilising large expeditionary forces and sending them overseas, because it was assumed that nuclear attacks would come first. The question of evacuation of the civil population depends on the amount of notice 697 that will be available. If it really is the case that the Government do not now think that nuclear attacks will be the first stage, it is strange that the logical consequences of that are not followed in the White Paper.
I feel that the original conception must be the right one: that the nuclear attacks will come first. We know that it is the policy of N.A.T.O. to meet any aggression with nuclear weapons; and it seems to me that, whatever hostile action is taken by an enemy, it is the intention of the Western Powers to reply with nuclear attacks immediately. So it must be that the nuclear attacks will come at the outset. From that one can argue that the possession of a large fleet of submarines by Russia is quite irrelevant, because submarine blockade is a slow-acting weapon, and if nuclear attacks have resulted in a stalemate, or, as we have been told, in the destruction of this country, then there will be no question of our holding out until our foodstocks run out while the submarines are blockading us. It seems that there is a non sequitur somewhere in this White Paper, and I think it should be cleared up.
There is one other respect in which I think the White Paper is unsatisfactory. We read in the first paragraph that in making up the defence programme account has been taken of "three main factors: political, strategic and economic."The economic factors are enlarged upon, with apparently sound reasoning, in paragraphs 9 and 10, which show the harmful effects on our economy of an excessive defence programme; that is to say, on money, materials and manpower —and not only the manpower required for industry, but particularly scientific and technical manpower. But if we go back to paragraph 8 (i) we read that our forcesmust make a contribution to the Allied deterrent commensurate with our standing as a world Power.Those last words sound to me quite out of tune with the conception of our defence. There is a flavour of an attitude of mind that is colloquially called "keeping up with the Joneses." Our status as a world Power means that we must have certain weapons, whether or not we can afford them and whether or not they can be contributed by our Allies in the co-operative effort of this programme.
698 In many parts of the White Paper there seems to be no facing up to the need for a system of priorities. All the possible contingencies in war are mentioned and they are all provided for. Except that the Army is to somewhat rationalise its weapons and reduce the variety, I have not noticed any statement in the White Paper to the effect that there is something we should like but cannot afford. Therefore the play that is made with the need to fit our programme to our economic situation does not seem to mean anything and has no result on the programme itself.
The noble Viscount, Lord Cilcennin, said that we have Allies in N.A.T.O.—indeed, the whole history of the last 300 years is that this country has never fought a major war without Allies. There has always been a division of function between Allies: sometimes it was Britain who provided the sea power, getting her Allies to provide the large armies for Continental warfare; and in the last war we left the provision of day bombers to the Americans, I believe, while we concentrated on night bombers. It is quite wrong to say, as a writer to The Times said recently, that people who urge that there should be some saving in the defence programme assume that we can defend ourselves single-handed. That is not the case. We have Allies, and we have a right to expect that we should co-operate and should each take a fair share. I was sorry to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Cilcennin, drop a hint (I hope I did not misunderstand him) that when he was in Washington not long ago there was some feeling by his opposite number in the United States that Britain was not contributing all she might to the common defence effort. I hope that is not the case, and I hope, too, that the noble Viscount showed that this country is contributing not only all that its share in N.A.T.O. demands but, indeed, more than its economic situation really allows.
§ 6.49 p.m.
My Lords. I should like to welcome this White Paper. Last year we had an important Statement on Defence which one might call the beginning of a new series; and this year the ideas which were then put forward are being carried on. As a White Paper to read and understand, I must say that I think this one is extremely good. The 699 strategic factors, and the rôles which our forces may be called upon to carry out as a result of the strategy, are so clearly set out that there is no need for me to discuss them by themselves. But these rôles are formidable, and great planning is always needed to see that they may be successfully carried out.
Great interest will soon be taken in the duties of Test cricket-team selectors and those who select teams of footballers for international contests. Test selectors have to make decisions whether to employ fast or spin bowlers according to the pitch, and the football people have to decide whether or not they are going to use a special form of stud for the football boots. They also know that there may be a nicety inasmuch as the opposing captains may decide that the pitch is not fit for play at all; and they also know that the contest will be of short duration. I fear that the people of this country do not realise the difficulties of the "Test selectors" who organise our defence forces. I do not think they even think about it. They do not realise the difficulties; they only complain about the bill which has to be paid. Possibly if they knew more about what has to be done, and would think more, they would realise that all that has been done, and is going to be done, is for the protection of their own country and for everything for which this country has stood for so long.
The White Paper explains that the policy which started last year is going to be continued and manpower is going to be reduced. The Forces will be better equipped. As has been said—and I will not labour the point—with smaller forces, training has to be of a higher standard, newer weapons have to be maintained, and that standard of maintenance has also to be higher. We all know that many times in the past expensive weapons and expensive machines have been ruined because of bad maintenance. We hope that, with the new pay rates which have been announced, we shall have better trained forces who will stay longer in the Army. That has a two-fold purpose. It means continuation of training, and also, eventually, we hope that it will be the means of doing away with National Service altogether.
There is a feeling in the country that every British soldier now has to be an 700 extremely high-grade technician. Surely, that is not so. Of course, there are highly technical sections of the Army and of the other Forces, where trained technicians are required in order to run and look after the equipment. But there will always be a high demand for the ordinary, well-trained, highly-disciplined officer, non-commissioned officer and private soldier, and his counterpart in the other Services. He will always be needed in battle, whether it be a global war, a limited war or a cold war. His tasks are extremely difficult: policing, and keeping up the general morale of everybody concerned. These tasks are the most difficult that a soldier has to carry out, and I think we should realise that. I had a short experience of it myself when I served for some time in Trieste when times were difficult. We were cooped up in a small area, unable to do anything, a feeling that does nothing to help. It is not an easy task for soldiers. I must admit that we owe a debt of thanks to all our soldiers and all our Forces who for so many years have kept up these difficult duties and performed them very well.
It was stated in the Press that the policy within the Army will be to keep the division as a basic organisation, but with hard-hitting independent brigade groups which are well supported with artillery. I believe that is obviously the answer. The tendency in the last war was that a division's tail—in fact every formation's tail, even down to a battalion—grew longer and longer. As was said by my noble and gallant friend Lord Jeffreys, these enormous lines of transport are now completely unthinkable and would not work. I am certain that the authorities have that in mind, but it is an important point. Another important point, which I am sure is being considered, is the size of these semi-static headquarters. It rather frightens me when I remember that it took two 10,000 ton liners at least two trips each to move Allied Forces Headquarters from Algiers to Naples. Headquarters of such a size as that are obviously a thing of the past, and unthinkable in future. N.A.T.O. Headquarters itself has been carefully streamlined, as I hope all headquarters will be in the future. I feel that, as a result, Commanders-in-Chief in the field must be given more power than they were in the past. In the last war the Commander-in-Chief in a theatre of 701 war was not allowed to settle for himself even the appointments of various officers. It had to come back and be passed by a famous body called the War Establishments Committee before anyone of the rank of lieutenant-colonel and above could be appointed in a new and necessary job. That took, possibly, three months.
Now I should like to turn for a moment or two to Home Defence. It has been stressed by everybody that. Home Defence is extremely important. It is the part which needs as much planning as any other. It has been said that Home Defence and Civil Defence are drawing closer together, but there is still a division of command. I myself, amongst others, suggested that there might be one command. At any rate, I think this new appointment of Commander-in-Chief Land Forces will be of great value. Obviously, he will work closely with the new regional organisations about which my noble and gallant friend Lord Bridgeman spoke.
Your Lordships will remember that the Mobile Defence Corps was thought of last year. It has been going very well. Twenty-five of these battalions have already been started, and the recruitment and enrolment of officers and n.c.o.s is going very well indeed. A great many of these volunteers come from the Territorial Army. The training has been carried out in various schools in the country. This year, unit training is to be started. That training will be undertaken by volunteers in these mobile defence columns, but next year the National Reservists, 4,000 of whom are being trained this year, will be taking part; and, next year, more National Service people will be trained in these mobile columns. But—and there is a big "but"—more volunteers are needed. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, on this subject spoke of what will happen when the National Service element disappears. It will come down largely to volunteers who can be got from the Army Emergency Reserve, provided that they have no Territorial Army commitments.
I am sure that what we should do, as the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, and the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said, is to give more publicity to these various volunteer organisations. I have said this before—it is nothing new—that we shall have 702 to attack the problem from other directions. These mobile defence columns entail doing an important job which is well worth while. People should be made to realise that it is a live job; that the training is live; that they can rescue people; that they actually do it, and that they can get them away and do all the various ordinary Civil Defence jobs. Live training is so much better, as we all know, than training in a drill hall with the aid of a blackboard. I hope—I believe it will happen—that they will be able to train within the areas in which they are likely to be employed. To my mind, that is most important, because then they will know the sort of country in which they will operate and the sort of people with whom they will have to deal. The same applies in London. I hope they will also cc-operate closely with the reorganised Home Guard.
I shall not say much this evening about the Home Guard. When its reorganisation was first announced I was very upset, as I believe everyone in the Home Guard was; but the astounding thing is that the Home Guard is now going very well, although there are only three active members of it in each battalion. They have said to themselves: "We are not going to be pushed on one side. We will carry on." "Nearly all of them have formed rifle clubs. The War Office have assisted them with rifles and the provision of ammunition and targets. These Home Guard battalions are doing a good job of work now. They will be easy to recall. I understand that their uniform, which is important to them, is to be set on one side; but none of us wants to return to the old-fashioned last war practice of walking about with an arm band. It is essential that they should be put into uniform. They form part of our Home Defence, and I am sure they will do their job well.
Then we have the mobile columns and all the Army personnel in the country —that is essential—and one of their first tasks, as has been said before, is to undertake Civil Defence. There are also the Reservists, some of whom have now had anti-fire training—the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, touched on that subject—and I think something more ought to be done there. Much research has been done on the Civil Defence forces themselves, as the First Lord of the Admiralty 703 said in his speech, and much research will be done. It is only through getting to know what the results of these nuclear weapons may be that we can train people who can explain to the ordinary person, and not only those who undertake Civil Defence duties, things which are so important. I do not think it can be said that Her Majesty's Government are not taking a great deal of trouble about Civil Defence, because I think they are. Civil Defence is a difficult problem and will always remain so, but the plans which are being formed make it impossible to say that nothing is being done.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I know that my noble friend Lord Goschen will forgive me for not following him because he has already told me so; but I am going to follow up one word used by my noble friend Lord Gosford, the word "simplification." I should like to urge Her Majesty's Government to go much further and faster in simplifying—simplifying equipment, simplifying methods of production, simplifying administration and simplifying manpower, particularly that section mentioned by my noble friend Lord Jeffreys, the manpower of staffs. Complications make everything much more expensive and lead to inefficiency. The first point of simplification with which I should like to deal is equipment, because it is in that sphere that everything is initiated by the Service Departments themselves. They initiate the equipment; they say what they want. An unfortunate tendency seems to have arisen in the Service Departments. Knowing that industry can sooner or later virtually produce anything for which it is asked, the Service Departments have begun to ask for perfection. Perfection is expensive and takes a long time. The trouble is, of course, that the specifications of their equipment produced by the Service Departments are much too stringent.
May I give two examples of what I mean? I take them together because they were mentioned together in the Report of the Committee of Public Accounts which was published in November, 1955. The two articles of equipment were, first, a radio set for the Royal Air Force, and secondly, a combat vehicle for the Army and the Royal Air Force. The specifications for both those things were absurdly 704 stringent. The contract for the R.A.F. wireless was placed in 1946, and for the vehicle in 1949. By 1952, owing to the stringency of the specifications, both contracts had to be scrapped; and in both cases the Services concerned took into use modified versions of existing commercial types which could have been put into service much earlier, and which I understand have both been most successful. Furthermore, because the original types were not put into force, £540,000 "went down the drain".
The next matter in this question of equipment is that of production and development. If Her Majesty's Government can persuade the Service Departments to ask for what they must have, and nothing more, which I suggest is the proper procedure, then the other Ministries involved must also try to simplify. That, of course, applies particularly to the Ministry of Supply and the Treasury. The principal difficulty in this connection of production is bit-by-bit financial control. I have spoken on the same subject when speaking on roads, but this bit-by-bit financial control is quite useless in a commercial manufacturing undertaking. I am sorry to keep giving examples, but I think they explain what I mean so much better than I could in words. There is the case of a jet bomber, the Victor.
We should start the story, I think, from the moment the accepted tender reached the Air Ministry. This story is mainly the result of bit-by-bit financial control. There was an initial delay of six months—what I think the Air Ministry might call a normal delay. Then an order was given, with permission to go ahead, but only for design work up to the absurdly small sum of £50,000. That took the whole of the first year. At the end of the first year the manufacturer was so certain that his design would be successful that he asked for permission to go ahead. During the whole of the second year that permission was refused—one imagines that money ran short or something of that nature. In the third year an order to proceed was given, but only for two prototypes. One prototype crashed and was destroyed. I should say here, in parenthesis, that I believe this strict limitation of prototypes which has been found to be a failure, has now to some extent 705 been altered. In the fourth and fifth year development went on in a leisurely way with the single prototype. In the sixth year, an order was given, but only on a temporary basis; and in the seventh year the full order was confirmed. Those are some of the evils, of bit-by-bit financial control. How can a firm keep tooled up, and keep its staff of skilled craftsmen, when Government orders are placed on that basis, when the firm fines not know from year to year what money is coming the following year or in subsequent years? Simplification in financial control must be possible.
May I now come on to simplification in administration. Here the real trouble is that the administration of the Forces is on a peace-time basis, whereas from a military point of view, say from divisions downwards, the people concerned are really on a war-time basis. Virtually most of them are doing war-time work without the bullets—at least, the bullets are not always in use. The forms, the issues, the accounting, the paper work, are absolutely prodigious, and the men in the units, brigades and divisions have not the time, if they are to carry out their work properly, to undertake this amount of paper work. I think it is not generally realised how enormously the paper work has been increased by mechanisation.
Here again I should like to give an example—it is a short one, but it shows exactly what I mean. Take a conventional weapon. Heaven knows what will happen with the non-conventional weapon, but this is an ordinary 25-pounder, a self-propelled gun—a perfectly conventional weapon. Each gun has three lists of stores, one for the carriage, one for the gun and one for the wireless equipment. When a gun reaches a unit there have to be six recordings of each of those lists. There are 24 guns in a regiment. That means that the regimental unit is required to list 144 recordings. In addition to that, of course, there are all the forms relating to consumption of petrol and so on. I am quite certain that this work could be simplified. I appreciate that public money must be saved and not wasted. But in a great number of cases what we are doing at present is to spend 5s. to save 6d.; and that applies particularly to all the smaller lists of stores.
706 There is one eventual answer which must come one day, because we cannot afford these staggering expenses on unnecessary paper and work. No Government Department, least of all the Treasury, is capable of carrying out the suggestion I am going to make, but sooner or later cost accounting specialists will have to be called to say whether or not certain work that is done to save wastage and stores is worth the money involved. And nobody but cost accounting specialists can do that job. I submit that Her Majesty's Government should look into that point at the earliest possible moment.
May I submit to my noble friend on the Front Bench two ways whereby the regimental officer can be relieved of some paper work without waiting for cost accounting? First of all, I suggest that we should look into the matter of courts of inquiry. As your Lordships know, if stores are lost a court of inquiry has to be held, whether or not there is any real value in the stores or any crime is involved. In the vast majority of cases, it is a purely formal matter. The inquiry wastes the time of three officers, and merely gives authority to write off the stores. I suggest that the commanding officer's powers of write-off should be raised quite considerably. He is a perfectly respectable person, and I suggest that, provided no crime is involved, his powers to write off should be much greater than they are now. That would save a lot of paper.
The other method of saving paper concerns the quarterly audit board of regimental funds. Again I am speaking only for the Army, because I am not quite sure what is the procedure in the other two Services. Is it not time that we adopted the civilian practice of having regimental funds audited annually? In addition, the commanding officer could order a counting and check of the cash. Of course, a competent commanding officer would from time to time send for an officer with his particular account, and would check it anyway. A quarterly audit by three officers sitting for hours and hours is a waste of time. I suggest that is put on an annual basis as soon as possible.
My final point is economy in manpower on the staff. All the Services know that their staffs are very swollen at the 707 moment. I submit that there are two main reasons for this. The principal one is that the committee mentality has run not—I will explain in a minute what I mean by that. The second one is that we are still suffering, at any rate in the Army, from the result of certain alterations which were found to be necessary in staff organisation. Senior commanders and directors of Service Departments spend their whole life attending committees, working parties, study groups—or whatever you like to call them. As a result, they have not time to command or direct: they have to have one or more deputies to do the work they should be doing in their own headquarters because they are attending committees. I am informed (I have had no experience) that the same thing happens with non-Service Ministers.
The real trouble is that this system of committees breeds staff officers. Each commander has to have deputies to do his work at home; the deputy has to prepare briefs for his commander, with the result that the middle piece staff officers, the deputies and so on, have not time to do their own work. It is the old story ofBig fleas have little fleasUpon their backs to bite 'em.I have been informed by commanders that they attend the conferences with briefs. If they have time they study the briefs. They seldom have time to study the question themselves. Would it not be simpler to put the briefs in the post? What is the point of attendance by commanders at these conferences when they have not studied the question?
I will come to the second matter, the question of certain alterations which were necessary owing to the war. Before the war the key of the staff system was the Grade I staff officer, who in those days was always a full colonel; and the authority of a full colonel, one might say, is almost double that of a lieutenant-colonel. Under the war-time arrangement, Grade I staff officers became lieutenant-colonels. I suggest that it is quite time that the Grade I staff officer again became the real key of the staff system, with the proper authority, and that he should be a full colonel. I know there are difficulties, but I believe that such a change is necessary. If you have a key man with authority you can do away with some of the juniors.
708 May I just sum up what I recommend? First, simplify the equipment. What the Services should ask is that the equipment should be completely serviceable to do the job required, with no frills added. Secondly, there must be simplification of the means of production, which is largely this question of bit-by-bit finance. I cannot believe that this problem presents an insuperable difficulty. Administration, particularly in units, must be simplified, and we must as soon as possible get away from the practice of spending 5s. to save 6d. That causes more paper work than anything else. As regards the staff duties, may I say this: commanders used to be trained to command; but committees make extremely bad commanders.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, I should like to add my flower to the large and handsome bouquet of congratulations which the noble Viscount, Lord Cileennin, has accumulated to-day. May I say to him that often, when I have been talking with officers whose duties bring them into contact with him, they have referred to his intuitive understanding of the spirit and the traditions which animate the Navy, and I feel that in years to come, when he is looking back to his long association with the Navy, it may give him some pleasure to feel that that was one of the qualities which was recognised and very deeply appreciated.
I should like to refer for one moment to what the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, said on the question of tendering. As one who has held the office of Minister of Defence and has twice held the office of First Lord, the noble Viscount is, I feel, entitled to a full and direct answer upon the points he raised. I know from experience that as First Lord he saved the country considerable sums of money; and if the public knew all the details they would be very grateful to him. The only other reference I want to make to other speeches which have been made this afternoon is this. I am not sure whether I have the exact words, but I think the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said something to the effect that we must not have a major war. Yes, I think we can all agree we do not want a major war; but the decision whether we do have one or not unfortunately does not rest entirely with us. I noticed, too, that the right reverend 709 Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Chichester, was anxious that in regard to nuclear warfare we should impose upon ourselves restrictions which the enemy would certainly not impose upon himself and would certainly never dream of observing. I find so often in these references to nuclear warfare that people talk as if major war and nuclear warfare was something that we could avoid. We can certainly set an example in that respect, but we have not the power to render such things out of the question.
The post of Minister of Defence is a very difficult post indeed to fill as regards both its occupant and the conditions under which he is to work. The Minister of Defence usually incurs a great deal of criticism. There have certainly been too many changes, and almost as soon as the present incumbent, Sir Walter Monckton, was appointed certain criticisms of him began before he had had much chance to show what he could do. I do not think Sir Walter is, or would claim to be, a Moltke or Clausewitz or even a Carnot, but I feel that he has certain striking qualities. Ihe first is that he has undoubtedly made a success of the many very varied jobs which he has been called upon to undertake. He has the power of getting to the essential point of a tangled situation and he also has the effect upon people who differ from each other of disposing them to agree together, because he himself is so reasonable. Those are three qualities which must be pre-eminently of value in anyone holding the post of Minister of Defence.
I noticed in the debate in another place on the Minister of Defence that Mr. Richard Stokes, the Labour Shadow Minister of Defence, held that the job of a Minister of Defence is to knock the heads of the Chiefs-of-Staff together. Amongst many engaging qualities, Mr. Stokes has something of the overgrown schoolboy about him, and he is apt to import into politics the language of the "Rugger" hearty. Chiefs-of-Staff are not at all the sort of men Mr. Stokes envisages, and knocking heads together is really an out of date procedure in these matters. As a matter of fact, as far back as 1800 Nelson never found it necessary to employ those methods. More recently still, General Eisenhower certainly found himself able to lead Allied Forces to victory without this process of knocking heads together.
710 If I have any doubts about the prospects of success by the present Minister of Defence, they revolve not around his personality but around the intractable nature of the problems with which he is confronted. Look at the constitutional duty laid down for the Minister. He is responsible for:formulating proposals on Defence policy, and, in the light of that policy, for shaping the Defence programme as a whole, and determining how the total resources available can best be distributed between the main sectors of our defence effort.That is what the Americans would call quite an assignment: it is a tremendous responsibility to be laid upon a man. I am clear about one thing: that to enable him to carry out those duties his position requires strengthening. Recently there has been a slight increase in his powers, but he still is a co-ordinator rather than a chief. He has very much less authority than the American Secretary of Defence and certainly he has not sufficient authority to enable him to make (and I stress this) the rapid and far-reaching decisions which nuclear war would certainly entail.
One very brief word about the economics of the Ministry of Defence. There certainly has been a great deal of extravagance and wasteful expenditure because of changes of policy of which we have not had any explanation—changes of policy in regard to weapons and to equipment. They have accounted for a great deal of extravagance and wasteful expenditure. I feel that financially we cannot stand the racket of doing all that is necessary to make us absolutely secure in our defences. It is all very well to say, "First things first," but out of a multitude of urgencies, how do you decide which are the first things? Then again, even long-range planning can be a snare, because the scientists and the technicians come along with new and more expensive weapons and equipment at almost bewildering speed; so that what is decided upon overnight may be obsolescent, if not obsolete, by the morning.
In this regard I must touch for one moment upon a very old subject, and ask whether everything possible is being done to pool knowledge and development with our Allies, especially with the United States of America. I cannot help 711 feeling that there is still a great duplication of effort and expenditure in this matter. I know, of course, about the United States Atomic Energy Act, and I do not think that their attitude in that respect reflects a great deal of credit upon America. Equally, I realise that a shortage of dollars may frequently hamper us in buying American equipment. But such considerations ought not to apply between Allies, especially between Allies who repeatedly say they recognise that the future peace of the world depends upon our alliance. There is one other point related to this aspect that I should like to make. I do not like the reference in the White Paper to rearming on a scale "commensurate with our standing as a great Power." We cannot afford to take prestige as a standard in our rearmament problems. Are we, for instance, proposing to develop and build a medium-range ballistic missile at a time when America has two such projects in hand for the same weapon? We cannot compete, weapon for weapon, against the richest and most productive country in the world to-day.
When we come to examine what we have had for the £5,700 million which we have spent on defence in the last four years, I am afraid that we embark upon a very sad story. For instance, neither the Air Force nor the Fleet Air Arm have yet the modern aircraft which they ought to have, and I have read that in the last ten years, out of 166 aircraft projects, 142 have been scrapped, sixteen have been partial successes, and eight have been successes. Those figures represent a loss of £1,000 million to the country—but not a loss to the aircraft industry. I feel that we have been following up too many projects, chasing too many butterflies down too many lanes. In future, we should begin only on what we are reasonably sure we want and can finish, instead of having the ground littered with half- baked, half-completed, bright ideas. I would respectfully urge the Minister of Defence to read the Eighth verse of the Seventh chapter of Ecclesiastes, where he will find these words:Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.That is what we want to animate our projects in future. I must also say in this connection that in the main the American 712 Air Force have been able to avoid the disappointments and delays which we have encountered. They have had their reverses, of course, but not to the same extent that we have.
I recognise that the prime difficulty facing the Minister of Defence and the heads of the Armed Forces is to know what sort of a war the next war will be, and what weapons, tactics and strategy it will require. We ought not to be impatient with those who cannot give direct answers on these excessively difficult questions; on the contrary, I feel that they deserve our warm and very real sympathy in trying to solve the problems which confront them. One thing I feel very strongly about on those problems is the fact that nuclear weapons confer an immense advantage upon offence over defence. That is because these weapons have enormously increased the distance at which attack can be carried out, and the weapon of attack arrives at a tremendous speed. It is those factors of distance and tremendous speed which, to my mind, give the offence this great advantage over the defence.
The attack arrives at tremendous speed, carried by supersonic bombers or by guided missiles. The factor of high speed leaves the defence no time to get ready: it must be alerted twenty-four hours a day. There will be no time to finish a game of bowls, no time to make signals such as "England expects every man to do his duty," or things of that kind. I see that in America now the instructions are, or the aim is, that planes on routine missions must carry nuclear weapons and be (these are the words used)ready to shoot on every flight.That, at any rate, is the American appreciation of the speed of attack in the future.
What are the possibilities of defence—defence, say, against an improved V.2 weapon? Well, the accuracy of the V.2—now, of course, regarded as a very crude weapon indeed—was 75 per cent., and to the best of my knowledge no V.2 was ever brought down. That, I think, is something we should remember when considering the improved V.2s. I cannot see that there can be any defence against these improved weapons, and I think we have to accept that fact, and all its implications. I feel that the possibility of bringing down a guided missile 713 can be counted out, and that the only real defence will lie in attacking the bases from which these missiles come. Perhaps that is a gloomy thought. I feel, too, that in these Islands we shall suffer because democracy compels us to assume a noble attitude and wait to be hit first. After being hit first I do not think we shall have any cheek left to turn. That will be the end. The plain fact is that to be without scruples as regards aggression is a supreme advantage to the aggressor in nuclear war.
One of our greatest difficulties is to know how we can redress that disadvantage while at the same being faithful to the principles of non-aggression in which we believe. We do not know what reconsideration of those principles may one day be forced upon us. I have never found much comfort in the thought that, with the inter-continental ballistic missile, America could avenge our disappearance at Russian hands. We should be out of the fight. I at any rate, am all for surviving, and the fact that we may be avenged has very little interest for me.
As regards the White Paper, my criticism is that it does not reveal a coherent plan—though I have already agreed upon the difficulty of enunciating a coherent plan. In his speech recommending it the Minister said that there had been:a careful review of the rôles and the necessities of the individual Services.I can find little trace of definite conclusions on policy being drawn from the review. The fact is that we cannot have a settled defence policy unless we have some of the decisions, which to-day we must admit are lacking, about the shape of the next war and the weapons with which to fight it. But we seem to be trying to have something of everything: conventional weapons and some of the new ones as well—though war may come in a form which will render many of the weapons we are now accumulating quite futile. One instance of this is that at the present moment we are stressing the building and provision of minesweepers. I think that Russia is very unlikely to lay mines off ports which she will endeavour to destroy by hydrogen bombs. If that is correct, I am not clear why we want minesweepers. But, lacking the decisions of which I have spoken, we are, at the present moment, trying to provide a little bit of everything—rather keeping 714 to the middle road about which we have heard to-day. I should not like to say that our rulers are failing to face up to the implications of nuclear warfare, but I think it is fair to say that perhaps they are overwhelmed by the implications of nuclear warfare; and from this there follows waste, confusion and, I am afraid, precious little security.
In reading and re-reading the White Paper, at times I get the impression that the Government are proceeding on the assumption that global war can be discounted and that the emphasis is laid upon a programme for a possible little war. I can only say in regard to that, that General Gruenther, the noble and gallant Viscount, Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery of Alamein and Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Slessor all agree in expecting nuclear weapons to be used in another major war. The Statement on Defence, 1954, said:We intend to build up in the R.A.F. a force of modern bombers capable of using the atomic weapon to the fullest effect.I have noticed that many people, including the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, have said things which indicate their belief that, because nuclear warfare will be so dreadful that there can be no winner, no one will start it. But I see that Mr. Mikoyan has said that such warfare—these are his words:cannot result in the destruction of mankind and its civilisation. It would destroy the outdated and pernicious régime of capitalism in its imperialistic stage.So that while our people are being told that no-one will start a nuclear war, because it will be the end of everything, the Russians are being taught that war will be nuclear war and that they need not fear it because it will result in a tangible victory for them. That is a great contrast in the propaganda which is being carried on in the two countries.
Now Marshal Zhukov and Mr. Mikoyan, again, say that a "little war" is bound to lead to "global war"; and global war will inevitably become nuclear war, with no holds barred. But the Government seem to me to shy away from that grim truth in a great deal that they publish and say upon the subject. The White Paper, perhaps for reasons I have stated, does not face up to many vital, searching questions, but it does show that we are behind both in research and in production. Russia claims already to 715 have the means of carrying atomic bombs to any point of the globe by aircraft or rockets. That might be thought to be Russian "big talk," but the Vice-Chief of the American Air Force has given this confirmation, because he has said that the Russians are:making scientific and technological advances faster than we are and are beating us at our own game of mass production…So it is not only Russian boasting; it is a fact which is admitted in America.
There is another contrast to which I particularly want to call attention. General Gruenther said in February that N.A.T.O. is not now strong enough to prevent Russia from overrunning Europe and will be in the future only (and these are the important words) "if nuclear weapons are included in the defence pattern." The Minister of Defence has made a statement to the effect that we shall never be the first to use the "ultimate deterrent" of nuclear weapons. I find it very odd that General Gruenther should say that our war planning is based upon a weapon of which our Minister of Defence says that we will wait until it is used upon us before we use it. I think that that is carrying the "Gentlemen of the French Guard, fire first" rather far. I feel that before I end I should state my own view about this matter. I believe that superiority in nuclear weapons affords us the best chance of staving oil war by exercising deterrence upon Russia or of winning the subsequent war if deterrence fails. I feel that there is no salvation for us in conventional weapons. Competition in conventional weapons can get us nowhere. We should concentrate on superiority in nuclear weapons, especially guided and ballistic missiles. The bold decision once taken, doubts, perplexities and uncertainties would all vanish. We should finish with indecision, ambiguity and compromise and should begin to plan on a logical basis. Because the White Paper does not face up to these issues, I am sorry to have to tell the noble Viscount that my approval of it must be limited to two cheers. I am not able to give it three.
§ 7.51 p.m.
My Lords, it is with real pleasure that I add my congratulations to the noble Viscount, Lord Cilcennin, on his most admirable maiden 716 speech in your Lordships' House to-day. May I hope that he will be for a long time in that seat to give us other equally admirable speeches. The Statement on Defence has been so well covered by more able and more knowledgeable speakers than myself that I propose to confine myself to a few points, and I think all noble Lords will agree that at this stage brevity is desirable. I must say how much I agree with what my noble friend Lord Bridgeman said about our community of interests with the United States of America, particularly in the field of the development of research on all kinds of atomic and nuclear weapons. This is a field in which it is only too easy to squander millions, and I hope sincerely that every endeavour is being made by Her Majesty's Government to ensure that the duplication of effort and expense in these fields is being avoided wherever possible, not only between ourselves and our friends and Allies in the United States, but also between ourselves and the Dominions and even between the many industrial groups within this country. The greater the interchange of ideas and experience, the quicker and more economic will be the progress for all of us.
I should like to say a word about one thing concerning defence which has not been touched upon. I well remember, one or two years before the last war, an eminent Danish gentleman, a great friend of mine and of my father, who was extremely well informed in international politics, coming to London, very distressed because he was convinced that Hitler intended war within the next two years. He stressed how vitally important it was for this country to build up supplies of food in view of the submarine menace and he went to see the Ministers concerned. He pressed his point hard, but nothing was done about it. I have often wondered whether those responsible did not regret that they had not taken his advice. And I wonder now, when there are enormous world surpluses of wheat in Canada and the United States, whether we should not give some thought to this problem, because it may be that one year's wheat supply might make all the difference between winning and losing a war.
Much has been said this afternoon about the hydrogen bomb and I do not want to dwell on it, but I ask whether all 717 of us understand the desperately destructive powers of the hydrogen bomb. If we are to believe the experts—and I am prepared to believe them—if the hydrogen bomb is used in war, it is pure international suicide. For that reason, while we are not prepared to be the aggressors, I feel that we are forced into a policy of deterrence. There is nothing else for us to do, until such time as we can arrive at satisfactory international agreement with the necessary safeguards.
In the debate in your Lordships' House on January 25, I expressed the view that the Prime Minister's statement at Bradford, that half measures would achieve nothing, signified that Her Majesty's Government were determined to tackle the subject of pay and pensions realistically. Not only am I glad that that view has been confirmed, but I should like to express my admiration for the courageous manner in which Her Majesty's Government have grasped the nettle at a time when economic stresses must have rendered such a decision a difficult one to make. I should like to leave the subject on that note of appreciation for what has been done, but I feel it is my duty, as Chairman of the Officers' Association, to try and ensure that the beneficial atmosphere created by the new code of pay and pensions is not stultified by the method of administration of allowances by the Service Departments.
As those allowances are to be administered, they will constitute a source of irritation and a cause of endless waste of valuable lime both in the Services themselves and in the Departments concerned. Those allowances were framed to avoid financial hardship on the part of those who, through no fault of their own, are put to unavoidable expense. General Whitfield, in his admirable letter to The Times of January 31, sums up those irritants in these words:…the many pin-pricks and what might be described as restrictive practices, which appear to take away with one hand what has just been given by the other…It seems to me foolish to create ill will where the reverse is intended, when the cure is so simple and the cost so negligible. I would ask, in real sincerity, that Her Majesty's Government should undertake to issue a general directive on this question to the Treasury and to the Financial Departments of the Services with a view to removing the causes of irritation. 718 Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, may be able to give us some assurance in his final speech. I can assure the Government that a little more human understanding in the administration of these allowances will go a long way towards helping to achieve the aims set out in paragraph 58 of the Statement on Defence, 1956.
Finally, I wish to endorse heartily the views of my noble and gallant friend Lord Jeffreys on the ordinary widows' pensions. In spite of their being doubled last year, after a lapse of one hundred years, they are still very small, and I hope that the Government can see their way to double the proposed increase of 5 per cent. and make it 10 per cent. I am very glad to support the Motion.
§ 7.59 p.m.
My Lords, as was to be expected, we have listened to a number of highly expert speeches, including that of the noble Lord, Lord Kindersley, who has just spoken. As we know and can see for ourselves, he is a leader of men in more fields than one. The last part of his speech is bound to arouse wide sympathy and no doubt the Government will give the greatest possible attention to what he said. I think it was in the recent debate on the economic situation that the noble Marquess the Leader of the House pointed out in a friendly way that it was difficult to find anybody who was ready to expound the attitude of the Opposition. I do not think he was correct in that view, but it was pointed out to us forcibly by the noble Marquess. He will hardly make the same complaint this afternoon. The House has already been addressed by five Members of the Opposition Front Bench, and I think little remains for me to say by way of constructive comment.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
I referred only to the official view of the Opposition. We had plenty of views from the Opposition Front Bench.
I think, even put in that way, that it did not exactly tally with the facts. However, I hope that this afternoon it will be appreciated that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who leads the Opposition, and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, so recently 719 Prime Minister, are qualified, if anybody is, to put the official view and they were supported by other eminent speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, whom we were so pleased to see in such good form after his long illness.
I may be forgiven for not following up many of the issues. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, in his forceful speech, raised thoughts on the subject of Cranmer. I suppose that is not a Party issue to-day; I have no directive from any source concerning Archbishop Cranmer. The noble Viscount argued that 400 years have passed, and that we have progressed—and I am sure that is true. To-day we should only deport Archbishop Cranmer; we should not do to him what was done 400 years ago. But other issues were raised. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, in one of his pregnant speeches, described my right honourable friend Mr. Richard Stokes as a "Rugger hearty," and questioned whether such a man was altogether suited to be a shadow Defence Minister. I do not know that Mr. Richard Stokes is a shadow of anything. But so far as it is for me to say anything on the subject, I feel that he would be an admirable Minister of Defence, if fortune brought that about; and if so be he felt reason to knock the heads of the Chiefs of Staff together—and that has been attributed to him—I feel sure he would do it in such a delightful way that they would all join in hearty laughter at the end and no bones would be broken.
Before coming to the rather caustic comments—and they will be brief indeed—that I wish to make about the Government's policy, I have one pleasant task to perform and a few words to say which might conceivably be of some slight assistance to the Government. It falls to me, as it has fallen to so many, to say how delighted we are to see the First Lord of the Admiralty with us; to hear him speak to us, and to feel that he has already in the course of the afternoon come to endear himself to this House, as he did to another. I suppose that a Minister's successor in office has a special angle on him. It is rather like when somebody takes your house and you make inquiries from the neighbours as to how he is getting on: it is indiscreet and improper to ask the direct question, but one has sources of information. I am bound to say that in 720 the course of the years the noble Viscount, the First Lord of the Admiralty, has made me very envious, because I do not think there has ever been a First Lord who was more justly popular in the Admiralty, and I feel sure that that reputation in the Admiralty is one which exists throughout the great Service that he leads. The noble Viscount addressed us this afternoon in the most attractive way, and I have no doubt that we all look forward to hearing him again and again.
I should like to say one word—I hope it will not be thought to be dragged in; I think it is relevant to the discussion—about Germany. The House will have noticed that on page 12 of the White Paper, paragraph 48, these sentences occur:Pending the conclusion of negotiations with the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, it has been assumed that support for the British forces in Germany will continue throughout 1956–57 at the same rate as in the concluding months of 1955–56. £50 million has therefore been appropriated in aid of Service Votes…To the extent that such support is not provided, the local cost of maintaining these forces will fall on our own Defence Budget.It is obviously a very delicate thing for the Government to say anything at all about the contribution that they might hope to receive from Germany. I speak only because I have now for eight or nine years spoken rather strongly in this House on behalf of Germany and Anglo-German friendship. Therefore it seems right for me to say, in the thought that the words might reach Germany, that I hope the Germans will be as liberal and forthcoming as possible. It is not for anybody here, and least of all for a private person like myself, to say what they should do, let alone what they must do; but I feel that they would be living up to their own past tradition—the tradition which Dr. Adenauer himself has embodied since the war, of redeeming the German name at every opportunity—and living up to their post-war reputation, if they showed themselves generous and far-sighted in this matter. I feel that it may help for me to say that much, at any rate, this evening.
To come now to the policy set out in the White Paper: it has been vigorously assaulted and in one or two cases defended during the course of the afternoon. In one sense, it is desirable to keep defence out of Party politics. It 721 cannot be kept out in another sense, because it is the duty of the Opposition to point to weaknesses and to condemn where they find serious errors or omissions. We are all one in our desire to strengthen the Forces, within the limits of our economy, and to defend the country. I do not think that to-day there is any Party point to be made on the ground that one side is too militarist or the other side too anti-militarist. But there are differences between us. In another place the Labour Party divided against the Government—and though I have no authorisation for this, and I hope I shall not be censured by the noble Marquess, it is my strong impression that, if it were not for the special circumstances of this House, my Party would divide against the Government this evening. I have no reason whatever to believe that my Party to-day take a different view from that which they expressed in their rote in another place; nothing has ccurred to alter their attitude of criticism and their desire to censure.
Before coming to the details—and I shall not get involved in many details—I should like to allude to one other topic. I do not want to push it too far this evening, but it is a matter of disquiet and it is not inappropriate to mention it on the eve of a foreign affairs debate, in which it may well be that the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, will take part. I think we must all agree that it is highly desirable that there should be, as far as possible, unity of outlook between the Parties towards foreign affairs. Of course, you cannot force one side or the other to agree where their conscience will not allow them; but, where possible, a unity of outlook is desirable. I could not help noticing—and I am afraid I had to leave the House before the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, spoke—the very extreme terms, if I may say so, in which he condemned the speech of the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Chichester, the other evening.
Noble Lords say, "Hear, hear!", and I am sure they have in their minds a recollection of what the noble Marquess said. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 196, col. 567]: 722Frankly, I do not think I have ever been more shocked by any speech than I was by the speech of the right reverend Prelate that I heard this evening.I hope that, on reflection—and I am not asking for a comment now—the noble Marquess might be inclined to whittle down those words. We all know that we use strong words in the course of a debate. Although I am not tying myself to any particular thing the right reverend Prelate said, he put a point of view which certainly has wide support in this country. May I just indicate a little what I mean? We find to-day in The Times a letter front Mr. Cyril Falls, who was Professor of Military History at Oxford and who, one might think, was writing from a fairly realistic point of view. Referring to Cyprus he says:But we stand condemned on the overriding moral principle. We have no moral right, in face of our professions, to hold in thrall a people who resent our rule, as though they were our property.I am not trying to argue the merits either way. I am simply suggesting that it will be a great source of weakness in this common struggle, in which we are all involved to protect ourselves against Communism, if any kind of gulf should yawn between the position of honairable men in different parts of the country. I hope it may be possible in the near future to make sure that that very sort of weakness—an overwhelming weakness, if it develops very far—is avoided.
I should have liked, if there had been time, to say a few words about the hydrogen bomb. I do not think I will, because the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has spoken about that subject with so much greater authority and very effectively. But there was one point that some of us wanted to raise, and I would call the attention to it of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who is to reply—and I am sure will do so in his usual attractive way. At the bottom of paragraph 16 of the White Paper we are informed that:Their ultimate goal remains the conclusion of a comprehensive disarmament agreement, covering both conventional and nuclear armaments. It is evident, however, that such an agreement could not be put into effect until adequate methods of control had been discovered and agreed for supervising every aspect of it; and in 1955 it has become widely recognised that at present no known method exists 723 of guaranteeing the elimination of stockpiles of nuclear weapons or of controlling completely the future production of potentially dangerous fissile material.I do not want to press the noble Lord if he finds it difficult to answer the question without much notice, but on the face of it we appear to be told that even if the Russians were anxious to join us in some agreement to control nuclear armaments, it would be impossible for technical reasons at the present time. If that were true it would be a very gloomy answer, but I hope it is not true. I hope I have misunderstood it. But if it is so, then, surely, we are at least entitled to an assurance from the noble Lord that this matter will be pressed on with as being of the very top priority, if it really is the case at present that, even given the good will on the other side, no disarmament with respect to nuclear weapons could be possible. Perhaps the noble Lord could say a word; but if not we could pursue it vigorously in the Service debates.
I come back for the last few moments to the White Paper itself. I cannot believe that if I were a member of the Government I should be proud of the defence record of the last few years. I might feel that the Labour Party would have done worse, or the Liberal Party worse still, but I have no means of knowing how I should defend myself within my own mind. I could not be proud of the record. I could not feel that things had gone well. Perhaps in the course of these Service debates we shall be able to bring that point out a little more forcibly than we can to-day, when we are joined in congratulating the mover of the Motion. We feel that it is a sorry story in view of what might have been achieved so far as we can judge—of course, from outside; we do not know everything. We know there are difficulties and they may be greater than we suppose.
But there is one fundamental point which was brought out by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, this afternoon. I suppose we were all agreed that the special difficulty of these features is that you have to look a long way ahead—seven years, I think, is the period which we are told in paragraph 13 the Government are now trying to look ahead—and when you have done that you find you have to alter all your plans. It is obviously a matter 724 with exceptional difficulties, and a very heavy burden of office in these years. I recognise that, as in honesty one must. I suggest, therefore, that one needs great foresight to make plans a long way ahead, but also flexibility to change. I have a fear—and it reflects no discredit on any individual—that farsighted flexibility has not been present. In the last resort, the Service Ministers have not been masters during these years. The long-range planning and the necessary adjustments have not lain within their power to make.
The supreme responsibility, subject, of course, to the Cabinet, has rested with the Minister of Defence of the day, and in practice we know that the Minister has been repeatedly changed. Therefore, I would submit that there has been a vacuum at the most important point of the whole Service effort—a vacuum, because as soon as any Minister became firmly established he was swept away. We condemn the Government for that and the fact that the Government can bring themselves to attach so little importance to continuity in defence planning. We think that the other weaknesses, for the most part at any rate, flow from this fundamental weakness. Certainly it is nothing to do with Party politics in any ordinary sense, and certainly it is not due to anything lacking in the personal character or distinction of any of the gentlemen concerned. We think there has been a failure to give defence planning the proper position in the government of the country; and, for that reason, if there were going to be a vote this evening we should go into the Lobby against the Government.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF DEFENCE (LORD CARRINGTON)
My Lords, February and March of every year bring with them the Defence White Paper, the Service Estimates, long debates in another place on our general defence policy and the three Service Departments and, finally, to end the season, so to speak, the Defence debate in your Lordships' House. I think nobody could end it from the Opposition side more agreeably than the noble Lord who has just sat down, although I confess that I did not find myself in agreement with much of what he said. It follows, I think, that after so many speeches in Parliament, and so 725 many notable speeches, I think, in the debate this afternoon—particularly that from my noble friend Lord Cilcennin, on which all your Lordships have cornmented—and so much comment in the newspapers and periodicals during the last two months, there can at the end of it be nothing new to say. Indeed, if the Government had anything new to announce they would have announced it long ago. But having heard and read most of what has been said in the last two months about defence, one can perhaps get a clear picture of the differences which divide us in our defence policy, of the criticisms which are levelled against the Government's handling of defence matters and, I think, particularly, the large measure of agreement which the general policy of the Government commands. Certainly my impression is that, although there has been criticism of certain aspects of development and production, there has been no serious challenge to the basic principles upon which our policy is based.
Your Lordships may remember that the Defence White Paper of last year explained how the emergence of the thermo-nuclear bomb had compelled us to recast our strategic policy, and it gave the broad conclusions arrived at by Her Majesty's Government. The White Paper this year is a continuation and an elaboration of those principles. In paragraph 8 of the White Paper, it is clearly stated what the four rôles of our forces must be. First, they must make a contribution to the deterrent; secondly, they must play their part in the cold war; thirdly, they must be capable of dealing with outbreaks of limited war; and, fourthly, they must be capable of playing an effective part should global war break out. Although those four roles are stated in order of priority and importance, it would be a mistake to think that it is possible, for reasons of economy or convenience, as I thought I detected in some of the speeches this afternoon, to abandon any one of them. Such an operation would be in the nature of the amputation of an arm or a leg, imposing severe limitations on the whole body. Our defence policy is indivisible, a complete whole, since, if we are successful in deterring global war, the cold war increases in importance; if we are successful in the cold war, the possibility of limited war may loom larger.
726 There are those who say that we are doing far too much and that we should shed some of our defence forces. This argument has been advanced in your Lordships' House and was advanced in another place by several Members, who, if I may paraphrase their remarks (I hope not unfairly) said that if we go on thinking in terms of conventional forces, bombers, ballistic missiles and the like, there will never be any economies. Something, they said, will have to go—although no firm suggestions were made as to what that something should be. What then shall we dispense with in order that our resources and our manpower shall not be overstrained? Shall we dispense with the deterrent, the V-bombers, the manufacture of nuclear weapons and the research into and development of ballistic missiles? Shall we then leave this, the spearhead of our defence policy, to the United States?
Your Lordships know the arguments for and against this proposal, and, indeed, the arguments for and against the use of nuclear weapons. We discussed them at length last year, and I do not intend to do so again this evening. I should only have liked to say to the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester, had he still been here, that, if he believes in a nuclear deterrent, it ceases to be a deterrent if one is not prepared to use it in the proper circumstances. But a new argument was advanced in a leading article in The Times the other day, and it was also reflected, I think, in the speeches of the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, and the noble Lord, Lord Winster. The Times said this:We agree that our first and general aim must be to prevent war by the maintenance of the allied deterrent. For Britain, this means the building up of a nuclear stockpile and the V-bomber force. When both sides have built up their stockpiles and bomber fleets, global war will become suicidal for the contestants. This moment is rapidly approaching. It is possible that thereafter new methods of offence, such as the ballistic rocket, or of defence, such as the ground-to-air guided weapon, may be found which will give one side a temporary advantage over the other, but if the balance has been previously established by building up the deterrent based on the manned aircraft, such temporary advantage is less likely to precipitate global war, because the penalty of miscalculation will be instant ruin. Nevertheless, the West as an alliance will have to keep up to date its means of delivering the deterrent. Since the Americans are obviously devoting much time and research 727 to the ballistic rocket, there is no point in our doing it as well, and if we do, it is only for the reasons of prestige.I think that statement puts the noble Lords' argument fairly. I do not know whether that argument means that we do not need the ballistic missile at all, or that we do need it but should not devote time and effort to developing it ourselves, but should either obtain it from the United States or manufacture it under licence in this country.
May I take the first alternative, which is an important argument. It could equally well have been argued—but it was not—that we need not make nuclear weapons and V-bombers, since the United States possess quantities of bombs, and aircraft comparable to the V-bomber. What is the difference between the bomb carried by aircraft and the bomb carried by the missile? The bomber and the missile are only the vehicles by which the deterrent is delivered. If the overwhelming importance of a policy of deterrence is accepted, and if it is agreed that we must make our proper contribution to it, surely it follows that the position is not affected by the precise technical character of the vehicle? The essence of the deterrent is that it must be continuously effective.
On the second alternative, there are a number of factors which must be borne in mind, as your Lordships know. In the first place, under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, the United States are prevented from giving us any information about the design or manufacture of nuclear weapons. We cannot therefore expect to get from the United States either complete weapons themselves or information which would enable us to make them under licence in this country. Even assuming this difficulty did not exist, there is a further important point. There is a good deal of work to be done before the first effective operational ballistic weapons will be available to the West. Even when that stage has ben reached, we shall only be entering the ballistic missile era, and years of continuing development and improvement will be needed to maintain the position of the West.
It is in just such circumstances, with the handling of new development and the provision of new ideas, that the scientists 728 of this country have a real contribution to make; and, since this field of work is so vital to the whole of the Western Alliance, it would be quite wrong that we should not make what contribution we could. That does not mean, that we must proceed entirely independently of the work being done in the United States. As my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence has said, there are special arrangements for collaboration between the two countries in the field of guided missiles. Ballistic missiles fall within this definition, and, subject to the important limitation regarding design and manufacture of nuclear weapons to which I have already referred, we have the same collaboration in work on these missiles as on other forms of guided weapons. Our decision to go ahead with the development of a medium-range ballistic missile springs from our determination to maintain a significant contribution to the allied deterrent and not from reasons of prestige.
What then can we do without? To dispense with conventional armaments would be an impossible decision to take. By their presence in various parts of the world our forces can contribute, as the White Paper says, to the stability and security of overseas territories whose peaceful development may be threatened by subversion by overtly Communist means or masquerading as nationalism. Their withdrawal would have an effect on the free world, and on our Allies, out of all proportion to the money saved by their disbandment. In a limited war, in which it is by no means certain that nuclear weapons could or should be used, the absence of conventional forces would make it unavoidable that these weapons should be employed. Then there are those who say as some noble Lords have said this afternoon—"Why do you want forces in Germany?" and "Why do you want Fighter Command?" Your Lordships will know that these, together with N.A.T.O., are themselves part of the deterrent to aggression. The dissolution of N.A.T.O. would be an open invitation to aggression: the abolition of Fighter Command an invitation to attack with impunity.
That is not to say that there cannot and should not be reduction and economy. We have, in fact, gone some way to achieving this in the last year. 729 When it is realised that although the Defence Budget this year contains an additional charge of nearly £70 million for improved pay, another £35 million for research and development and a provisional £20 million for our costs in Germany, yet the Estimate is almost exactly the same as last year, and also when account is taken of the increase in costs during the past year, it will be realised how much Her Majesty's Government have already done in the field of economy.
My Lords, I suspect that the answer to this difficult problem is not to be found in the suggestion that all tanks should be scrapped, or that Fighter Command should be abolished, or the Royal Navy left to fall into decay. It is to be found in a proper system of strategical priorities and by the streamlining of our forces both in men and material. We must aim to have the smallest, best-trained and best-equipped Services with which we can meet our commitments and our contributions to N.A.T.O., S.E.A.T.O. and the Baghdad Pact. Several noble Lords have mentioned the pay proposals announced by the Government last month—I think everyone who has spoken has welcomed them. Although there has been some criticism of individual items, that has not obscured the fact that your Lordships have appreciated the scope and imagination of our plan.
The cardinal principle has been to encourage the long-term Regular, and the substantial difference in pay for those who sign on for a long term should do much to encourage this. Those members of the Forces to whom I have spoken in the last few weeks, in particular the warrant officers and non-commissioned officers, have shown their satisfaction with the increases. As everybody has said, it is much too early to say what the result on recruiting and re-enlistment figures will be, but we are hopeful about the results, because on them depends not only the future efficiency of the Services but also the future of National Service. If by these increases we can get a higher proportion of long-service men, then we shall be able to reduce the National Service element.
This point was very forcibly brought home to me the other day when reading the News-Letter of the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment which is at present in 730 Malaya. In it I found the following passage which I should like to read to your Lordships:One of the biggest problems with which we are laced is the finding of good junior leaders. A lance-corporal's job is not only arduous but also demands a high sense of responsibility and a very high standard of training. One is continually impressed by the guts and cheerfulness of the ordinary soldier, but the patrol-leader requires all this and much more too; it is no small demand to ask a young man of nineteen or twenty to take two or three other men out into the jungle alone, patrol a difficult and possibly dangerous area and navigate his way back. There ate no landmarks, no signposts, no roads, none of the normal means for finding one's way about to which civilised people are used. It is a heavy responsibility.I think that in that battalion in Malaya one sees the National Service problem in a nutshell—the size of our commitments and the long-service element in the Forces. While on the subject of pay, I should like to tell my noble friend Lord Kindersley that I will most certainly look into the point that he mentioned.
The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, in the course of his most interesting speech, complained, with the noble Lord, Lord Winster, that the Ministry of Defence was like a railway siding, and, if I understood him correctly, at the same time he rather contradictorily regretted that the through-traffic of Ministers was much too great. I can assure the noble Earl that far from being a siding, the Ministry of Defence is performing the functions for which it is designed extremely well, and although there have been three Ministers in the last eighteen months, which may make it difficult to attack them individually, their policies have not been individual policies but the coherent policy of the Government as a whole. The function of the Ministry of Defence is gradually changing, as is shown by the announcement of the Prime Minister at the end of last year about the Minister's new responsibilities and the appointment of a Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, to which the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, also referred. We discussed this appointment at great length at that time and I will not do so again this evening; but I should like to assure the noble Earl that the system is working well, and also that it has not altered the constitutional position; the Chairman and the three individual Chiefs of Staff are collectively the military advisers of the Government.
731 My noble friend Lord Derwent, in what I thought was a most interesting speech, suggested that the Service Departments should simplify and streamline their requirements both in equipment and administratively so as to save money and reduce the demands on skilled manpower. Of course, the Service Departments are not by any means blind to the attractions of this proposal, and will willingly consider any suggestion which would lead to this sort of economy. I will certainly draw their attention to what my noble friend has said. But the Army, for instance, as is mentioned in paragraph 30 of the White Paper, is simplifying and reducing the range of arms held by units. But it is no use carrying the simplification process to the point where the equipment becomes operationally ineffective.
The whole history of warfare has shown that weapons tend to become more and more complicated. For instance, the modern mortar was developed from the Roman ballista which consisted only of a long wooden arm pivoted with a basket of stones hanging from the shorter end, the longer end carrying a sling. As your Lordships will know, at the seige of Carolstein the ballistas, in addition to stones, catapulted into the town a stream of dead horses, the bodies of soldiers who had been killed and 2,000 cartloads of manure. They were easy to make and cheap to produce. I daresay that the modern mortar is more efficient, but it is more complicated, more expensive and more choosy in the type of ammunition it is prepared to fire. Modern and efficient weapons are needed if the relatively small forces of the future are to be adequately equipped. It would be a false economy to adopt simpler and cheaper equipment if it is less effective and more vulnerable.
I should, however, like to draw your Lordships' attention to an unspectacular process which has now been going on for some years, and is, I think, likely to produce in time the sort of results which many of your Lordships have in mind. There is a system of standardisation committees, working under the Ministry of Defence, who are responsible for the preparation of joint Services standards for all kinds of equipment held by the Services. Before they started their work, for instance, there were 130 types of accumulators and 248 types of battery in use in 732 the Services. There are now 26 and 47 respectively. Similarly there used to be 2,800 types of ball and roller bearings; there are now 300. The number of different types of electric lamps has been cut by 41 per cent., and so I could go on.
My noble friend Lord Gosford asked that a high priority should be given to providing aircraft for Transport Command. We are giving this priority, and, as he will know, it is proposed to provide the Command with Beverleys, Comets and, in due course, Britannias. But I think it would be better, if the noble Earl wants more details, to wait until the debate on the Air Estimates. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked me about paragraph 90 of the White Paper. He asked what it meant and, as I understood him, he said that he had taken to spectacles and a magnifying glass and still did not know. I think he ought to look at the next page, because in paragraphs 91, 92 and 93, all is explained. I hope he will read those.
My Lords, I am sorry, but my explanation from the point of view of the spectacles was that I had been told to read between the lines. If that is all that is meant by that paragraph, then I think there is a lot to be desired.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
There are three paragraphs which I hope the noble Lord will read again, because I think he will find that there is there an impressive display of what we have done with the Commonwealth in the past year. I assure him that we attach the greatest importance to our agreements and our obligations in the Commonwealth countries. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, asked me about the end of paragraph 16. That paragraph is most carefully worded and is correct. But all this matter is wrapped up in the question of international confidence. As he will know, the Disarmament Committee is at present sitting in London, and I would appreciate it if he did not ask me to say any more about that this evening.
The noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition asked me about the method of placing defence contracts. I feel that I have answered him before on this point, but I will willingly do so again. The practice is to place defence production contracts, by competitive tender, with 733 the firms quoting the lowest price for the quality demanded. This system cannot be fully applied to contracts for large naval vessels or new types of major defence equipment, particularly where research and development are involved. Contracts of the cost-plus type are, however, regarded as the least satisfactory of all, and are avoided except where no alternative is possible. The fixed price type of contract, under which a price is negotiated on a basis calculated to give the contractor a reasonable profit on the capital employed provided he operates efficiently, is one of the best arrangements short of competitive tender. The maximum price contract, under which a contractor is assured of profit only if he keeps his cost below the maximum agreed, is an alternative method which gives more satisfactory results than the cost-plus contract.
I think all your Lordships will have been interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, which he would have given to the House if he had not been taken ill during the Home Defence debate last year. I was very glad to see the noble Lord back again and he has asked me to apologise to your Lordships for not being able to wait till the end owing to an important engagement. If I understand his criticism correctly, it is that in the field of Home Defence there are far too many paper plans and much too little actual physical preparation. We have put a good deal of effort into a critical examination of all our plans. That has been necessary and lengthy, but we have made progress which is set out in some length in the White Paper. But translating plans into physical preparations is quite another matter. As I said on the last occasion, the Labour Party pamphlet, which has been mentioned this afternoon, contains a scheme for Civil Defence. To turn that scheme into reality, so tar as one could estimate, would cost between £2,000 and £3,000 million. I do not think anybody at this juncture could recommend that we should embark on such a scheme. The measures for Home Defence that we describe in the White Paper and the money we intend to spend on them are a compromise—and I believe a good compromise—between all we should nave liked to do if we had unlimited means and what can be done this year.
734 Lastly, I come to the question of graduated deterrence. In some quarters, and by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester, the suggestion has been made that it would be possible to lay down in advance some sort of scale of retaliation which would be used by the West in certain circumstances. The protagonists of this idea claim that such a definite statement of intention, while serving the function of a deterrent, might well prevent a global nuclear war from breaking out. The idea behind this seems to run on the lines of a parent laying down rules for the behaviour of his child: "If you do that again, Johnnie, you will have no jam for tea; "or, "You will go to bed early;" or, "You will get six of the best." And no doubt in the majority of cases this sort of argument will deter all but the most determined of wrongdoers. But Johnnie likes jam and he is afraid of being beaten. He is not so experienced as his father and nothing like so big or so powerful. None of these things is necessarily true of a potential aggressor, who may well be in the position, since he is quite as big and quite as powerful, of inflicting much the same or greater punishment as that with which he is threatened.
It may well be too, as my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence said, that to attempt to define in advance what your action will be, rather than acting as a deterrent might define precisely how far others, who may be wondering how far they could take risks, may go without bringing disaster upon themselves. I am not, of course, saying that the inevitable reply to any form of aggression would be nuclear bombardment. Economy of force must continue to be the basis of all military action. Some situations might well be dealt with by bringing to bear military force of the conventional kind; others might need the use of atomic weapons for tactical purposes in order to prevent the success of an aggressive move and the spread of hostilities to a wider field. Other situations might be held to require the full force of nuclear weapons to bring them under control. But these are matters for judgment at the time and not for decision in advance, since we can never precisely foresee the situation with which we may be faced, and no situation ever develops precisely in accordance with 735 any forecast, and certainly no one in his senses would use these awful weapons except in the last resort.
My Lords, I have tried to answer the questions which have been put to me on the broader issues of defence, although I realise that some noble Lords have asked questions more particularly about a specific service. I will write to them about these. The long debate which we have had this evening has shown, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said, that there is a considerable degree of agreement among your 736 Lordships that the Government's defence policy is planned on the right lines, and it will demonstrate to those who may read the Report outside the House and abroad that we have a bipartisan approach on major issues of this sort. I hope your Lordships will now agree to the Motion proposed by my noble friend Lord Cilcennin and will allow the Government to go forward to the next stage of our defence preparations.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before nine o'clock.