§ 3.40 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. Shinwell)
In 1945, at the end of the war in Europe, a Labour Government was returned. Its task was three-fold: to promote, as rapidly as circumstances permitted, the switch-over from war to peace; to achieve economic recovery; and to implement the social service proposals which had for many years found a prominent place in the Labour Party's programme.
At that time, any question of a rearmament programme and the building up of our military forces in preparation for defence against aggression would have been regarded as completely irrelevant. During the war we were in alliance with countries whose military organisation was strained in the effort to gain supremacy over the enemy. In the process many of them, including ourselves, had impaired their economic strength. It was, therefore, vital to promote recovery. Moreover, the Soviet Union, whose valiant efforts during the struggle against the Nazis had won our approval and admiration, had accepted the provisions of the United Nations Charter, the Security Council and all the apparatus of international peace.
It was essential that we should effect a speedy demobilisation of our war-time Forces to enable our manpower to resume its ordinary occupations. Throughout the world, the desire for peace was manifest, though, as we know, conditions in some areas—especially in Asia—were very unsettled. In those circumstances nobody in this country or, for that matter, any political party, would have advanced a proposition for the expenditure of vast sums on new military equipment.
We were, therefore, compelled for a long time to make the best use of our war-time equipment, much of which was regarded as obsolete, while new designs embodying the lessons of the war were being developed. This was a transition stage— 468 and, as hon. Members will agree, perhaps the most difficult of all.
Even in those years immediately after the end of the war, the Government were concerned about the kind of Forces which our world responsibilities would require us to maintain. We decided to adopt National Service in order to build up an adequate body of trained reserves. This was an important step for which the Government have not always received proper credit. It was undoubtedly unpopular among many in the Labour Party and outside it. It might not have been undertaken by a Conservative Government—
§ Mr. Shinwell
Alongside this we proceeded to make a substantial effort in the fields of research and development so as to ensure that we kept in the forefront of technical progress in weapons. There is no doubt that in those early years the Government did everything that could have been expected.
However, it was not long before unmistakable trends proved that our expectations were to be falsified. Instead of a period of peace we were confronted with what is described as the "cold war" and the development of a situation growing increasingly more tense as each individual event occurred—Greece, Persia, Malaya, Berlin, and now the aggression in Korea. As one situation eased, another emerged to occupy our attention.
We were, for example, able to withdraw our Forces from Greece but were faced with the difficult situation in Malaya. We have had apprehensions about Hong Kong following our withdrawal from Palestine. We had to maintain an Army of Occupation in Germany as well as our Forces in Austria and Trieste, quite apart from the special commitment of the Berlin air lift. We accepted trustee responsibilities in other areas pending a decision by the United Nations on their future.
Without these burdens to carry, we could have replanned our forces at leisure and built up formations and also made better use both of our Regular Forces and National Service men. But the Regulars have had to be used both to strengthen overseas garrisons and in 469 the training of National Service men—both extremely heavy commitments. At the same time, the introduction of the jet aircraft into the Royal Air Force involved what amounted to a complete revolution in operational training and maintenance, while the increasing mechanisation of the Forces also imposed a very serious burden on our manpower resources. And, as hon. Members know, there is a constant tendency for the tail to grow at the expense of formations. These things are common knowledge—they must not be forgotten in assessing the present state of our defences.
Whatever may have happened in the past, it is the situation we find today that must be faced. With the example of Korea before us, we have to consider the Far East, the Middle East, and, in particular, the defence of Europe and our own country. We have to put ourselves in a position where we can, with reasonable hope of success, resist aggression from the only quarter from which it might possibly come.
We have a great deal of information about the military expenditure of other countries, including the vast expenditure by Russia and the preparations that country is making behind their smokescreen of peace propaganda. I am not going to reveal to the world how much we know, except to say that we know a great deal. It is, however, certain that the defence expenditure of Russia alone is not less than 13 per cent. of her national income. She maintains an army of some 175 active divisions of which one-third are mechanised and tank divisions comprising about 25,000 tanks. Of these an appreciable number are at immediate readiness in the Soviet Zone of Germany. She has 2,800,000 men under arms and could double this number on mobilisation. This force is backed by about 19,000 military aircraft including jet aircraft of the latest design, both bombers and fighters. She has considerable naval forces, which include strong submarine fleets, many of them of modern design.
I cannot enter into greater detail nor indicate our knowledge about the serviceability of their equipment or estimate the capabilities of all these forces, but they are undoubtedly massive in land, sea and air. The existence of these vast forces in the hands of a totalitarian State, 470 where the pressure of public opinion does not operate and whose intentions are uncertain, represents a potential danger of which other nations must take full account.
There is, of course, no question of the United Kingdom facing that threat alone. The nations of the West, supported by the United States, have, during the last two years, developed a military association which has no parallel in time of peace in the history of the world. First came the Western Union Defence Organisation and then the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation of which Western Union now, for practical purposes, forms a part.
This association is directed against no other Power. It has no offensive purpose. The North Atlantic Treaty is an association of peaceful nations banded together to resist aggression, from whatever quarter it may come, against their national territories or against their forces of occupation in Europe. It lies within the hands of one Power to take the steps which would reduce the tension and remove the anxieties and fears which have called this association into being.
We recognise the natural anxiety of the German people about the defence of their country. The defence of Western Germany is at present in the hands of the United States, the United Kingdom and France, whose forces are now stationed there. Security is thus provided for the Federal Republic and for Berlin, and it is already based to an appreciable extent on a German contribution in the form of the payment of occupation costs towards the maintenance of the Allied contingents.
There have been suggestions that a different and more active form of German contribution is required and that we should envisage a German contingent in the. Western Defence Forces. I have two comments to make on this. First, His Majesty's Government have repeatedly, and in conjunction with their Allies, declared their opposition to the rearmament of Germany. Any change in this policy must necessarily be the result of a joint Allied decision. Second, priority today in the supply of arms must be given to the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
In any trial of strength between Russia and her satellites and the forces of the 471 democracies, there can be no doubt which would in the end prevail. The resources in manpower and material of the North Atlantic Treaty countries, and including the free countries of the British Commonwealth who would stand with us again in war, far exceed any opposing combination. They have vast resources in industrial skill and development capacity which would ensure that they could out-build and out-design their opponents. They have at their disposal the atomic weapon.
But I must make it plain to everybody that we do not seek, and neither do our Allies, seek, another world war in which the whole of mankind must certainly be the loser.
§ Mr. Shinwell
It is our purpose to show, here and now, that aggression does not, and cannot, pay. It must also be our purpose to show that there will be no easy success to be gained by treacherous attack before the democratic powers have time to mobilise and realise their strength.
The House is rightly concerned today with our own Forces and our plans for the improvement of their battle-worthiness in the light of the present situation. But I must stress that it would be as contributors to an Allied Force, following an Allied plan, that our Forces would take the field in any future struggle. The principle of balanced international forces which has been accepted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation follows logically from this. We do not yet know what adjustments we may be called upon to make in accordance with this principle. A great deal of hard work and planning is proceeding and more will be required. But already it implies the acceptance by the participating nations of some modification of their sovereign rights to decide for themselves the kind of forces they should maintain. In the meantime, we have to judge for ourselves what is the best contribution we can make.
Since I took up office as Minister of Defence, I have made the strengthening of Western Union defence one of my main pre-occupations. Western Union is in many respects the key to our defence situation today. For it is in the West that the main onslaught may come, whatever 472 diversions may appear in other parts of the world. Because of this I have devoted close attention to the progress being made with agreed plans for building up the Forces of Western Union and providing them with the backing they would require in war.
The building up of the divisions required by the Western Union powers will be a most formidable problem. The urgency of the need is plain to us all; the difficulties to be overcome are equally plain. Manpower is available, but there are financial and political obstacles of the most severe kind. I have been in frequent contact with my colleagues. Only last week I was again in conference with the other Defence Ministers of Western Union. We reviewed, once more, with great care, the availability of Forces for the defence of Western Europe and the contribution which each of the Five Nations would be able to make. And again this week I have had the opportunity of consulting, on a very high level, with some of those who are associated with us in dealing with the problems of Western Union and North Atlantic defence.
I will not conceal from the House that the Forces at present available, or in sight, fall a long way short of requirements estimated even on the most conservative basis. There is nothing to be gained by failing to recognise this fact. What gives it special meaning is the deterioration in the international position in recent months. I am, however, satisfied that there is a general readiness to face up to the situation in a spirit of realism and determination. There has been a significant improvement in morale and that is an encouraging sign.
By itself morale is not enough, but it is the necessary foundation for action. The five countries are now aware of what is required; it rests with them to take the steps which are available, which their resources permit, and their spirit dictates to step up their contributions. So far as the United Kingdom is concerned, I was able to assure my colleagues that we in the United Kingdom are taking and will continue to take appropriate measures.
With the consent of the House, we were able to provide in the Defence Estimates for the current year an expenditure of £780 million. This represents 23.6 per cent. of all the expenditure on Government 473 account, about 7.6 per cent. of our national income, and £15 per head of population. These figures bear comparison with those of any of our Allies and friends. But it is not my purpose to make comparisons. The scale of our defence effort is something we must judge for ourselves in relation to our responsibilities and our needs. There is no rule of thumb by which it can be settled. It depends on our scale of values.
The Defence budget today is admittedly a heavy burden on our resources, but relatively it is no larger than the £375 million which we were spending in 1938. In money, the Defence budget is 108 per cent. greater than in 1938, but the cost of many items of equipment has doubled and even trebled; the cost of the modern jet fighter is 150 per cent. above the cost of a 1938 Hurricane; the cost of a destroyer has risen by 100 per cent; and there are many items, especially signalling and radar equipment, which were in their infancy before the war.
Even as late as the end of the war, it seemed reasonable to hope that we might meet our Defence needs with a budget of some £500 million, but we have had to recognise the fact that we cannot continue to play a leading part in world affairs or protect the vital interests on which the standards of life of our people depend without the necessary forces as a contribution to Allied Defence. And we have to foot the bill.
As to the size of the bill, I do not recollect that demands have been made until quite recently that it should be increased. On the other hand, hon. Members opposite and on the Government benches have urged a vigorous assault on all forms of wasteful expenditure. We have done, and will continue to do, everything we can in this direction. It would be very foolish of me to deny that in a vast expenditure of £780 million there are not some items that could be pruned away. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition devoted much time and energy throughout the war to this very problem of combing the tail of the Forces—he was right to do so, and we are fully aware of its importance.
I repeat the pledge I gave the House a few months ago, that if any evidence of waste is presented to me, I will direct the most careful examination into any allegations. But I must say to the House, 474 very frankly, that there are no spectacular savings to be found by this process. For the money we get, there are dozens of important projects competing and we are hard put to it to decide what is the right way to spend it so as to get the best results.
The present efficiency and battle-worthiness of our Defence Forces may be considered under two main heads: men and equipment. In allocating the available resources we must strike a balance between the two. It is not only a question of deciding on the most effective balance between men and equipment in relation to a future conflict some years hence; we have to meet present needs, and these impose a special burden on the Army. This was the basis on which our inter-Service planning proceeded when we allocated the resources which early in this year we decided to devote to defence. We gave the highest priority to research and development in all arms, while the Navy and the Air Force were instructed to start on a planned programme of re-equipment and the Army had to concentrate on the cold war at the price of some sacrifice in making itself ready for any future war.
This brings me to the difficult problem of manpower. The basic element in the efficiency of any Armed Forces is the long-service Regular. This is emphasised today when he provides not merely the backbone of the Forces as regards discipline and tradition, but also the specialised trade skills which mean so much to the fighting efficiency of modern forces.
It was the original conception that in time of peace we should be able to meet our responsibilities overseas, apart from B.A.O.R., with Regular Forces and that behind these we should, as the years went on, build up substantial trained reserves which could be quickly mobilised in time of war. That concept, I admit, has been falsified: first of all, because the numbers of men needed overseas have been higher than we calculated, and second, because the Regular content of the Forces has dropped to a much lower level than we expected.
In particular the problem of the Regular content of the Army and the Royal Air Force gives us grave concern. So far as can be forecast on present trends, and allowing for the substantial run-out of men on short-term bounty engagements 475 in the next year or two, the content of the Regular Army will decline from 184,000 to perhaps a little over 150,000 by 1952. The Air Force will probably be able to stabilise at about 118,000 over the next few years. On these figures we shall not be able to maintain the full efficiency of these two Services.
We must, therefore, make an effort to ensure that a substantial proportion of the men already serving on Regular engagements will re-engage for a further period of service. This applies to all the Services, and we have to make the conditions of Service life sufficiently attractive in competition with civil life to hold out some prospect of reversing the present trends.
§ Mr. Shinwell
This is not going to be easy. There are many factors which work against us in attracting recruits—such as objections to Service life with its chances and changes, the natural attractions of civilian life for most people, and the reaction due to war weariness.
We have also to realise that most men in industry today are earning good wages—better, in fact, than they have ever done. We must think very carefully before deciding on what changes are required to attract the recruits we need. Any revision of the whole system of pay and allowances is full of complications. But it is clear that there is a need for an improvement in the special rates for certain trade skills and flying duty. This is being attended to.
As the House already knows, in all three Services we have recently had under examination the whole trade and career structure in the Services, with the double object of improving efficiency and of opening up for the skilled man attractive career prospects. These studies have been undertaken with a full sense of the urgency of the problem.
The Royal Air Force have completed their study, and, as announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air yesterday, a new trade structure for the R.A.F. will be brought into force shortly. The main features of the new scheme are a substantial increase in the number of Regulars to whom long-service 476 engagements can be offered, and the introduction of a new ladder of advancement based on trade skill and experience instead of, as in the past, on powers of command and leadership.
On the question of National Service, there has been a good deal of speculation recently about the need to increase the present period of 18 months' whole-time service. This raises a whole series of problems, technical, economic and social. If we consider the training aspect alone and the building up of reserves in the less technical arms, 12 months would be enough. It was really the need to send National Service men overseas that led to the adoption of the present 18 months in December, 1947.
But even 18 months is not a sufficiently long period to complete the proper training of technicians in some arms, particularly signals; this applies with especial force also to the flying personnel and maintenance staffs of the Royal Air Force. At the same time, our 18-month period of service will stand comparison with that in force in other allied countries where they do not maintain, as we do, substantial and expensive naval and air forces. For example, in France the period of compulsory military service is 12 months; and in Belgium and Holland it is also 12 months with rather longer periods for officers and non-commissioned officers.
In present circumstances, we are not satisfied that an increase in the period of whole-time National Service would solve our problem. But this is a matter we intend to keep under constant review. If we find ourselves unable to build up the Forces we require, we should not hesitate to ask for additional powers.
The manpower problem which gives us the greatest worry arises in the more technical arms of the Services—and this applies particularly to the Royal Air Force. When I was at the War Office we worked out a scheme for the voluntary extension of whole-time service to meet this need; the Royal Air Force, too, have introduced special Regular engagements of short duration, designed to attract National Service men to extend their period of full-time service.
In addition to the active Forces we must have regard to our reserves. We are now beginning to derive benefit from the operation of the National Service Act. 477 Men will be passing steadily into the Auxiliary Forces at a rate of about 14,000 a month and in due time we shall have, at our disposal in the United Kingdom, an Army reserve trained under modern conditions amounting to 400,000 which can be rapidly deployed, if the need should arise.
The existence of this force does not reduce, on the contrary it greatly increases, the importance of the volunteer Auxiliary Forces. These number 107,000, including 86,000 in the Territorial Army, but more are needed and we are hoping to attract a substantial number of those who will be joining the Auxiliary Forces for part-time National Service to come forward and perform the full duties of other volunteers.
In the meantime, there is, of course, the large reserve of trained manpower available from the last war. This reserve totals something over 4 million though we recognise that it is to some extent a wasting asset. But, in the event of immediate trouble, the machinery is there for the recall of these men to duty. The Departments concerned have been improving the plans for their systematic recall to the Colours should they be required. Those plans are now well advanced, and should work reasonably well if put to the test.
We are checking the addresses of these classes of reservists to enable an individual call-up by the Navy and the Army—the Royal Air Force have throughout been in a position to do this—instead of a "block" recall by release groups; and also carrying out an occupational screening of those reservists who would be likely to be wanted in the first month or so of mobilisation. I am happy to say that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has secured the good will of employers and trade union organisations in helping to get this operation smoothly and expeditiously carried through. These arrangements will be kept under review and perfected as time goes on.
I come now to the problems of equipment. We ended the last war with vast stocks of equipment, a great deal of which would be serviceable in a future emergency. The examination and classification of all this equipment has been an immense problem. The House should not underestimate the work that this has involved. We have been under constant 478 pressure from all quarters to dispose of stocks and to release storage space; and the work has had to be carried through with heavily reduced staffs. All this work is now, however, well on the way to completion.
The result has been to show that our stocks of serviceable equipment are, in many respects, unbalanced, and there are deficiencies which must be made good if our Forces are to be put into a condition to fight. At the same time, we have to be careful not to be stampeded into any premature re-equipment with old styles of weapon which would be out of date or. any modern battlefield. That is in many ways the crux of the present re-equipment problem.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I do not propose to give figures of our holdings, but I may say that we have adequate stocks of small arms, mortars, field guns and artillery with ammunition. We are taking steps to improve the position as regards antiaircraft guns and predictors, anti-tank weapons and specialised vehicles.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That may well be the case. Of course many of them have been disposed of under pressure, but we still have substantial stocks of these small arms. I do not mind who gets the credit for this as long as we have them. I pay tribute to those who had the foresight to provide them but the position is that we have them and to that extent the position is satisfactory.
As regards tanks, we have some 6,000 in reserve. These are, in the main, last war types, but the new Centurion tank, which could give a very good account of itself against any other known tank, is now in full production and is already in service in considerable numbers.
In the case of the Navy, apart from minesweeping craft, we have most of the ships we need, but the modernisation of 479 those ships with the latest anti-submarine equipment, firing control systems and means of mine detection and clearance is not as far advanced as could be wished.
There are two lines of advance which we can take to improve the equipment position. The first is to start or step up production of existing types where there is foreseeable use for them in modern war. This would include the overhaul of existing equipment. Second, we can divert greater resources to research and production on those projects which, within measurable distance, are likely to produce results in terms of production designs.
Under the first of these heads we are accordingly proposing to put in hand an increased and accelerated production of technical equipment for the Army and the purchase and overhaul of a wide range of weapons and stores which would be required in any early emergency, including equipment for A.A. Command, transportation and engineering stores, vehicles, weapons, signals equipment and clothing. The re-conditioning of tanks is being given a high priority.
The Navy will speed up the modernisa-of ships, particularly anti-submarine forces, make good armament, minesweeping, naval aviation and naval stores deficiencies and undertake some acceleration in their planned programme of new construction. The Royal Air Force will speed up the reconstruction of the radar chain, extend and repair certain airfields in the United Kingdom, acquire additional fighter aircraft and overhaul reserves of piston engine fighters as well as undertake some stockpiling.
The effect of these measures will be, over the next few months, a notable increase in our immediate capacity to defend ourselves. Forty-two per cent. of the present Defence budget, £327 million, represents expenditure on production, research and works. The measures we are now taking mainly in these fields will cost an additional £100 million, but this is no more than a small part of the cost which would be involved fully to equip our Forces to fight. Much larger sums would be required in order to put our Forces in a condition of readiness. Plainly, we can do no more from our own resources than make a beginning on such a programme.
480 We shall at the same time give an added impetus to research. We all understand the threat to these islands which modern weapons imply. It is true that our people have never yet been deterred from doing their duty by threats to themselves or their homes. But we should not allow reliance on the native courage of our people to make us minimise the dangers of modern weapons of mass destruction. The best defence will be to prevent an enemy getting near enough to our coasts to attack with either piloted or pilotless missiles. For this purpose development of the guided missile has a special significance, and while there is no doubt a great deal more work to be done before defensive guided weapons can be put into use, we have made good progress, and the work is being pressed on with enthusiasm and devotion by the men concerned. We shall give them all the encouragement they need.
Along with guided missiles there are a number of other fields of research scarcely less important. These include measures of defence against mining and submarine attack, the development of radar for an effective controlling and reporting system, means of increasing the effectiveness of fighter aircraft and the accuracy of bombers and, for the ground forces, development of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. In addition we cannot afford to lag behind in the fields of defence against either bacteriological or chemical warfare attack however much we may regret the need to expend our energies upon them.
In the course of the next few years all the projects to which I have referred will begin to pass from the research stage to development and then to production for service use. I should be less than frank with the House if I did not make it plain that the increasing complexity of designs is bound to be reflected, when that stage is reached, in a sharply rising curve on Defence expenditure if our Forces are to be fully and properly equipped.
I do not propose today to examine each of the Services in turn. I could not do so adequately in the time at my disposal. I want to say a special word, however, about the Royal Air Force. It is our intention, if war should come, to defend ourselves in comradeship with our Allies on the Continent. The last war showed us, however, how much the security of 481 these islands may depend on an efficient Air Force. No Government could ignore the lessons of that experience.
I do not pretend that the Royal Air Force today is as strong as we would wish to see it, though here I may remind the House of the additional strength now available in these islands as a result of the stationing here of American bomber and fighter squadrons. We are glad to have them by our side. The opportunity which their presence gives for our two Air Forces to continue to work in close partnership will undoubtedly be invaluable. But even this involves us in additional charges which we are, of course, happy to meet even though it may mean that we have less available to spend on projects which directly assist our own Services.
As regards the Royal Air Force itself, we must be prepared to face the consequences of building it up to a reasonable size and providing it with adequate war reserves in aircraft and men. This will take time but we cannot afford to delay. Front line strength alone is not an indication of the value of an Air Force. An adequately equipped and manned training organisation at the back of it is essential, and the relationship between the two must be on a sound and healthy basis. This has always been our aim and we have in a large measure achieved it.
We are not satisfied, however, with the training of Reserve air crews. We have substantial numbers of aircrew, especially pilots, in reserve but many of them are in need of refresher training before they could be employed in front line squadrons. This matter is under urgent consideration by the Air Staff. In addition, there is a further Reserve of several thousands of aircrew who are in training in non-operational commands, who could be released for combat duties by men called up from the statutory Reserves. As regards ground staffs, in the event of mobilisation there would be no serious difficulty.
The revolutionary change in aircraft design brought about by the jet engine, has, of course, introduced new problems in the field of air defence. We intend to ensure that our fighter force is equipped to the highest possible standards. Behind the front line there must be adequate stocks of reserve aircraft, including a due proportion of jet fighters, and one of the 482 biggest items in the additional £100 million will be for the provision of reserve fighter aircraft. In addition we have, of course, substantial stocks of combat aircraft of types used in the last war; these could certainly render valuable service in a future emergency, and we are speeding up the programme for bringing them to a state of readiness which would enable them to be brought without delay into operational use.
On the question of aircraft supplies, we have been criticised in some quarters for selling aircraft overseas. I can understand this view, but I do not accept it. It ignores the part which these orders play in keeping available here a larger war potential than the needs of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy alone would justify—design teams, craftsmen and specialised manufacturing space are kept employed which would otherwise be lost to the industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] The policy is a wise one. I have been asked "Why?" I venture to furnish the reply. Not only do we get the advantages of a contribution to the country's export trade, but these sales strengthen the Air Forces of Allied and friendly countries—[Interruption]—while linking them more closely with the Royal Air Force. This applies especially to the other members of the Commonwealth and North Atlantic Treaty countries to whom the greater part of such supplies have been sent.
I recognise that the building up of the Royal Air Force itself both as regards equipment and manpower—especially skilled manpower—is a matter of the highest importance. There can be no question of complacency about this. There is a great deal to be done before we can achieve that all-round strengthening of our air defence position that is required. That is our intention.
I come now to the question of Korea. The United Kingdom was among the first of the powers to respond to the resolution of the Security Council by making available forces to assist in repelling the invasion of the Republic of Korea. Units of the Far Eastern Fleet were placed at the disposal of the United States Commander and a squadron of Royal Air Force Sunderlands is now co-operating actively with the Fleet.
The House will have noted with satisfaction that the call for assistance in the 483 Korean operations was answered promptly by other member nations of the Commonwealth. Australia placed the Mustang squadron already in Japan at the United Nations' disposal forthwith and has sent naval vessels; New Zealand has sent two frigates and both Australia and New Zealand have today announced their intention to raise a special combat unit for service in Korea; Canada has sent a force of three destroyers and a long-range transport squadron.
These are heartening reminders of the identity of thought on matters of policy and defence of which the Commonwealth, without the need for any formal commitments, provides many examples. The recent visit of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff to Australia and New Zealand, and the valuable discussions he had with the responsible authorities in those countries, affords a good illustration of the easy harmony which exists between the member nations of the Commonwealth in defence planning. It is a source of strength and encouragement to us to know that other free members of the Commonwealth have recognised, as we do, the implications of failing to answer the direct affront to the United Nations constituted by the aggression in Korea.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations recently invited member nations to co-operate by making available ground forces to assist those of the United States on whom the initial brunt has inevitably fallen. The House will be aware of the heavy commitments already being sustained by the United Kingdom in the Far East. Our Forces in Malaya are actively engaged in the restoration of order and it would plainly be unsound to withdraw troops from Malaya at a time when there is good hope that their operations will be carried through to a successful conclusion. Nor would it seem wise in present uncertain circumstances to reduce the garrison allocated to Hong Kong.
None the less, His Majesty's Government have no desire to escape their obligation to play their full part as a member of the United Nations in the restoration of order in Korea. It will not be easy for us to make forces available, but I can tell the House that we are today notifying the Secretary-General of the United Nations that we are prepared to 484 send to that theatre, for use under the orders of the United Nations Commander, an effective land reinforcement which will be a self-contained force including infantry, armour, artillery and engineers, together with the administrative backing required to maintain it.
The House would not wish me to give further details of the composition of the force, which would clearly be of the greatest interest to the aggressor. We believe that this reinforcement will demonstrate in a practical way our full acceptance of, and support for, the principles of collective action in the maintenance of peace. We cannot, however, despatch such a force at a moment's notice; it will be prepared without delay and will be sent to Korea as quickly as possible.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
Is it intended to include in that force any National Service men?
§ Mr. Shinwell
At the present moment—[Interruption.] At the present moment I cannot give the House details of the composition of the force we propose to send, but no doubt in due course we shall announce those details.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us the principle? Will they be conscripts or not?
§ Mr. Shinwell
If we find it necessary to supplement the regular content of the force we send with conscripts who have had preliminary training in this country, then we shall do so.
§ Mr. Shinwell
In the meantime, units of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force will continue to operate under General MacArthur's command. The Admiralty are, however, finding it necessary to increase the crews of the Far Eastern Fleet from the present peace-time standard to that required by their present tasks and to provide additional manpower to meet other special commitments.
The Government have therefore authorised the Admiralty to retain in the 485 Royal Navy and Royal Marines some officers and men whose service would otherwise shortly expire and to recall a certain number of naval and marine officers on the Retired and Emergency List and men of the Royal Fleet Reserve. Royal Proclamations are necessary for certain of these measures and will be issued shortly. Corresponding measures will be taken for the Army and the Royal Air Force if the situation should develop in such a way as to render them necessary.
In order that His Majesty's Government may have first-hand reports of the operations in Korea, it has been agreed that a senior British military liaison officer shall be appointed to General MacArthur. Air Vice Marshal Boucher, who commanded the Air Group of the British Forces of Occupation in Japan, leaves by air as soon as possible to take up this appointment. His duties will include the despatch of information concerning the tactics and technical equipment employed by the enemy.
The measures we are adopting to meet the present situation in pursuance of our obligations to the United Nations and to our partners in the North Atlantic Treaty must take some time to mature and reach their full effect. Such portions of the additional £100 million now authorised to be spent by the three Service Departments and the Ministry of Supply as can be spent in the current financial year will be dealt with in the Spring Supplementary Estimates in February next; the remainder will be included in next year's Estimates and will fall to be dealt with in next year's Budget. Further expenditure beyond this, will in all probability be required next year to enable us to play our full part under the North Atlantic Treaty.
In the present situation, only deeds will count. The President of the United States in his recent message to Congress has told the American people of the scale on which they must take action as part of a combined effort by the free nations of the world to step up their common security programme, even if it involved diverting additional economic resources to defence purposes. We too, despite all the difficulties of the economic position, must be prepared to respond to the needs of the situation. In this and subsequent years we must be prepared to make such sacrifices as are required to enable us to protect 486 the way of life that we have developed and which we cherish above all else.
It is tragic that we should now be engaged in these tasks a few years after the end of the last war. Again we are forced to build up our defences. The aggression in Korea should make the people of this country aware of the dangers to which we are exposed. We need more men and women both for whole-time duty in the Regular Forces and for part-time service in the Auxiliary Forces as well as for Civil Defence. The Government look for a speedy and favourable response to their appeal for volunteers to help us in the vital tasks of defence.
It is our desire to promote peace and to be on good terms with all our neighbours. We do not dispute the right of any other nation to adopt the way of life appropriate to its ideals and traditions. We claim an equal right. But we are determined to resist any attempt on the part of any nation to impose its will and its way of life on ourselves and our Allies. We believe that the world can live in peace despite ideological differences. We may dispute whether this ideology or that is best adapted to promote a better civilisation, but history will determine that for us.
Our concern is to build up living standards, to co-operate with other nations in improving the condition of backward races, to use world resources for all who need them and to promote the greatest measure of liberty. It is our hope that confidence and mutual trust should be restored among the members of the United Nations, and the peril of aggression disappear. It is in the hands of those who have the power to resume full co-operation that the decision rests.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
We gladly yielded our right to open this Debate to the Minister of Defence when he asked for this facility. It was certainly necessary that a statement should be made to the House before we separate. One of our reasons for asking for a Debate in public, after a Secret Session, or a Debate in private, had been refused, was to give the Government an opportunity of explaining their position and, to some extent our position, and it was very fortunate, I think, that we did so. Otherwise, the House would have had no opportunity, 487 according to the Government's plan, of debating the statement which has just been made to us. It is entirely due to our request that this difficulty has been surmounted.
I do not intend myself to discuss in detail this afternoon the proposals which the Minister of Defence has announced, though they appeared few and far between, or the general tenor and character of his statement. I will reserve what I have to say until we come to the Third Reading of this Bill tomorrow, either in public or in private session, as the House may decide.
Let me say at once that we shall give our support to any measures proposed by the Government which seem right or necessary in the public interest, whether they are popular or not. We may even feel it our duty to support measures which are not only belated but may be judged inadequate, while criticising them in these respects. I could not help feeling, while I listened to the right hon. Gentleman, that he gave no decided or clear answer on the question of lengthening the period of service, which clearly lies at the root of the economy of our Army. I ventured to say in the last Parliament that we should take fewer men for a longer period. I quite see the complications of that, but that is a great matter. I can only say that should the Government decide to embark upon that course, in some way or other—undoubtedly one which would not be popular to the country or in any part of the House—we shall give them our support, as we have done throughout the whole story of national compulsory military service in time of peace.
I must say in passing that one would have thought, to hear the right hon. Gentleman's speech about these great dangers, which were brought home to us by his candid statement of the vast strength of Russia in Europe, that he and his colleagues of the Socialist Government had only just come into power and that all this situation had developed overnight, as it were, whereas it has been building up for at least three years during which the Allied Forces were falling while the Russian power was steadily maintained and strengthened in every way. These are matters which we shall have to examine.
488 But, Sir, as we shall give the Government our support should it be needed at any time, they have no excuse for not asking for whatever they require, nor have they in the past had any difficulty because of the immense sums of money which Parliament has accorded them during these five years. During this period they have spent, I think, over £5,000 million in maintaining the Armed Forces. It is remarkable that by far the vastest proportion of this was spent during the period when, according to the right hon. Gentleman's argument, the danger was the least, and the amounts fell off steadily as the danger, by contrast, grew.
They also had the great advantage of starting with an enormous mass of munitions, much of which was quite new and some of which was even produced after the war had ended, because the factories were allowed to run to complete weapons on which they had begun—I do not say wrongly. Many of the rifles, which are the great foundation of the armaments of any nation, have been frittered away and squandered, but still there was a vast amount left. The artillery, in the main, is something which will last. A large portion of the munitions available at the end of the war could have been, if they had not been improvidently used, available for expanding the defensive Forces that we had, and developing them. It seems to me that all this requires fairly careful detailed examination. After all, even weapons that were new five years ago are better than no weapons at all. This also touches the question of arming the forces of other countries, and I trust it will be looked into and examined.
I do not intend to be drawn into any personal controversy with the right hon. Gentleman if I can help it. He stated at the weekend that I had no confidence in him. As I have said before, I have confidence that his heart is in the right place, and any reservations I might have to make would be in regard to other aspects of his suitability for discharging the tremendous tasks entrusted to him.
There is, however, one point which occurred in the House last week to which I must refer. The right hon. Gentleman, when speaking at Question Time, about the possibilities of a Debate on defence said that he quite understood my "natural curiosity." If curiosity were my motive, I might easily have satisfied it, because the 489 Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman himself have several times, even since this new Parliament was formed, offered to give me and any colleagues I might bring with me the fullest information in their possession.
I have not availed myself of this latest offer up to the present, for the following reasons. I did not find that the conversations we had last year, although conducted in a friendly manner on both sides, were fruitful in results. On the other hand, the fact that we had these conversations, which were in progress from June to October at intervals, undoubtedly made it difficult for the Opposition to examine in public the state of our defences and to make those criticisms which are usual every few months, or at any rate every year, in Parliament. In fact, the subject of our defence was not dealt with in a searching or controversial manner at all in the House last year by the Opposition.
The difficulty of the leaders of the Opposition parties receiving confidential information from the Government—the chief difficulty—is of course that their lips are thereby sealed in respect of everything they did not know before, and that these two fields of information—what they knew before and what they are told—overlap and affect one another in a manner which is certainly embarrassing to any public discussion which may follow. I therefore contented myself with saying, at the beginning of this new Parliament, that I accepted no responsibility for the present state of our defences, and, at my request, the Prime Minister altered the Government Motion on presenting the White Paper by substituting the words "That this House takes note of" for the original words "That this House approves."
Our position is therefore perfectly clear. We cannot take any course which may hamper us in the discharge of our duty as we conceive it, or prevent us giving any warnings to the House and also, in due course, to the country, which may be required as the situation develops.
I greatly regret that the Prime Minister and the Socialist Government persist in refusing a Debate in Secret or private Session. It might, I think, have been quite natural and in the public interest that after hearing a public statement by the Minister of Defence and after some public discussion upon it, we should have gone into private Session and talked 490 things over among ourselves as Members of the House of Commons.
The point has been raised, that, if we were to hold a Secret Session, it would be resented by the United States Government, who would want to know what had happened, but could not be told. I can assure the House that there is no validity in this suggestion. The Americans are very familiar with the procedure of secret sessions. The Congressional Committees often hold them; they are called Executive Sessions. These Congressional Committees, especially those of the House of Representatives, have enormous powers of obtaining information for their members. They can summon generals, admirals, air marshals and other experts before them subject only to the veto of the Minister in charge of the Department, very rarely exercised, and can examine them to any extent, either in public or in secret.
There is no doubt whatever that the American House of Representatives exercises its responsibilities towards its constituents in a far more vigilant and rigorous manner than anything we have adopted over here. We are a very ill-informed body on defence questions compared with them, and the idea that they would object to our having a Secret Session is utterly absurd, and, indeed would constitute an interference with our domestic affairs of which, I am sure, the United States would never be guilty.
It was also said by the Lord President of the Council that there was no precedent for a Secret Session except in time of war, but we are now at war technically. As a mandatory of the United Nations, we are technically at war with the Republic of Northern Korea, so that that agument, for whatever it was ever worth, is effectively disposed of.
I still hope that a Secret or private Session will be claimed by the House tomorrow. I do not understand why the Government do not wish to take the House into their full confidence, so far as that may be possible without revealing secrets not already known to the Soviet Government and to the General Staffs of Europe and of the United States. The discussion can be easier and freer when every word we say is not carried immediately all over the world. I believe that such a Debate might have the effect of bringing us more together and 491 promoting a better understanding between us in the facts of our grave common danger. I feel that Members of Parliament have a deep obligation to seek the fullest information possible about matters which affect the lives and safety of their constituents, and that they might well be held accountable to those constituents if, by their votes tomorrow, they put their veto upon such a discussion.
Considering how evenly the parties are balanced in this Parliament, and that the Prime Minister's party is in a minority in the country of nearly two million voters—
§ Mr. Churchill
—it is much to be regretted that he should adopt such an authoritarian attitude. I cannot think that his decision will be helpful, either to his party, or, what is of far greater importance, to the welfare of the country.
With regard to the Debate tomorrow, I must make the reservation that I may have to make certain changes in what I think it is possible to say to the House, in accordance with the decision to which we have come. With regard to the Debate in public this afternoon, there is a great deal that can be said, especially on the administrative aspects, and much can be said on the general issue, without trenching on facts which are not already public property and well-known to those who follow these matters with attention in every country. I am sure that my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House will be able to throw much light on our problems within the wide limits that are open to us.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Peart (Workington)
We have just heard probably one of the worst efforts of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in this Parliament. Certainly, the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has taken the wind out of the sails of any criticism which the right hon. Member for Woodford intended to make when he came to the House this afternoon. We welcome that new outlook on his part today.
I should like to ask the right hon. Member for Woodford how he got his figure of 492 £5,000 million expended on defence since this Government came in. I have looked through the information available to hon. Members concerning the Defence Estimates, and, for the years mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, I have come to a figure of £4,799 million which actually includes this year and the Defence Estimates for this year have not been expended. Moreover, we must consider terminals, so that the actual figure is in the region of only £4,000 million. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman is actually £1,000 million out—not much for the right hon. Gentleman; just £1,000 million out in his statement that we have spent £5,000 million.
As I say, I should like to know where the right hon. Gentleman obtained his information. I can only say that he has made a statement which, if examined very carefully, is certainly extravagant. I, too, deplore the argument of the right hon. Gentleman that no information has been given. I can remember in the last Parliament many Service Debates and many discussions on the Estimates when several of my hon. Friends, who are also members of this Parliament, pressed the various Ministries and their own colleagues in the Government to give further information. I remember one long sitting which lasted into the early hours of the morning when hon. Members on this side of the House were not supported by a single Tory Member opposite in their requests for information.
The right hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Bracken) need not put up his hands; he was probably not here at that time. I believe what I have said to be true, and, if any hon. Member cares to look back through the various Debates recorded in HANSARD, he will find that my colleagues on this side of the House who pressed for such information were not supported by the colleagues of the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch.
§ Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
Since the hon. Gentleman challenges me, let me point out to him that his Government would have been defeated on conscription without the aid of the Opposition, and when the dummy dreadnought was Minister of Defence, we saved him time after time.
§ Mr. Peart
That really is a stupid intervention which has nothing to do with the 493 point I have raised. I know the right hon. Gentleman still thinks he may one day go back to the Admiralty, though, for the sake of the British Navy, God forbid that he ever should.
Actually, we have always pressed for information consistent with security, and I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition should try to make that point today. After all, even if there had been no cold "war, and even if there was no war by proxy in the Far East, in Korea, today, we should still need adequate defences. I think hon. Members on all sides would agree with that. We are a major military Power; we have our police commitments, we have to fulfil our obligations to see that the peace treaties are enforced, and we must see that we are well prepared if, unfortunately, war breaks out.
It is only right that today we should examine in detail the Defence Estimates which have been presented to us. I wish, very quickly, to go through some of the main Votes of the Service Departments for 1950–51. If we examine the Defence Estimates for the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Air Ministry, we have a total of £715 million. If we break down that figure and take the expense of civilians employed on Fleet services, we find in Vote 4 of the Navy Estimates that that represents the figure of £5,880,000, and if we look at Vote 8 we find that the Estimate for dockyard personnel is put at £25,768,000.
Again, if we take the Army Estimates, we find that under Vote 4, the Estimate for War Office civilians amounts to £44,605,000, and, if we look at the Air Estimates, we find that the Vote for Air Ministry civilians at out stations amounts to £19,152,000. Therefore, we get the large total of £95,405,000. If, apart from the civilians employed by the three Services, we take the headquarter staffs of the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry we get another large figure of £10,503,000.
Then, if we go further and take the non-effective charges which include Service pensions, gratuities, pensions to officers who have ceased to be effective—retired officers, etc.—we get a figure for the three Departments of £36,087,000. Thus the charges for civilians, headquarter 494 staffs, and for non-effective services in the Defence Estimates—covered by the global figure of £715 million, reach a figure of £141,995,000. Added to that, we must bear in mind the figure mentioned by the Minister of Defence in the Debate in March this year, a figure which has been further amplified today. On research, we are spending a sum of over £250 million. That amount must come out of the total of £780 million.
Therefore, we can see item after item of expenditure. No hon. Member opposite has really criticised any of these particular items in the various Estimates.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but that statement is so monstrously inadequate that I really must, as one who throughout the last Parliament spoke for my party on the Estimates, point out that again and again we criticised items. We said then what the Minister of Defence said today, that we had to make the conditions of the Regular Army better. Four years later, he suddenly accepted our view.
§ Mr. Peart
It is no good the hon. and gallant Member saying "rubbish"; that is an easy get out. I have never heard right hon. or hon. Members opposite criticise those sections of the Defence Estimates. If hon. Members opposite say that they have criticised them, then I invite them to go through the items I have already mentioned to see if there should be any economies made in them. The right hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch should remember that his party have been spreading throughout the country the idea that we have been extravagant in allowing money to be wasted in our various Services. But if we pinpoint right hon. Members about economies we never get an effective answer.
I agree with my right hon. Friend that in any defence programme we may embark upon, we must consider the needs of the Army, above all. Perhaps here 495 even hon. Members opposite who disagreed with my earlier remarks, will agree with me. The realities of Korea and Malaya prove, above all, that we need men who can use a rifle and men who are trained in artillery support. We need these people to make a really effective contribution if an emergency comes, and that is why it is so important for the Army that we should have a successful recruiting campaign. We should have more Regulars. After all, they are the backbone of the Army.
The Government have tried to increase the number of Regulars by various means. We have had considerable publicity and recruiting campaigns, also improved pay. I believe the figure for pay increases represents approximately £12 million. Moreover, we have had improved barrack accommodation. When my right hon. Friend was Secretary of State for War he energetically pursued a course to improve barracks and living accommodation for our Regular soldiers. We have also had improvements in the resettlement of soldiers and Service men in civil life.
I agree with hon. Members that we must seriously consider the improvement of pay for various people in the Regular Army—the technical people. But I would remind hon. Members who want improved Service pay for technical people, that the artillery officer and infantry officer are, in fact, technical persons. I know, from my own experience in the last war, that the artillery officer had to have quite a lot of technical skill. In A.A. defence he had to know his artillery and complex predictor work. The trained artillery and infantry men are actually skilled persons.
We must recognise that it is difficult to recruit men into the Regular Army whilst conditions outside in civilian life are attractive. I know hon. Members opposite will not relate the incidence of unemployment to recruiting before the war. I know they have tried to refute that argument. Their argument was repeated quite recently in the "Economist." I have tried to examine some of the figures for recruiting before the war, and if hon. Members obtain from the Library the annual report of the British Army for the year ended 30th December, 1936, they will see that the figures there 496 show the closest connection between the incidence of unemployment before the war and the number of recruits for the Army. This is not the actual number of men who are accepted, finally, for the Army, but the number of men who wished to enter the Army.
Obviously, we must take that figure because standards of recruiting vary from year to year. The difficulty that my right hon. Friend and the Service Ministers have, is how to recruit, from a civilian population which is enjoying for the first time in the history of the British nation a measure of full employment, men who are prepared to serve Regular engagements in the Services. It is a matter we should seriously consider, because we need more recruits. They are the backbone of the Army. They are also essential to the Army not only from the operational point of view but because their quality determines the quality of training of National Service men who come in.
Whilst we are discussing these vast Defence Estimates, I hope we shall recognise that they impose a burden upon our economy and that it would be very wrong of us to endanger our economy by too great an emphasis in one direction. My right hon. Friend Lord Alexander, who was then Minister of Defence, made a statement that a healthy national economy was essential to effective Defence Forces. He was not challenged by right hon. Members opposite. I think everybody in this House will agree that, obviously, our Defence Forces depend upon our ability to supply a war potential production.
The reorganisation of our industries, such as coal and steel, the development of an efficient transport system and efficient supply Departments are essential to the defence of the country. If we allow too great an emphasis on the teeth and neglect the tail—if I may use that expression—we are in reality harming our defence position in this country. Since 1945 to the present day, the Government have preserved a right balance. Today, our economy is healthy. We are making progress, and yet we are able to bear a large Defence Estimate.
I believe, from the statement that my right hon. Friend has made today, that there is no complacency. All of us desire to have such an effective defence organisation that we can win the cold war and 497 say to any other Power that wishes to aggress, that we will resist. I believe that my right hon. Friend has indicated that, within the circumstances of our national resources and the building up of our economy, we have preserved a proper balance between the three Forces and a proper balance between the Service Departments and those other Departments which, in the end, supply the weapons of war. I am very glad that the Opposition today has miserably failed.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
I cannot let one or two remarks made by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) go unchallenged. I have before me the figures of unemployment during the years 1927 to 1938, against the figures of Regular recruiting. It must go on record that, although the total was higher just after the debacle of 1931 when the Socialist Party gave up power—
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am very glad to see hon. Members opposite have risen to that fly. I expected it would be taken up, as usual. The recruiting figures for 1935, 1936, 1937 and 1938 were all better than the figures for 1931.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I should be delighted to check that point, and I will follow the hon. Member's advice. I am quoting recruits accepted from Royal Navy figures quoted in HANSARD, and the Army recruiting figures from the Annual Report of the British Army. However, I think we were all glad to hear the Minister of Defence say that whatever happened on the perimeter, where Russia is getting her servants to do her fighting, the crux of the whole problem must arise in Western Europe.
I have been at some pains to try to discover the strength of the Russian Air Force. It seems to me, judging from sources which may be far less reliable 498 than those available to the right hon. Gentleman, that the 19,000 front-line strength we heard about today is a modest estimate. It may well be higher than that and the sources to which I refer include both American as well as British authorities. I think it is worthwhile considering how it is split up. There are 375 heavy bombers—a comparatively small force, but with aircraft similar to the B.29, which is an efficient heavy bomber. There are 7,500 fighters, and the aircraft are modern fighters; these are not indifferent or old fighters.
Over Finland there have been seen large formations of fighters with swept-back wings, and I think that is extremely significant, because in this country we have no swept-back wing aircraft in operational use and I doubt whether any of our Allies have them. We have, therefore, to try to make up, with maximum speed, the five or six years partly eaten by the locusts. In the bomber field, they have already four-jet bombers in operational use. Here, again, we may not have time to catch up, but we must move extremely adroitly.
Lastly, there are 7,500 ground support aircraft based on the Stormovik. One of the first tasks which the R.A.F. will have to face in the defence of Western Europe will be the veritable swarm of these aircraft which will assail our ground forces and defences and the defences of Western Union. Perhaps we should cast our minds back to 1939 and to the task of our aircraft under those extremely difficult conditions. Under such conditions the Army is powerless to move by day; every movement, every reinforcement, every consolidation is seen and attacked from the air. The first job of the R.A.F. and its Western Union Allies will, therefore, be to keep the air reasonably clear of this vast number of close support fighter bombers and fighters.
Even if we succeed in the task, not only of keeping the air clear over the battle-front we must remember we must also strike at the enemy's bases—we should like to hear how soon we shall have the operational bombers which can strike at the enemy's bases. As we tackle these two tasks we must constantly remember that everything must still rest on the defence of this country. If we do not defend this country, the rest of Western Europe will collapse like a house of cards.
499 I should like the indulgence of the House to talk on a subject about which I have some personal knowledge—the radar defence of this country. In case there is any misunderstanding, I should declare my interest; I am the technical advisor to a radio firm which makes radar radio and television equipment. During the war we had good radar defences in this country. There is no argument on this point from either side of the House—it was said in the Cabinet in 1940 and has been said again and again since: radar is absolutely essential for the efficient operational use of the fighter defences. It is no use having a good fighter, however fast or however manœuvrable it may be, unless we have both the control and operational network by which that fighter becomes operationally effective. Without that network the fighter might as well be at the bottom of the sea or in the storage unit.
In the R.A.F. group which operated the radar of this country we had 17,000 people. Radar was a new idea. This group was made up with 95 per cent. of R.A.F.V.R. who are all now Class Z Reservists. At the end of that period 75 per cent. of the group were women. I want to know what we are to do about this Class Z Reserve. We have been asked Questions on this subject and we have been told that it is not in the public interest to inform us what percentage of the Class Z Reserve have had their addresses and occupations checked. We were glad to hear that the point about their occupations was covered in the right hon. Gentleman's speech and that now the Reserve is to be screened, but surely this is a little late. We have had five years in which to do that.
If we were gambling that there would be a period before which a hot war was unlikely to occur, then first attention should have been given to the trained personnel in the Reserve at that time and the equipment which was readily available. That has not been done. I am ready to believe that, through the food offices and the ration cards, the Government have been able to follow the movement of these men, but what has happened to the women? Very large numbers must have married and changed their names and addresses, and now have big family responsibilities. Does the right 500 hon. Gentleman, and do his Service Ministers, believe that we can call these women to the Colours at a moment's notice to man the operational rooms and all the paraphernalia by which we defend this country? I think this point should be clarified because we rested so greatly during the war on the efficiency and conscientiousness of the W.A.A.F.
We have been told that the manning of the fighter control units is progressing, that there are 26 of them and that they are now 25 per cent. manned. I cannot believe that the necessary pressure or enthusiasm has been put behind those units. The strength of the radar personnel in the unit based on London is 33 per cent. of establishment and in the one based in Scotland is 25 per cent. of establishment. Has attention been given to the provision of efficient and up-to-date headquarters?
On my way to the House I went into the headquarters in Queens Square and I was staggered to see the dilapidated condition of this five floor building which, 15 months ago, was earmarked for the fighter control unit for the London area—which must, of course, be in the best position to recruit and to receive attention. I was astonished to learn that the senior N.C.O.s, and other volunteers who came in the evening after a day's work, had to sweep the floor. There was not one cleaner allowed for the whole five floors. The top floor was a flat. I should have thought that any caretaker would have been delighted to occupy that flat, but I was told that that is not possible and that no establishment has yet been laid down.
Is this the pressure which, we have been told, is being applied behind the Volunteer Reserve and the fighter defence of this country? I think it is greatly to their credit that, after a long day's work, people are prepared to go in two evenings a week to this derelict headquarters and to give their services, not for any gain but for the sheer desire to see the country properly and efficiently defended. I hope very much that the right hon. Gentleman will put a great deal more enthusiasm behind this scheme. Will he see that attention is paid to these headquarters? Fifteen months is too long to wait.
May we have some assurance that those reservists who have to fill the gap for the next few months—and there is no 501 alternative source—are checked for their addresses, for their occupations, for their state of health and for information as to whether they are readily available in an emergency. If that is not done, we have no hope of defending this country should an emergency suddenly arise during the summer or in the early autumn, and I hope that first attention will be given to this matter.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I was very glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence began with a survey of the general world position. I think it is right that we should keep it in mind at all times when we are discussing what our own individual position may be and what our own contribution should be. Very rightly, he ended with words something like these—that it is tragic that, five years after the destruction of Germany and the fall of Japan, once again we should be called again to face a situation in which another war is possible. It is indeed tragic that this generation should have been called upon, in the period since 1914, to face crisis after crisis.
But it is well that we should consider what is the world position. We thought in 1918 that the war then just over, was the "war to end war" and that we should be able to create one world. We thought the same thing in 1945 when we created the United Nations organisation. What we have to realise today is that there are, in fact, two worlds—the Communist world and the non-Communist world; and that in the Communist world there is a central organisation capable of commanding the tremendous forces which were referred to by the right hon. Gentleman.
We do not know where those may be used. We do know this, that no dictatorial Power in the history of man has so extended its borders within the course of 10 years as has this Power which is centred in Moscow, until now it stretches from the River Oder in Germany all the way to the China Sea. At this very moment, without a doubt—can anybody doubt?—without a doubt it is extending further into the Chinese seas through this aggression which is taking place in Korea. What is significant is that there is a central control over all the forces whether they be the army, the navy, or 502 the air force, and over the millions that are subservient to that central force; and one does not know at what particular point of the globe that force may be used. It may be used, as it is at the present moment, in the Far East. It may next be used in the Middle East; and next in Europe. We know not where they will direct it, for they are in full control.
Now, what is our position as free countries? We have been in the past individual countries, each pursuing its own way, with no central control whatsoever. We do not know which may be the next victim of this octopus. It may stretch out an arm to seize some victim or another. It seems to me we have not even yet in this free world, learned the lesson of 1918 or the lesson of 1945—that, surely, our only hope of safety and security lies in as much unity as we can possibly get. I would suggest to the Government that, situated as we are in this extraordinary position of being a part of Europe and the centre of a Commonwealth, we could call all the free nations to come together for our mutual defence.
That may take time, but surely it is essential that they should realise that safety lies only in combined action, and not in allowing each one to drift its own way, and become a victim in its turn. In the meantime we have these few that have come together for this very purpose, the chief among them being those adhering to the Atlantic Pact, and the others being the members of the Treaty of Brussels. I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that they now really form one pact, under one central control. I should like to know: Has that now reached the point where there is a combined general staff having control over the whole area, and able at once to decide what is to be the contribution from each one of the countries that belong to it—a combined general staff as efficient and as effective as the one which was in existence in 1945?
I want to pass from that question for the moment back to the position as outlined by the right hon. Gentleman. Very rightly, he referred to the first years immediately after 1945, when the desire of all of us was to get back to our civil avocations; to disarm as much as possible, and to get back into the normal state of life. But we have been realising now, at 503 any rate for the last two if not three years, that we are face to face with a new threat; and, very rightly, he now says that this has been brought much nearer to us by what has taken place since 25th June in Korea and that now there is a real sense of urgency.
What I am wondering is, having listened to the right hon. Gentleman, whether that sense of urgency is present in the mind of the Cabinet of the day. That is what I am wondering. For look at the position. Here we are debating this on the last day but two of this Session. If there is this tremendous urgency, why do the Government then suggest to us that we can all go away until 17th October, that we can leave it safely in their hands, and that if things take a turn for the worse we can be called back at any particular moment?
Is that really the right way to treat a matter of this tremendous potentiality—if I may so put it—especially when we look now at what is happening in Korea? The area just now being defended by the South Koreans and the United States of America is getting smaller and smaller hour by hour, and we are now about to send troops out there to assist them. Very rightly a question was asked as to the composition of those troops, and the right hon. Gentleman was very careful not to commit himself one way or another. It may be—
§ Mr. Davies
—it may be that some of the troops who will be sent out will be young, partly-trained men. It may be necessary. But surely before a great decision of that kind is taken this House should be informed, and this House should debate it?
§ Mr. Davies
And possibly vote upon it. The right of hon. Members, or of any one hon. Member, to express opinions to this House and demand a Division upon them is one of the inherent rights of democracy.
§ Commander Pursey
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman allow me to put a question to him? Is he debating this on the point of the training, or on training and age? What is the difference between a Regular going to Korea with 504 smaller training and less age and a conscript going there with training and age?
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has misunderstood the very point I was making. It was whether the Government have realised the urgency of the present situation. What is the position when they are arriving at decisions of this kind and then at the same time asking this House to adjourn over a period of 10 weeks?
§ Mr. Davies
What I suggest as an alternative, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman would only follow, is that this House should not adjourn for a period of that length. It is not right to go away at a moment like this—certainly not for a long period of 10 weeks—only to be called back if the Government so think fit. If the matter is so urgent, why is it that the right hon. Gentleman was referring to certain matters that would be coming up for discussion in the autumn with discussions on the financing of them in the spring?
If the matter is as urgent as I think it is, the right moment to discuss a Vote with reference to it would be here and now. We should be having particulars from the Services of what their requirements are, and a new Supplementary Vote brought before the House. These matters should not be allowed to drift on in this way until the autumn, and possibly into the spring. Is there a state of real urgency, or is there not? The Government cannot have it both ways. In my view, there is a state of extreme urgency.
I have spoken about the need for a central general staff which will allocate, as I hope, what are to be the obligations of each country in the armed forces, whether they be the Navy, Army or Air Force; what should be their contribution in production; and what should be the contribution of each one of us financially. Is that being done today? Because our whole ability to stop a third war, or to win a third war if it happens, depends upon the unity of the free world working together, and on each one of us making our proper and fair contribution.
What is our own position? I listened to the right hon. Gentleman stating that, 505 at long last, the Government have realised that the only way in which they can increase the numbers in the Regular Army is by improving the conditions and the terms of pay. One does not like to have to remind people of such a thing, but I have said so before. It will be remembered that when the Government came to the House in, I think, 1946 to introduce conscription in time of peace for the first time, I opposed it. They brought it forward then on the ground that they could not get the number of men required for the Regular Army; that the figures were falling.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
The introduction of conscription in peace-time then, was, in the main, to provide a trained reserve for the Regular Army.
§ Mr. Davies
I agree that was one reason, but it was introduced in the main because the numbers of the Regular Army could not be obtained.
§ Mr. Davies
The answer that was made at the time, and repeated since from time to time, was that recruiting had gone down and that the numbers required were not there, which was because the pay was not sufficient. I see the very phrases I was using at that time were being used in March of this year in the statement on defence:Clearly a high level of recruitment cannot be expected unless Service conditions compete in attractiveness with those in civilian life.The very argument we were using in 1946 is the very statement the Government made in March, 1950. What have they done since March, when they made that statement, in order that they might today be attracting to the Regular Army the numbers they require? I thought that the introduction of conscription was wrong. I still think so. But the position today is such that we have got to accept it as a fact.
§ Mr. Davies
I think that the introduction of conscription was wrong, and that it has gone a long way towards weakening the Regular Army. If proper pay and proper conditions had been given, I 506 believe that we should have had the required numbers for the Regular Army.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. and gallant Gentleman shakes his head. Does he not agree with his right hon. Friend? Or would he want to bring in conscription for everybody, even for the Regular Army? That is the logical answer.
§ Commander Pursey
As the right hon. and learned Gentleman has challenged me, I would say that it is not only a question of pay but of the general conditions. Everyone knows that recruiting today is practically as good as it was before 1939, when the main recruiting factor was general starvation.
§ Mr. Davies
That really is unworthy of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I never limited myself to pay. I included not only pay but better conditions, and almost a guarantee that the Army should not be a dead-end, but that there would be some job waiting for them at the end of their period of service. In other words, it can be summed up in the sentence:A high level of recruitment cannot be expected unless Service conditions compete in attractiveness with those in civilian life.Whatever may have been the position in the past, we are now in such a position that we must make use of what services we have and part of them are the conscripts. I have not said for one moment that once conscription has been introduced, it can be done away with overnight. Clearly, we have got to make the best use we can of the conscripts. What I am asking the right hon. Gentleman is: In his new terms, the details of which we do not know, will he offer those new attractive terms of pay and conditions, and so on, to those who are already serving, and to those who have just finished their training as conscripts? I am convinced that that is the best way of building up the necessary numbers for the Regular Army.
What are the numbers he has in mind? What operational units have we got today? If perchance we are called upon within the next few days, or the next few weeks or even the next few months, not only to defend our own liberty but possibly to defend Europe, what is our position? How many operational units can we put into the field, and where? What 507 will be the extent of the armoured units? Those are important matters which we could put more specifically if perchance this Debate were being held, as I hope tomorrow's Debate will be held, in Secret Session.
We had a good deal of experience of Secret Sessions during the war, and I can say that the Government never gave away information which they felt they ought not to give away, but at any rate we were able, from the Opposition side or from the Government side, to ask our questions far more specifically than we could in public. I think that the criticisms that were then made—and the right hon. Gentleman and I had to make them on many an occasion—had more effect upon the Government than those that we could make in public.
The point that appeals to me more than anything else about a Secret Session is that there is a collective responsibility upon the Members of this House, slightly different in kind but of the same type as the collective responsibility of the Government themselves; and the House expresses itself at its best in time of crisis and of public danger. There are many matters that I could easily put, if I knew they would not be reported abroad, but what I must confine myself to now is this: What has the right hon. Gentleman got in mind as to the celerity with which his operational units and their effectiveness can be brought into action? We must know that, so that we may be certain that, not only is this regarded as urgent, but that the Government have really got plans upon which we can rely, in agreement with all our allies, so that we may have an effective defence when we need it.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
I think there is a general feeling in all parts of the House that it is a pretty grim commentary upon the state of our affairs five years from the cessation of hostilities that we have now to embark upon a discussion of this kind. We can only do it with a heavy heart. I say "with a heavy heart" not in a sense of despair, because we shall have to face up to these problems, but with a heavy heart that this should be the reckoning to which we have come.
I share very much the sentiments expressed just now by the right hon. and 508 learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) on the subject of a Secret Session. I profoundly regret that the Government are still holding to their position in that respect, and particularly I shall regret it if my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is not able to say what he would like to say to the House in Secret Session tomorrow. This really does transcend any barriers of party politics, and I do not think that even the most inveterate opponent of my right hon. Friend in domestic politics will deny that he has a special contribution to make on these matters and an unrivalled experience—unrivalled by any of us both in its intensity and its duration. He was good enough to show me the notes of what he would say in Secret Session but could not say in public, and I entirely agree with them.
I hope that, even now, the Minister of Defence will do what he can to persuade the Prime Minister to see whether this Secret Session cannot take place tomorrow. Many of us in this House had experience of Secret Sessions during the war. I do not think that we ever had cause to regret any of them. I think that they were of value to the House in general, collectively, and I am convinced that if we persuade the Government to reconsider this matter they would not regret it by the time to-morrow's Debate had come to an end. At any rate, for what it may be worth, I earnestly add my appeal to that of my right hon. Friend and hope that the Government will agree to that course.
I must confess that, like my right hon. Friend, now that we are in Public Session. I find it very difficult to make the comments that I would like to make on this situation. It is no welcome task to try to deal with these topics without saying things one does not want to say and yet make any kind of effective contribution at all. It seems to me, I must admit, that the Minister of Defence himself was in something of a difficulty of that kind. I tried very hard to find comfort and reassurance in the statement which the right hon. Gentleman made to us this afternoon. I must candidly admit that I found very little indeed. I think, that, in part, that was because the right hon. Gentleman himself was inhibited by the fact that we are in Public Session. I hope that it was partly because of that.
509 There were plenty of reassuring phrases. We were told about "appropriate measures," we were told that "only deeds would count," we were told that "we could not afford to delay." I jotted down those phrases as they came along. We were told that "topics were being attended to." That is why I want this subject to be discussed in private so that we can go into matters in more detail and without having to use these clichés. I know that I am going to use them this afternoon. One cannot avoid doing so when talking in public.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to believe that I do not think that the House was much wiser at the end of his speech than it was at the beginning—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—except on one topic, that there is to be an overall addition to expenditure this year of £100 million. But as to the division of that expenditure and how it is to be applied to the various Services, how much is to go to each, what equipment it is to provide, I am still in the dark. Did the right hon. Gentleman tell us how? No. I listened with the greatest possible care. We were given a number of overall statements. What we want to know are the practical details of how the expenditure of this money is going to improve our defensive power in the course of the next year.
As regards that, I defy anybody to achieve a clear picture. If that is due to a failure of my intelligence, I hope that the Prime Minister will be able, if the information is available and I am not intelligent enough to assess it, to fill in the picture for us tonight. There was to me a most serious failing in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and it was that, whatever else he had to say, he announced no step at all which is going to assist us to increase the size of our Regular Forces. That does remain the key to the whole of our problem both in regard to the Army and the Air Force. We had a statement from the Secretary of State for Air yesterday which was certainly a step forward for the particular technical classes he mentioned, and we welcome it. We have heard nothing from the right hon. Gentleman in respect of the Army.
One or two hon. Gentlemen were shocked when the right hon. Gentleman said, in reference to the troops going to Korea, that he would not give an undertaking that there would be no National 510 Service men among them. Do Members realise that there are virtually no units in this country without National Service men? We are short of Regular Forces, and if a contingent is to be sent they will have to include National Service men unless we take men from a variety of units and put them together in one battalion for the purpose of sending them to that fighting. That is why I say that the key to all this is an increase in our Regular Forces, especially the Army.
The answer to that, I know, is to give more pay. I agree that part of the answer is more pay. I believe that it would be the best economy for the Government to do that and to give better pay and amenities, so far as they can, in order to try to get these Regular Forces. I believe that would be a better expenditure than any other use to which the right hon. Gentleman could put the £100 million which he proposes to spend. I hope that the Minister will be able to show us later this afternoon that the Government do intend to do something of that kind, and if they do, the sooner the arrangements are announced the better it will be for all concerned. There is no substitute for a Regular Army in the available strategic reserves in this country. We cannot cover all the areas, and we must have a force here to send where it may be required. Nothing else will provide it except better pay in the Regular Forces.
I agree that, when considering the overall defence position and not just the claims of one Service or another to cut a large slice out of the expenditure cake, any plan that we are making must be related to the overall strategic concept, as our American friends used to call it. The Minister of Defence made one or two observations about that. I should like to have more clarification, if possible, from the Prime Minister. How far do agreements in fact exist between us now? Is there a plan between us and the other Atlantic Powers? The United States themselves are, of course, a party to that plan. Does that plan cover fighting troops and the contribution we each make, as it should, and also the supply of equipment and material? Because all these matters are part of the problem with which we have to deal collectively, and to have an agreement about one part of them alone does not meet our needs at all.
511 The right hon. Gentleman referred to the relative efforts of the countries at present, and I agree that there is no particular point in pursuing that matter. Our contribution is very high in relation to our common wealth; the highest probably, if we omit, which I do not think we should omit, the very handsome contribution which the United States themselves are making, not only directly but indirectly, to what other countries are doing. There is no particular usefulness, I agree, in wrangling about who is doing most. The point is that there should be an overall plan to which we are all agreed and to which our contributions are agreed and it is only in that way that we shall stop bickering among nations as to which is doing as much as it can and which is not. That is what my right hon. Friend went on, as the Prime Minister knows very well, and I should have thought that it was an essential step at this time.
I ask, have we the plan? All that the right hon. Gentleman said today, if I understood him aright was that our resources—I do not mean only our resources—fall a long way short of being able to give effect to any project that may have been agreed upon. I have no doubt that that is true, but I should like to know that the plan is agreed, or, if not, that it is in process of being agreed and that in that plan we shall all take our share. Then there will be a sense of confidence not only amongst ourselves but amongst others who will depend upon us. Until we know we have got that plan and know we are working to a purpose, in equipment as well as in arms, there will be very little encouragement to others to hold fast to us in the East and in other parts of the world.
I do not always agree with the Minister of Health, I must admit, but I did agree with one observation he made last Sunday, namely, that no one in Britain or America wants war. That is absolutely true. But if it is true, we realise now that it is equally true that unless we bring our defences up to a certain limit of efficiency we shall be running the gravest risk of war. I think that corollary also is accepted. Some further effort has got to be made if we are to avoid the danger of war.
512 Let me say a word about Korea, and let us try to examine this problem realistically, however grim it may be. Do not let us pretend. Korea is only one part of a very long front. It is a very important part at the moment, but it is only one part. As a member of the United Nations, we are directly involved in Korea, and therefore I, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, welcome the Government's decision to send land forces there. I also welcome the contribution that the Dominions, with characteristic generosity, have already announced they propose to make. I welcome it because I think it is advantageous in view of the fact that we are carrying out this effort on behalf of the United Nations. The countries who are members of that organisation should in this military effort get mixed up together so far as practicable, even though there are some administrative difficulties in the process. But having said that, I would add that it would not be wise to send such a contribution—I am sure our American friends would not think it wise—as would in any way weaken seriously our Forces in the West or the Middle East, because to do that would simply create further trouble hereafter.
I invite the attention of the House to the Soviet Union's declared view in relation to this Korean affair. It has, I think, an important bearing upon what may happen in the future. They would have us believe that they are not involved in the Korean business at all. M. Gromyko's statement, which I have here and which I have studied in detail, is well worth careful examination. It is obvious that the rôle is to remain on the sidelines, to encourage the aggressor with ear-splitting propaganda, but ostensibly with nothing else. Yet it is this propaganda which reveals the real nature of the struggle.
Much more important than the smokescreen of legal arguments which Moscow is putting out is M. Gromyko's official declaration. I invite the attention of the House to it. It sets out the doctrine that armed aggression "for the sake of national unity and democratic rights "should be regarded as a legitimate act. Therefore, resistance to such armed aggression by those helping the attacked ought to be regarded—I quote M. Gromyko's words—"as a hostile act 513 against peace." That is the argument, and I want the House to see where it leads us. If it were once tolerated by the United Nations or by any group of peace-loving countries, the result would be a series of so-called civil wars contrived by Communist minorities on the pretext of—I use the phrase of M. Gromyko—"national unity and democratic rights."
These apparently isolated incidents would then add up to an unopposed march of militant Communism. There would be nothing to prevent sympathisers from hastening the process by sending "volunteers" to help this "democratic movement," but anybody else who tried to resist would immediately be denounced as an aggressor "hostile to peace." I only draw the attention of the House to that because it emphasises the argument with which I began, that this is one long front of which Korea happens to be at present the part where the hot war is at its hottest.
May I come back for a moment to the question of our defences. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I maintain that the most serious deficiency is our lack of trained Regulars both in the Army and in the Air Force. There is no substitute for them. It is only with their help that we can have an efficient Air Force ready for action and a tactical reserve for the Army. Both these are indispensable. Therefore, in our view, before any question of extension of period of service, the first thing that the Government should do is to make conditions of service in the Army and the Air Force more attractive at once—not next month or three months hence—the object being an immediate increase in the strength of our Regular Forces. The question may well be put; How many men would be required for this purpose?
§ Mr. Eden
By increasing pay and doing what we can in respect of conditions at the same time. The point arises, how many? This is a serious factor in relation to the manpower problem in general. I cannot give an estimate. The Government probably can do so better than I can, but I should imagine, say, for the Army that even an additional 514 60,000 Regulars, if we could get them, would enable us to transform our Army in this country from what it is today, just a training establishment, into a number of efficient brigades and divisions as a tactical reserve. I may be wrong; I may have put the figure too high or too low, but if I am anywhere near right, it shows when we talk of these giant figures of 100 millions or more, how relatively small numbers would transform the whole position for us. No doubt, the Prime Minister will tell me if I am right or wrong in that estimate.
It is most urgent that the Regular battalions in England should be relieved of their training duties and become battalions, brigades and divisions capable of fulfilling a military rôle which they cannot do today. I have no doubt the Army want to do it, but as we cannot be strong all along the front, we need an effective mobile reserve.
The right hon. Gentleman made a passing reference to Reservists. I wonder whether we can be told a little more about them. What are the Government's intentions in respect of Reservists? I think there are about 45,000 Regular Reservists for the Army—something not far short of the figure which I mentioned—if my estimate is at all correct. These men are liable for refresher training but, as far as I know, no such training has been given since the end of the war. Are the Government contemplating any such action now for the Army Reservists? If not, when do they propose to do anything?
Have the Government given consideration to the use of colonial troops, in particular in Malaya? I am told—I have no first-hand information of it—that there is sufficient trained manpower in East and West Africa to enable us to create, say, a division of jungle-trained troops to be made available for Malaya. Obviously if that were so, it would provide a most valuable reinforcement and a relief for our own troops.
In general terms, what I have said about the Army applies also to the Air Force. I notice that the Secretary of State for Air is here. We need an increased Regular component to the Air Force, not only for home defence but in order that, if we do create an operational strategic reserve, a tactical Air Force may be available to work with it.
515 I suspect that the demand of the Royal Air Force for technicians is already proving higher than that of the other two Forces. But it has to be met. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, whom we used to know in this House as the Minister of Defence, disclosed, on 14th June, some very grave deficiencies in many of the essential technical trades. He told us that in many of these the Air Force had less than two-thirds of the number of men they needed. That is a pretty alarming figure. We all welcome the new proposals the Secretary of State for Air referred to, but is he sure that they go far enough? Better opportunities for a long career in the Royal Air Force, and more rungs in the promotion ladder, are good as far as they go, but do they go far enough?
Many of these trades are very highly paid in civilian industry, and unless the scale of pay offered is genuinely and broadly equal—we do not ask for more than that—to what a man can get in civil life, the Royal Air Force will not get the men. Are the Government satisfied that that is true? I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman is smiling at.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman is telling us what we should do in the vaguest possible terms. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] He is indulging in generalisation. When he says we should attract men by offering civilian rates of pay, he will be aware what are the skilled rates of pay offered outside. Is he suggesting that we should offer the same rates?
§ Mr. Eden
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is treating the matter very fairly. I have certainly not tried to waste the time of the House. I will certainly try to work out the detailed figures, if the right hon. Gentleman wants them. I should have thought that what I had in mind was intelligible to anyone. I am really not trying to torpedo the right hon. Gentleman, but trying to make a suggestion. He seems to be resentful, as if I were trying to knock him about. 516 I am not trying to do that, although we may come to that later on.
Let me give him an example. Let us take one of the qualified Royal Air Force technicians. I have not the list of the wages that are paid in civil life, but if the right hon. Gentleman wants them I will do my best to get them, because I am sure I can get them. The right hon. Gentleman will then have to find out—he can make a calculation; it has often been done before in the War Office—what approximately is the value of the so-called amenities the soldier or airman receives, and then add that on to see how it compares with what a man is receiving in civil life.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I now begin to understand what the right hon. Gentleman means. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] There is no need for any excitement. There is no quarrel between us. We are trying to arrive at some conclusion on this important matter. The right hon. Gentleman surely understands that what we are trying to attract are highly skilled men, men receiving very high rates of pay in civilian employment—some of them up to £16 and £20 a week, such as men on supersonic equipment, and so on. We know something about this, because we have gone into it. This matter of the rates that ought to be paid in the Services has been under very close examination, and we know exactly what the problem is. I merely want to know, if we are to attract men of this type so essential in the Services, what rates of pay we should offer them, and whether they will be prepared to leave their civilian employment.
§ Mr. Eden
I am submitting to the right hon. Gentleman that I think he would be entitled to give a higher figure of pay for these exceptional cases because much of the rest of the money he is to get will not be of any real value unless he has these technicians. If the right hon. Gentleman will come to the House and say, "Here is the kind of figure we shall have to spend to get these men," we shall 517 then know where we are. We cannot work out these calculations, but the Government can get them without any difficulty because they have the staff and everything else available. What would it cost for the Royal Air Force to get what it wants? Would it be £20 million, or would it be more? I do not know, but I hope the Government will tell us what the figure would be to attract the men they need, because then we shall know the size of the problem.
§ Commander Pursey
Even then we should not get them, because it is not a question of pay. Obviously, they would not go into the Services for the same pay as they get in civilian life. Therefore, that argument does not hold water.
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. and gallant Member may state his own view, for what it is worth. I am saying that unless we give them comparable rates we shall not get them at all. The hon. and gallant Member says that even if we do that, we shall not get them, but we can at least try, and if we still do not get them we shall not be in any worse position.
May I now ask the Prime Minister whether he has seen the speech which Air Chief Marshal Sir Guy Garrod made the other day on behalf of the Air League? The text of that speech is well worth studying, and it is pretty alarming. He stresses the need for the long-service volunteers, which I have already touched upon, and there is also the problem about the pay of young married officers. I have heard—and I have no doubt others, too, have heard—that the total pay of these young married officers has gone up very little compared with the increase in civil life during the last 20 years or so. I am told that we are losing these young married officers because they cannot afford to stay in the Services at the present level of pay. The Prime Minister will know whether that is true, and, if it is true, should we not try to remedy the position?
There is another disturbing feature about the Royal Air Force, and that is that the apprentices school at Halton has, according to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, less than one-third of its requirements. Anyone who remembers how much the ex-Halton boys have contributed in the past to the Royal Air Force—it has been a splendid record—must be distressed to find that the figure 518 is down to one-third of what is needed. The Estimates Committee, incidentally, also refer to this matter. If this again is a question of more financial inducements, the amount cannot be a very large sum. I should have thought it well worth paying to get these invaluable young men there.
On 5th July, the Secretary of State for Air gave us a very strange reply to a Question about jet aircraft. I hope that the Prime Minister will be able to elucidate this a little more. He said that if we had not ordered these jet aircraft for exports, they would not have been made at all. What does that mean? It could mean that the Royal Air Force has not the manpower to use jet aircraft, although I do not think it can conceivably mean that, because, as the Prime Minister very well knows, all the auxiliary squadrons have not yet got jet aircraft, some of their aircraft being much older machines.
Does it mean that there was not enough money to buy the jets? Is that why Egypt had to have the advantage of them? If that is so, can we really allow the defences of this country—our citadel—at this time to be served other than by the very best machines we can create? That is the kind of problem to which this House should address itself. Is it true, as the Air Chief Marshal said, that the R.A.F. volunteer auxiliaries, the R.A.F. and the R.A.F.V.R., are 75 per cent below their target strength? If so, must we not make a more vigorous effort by publicity and recruiting to bring them up to strength?
§ The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Arthur Henderson)
It does not apply to the squadrons.
§ Mr. Henderson
Largely to fighter control units, recruiting for which only began 18 months ago. So far as the 20 Auxiliary Air Force squadrons are concerned, aircrews are up by 75 to 80 per cent., and ground crews between 60 and 70 per cent.
§ Mr. Eden
At any rate, I am coming to radar in a moment. I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that it would improve recruiting for that 519 volunteer squadrons if they could be given more advanced types of training.
Now I come to the anti-aircraft defences, which everybody will agree this time must be in a state of instant readiness. Are there enough anti-aircraft units if it came to action, or are most of them engaged in training National Service men? If so, should not new plans be made to meet an emergency that may arise? The Secretary of State for Air told us on Wednesday that fighter control units were only manned up to 25 per cent. of their operational strength. Nothing could have been better from the point of view of machines and the quality of the men than the Royal Air Force Display at Farnborough the other day. But these fighter defences would be entirely unable to operate in the absence of fully manned fighter control and without an adequate radar warning system.
I hope the Prime Minister will be able to tell the House that the establishment of fighter control units and radar reporting units, both with regard to equipment and to trained personnel, is now being dealt with, because the point the House has got to seize there, is that the men under the National Service scheme will not be available for these systems either this year or next year but the year after. If that is the first year when they will be of value to the system, how is the gap to be filled in the interval, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree it must be filled? My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) had some observations to make on that point. We are particularly concerned that the radar stations for dealing with low-level attacks against this country should be brought to a high state of preparedness without further delay.
I want now to make one or two observations about the Royal Navy. It is true that the Royal Navy has not, and never has had, the same problem about recruiting for the Regular Service as the other two Services. That is part of our island tradition, but what is serious is the high rate at which Regulars are leaving the Royal Navy at the end of their first period of service, instead of re-engaging for pension, as they used to do. That is causing some acute difficulty in manning the Fleet. I fear the problem is becoming critical. I think I am right in saying that 520 the Government set up a Committee some time ago—the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty announced it in this House—to work out measures to deal with this position. Has that Committee reported yet and, if it has, can we be told what its recommendations are, or at any rate what the Government propose to do about those recommendations?
The Royal Navy will have to meet entirely new submarine conditions, different from anything we have ever had before, should we unhappily be at war again. There were, I think, some 30 German ocean-going submarines when the last war broke out. In any future war the number of submarines with which the Royal Navy will have to cope will be many times as large as that, and their speed will be very much greater. The technical efficiency of the Admiralty, as we all know, is unsurpassed, but here is a new range of problems for which we must be prepared, and they are on a scale unparalleled by any previous experience any one of us has had. We can surely remember the trouble we had with those 30 German submarines when the last war began. I should like to know what is being done to meet this problem, and I hope that the Prime Minister will be able to tell us without disclosing any mortal secrets. Are sufficient new ships being converted for this duty? According to the Navy Estimates, the number is very small indeed. Is that number being increased?
Naval warfare in the immediate future will be mainly anti-submarine and antiaircraft. What, then, is the position of the Naval Air Arm? How are we placed in regard to the number of naval aircraft and pilots for this essential task? The Prime Minister will remember the big part that Coastal Command played, especially towards the end of the war, in submarine warfare. There will be heavier demands on it for anti-submarine patrols in any future war. What is the present position in respect of that Command in personnel and aircraft?
I was rather disturbed to hear the Secretary of State for Air say the other day that he could not give any indication of what replacements would be available for the Sunderland flying boat. The Sunderland is a wonderful machine, as I have very good reason to know because of one or two journeys I had to make in one, but it is 15 years old. We should know when 521 it can be replaced by a more modern machine.
Can the Prime Minister tell us—and this is the last of my questions—something in more detailed terms about equipment, especially how fast new supplies are coming along either in agreement with the United States or from our own manufacturers? In the Army Estimates for 1949–50, there was a memorandum, which said:The Army has continued to live as much as possible on its war-time stocks for a further year … it is becoming impossible to rely any longer on these stocks. As existing stocks deteriorate further expenditure on new equipment, vehicles, etc., will have to be sharply stepped up.That is a pretty blunt statement. Yet despite that, any provision for new equipment in the year following that statement was still less than in the year mentioned by £3 million.
What is the position now about that equipment?
Here I want to make a general observation in reply to something the right hon. Gentleman said. It applies to all the Services. Everybody agrees that the intricate apparatus of modern war takes many months, even years, before it can be produced in satisfactory quantities. But there is in new equipment always a danger in seeking for too much perfection. There comes a time when, as our French friends say, the better can be the enemy of the good. We should like to be reassured that decisions are being taken for the production of new equipment, because the availability at the start of any operation of that new equipment is a vital factor for morale.
Moreover, we are trying now to fill our peace-time forces with the best men we can get, and we shall not get them if the equipment is not the best that it is in our power to produce. This question of equipment and everything else should be worked out between the nations, the United States, France and the rest, standardising as much as we can.
So I conclude where I began. The most urgent need of all is this overall strategic concept by which we make a joint plan together and determine to use our resources to the best purpose and by the best means in our power, bearing in mind that the maintenance of the national economic life of the free nations 522 is part of our indispensable defensive system. That is why these things must be worked out. I hope that the Prime Minister will show us tonight more clearly than we have been shown so far what the Government's plans are. If in some of these things which I have asked for, we are in the realm of figures so astronomical that they cannot be comprehended, let us be told what the figures are so that the House may judge. Let us feel that there is a plan and a purpose behind it. Unless we make this effort effective, all the good intentions of the Government, of the House and of the free nations to stop aggression in Korea will not succeed.
Intentions are excellent, but, whatever the price, we must back up the intentions to the best extent our resources will allow. Second best will not be good enough. If the Government want more money and more effort from the country, let the Government say so. Grim as that will be, the country never fails to respond to these appeals. The only danger is that the position will not be clearly understood and that the country will be confused. Let the Government tell us what they think is necessary and what they need to fulfil it. The country will do its best to rise to any call.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
Every hon. Member who listened to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence must have been reminded of the many Debates on Defence matters which took place before the war. The only difference in the situation is that the rôles were reversed. Then His Majesty's Government were in opposition and the Conservative Party were being criticised for their lack of effort to create an adequate defence. I am bound to say that, so far as the Debate has proceeded this afternoon, there has been no real criticism of the Government, although it may be that the Leader of the Opposition is reserving that criticism in case he can get a Secret Session. I shall have a few remarks to make on that matter shortly.
I congratulate the Minister of Defence on the clarity of his statement and on the way in which he pointed out the salient features of a very grim situation. I do not know to what extent hon. Members recognise the seriousness of the 523 position. My right hon. Friend told us that £100 million would be necessary to bring our defences immediately up to a state of battle-worthiness, as he called it. I venture to suggest that before long that £100 million will be increased considerably. It is bound to be, if the situation gets more serious overseas.
I could not quite understand the Leader of the Opposition on that one point of criticism of the Government, when he said that we had frittered away the resources in weapons that we possessed at the end of the last war. My experience at the War Office was that we did our best to conserve many of those useful weapons, particularly artillery of the 25-pounder calibre. I remember how my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, on his journeys backwards and forwards to Chequers, would often see masses of lighter artillery. I remember his reminding me that it was an eyesore, so the War Office merely covered it up. The Army not only re-equipped our late Allies, Norway, Holland and France, with very considerable quantities of weapons and ammunition from our resources, but I suspect that there is still today a considerable reserve of ammunition, artillery, guns, transport and tanks stored in the many ordnance depôts that the Army has in the country.
It is difficult to know how to deal with this Debate in Public Session. My right hon. Friend has told us within the limits of his brief, as much as he dared. His brief was very carefully prepared and probably very carefully censored by the General Staff before he made his speech. Does my right hon. Friend really think that the news will not soon be patent to the whole world what contribution from the Army is to be sent to Korea? Everybody is talking about it at the moment, military correspondents and others. We had an indication of the size of the force when my right hon. Friend talked about it being complete with infantry, artillery, engineers and armour. It means either a division or a brigade group.
Whatever it means, it will have to be known presently, for one reason only—in order to bolster up the morale of the troops who are already engaged in Korea and who feel that they are doing all the work without any support from the other 524 members of the United Nations. If Turkey can tell us that she is prepared to send 45,000 troops to Korea—[Several HON. MEMBERS: "Four thousand."] Perhaps I was rather anticipating, my wishes being father to the thought of what she might send. Surely it would not be difficult at the appropriate moment, which I agree is not now, for His Majesty's Government to tell us the military support that Britain is to give to America, who is bearing the main burden of the land warfare in Korea.
About the situation in Korea it is not necessary to say much. We all recognise it—and when I say "we" I do not mean only Members of this House but the general public in Britain—and if evidence is wanted to confirm what I say, it is there. I forget how many nations—40 or 50—in U.N.O. have condemned this act in North Korea as one of unprovoked aggression. We can read between the lines what they did not say. The Korean aggression is supported by a country which is determined to provoke and promote aggression in different parts of the world because it is part of her policy of dominating the free nations. Unless we tackle this quickly, we are in for another period of prolonged agony such as we suffered between 1939 and 1945. It will not be only £100 million that we shall be forced to spend, and perhaps some lives, if once again the dogs of war are unleashed on our own country. Therefore, I feel sure that every hon. Member who recognises the seriousness of this position, whatever his party, will have to support His Majesty's Government in the many unpopular measures which they will soon have to take.
Our Debate, though it has ranged a little wide in the survey made by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), will mainly concentrate on our own defences. I imagine that even if the Opposition do not get a Secret Session, the Leader of the Opposition will disclose more of that information which he has already had from the Government in the private secret sessions in which he and his colleagues have engaged.
§ Mr. Bellenger
What, then, was the purpose of the consultations between certain right hon. Gentlemen and His Majesty's Government on Defence matters? They must have gleaned quite a lot of information. Otherwise I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman would have broken off those discussions immediately.
§ Mr. Eden
I do not say that we have not gleaned information. Certainly we were given a lot of information. I said that my right hon. Friend was not going to make public use of that information. It is one of the difficulties, when you are given this confidential information, as the Prime Minister knows, to sort out in your mind what the sources of the information are.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I do not know what will be left to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition—it is obvious that he must have got some important information in those discussions—if he will not be able to disclose it to the House either in public or private debate. He may have a lot of other information, perhaps confirmed in those discussions, which he will disclose to the House. I think it is his duty to do so unless he is under a pledge of secrecy to His Majesty's Government not to do so. Indeed, if he does not do so, a lot of his criticism will fall flat.
§ Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull)
Surely the right hon. Gentleman takes the point that the whole object of a Secret Session is to allow the Government to inform hon. Members what the true position is?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I forget whether the hon. Gentleman took part in the many Secret Sessions we had during the war. My recollection is that the Opposition—a limited one in those days—expressed their point of view to the Government on a much wider front than the information which the Government gave to the nation.
§ Mr. Bellenger
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington confirms that. In view of what we have heard, I think it is our duty to probe much more deeply into what the Government's intentions are. We are not automata. We represent our constituents. Already some hon. Gentlemen 526 who support the Government, or who say that they do on many occasions, are expressing criticism and apprehension at certain of the steps which the Government are going to take, such as sending conscripts to the seat of warfare.
We must, therefore, have more information if we are to be asked to give our support. We cannot give the Government a blank cheque. Moreover, although many of us speak with a certain knowledge of these subjects, our knowledge is very limited, and it is necessary for those of us who have previously taken part in Debates of this nature or who have held office as Ministers of the Crown in Service Departments, to know precisely what the facts are. I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that it might then be possible for suggestions to be made from both sides of the House, as they always have been made by His Majesty's Opposition in time of emergency as well as by supporters of the Government, which will prove of great value to the Government in solving what the Minister of Defence this afternoon disclosed as a very grievous state of affairs.
One has only to look at the figures he gave us. He said that the Regular Army would be reduced from 184,000, which is its present strength, to 150,000 by 1952. I say without fear of contradiction that, if that is the state of affairs in 1952 and we still have the overseas commitments that we have now, conscription will be absolutely useless. We shall not have the necessary trainers if we are to continue the present system of using the Regular Army to train the conscripts or, when they go to the Territorial Army, the National Service Reservists.
I do not say this by way of criticism of the Government. I see that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War smiles. I may have some criticism to make of the way in which he treats some of these matters, but I hope that on a subject of which I have, I hope, as much experience in office, out of office and in practical warfare as he has, he will at least do me the honour of listening to what I have to say. If he decides to take part in the Debate later on, perhaps he will tell me where I am wrong, if he thinks I am wrong.
We cannot hope to solve this problem alone, even if we get our Regular Army 527 up to the strength at which it ought to be. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington suggested an addition of 60,000 to the present strength of the Army, which would bring it up to about 250,000. That is the figure which I have consistently mentioned in this House as the size our Regular Army ought to take under present conditions. I do not know how we are going to get them, and I shall welcome very much an explanation of the measures which the Minister of Defence has hinted at this afternoon. He seemed to say that the Government were determined to get the Regular Forces up to adequate strength.
I agree that the question of pay is not the only difficulty, but I disagree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party who rather queried whether anything had been done by this Government since the end of the war to improve pay and conditions in the Army. In 1946 the three Services got together and evolved a pay code which we then thought would be adequate. It was compared in those days not with the wage rates in civil life but with the actual earnings by different trades, skilled and unskilled, in 1946. Today, those rates of pay are all out of proportion, and that is one of the reasons why—it is not the only reason, of course—we are not getting Regular recruits. They feel that, although there are powerful trade unions always putting the point of view—and rightly so—of the men in civil life, there is nobody to speak for the Services in these matters, which are just as urgent as some of the pay questions which are now coming prominently before the Government, supported in most cases by organised trade unions.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
Can my right hon. Friend enlighten simpletons like me on one point? How can he expect to get volunteers for the Army when conscription is imposed upon the youngsters who might otherwise have joined as volunteers?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am not at all sure that they would have joined as volunteers. When I was at the War Office, I went closely into the question of whether we could recruit from the National Service men because we had them in a body and were able, as it were, to put the recruiting sergeant right amongst them. He would 528 not have to use "hole-and-corner" methods in public houses and so forth as he used to have to do in order to recruit for the Regular Army. We still have those young men in the Service, but I am afraid that a very small proportion of the National Service men want to volunteer for the Army, for one reason or another.
I will give the House one reason. This applies as much to other ranks as to officers. Do hon. Members realise that the pay of a second lieutenant in Germany in marks is about equivalent to that given to the German driver who drives that officer, or to the clerk in his office? That is why so many of the Germans look upon us as a third-class nation. We have to alter that and there are means by which my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer could alter it, without expending a great deal of money. Never let us forget that a very large proportion of our Army is in Germany.
What part will our reconstituted Defence Forces play in Western Union or the Atlantic Pact? Are Western Union and the Atlantic Pact today anything more than mere paper plans? In Western Europe we have, I imagine, a very expensive staff—very suitably housed, I might inform the House—engaged in drawing up staff plans. No doubt they are very right, proper and useful, but they remind me very much of the exercises we used to have in the Army called "T.E.W.T.S.", "Tactical exercises without troops." Where are the troops today? Where are they in Western Union? They are noticeable by their absence. The two largest contributors are America and Britain, but there are other forces in Europe which could be mobilised.
I ask His Majesty's Government—I know that it will not be a popular remark—How long can we carry on this farce of meeting a threat in Germany—because that is where it will come—and leaving a nation of 40 or 50 million people to do—what? To look to the American and British Armies to defend them against their aggressors. What is the corollary to all that? Russia has given the answer. She has organised what she is pleased to term "Security Police"—so reminiscent of the Nazi days—in the Eastern zone, she is arming them with more than small arms, and 529 they are being trained in divisional formation, which is the formation that does the fighting when it comes to war.
I imagine that these problems have been brought to the notice of His Majesty's Government and, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said, the answer to those questions cannot be unilaterally taken or given, but must be dealt with at least on a tripartite basis. I suggest the answer should be given, and should be given very quickly, otherwise my hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes), who talks about sending our conscripts into war, will have justification for what he says. Why should British conscripts fight on German soil for the security of Germany? Put it that way and the answer becomes obvious.
When we consider some of our home defence matters and look at the way our fire brigades are organised, we have a better example of efficiency than we have in any of the military services with which we are dealing this afternoon. Generally speaking, those fire brigades are organised on a local basis. They are able to deal with local outbreaks of fire but during the war, when we had large conflagrations, the brigades came from all parts of the country to where the fire was raging. Surely that ought to convince us that in regard to defence, we have not only to deal with the fires raging in Korea but with possible outbreaks elsewhere, and that can only be done on a regional basis. At the present moment our Atlantic Pact and our Western Union, although they are supposed to be regional, are not functioning properly.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition made a plea for a secret Debate. I support the right hon. Gentleman. I support him for the following reasons. There are many things which disturb the minds of many of us who know something about these matters that we would like to put to the Government. Of course we can do it privately, but I fear we have to do it much more publicly. I do not mean in open Debate because, if we did that, we should create a certain amount of alarm and despondency. Let me mention three matters by way of illustration. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will know the answers to these quite well.
530 What is the position of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, those people who are the high-powered technicians of the Army? Have we enough of them? We have only to read the Second Report of the Select Committee on Estimates to find out. The Report says on page 133:The technical training establishments include three Army Apprentices Schools, each with a capacity of 1,000. Out of this total ceiling of 3,000 we have some 2,100 boys at present in these schools.These are the future armament artificers and the technicians of the Army, and yet they are only two-thirds up to strength in those schools. I have seen one of them and they are excellent for the apprenticeship training of these boys. On page 134 appears the following:There is also a marked wastage in ex-apprentice tradesmen who have completed their period of eight years colour service and then elect to go out of the Army. …Yes, we have created full employment and so we have created, paradoxically, difficulties for the Service Departments on whom we are about to call to fulfil our obligations.
§ Mr. Harrison (Nottingham, East)
Will my right hon. Friend tell us whether the advocacy of a Secret Session will not cause as much alarm amongst the people generally, as would the Secret Session itself?
§ Mr. Bellenger
If I thought so I would not support this claim. I have had considerable experience of Secret Sessions—[An HON. MEMBER: "In war-time."] Yes, it was in war-time but, as an hon. Gentleman said, we are nearly there now. What was the speech of my right hon. Friend but the preliminary to war? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Then what does it mean? The £100 million, the threat of an extension of the conscription period, the calling up of reservists—is that not partial mobilisation? Let those who know the signs understand what they mean. It is no good putting our heads in the sand. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We did these things before the war—and I say this not because I want any cheers from any side of the House but I have watched these events happening before.
I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire, South, that I have almost a vested interest in the matter because 531 I have helped to produce sons who might be possible cannon fodder, and so have other fathers. We have the right to express our point of view, and if we think that by advocating something which has been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition—who may be right once in a while—why should we not say so if we think it will help? I hope it will not cause alarm and despondency to read the newspapers tomorrow morning, with the headlines which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence will get.
I could go on to another matter, but I am limited not only in time but by the fact that this is a public Debate. I refer to the anti-aircraft defences of this country. Those hon. Members who have contacts with the Army will know what I mean.
One other thing. Is the conscription we have now, good value for money? I know there is a considerable body of opinion in the Services, particularly in the Army, not only amongst senior officers and certain junior officers but, strangely enough, even amongst other ranks, which thinks that conscription is a great waste of manpower. If we are to increase the period of conscription to two years, that opinion will be intensified. However, idle criticism is no use. I have supported it—or at least I did not oppose it—even before the war when the first Milita Act was passed. Is there anything better we can put in its place? I think we must concentrate on a Regular Army and try to bring it up somehow or other to about 250,000. With that number, although it would be expensive—but so is war—we could maintain some really good fighting Divisions which would be available for sending to the hot spots of the world when Russia thinks it worth while to "have a go."
The old Regular Army, the "Old Contemptibles" to which I believe my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air belonged in 1914—I am not sure, but I know he was out there early and that I was not far behind—
§ Mr. Bellenger
The "Old Contemptibles," as the Kaiser called them, stopped the German Army from reaching Paris. If we can hold the line with an Army of this nature while we are mobilising our 532 reserves, then the money we have spent on the Regular Army would be well worth while.
Training will have to be dealt with rather differently from the way in which it is dealt with now. I believe it would be possible to recruit a body of training instructors from ex-Service men who have just finished their engagements or Service men who might extend their engagements, who would be able to deal to a large extent with the basic training of conscripts, and so leave the Regular Army free to engage in their proper rôle of being ready if they are called upon for war. Where are we to get the strategic reserve which we must have, when occasions like this arise? We have not got it, and we shall deplete our garrison forces in very important positions—probably Hong Kong—in order to supply the troops for Korea, just as we have had to do in some respects in Malaya.
Defence, above all, must be dealt with in a much more comprehensive way. It is no good for us or the French to talk about the Schuman Plan to link up German and French economy and then "sit mum," reluctant to talk with Germany about her place in Western Union defence. I would only say this to the French nation—and it has been said to them by one of their own generals, who, although, like a lot of other people, he may not be popular, says a few home truths occasionally. General de Gaulle is, we know, a patriotic Frenchman, whom it is very difficult for foreigners to get on with, but he speaks home truths to the French when he tells them that they must make it up with their neighbours the Germans and that it is quite insufficient to talk about economic arrangements and then leave military matters in a vacuum.
These may seem almost trite words, but I think we have reached a stage now when defence matters must be taken out of party politics. Why? The reason is that I doubt very much whether the Government, which I support and, I hope, have supported loyally, both in office and out, can carry alone this burden and responsibility of near-war. It is no use for the Leader of the Opposition to say that he will give support to His Majesty's Government if a few dissentients on this side of the House choose to challenge the Government in the Division Lobbies, because we 533 are getting to a state which is not far removed from the early days of the last war. Then, a party Government tried to carry on for a time. War was fought, not by the Conservative Party alone, but with the help of many Members of the present Government. They know each other's minds. Let us hope that they can put into practical effect some of the things about which they know. I will leave it at that.
I say to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that it would be fatal for us to let this matter drift, as there is a tendency to do today. We have got to do something. I welcomed the courage shown this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, especially in his reply to an interruption from my hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire, South. My right hon. Friend and the Government have got to face those pointed questions from the nation and from this House, and I am glad that my right hon. Friend faced up to that one courageously.
§ Mr. Bellenger
My opinion is that he did. Let me put this question to my hon. Friend. Why should we always talk of utilising Regular soldiers merely because they have signed a piece of paper for a number of years? Why should we put National Service men in the Army and then expect that they shall not be used? Why are they there?
If the Opposition and the supporters of His Majesty's Government agree with the Government, as I believe they do, almost overwhelmingly on conscription, then the Government must go right on to its logical conclusion. It is no use waving our hands about Korea but then stopping short when the Minister of Defence asks us to give him the tools with which to finish the job.
I have no more to say now, except to plead with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to let some other hon. Members of this House into the secrets which he thought it appropriate to discuss with leading Members of the Opposition; and I believe that that can only be done safely in Secret Session.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Hylton-Foster (York)
I have to crave the indulgence of the House for a maiden speech—nearly the last, I should think, in this Session. Before I say anything 534 else, I should like to add a very small voice to the plea made now by right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House and by hon. Members on this side that there should be a continuation of this Debate in secret. I do not mean that I know anything which could be hidden away in secret. I have never been at a Secret Session of this House because I was not here before, but I have been wondering until today what argument could possibly be urged against it.
What can there be by way of sound reason for concealing from private discussion in this House those things that all of us seek earnestly to know? It was not until I heard the intervention of the hon. Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Harrison)—I am sorry to see that he is not now present—a short while ago that I realised what argument could be put forward; and I am bound to say that I found it singularly unconvincing. Why should the fact that this House discusses in Secret Session things which it does not want the world to know inspire alarm and despondency in anybody in this country? In my belief, our democracy works best just because it is known far and wide that on one side is a Government and on the other an Opposition, and that the Opposition are there to go on probing what the Government are doing and to seek the answers to the very problems of how much is blue print and how much is reality, which is just the thing we all want to know in connection with defence.
I do not believe that any alarm or despondency would be occasioned in anybody by anything more than the fact that this House, by being deprived of an opportunity to debate the matter in Secret Session, would be prevented from giving the Opposition a chance to see, by questioning the Government and by allowing the Government to amplify: what they could say only in public, exactly how much is reality, how much is sticks carried over the shoulder, and how much is blue prints, flags, umpires, schemes, and all the magic of unreality.
I do not have the experience of the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger); I do not know any more than anybody else what would go to increase the Regular content of our armed Forces. I feel great confidence from the fact that the Minister of Defence stressed so highly 535 this afternoon the importance of increasing that Regular content. I thought that the rest of what he said on that matter was very disappointing indeed. I had hoped that he would have had something to tell the House that would indicate that he had now checked the fall in Regular recruiting which, if I am rightly informed, began at the end of 1948—that is, after the increases in pay to which the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw referred—and continued throughout 1949 and has continued, unless I am misinformed, right down to today. I had hoped that there might be some sign that the measures that the Government had so far taken had done something to check that trend, which, everybody agrees, it is so important to check.
If the measures so far taken have not checked that trend, I would strongly urge the Government to look ardently at the kind of measures they have not taken before. I do not suppose that it is all a matter of pay and allowances alone. I know only what an ordinary person knows, that every time one asks the sort of man whom one would expect to like the Services as a career, why the Service is not attractive, almost invariably, in my experience, the answer is related directly to the earnings of the civilian chap in the reserved occupation equivalent to himself.
As a humble Member, I was not very much impressed when the Minister of Defence, in dealing with this matter, said that a general increase in pay and allowances would raise difficulties, or some phrase of that kind. I have no doubt that it would raise difficulties, but if that is the price we have to pay as a nation to avoid having a run-down of the Regular Forces such as the right hon. Gentleman said would occur by 1952 unless the present trend is checked, then I beg of the Government to let us as a nation, not hesitate to face even a general increase in pay and allowances if that is necessary.
I hope to see our contribution—as it will have to be, to Western Defence, under the—I think the phrase is "overall strategic concept"—to the provision of the adequate force which is to go here, there, or everywhere, wherever aggression may raise its head and has to be met, composed entirely of 536 Regulars. It would be difficult to get the right degree of readiness which is needed in a force of that kind unless it is composed of Regulars. Above all, I want to see it composed of Regulars relieved of the burden of training the conscript Army. I do not think we ought to have the strategic reserve hampered by all these movements of people and units which are necessarily tied up with the National Service Army.
Another point I wish to raise relates to the Class Z reservists to whom the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence paid a compliment in saying that they are a very valuable asset, but a wasting one. I suggest that it is the very wasting element which makes it so important to hurry up at this time of urgency with the classification of those reservists to find out completely where they are and what they are doing. They will be much more valuable reservists if we know where they are and much more valuable if we know what the real strength of the reserve is and how much is already in reserved occupations.
May I make a further plea to the Government that, in the check on addresses and occupations which is now going on—and I do not know how far it is advanced, as it was not possible to find that out from the answers of the Secretary of State for War last week—they will also make a real check on the medical category of the reservists. It is not only folly to call up someone in order to examine him medically and then find that he is unfit for military service, but it causes an unnecessary waste of time and dislocation. It is my belief that we can deprive the reservist of the opportunity of doing something else valuable to the country if we do not grade him in his medical category.
There are undoubtedly Class Z reservists whose medical category has changed so much that they are unfit to remain in Class Z but they are men who, in Civil Defence might be very useful. But unless and until they are released from reserve by re-grading, they cannot, as patriotic citizens, do what they might desire to do—get training for Civil Defence jobs. I ask the Government, now, as, apparently, they have the collaboration of organisations of employers and trade unions, that they should not confine the inquiry to finding out the occupation and address but at least have some rough check. We 537 might find out whether a man is dead when we find his address, but we might not find out how far towards death he has gone.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Shackleton (Preston, South)
It is a particular pleasure to follow the hon. and learned Member for York (Mr. Hylton-Foster) who has made his maiden speech. I have two bonds in common with him, of neither of which he may be aware. One is that we went to the same college in Oxford and the second that we had two of the smallest majorities in the country at the last General Election. I hope his stay in the House will be long enough, as I hope mine will be, for him to show the development, skill and charm he has already indicated he possesses in addressing this House. The whole House will congratulate him on his pleasant, interesting and constructive intervention.
It has been the hon. and learned Gentleman's fortune to make his maiden speech in one of the oddest Debates which has ever taken place in this House. It is the first time in my not very long experience that I have seen a Debate opened from the Front Opposition Bench, not once, but twice. We were under the impression that the Leader of the Opposition was opening for them. In his wide survey of national and international affairs he pointed out certain things of great significance—the superiority of American Parliamentary institutions over British Parliamentary institutions was one of them—and he claimed credit for the fact that the Government and this country are in possession of rifles inherited from the days of the war. We are very grateful; it is a great difference from the position in 1938, I agree.
The right hon. Gentleman did not, however, notice one thing which is also of some significance. He paid no attention at all to the fact that a most important announcement was made, namely, that British troops are going to Korea. I can imagine the consternation among leaders of the Conservative Party, obliged to bring up the Deputy Leader, their reserve team, to make the remarks the Leader of the Opposition, in his determination to bat twice in this particular Debate—because he also intends to do it tomorrow—had omitted on this occation. I feel that it was a wise thing 538 to bring the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) forward to make up for the omissions of his right hon. Friend because a number of most important announcements have been made.
In the speech of the Minister of Defence—I am sure that all of us will, on mature consideration, congratulate him for the calm and statesmanlike way in which he presented our difficulties and the most serious problems we are having to face—there were two major decisions, one of which was the painful and difficult decision for this country to send ground troops into Korea and the second the announcement of the expansion of rearmament.
I would like to deal very briefly with the Korean situation because I believe that in sending troops into Korea we have taken a very considerable risk. It has been the view of many hon. Members on both sides of the House that we were so extended in a military sense with our wide commitments throughout the world, and with the danger of possible attack at a number of points, that we simply could not afford to send troops into the Korean theatre. But I believe that the one thing which has united the country in this issue of Korea is the fact that the United Nations have taken a decision and that it is the obligation and desire of everyone to back that decision. I believe that has overridden the simpler military considerations in the case.
Whether we could send a force which would be effective, is very difficult to say. Hon. Members on both sides of the House who know something of military organisation will realise that small packets of troops, brigade groups, and so on, are, generally speaking, uneconomic and that if we want to operate at all we want to operate on a more extensive scale. None the less, I think the decision, which represents a real sacrifice on the part of this country, is one on which the Government should be congratulated. It was a courageous, unpleasant and unpopular decision to have taken.
I was interested to hear some of the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). One of the things which distinguished his speech was that he hoped he would have been helpful to the Government. I found 539 him hardly less confusing than when he used to sit on the Front Bench and I thought his remarks about the Secretary of State for War were somewhat ungracious and uncalled for and that it was wrong that he should join in the very obvious vendetta which we hoped to see dying down. His speech was eloquent, but to what end it led I was in very great doubt and difficulty.
One of the problems which has been facing the country and the Minister of Defence and, indeed, the Chiefs of Staff, is the problem of spreading our Forces over a very wide area, of maintaining their efficiency and of maintaining above all, teeth in those Forces in the light of modern technological developments. One thing which seems to have come out of this Debate, particularly from criticisms which have been made, is that so far from the British Armed Forces lacking teeth the trouble seems to have been that they have been lacking tails. There are certain shortages, for instance, in radar defence, and in the organisation which is absolutely essential to get the maximum efficiency out of operational units. The difficulty is that the shortages tend to lie more in the organisational aspect of our Forces.
I am sure that I do not need to convince hon. Members in any part of the House that it is an inevitable tendency that modern warfare, and indeed any form of civilised organisation—I apologise for calling modern warfare civilised organisation—must, in this advanced techno-logical age, call for a great multiplicity and variety of organisation. Much of the efficiency will come through that. A good example of what I mean was provided by the Battle of Britain, when, undoubtedly, we had more men on the ground per pilot and per aeroplane than had the Germans. We defeated them because of the superiority, among other things, of our ground control system.
It is a real dilemma which faces the Government. One of the things which has impressed me most in recent years has been the determination with which they have tackled the problem of getting efficiency out of the men they have doing particular jobs, the use they have made of work study, the various manpower committees which have examined the problem of the work and the efficiency of units. I believe that a real success has been 540 achieved, arid that there is a much higher standard of efficiency in the Services today than there has ever been in the past.
That is not to say that the situation is satisfactory, and we will all admit that the Minister was extremely frank in admitting that the situation is anything but satisfactory. The central problem to which everyone has referred is the shortage of Regulars. I do not think that on either side of the House we need quibble as to the measures which are necessary to meet that situation. It does not necessarily follow that the measures we propose will have the desired effect, but, obviously, an increase in pay and an improvement in conditions are two factors which are of great importance.
One of the ways in which this problem will have to be tackled, and which, I believe, would be satisfactory—I do not think we can blame the Minister for not being able to make an announcement today—is to increase the rate of pay of the Regular as compared with the rate of pay of the conscript. It is not a case of simple justice, but a question of applying the only incentives that can be applied in a democracy. Unless we are to conscript people into the Regular Army, which, I am sure, would be unacceptable to this country, we are forced to the conclusion that what I have suggested is the only way in which the problem can be tackled. I am sure that my right hon. Friend is facing up to that problem and will do what he can.
One of the matters which we have to consider once again, in view of the rearmament programme, is the balance between the Services. I make no apology for stating that I have always taken a rather unfriendly view of battleships, and, indeed, of a large Navy. I believe that a larger Air Force is more important. There has, in fact, been a considerable run-down of the Royal Navy but, even so, the one item of military equipment which appears to be surplus in the present Korean situation is our naval units.
There seem to be plenty of naval units when surely the one thing needed in Korea was an armoured brigade or an armoured division. If we are to keep these ships solely for the purpose of bombarding roads I can only say that it is the most scandalous waste of money. It is not because I wish to pursue an antinaval 541 line, despite the things which people in the Air Force may have thought in days of war, that I invite the Minister to see if there is the right balance between the three Services. What we could do with today are more supporting air squadrons in the Far East and more troops and armoured equipment.
At the same time, I should not like to suggest that the anti-submarine forces of the Navy should be in any way reduced. They are of the most vital importance; indeed, the possibility of under-water attack is as great as ever, if not greater, as we all know; we have discussed it fully in this House already this year. Meanwhile, let us see that we are putting our money to the right use and into the right Services and are not allotting it purely as a result of a compromise between three separate little empires, the Air Ministry, the War Office and the Admiralty.
The Opposition have once again trotted out their complaint about the sale of jet aircraft. Except for the fact that it is a convenient party political point to make I simply cannot understand how they can go on making it when it has been explained so often that the sale of jet aircraft abroad has nothing to do with, and in no way has diminished, the supplies of jet aircraft to our own squadrons. Certain funds were voted by Parliament for the Armed Forces. That figure may have been the right or the wrong figure, but it was at least a figure agreed upon. Therefore, the export of these aircraft is no different from the export of any other commodity to foreign countries. There is, however, one great advantage in that is has enabled us to increase our production potential.
§ Mr. Martin Lindsay
Is the hon. Member aware that we have exported these jet aircraft engines to Russia, which has saved her many years' research?
§ Mr. Shackleton
This is a point which has been discussed so frequently and raised so often in the past that I really do not think we need go so far back as that. It is not the point I am now making, which concerns the sale of jet aircraft to countries such as the Argentine and Egypt.
I wish to refer to the point which was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw about the re-armament of Germany. This is a matter which should not be looked at in an emotional 542 way. Nor it is a matter which should be looked at with minds already made up that anything which gives an appearance of strengthening the Forces of the West against Russia will, in fact, automatically help the Forces of the West. A decision to rearm Western Germany would be fraught with the most tremendous risks. I am not saying that the time when that might be necessary may not come, but I consider that at this moment, when the strength of Western Union and of French participation in it is of vital importance to us, it is not a decision which can be lightly entered into. I am sure that hon. Members will not accuse the Government of refusing to rearm Germany purely out of spite. It is a matter of the greatest and most serious political weight, and is something which I, for one, believe at the moment to be undesirable.
Finally, we must look at the situation in the world in relation to our rearmament programme. Is that programme enough? Obviously, we as a country and the countries of Western Europe and the Commonwealth could do with much larger armed forces than we and they have today. Obviously, we should like to see ready an effective reserve, a field Army which could be placed in any danger spot. At the same time we have also to bear in mind the importance of maintaining the economic strength not only of this country but of Western Europe and the whole of the non-Communist world. It is just as important for us to ensure that we are able to play our part in assisting countries in Asia and elsewhere economically to remove the causes of Communism as it is that we should have the necessary Armies to repel actual aggression.
The line that has to be drawn is a difficult and arbitrary one. The decision to increase the arms expenditure of this country will have serious economic consequences. I hope the Government will not shrink from re-imposing, if it is necessary, the controls which were imposed in war-time, and which I am sure the country will accept if that is essential to both to ensure justice to the people and to ensure the full production of supplies in this country. We are facing an era of extremely difficult and extremely unpleasant decisions, and any Government who have to make these decisions must inevitably face the risk of unpopularity.
543 But I believe that these decisions will have to be taken.
Unlike the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw—though he may have misled me—I do not belive that the present state of events in Korea is necessarily the prelude to world war. It is still possible to avoid world war; and I believe that by facing up to its responsibilities in the way it is doing this country is making a contribution to avoiding world war which in the future will be recognised, not only by the people of this country, but by the rest of the world.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
I agree with the sentiments expressed at the end of his speech by the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton). The thought of the preservation of peace is one which should be above all in our minds in this Debate. I am afraid I cannot agree with one of his criticisms of our present administration, when he said our teeth were too big and our tail was not big enough. I cannot accept radar as part of a tail, and I cannot help feeling that the hon. Gentleman is hardly able to distinguish between his teeth and his tail—perhaps he had better have a good look at his elbow.
I do not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman any further, but to refer to the speech made by the Minister of Defence. I agree most strongly with my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), who said that the Minister has his heart in the right place. That was apparent throughout his whole speech. What was not apparent in his speech was that his actions matched his sentiments. I felt all the time that he was aware of the troubles and the difficulties but the action to put a stop to them was conspicuously absent in the proposals he made to the House today.
For those of us on this side of the House who take a particular interest in Defence matters, the last five years have been years of growing anxiety and apprehension, and certainly in some cases of exasperation. We have seen the great extension of our foreign commitments and increased danger to the whole of our foreign policy. Yet we have at the same time seen that unmatched by the necessary strength to implement and carry out that policy.
544 For the last five years the House has been starved of information. For five years the Government have sheltered behind a smokescreen of security. For five years almost every question we have asked has remained unanswered, and for five years almost every suggestion we have made has been complacently ignored. We have attempted to be constructive, and I have no doubt whatever that if some of our suggestions had been accepted a year or two ago we should not, so far as Defence is concerned, be in such a mess as we are in today. The responsibility for our present weaknesses does undoubtedly lie fairly and squarely on the shoulders of His Majesty's Government; although certain hon. Members—and I see one sitting on the Government back benches now—must share some of the responsibility, for it was they who opened fire on the former Minister of Defence who although at first appearing to us to be so tough, when under fire altered his behaviour and acted in a way reminiscent of a gun-shy bulldog.
I will leave the past at that, and attempt to consider what must now be done to put our defences in order. I think the best way to set about that is, briefly, to consider for a moment the wider situation, and then to see how the present pattern and structure of our defences fit into it. Today all eyes, and indeed many of the speeches made in this House, have been directed to the subject of Korea, and that is very natural. There is a section of opinion in the House which feels, roughly, this: Korea is an unfortunate incident, and if we can either get peace through the Security Council, or drive the North Koreans back beyond the 38th Parallel, present tension can be relieved, and we can get away from all this question of a world war and the necessity for additional expenditure in rearming.
That I believe to be not only a wrong but a dangerous opinion. The situation in Korea is not an isolated incident. It forms part of a concerted long-term plan whereby Russian Communism intends to infiltrate into, annex and eventually to dominate the free world. That is what is going on in Korea. For five years the Russians have had astonishing success in the way they have annexed territories with scarcely a shot being fired. They have secured a large chunk of Europe and an immense quantity of Asia as well. 545 But now the going is getting tougher. The free world is a little more alert against this infiltration. What better technique could there be than to arm and strengthen a Communist-dominated State and send it to annex a weak and peaceful neighbour? That is what one might call war by proxy.
Were I employed as a planner in the Kremlin—which I am sure would be an uncertain and rather insecure position—I would advocate a continuance of this technique for this reason; that war by proxy exploits all the strength of Russia's position without exposing her weaknesses. Russia now is lying in the centre of this immense land-mass which includes Eastern Europe, Russia itself and a large portion of Asia, while we stretch from Korea to Malaya, Persia, Yugoslavia and Berlin, and up to Scandinavia. While we defend that vast perimeter, Russia as the aggressor dictator State has the initiative and can choose any point from which to strike.
Furthermore, Russia has a preponderance in land forces with which she can arm her satellites, while at the present moment the outstanding weakness of the Western Powers is in land forces and tactical air forces. Obviously while restricting the war to a "warm" one, Russia is ridding herself of the danger of our great lead in atomic weapons, because she knows that with this restricted type of war we shall not use atomic weapons. Therefore the first conclusion I would suggest to the House is that we must expect a repetition and extension of this technique. It is no use fooling ourselves that once we have settled Korea, we can get back to a normal situation, and that we need not bother about the things we are talking about today.
That is the short-term requirement in order to be able to deal with incidents of the Korean type. But it would be a tragedy if we of the Western world were to concentrate all our energy and effort on what I might call this fire brigade duty of rushing into threatened areas, and were to ignore the longer-term, but equally vital task of guarding properly against and if necessary fighting a total war. In my opinion the most important task in this respect is the creation of a realistic defence of Western Europe. There are hon. Members who say, "Here are two vast tasks, how can they be done?" The 546 second one, the creation of a realistic defence of Western Europe, is I believe a longer-term project. I do not believe that war is imminent. It may become more dangerous later on, especially if we do nothing now.
What I would say to hon. Members who do not think we can defend Western Europe is this. Suppose we do nothing; suppose we do leave Western Europe, where are we then? First, if we rely on atomic weapons for our defence, then if we blunder into war, or if we are forced to fight, we have to use our atomic weapons. In those circumstances, at a time when the disparity in atomic power is likely to diminish rather than grow, we shall be leaving this country without what is now its natural bridgehead for protection—the depth afforded by our position in Western Europe. With modern high-speed aircraft and with self-propelled weapons, we must have depth to protect ourselves. Purely from our own selfish point of view, with the possibility of atomic war, it is essential to hold a position in Western Europe.
That apart, how can we get a return of stability and confidence in Western Europe if the European countries know that once a war breaks out they will be overrun? Again, if we fight a war and Western Europe is overrun and we win after two years, what shall we rescue? We can never put together again something which has been destroyed in a calculated manner by a two-year Russian occupation. It is my belief that two heavy and difficult tasks lie before us. The short-term one is the creation of land forces and tactical air forces to deal with matters of the Korea type. The long-term one is the task in which the first priority is the creation of realistic defences for Western Europe. That can be done, but it never will be done if individual countries of the West try to get the maximum amount of security with the minimum contribution. That would wreck the whole scheme.
It can only be done if each tries hard and we join together closely in planning both the military and the economic side of the effort. It is on that aspect of the problem that I support the pleas already made that we should reinstitute something on the lines of the Combined Chiefs-of-Staff of the last war. That would give a central view of the problem. We could 547 co-ordinate the structure of our Forces and also we would be able to ensure that there was no overlapping. If we could create a Combined Chiefs-of-Staff on those lines, we should also extend the Atlantic Pact into a worldwide pact. We are fighting now not just in the Atlantic: we are fighting Communism throughout the world. It is illogical to restrict this arrangement in the present situation to one area.
Not only must we join with our other Allies in the West, but I personally would like to see a clearer understanding and greater intimacy between ourselves and the rest of the Empire. The time has come when the Dominions should get together with this country. Definite areas of responsibility should be fixed and contributions agreed upon in those areas in which the influence and interests of the Dominions are best suited to operate. I also believe that, so far, we have made far too little use of another asset within our Empire, namely, Colonial manpower, which might well supplement our garrisons overseas. We have never really had a satisfactory explanation why that has not been done. So much for the wider aspect of this problem. I believe that success can only be achieved if we all join together in the ways of the kind I have tried to outline.
I turn from that aspect to review the present position of our defences at home and to discuss what we should do about them in the light of the wider problem. Whether we are sending a force to Korea or another place at that type, or whether we are participating in the defence of Western Europe, should either type of war break out, there is one criterion which the tempo of modern war demands of all forces, and that is a high state of operational preparedness. In modern war I believe that to be the most important factor of all.
When we turn to our own Forces, that requirement of operational pre-parednesss is not reflected at all in the present state or structure. I will admit that we have a structure and organisation which would give us quite big and efficient Forces if we had six months in which to mobilise, but for operational preparedness we are at an extraordinarily low ebb. Why is it, when we are expending £780 million, 548 with 700,000 men, that there are so few operational units available? There is nothing secret in this. The scarcity is shown by almost every operational move of troops. One has the sense that the barrel is being scraped to try to get a platoon of the Brigade of Guards from Buckingham Palace to send somewhere.
The reason we have so few operational units, both in the Army and in the Air Force, has already been stated in this House. It is because too few Regulars are trying simultaneously to train too many National Service men to provide overseas garrisons and to man operational units. Of course, the result is strain. This lack of balance in the manpower of our Forces would be less alarming were it not for the trend to which the Minister of Defence referred, that the Regular element is not remaining level but is diminishing. I hope that his estimate was a good one. I hate quoting figures in a speech, but I have here some simple ones. I should like to read to the House the recruiting figures for the Army and Air Force Regular elements for the three years 1947, 1948, 1949. The figures for the Army are 40,000, 34,000 and 24,000, and those for the Air Force are 33,000, 14,000 and 12,000. Those trends are very serious indeed, and they are reflected in the return for the first quarter of 1950.
But really that is not the only serious matter, because in addition the wastage in the Regular element is increasing. That is not wastage due to the normal completion of service and engagement. It is wastage of people who go out of the Services before their time because they are dissatisfied with conditions. That is the crux of the problem, as has been said by so many hon. Members, but that is the one matter in which, with the exception of technicians, the Government have not shown any way in which they propose to face up to the difficulty in future. Here we are in this serious situation and there is a complete failure to tackle the main problem of manpower.
The answer, which we have continued to repeat, lies in putting up the pay. I am aware of what hon. Members opposite think about this. They say, "There is the wage freeze." As a matter of fact, the argument for putting up pay was made, I think unwittingly, by the Minister of Defence himself when he said," How can we get the men in the Services 549 when in civil life they get much better wages than they ever had before the war?" There is the case for increases in Service pay.
§ Brigadier Head
Not at all. I will deal with the hon. and gallant Gentleman in a second. Of course, the reason is that pay has gone up in civil life since the war, but pay in the Regular services has remained almost static. An increase is long overdue. If the wretched Army had had trade unions and agitators, and so forth, pay would have been up long ago—[Laughter.] The hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes) laughs. I should like him to go around and see what is happening now. The hon. Gentleman gets up in this House and talks drivel about field marshals. He should take this matter seriously, or he will find himself and the country in trouble.
The other point, which the hon. and gallant Member anticipated, is that there are those who say that if we put up the pay, it will be ineffective because of the rival attractions of civil life and full employment. It was not ineffective in America. Pay was put up realistically with remarkable effects. It is only recently that she has had to use the draft.
§ Brigadier Head
Then hon. Members say that we will never do it with full employment. I have in my hand a long list of figures, which I should never dream of reading to the House. They show one fact, and one only, which is that the effect of unemployment or full employment on recruiting is practically nil. I suggest that on this matter the hon. and gallant Gentleman would do better to be sure of his facts before he makes his well-known interruptions.
§ Brigadier Head
I would like to make one more suggestion on the question of getting Regulars, and I am talking about the Air Force and the Army. We will assume that the pay is better. A young man thinks that he would like the life of a Regular soldier or airman and he is 18 years of age. His father probably says 550 to him "Look here, you are 18 now, and if you do your maximum service you will be 39 when you are through." Hon. Members will agree that at 39 one is just beginning to become mature. It is my opinion—[Laughter.] Well, I cannot please everyone with that remark, but it seems to me that to offer a career in which one is finished at 39, is fundamentally wrong. Surely, we can extend it so as to take a man on to the more mature part of his life? Why cannot we do it? Think of the number of training establishments and static jobs there are all over the place.
Therefore, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to put up the pay, to prolong the term of enlistment for long and satisfactory service, and, lastly, if a man has long and satisfactory service, to say that he will give him a job when he has finished. It will not cost much. The Minister of Defence has said that the number of men coming out after long service who do not get employment is practically nil, and that is a very good argument for guaranteeing it. The right hon. Gentleman would have no major problem, but the psychological effect of the guarantee of employment on leaving the Service would be very great. I commend that idea most seriously to him.
I do not want to go into detail now about the Class "Z" Reservists, because it was dealt with in an excellent maiden speech by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Mr. Hylton-Foster), but I cannot understand why the Government are so bashful about it. I have had a shoal of letters from people saying "Why don't they tell us what they want us to do, and whether we are in reserved occupations or not?" I cannot understand it, and my own feeling is that somebody has probably given a wrong answer at some time and is now too obstinate to change his mind.
My last point about manpower is on the question of technicians. Quite frankly, I was surprised that the Minister of Defence showed quite clearly that his Ministry has not already gone very carefully into the question of increasing the pay of technicians. I was struck by the right hon. Gentleman's interruption of my right hon. Friend, the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) and I thought he had not really studied it or gone into it. This is one of the vital matters in the structure of our Forces, and it has been so for the last four years. 551 It really is surprising that there is this continual wastage of technicians with a very high value in the Forces, considering the competition outside for such men as radar mechanics, fitters and driver mechanics. It is amazing that nobody has worried about it, worked out what it would cost and put it up to the Treasury. It may be very amusing to the right hon. Gentleman, but I have had some experience at the user end when the trouble came.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we are not amused. I assure him and other hon. Members that we have given this matter the most careful study for some months. I personally have given attention to it and have spoken about it, in the House and outside. There are many complications about it, and it is not just as simple as hon. Members think. They must not imagine that we can do it just like that.
§ Brigadier Head
The reason why I gained impression that the right hon. Gentleman had not studied it was that he said something about the equivalent in civil life of something like £16 or £20 a week.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I hope there is no misunderstanding. If there is perhaps I am responsible for it. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman was speaking of very highly skilled technicians dealing with supersonic matters and so on. They are very highly paid.
§ Brigadier Head
I should like briefly to touch on the question of equipment, but, before I do so, I stress that the Government are going to spend £100 million on equipment and nothing, or practically nothing, on man-power. I believe that of the two problems, if anything, man-power is more vital than equipment, and I regret such a disparity in the amount being spent.
I know that this country has an extraordinary reverence for equipment. It is a kind of national failing. The American uses equipment and throws it about with none of the reverence with which we hoard it. That kind of reverence which we have for equipment was typified by a notice which I understand was put up at a leading public school during the war which said: "Boys are forbidden to throw cricket balls at the 552 air raid shelters." That is the kind of attitude which we adopt towards equipment. At present, there is a mass of equipment in store, while many units are training with inadequate supplies, and we still hear complaints that there is not sufficient equipment for training. If the Minister would like to visit two examples of this sort of thing, I can tell him where they are.
§ Brigadier Head
Let us be quite sure that we escape that dreadful technique of training men in peace time with wooden anti-tank rifles and flags. Let us issue what equipment we have for training, while keeping the necessary minimum as an operational reserve.
I should have liked to hear more about how the Government propose to start up industry to make new weapons. There was no word about shadow factories or indeed about the whole of that problem, and I rather gained the impression that the Government have said, "We must do something; let us spend £100 million on equipment and think it out later on." I may be wrong about that, and I must give the right hon. Gentleman the benefit of the doubt.
I have tried briefly to outline the kind of steps which I believe should be taken, but I do not know enough to say whether they are the right ones. I do know enough to say that those proposed by the Minister of Defence today are quite inadequate at present. I am also aware that the kind of proposals which I have made, would produce great burdens on this country, but it is my belief that, if this country were told the facts and the dangers, it would accept them, difficult and unpopular though they might be. There is always a reason, be it financial, political or economic, why these things should not be done, but if we do not do them realistically but jog along with half measures, we shall be heading for danger, because today, in spite of America's example, Europe is watching us. If we realistically rearm, she will follow; if we take half-measures and jog along, she will do the same. If Europe fails and we fail, America can never do the job alone.
I am certain that the only road both for peace and security lies through 553 strength. It is that road and that policy which has never yet been pursued by free countries until it was too late. I am certain that we can never do it unless we all join together, with unity in the country, unity in the Empire, and unity among the Atlantic Pact nations. I therefore trust that all the other countries of the world will, so far as defence is concerned, remember a principle which is very well brought out in these simple lines:All your strength is in your union,All your danger is in discord.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
I agree with so much that the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) said in the first part of his speech that I am very sorry to have to disagree with so much of what he said in the latter part. In the second part of what he had to say, he seemed to be following the rather curious lead given to him by his leader this afternoon, the general theme of which was that at this grave moment of national danger and crisis we should not try to construct a real national unity, but should begin our preparations by blaming the Government for the state of our defences, by saying that they are hopelessly weak, and that it is all the Government's fault.
If I may take the House back a few years, I would like to read something which the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) said in this House. He was talking of what the Americans were doing, and he said:They are now demobilising at the rate of 50,000 per day as compared with 9,000 a day to which, we are told, unless something is to be done about it, we are to conform in the New Year. There is no excuse for our not demobilising at the same proportionate rate as the United States."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1945; Vol. 416, c. 2537.]It may be said that this was at a very early stage after the war, but, after all, the right hon. Gentleman has been telling us in his latest book, "The Grand Alliance," that he knew all along what kind of a man Stalin was- If he did, why on earth was he saying that we ought to be demobilising at something like six times the rate at which, in fact, we did demobilise? Had the right hon. Gentleman's advice been followed, the Army and the Forces in general would have been brought to a complete standstill and ruin. The Government, in fact, 554 resisted his pressure to have this helter-skelter demobilisation.
The right hon. Gentleman is on much the same sort of political stunting lines when he keeps demanding a Secret Session. Why does he want a Secret Session? It was the right hon. Gentleman himself who pressed the Government, time after time, to take him into their confidence, and he continually asked them in this House and elsewhere to let him know the true state of our defences. He said that he knew more about the state of our defences in the years before the war, when he was a Conservative back bencher, than he did since the war as Leader of the Opposition. He was given the information for which he asked, but he now complains because he is unable to criticise as the result of having had it. What does he mean? He must mean that the information he received was such conclusive evidence of the Tightness of the Government's policy that he did not want to know anything more about it, because he could not then criticise it.
What purpose had the right hon. Gentleman in mind in asking for a Secret Session? It is quite obvious. A Secret Session has an atmosphere of curious glamour about it so far as the right hon. Gentleman is concerned. It revives memories of great days in the war when he was the central figure at such Secret Sessions, and what he is aiming at is to create in the minds of the public the atmosphere in which he, the great war leader, is required once again to lead the Government either in a Coalition or in a Government of his own. He is not in the least concerned about national unity; his only concern is to get back to No. 10 Downing Street as soon as he possibly can. If he had really at heart the unity of this country, then he would retire. That would be the greatest single contribution to national unity that the right hon. Gentleman could make, for every time we are faced with this sort of situation, he makes speeches which are so sensational, so wild, and so far from the point, that he confuses those who sincerely wish to reconstruct our defences, and who feel that as he is advocating the same thing, it is something that ought to be avoided.
What is the true situation about the state of our defences and the Opposition?
555 This is it. Never once in all the Debates since 1945 have the Opposition put forward any serious demand for spending substantially larger sums of money on Defence, and the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton knows perfectly well that unless we spend substantially larger sums of money—because he has just been advocating it, and it must apply to the past just as much as to the present and the future—we cannot have proper Defence Forces.
It is all very well to say that we have been spending all this money and yet have so few operational units. That is a very archaic argument. The hon. and gallant Member knows that if one is to provide an operational division, one has to have something like 30,000 men to make it operational. The tail cannot be avoided, otherwise the division is not operational at all. If we were to have only six divisions, on that basis we should have to have up to 180,000 men, and, presumably, they would be formed into some kind of an Army which would require at least another 75,000 men for the additional services. On that basis, we would have nearly disposed of the entire Army in providing six divisions. We cannot do that, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows we cannot. We cannot possibly try to clean up Communist bandits in Malaya, defend Hong Kong, maintain garrisons in the Middle East and in Western Germany, and provide six divisions as well, out of 350,000 men.
§ Brigadier Head
I did not say anything like the hon. Gentleman's last remark. Indeed, it would have been ridiculous if I had. What I said was that the expenditure on our Forces as a whole was £780 million for 700,000 men, and that there were remarkably few operational units and formations in the Services, and that the reason was that our Forces were out of balance—too few Regulars and too many National Service men.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I will return to that for a moment. If all the men in the Army were Regulars and there were no conscripts at all, it would save about 10 per cent. of the manpower in the Army, and would reduce the number from 350,000 to about 315,000, but we should be no more able to produce these vast 556 numbers of divisions which the hon. and gallant Member seems to have in mind. In any case, however gigantic the increase in pay, we should not be able to recruit over 300,000 men for the Regular Army.
I believe that fundamentally the Government were right to run down the Forces in the way they did, because, had we not done so—and I think the Opposition certainly shared that view at the time—the strain on our economic resources would have been intolerable. We would never have won through to our present position of economic recovery in the way we have, and the cutting down of Defence at that time has made a contribution to our having the smallest Communist Party in Europe, and being able to make the stand that we have made against Communism.
But now, I agree, we are faced with a different situation, and here, as I have disagreed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I would like to say how much I agree with his analysis of the general Russian pattern and design. I believe he is right in saying that Korea is a part of the general Communist campaign of probing the soft spots, of trying to get the weaker countries overturned to Communism by all means short of the Russians being involved in war, and so gradually turning the balance from a majority of non-Communist nations to a majority of Communist nations until such time as the Russians think it safe to go direct for the hard core of non-Communist nations which cannot be overturned by infiltration and such means as that. But never before has one of these Russian adventures come so near to world war as the present situation in Korea. Though I do not think it will, it may be that a situation will come about resulting from Korea, in which the Russians may well feel the time has come to attack the hard core rather earlier than they otherwise would have done.
I believe we can only prevent the hard core—which is ourselves, the other nations of the West who are not under Communist domination, and particularly the nations of South-East Asia not under Communist domination—from being attacked by being strong and resolute, and that this is the only way to win. I know many people, on this side of the House particularly, feel that at no time should one curtail 557 the social services, or our industrial effort, in order to give additional expenditure to Defence. They feel that is playing into Stalin's hands, and that that is the sort of thing the Communists wish us to do so that we can have discontent among the workers and a general feeling that we have failed as a Labour Government.
The blunt truth is that Russia has got the initiative and that, whether we like it or not, we have to dance to her tune to some extent. It is quite true we shall be spending more on our resources on Defence, but she would be equally pleased if we failed to do so. When the test came and we had not the defences necessary, that would be equally satisfactory for her. It is an uncomfortable position in which the Russians can say to us, "Heads I win, tails you lose" and, unfortunately, we have to adapt ourselves to it, to a large extent. But, in doing so, there is no need for us to refrain from explaining that it is Russia that is the real enemy of the workers of the West and of the East, because it is Russia which is compelling all of us to spend so much of our resources upon useless weapons of war, instead of raising the standard of living; and it is only Russia's actions that are forcing that upon us.
When I turn to the current Defence Budget, the figure of £250 million for production and research, out of a total of £780 million, seems to me to stand out particularly. When he referred to it last March, the Minister of Defence said this about the increase in that particular figure:The House should not be under any misapprehension as to how far the increased provision for equipment will go. It will not, in fact, allow for more than a modest contribution towards re-equipment and modernisation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1950; Vol. 472, c. 1276.]We must all agree by now that a merely modest contribution to this object is not sufficient, particularly for aircraft, at present. Later, perhaps, when our men have been equipped—and I do not think they are properly equipped today—it may be necessary to extend conscription to two years. If that is necessary, we shall have to face additional expenditure for that also.
I cannot agree with Members of the Opposition who feel that the Minister 558 of Defence said nothing this afternoon. I think the Minister of Defence made the most closely-packed speech on Defence that I have heard from the Front Bench since the war. It was full of material, and I thought it showed a tremendous determination to get on with the job of bringing our war preparations up-to-date. It was peculiarly ungracious of the Opposition that they should be so blinded by the desire to make political capital out of this situation that they failed to pay him the honest tribute he deserved and say that he was squaring up to the job with tremendous energy and in a workmanlike way.
§ Brigadier Head
That is very unfair to the Opposition. I and my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) both stated in our speeches that it was the best speech by a Minister of Defence yet; and we said that his heart is in the right place. What we complained of was the lack of adequate action, particularly on manpower.
§ Mr. Wyatt
The right hon. Member for Woodford made a particular point of beginning his speech by saying that the proposals of the Minister of Defence were few and far between. If that was meant to be a tribute to the constructive and workmanlike way in which he is setting about the job, it was an odd way of phrasing it.
I was also glad to hear my right hon. Friend say we were sending ground troops to Korea, because, if we are going to have any influence with the United States in trying to keep the Formosa affair on correct and legal lines, then we must show our willingness wholeheartedly to co-operate with the United Nations decision by doing all we can in Korea. It is a little unfair of some of my hon. Friends to complain of our sending, or to think it is sacrilege to send, conscripts when we know that nearly all the American forces in Korea, fighting under the auspices of the United Nations, are, in fact, conscripts themselves. I do not think we can claim some special dispensation for ourselves and not for the Americans.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I think the same rules have to be applied as were applied in the last war. I forget what the exact age was then. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nineteen."] As far as Korea is concerned, this is a war situation. The only point of criticism I have of what the Minister of Defence said is that I did not feel the round sums of money he mentioned were enough; but I had the impression that the bill he was expecting was much larger than £100 million. The total amount devoted to production and research is £250 million at present. If we are to have increases in pay to stimulate recruiting it is going to take a lot out of his £100 million; and it is not going to leave much to bring our equipment up to date for the Armed Forces as a whole. I feel the additional bill for the coming year is going to be £200 million or £300 million, and that it should be so.
Who is going to pay for it? I think it should be paid for in five different ways. First, it should be paid for by our increased productivity, which in itself gives us a greater national income. Secondly, it should be paid for by having no decrease of taxation—which is something we have to face—and by certain increases of taxation, particularly in the higher income radius. Thirdly, and most important of all, it should be paid for by having some form of capital levy, in order that those who have got most can contribute most to this very necessary rearmament.
§ Mr. Wyatt
Fourthly, we shall have to have a cessation, for a period, of our general raising of the standard of living in this country. Fifthly, we shall have to halt our steady increase in the general benefits obtained from the social services. All of this, as my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton), suggested, must be accompanied by reimposition of those war-time controls which were necessary to prevent inflation and will be necessary again. It is absolutely vital for the morale of this country that everybody should feel that all have to share, according to their capacity, in the burden of this rearmament.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
This is a war against Communism. Is my hon. Friend 560 outlining plans of military Communism to fight Communism?
§ Mr. Wyatt
I was afraid the interruption would not be quite relevant. It is vital, however, for the morale of this country that everybody should feel all have to share equally in this effort. That is what makes it important that we should have quite a substantial capital levy—and this is a very serious point—to counteract any feeling there may be in the Labour movement that we have succumbed to Tory propaganda in allowing ourselves to undertake rearmament.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
Since the hon. Gentleman advocates a capital levy, obviously he has in mind those with incomes above £2,000, which was the basis of the last investment levy. Exactly how is that equalitarian, since it is equalitarianism which he seeks?
§ Mr. Wyatt
The noble Lord obviously has a great deal of information on how it could be collected, and I hope he will send it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
This period, under which we shall be subject to a much heavier strain in Defence expenditure—and here I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton—will go on for some time. I think it may go on for as long as five years or even more, until we have reached a more generally settled state of affairs. But if we are to stop this Third World War, it is important to make it quite clear, not only to ourselves but to the other side, that we would win a Third World War and that we have the resolution to win it.
From their point of view it is, quite naturally, the Russians' design to undermine the morale of the West and of the South-East Asian countries which have not yet come under Communism. That, of course, is the purpose of the great peace petition; it is the purpose of every issue of the "Daily Worker," the front page of which this morning carries 561 the horrifying story of how awful it would be to have an atom bomb dropped on London—so really how much better it would be if we just bowed down to Uncle Joe straight away.
§ Mr. Wyatt
We have one great asset, and it is that Russia, I am convinced, did not expect, in the Korean adventure, to set off United States armed reaction or to set off a tremendous rearmament programme in the United States of America. That will be a great asset on our side. Our efforts in increasing our Defence expenditure will show our determination, both to Russia and to America.
But the morale of the West—and I think we must frankly face it—is not good today. I believe it is good in this country, but on the Continent of Europe it is extremely bad and, as the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton said, it is on the Continent that the greatest test may come. I think morale is particularly bad in France. Perhaps the attitude of the ordinary Frenchman is, "We have all been liberated once before; we have all had this experience of being occupied and then liberated, and we do not particularly want to be liberated with atom bombs." I believe there is a profound defeatism existing in France today which comes from a great war weariness and a feeling that the whole thing is hopeless before it begins.
One reason why they think it is hopeless is because they are not yet completely convinced of the determination of Britain and America to defend Western Europe so actively that they can prevent the initial occupation of all the land mass of the Continent. It seems to me that we have to show the Western countries that this can be done, and there is only one way in which we can show that. Once and for all, we must do away with all the cant—and I am afraid it is cant—that we talk about banning the atom bomb. This country and America would be utterly wrong to ban the atom bomb because it is the only point of superiority which we have over Russia today. If it were not for that fact, the Russians would not be so keen on persuading people to sign peace petitions to ban the atom bomb. The fact that they are so anxious is, in itself, quite sufficient evidence.
562 If we are to put heart into our Western friends, I think we have to say, or to persuade the Americans to say, something like this: Should aggressive operations begin in Western Europe, the atom bomb will not be used as a last and ultimate resort; it will be used as a first and immediate weapon in order to try to stop this Third World War before it has gone too far. I think we should explain that not only should we attempt to drop this bomb on the major cities of Russia, but that we should attempt so to maul and lacerate the lines of communications of the advancing armies with the atom bomb that, in fact, they would never be able to occupy France and the other countries of the West. I believe that the tactical use of the atom bomb is probably very considerable in this direction.
Of course, at the same time, if we make such a declaration and take such action, we must be prepared for the fact that the obvious point of retaliation will be the City of London and London as a whole, and I think it is only by being willing to face up to that possibility, and showing the Russians that we are so resolute that we are prepared to face up to it, that we may avert the danger. I think the only thing which will, in effect, prove to Russia that we are prepared for this war and prepared to meet them in it, and so prevent it, is for us to show that we are willing to do that. It would be better if the Russians believed that we were prepared to see all London destroyed and all Birmingham destroyed rather than give in to world Communism at any time, because the light of civilisation, the spirit of civilisation, is in the minds and hearts of men and not in the stones and bricks of their buildings.
All round, I feel we should make it clear to ourselves and to our friends that if there were a Third World War our prospects of winning it are good—in fact, are more than good, they are certain. After all, American production, together with our own production, is bound to be superior to anything that the Russians can muster. The West today is united in its determination to resist Communism and it can be stimulated by resolution.
In South-East Asia, which was the weak spot, a very interesting thing has happened since 1945 and it has been mainly brought about by the very enlightened policy of the Labour Government.
563 In Burma, Siam, Indonesia and India, in all four of those countries, indigenous nationalist movements—nationalist independent movements—have put down their own Communists. They have not been overthrown by the Communists; they have been able to exert themselves sufficiently, without the aid of the West, to prevent Communist insurrections from being successful. Because our assets in South-East Asia today are so important, I believe we should try and clear up this misunderstanding with the United States about Formosa. If we do not, we may seriously damage the morale of India and the other Commonwealth countries in that area and so lose a part of our great assets in that part of the world.
Another aspect which I believe we possess is that, in the long run, Russia may not be able to control China. I believe Russia knows this and knows, too, that if we use our assets we can, in fact, win a Third World War. If we do use our assets she will not attempt to start that Third World War. I believe we must very much intensify our general propaganda, not only to our friends and allies but to the people of Russia and others behind the Iron Curtain as well. Where is our propaganda telling the East about the efficiency of a Labour Government, of a democratic Socialist Government, in this country? We have been too shy in the matter, and too susceptible to the feelings of the Opposition.
Where is our propaganda telling Communist China that Russia is not the least bit keen to have her on the Security Council; otherwise she would not have walked off in a huff, but stayed behind lobbying the other countries to change their mind? Instead, she left Great Britain, who is notoriously not the friend of Communism, to do the lobbying. Where is our propaganda telling the satellite countries of Russia that Russia never uses her own troops if she can avoid it, but works her will by proxy, as the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton has said?
Where is our propaganda saying that it is Russian imperialism and not anything which comes from this country which is the basic enemy of the working classes; that it is Russian imperialism which has forced us to devote so much of our time 564 and energy to matters of war instead of to matters of peace? We have one great weapon in the world today. In the two Empires that straddle the world, the Russian empire and the British Empire, very different things have been happening since 1945, and this is the crux of the matter. In the British Empire, since the end of the war, the subject nations have been steadily advancing towards freedom, and in the Russian empire free nations have been steadily advancing towards subjection.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclay (Renfrew, West)
Very occasionally, during the speech of the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), I thing I heard a word or two with which I agreed, but it was almost impossible to disentangle what the hon. Member might have meant seriously, from what seemed to me to be a deliberate attempt to make this Defence Debate a matter of acute party controversy. I could see no remotely useful purpose in the earlier part of his speech.
He questioned the request of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) for a Secret Session in the cheapest possible way. Does it not occur to the hon. Member that some of us, after listening to the speech of the Minister of Defence, thought it an impressive speech, but thoroughly unbalanced? The first part of it sketched a situation of the gravest possible potential danger to this country; the second half seemed to deal with quite a different situation to meet which certain relatively gentle measures would be taken. Is it any wonder that there are some of us who feel that the immense gravity of the potential danger confronting us should be discussed in Secret Session? It is utterly wrong and hopelessly cheap to make the kind of speech that the hon. Member made.
May I just add that during the last three days, within 24 hours I heard on separate occasions a distinguished Frenchman and an eminent German make precisely the same remark—"Time is running out." That was the view coming from the Continent. However, I will not continue on this larger theme, because I do not think it is a subject for this stage of the Debate; but I hope it will be dealt with tomorrow by people who can handle it and, I trust in Secret 565 Session. Something should be said in public, but there may be many things which are better said in private.
§ Mr. Maclay
I should like to ask the hon. and gallant Member to explain that remark, but every time I speak it seems that he is sitting opposite me and he always ends by saying that he is sorry because he misunderstood me—or is it the other way round?
I come now to a technical matter. It is a matter which must be discussed, as this Debate would be incomplete without it. I am referring to the special problems of Defence relating to the British Merchant Navy. As far back as 1946, when the Defence Committee was set up, some of us urged the Prime Minister very strongly to make the Minister of Transport a permanent member of the Defence Committee. I am sorry that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence are not here at the moment, although I realise they cannot be present all the time, as this is a matter which can only be put right with their agreement. I hope, at any rate, that their attention will be drawn to my remarks.
The proposal was turned down on the ground that the Defence Committee would have a large number of subjects to cover, that on many occasions the Minister of Transport would not be wanted and that his time would be wasted, that in any case the Minister of Transport could be kept informed and called in when necessary, and that his Department would be represented on various committees. May I suggest that the time has come when this question must be reconsidered, particularly now, when we are facing grim realities?
There is practically not a single subject which can be discussed in relation to Defence, whether in broad strategic planning or in technical planning, which does not at some point involve the British Mercantile Marine. The point is almost too obvious to elaborate. Yet some of us who worked during the war on this problem know only too well how Service Ministers, Service chiefs, and even the Joint Staff planners were so obsessed, and properly so, with their own particular jobs that they would let their planning go a long way ahead before they faced the 566 shipping implications. A great deal of trouble was caused in the early days because of the failure at the right time to consider shipping implications in relation to broad strategic and technical planning.
May I mention one small but very important instance of it? It is the matter of the shipment of tanks. I remember extremely well that in the war, when the whole problem of the movement of tanks was acute, it was found that most tanks were too high by about three inches for 'tween deck stowage in the normal type of ship. That is the kind of thing we have to watch. It could have been avoided. Another instance is vehicles. At the same critical point of the war we had to move large quantities of vehicles. Vehicles can be the greatest conceivable waste of shipping space at a time when every available ship is a pearl beyond price. It was only after three and a half years' trouble that we really tackled and found an effective method of breaking down motor vehicles in order to pack them into as small a space as possible.
Can we be certain that that kind of thing is being watched? It may be that it is a job for the Ministry of Supply, the War Office or the Air Ministry, but is there anyone at present in a position to ensure that every single aspect of the shipping implications of our planning is being considered? I suggest that unless the Minister of Transport is a member of the Defence Committee it is almost impossible for that task to be properly done. If the Minister of Defence were here I would ask him if there was anyone in his Ministry who is watching the whole range of problems of this sort. I hope that someone will give me an answer to this tonight.
Who is responsible? Is it the Minister of Transport. Is he supposed to pick up from Cabinet papers what is going on and then telephone to say that he should have been at a meeting the previous week. The damage may well have been done, but he will have to try to get it undone. These may seem small points to raise in a Defence Debate, but I believe they are immensely important.
There is another subject on which I hope we will get some information before the Debate is finished, and that is the planning of the availability of tonnage, which, of course, is the most important thing of all in the event of war. I am 567 very glad indeed that one of the developments which has already taken place under the North Atlantic Treaty is that a North Atlantic board for ocean shipping has been formed. We have had singularly little information about it—only one short Press release—and it would be a great help if we could be told that His Majesty's Government are playing a full part, and pressing other Governments involved to get on with the setting up of the organisation, which can be very effectively built up in time of peace long before there is any real emergency.
There is always a danger that in setting up such a body the structure may be made too cumbersome effectively to do the job that has to be done. That has been visualised up to a point, because I see from the Press release that in the event of an emergency, the planning board would hand over its functions to a much smaller allocation board. It would be a great comfort to know that this machinery is really being set up. We had this worked out to an extremely fine point towards the end of the war. At intervals since then I have asked Questions to try to find out whether the machinery that was set up at that time has been kept going in any form. I have been unable to obtain a proper reply. I fear a start from scratch is being made; if that is so, could we at least be assured that the job is being done?
The next point, on which I will only touch very briefly, is the defensive equipment of merchant vessels. I do not propose to deal with escorts. That is primarily a problem for the Admiralty, and will be dealt with by others. A great deal, however, can be done to make our Merchant Navy ready for a emergency with a relatively small expenditure of money or manpower. Could we have an assurance that steps are being taken to do the things which can be done in advance? I will only mention a few of them. There is defence equipment. Is there in existence a scheme for storing low-angle guns and high-angle guns at convenient ports throughout the world, and not only ports in the United Kingdom? Are arrangements made and understood for mounting these guns if an emergency arises?
Then there is the question of port equipment. In the last war perhaps the 568 most expensive waste on tonnage arose where we were shipping heavy lifts to certain areas and were unable to get them ashore. We had a tremendous job trying to get heavy cranes and sheerlegs; even in the second and third years of the war we were still looking for them. Does any hon. Member know the Department responsible for them? Is it the Admiralty, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Defence? We do not know. Anybody who had to do with finding heavy lifts, cranes and sheerlegs, knows that they are about the most difficult things to find in time of war. At one stage we were piling ships up in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, literally hundreds at a time, simply because we could not get the heavy lifts to clear this cargo. The resulting waste of tonnage could have lost us the war. That is why I am stressing the point so strongly, it is a detail, but a vastly important one.
In the last war Britain lost no less than 11½ million tons of shipping, a terrific loss. That has been replaced. It is a remarkable thing that five years after the end of the war Britain's total gross registered tonnage is the same as it was in September, 1939. There is a different distribution of tonnage in size and speed. The ships are good. Again, the Merchant Navy is manned to the hilt. At the moment it has a waiting list for almost every branch of the service. Remember, too, that the biggest loss in the war in relation to the manpower employed was in the Mercantile Marine. One man out of every five of the average sea-going personnel was lost. Yet the ships are completely manned again.
Let us ensure that every possible step is taken in advance of trouble to see that the minimum losses are incurred at the outbreak of war, if war should come, and that after the emergency has started much more efficient preparation is made to see that the best possible use is made of the escorting tonnage and that its protection is as good as possible.
§ Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
On a point of order. Although this is a very important Debate, and the House is fuller than is normal at this time of the evening, for the last hour there has been no Cabinet Minister and no representative of the War Office upon the Government Front Bench. In what way can one protest about it, Mr. Deputy-Speaker?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
That is not a point of order.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Group Captain Wilcock (Derby, North)
I would not, of course, follow the line of argument of the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) who has specialised knowledge of the subject which he has been debating. Before I make my contribution to the Debate I would like to comment upon a remark which was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party and by other Members on that side of the House, in relation to the sending of conscripts to Korea. We ought to get this matter quite straight, because it is very important.
I do not like the way in which conscripts are being debated, and looked upon as being apart. A conscript may wish to go overseas. I see no reason why he should not be just as much a volunteer as the volunteers we had in 1914 and 1939. To assume that the conscript must or must not go because he does or does not want to go, is the wrong attitude. If these boys were asked, it would be found that many would want to go overseas. It is wrong that they should be segregated in this way, treated as a class apart, to be sent or not, particularly as the age factor does not come into it. They are as old as many volunteer airmen, soldiers or ratings serving today.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) made great play with the fact that there was in this issue one main point, which was that the strength of the Regular Forces should be kept to whatever the target is, that it is too low now and that it must be raised.
§ Major Beamish
I see that the Secretary of State for War has now entered the Chamber; it is high time.
§ The Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. James Callaghan)
In view of that interjection, I would like to point out that my right hon. Friends are at an important meeting and that I think they will be here as soon as possible.
§ Group Captain Wilcock
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington made a most valuable contribution to the Debate when he said 570 that the factor of primary importance was pay and conditions in the Services today. I believe that it is solely pay. Conditions in general are good and the mere fact that another bedside table may be produced, will not affect recruiting. The one thing which will affect recruiting is pay.
I am glad to see the Minister of Defence enter the Chamber, for I was about to tell him that I had to persuade my son, who is an officer in the Royal Air Force, to take a Regular commission. He required persuading because the pay was not enough to enable him properly to keep his wife and child. However, I did persuade him. The Minister of Defence may like to know that I have another son who is an Army officer. He is much better able to live on his pay, because he does not move about so much.
These factors must be taken into consideration by those who are examining pay rates. It is not good enough just to have a pay code; it must be a practical pay code. If we require larger Regular Forces the Minister of Defence need not set up committees or have conferences or do anything more than raise their pay sufficiently high; if he does this he will get all the recruits he wants.
The Minister of Defence spoke of the difficulty of adequately paying very technical and specialised personnel. He will find that the problem has always been with us in all the Services. It has been met by employing civilians under contract in the Services. In other words, it is unnecessary to put into uniform highly skilled people earning £16 a week. Fitters from the Rolls-Royce establishment have been attached to Royal Air Force units as civilians for 20 years. The right hon. Gentleman may find the solution to his problem in that direction.
I was delighted to hear, in the very able speech of the Minister of Defence, appreciation of the fact that the Royal Air Force must now be regarded as our first line of defence and that no stone will be left unturned and no avenue unexplored to make it efficient. We have told my right hon. Friend how that can be done by way of improving the position of the regular airman and the Regular officer, but the Reserve presents another problem. May I suggest to him, or to the Secretary of State for Air, who has just come in, that the reserves of the Royal Air Force could be made much 571 more efficient if they were better armed? My right hon. and learned Friend will know that he has in the Volunteer Reserve a good many thousand ex-operational pilots who are now attached to Volunteer Reserve centres, and who are now flying Moth aircraft—which are small training aircraft—all day and every day when they report for training. If more sensible aircraft could be produced for them, their interest and their efficiency would be greater, and they would be more quickly able to step into the breach in case of trouble. It was done before the last war and I cannot imagine why it cannot be done now, because it is comparatively a small thing.
I confess that I take the view that it is quite wrong that so many of these aircraft should have been sent overseas for sale when they should have been kept in this country for our reservists to fly. Some of these types of aircraft are particularly valuable. Spitfires, Tempests, Mosquitoes, Hurricanes would be very good value in another war, notwithstanding the jet aircraft, particularly in Asia, where they can operate from smallish grass airfields. I do not think we were clever in getting rid of those aircraft in such large numbers.
There is a question I would ask of the Minister of Defence regarding oil. It is whether he is able, or whether he wants to tell us, how the North Koreans have obtained the oil for their tanks, and whether we are now putting oil into China or whether the United States is doing so? These matters are of great importance.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am sorry to intervene, but my hon. and gallant Friend may have noticed an announcement, made quite recently, that we have stopped oil exports to China.
§ Group Captain Wilcock
I presume, therefore, that the Prime Minister, who will be replying to the Debate, will not wish to give any further information on that point. Like other hon. Members, I think that the matter we are discussing tonight is either vitally important or it is not. We are either in a state of emergency or we are not. If we are in a state of emergency, I want to see emergency measures taken. One of the emergency measures that must be taken 572 is the supply and the control of oil and petroleum. There is no doubt that supplies must have moved either 2,000 miles from Russia to Northern Korea or just a few miles from China.
As I see this problem of Defence, it is one in which there has to be a compromise because if we plan to obtain full security then we have, at the same time, economic ruin. We have to prepare for two tasks: one is the defence of this country, and the other is to make our contribution overseas. We were told today by the Minister of Defence that we are to make a contribution overseas to Korea. It seemed to be recognised and accepted by all quarters of the House as the right thing to do.
I would like another thought on that. From the point of view of sentiment, it sounds right, but whether it is the practical and proper and sensible thing to do as yet I hesitate to say. I should like to know, as would, I think, a lot of people, what the United Nations will expect us to do when the next incident takes place. Surely we are not all waiting for another incident to happen before the United Nations, the United States and this country decide how it shall be met. Half a dozen of these incidents can be visualised. That being so, is it now being decided what part our Armed Forces are to take, and does this fit into the general plan of sending troops to Korea? It is difficult to go into greater detail in a public Debate of this kind. Before I would say that we were doing right to send troops to Korea I should want many questions to be answered.
I should like the Government to let it be very well known in the United States and elsewhere, exactly what we have done and what we have spent on Defence, not from the point of view of saying that we have done better and paid more than America, but so that there shall be absolute faith and trust between us all. If the American public knew that every man, woman and child in this country had contributed £75 for Defence since the war—they do not know that; it has never been published—they would appreciate the financial and economic aspects of the problem. It was said recently by someone on these benches—I do not know whether he was right—that we have 70,000 troops in Malaya and the Far 573 East. If that were known in America it would make for a much better and warmer feeling towards our efforts and it might not then be necessary to send troops from this country in inadequate numbers to Korea to illustrate our solidarity.
We have to consider what defence could be undertaken in this country in case of war. This is not a question of invasion by troops but, as I was glad to see has been recognised, of the use of guided missiles and other horrible things of that kind. Again, what can or cannot be done technically cannot be said in public, but what can and should be said is that plans for the dispersal of the population of London and Southern England are being worked out. Years ago we had experience of these things and suffered from the dropping of rockets. No hon. Member would assume that any future occasion would not be worse than the last. This matter, therefore, should receive priority.
I do not believe that the population will recognise that the emergency is serious until measures of that kind are taken. I find that the situation today is not being taken seriously in the country. If it is a serious matter, as only the Government can really know, then it is time that it was put to the people, and industry could start immediately to meet its problems of re-tooling and re-manning. If the situation is one of urgency, these things must be done urgently. We do not want conferences and to be told that the matter is "under consideration." Past experience has shown that decisions in some of these things can be taken in 24 hours. If Defence is vital and urgent, the appropriate Departments who know from past experience what must be done, should start now to give these matters their immediate attention.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Brigadier Smyth (Norwood)
I think the hon. and gallant Member for Derby, North (Group Captain Wilcock) has made a thoughtful and valuable contribution to the Debate. It was in great contrast to the bitter party political speech of the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), who made a very bitter personal attack on my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) which I consider was out of 574 place and unworthy in a Debate of this sort.
§ Mr. Daines (East Ham, North)
Does the hon. and gallant Member think that the speech of my hon. Friend equalled in intensity and feeling the speech of the right hon. Member for Woodford against my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War last week?
§ Brigadier Smyth
I am giving my own opinion, to which I am entitled.
This Debate is a historic one, and I am certain that the outside world is looking to us this evening, at a time of very great crisis, to produce something on a very high level. The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) gave us a very inspiring speech and set a tremendously high standard. I suggest that when the Prime Minister sums up the Debate he should reassure the country and the world of the British people's determination to do their very best to see that the next war never takes place and not that we are going to drift into war, then resist aggression, and come out of it victorious; this is just not good enough.
The measures we should take, the measures we want to make clear we are taking, are that we are going to do all in our power to see that this war, which does appear to be rather threatening at the moment, never happens. I do urge that the Prime Minister should reassure the country that there are overall plans in the various areas of the world which concern us at the moment—in Western Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific—where we are preparing, or have prepared, joint plans with our Allies for any eventuality and further acts of aggression which may occur. I hope the Prime Minister will assure the House that our own Forces, however small they may be, are at least efficient and in a high state of preparedness.
The announcement made by the Minister of Defence about the Forces we are sending to Korea will be very much welcomed in the United States. I have had a lot of letters from friends there during the last week or so and, although they are quite ready to acknowledge that we are doing a lot in Hong Kong and Malaya, the fact remains that they are undergoing a rather bitter experience in Korea. To feel that they are to have the 575 actual help of a British Force will make a tremendous difference to them. I suggest our overriding object should be absolutely clear, that we are out to prevent another war and not just to win it when it comes. There is a very great difference between those two aspects.
What use is full employment, social security and a high standard of living, if we are to go on under the present threat of war, which is causing the greatest anxiety all over the country, as hon. Members on both sides of the House know? It will mean sacrifice on our part, hard work and imagination, but I believe the people of this country are ready to face anything they are asked to face. Moreover, I think we should not be too secretive about what we are doing because we not only have to convince our own people that our defence measures are adequate; we have to convince the rest of the world that if it should come to war, we are able to defend ourselves. Had we done that before 1914 and before 1939 it is quite possible that neither of those two world wars would have come upon us.
I do not wish to look back at the past except to say that I, like, I think, everyone else who has been interested in and studied this Defence question, have been considerably anxious for the past two years as to whether we were producing sufficient in terms of trained formations for the men, money and material we were expending in Defence. I have also been concerned, on the many occasions when the question of consulting the Empire has cropped up, that there has not been a permanent Imperial secretariat sitting here in London. I am certain that it would be a source of great strength to us if we could institute one.
I should like to sum up some of what I believe to be the main lessons of Korea from our point of view. The first lies in the complete barbarism of the method of attack. There was no consultation whatever about any quarrel that had arisen between North Korea and South Korea. There was no question of putting the matter to the United Nations. There was, instead, the secret building up of an enormously superior force, and then the sudden attack without any declaration of war. I suggest that that will be the pattern of any such aggressive wars 576 we are likely to have thrust upon us in the future. We have always said that in a war of the future there will be no declaration of war, that it will come upon us suddenly. Now we know that that is what will take place.
My next point is that for the defence of any vital area—I do not know that Korea can be called a vital area, it is only vital because our principles are involved by what has happened—troops must be there ready to take up the defence of that vital area. I was interested to note that the Americans reckoned that the time taken to get a tank from America into action in Korea was about two months. That is why their tanks which have been engaged have come from Japan and have been vastly inferior to the Russian tanks by which they have been engaged. The Americans reckon two days for "de-mothballing"—I should be glad if we could "de-mothball "our equipment in two days—shipment to a Pacific port, six to 14 days, and transit by sea—a long sea voyage is involved—three to six weeks. That gives a time lag of about two months. I do not think we have anything to learn from the tactics in Korea. They are what we ourselves experienced at Dunkirk and in Burma, and show the penalty for being unprepared, and perhaps the handicap that every democratic nation has to undergo when faced by a totalitarian Power.
Out of evil has perhaps come good, however. I am certain that the prompt decision of the Security Council of the United Nations and President Truman's courageous action, backed by that of our own Prime Minister, have shown the Communist world that naked aggression will not be countenanced. Therefore, we can say that a world war is less likely now than it was a month ago—at least, that is what I feel—if we now put our house in order and plug the gaps which we know exist in our defences.
I feel that the chief lesson of Korea is that the defence of Western Europe has become very urgent indeed, and that our immediate problem is to give quick effect to the provisions of the Atlantic Pact and the Brussels Treaty. For that, British leadership is all-essential, more essential now than it was before the Korean operation, because the Americans are closely engaged in the Pacific, and Europe 577 looks to Britain to give a lead in European defence.
The Minister of Defence gave us an idea of what the Russian forces amount to. I am sure his information is a great deal better than mine, but I think that, if anything, his was an understatement. If a war is to be prevented, which I believe to be our overriding object, our problem is that we have to provide at very short notice a minimum defence Force in Europe which will give confidence to the nations of Western Europe that Western Europe is defensible. I am quite certain that not only must we make a contribution, as we are doing at the moment, but that Western Germany must also make a contribution. Speaking on this point at the Albert Hall, M. Paul Reynaud said that Western Germany should produce at least as many troops as Russia has formed in Eastern Germany. I am absolutely certain that the time has come to be completely realistic on this subject of the contribution that Western Germany is to make to our defence. The alternatives are that we shall have to find a defence Force from Britain or else that the overall Force we are finding in Western Europe will be impossibly weakened.
I do not want to say anything which has already been said about our own defence Forces. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) put the case extraordinarily clearly. We know that the Navy will be confronted with an underwater attack far greater in intensity than we have ever experienced in the past. I would ask the Prime Minister: Are we prepared for that attack? If we are, or if we can become prepared in the near future, then I do not think such an attack will ever take place. But if we are not prepared, I have great fears of the Russian submarines.
A lot has been said about the Royal Air Force. We all agree that at the present time it is our first line of defence and of attack. I would support what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Derby, North (Group Captain Wilcock) about the Regular Army, The Minister of Defence and the Secretary of State for War have told us, on occasions in plain words, that the Regular Army is crumbling away. Somehow or other a stop must be put to that, if our overall defence Force is to be of any value.
578 The remedy is a direct business proposition. The young man of today obviously will not make the Army a career, to be thrown out on to the world at 40 without any profession except that of arms, unless the pay and prospects are adequate and compare well with those obtainable in civil life. The pay of many professions in civil life is a great deal higher now than ever before. The only test of whether the measures being taken to increase the Regular Army are sufficient or not is whether more men are joining the Regular Army each month than joined in the previous month, and whether fewer men are leaving each month than left the month before. This problem is extremely urgent, and whatever measures we are to adopt should be adopted at once.
I should like to make another point on the subject of propaganda. The Russians have adopted, more or less, a war-time scale of propaganda, whereas we are going along in our good old democratic way on a peace-time basis. During the week-end I was visited by representatives of the Moslem world who are being subjected to intensive Communist propaganda. They all begged me to put to the House the point that some much more strenuous counter propaganda ought to be undertaken by the British Government.
The same remarks apply to our propaganda at home. I feel very strongly that in all these crowds of people who go to Communist meetings in Trafalgar Square, 50 per cent. are not Reds at all. They are just sheep without a shepherd—very decent people who are worried about the war situation and are looking for guidance. I ask the Prime Minister to see that the guidance is given by us, and not by the other side.
In conclusion, I urge that this determination to outlaw war, and those who perpetrate aggressive war, must become, at this critical time, a crusade. All engaged against the aggressors should be made to feel that they are crusaders, that they are saviours of civilisation, and that they are militant Christians opposed to the enemies of Christianity. This crisis is a great deal more serious than many people realise. I am perfectly certain that we cannot get over it by appeasement, but only by uniting the forces and the strength of the peace-loving nations of the world, taking an absolutely firm stand now against aggression, and making it clear to the world that we just will not have it.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
I am sure that all hon. Members share the opinion of the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Brigadier Smyth) that it is imperative, in this day and age, that the nations of the world should seek the outlawry of war. The crime of aggressive war was described at Nuremberg by Lord Justice Lawrence as the greatest of all crimes, and clearly that is so. It is a sombre reflection that we are, once more, engaged in facing aggression in one part of the world and engaging upon an armaments race in the rest of the world.
While we recognise the inevitability of the amount of rearmament upon which we are now engaged, it is only right that we should note in passing the perils in which the process involves us as nations of the world. It has been said that one can do anything with bayonets except sit on them. The very process of rearmament, in itself, is a perilous development in international politics. I beg the Government, though I am sure that no pressure from this side of the House is required in this matter, even at this stage to use any possibility open to them, either individually or as a member of United Nations, to see whether something cannot be done now to end the armaments race, or to limit it in some way. If it develops, it spells not only its own inherent dangers, but the danger of economic ruin for all the peoples of the world.
I think there is a very great danger at this phase in international relationships of overlooking the fact, as far as the Far East is concerned, that poverty and economic misery are at the root of the upsurge of the peoples of Asia, and if American, British and other aid to these territories is now diverted entirely into the field of armaments, it will be a most dangerous development and can have great perils from the point of view even of defence. Whatever the immediate military dangers that may face us, this Government must at no time lose its stress upon the econmic and social basis of its foreign policy, and I hope that the American State Department will also remember the same thing and not be turned away in the direction of military strategy when great social and economic planning is required in these Far Eastern territories.
580 The Americans learned in China of the errors of that policy which had no relation to a social foundation. As Mr. Dean Acheson, the American Secretary of State, pointed out in his memorable report on China in July, 1949, the Chinese Nationalist armies of Chiang-kai-Shek did not lose a single battle during the great campaign of 1948 through shortage of ammunition or armaments. They lost their battles because the people of China would not support the corrupt and reactionary Government of Chiang-kai-Shek and, as Mr. Acheson points out in that famous report, the armies of Chiang-kai-Shek did not have to be defeated, because they disintegrated. The two billion dollars that America poured into China went waste, and the huge armaments which were made available to the reactionary Government of Chiang-kai-Shek became the capture of the Communist forces. The basic error that was made there, and one which we must in no circumstances make anywhere else in the East, was that no demand was made on Chiang-kai-Shek to deal with the urgent need of agrarian reform or to cope with the land hunger of 450 million peasants in that great land of China.
Anti-Communism is not a sufficient basis of Defence or foreign policy, and in no circumstances must we promote the present pressures and tensions of international affairs to cause the United Nations to be twisted by the course of events into a mere revival of the Anti-Comintern Pact. The basis of the Anti-Comintern Pact was anti-Communism and nothing else. Let us look at the figures who used it—Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo—unlamented, tragic, hideous failures. There was no future in it; there is no future in it today. The resistance to the forces with which we are now confronted must be based upon the policy of promoting prosperity of the peoples of the world and tackling the problem of grim poverty which has made the peoples of the Far East so willing and receptive to those who offered them an alternative system.
There is still before us the basic fact that we need to give urgent help to the coloured peoples of the world in Asia and Africa. If the process of this rearmament means that that side of policy will be forgotten, then the future is indeed a bankrupt one. In particular, we must 581 tackle in the area of South-East Asia the impoverishment of the peasant and the way in which he is tied to poverty by debts to landlord, moneylender and shopkeeper. It is a common characteristic of the whole of the area of South-East Asia, and renders the impoverished peasant a ready ally for the Communist propagandist. It arises still in Malaya as a problem, and while the House recognises our financial limitations, nevertheless, we must press on in Malaya in tackling this basic problem. It arises in even more acute form in Indo-China. There is there, unfortunately, a grim history of brutality and exploitation in the rubber plantations of Indo-China.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury and Radcliffe)
The hon. Gentleman has made a statement which is entirely unsupported by fact and which should not go unchallenged. Were he to study the conditions in Indo-China, he would find that every word he has said is entirely wrong.
§ Mr. Frederick Elwyn Jones
This simple counter-assertion of opinion is, of course, attractive in its proper time, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that I did not make this statement without considering the problem, and I will repeat what I have said. So far as Indo-China is concerned, in 1936 the International Labour Office had occasion to complain of the fact that the employers in the rubber plantations there had resisted the measures agreed by the International Labour Office, and had rendered much of the work and proposals of that Office completely ineffective. Unless we appreciate these facts, we cannot understand the true significance of the rebellions that have arisen in the Far East, the rebellion, for instance, of the Annamese people. It is a rebellion against intolerable living conditions. In some portions of that territory, according to my information, the labourers are so enslaved by debt that they pawn their children to their creditors in order to work off the arrears of their debts.
It is this economic rottenness, combined with nationalism, which is at the root of the Asian upsurge, and it is a complete failure on our part to appreciate the situation if we attribute the great movements that have developed there to the mere machinations of a few Moscow-trained Communists. No doubt they 582 take full advantage of the conditions that prevail, but unless we tackle the problem basically in that way, these machinations will continue to be successful.
Lord Boyd Orr is an eminent authority on the way of dealing with this problem. He said—and they are fine noble words:There can be no special contentment or peace so long as the majority of the people lack food and believe that under a new order they can get it.Hunger is the greatest of all politicians. South-East Asia cries out for a policy based upon agrarian reform and upon land distribution, and it is encouraging to find that last year the United Nations embarked upon a programme of technical assistance for these areas. I hope that full support will be given by the Government to that matter, because it may alter very substantially the whole outlook of the peoples of the East. Unfortunately, the technical assistance programme does not go far enough, but even within its limits it can do much to face this basic question of poverty in the Far East.
To give one brief illustration, the Director of the Food and Agriculture Organisation has shown how, in many parts of the world, the farmers' only cultivating tool is the short-handled hoe. He has pointed out that by teaching them to use a wheeled hoe, which can be made in small village shops, the peasant peoples who live by agriculture will be able at once to increase substantially their crop yield. These matters are not irrelevant, as the impatience of certain hon. Members opposite indicates. The process of rearmament, in the face of our immediate peril, must go on; but it is no part of our policy to become mere agents of reaction in the Far East, or anywhere else.
Let no hon. Gentleman opposite think that we on this side of the House will be content with mere military preparations, when we know full well that the course of our policy in the Far East must be based upon the principle of improving the conditions of the people of the world, which is the reason why we in the Labour movement are in politics.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Watkinson (Woking)
There is only one matter I want to bring to the notice of the House, but I believe it is a vitally important one. I am very glad to 583 see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty here, because it is a matter which arises rather from a Question I put to him today. This island of ours can only be maintained in conditions of war, or in conditions of siege, by succour from the United States and Canada, which has to pass across the ocean in convoy.
I asked the Parliamentary Secretary today how we were pressing on with the modernisation of our convoy forces to cope with the greatly increased danger and efficiency of under-water attacks. I must say that I cannot feel very satisfied with the answer that I received. It merely amounted to saying that we are converting six Fleet destroyers into fast anti-submarine frigates, that a number of existing frigates are fitted with modern anti-submarine equipment, and that this programme of modernisation and conversion will be speeded up. There is an old saying in the Navy which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty knows as well as I do. I do not wish to be in any way personal in this, but the expression is, "As wet as a scrubber." If this is the best we can do at the moment to bring our Fleet up-to-date, then the expression "as wet as a scrubber" covers the complete ineptitude of what is being done.
I remember in the last war convoying up and down the western coast of France. I remember a force of roughly seven German U-boats attacking a convoy which was well escorted. If I remember correctly, our escort was something like two Fleet destroyers and seven corvettes, but only seven German U-boats could sink 50 per cent. of that convoy. In those days the U-boats had to come up to the surface to re-charge their batteries, and they could only do seven knots submerged. Our corvettes could do 15 knots, and the destroyers much more.
Let us consider the conditions we would have to face if another war came upon us. There will be a fleet of, I estimate, well over 200 submarines fitted with the "snort" or "snorkel" or whatever hon. Members like to call it—the underwater device which enables submarines to stay almost permanently submerged—and, in addition, there will be the under-water electric batteries and so on. I do not know how far the right hon. Gentleman has proceeded but, taking into account the 584 worst which may come upon us, we must appreciate that it may be a fleet of over 200 submarines which would be faster when submerged than our escort vessels on the surface. That is something which requires a rather better answer than I received today.
Bearing in mind that this island must be provisioned from across the Atlantic if we are to survive six months of war, then at the very top of the priorities in the present Defence preparations should be a thorough overhaul and modernisation of our convoy escorts. I do not only mean the fitting of modern gear and equipment; I mean the provision of vessels with a speed adequate to cope with modern surface and under-water attack. Suppose we had to sail our convoys under the threat of attack from atomic bombs or from large bombs or guided missiles. The columns of those convoys would have to be something like one mile apart, so that the problems of the escort vessels would be doubled and trebled.
I ask—in fact, I beseech—the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, or whoever is to reply to the Debate, to give the House some indication that this very grave matter is receiving the priority which is its due and that the great responsibility which rests upon the Government in this matter is not being neglected.
In conclusion, I will say that I listened with great interest to, and was impressed by, the speech of the Minister for Defence. I thought he was trying to face up to the difficulties. When one turns to a subject about which one has personal knowledge, as I have in this matter, one realises—
§ Mr. Callaghan
I think the hon. Gentleman is painting a picture which is, no doubt, according to his opinion, but which is far removed from the facts. I would make one general comment. If war were to break out tomorrow, we should have more escort vessels surrounding our convoys moving up and down the Channel than there were in 1939. That may not be saying much, but at least it will be an improvement.
§ Mr. Callaghan
We had a very full Debate on the Navy Estimates and the hon. Member did not claim, and indeed, 585 the claim has never been made, that the Russians have any substantial number of fast submarines.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I listened to that Debate myself, and I say that it would surely be wise for us to try to calculate on the worst which might come upon us. It may be that the Russians have no submarines with the "snorkel" fitted, although I doubt it.
§ Mr. Watkinson
In regard to the number of escort vessels, I would point out that that is not the point I was making at all. I know how many corvettes there may be in Portsmouth or elsewhere. The whole point is this: Is their speed on the surface adequate to meet the new conditions? I hope we shall have some assurance that this is being dealt with as a matter of the highest priority.
§ 9.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
I have heard every speech in this Debate and I have no hesitation in saying that the most constructive speech, apart from that of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, was that made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Frederick Elwyn Jones). It was analytical, it was realistic, and it faced up to the situation.
During the past 30 years it has been my privilege to enjoy the friendship of most of the greatest working-class characters in this country and I intend, in this situation, to try to be worthy of the people who have built up the great movement of which we are members. This morning I passed through Grosvenor Square, and I saw that memorial to that very great man, President Roosevelt. I stood looking at him, remembering his life's work, what he stood for, his great contribution between the two wars and during the last war, and the great memory he has left behind him which has won the respect of all peace-loving people in the world.
As I stood there, I listened to men and women who came along, and I thought that I must make my contribution to this Debate, if I had the opportunity, to be worthy of these ordinary people. It was my privilege during the last war to meet Wendell Wilkie when he visited this House, and to have conversations with 586 him. I remember how he burned himself out in an effort to equip himself for the role which he and others thought he would fulfil.
The situation in which the world is now involved, demands courageous men with vision, and I am hoping that this country and other countries will produce men of that character. Time after time, before the last war, we listened to that great, courageous soul, George Lansbury, who spoke in spite of all the sneers in this House. Although we could not associate with him in that period, we respected his sincerity, his vision and his life's work. I am convinced that we need men like George Lansbury at the present time. I suggest, that instead of drifting towards a catastrophic situation, the Prime Minister, who enjoys the confidence of the ordinary people, should take the initiative before it is too late and suggest a meeting with President Truman and Mr. Stalin, and others who in their opinion should be invited to a world conference of that kind.
If it could be done by the Leader of the Opposition and others before the war, and if it could be done several times during the war, surely it could be done in this situation, instead of drifting in the way that we are doing at present. On several occasions during the war, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Stalin and President Roosevelt met, and it was suggested that they should take steps to prevent another war and lay the basis of peace in the world. At the Roosevelt farmhouse, when it was suggested that the United States and Britain should build up an alliance to prevent another war, President Roosevelt said that they must bring in Russia, and the Leader of the Opposition agreed that that step should be taken. At conference after conference Stalin suggested the need for the United States, Britain and Russia to work together in order to lay the foundation of peace for 50 years. To the everlasting credit of Franklin Roosevelt, to his dying day he was confident that the common people of the world would build up the United Nations which would attain a more peaceful world.
Some hon. Members might say that these kind of suggestions are all right, but what about facing up to the present situation? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I expected those cheers; if it is a 587 question of facing up to the present situation then I prefer not to rely on cheers but on the record of hon. Members of this House. The reason why some of us become so indignant when it is suggested that boys of 18 should be sent abroad, is that some of us have had that experience. While we are prepared to accept our responsibilities, we do not want other boys to go through what we have already experienced.
A few days ago a Motion was placed on the Order Paper, which has been misrepresented by the Press and by the people. That Motion was submitted days before we knew about Mr. Nehru's correspondence and the methods that he was following. Many of us were concerned about the situation, and we wanted to show the world that we were prepared to support the Secretary-General of the United Nations in the great work that he was doing. We accepted the decision of the United Nations Security Council, with all its implications and responsibilities, but we were not prepared to give anyone a blank cheque to fill in just as he liked. Formosa was the first name to be filled in on that blank cheque.
The Motion stated that we supportedHis Majesty's Government in its acceptance of the United Nations Security Council's decision on Korea.Surely it is elementary that when a statement of that kind is made it means acceptance of the implications and responsibilities which arise therefrom. The Motion went on to state that the House remainedprofoundly anxious that the peace of the world shall be preserved, and to that end urges His Majesty's Government to prepare the way for a world settlement by using its best endeavours … to bring about a cessation of hostilities and mediation in Korea on the authority of the United Nations.The simple interpretation of that is that we want to bring about negotiations on a basis of the status quo before hostilities. Anyone who was prepared to read the Motion in that way was bound to put that construction upon it.
We went on to suggest the withdrawal of the United Nations Forces from Formosa and that the Chinese People's Government should be admitted to the Security Council. The final point was to ask the Government to make it quite 588 clear—and so far as I am concerned I want to make it quite clear that this is my view and the view of the ordinary people of this country—that we will do all we possibly can to support the Secretary-General of the United Nations in the constructive work which he is doing. The action that the Secretary-General embarked upon was courageous. He deserved the support of all people who put the interests of country before sectional interests.
Let there be no legal quibbling; neither morally, nor on grounds of expediency, are we entitled to break faith with the Chinese people. It has been my privilege to work with students from China and India, and I found them thoughtful and anxious to co-operate with the British people. I am confident, as a result of my association with them, extended over a long period in one of the largest industrial establishments in this country, that the British people have enormous good will in China and other parts of the world.
Instead of breaking faith with those people we should be showing them that just as Britain has led the world in the progressive development of reform in the past, so, in these dark days, we want to do all we can to support any constructive move whereby the world may be saved from another catastrophe of the kind through which we have gone. The world could then turn to more constructive things, to work that will improve the position of the ordinary people and will bring hope of peace.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Air Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) has spoken with sincerity but I should have been happier if he had put forward views about how we are to maintain the ideal of peace.
Earlier in the Debate I listened to the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt). I have listened to many of his speeches during the last five years. He invariably commences a speech by attacking the Leader of the Opposition. He said today that the Leader of the Opposition is not concerned about national unity. I have never heard such a thing said. It is not right for the hon. Gentleman to come to 589 this House and criticise the great leader who led this country to victory in the years of the war.
As I see it, in this Debate it is a question of priority and of what the country can afford. The only thing that was really striking about the speech of the Minister of Defence was the emphasis on the Royal Air Force. The right hon. Gentleman gave us very few details about any of the Services except to indicate that the Royal Air Force was to have priority among the three. I believe that the Royal Air Force has insufficient money to meet its obligation. In the Estimates of 1938–39, the Royal Air Force were allotted £73 million. We then had a front-line strength of 1,750 aircraft—123 squadrons. That was achieved by March, 1939, and the achievement was brought about entirely by the Conservative Party. The Estimates for 1950–51 are £227 million for the Royal Air Force. What have we got for it?
I am the first to admit that the quality is excellent. The pilots can fly as well as they have ever flown and the aircraft are well maintained. We have not enough of them. It is no good having an Air Force with a reserve not sufficiently trained because the Air Force will be called upon, if we are unfortunate enough to have a major conflict, to defend this country in the early stages as they did during the last war, and there will be no let-up period of eight or 10 months in which to accelerate production and prepare our defences. Costs have more than trebled, as the Minister of Defence said. We now have complicated equipment, including radar, and it is all very costly. Without intending to offend the Royal Navy, I wonder whether the money is being wisely spent in present circumstances when aircraft carriers are being built at £11 million or £12 million each—
§ Air Commodore Harvey
That is just the sort of remark one would expect from the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ Air Commodore Harvey
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to interrupt, perhaps he will stand up and I will give way. If not, perhaps he will hold his 590 peace. When countries are in economic difficulties, questions of priority arise. Surely what we want is a very adequate fighter force to defend this country. That is the first priority, rather than large and expensive ships which may be lost in one battle.
§ Commander Pursey
As the hon. and gallant Gentleman has offered to give way to me, may I ask the Opposition to decide what the priority is, because a couple of dozen priorities have been suggested?
§ Air Commodore Harvey
Unfortunately, the Opposition are not the Government. If we were, we should make very rapid decisions. Are the Chiefs of Staff agreed on these matters? During the last 20 or 30 years there has been one long quarrel as to who should get the money and who should get the priorities. If they are quarrelling, is the Minister of Defence doing something to sort it out and see who is to get the money?
§ Air Commodore Harvey
The right hon. Gentleman says that he is, but he did not tell us so this afternoon. Every penny spent on Defence must be spent where it is most needed.
What real progress is being made in Western Union defences. Are the continental countries co-operating in the radar system? May we be told if they are? It would be very reassuring to know that. It is useless thinking in terms of a radar chain around the coast of Britain unless that chain extends well into the continental countries on the other side of the North Sea and the Channel.
In regard to security, are Soviet officials and the diplomatic officials of satellite countries of the Soviet Union allowed to go where they like in this country? We were told a few months ago that certain limitations would be put on their travels. If the limitations have not been put upon them, they are perfectly free to drive round the coast and look at the radar stations to see those which are manned and those which are decaying. What has been done in this direction?
The Government must face up to the very tragic mistakes which have been made in the last five years. The worst one of all in my view was the sale of the 12 Rolls-Royce Nene jets to Soviet Russia. It is quite right that in this most 591 important Debate—it is the most important Debate since the end of the war—mistakes which have been made should be brought home and the Minister who is responsible should accept responsibility. I understand that it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who agreed that these jet engines should be allowed to go to Soviet Russia on the basis that new types were coming along. I am informed by a scientist, one of the senior scientists—perhaps not the senior but one of the most knowledgeable—in the country, that by allowing these jet engines to go to Russia we saved them about 10 or 12 years' time which they would have had to spend in developing such engines themselves.
In my view, it amounts to criminal folly, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer should accept full responsibility. In normal times a Minister would not be allowed to get away with it. Not only would he resign and get out of it but the Government would, too, but this Government continues. [Interruption.] I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like these things being said, but they are going to hear them. We represent our constituents and the taxpayers, and this is their money, and this House is responsible. In my view, this was the most tragic mistake made in the last five years—
§ Air Commodore Harvey
I have been just as British in my lifetime as the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I probably shall be so in the next war. Aircraft were sold to Czechoslovakia even after that country was taken over by the Russians. Why was that allowed? Why should the sale of aircraft to satellite countries be permitted after they came under Russian control? Even today 70 transport aircraft are located at Hong Kong and there has been legal discussion, and probably discussion by the Privy Council, as to whether or not they should go back to Soviet Russia. Surely we should show our American friends who are fighting that there is no question of those 70 aircraft in Hong Kong being allowed to go back to Soviet Russia. The safeguards to which I am referring do not cost money and man-power. They require commonsense and imagination. That is what we expect from the Government of today.
592 I want to turn now to the Royal Air Force. Some two years ago the Secretary of State for Air told us here that the morale of the Royal Air Force was not good. I believe that in the last two years the Royal Air Force has lifted itself right out of that difficult period and I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, together with the Chief of Air Staff, has played a great part in that. The Air Force morale today, I am told, is excellent and the air crews probably the best in the world. Unfortunately it is far too small. The pace of technical advance is extremely rapid and it is costly to keep up to date with every new invention and all the new "know how" that comes along.
I am wondering whether or not we have too many prototypes of aircraft being produced at the same time out of our limited resources. Would it not be better to get the new types into production and into the hands of the Regulars and the Reserves? At the moment our auxiliary squadrons are equipped with cast-off jets which the Regulars have down for some 400 to 450 hours. A war in this country in the first year depends eventually on the part the Reservists will play in that war.
At the moment it has been admitted that the Reserves are being trained with the Tiger Moth and the Chipmunk, a small training aeroplane. It is not good enough. We were told the other day that there was no likelihood in the immediate future of advanced trainers being allotted to Reservists. If we are called upon to defend this country, new squadrons will have to be formed in a matter of days or weeks and casualties will have to be replaced from the Reserves. I am most unhappy that Reservists who are getting their training on light aeroplanes, with no practice of fighters or bombers, will not be sufficiently trained to fulfil the part expected of them. This matter should be given immediate attention to ensure that we have the minimum of casualties and that our men have the right equipment.
The Secretary of State has admitted that the fighter control units are only manned up to a 25 per cent. basis. This deficiency, of course, is in the auxiliary complement. The fighter Force, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said, is useless unless we have a proper, well-manned and 593 efficient radar system. Why not train National Service men for this work. It is not a difficult form of training. Perhaps W.A.A.F.'s also could help in that function.
At this stage I would go to almost any extreme, perhaps offering a larger bounty and having a tremendous campaign for recruiting. Will the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister ask every hon. Member of this House to allot a few days during the Recess to taking part in a large recruiting campaign throughout the country, making full use of the radio and of every means we know to bring home to the people what is entailed and what is expected of them if we are to save this country and the free world as we know it?
My next point concerns Coastal Command. We are told that the Russians have an enormous submarine fleet. We must not be caught out for the third time in one generation by seeing merchant ships sunk to the extent of 11¼ million tons as they were in the last war. Coastal Command has been run down to a dangerously low level. If this were a Secret Session, I would give what I believe to be the figures. The Secretary of State for Air, however, knows that they are dangerously low, and I earnestly ask him to do everything he can, even to get into use more of the existing Sunderlands, which could escort convoys and play their part in Coastal Command.
If the Russians bring about a major war, not only fighters, but bombers also, will be required. Fighters are the first requirement. I should like to know whether the Americans are going to supply us with all the bombers we require, or whether we are really going to manufacture them in this country. We have brains and we have great inventors in Britain, and I believe that steps are being taken with the designing of jet prototypes. I suggest that if the Americans do not have similarly advanced types on the drawing board, for the time being they could manufacture the aircraft to our drawings. They would lose nothing in esteem or pride, and this kind of arrangement would ensure that both countries get the best equipment.
My last point concerns Transport Command. With the great perimeter to which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) referred, 594 from Korea to Scandinavia, it is a question of making the best use of the forces available at short notice. We require an efficient Transport Command to move airmen, troops or sailors, to get them to their destination and to get them home quickly, and so ensure that the best use is made of their time and service.
I believe that the cuts which were made in Transport Command because of economy were false economy. Every effort should be made to make use of the civil companies and to get the people in them, with their great knowledge, to serve in Transport Command and so assist the Government in the defence of the country. We have been told about economies and, by certain hon. Members, how the war is to be paid for. Perhaps the Government will tell us what economies they propose to bring about in Government expenditure. I have not time to pursue this point, but it is a matter about which I should like to know.
Finally, will the Prime Minister tell us that, in addition to having conversations with Mr. Menzies, he will do the same with the Prime Ministers of the other Dominions? We should like to be assured on this point. By being frank with the people and giving them all possible information, the British people will not fail. They will back up the Government of the day in defending their country and in keeping a free world.
§ 10.7 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence made a very clear and strictly non-partisan speech on this vital matter of Defence, and for the most part in this Debate we have had a number or thoughtful speeches. Quite a number of the points which have been raised, as is inevitable in a Defence Debate, are perhaps more applicable to an Estimates Debate of a particular Service, and the House will not expect me tonight to deal with every detailed point. I will try to deal with the main points, and the others, I am sure, will be picked up in the continuation of the Debate tomorrow.
This Debate has come about very largely because of the worsening international situation, but also because of what we must regard as a successful demonstration of the United Nations. I think that we ought to stress that. My hon. Friends just now have talked of 595 drift. It is not drift this time. Where there has been the challenge of aggression, that challenge has been taken up; and that challenge must be taken up. An approach was made to the Government of the U.S.S.R. to associate themselves with this action. That has not been done, and we regret it, but it is no good departing from a principle upon which the nations are agreed when we are challenged on that principle. In my view, the best way of preserving the peace of the world is by taking definite action against aggression and showing that aggression does not succeed.
One has to look at this broad question of Defence as a continuing problem. During these difficult post-war years we have had to maintain a careful balance between our Defence and our economic recovery and I think that that has been generally recognised in our Debates. That, inevitably, means that we cannot expect to be fully equipped for an emergency; there is always a necessary process of change and development going on.
The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) pointed out the continuous change imposed upon us by the developments of science and the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) pointed out the danger of letting the best be the enemy of the good. There has to be, all the time in Defence matters, a constant series of decisions which must be based on the trend of events as to whether we are to develop to the fullest extent what we have in hand, or whether we have to go forward in research, which may always leave a gap before the development of the next thing, and there is obviously the danger of being caught before we have got new weapons ready, or of staying too long with the old ones and being out-distanced.
Therefore, there is necessarily a continual process of change going on and of decisions having to be made. Let me say to the hon. and gallant Member that we have co-ordinated proposals put up by the Chiefs of Staff with very definite priorities dealing with the three Services. But, necessarily, over the years we have to work on a phased programme, a programme that has to be looked at again and again in the light of events. The plans may contemplate that events will 596 move in a particular way and that dictates the time for a certain stage of readiness. Events may then occur which may be favourable, events which allow us to go slower, or untoward events which oblige us to accelerate. Today, we have a situation in which it is clear that we must have this acceleration.
I have been asked quite a number of questions, and the first point I make is this: that our plans are based on building up collective security Forces. We recognise, everyone has recognised, that we cannot stand alone in this matter. We have our co-operation with our friends of the Commonwealth, we have our cooperation in Western Union, we have our co-operation in the Atlantic Pact and I am asked how far we are progressing in these matters. The overall concept in the North Atlantic defence has been drawn up by the standing group and has been approved by Ministers. The plans to give effect to this concept, both the short-term and the medium-term, have been prepared in the various regional groups. These plans, giving the defence requirements and the resources available, have been welded by the standing group into a plan for the provision of Forces and the provision of material. It is now the task of the Council of Deputies which was set up to recommend how the balance of these requirements can be met. The Deputies met yesterday in London for the first time under the chairmanship of Mr. Spofford.
I say that plans have been made. I was asked whether definite plans were being made. I am not suggesting, no one can suggest, that all these plans have been fully implemented. We must have the plan to build up and fill out—
§ The Prime Minister
It has taken some time, but it is a good deal quicker than the time taken to get what the right hon. Gentleman called the Grand Alliance. It is a pity it took so many years before we got that. It is a pity we had to wait so long before we got that collective action. It was no fault of the right hon. Gentleman or of this side of the House.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman is wrong as usual. If he chooses to look at HANSARD he will see that again and again the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), the right hon. Gentleman himself and I constantly pressed for the building up of collective security. We did not get very far.
§ Mr. Churchill
The right hon. Gentleman is surely not going to try to institute any parallel between the forces at work which have brought together the existing Atlantic Pact Powers and the forces which created what I ventured to call the Grand Alliance, namely, the attack by Germany on Russia and the attack by Japan on the United States.
§ The Prime Minister
I am pointing out that in the years before the war we were trying to build up a situation in which we could secure collective security under the League of Nations. We are today getting this plan, and I was merely drawing a perfectly reasonable parallel.
May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman—he knows it so well—that in these international affairs it is no use putting the blame on one person because one does not get as far as one wishes? We have to get together with other people. But perhaps we might at all events have the credit that these bodies are now meeting. In reply to the question which I was asked by the right hon. Gentleman, we have this overall plan and we are working for it. The same applies to Western Union. The plans there have been examined and plans have been submitted by the Chiefs of Staff. The question of the integration of Western Union is now fully under consideration. Again, in Washington, their standing group is working on these plans. There are Marshal of the Air Force, Lord Tedder, General Bradley and General Ely, for the French.
The general proposals under Western Union have been accepted. The plan has now to be filled in, and, as the House knows, the President of the United States has offered to help with resources. It has not been easy. My right hon. Friend has worked very hard to try to get Western Union moving. It is moving better now, but I should be the last to deny that we have been disappointed at the slow progress that has been made.
598 The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) asked about our co-operation with the Commonwealth. The C.I.G.S. has had a very successful visit to Australia and New Zealand. We are working in the very closest co-operation and we have fully discussed and achieved complete agreement on our plans for working together in that area.
We have recently had the Prime Minister of Australia over here. We had the Prime Minister of New Zealand here last year, and we are working with all our friends in the Commonwealth on these problems in the very closest co-operation. I do not think that the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Brigadier Smyth) was right in his suggestion that there should be an Imperial Secretariat. We have not found that that was favoured by the other Commonwealth countries.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington and a number of other hon. Members rightly stressed the question of the position of the Regular soldiers, the Regular officers and the rest. It is a problem which I do not think we can easily solve just by writing down a figure and doubling it. It is not solely a question of pay. We have had a very comprehensive inquiry into pay and conditions and that is now before Ministers for consideration. But it involves not only settling just one particular set of conditions and pay. We have to have a general balance.
Our general principle has been to try to make conditions of life comparable with civilian life. There have, of course, been changes. There have been changes in pay. But it is not really very easy when we come to particular skilled occupations to say, "Now we can make the pay of that particular grade comparable with the pay in civilian life," because very likely it is payment by piece-work, and the whole thing is thrown out of gear. It is not really easy, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we are looking carefully into the whole question of pay. It is, however, not only pay; it is conditions, prospects and the rest.
A great deal has been done to make prospects much better. At the moment we could not, say, by the wave of any magic wand, get a vast mass of recruits into the Services. We want to check the backward flow and increase the flow. 599 I agree entirely with what was said by the hon. and gallant Member opposite. I hope everybody will do his utmost to assist in this matter. There are other problems. There is particularly the question of getting continuous service, longer service, from the National Service men. To get more of them to stay in for a longer period would be a great advantage. There is also the question, raised by the right hon. Gentleman, with regard to a committee in the Navy and that is now under consideration by the Board of Admiralty.
§ The Prime Minister
Yes, but I cannot at this moment give a number of details of these things. I can only assure right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that this has been a constant concern of ours. It is not an easy problem. It may not be solved just by one thing or another. It may require a number of different actions to be taken. We are resolved that we shall get the men, but I do not think it is necessarily just a question of money. We have to consider the whole aspect of life in the Services, which has been improved. It is not only money; there is also the desire to serve the country in a time of need.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me whether I could give him a little more detail of the expenditure of the £100 million. It is, of course, spread over a number of items and my right hon. Friend gave a number of instances. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman, as a rough division, that rather more than half will go to the Air Force. Of the remainder, the Army gets a rather larger share than the Navy, but I could not at the moment split it up in greater detail.
Now I come to rather more specific points. I think that the right hon. Gentleman raised the question about Halton and the apprentices. I am glad to say that, whatever may have been the position—I am not sure what the figures were—the latest figures I have got are that at Halton, out of a planned peak number of 2,000, there are now 1,860 apprentices. That is not too bad. It was lower, but it has risen in a very satisfactory way.
§ The Prime Minister
I rather think that that was possibly dealing with the matter on a term basis. I will have the figures looked up to see exactly what the position was.
Another question was raised about antiaircraft units. They are being built up, of course, by National Service men flowing in. One of the purposes to which we are devoting money is the improvement of the anti-aircraft service. There was also a question about radar stations not being fully manned. It would be wasteful to have them fully manned in time of peace, but, in the event of emergency, we could call up from the Reserve enough to man them fully.
The next question was with reference to colonial troops and their employment in Malaya. They are not exactly colonial, but we are employing nine battalions of Gurkhas and four battalions of the Malaya Regiment. As I am advised, our colonial troops in Africa are about sufficient only for the internal security services that are needed. While I know that some of the African troops did magnificently in the Burma campaign, it must not be assumed that, because people are non-Europeans, they can necessarily serve better than other troops in Asia. We keep a careful watch on this matter and take the advice of our military advisers on the extent to which we can use colonial troops, and where they can best be used.
The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson) raised a most important matter, the question of anti-submarine work and particularly the question of frigates. I think it was the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield who raised the question of Coastal Command. This battle of the submarine and the antisubmarine is one that is constantly going on, with constant technical developments. At one time, one gets the better submarine, and at another time one gets the better way of detecting or dealing with it. I can assure right hon. and hon. Gentlemen that, in the order of priorities for our scientific work, the work of countering the submarine menace takes a very high place.
Let me say, on that, that there are a tremendous number of contending claims for money, materials, and particularly for highly skilled personnel, because of the 601 application of science to every department of warfare. Therefore, it needs a very careful decision as to what particular subject should be given the immediate and greatest priority where one cannot give it all because one cannot afford to do it. I should say on this, too, that we are endeavouring to get the greatest degree of co-operation we can with our American allies and with the Commonwealth. We are doing our best to improve the quality of our weapons and, as the House knows, we are devoting one-third of our Defence budget to research.
§ Mr. Martin Lindsay
Did the right hon. Gentleman say we were devoting one-third of our Defence budget to research?
§ The Prime Minister
I am sorry. One-third to production and research. We know that Russia has made progress in this field, but I do not think we should pay too much heed to some of the alarmist stories which are being spread about, particularly by a paper called "Intelligence Digest," which is edited by a gentleman called Mr. Kenneth de Courcy. It is believed in some quarters. It maintained in its February edition that a bomb explosion, possibly a hydrogen bomb test, took place in the Soviet Union on the night of 7th January. In its March edition it said that the Soviet Union had exploded one hydrogen bomb and had two others in stock.
As to the statements of alleged fact, the Government's advisers on scientific matters have concluded that there was no explosion on the night of 7th January and it would seem to be impossible for the Russians yet to have produced the hydrogen bomb. We cannot afford to be complacent, but the dissemination of scare stories and unreliable information of this sort only helps those who wish to confuse us and lower our morale. I hope hon. Members in all parts of the House will take the opportunity whenever it offers of quashing this kind of report. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that this paper has quite a large circulation, particularly I think in the United States. It is very mischievous.
§ Mr. Churchill
It is true. I never heard it mentioned in this Debate, but the right hon. Gentleman did have a talk to me upon the subject and suggested that we should have a Question put from this side of the House. I suggested that 602 he might have one put from his own side.
§ The Prime Minister
Although I readily accepted that suggestion, unfortunately I could not get it past the Table as a Question.
It would not be right for me to leave the subject of Defence expenditure without a clear warning to the country that the part we are playing and shall play in defending the free democratic world from aggression is going to face us with difficult economic problems. We are just emerging after a time of denial and restraint into somewhat easier times and it has been possible to relax generally many of the restraints and controls which we have been compelled to use in order to protect our country from inflation and assist its recovery and enable us to contribute to the recovery of other countries.
The most satisfactory and least painful method of tackling these problems now presented to us is by more rapid increase of productivity. I most earnestly commend to the House the need to adopt every practicable method of increasing output, but it cannot be assumed that the whole new burden of Defence can be borne out of increased production. We have to transfer to Defence some of those productive resources now devoted to other tasks. We could do this either by deciding deliberately what production should be slowed down or held over, or by the unplanned method of general inflation.
That second course would frustrate our efforts to maintain a balanced economy in these new circumstances and weaken our ability to play a full part in world affairs. We should rapidly go backwards down the hill which we have been climbing so painfully. Unless there is a rapid change in the international situation it is unlikely that the increase in the actual outlay on Defence during the next few months will be so large in relation to the national Budget as to require special new counter-inflationary measures to be put into operation during that period.
I must warn the country most seriously that the more hopeful condition of a few months ago no longer rules. Even if the decisions which we shall have to take prove difficult and unpleasant, I am nevertheless certain that our people wish us to take them to enable us to 603 make our contribution to the defence of the free world. While we shall strive to maintain as far as possible our own standard of living, the new situation will clearly require sacrifices. We must see that the burden is as fairly distributed as possible, and does not fall too harshly on those least able to bear it.
In placing orders for increased armaments production, it will be our constant endeavour, wherever possible, to place those orders where there is unemployment or a threat of reduction of civilian orders, but in the conditions of full employment that exist today there is not much slack to be taken up. I can assure the House that very close attention is being given to this matter in planning this increased production.
I should like to reinforce what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has said with regard to personal service. We in this country are proud of the vast amount of voluntary service to the community which is given in so many fields of our national life. Many people in this country are not content with doing the minimum imposed by the community. They take a wider conception of their duty.
We have conscription in this country, but this should not dry up the springs of voluntary service. There is need for voluntary service in the Auxiliary Forces and in Civil Defence, and there is need for a greater Regular component in the Armed Forces. I hope that many of those who are called up for National Service will consider whether in these difficult days, when everything which we stand for is at stake, it is not their duty to serve for longer than the 18 months laid down by law and so postpone their entry into a civil career. I am sure they would not hesitate to do so if it were a case of winning a war. We are now out to prevent another war, and the need is just as great.
§ Mr. Churchill
Is the right hon. Gentleman not going to say a word on the question of whether we shall have a Secret Session tomorrow or not?
§ The Prime Minister
I thought I had already replied to the right hon. Gentleman on that. I do not think it expedient.
§ Mr. Churchill
Very strong appeals have been made by my right hon. Friend, 604 the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) and the Leader of the Liberal Party to allow us tomorrow to talk these matters over among ourselves as Members of the House of Commons. Does the Prime Minister still refuse to give any consideration to the wishes of at least half and probably more than half of the electorate of this country? Does he still intend to treat us without the slightest consideration, because if so—
§ The Prime Minister
If I can speak again by leave of the House, I would say that we have given this matter the very greatest consideration, and I do not think that to follow a public Debate with a secret Debate would be in the best interests of this country.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury and Radcliffe)
It is not incumbent upon me, I feel certain, to reply to the speech of the Prime Minister, but I should like to touch upon one aspect of defence which has hardly been mentioned at all in the Debate. We have always been taught in the modern school that defence in depth is the great thing and that at the back of all defence there must be the maintenance of stocks of food and raw materials sufficient to see this country through the great crisis which may be before it. We had a most interesting speech from the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) about keeping the shipping lines open and the risk that that may not be possible owing to submarine and other dangers.
One of the subjects of prime importance about which we should be given some information in the Debate is what the Americans call "stock-piling." There is no doubt that the financial policy and the economic situation of this country have made it necessary during the last year or so to divert to America great quantities of those vital raw materials which every country needs as the basis of its war potential in exchange for gold and dollars, and if we are to go in now for stock-piling—which I believe every hon. Member who thinks about it will 605 admit to be necessary—it is quite clear that that brings in its train something in the nature of a reversal of our economic policy. If we are to bring to this country wool, cotton, metals and rubber, of which we are going to need reserves considerably greater than those we have here at the moment, our economic position in gold and dollars will be affected thereby.
I take some encouragement from almost the last words of the Prime Minister's speech when he indicated that he at any rate and many of his colleagues have realised—though they are not willing to say it openly as yet—that this is an absolutely necessary concomitant of a realistic policy in building up the war potential behind the actual Service organisations. I asked the Prime Minister a Question about stock-piles of raw materials yesterday. He assured me—he used the word "assure"—that there was an inter-departmental committee sitting constantly to deal with that subject. That does not reassure me or others who have any knowledge of the situation.
It must not be forgotten that at the beginning of the 1939 war we had in this country very great stocks of raw material of every sort. We were the entrepôt for the rest of Europe, and Europe drew upon those stocks naturally when we were fulfilling our great function of those days. It has not been possible to re-create those stocks because of exchange control, which has made it impossible to bring them into this country and to deal freely with continental countries.
On the computations which I have been able to make as a result of spending part of my working life in the commodity world which deals with food and these commodities, I am forced to the conclusion that our position is incomparably worse today than it was in 1939. We are consuming almost double the raw materials—not quite so much in food—that we consumed in 1939, and yet our stocks of at least a considerable number of these raw materials are not equal to those of 1939.
We know that the Continent, which has been following the same economic policy as this country, is also completely denuded of stocks, and if we are thinking of Western European defence as a whole,—as we are quite rightly, at the moment 606 —it is obvious that the total stocks available to Western Europe are in a far worse situation than many people would care to contemplate if they really knew the facts. I am certain that the Prime Minister was perfectly right in not wishing to reveal the facts, and his answer to me yesterday was based on that assumption. But there was not really a need from the security angle to decline to give details and it should not in any circumstances be used as a smoke-screen to hide the reality which I am certain exists today.
We must study the size of the stocks and their position. In the new form of warfare, of which we heard the day before yesterday in the Debate on home defence, we must study the area of the structures, and the effect upon them, of certain types of bombs dropped within a certain distance of them. We shall have to consider quite new ways to store materials and to look after any stockpiles of raw materials which we may have. I would recommend the careful study by the Government of a method of storage which has proved effective on the Continent before now, particularly the storage of high explosives. That is under-water storage.
The dispersal of raw materials and of strategic war materials was undertaken during the last war at great cost when the old method of storage at the ports had proved too risky. But mere dispersal of stocks over the countryside may not be anything like sufficient at present. It is no good having stocks if they are kept in buildings which are going to fall on them so that the stocks will not be available. When the over-all plan for defence is being studied, I should like to be much more re-assured than I am at present, that there are sufficient stocks not only here, but in Western Europe and in America.
I want to be re-assured that some plan is being worked out so that we obtain and deny to others, if that can be done without going too far with sanctions, those materials without which in war-time armies sooner or later come to a stop. The Prime Minister will remember the grave anxiety which existed during the war owing to the scarcity of rubber until the American synthetic rubber production came to our aid. He will remember how close it came to bringing our whole war machine to a standstill.
607 I want to refer to one other point which has arisen from the speech of the Minister of Defence. In his realistic survey he touched on the various demands which have been made on the Defence Services in the last few years, and he mentioned Malaya. This is not the time for recriminations or for crying over spilt milk, but I do not think we should let it be forgotten that for two years before the crisis arose in Malaya, we from this side of the House, day after day and week after week, were pressing on the Government the inevitability of the crisis which was arising there. When I asked for a Debate on the matter, the Leader of the House refused it, saying that it did not appear to be necessary.
The Government cannot escape, and the country should not allow it to escape, the great burden of guilt they bear, because today a high proportion of the Army is concentrated in Malaya, and that is causing the greatest embarrassment in building up the cadres of the Services which are so necessary. The rates of pay, which we discussed this afternoon, are creating enormous hardship for every soldier in Malaya. On the present rates, if a soldier has a night off and is able to get one bottle of beer, he has had his evening. That arises because they are more or less on peace-time rates of pay. I know that the Minister of War, who was out there recently, will agree that great reform is needed in this matter. Many of those who are in the Army in Malaya write home to their friends in the Services, so that the sooner this matter is put right, the better it will be.
In the situation in which we find ourselves, nobody has touched very much on the question of Germany and her rearmament. I spent a few days last week in Germany renewing acquaintances with those whom I knew before the 1914 war, and between that and the last war, and I say to the House that we have to grasp that nettle firmly. There can be no half measures. She should be permitted in every way to play her part, with her manufacturing capacity. It spells great danger, but it is less than many dangers. I know the upsurge of hope entertained by the people to whom I spoke, and if Germany were brought in fully, and her potential used, there would be much less fear in France and 608 one of the great deterrents to the war we are all trying to avoid would have made its appearance.
§ 10.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
This, I think, is a day which historians will recall as a day of tragedy, and a day of hope. Tragic, because of the fact that such a Debate should be necessary in this generation and this age; hopeful, because this Government and its friends in other countries have taken a firm decision, once again, to defend our heritage and rights against any aggressor. There have been many speeches today, and I have listened to every one. Every speech by the Opposition has been to this effect; that there is something worse to live under than a Socialist dominated country. That, I thought, was inconsistent on the part of hon. Members opposite because they have always given the impression that nothing could be worse than a Socialist Government. But now they say that that is not the case.
I compliment my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence on the forthright way in which he presented his case to the House. The country should be given the facts of the position in which we find ourselves; there has been hope that things would improve, but those nearest to the facts knew the position was deteriorating hour by hour and day by day. The Minister of Defence told the House that we must step up our war potential. He said, in similar terms, that we must maintain our present standard of life; that we must take men out of industry to increase the Armed Forces; and that we must expect people to give part-time service in addition to all the other things that they will be expected to do.
I make no apologies for being an advocate of getting these things done, and I know of no other way to do it than to tell the people the facts and the unpleasant truth. Our people have to be told that once again the mass of them—the workers in particular—will be expected, if the country is to maintain its present way of life, to make greater efforts. They have to be told that greater sacrifice will be expected of them. Sacrifice must be endured by all from top to bottom.
It is easy to make speeches on the Floor of the House and to tell the other 609 fellow what he must do. I have listened for a long time in my industrial life to what is expected of the other fellow. Speakers of both parties have suggested that youngsters should go to Malaya and, if needed, work and slog 168 hours out of 168 to defend democracy. In the same period of time we have listened to a lot of talk about working rather fewer hours and at the same time demanding a great increase in rates of pay. I should make no complaint about that, if it were possible, but I think that the present situation demands that our people who remain at home should be asked for greater sacrifices. How is that to be carried through?
I have had some considerable experience of going into the country talking to people in the mass—which is different from talking on the Floor of this House—facing up to our own people in their places of work. If any member of any party goes to any industrial city and tells the workers the facts, then, with the exception of the Left wing few who do not want to know, it is surprising the response that can be got when our people are told the truth. Our people are good people and if they are given the facts in language which they can thoroughly and completely grasp and understand, then they will always respond.
But I warn the House that to go along to the worker to tell him that he must increase, for instance, the production of coal or increase the production of steel to maintain present exports, and then to create additional requirements to meet the potential of the armaments programme based on the profit motive, or the old idea of creating more wealth for the few, will, I am afraid, lead to disappointment for our Government. If ever there was a time when the opportunity should be taken to take over the basic industries, particularly the iron and steel industry, now is the time. If the demand is made on the steel workers whom I represent and from whom I come, I want to tell the House that they will respond at once, on the premise that it is for the good of the nation and not for the benefit of those who seek to make a profit out of war.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Does the hon. Member, from his experience of the steel industry, tell us that if we have a war we 610 shall be able to pay back the value of the compensation to the steel-owners?
§ Mr. Jones
That is not for me to decide. If we have a war there will certainly be less with which to pay compensation. There are no winners in war any more: but there is the right and the privilege to maintain things as we determine and not as the aggressor should determine. It is that about which I am concerned.
I cannot be expected to like facing war. I saw it in my youth in all its horrible nakedness when I served under the Father of the House, and I am the father of six children, five of whom served in the recent war. So I do not want to see it repeated, but I believe the only way to meet aggressive force is to be ready with the force to counter it. It is the only way, so far as I can see, that we can preserve peace. The question of how to get results is of immense importance. It demands real leadership and that our people shall be told once again the facts in no uncertain terms.
The hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) made a suggestion about what hon. Members should do during the 11 weeks Recess into which we are going this weekend, and during which we shall be regaining some of the energies we have lost in the House. He said that we should tell our people the facts. I would suggest to my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench that there is a way open to them. Those of us who are able should put the position to our people at the pit head, on the floor of the workshop, in factories and over the radio, and the House will be amazed at the results.
The nation is being asked to give social benefits, to maintain a seven-day life out of something like a five-day effort, to pay for the last war and get ready to meet a potential aggressor, all at the same time. This is an occasion when we should put country before party and make possible the heritage to which our children and grandchildren are entitled. We are as good as told that the enemy is at the gates: this country is at its best in such circumstances or when we find ourselves beset. We are a great family. I am often asked at political meetings to describe the world situation, and I do 611 so by saying that it is the same as that of a small, ordinary family. On the day of the death of a member everybody is respectful to one another, but on the day of the will being read everyone is not quite as respectful as they were on the day of the funeral. When Hitlerism and Fascism died or were supposed to be destroyed, the Allies were respectful to each other. But the will of the world is now being read: by it is being decided who shall have what, and how it is to be obtained, and everybody is not so respectful.
This is an occasion on which we should look at our job as a vastly important one. On Friday when we go into Recess nobody knows—not even our own Front Bench nor the Leader of the Opposition—what may happen tomorrow. It may be that this nation will be called upon once again to band itself together as a Christian democracy—that is important—to defend our homes, our heritage, and our rights. In that task we must not fail.
§ 11.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull)
I had some sympathy for the Prime Minister in a number of the disagreeable things he had to say. I am sure it was a bitter disappointment for him, from a party point of view as well as from the point of view of the Government, to have had to agree that, because of the international situation, there must be new priorities and all the desirable things they wanted to do must be put off, and having to say that the situation which looked so favourable a few months ago is now a thing of the past. I cannot speak for anybody but myself, but I am sure the right hon. Gentleman knows that we agree with what the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) has said about party considerations not now being important. We shall support the right hon. Gentleman in any disagreeable measures he feels it is the duty of the Government to take in the present situation.
We have had many thoughtful contributions to this Debate, but nothing that has been said today has for me crystallised the situation or summarised our fears so well as a single remark made in London last week by M. Paul Reynaud, when he said that if war was to break our now, the Russians would be at Calais before a 612 single British or American Division could land there. That is surely the very essence of our fears—the knowledge that today there is not in Europe sufficient organized, trained and well-equipped formations to stop a Russian attack for more than a few hours or a few days.
The Minister of Defence himself said that this question of the defence of Western Europe is more important than anything else. Therefore, I was very disappointed in listening to his speech not to hear anything which suggested that the Government were going to take any step which would, in fact, bring the necessary formations into being. In speaking of some aspects of our defence, he said the situation would be very much better in the next few years. But why is he so confident that we have still got a few years in front of us? He talked about our Allies and said that we could not do everything ourselves. What I am frightened of is that if another war took place, we would not have any Allies in Europe because they would be over-run in a matter of a week or two, as M. Paul Reynaud suggested. That is what causes me anxiety.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that Russia has something like 170 divisions. What have we got in Europe—we and the United States and France? Four divisions or five divisions or something of that nature? That situation is what the Prime Minister described when he said he was "not suggesting that all these plans had been fully implemented." If that was not an under-statement, I do not know what is. It seems obvious that we must have 35 to 40 divisions. I do not know what the figure is, but the Secretary of State for War will have had estimates brought to him by his Staff. Surely, if we are to hold a line, the Western European Allies must produce a force of 35 to 40 divisions. The only way to do that is by ourselves saying that we, the British nation, would provide six or eight divisions or something like that and then we may get the rest from our Allies. Nothing in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon suggested that anything like that is going to be done.
I want to say something about the grave statement made by the Minister of Defence this afternoon about sending troops to fight in Korea. I appreciate that this is a very courageous decision 613 which the Government has made because it will undoubtedly be unpopular, and I want to say straightaway that I believe it is the right and honourable decision to have made. I remember how it was said in the last war by the Germans that we were fighting to the last Frenchman, and it must not be said that we are now fighting to the last American. Therefore, I am delighted the Government has had the courage to take that unpleasant decision. The right hon. Gentleman was taken to task by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), and the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) about sending National Service men. That is a thing which we have very carefully to consider.
An hon. Friend of mine, at lunch-time today, showed me a telegram which he had received from a constituent of his—a mother who wired that her son was now in Hong Kong having had very little training as a National Service man, and she asked my hon. Friend to plead in this House that he should not be sent to Korea. I can well understand the position of that mother because like the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), if war breaks out I shall have a son in this war. Like the right hon. Gentleman, I went to the last war, and, like him, I have no illusions as to which war would be the worse in these personal circumstances if another came about.
Although, therefore, I can understand the feelings of our constituents, who will approach us on this issue of National Service men, I think we must support the Government if they do not accept the point of view that it was right for conscripted soldiers to fight in the last war but that it is not right that they should, if necessary, be sent to fight in this one. I think the whole point is adequate training, and in no circumstances must National Service men be sent abroad to fight in Korea or anywhere else unless they have had comparable training to that which Service men had in Britain in the last war before they were sent overseas. If the Government, through lack of planning and through having let the Services get so out of balance, are forced to send soldiers with inadequate training to fight and die in Korea, then the people will have every cause to be very wrathful indeed.
614 One of the things which impressed me more than anything else in my life was the great shock of astonishment which we, and I think everyone in the world except possibly the Germans, felt at the speed with which the French Army was defeated in 1940. For years it had been thought they were safe behind the Maginot Line. I have no doubt that our people would be equally astounded if they found that in the course of a few days a Russian Army had reached the Channel ports. I believe our people today are sheltering behind a kind of mental Maginot Line in the knowledge that we have conscription in peacetime, that we are spending so many thousands of millions on defence, and have been doing since 1945, and with the sight of so many people going about in uniform, and the knowledge that we have pacts and arrangements with our Allies on the Continent and with the Unied States. They have no conception at all that these grandiose phrases like that of the Prime Minister about "collective security forces," and those of the Minister of Defence this afternoon such as "military associations," are absolutely meaningless without the necessary trained and organised groups to make up these forces.
The first task of the Government is to bring home to the people the mortal peril of the present situation, and that in fact there is absolutely nothing today to stop a Russian attack except the fear of the atomic bomb. I believe the first thing the Government must give us is complete frankness, truth and leadership. In my opinion the Government today, just as the Government before the last war, are not in front of but behind public opinion. I remember how in 1939, even 1938, the ordinary Englishman made up his mind that it was necessary to stop Hitler, as he put it in all simplicity, long before the Chamberlain Government and the Labour and trade union movements were prepared to risk what they quite mistakenly thought would be grave unpopularity to be incurred by military conscription.
And I remember how splendidly the Government were supported by the people when the lead had been given. The ranks of the Territorial Army were doubled and the ranks of Civil Defence were filled. I have not the slightest doubt that, when the Government give the necessary leadership, the same spirit of sacrifice and service can be evoked in the best of all 615 causes. But I must emphasise that the first prerequisite is that the Government really show that they mean business. The first thing they must do is to tackle the home front. Today we have heard a graver statement than I ever thought to hear in this House when I entered it. Today, the Government announce, supported by the House of Commons, that they are going to send young men to fight and die in Korea.
That is the situation, and I think that these young men who go forth in the best of all causes should be entitled to know that the home front is safe. They are entitled to know that their children, brothers, and sisters are not going to be indoctrinated by Communist school teachers, that their friends are not going to be influenced by Communist propaganda, with almost Government approval, with the "Daily Worker" openly published and sold in the streets. And they must be convinced that their ammunition and supplies are not going to be sabotaged.
I believe that the first thing the Government must do to show that they mean business is to do what has been done in the United States, South Africa, and Australia; that is to tackle the Communist problem on the home front. It is not good enough to allow our training colleges for teachers to be largely in the hands of the Communist Party. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] The evidence is there. I will give it with the greatest pleasure. Evidence has been given in the greatest detail to the Minister of Education, and I and my hon. Friends will be delighted to supply the information. I believe the Government must tackle this situation. I believe that, more important still, they must lose no time about putting the Army and the R.A.F. in a state of readiness. We have to have more infantry and armoured divisions, many more squadrons in the R.A.F., and more units of the Fleet in being. Nothing less than that will be required.
I had intended to say something about pay and conditions, but those points have been covered already. The sum of money required to improve Service pay, a matter of 15 or 20 million pounds, is negligible if it gives us greater security. Coming as it does out of a Budget of over £3,000 millions, it is a tiny price to pay to give security to our people. So long as we 616 continue to neglect our Defence Forces the British nation is in terrible danger. I wonder if there is anyone in this Chamber now who will confidently assert that we will be here—or anywhere else—in two or three years time conducting the business of the nation.
I agree with the noble Lord the Member for Horsham who said in the country last Saturday that the pre-war House of Commons bore a great responsibility for the fact that the British Army was defeated in the early parts of the wars of 1914 and 1939. The responsibility for the 1939 period is on the shoulders of my party. I do not mind admitting that I feel a sense of shame when I consider that period of our political history. At this time the position is different. I would remind hon. Members opposite that in those days we did not have the support of the Opposition when we were wanting to introduce conscription and take the other steps we thought necessary. This time responsibility is clearly on the shoulders of hon. Members opposite for the fact that we have done too little, too late, for too long.
The Government have now no fear of the political consequences, because they will have the support of the Opposition in all the unpleasant and unpopular measures they feel it is necessary to take. In view of that, I hope that the Government will at long last rise to their responsibility, confident in the knowledge that our hopes of peace are proportionate to our capacity to resist, and that whatever sacrifices they ask of the British people, they will not ask in vain.
§ 11.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
I have listened to most of this Debate and must confess that its tone has left a deep gloom on my mind. It has been said more than once today that we are at war once again. We have a war on our hands already in Malaya, and now we are told we are engaged in a war in Korea as well. That must bring sadness to the hearts of men of good will and all hon. Members of all parties in this House, I am sure. Two or three things have been said in the debate which intrigue me very much, but before I come to that, let me say that the war situation on this occasion is unique. Hitherto wars have been fought between nations, sometimes one nation against another, sometimes one 617 group of nations fighting against another group. This time, however, a world organisation has declared war on one of its own members. That is a new phenomenon in the history of mankind.
What is pathetic to me is that this is the second attempt of mankind to set up an international organisation to keep the peace—and the new organisation established to keep the peace is now at war. I am a little astonished that anybody can believe that war can settle any problem, when for thousands of years nations have waged wars and hardly any armed conflict has settled anything satisfactorily at any time. The last war is a classical example of the failure of the use of force to settle our problems.
Let me come to some of the statements made by the Minister of Defence. One that touched me was that he had made arrangements with employers and trade unions to help him in mobilising the Fighting Services if the emergency arose. I think I am the oldest trade union official in the House, and some of us will have something critical to say in due course about the use of trade union organisations for mobilisation purposes. Another statement he made that frightened me was that we cannot afford to lag behind in bacteriological and chemical warfare preparations. It is a tragic state of affairs that a British Socialist statesman should say that at this time of day.
But I was offended beyond words at the statement made by the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt). I utterly dissociate myself from his speech. When he reads his speech tomorrow morning I hope he will do something to disown the foul statement he made, which was to the effect that we must take steps as soon as possible to use the atom bomb. I trust and pray that this country to which we all belong—and we are all patriotic, to whatever party we are attached—shall not use the atom bomb at all.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
When my hon. Friend pointed to me just now and spoke about what the hon. Member for Aston said, will he make it clear that the hon. Member for Aston is an entirely different person.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I must apologise to my hon. Friend. I felt sure when I made 618 these statements that I carried his sentiments with me. As it happens the hon. Member for Aston when he spoke sat where the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) is sitting now.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
The words the hon. Member used with reference to the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) were that the hon. Member for Aston said he wanted to use the atom bomb as soon as possible. I heard the words of the hon. Member for Aston and although I disagree with most of what he said, it should be stated that he said "as soon as possible after the outbreak of war in Europe against the Soviet Union."
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
That surely is very much the same thing in the end.
Another statement common in this Debate is that, in effect, we are not only fighting aggression but Communism in Korea. Some such sentences as that were uttered. As one who knows America probably as well as most, let me say, without offence to the American people, that I believe the British Government in joining with U.N.O. in Korea are definitely fighting aggression. I am positive in my own mind on the other hand that America is fighting Communism. That is quite a different policy.
§ Squadron Leader Burden (Gillingham)
Is it not a fact that if there were no Communist forces in the world today there would be no aggression, and that it is Communism which is causing the aggression that is being resisted today?
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman lives a little longer he will learn that it is not Communism which has always been the aggressor. The Tories have been aggressors, Liberalism has been an aggressor, and on occasion Socialism may be found as an aggressor too. It is not Communism of itself that is wrong—
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I have given way once already, and perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to deliver my own speech in my own way.
We are not dealing with Communism, but with the evil activities of Communists, which is a different proposition. Nobody in this House opposes totalitarianism 619 more than I do. Nobody opposes the tyranny of the Communists more than I do, but one thing is certain—the spread of Communism cannot be prevented by war. As a matter of fact, Communism is the child of war. How many remember our own military adventure in Russia in trying to prevent Communism coming into its own. We spent £100 million of British money in order to prevent the Communists achieving power in Russia and failed ignominiously. We sent British troops to Russia in 1919, but that did not prevent Communism.
The approach towards Communism as a political philosophy is different entirely from sending troops to try to stop it. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Frederick Elwyn Jones) put his finger on the spot when he said that we would have to raise the standard of life of the common people everywhere, because poverty, misery and destitution are the breeding grounds of Communism. And if our own nation spends much more of its substance on wars and drives our people down to poverty, as is likely to be the case, we must not be surprised to see Communism growing in this country either.
As I said, war settles nothing, and it matters little who wages war. There are some people who would condone what the North Koreans have done in using force against the South Korean Republic. I object to that. I object to the use of force for civil war purposes. Then there are others who would not mind a Russian peace in Korea; others want an American peace, and some even wish for a British peace to emerge from this conflict. I want a peace that will not satisfy in particular any one nation. I want a peace that will suit the common people everywhere. I often wonder who is responsible for creating this hatred among the nations. I was very proud of one thing the Prime Minister said just now—there are by far too many falsehoods told the people about Russia and its military strength.
If I know anything at all, it is that the power of a nation to wage war depends not upon its size and the number of men it has for fighting purposes but, in the end, upon its steel and coal production and its mechanical skill. Consequently I should imagine that the Russians will 620 know now that if they come in conflict on a major scale with the Western Powers, including America, they are bound to fail. I will add another point. I am as certain as I stand here—and I have stood here a few times—that totalitarianism, whatever name it gives itself, is bound to fail in the end because human nature will not stand tyranny for all time. The seeds of its own destruction are embedded in the totalitarian conception of government at all times.
Some hon. Members have complained that we are not getting enough volunteers as Regular soldiers, and they blame the soldiers' low pay for that. That is too easy an escape. Hon Members must really understand that the people of this country are too near the last war to join in another conflict. If governments will have wars, they must at least give a chance to a new generation to emerge to be befooled into the next horror. There is no war spirit in this country; that is why men do not join the Forces voluntarily.
I should also like to say to those who deal with military affairs and the Fighting Services that they may compel young men into the Forces but it does not always follow that they will fight. Remember what happened in France in the last war. The French Army did not fight although there were millions in military uniforms. Even if we put people in uniform I am not sure that they will fight. As I said, our people are too near the last war and the destruction that was caused, to be enthusiastic about Korea. Some people imagine and argue that war is more justified now because it is waged in the name of the United Nations organisation. War as an instrument of policy does not enhance its character merely because it is waged by an international organisation. It is still war and still causes misery, death and lunacy.
We have a group inside the Labour Party who still believe in the ideals upon which the Labour Party was founded. There is one thing which prevents my being very friendly with the majority of the members of my own party on militarism. I was born too early and have lived too long. I was there when the Labour Party was formed. There had previously been no Labour Party in any part of the country, and the gospel which I have been trying to preach in 621 the House of Commons and outside is the gospel which made the Labour Party possible. If the speeches about war delivered nowadays from these Labour benches were uttered 40 or 50 years ago from public platforms, there would have been no Labour Party.
Our peace group inside the Labour Party may be small in number, but I am sure that we represent a considerable section of the community—I do not know how many: perhaps a million, two million, three million or even more maybe. If I summed up their point of view I believe this would be their declaration of faith. At any rate, it is mine. I hope the House will be good enough to listen to this declaration: "We are of the opinion that war as an instrument of policy, whether waged within a country, by a nation or by a group of nations, cannot settle anything satisfactorily. It leaves in its trail more problems than it sets out to solve. It dislocates industry, commerce, economy, shipping, and finance, and leaves death, injury, poverty, lunacy and misery, upon untold millions of innocent people. We therefore implore the leaders of all nations to abandon the use of force in the attempt to resolve their quarrels and pursue peace with the same energy as they are prepared to destroy life and property."
To some hon. Members that may seem to be a negative proposal. Let me say, in conclusion, that one thing above all which has to be done in this world it to "de-bunk" war. That is what I am attempting to do. It may be that it will take hundreds of years to do that. It may take thousands of years before mankind will rise and tell its leaders that those individuals who make the quarrels, must do the fighting themselves. Then, and only then, shall we enjoy permanent peace.
§ 11.36 p.m.
§ Captain Ryder (Merton and Morden)
At this late hour of the night we have heard many speeches and points of view. We have discussed long-handled hoes in Indo-China, and the statue of President Roosevelt in Grosvenor Square. It is difficult, therefore, to produce any startling, new ideas. But, if I may, I will cast my humble contribution into the pit.
I should like to follow on the remarks of the hon. Member for Westhoughton 622 (Mr. Rhys Davies). The gist of his remarks, as far as I can understand, was that he was against war. I think he will find that there is profound agreement with him in this Chamber. But the fact is that no one, so far as I have heard, has suggested that we should go to war. In fact, what we are suggesting is ways and means of avoiding a war. We feel that the best way to avoid war is to put temptation out of the way of the aggressors whom we know exist in this world by making sure that our defences are in a secure state.
If I may speculate on the intentions of the men in the Kremlin, which, we all feel, differ vastly from the desires and hopes of the other people in Russia, I think we would find that there are two schools of thought. There are those who would urge Russia to attack the West now, while she is weak and before she has time to build up her forces; and there is the other school of thought which would counsel a more cautious programme, a process of long drawn out attrition.
That is the process typified, perhaps, by the present action in Korea. By such a process trouble can be stirred up without much expense to the Soviet Union, and it is a very exhausting and debilitating process for the economies of the democracies. By carrying out and continuing this process they will hope, in the course of years, eventually to wear down and disrupt the economic set-up of the Western world. This is a theme which is dear to the hearts of many Communist writers.
For my part, I believe that that is the course which Russia is most likely to pursue. Our task is the difficult one of guarding against both eventualities. If we plunge recklessly into a costly rearmament programme, or into mobilisation in part, we may be doing exactly what our opponents desire; it will bring about, in the course of years, the disruption of our internal affairs in this country so that they can then come forward, with skilled agents and saboteurs to damage our economy from within. I have never subscribed wholeheartedly, nor do I at present, to the view that it is the atom bomb alone which will hold the Kremlin in check at the present time. Russia, with her large spaces, has the ability to disperse her military potential 623 more than any other country and can afford to take the risk in this matter.
But the Kremlin must be conscious of the fact that, not for the first time in the history of the world, the great land Power has found herself opposed to the great maritime nations of the world. Napoleon and Hitler both came within an ace of winning, only to be cast down in the final round. Russia is fully aware that in dealing with the powerful maritime nations she is up against forces which she dare not challenge at the present time. The problem for us to face is to take full advantage of this, and try to improve, in every way we can, the security of this island without over-burdening our own financial and economic resources.
With that in mind, I cast around to see what can be suggested. I turn first to the defence of Western Europe, and here I would ask whether the Government, and other people in the country, are convinced in their own minds, and are sincere in all that is said about the defences of Western Europe.
In this connection, how can we afford to quibble about Spain and Yugoslavia? Do we really intend to hold Western Europe, or are we accepting the possibility that we may have to defend the Channel and rely on some Dunkirk operation to get our men home? After all, Spain—the mention of which sends cold shivers down the spines of many hon. Members opposite—and Yugoslavia, are countries which occupy vital strategic positions. Let us remember that fact. The peninsula of Spain would vitally affect our whole maritime strategy if we found ourselves in the hour of need, and especially if we discovered that the people of that country had turned against us and allowed the enemy in.
Then again, there is this question of Germany, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher). Is it our intention to hold Germany or to let her, by our actions, almost force her people to join with the other side? It is a serious consideration. The time has come for us to weigh up the risks, and these, of course, include the possible resurgence of Nazi Germany on the one hand, but on the other is the almost inevitable consequence of Communist domination of Germany.
624 It is a very awkward and unpleasant choice, but I believe that our best hope is to lend all the support we can to the present democratic forces that are endeavouring to keep Germany on the right road. After all, is it suggested that British lives should be sacrificed in defending Germany while the Germans themselves look on? Or even in the meantime, while we strain and burst our economy in some re-armament programme, the Germans should be permitted to wax rich and prosperous? I think if we face these matters we must be forced to the conclusion that we must lose no time in trying to get all the countries in Western Europe who are prepared and willing to do so, to stand by our side and to face the far greater deluge that may descend on them from the East.
When we consider our own affairs here we are faced at once with the question of financing these measures, on the one hand, and providing the manpower, on the other. Why not therefore consider more seriously the prospect of a Foreign Legion? It has been suggested before. Hon. Members in many quarters view such a prospect with doubt, but surely it would be better to take every opportunity rather than needlessly expend our own manpower. It is no new thing. The French have employed their Foreign Legion with great success. We employ our own Gurkha regiments of which we are justly proud. Cannot we have some thing in the nature of a Foreign Legion? We have many foreign refugees on our own soil now. I therefore suggest that this proposal should receive consideration.
I have mentioned ways in which I feel that we can greatly increase our own security in these islands and at small cost to this country. I do urge the Government to give their unbiased and unprejudiced consideration to these matters at this urgent time. I do not subscribe to the view that war is either imminent or inevitable, but there is a great danger that if we cast aside and neglect the various possibilities such as I have mentioned, we may drift into war and that we may provide a source of temptation to the aggressors in the East. What is needed above all else, at the present time, is a leader who will not only unite this country but will unite the free peoples of Europe and who will inspire them with a new spirit 625 of vigour and determination to hold their ground. Only this country, I feel, can provide the leader—but where is the leader?
§ 11.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Keenan (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
The hon. and gallant Member will forgive me if instead of taking up his remarks, I refer to what was said earlier by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). I have always respected his point of view, but I think he is wrong. So far as I can see it—and I speak as one who has been an anti-Imperialist—had his attitude obtained in the last war, Hitler would have won. If it obtains in this, Stalin is "past the post." to use a racing term. We have to get down to the problems confronting us, and one of the things I want to have a word about is the question which has been so much talked about, of manpower.
A lot of what has been said today on the remuneration that the Serviceman should get has a great deal of truth in it. I have always been of the opinion that the man who is in the Services, in normal times as well as wartime, is entitled to the same rate of pay or a similar rate of pay with the industrial worker. He is entitled to that, because of the risk that is taken. As a matter of fact, if he were paid upon risk in a war period, he is entitled to more. What I am more concerned about is the fact that we do not seem as a nation to face up to this position in spite of our experience.
What is the position at the present time? Because of full employment, we have had to have a conscript Army. One of the things which worries a great many people is that conscription is not fair all round. In this crisis it is being suggested that the National Service man's period of 18 months' service should be extended to 2 years, or more. What about those who have done no Service yet? Who are they? They are those who are likely to go into the professions and who, later, get the benefit of being in better occupations and greater salaries than the unfortunate individual who belongs to the working class family and whose parents cannot afford to give him any additional education beyond what is now the ordinary grammar school.
They are the people who have to go into the Armed Forces, and they will do 626 the extended period. Before we allow that, we ought to do something about roping in those who have escaped up to now. We are a bit loose in allowing one section to escape as against another section. I suppose I shall not please a lot of my hon. Friends on this side with what I intend to say now, but the fact is that, because of our manpower position, we are not strong enough to be able to man our Services. We are short of manpower in this crisis.
We are visualising the United Nations preventing the onward march of the Soviet Union. We are—in my opinion, foolishly—considering the question of what we may be called upon to do on the Continent. I want to ask the Government whether they think it is at all possible at any particular time to defend Germany if Russia decides to go into Germany? We are not able to defend Germany, and if we wish to prevent the onward march of the Soviet Union and the spread of Communism, which we visualise as the great danger of our time, we are not in a position, and neither are the French, to oppose the Russians without the help of the Germans.
The time has now arrived when the Governments, and the French Government in particular, should make up their minds on what is to be done with Germany. There is only one way to prevent the onward march of Communism in Europe and that is, in some measure, by arming and training the Germans so that they shall be in a position to defend themselves. I do not think there is any other way. Although this suggestion may offend the French people—and I was never too happy about them for they did not do too well in the last war—we must face the position because the forces of the United Nations in Europe are in no position to defend Germany. If we do not want to see Germany become, in effect, part of the Soviet Union, we must do something on those lines to keep her as a free nation of Europe.
Let us be frank about the Korean situation. The hon. Member for Westhoughton and others have already made the point that the peoples of the East often accept Communism, or do not oppose it. Everyone who takes an interest in the East knows that the 627 peoples of Korea do not care very much who is running the show. The same can be said of China. As I understand it, there was nothing particularly likeable about the South Korean Government, and the people there are indifferent. If we expect a response from these people whom we feel we want to protect, we have to do something more than has been done.
As far as the situation at home is concerned, I think it is well to remember the lessons of the two great wars when appealing for the co-operation of the people. Something has to be done about the Services. Do the Government intend to stop the profiteering that went on during those wars? Are we taking the measures to stop it? Are we proposing to re-impose wartime controls which, in some cases, should never have been taken off? If we expect the response from the workers we have got to do better than last time. We are worried because the cost of the Services today is something like £780 million, yet we are paying two-thirds of that towards the National Debt which arose as a result of previous wars. If we have to enter into another war, as is not unlikely, at what figure will the National Debt stand at the end of that conflict? It will run into thousands of millions.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman must not suggest the repudiation of the National Debt. That would involve legislation, and would not be in order.
§ Mr. Keenan
I did not suggest the abolition of the National Debt. I wish I could, but the fact remains that it is there. All I am doing is pointing out that if we slip into another war there is bound to be a great additional burden on the National Debt. As a result of wars in the past, £1 in every £8 the Treasury collects goes towards the reduction of the National Debt. That is not a nice burden for the people who survive wars.
I want to endorse what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) said about merchant shipping. There ought to be great preparations for their protection because we were in a bad position in the last war when we were not able to protect merchant shipping for a long time after it 628 started. Look at what would happen if we got into greater difficulties now. The Government has got to see that profiteering stops if we are to depend on the workers to respond to the call.
I am under no illusions about it. The people I represent recognise quite clearly that if we are not able to preserve our free democratic institutions, the future is not worth while, and for those reasons I want the Government to profit by the mistakes made in previous wars, and prevent exploitation and robbery of the people by those making profit out of war. What occurred in the first great war? One Liverpool shipping firm, and I am sure some other firms did as well, in the last war, started with 11 ships, lost 12, and finished up with 13. That was the Moss Line.
I am very glad to have had the opportunity of speaking in this Debate. I hope the Government will take the nation more fully into their confidence than they have been taken before, so that the people will appreciate the difficulties. I have no doubt that in the great struggle that confronts us, there will be a response from them. We must not discriminate between one class and another. The time has arrived, in my judgment, as I thought in the last war, when the men in the Services and the men at home should be on a par. There should not be high rewards on one side, and low ones on the other.
§ 12.5 a.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
I do not want to follow the hon. Gentleman in great detail. He seemed to me like the gentleman complaining of the funeral arrangements while the rest of the house is still trying to revive the corpse. That is what we are trying to do tonight, to see that the necessary steps are taken to prevent war. The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) described what the dangers are—on the one hand, the danger of a continuation of what may be called the lukewarm war, and on the other the danger of the outbreak of total war. Some of the problems that face us today are different from those that faced us in 1939; on that I would agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. The first thing we have to consider is to what length the national economy can be used. The second is manpower, not 629 merely manpower in the mass but the use to which it can be put effectively in the field.
The Minister of Defence was somewhat over-optimistic when he said the immediate availability of the fighting troops on our side was greater than that of the Russians. Their gross numbers are greater, and they can make more effective use of them per man in the field than we seem to do. The ratio of fighting troops to supply troops in the Russian and other Eastern armies seems to be more efficient than it is in the Western armies. The third thing we have to bear in mind more than in the last struggle, is the paramilitary and civilian potential which exists in other countries for resistance movements, for rescue and sabotage work, and for espionage personnel. That is bound up with the problem which faces us of how much money we can afford without falling into the trap of overspending, and so pulling down our standard of living below the point from which recovery can be made.
Whether the war remains as it is, lukewarm, or whether it should develop into a hot war, the fact remains that in Europe, and I believe elsewhere, there are large areas and large groups of people who can be of great assistance to us. Not only ourselves but the Russians have weak areas on the periphery. Looking at the whole of the Eurasian land mass occupied by Russian forces and satellites, there are weak areas where troops and races are spread over the satellite States, over which the Russian Army, so large and so un-homogenous, cannot be entirely easy. Any further expansion this empire may attempt, will obviously bring its difficulties, and they can be exploited.
Whether we in the West remain on the defensive or go on the offensive, we must be able to know what goes on, and have better information than we had in the past, and also to make use of those occasions which can be exploited and, if the worst comes to the worst, make use of those fierce, anti-Communist forces which exist in Europe and elsewhere. If war is to come, there is no question that the Government would set up this type of organisation, but there is a grave danger that if it is left too late, we would get the overlapping we saw in the last 630 war, the sort of private armies and waste of manpower which went on. There would be the danger of unco-ordinated activities by specialised troops which again we saw in the last war.
I should like to give some examples to show how important it is to have this type of organisation prepared if we are to deter aggression. In the last war we saw people dropped by parachute into the same area, to the danger of each other. This was because of bad coordination between departments. On the German side, we saw the confusion which grew up between the semi-secret forces commanded by Konaris and those commanded by Himmler. We also saw in Germany the complete collapse of the much vaunted "Werewolf" because the organisation had not been effectively prepared beforehand. All these things take time to prepare.
I believe we have this type of organisation in hand. The personnel have been contacted, plans are being made and the equipment necessary has been set apart. This type of activity does not need any fresh sort of equipment. A great deal of it is simple and defies the usual claim of obsolescence which is the terror of military departments. Of course, it cannot claim such high priority as more obvious forms of warfare and for that reason it is all the more important that plans should be prepared now. We have in this country men of considerable experience in these matters, and the material is there. I ask the Government, though I cannot expect an answer—as we are apparently not going to have the Secret Session which I believe to be so necessary—whether recruitment is being made. On the international level, I hope some steps are being taken within the Atlantic Pact and between ourselves and the other Commonwealth countries to see that this type of organisation is being set up. One individual at the right point on Russia's huge periphery may do more damage than 50, with an expensive administrative tail elsewhere.
It is obvious that certain secrets cannot be shared, yet a wide range must exist in which there can be a pooling of resources, manpower and even of intelligence. In the past most of our active workers in this type of work were of Communist persuasion. This time we have to see that new groups, political, 631 religious or patriotic, are contacted. All this has to be prepared some time ahead. If there is a commander-in-chief for European forces, it is vitally important that he should have a staff officer responsible for this type of activity just as in the same way, at home there should be an officer responsible to the commander-in-chief, if such is to be appointed, or to the Minister of Defence. These things can be of importance, and the functions undertaken will be similar though probably more widespread than the functions undertaken on the last occasion.
These troops should be formed in a special corps in the same way as we have the Intelligence Corps. Perhaps it might be as well to make it a special operations branch from the point of view of morale, because executive officers would find greater scope and see more of a career inside such an organisation. It was not always under the aegis of the Intelligence branch, which is constantly changing and has about it not sufficient permanence.
Within the broader framework of defence, these few ideas which I have put forward may seem to play a minor part, but this aspect should not be regarded as a burdensome and expensive frill to the national battledress. The truth is that, as in April, 1940, we shall have to make use of such expedients and of such forces as exist which would be a deterrent to a country and an Empire which knows that in itself it is not entirely safe. The men in the Kremlin would not sleep so soundly as they are doing now, if they knew that such forces existed.
A friend of mine interviewed Marshal Tito the other day when there were troop movements on the Yugoslavia frontier. He asked Tito, "What do you think of this?" and Tito said, "In a war of nerves you have to find a nervous subject." It is absolutely vital that we should not be a nervous subject, but should have the power to make other people feel nervous. On the most pessimistic assessment of resistance to any possible Russian invasion, and even if M. Reynaud's gloomy predictions be fulfilled, that it may be less than was offered to the Germans, we will show violence, bitterness and mercilessness. Such fierce reserves 632 of strength must not be allowed to perish unvailingly.
There are three considerations of defence today. The first is speed, the second is economy in manpower, and the third is economy in materials and expenditure. These few ideas I have put forward may be of value, and I very much trust that such things are afoot. Perhaps more consideration should be given to them than seems to have been given. The time has surely come when we should wrest the monopoly of trouble from that country which seems in the world to be our chief opponent.
§ 12.15 a.m.
§ Mr. McKibbin (Belfast, East)
In the 1914–18 war and again in 1939 the men and women of Ulster played their part both in the Services and in the workshops without conscription. I might add that the Ulster Government asked for it in 1939, but it was refused. Now that another crisis is looming ahead, do not the Government consider that it would be an appropriate time to apply conscription to Ulster? I have two reasons for asking this. The first is that I consider that it is unfair that one part of the United Kingdom should be exempt from the burdens borne by the other parts, and I believe that the majority of Ulster men and women would agree that all parts of the United Kingdom—
§ Mr. Speaker
I suggest that the idea of applying conscription to Ireland would involve legislation. While we may discuss what the Government are doing, we cannot discuss legislation, for that is out of order.
§ Mr. McKibbin
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I felt that if the men who served in the last war voluntarily and are now in the Class "Z" Reserve were called up, it would be very unfair to them if there is no conscription and the people who are not conscripted, can go in and take their jobs. However, as the matter is out of order, I have no more to say.
§ 12.22 a.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
I regret taking part in a Debate so late as this, but I felt bound to do so, because for many years I have been seeking an opportunity to say the things which I feel have got to be said now 633 that the critical hour is striking. We are all speaking on the assumption that war is at hand—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO."]—yes, that war is actually with us, that our men are in Korea and are going in greater numbers to Korea, that they will be dying there shortly and that we shall have taken the decision by which these dreadful things must happen.
I am quite certain that hon. Members who have made their decision have done so from the best of motives, but I hope they will listen to me when I say that I think a great mistake and wrong may again be committed. After having the opportunity of considering what war will mean, after all that we have told ourselves—not merely what the Communists have told us in so-called peace demonstrations—after we have told ourselves what destructive elements we have now unleashed in the world, again to risk war in this situation surely calls for the very strongest protests from benches accommodating the party of Keir Hardie and George Lansbury.
I heard the last, and dying, speech of my old friend, Alfred Salter, in this House when he pleaded on the basis to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) referred just now, that he should be able to go to the country on Christian grounds to make an appeal for men to take part in the struggle. Lansbury used to say that, on Christian grounds, it was no longer possible for men to take part in struggles like those we are contemplating. After all, if we are to talk about Christian grounds, we might at least remember that the Founder said that "those who take the sword shall perish by the sword" and that "it is better to make peace with thine adversary quickly whilst thou art in the way with him." And indeed, when He gave that advice, He became more minatory in His terms than was usual with Him, for He said that if we did not do these things we would be "handed unto the judge and the gaoler and be cast into prison," and that we would not come out therefrom until we had paid, on the terms that we all know.
We know what we paid as a result of the last war. Although Hitler is dead, we know that we failed in the last war to end the horrors against which we struggled. At this moment we are actually talking about unleashing in Germany 634 again, the militarism against which we were fighting, with no guarantee that if in Western Union, we build up our armed forces, as many are telling us to do, we will not again give strength to the very men and conditions against which in the last war we were presumably fighting.
When shall we learn that wars do not secure the fine moral purposes which men set before themselves in war? The hon. Member for Rotherham referred to the Christian philosophy. I am glad that he did, although his interpretation of it differs from mine. But I think it would be a good thing if, before we make a final decision on this matter, those of us who think in terms of Christian philosophy would consider again whether there is not still an opportunity to tell the Russians, as we tell ourselves, that there is no good purpose to be secured down the road along which they are travelling.
I would say to the Communists in this country who are holding demonstrations for what they call peace, and are signing petitions against the use of the atom bomb, that they should tell the Russians in Korea to get back behind the 38th Parallel, or, at any rate, to take some equivalent action. Surely we may assume that the Communists of Britain would be better heard by the Russians than a Labour Member of Parliament. An hon. Member opposite laughs; but at any rate, I am not prepared to let off the Communists from their responsibities. If they talk peace, if they say that they stand for peace, let them tell the Russians that it is their duty to do what they can to draw back the North Koreans from the crime which they are committing. But while I say this to the Communists, I say the same thing to the Americans. I say to Mr. Truman that when he said the other day the conflict is now against Communist, he showed that the Americans are entirely lost in the struggle through the use of such an expression.
Communism is an idea—a bad idea—and it is not to be fought by the sword. It is to be fought by ideas which are better than Communism. I re-echo the claim of one of my hon. Friends tonight, that if we can go out more vigorously in Asia, sacrificing our own welfare to help these people, we shall do far more to checkmate the growth of Communism than if we resort to arms in the way we 635 are considering tonight. I ask the House to think again before, finally making decisions, and to remember the voice of Him who, in His Sermon on the Mount, said, "Blessed are the peacemakers"—and I am prepared to believe that this House is filled with peacemakers—"for they shall be called the Children of God."
§ 12.30 a.m.
§ Mr. P. B. Lucas (Brentford and Chiswick)
If I do not follow the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson), it is indeed because I want to address myself very briefly, for the hour is late, to a most important aspect of our military affairs, namely, training. I believe that my remarks, although applying mainly to one Service, may well have some certain application to all three Services combined.
It is with the training of aircrew and navigators in the Royal Air Force that I am primarily concerned tonight. I do not believe that in a future war it would be possible to undertake initial flying training on any appreciable scale in this country. If we were again to come under continuous air attack in all its modern and most hideous forms, I take the view that to operate our radar defences satisfactorily we should be unable to allow any but the most essential flying to take place. I am quite sure that those of us who had the experience of the last war must agree that some degree of operational training flying must take place in this country; but I consider it would be essential to conduct the greater part of our flying training abroad.
It would appear to me that the North American continent, including the North and Central Atlantic, would be the most suitable theatre for this purpose both from the point of view of strategy and convenience and on account of all the facilities which could there be made available. I consider this the most satisfactory area for training, although I admit that I have no knowledge of the attitude which the Americans or, indeed, the Canadians, would adopt if the Royal Air Force approached them with regard to training its personnel on their soil. But certainly, from the visit which I paid last year both to the U.S.A. and to Canada, I formed the opinion that there is now so much goodwill towards us on that vast continent that some such arrangement 636 might well be acceptable both to the Americans and to the Canadians. If that is so, then a start should be made at once to transfer some proportion of our flying training activities to these two countries, or at least, to one of them.
Two or three years after the late war we could take comfort in the knowledge that, although the majority had left the Service, we still had a considerable reserve of battle-trained navigators and pilots available in this country for an emergency; but here we are five years after the end of the war and only a very small percentage of that reserve can now be regarded as potential aircrew for an immediate emergency. The majority must now be considered too old—odd though it may seem—to meet the rigours of aerial warfare in modern high-speed aircraft.
If we were called upon at short notice in this country to mount or withstand air attacks on any considerable scale, we might well before many months were out find ourselves in difficulties over our reserves of aircrew. Therefore, I submit that, subject, of course, to most delicate agreement, we should now decide to begin training R.A.F. pilots and navigators in the North American theatre. This plan could be of modest size to begin with, provided, of course, that it was capable of immediate expansion if the emergency arose. If we wait till the supreme emergency arises—if indeed it does arise—it may well be too late. Time is not on our side.
I was privileged to be one of the first of those who were sent from Britain to Canada in 1940 to learn to fly under the great Empire Air Training Plan. In this capacity I was able to appreciate not only the worth and the immense possibilities of this enterprise, but also to understand the more easily the difficulties which must at the outset attend any such scheme.
As all now know, it took us some while to get that plan working. We were fortunate then in having been given a breathing space to get over our teething troubles before the irresistible flow of aircrews began. Next time we may not be given similar opportunities. It is therefore essential, in my submission, that we should not only set up now the machinery for such a plan but also, provided 637 good arrangements can be made, get it going at once.
Let me end by expressing concern on one more point. I am sure it is generally agreed that in any consideration of Defence the security of this island should be paramount in our minds. Anyone who saw that quite remarkable display of flying by the R.A.F. at Farnborough a week or two ago must concede that in quality both of aircraft and aircrew we certainly have no superior and perhaps no equal in the world. But in our endeavours to develop a modern, high-altitude, jet-propelled Air Force, are we really paying sufficient attention to our peculiar and particular requirements of defence at low altitudes?
I raised this matter in the Debate on the Air Estimates and I do so again tonight, because I was not satisfied with the answer I then received from the Government. I have no doubt that in certain circumstances, anti-aircraft guns are the answer to this problem, but they are not wholly the answer. We must also have aircraft which are capable of high performance and satisfactory duration—that is the point—near the ground. Everyone knows that at low altitudes the duration of jet-propelled aircraft becomes a limiting factor in their operation. I hope, therefore, that in our future planning we are giving enough thought to this question of low-altitude defence, for I am sure it is essential to the security of this island which, I submit, must be our first concern.
§ 12.39 a.m.
§ Squadron Leader Burden (Gillingham)
The House must have been impressed by the sincerity of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) but I think he was quite wrong, as are so many of the hon. Members opposite, in assuming that this country wants war. This country does not want war: it is doing everything possible in order to avoid war.
I was rather surprised at the laughter and the annoyance apparently caused on benches opposite when one of my hon. Friends on this side made certain statements regarding Communists. In view of the sabotage admitted recently by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, I feel that we can take absolutely no chances with Communists in this country holding any positions in which they can cause damage to this country's war effort and 638 its policy on rearmament. The country received some fair indication of the fact that the Government were, at least, on the right lines by the statement of the Minister of Defence on Saturday last, when he said:I regard it my duty to carry this task through however unpopular it might be, if only I am given a square deal.I think I can assure the Minister of Defence that he will most certainly get a square deal from this side of the House and, in fact, in this Debate I think he has received far more support from this side of the House than he has from some hon. Members on his own side. I consider the embarrassment to the Government's declared policy today might well come, not from this side of the House, but from hon. Members on his own side. I suggest to those hon. Members opposite who have taken a line which is quite different from that which the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister have considered necessary, that it is their duty to pause again very seriously before they go out into the country and decide what they shall tell the people of this country. At this time it is in the interests of the country, and it is their duty, to endeavour to unite the country behind a policy which will set this country on the road to sure defence and, I believe, to sure peace.
Korea has brought the United Nations into action as a law-defending agency, and its failure, I believe, would make World War III inevitable. I, therefore, believe the country would accept with acclamation the fact that the Government are intending to send a force, if it be only a token force, to Korea to show that we stand fully behind the United Nations and the United States in this resistance to aggression. The time has now come for Britain to give the lead in Europe. This Debate was instigated by the Opposion and not by the Government, or it would not have been held and I think the country would decide tomorrow that, in pressing for it, this side of the House was right in view of what has been disclosed today. This has given the country a lead, and, I believe, it is the lead which not only this country but the countries of Western Europe and other nations have been waiting for; and this show of strength by the democracies might be a first step towards reaching that accommodation 639 which is so necessary if the drift towards World War III is to be halted.
I have been delighted today to hear hon. Members press for a review of pay and allowances and for new terms of service because the Regular peace-time force is a skeleton on which full-scale mobilisation is built. Today the skeleton must be stronger than ever before if it is to carry the tremendous strain to which it will be quickly subjected if we are called upon to protect ourselves from a full-scale attack.
Skilled Regulars in many branches of the Services are leaving without signing on because they are dissatisfied with the terms of service. I am told—it may be an exaggeration, but I believe there is a good deal of truth in it—that the chief petty officer (writer branch) of the Navy is likely to be 90 per cent. down on establishment at the end of 1951 unless there is a halt to men leaving at the end of their service.
I suppose we may take some encouragement from the indications that the Government are aware of this position, but it is essential that the Minister of Defence should produce the scheme for new pay and allowances and terms of service quickly. I believe that a considerable amount of apprehension was caused on 19th July when the Secretary of State for Air, in replying to a Question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) said that it might be weeks. It is a matter of extreme urgency, and I hope that the Government will face it, and produce the scheme with speed. No useful purpose is served by telling men in the Services that they are better off today than they were some years ago. If it is a question of pensions, that is vehemently denied, because their pensions purchase far less than they did at the end of the war.
It is the present and future we have to face, and it is a fact that men of high technical skill are leaving the Services because they can get better jobs outside, and men of high technical skill are refusing to go into the Services because the terms of Service do not compete with those they can obtain outside. It is essential, if we are to maintain our Services, at the high standard of technical skill which modern weapons demand, that 640 that matter should be put right at the earliest possible moment. This applies as much to officers as men.
Then there is the point I raised by Question on 25th July that the substantive rank of lieutenant-colonel in the Army cannot be reached, except in very few cases, until the age of 43, whereas in the R.A.F. and the Royal Navy the comparable rank can be reached at 35. Quite apart from the discrimination which Army officers consider has been made against them, it is essential that the fighting battalions should be led by men in the full flower of youth, and certainly men of 43 are not as capable of leading men into battle as men of 35. That is a point which must be looked into by the Government. When men are coming out of the Forces one point that is very strongly in their minds is the idea that they are too old at 40. The Government should look seriously into the question of guaranteeing jobs for all long-service Regulars at the end of their normal service life, particularly in the nationalised industries.
There is considerable disquiet at the apparent decline in the value of the Intelligence available to the democracies. There was apparently considerable difficulty in obtaining accurate Intelligence in Malaya, and the same is true of Korea. We are entitled to ask whether our own Intelligence services are all that they should be. I hope we shall receive an assurance that if it is necessary to step up and improve it, it will be done without delay. It is a fact that successful defence depends largely on an accurate estimation of the enemy intentions and the forces he may have available. It would seem that American Intelligence in North Korea apparently failed to obtain this information.
Are the Government satisfied that our Services chiefs will have a constant supply of good Intelligence from the possible flash points during the critical months ahead? Are they satisfied about the East German police, about the movements in Hungary? Is the Middle East threatened? I also ask the Minister whether technical Intelligence teams have gone to Korea to examine the material captured from the North Korean armies, and so make available to our own service chiefs and armament manufacturers the lessons that can be learned from it. [Interruption.] I 641 know something of that from the last war, and I can inform hon. Members opposite, who seem to find it amusing, that a great many lives are saved by knowing the weapons your enemy uses and learning the lessons you can from them.
I believe one of the most important points to be that of technical Intelligence. I am sorry hon. Members opposite do not seem to like this Debate going on, but I have been waiting a long time to speak and is supposed to be an important Debate. I would say, finally, that if we show that we are strong and determined, and that we intend to defend our democracy with everything we have, I believe that eventually we shall step along the road towards peace and understanding with Russia which appears now so far away.
§ 12.53 a.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (Ayrshire, South)
I do not wish to prolong the Debate and I can understand that hon. Members want to go home; but I would remind the House that recently we have waited here all night discussing Amendments to the Finance Bill—I remember being here about 23 hours—while Members of the Opposition moved Amendment after Amendment, the main purport of which was to see that shareholders in iron and steel companies gained proper compensation. When the lives of men are at stake, I think the House should have patience and that every possible opportunity should be given for debate.
I want to add a little to what I tried to say in an interjection during the speech of the Minister for Defence. I protest most strongly at the idea of National Service men being thrown into the struggle in Korea. One hon. Member asked whether I objected to Regular Service men being thrown into Korea. I do. I also object to young Americans being thrown into Korea. I do not believe that there is going to be in this country the acclamation which the hon. Member who has just spoken said would greet the decision of the Government. Things in Korea are taking a very different turn from that which they were taking when the Prime Minister announced his decision the other day. It is only a month since President Truman said at his Press conference, "This is not a war, this is a police operation." I do not know whether this is a 642 police operation or a war, but we are face to face with a great military campaign. The United Nations now say this cannot be handled by the forces of the United States, and we have to send a token force.
I can understand the point of view of the hon. Member who said that conscripts sent to Korea must have adequate training for modern war. How is it possible for conscripts to be adequately trained for modern war and sent to Korea in a few weeks or months? I ask the House to face the fact that there may be a long, bloody struggle in Korea, and that this may mean that we are being involved not in a police operation but in a war which is going to lead to a conflagration over all Asia. I do not share the view that this is a police operation. I protest with as much power as I can at the decision to send young British conscripts into this struggle.
Mr. Garner-Evans (Denbigh)
Does the hon. Member not object to young North Koreans being sent into the struggle?
§ Mr. Hughes
Certainly, both North Koreans and South Koreans. When the first despatches came from Korea at the beginning of the war, in one of the Sunday papers it was stated by an American officer that the South Koreans went into battle only because they were forced to go by military police. I believe that is going to be true of all forces in this war. The British soldiers to be sent to Korea do not understand these international niceties at all. Their lives will be jeopardised in the maelstrom of war. If there is all this desire to go to war that hon. Members talk about, why not trust to volunteers? They know that they cannot get volunteers to go to Korea. The soldiers will fight because they fear the military police, just as the South Koreans do.
I want to warn the House about the situation in Germany. I have travelled a good deal in Germany during the last two years and I was there only a month or two ago. Among the people whom I met in Germany there was no enthusiasm at all for this rearming of Germany. Ask the German Socialists, the German Social Democrats and trade unionists: they are against going into another war. Dr. Schumacher, one of the bravest men who 643 ever defied Hitler and who lost an arm and a leg in Hitler's concentration camps, said, when I asked his opinion about German rearmament and the mobilising of German youth in a struggle against Communism, "No, we are not doing anything to throw German youth into another war."
We cannot wage a war against Communism in Europe by military means. The trade unions in France are Communist and we cannot ignore that fact. I was talking to a French Socialist Member of Parliament at Whitsuntide, and he said, "We are now only the intelligentsia; the working class in France are Communist." For hon. Members to talk about mobilising the West against Communism is a sheer delusion. If this struggle breaks out, what we shall see will be the titanic convulsions of civil war.
One hon. Member has spoken of a capital levy. If a capital levy and the wholesale nationalisation of industry without compensation are not Communism, I should like to know what Communism is. The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke), objects to Communism, but he has been all his life in a Communist institution. He does not realise that the Army is Communist; but, of course, it is. In the Army a man does what he is told. He is under military discipline and he has no freedom of thought at all.
There has been talk about fighting Communism. What is absolutely inevitable, immediately there is mobilisation and organisation for war, is the worst kind of Communism—military Communism. Once we get into the bog of military Communism, I do not know how we are going to get out of it. We are going to have more controls, more nationalisation without compensation, the disappearance of all sterling balances, and the disappearance of the capitalist system. Never was there any greater delusion than to imagine this country as participating in a great crusade against Communism.
When the party which I have worked all my life to return to power, realise the implications of this issue, they will know that they have no solid backing behind them in the country. It means guns before butter, the sacrifice of the social services, and lining up as a Coalition behind the right hon. Gentleman the 644 Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). Those of us who are making a protest at this late hour are doing a service to our movement, to the country and to the international Socialism which alone is the hope of the world.
§ 1.2 a.m.
§ Brigadier Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
I am sure the House will excuse me if I do not follow the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes) on the question of Communism. I wish to talk once more about the pay of the Regular soldier. It is strange that it takes a crisis like this to make Hon. Members opposite agree with hon. Members on this side that the Regular soldier needs more pay if we are to get more into the Army.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Is not the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware of the fact that conditions in the Services have never been better than under this Government?
§ Brigadier Clarke
I have never heard such a ridiculous statement. I have served for 20 years, and I have never been worse off in my life than under this Government. To say that the soldier is better off under this Government is entirely untrue. We must, pay the Regulars in the Navy, Army and Air Force a great deal more if we are going to get others in—and not only pay them more, but provide better conditions. We must look to pensions. I am not thinking now of the officers, but of the other ranks, because unless something is done about their pensions, they will not continue in the Service. I will not say anything more now about pay and conditions, because I believe that we will now get something done, seeing that hon. Members opposite are with us on this matter.
I turn to the question of equipment. It was strange to hear the Minister of Defence today saying that he was all for having more equipment for the Army. He stated that we must have it He knows as well as I do the state of the equipment of the Army. I am not going to tell the House about it, but the Minister knows about it. One thing I would like the Secretary of State for War to look into is the accommodation stores. He knows, and I know, that the huts for soldiers who are called up do not exist. The windows are broken and the floors have gone out of them, and 645 when he looks for beds for these men he will not find them. This is not giving away anything to Russia; it is merely trying to see that the soldier is a little better off when he is called up.
Accommodation stores are very scarce. They have been like that for two years. The Government have been warned about it, but every time we have been told that the Government are not in favour of having reserves. They have sold every single reserve of war equipment upon which they could lay their hands. War equipment has been their biggest export, bar whisky, since they came into power. If only they had ploughed back some of that money by buying modern equipment for the Army, we should be in a better condition today. We finished the war with ample equipment, but it has all been sold. This Government will go down in history as the Government which had to be goaded into doing everything. They were goaded into giving us petrol, and now they are being goaded into giving us a Regular Army.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Committed to a Committee of the whole House for this day.