§ 3.47 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. Shinwell)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Statement on Defence 1950 (Cmd. 7895).We propose to spend in the coming financial year the sum of £780 million on defence. Naval expenditure will be increased by £3¾ million, largely attributable to new production; the Army, although carrying the heavy burden of the cold war, will spend about £6 million less; the Royal Air Force, in recognition of its increasing strategic importance and of the vital role which it plays in the defence of the United Kingdom, will cost roughly £15 million more; while on the defence side the Ministry of Supply is allotted an additional expenditure of £7 million.
These large sums are necessary despite the application of the most stringent economies. Expressed in the shortest terms, our policy is to reduce manpower without detriment to the striking power of our forces, but to spend more in research and new production, recognising the need for priorities as between one Service and another.
It is right that the Government and our military advisers should submit their proposals to the test of constructive criticism. Hon. Members are entitled to the assurance that the maximum benefit is derived 1265 from this substantial expenditure on defence. I shall, of course, listen with respect to criticism from any quarter, accepting it in the spirit of a common concern to safeguard the country. When defence is under consideration there is no room for party manoeuvres—the issues are much too grave. While the responsibility for national defence is the Government's, they need to be sustained by the knowledge that their policy rests on a broad basis of popular approval.
A review of defence policy compressed into a fairly short speech must omit many items—often important—about which hon. Members desire information. I should, therefore make it clear that, in this review, I shall not deal with the individual Services. There will be ample opportunity to raise questions affecting those Services as the respective Estimates come before the House. Accordingly, I propose to concentrate on the more general aspects of defence policy.
The House is familiar with the discussions at Dumbarton Oaks in 1944 and San Francisco in 1945 from which the United Nations emerged. If our expectations had been realised, the Government would not now be making provision in Estimates for defence expenditure totalling £780 million. This figure represents some 7½ per cent. of our national income. We seek no conflict with any other nation or nations. Our policy will, therefore, continue to be based, so far as possible, on seeking peace and security through the international machinery of the United Nations, through which we have sought, among other matters, to obtain agreement for the international control of atomic weapons.
Unfortunately, we must face the unpleasant fact that progress in this field has not kept pace with our desires and that, failing agreement on collective security, there is no alternative but to pursue our object by other means. We have gone a long way towards achieving this in association with the other members of the Commonwealth, with the countries of Western Europe and with the United States. The Western Union Defence Organisation paved the way for the wider association of the twelve Powers of the North Atlantic Treaty which has now become the keystone of our defence policy. To quote the White Paper: 1266Defence policy is based on the assumption that we should not stand alone in resisting aggression.Substantial progress is being made in military planning to translate the concept of integrated defence of the North Atlantic area into practical measures intended to deter any potential aggressor. Hon. Members will realise the limitations imposed upon me in disclosing fuller information. The burden of secrecy is not ours alone, but is held in common with our friends and Allies. However, I can say that, under the vigorous leadership of their first chairman, the U.S. Secretary of Defence, Mr. Louis Johnson, the North Atlantic Defence Committee have made considerable progress with their tasks.
In October last my predecessor at the Ministry of Defence attended the inaugural meeting of the Committee in Washington, the main purpose of which was to determine the organisation to be set up. Two months later, in Paris, the military staffs brought forward for approval a strategic concept for the defence of the North Atlantic area. Since then, progress has been made in translating that concept into actual plans, in assessing the forces required for their implementation and in surveying all possible measures for co-ordinating and integrating the production effort of the signatory Powers.
I shall shortly meet my colleagues of the North Atlantic Defence Committee at The Hague for the purpose of reviewing all this work. We shall then have before us a picture both of what is required and the contribution which each nation expects to be able to make. We shall also know something of the deficiencies and will be able to discuss ways and means of making them good.
In this context I should inform the House that the Government have decided to mark the high importance they attach to our representation in Washington by reviving the separate post of Chairman of the British Joint Services Mission, theo holder of which will also become our representative on the Standing Group of the. North Atlantic Military Committee. The House will learn with pleasure that as from next month this post will be filled by Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Tedder, who has unrivalled qualifications 1267 for this task, involving at it does cooperation with French and American colleagues at the highest level.
One of the most immediate results of the progress being made under the North Atlantic Treaty is the generous programme of military aid which the American Government are making available to their associates in Western Europe, including the United Kingdom. As a result of the treaties signed in Washington on 27th January last, the 1,000 million dollars appropriated by the Congress of the United States becomes available to strengthen the defensive power of the European signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty. It is no secret that one of the greatest needs since the war ended has been to build up the armies of our Continental Allies, and therefore the major share of American aid will go to assist these countries in the efforts which they are making to re-equip their armies.
The United Kingdom expects in the first year to receive a substantial number of B. 29 aircraft. My right hon. Friend the House further information about these the Secretary of State for Air will give aircraft when he opens the Debate on the Air Estimates next week. In addition, we hope to get from the United States some assistance in the form of raw materials and machine tools for production of munitions in this country. We gratefully acknowledge this help from the United States.
I should like the House to recognise, however, that, relative to our resources, we in the United Kingdom have already substantially helped our Allies both of the Brussels Treaty and the North Atlantic Treaty, and it may be convenient if I deal with this question before I turn to the purely domestic problems of defence expenditure. Large quantities of military equipment have been transferred by the United Kingdom since the end of the war to North Atlantic Treaty countries often at substantially reduced prices. As far as the Brussels Treaty is concerned, even more comprehensive measures have been undertaken. In March, 1949, the Brussels Treaty Consultative Council decided that the Western Union Powers would each make an additional effort in the production of military equipment required for their common defence purposes.
1268 The basis of the scheme was that the weapons and equipment most urgently needed for Western Union defence would be manufactured by the member countries best capable of producing them. At this time we were on the eve of signing the North Atlantic Treaty and we had in mind that this additional production effort would constitute a good foundation for the planning of Western European defence within the framework of the wider treaty. The existence of this commitment is the prime reason why—even at this time of great financial pressure—the Defence Estimates show an increase over those of last year.
The effective test of the worth of any association or alliance is whether the parties to it are willing in the common interest to make some sacrifice and extra effort to ensure the attainment of its objects. Western Union presented us with such a challenge. We could not in reason expect our associates to make greater efforts for defence unless we ourselves were willing to give an earnest of our sincerity. In the face of the dangers which had brought about the establishment of Western Union, the Government were convinced that it was right that we should at this time, in common with France and the Benelux countries, initiate an increased production programme.
The resulting increase of defensive strength cannot fail to play its part in bringing nearer to realisation greater stability in international affairs. Should such a result be achieved, a reduction in the burden of armaments may then become a practicable proposition.
§ Mr. Shinwell
It is against this background that I turn to the problem of the general pattern of the U.K. Defence Forces in the year that lies before us. We retain, as do all the countries now joined with us, the full discretion to determine for ourselves, in the light of our resources and commitments, what Forces to maintain and to decide the nature of the contribution we can make to the common cause. But, when deciding the shape of our own Forces, we naturally must take into account the contributions made by others.
Here let me remind the House that in our approach to this difficult problem we 1269 must always bear in mind that the U.K. has world-wide responsibilities which must be sustained. Indeed at the present time it is these responsibilities that press most heavily upon us and which present difficulties in making a radical approach to the problem of adjusting the shape and size of the Armed Forces in the next few years.
The burden of our responsibilities throughout the world falls most heavily on the Army and, as a result, we have forces widely distributed overseas. We have therefore been unable to create, to the extent we should like, in the United Kingdom the balanced formations which are desired. But it should not be overlooked that in all the overseas theatres our Forces are engaged in intensive training in some cases under very arduous conditions.
The House is aware that last year the Government were presented by the Chiefs of Staff with an exhaustive review of the problem designed to bring into harmony our responsibilities, manpower and national resources. It is on the basis of the proposals then made that the Government have framed their Estimates for the year 1950–51. One of the factors brought out by the review was that, with war-time reserves coming to an end, a much bigger share of the budget must be devoted to equipment, although there could be some reduction in manpower. It would be a delusion to attempt to maintain Forces which could not be adequately equipped with up-to-date weapons. Therefore the Government had no hesitation in deciding that a greater proportion of our defence effort should go into production of equipment and also into research.
The second main result of the review was to underline the difference between the current roles of the three Services which affect priorities in relation to their needs and our resources. It is clear that the Army, on which falls the main burden of occupation duties and cold war operations must to some degree postpone the expenditure of its available funds on measures of re-equipment that will mature in future years. The Navy and the R.A.F. on the other hand must prepare now for the future development of their maximum defensive and offensive strength.
Thirdly, the review has enabled us to shorten the administrative "tail" of the 1270 Forces by pruning maintenance, training establishment and headquarters staffs. Considerable economies have been effected in this way, and I can assure the House that in this coming year the "teeth" of our Forces will be sharper and the "tail" will be much shorter. We simply cannot afford to divert men to duties that are not a necessary part of their training. In the Army every effort is being made to avoid the performance of routine duties of a domestic character. Whenever possible we propose to turn over these barrack housekeeping duties to civilians and to intensify the military training. That is also the object in the other two Services, and I give the House the assurance that I will carefully examine any evidence that can be produced to show a continued misuse of manpower.
We are determined that the country shall get full value for the large expenditure on defence. But sweeping generalisations about extravagance in the Forces will not help. When there is evidence of waste I promise the House that it will be vigorously corrected.
There is one comment I must make in passing. Hon. Members must recognise that under modern conditions, with the increasing complexity of equipment, there is no valid comparison that can be drawn with pre-war days, let alone the period after the First World War. Maintenance of equipment demands workshops on a much more generous scale than before, while technical developments in air forces require the building up of R.A.F. and Naval Air Arm ground staffs and services. Men so employed are not wasted, nor is it possible to strengthen the front line by raiding these services.
This review has undoubtedly been of great consequence for the well-being of our Forces, and I should like it to be known that it has afforded a convincing demonstration of the possibilities of securing, under the direction of the Ministry of Defence, co-ordinated and balanced planning by the three Services in co-operation, thus promoting, what is our principal objective, an efficient defence organisation. I do not pretend that we have made all the provision that our staffs would like—still less would I claim that we have reached finality. Our plans will require constant adjustment as 1271 new factors present themselves, and I intend that the study of our defence preparations should be progressive and that further changes shall be made as circumstances require and opportunity offers.
I turn now to the problem of manpower, with special reference to our Regular Forces. We have at present about 420,000 Regulars and recruitment is at the rate of about 50,000 a year. This is a substantial figure, but it does not meet our needs, and I regard the task of improving the rate of Regular recruitment for the Army and the Royal Air Force as one of the most important that we are called upon to tackle. The problem is not an easy one.
Attractions of civil life in conditions of full employment undoubtedly operate against us both in recruiting and in obtaining re-engagements and extensions of contracts of service. In some quarters it is urged that there is a simple solution to the whole problem by substantial increases in pay. Even if such a step were desirable at the present time, I doubt very much whether it would achieve the results claimed by those who advocate it. Many other factors are of equal importance.
First, there is the question of the conditions under which a man serves and the amenities which he can enjoy as a regular member of the Forces. The intensive character of training plays a big part in sustaining morale, and this is fully recognised in all three Services. Housing, particularly for the married man, is certainly a major problem. At the end of the war, there was a grave shortage of married quarters and much of the barrack accommodation inherited from the past affected adversely the contentment of the Forces. These things cannot be put right overnight but, as the House is aware, we are making a real attack on the problem. The last Parliament passed an Act giving the Service Departments borrowing powers for the provision of married quarters in Great Britain, and we intend to make full use of those powers. There will be an energetic drive to provide additional married quarters overseas.
Other important factors are that a man should have reasonable prospects of a career while in the Service and a chance of getting a good civil job when he leaves in which he can use his acquired skill. 1272 All three Services are at present engaged on a thorough examination of their trade and career structures. From these examinations we may expect proposals to emerge first for training and organisational changes designed to make the most effective use of available manpower and, second, for the provision of suitable careers which may succeed in retaining in the Services on long-service engagements, many more experienced Regulars than at present. In both these ways the size and quality of the Regular content of the Forces can be improved; it is not simply a question of improved recruiting.
As regards resettlement in civil employment, good work has been done by the Ministry of Labour and National Service in placing discharged men in civil jobs as is shown by the figures given in paragraph 26 of the White Paper. We are, in fact, engaged upon a comprehensive examination of life in the Services in all its aspects in relation to the current problems of Regular manpower, recruitment and re-engagements. Only from such an examination can the right answers emerge. I give the House an assurance that we shall devote to the problem a scale of effort fully commensurate both with its great importance and its difficulties. But I must utter a warning that there is no simple solution.
Whatever measures are taken, however, to attract Regulars into the Forces, it would be optimistic to expect, especially because men on short-service bounty engagements will be leaving the Forces in substantial numbers over the next few years, any dramatic improvement in net regular strengths. Accordingly, the commitments which have to be met demand the making up of the numbers required by National Service men. In addition to providing a reserve of trained manpower the National Service Scheme meets a vital present day need.
Nevertheless, there has been some argument about the application of National Service. It is suggested that the scheme is too rigid and involves our accepting a larger quota of men than the Forces really need because the whole yield in a particular age group has to be absorbed. The figures contained in paragraph 27 of the White Paper should finally dispel this notion. It is simply not true that at the present time there is an embarrassing surplus of men available.
1273 At the same time, I admit that, if it were practicable to take fewer men for a longer period, that might suit the convenience of the Services—it would certainly save money on training overheads, transportation and the like. But the convenience of the Services is not the only test of the soundness of a measure. We have to deal justly between man and man. The suggested ballot would not, in my judgment, be acceptable, especially if it were introduced so that those on whom the choice fell were required to perform an even longer period of service than 18 months, while those who escaped could follow their civil careers without any impediment.
National Service will be supported by the people of the country only so long as they believe the system to be necessary in the national interest and fair in its operation. Should there be a significant change in the world outlook, radical adjustments of the system might be considered, and in any event the whole position will have to be reviewed when we consider the extension of the present Act beyond the end of 1953. But at the present time, as the House must agree, the existence of National Service is not only necessary to meet our responsibilities but is recognised as clear evidence of our firmness of purpose and readiness to play our full part with our allies in the defence of our common interests.
In the course of 1950, the Auxiliary and Reserve Forces will begin to receive the first National Service men who have completed their whole-time service and will for the next four years be under the obligation to keep themselves efficient as part-time Reservists. In this development of the trained Reserves behind the Regular Forces we shall begin to achieve one of the primary objects of the National Service Scheme.
This year will, therefore, be a most important stage in the development of National Service in this country and the Services—the Army and Air Force are particularly concerned—are fully alive to the importance of the occasion. In the Navy, part-time training will be carried out either in H.M. ships, at barracks or at technical establishments as appropriate. In the Army, National Service men will be fully integrated with the volunteer element of the Territorial Army and Supplementary Reserve. In the Air 1274 Force, part-time training will generally be carried out at R.A.F. stations and will be linked with the Air Force training carried on there.
National Service men in all Services will be encouraged to undertake a greater training liability than that laid down in the National Service Act by volunteering —as the Act permits—for the various auxiliary branches of the Forces.
I cannot stress too highly the importance, if we are to derive the fullest benefits from the scheme, of further building up the numbers of volunteers in the Auxiliary and Reserve Forces. Volunteers have come forward in the past 12 months in good numbers, and all who have willingly given their services to the nation deserve our thanks. But we are still a long way from the target, and Members on both sides of the House could assist me by using every opportunity to make the needs of the Auxiliary and Reserve Forces widely known.
I must now speak on the problem of equipment. This has two aspects—research, with which I include development, and production. It is fundamental to our defence policy that we should devote to defence research the maximum effort. This is because technical superiority in weapons and equipment from guided missiles and aircraft through the whole range of warlike and non-warlike stores, may well, should any future struggle occur, prove decisive.
The main projects on which our scientists and technicians are engaged are the development of atomic weapons, jet bombers and fighters, including preliminary work on aircraft flying at speeds greater than the speed of sound, the development of turbo jet engines, guided missiles both for offensive and defensive purposes, radio and radar developments chiefly for the improvement of anti-aircraft defences, continued work on infantry weapons and artillery and also the design of advanced types of tanks.
In the field of naval research, the highest priority is being given to the development of anti-submarine devices and equipment. Under the general direction of the Defence Research Policy Committee, this work is being carried out by the scientists and technicians of the Ministry of Supply and Admiralty both in their own establishments and through 1275 private firms. Machinery has recently been set up to help the interchange of technical information with our Western Union friends with the object of avoiding duplication and overlapping of effort.
The Commonwealth countries are being invited to a meeting of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Defence Science in this country during the summer for discussions on a wide range of subjects. All this research and development work is of the highest consequence to our defence potential, and I am convinced that we should continue to treat research for defence purposes as a top priority.
The House will expect me at this point to make plain our position with regard to the atomic bomb, and here I speak of the problem purely in its military aspects and not in its political aspects, which are the concern of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.
We cannot, and do not, ignore in our defence planning the appearance of this new and terrible weapon nor its more deadly development, the hydrogen bomb, which now appears to be within the range of scientific development. We know that Soviet Russia has made progress more rapidly than at one time seemed likely; we also know that the Americans have continued to develop the industrial technique as well as the basic scientific knowledge required to improve on the bombs used in the last war and at Bikini. We ourselves, within the resources which we can allot to the task, are following our own programme.
But no one can contemplate this activity without the most sombre apprehensions as to where it may lead. Yet no solution lies in refusing to face the facts or in failure to measure up to the probabilities of the situation. I can, therefore, assure the House that the Chiefs of Staff in their strategic planning are giving full weight to this new military factor. Beyond that I cannot go today.
The main increase in this year's Estimates provision will he found under production and research which will cost an additional £34 million, and we shall devote practically £250 million or a little under one-third of our expenditure to those items. We can no longer draw equipment from accumulated war-time stocks, and we must face the formidable 1276 task of bringing into use the latest types and patterns of equipment available.
The cost of re-equipment is bound to be heavy. Items of equipment which were in use in 1939 and are still in use—for example, small arms ammunition—have increased in cost by as much as 200 per cent. But most items have also increased in complexity. Let me give the House some illustration of the way costs have risen. A heavy tank, for instance, which cost something like £18,000 before the war now costs twice as much. A.A. predictors cost five or six times as much as they did in 1939. It is difficult to compare such items as fighter aircraft because the types are different, but the Meteor and the Vampire cost 2½ times as much as the Hurricane and the Gladiator; the modern bomber is proportionately even more costly.
Perhaps I might add—in parenthesis—that, in an entirely different field, rates of pay and marriage allowance of other ranks have gone up by about 75 per cent. over 1938 and this increase applies to forces 80 per cent. stronger in manpower.
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. A substantial part of our production expenditure is devoted to the reconditioning of existing equipment and normal maintenance. New production for the Forces will include the production of jet fighter aircraft for the Navy and the Royal Air Force while the new Army provision will be mainly for A.A. equipment, tanks and non-armoured vehicles for front-line use.
The Navy will also proceed with the conversion of submarines to fast battery drive and the conversion of destroyers to escort vessels, as well as with conversion and modernisation of aircraft carriers. My Service colleagues, in presenting their Estimates to the House, will, consistent with security considerations, enlarge upon these programmes.
In addition to production for ourselves we shall, of course, in the coming year continue to make warlike stores available on repayment to friendly countries in the Commonwealth and elsewhere, in particular by way of supplying modern types of fighter aircraft to Western Union 1277 countries. There is some criticism of this proceeding, but the House should realise that exports of jet aircraft have not reduced the numbers available for the Royal Air Force. There is a limit to the amount of money which the Air Force can spend on equipment; while they do purchase large numbers of jet aircraft, they could not afford to buy the full output—
§ Mr. Shinwell
From ourselves. I should have thought that that was familiar to the right hon. Gentleman. We produce them.
§ Mr. Churchill
Why could the Royal Air Force not afford to buy from another Department with money voted by this House, the aircraft which that other Department was selling?
§ Mr. Shinwell
For the very simple arithmetical reason that it would mean an increase in our Estimates, and we cannot afford it. I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman was aware of that. Now that that is clear, and the right hon. Gentleman has been enlightened, I can proceed. Perhaps I had better repeat it for the enlightenment of the House.
I say there is a limit to the amount of money which the Air Force can spend on equipment; while they do purchase large numbers of jet aircraft, they could not afford to buy the full output, and, unless overseas sales were permitted, there would be no option but to cut down production. Overseas sales—I would draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to this very vital element in the situation—help to maintain a flourishing aircraft industry and keep up our defence potential. They make in many cases a valuable contribution to our export trade and thereby assist in our economic recovery. Moreover, in the hands of our Allies and friends, these aircraft represent a strengthening of our common defensive arrangements.
Any review of our defence position would be incomplete without some reference to our close relation in all defence matters with the countries of the Commonwealth. Canada in the past year has become a signatory to the North Atlantic Treaty, and there is thus a formal 1278 relationship established. But the less formal character of our liaison arrangements with the other members of the Commonwealth is no obstruction to the development of full co-operation and consultation with them.
During the past year we have certainly made progress with the countries of the Commonwealth towards the close working partnership on defence matters which we regard as our goal, and we shall continue to study matters of mutual concern as they affect the different members of the Commonwealth in different parts of the world. We shall also continue to meet to the maximum possible extent, requests for assistance in building up the Fighting Services of the other Commonwealth countries. There is, in addition, a constant flow of officers and other ranks of the three Services on loan, on exchange or on courses among the Commonwealth countries.
The problem of Colonial Forces has also been receiving close attention. As with the United Kingdom forces, financial and economic considerations limit severely the local forces that can he maintained in the Colonies. The resources of many of the territories concerned are so limited that they are unable to afford even the scale of forces required to ensure their own internal security, and assistance has to be provided from United Kingdom funds. Moreover, in determining the size of local forces to be provided, regard has also to be paid to the needs of Colonial development and welfare.
A compromise solution has to be sought between the claims of defence and of economic and social development, and this compromise affects both the allocation of resources by the Colonies themselves and the nature of the assistance which is provided from the United Kingdom. With these factors in mind, planning has been proceeding in close consultation with Colonial Governments, and good progress has been made.
Let me now summarise the main elements of the defence plan on which we shall be proceeding in the year that lies ahead.
First: we shall continue with our Allies under the Brussels and North Atlantic Treaties with the closer integration of our defences—this may involve adjustments and, where such adjustments are shown 1279 to be necessary in the common interest, the United Kingdom will readily respond.
Second: we must continue overseas to maintain the British Forces which are indispensable to security. This is a heavy burden falling primarily on the Army, and it must be recognised that for the time being at any rate it retards the creation of formations in the United Kingdom.
Third: we must continue to give the highest priority to defence research, including research into atomic weapons, and must increase our production of modern equipment. In this productive effort we shall give priority to equipment for the Royal Air Force and the antisubmarine forces of the Royal Navy.
Fourth: we shall seek to build up the Regular strength of the Army and the Royal Air Force by every means open to us, while maintaining National Service as an essential feature of our plans, both for the performance of current obligations and to provide for the build-up of the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces.
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, Northfield)
Does my right hon. Friend still accept the view that if it were possible to obtain the total number of men required by voluntary recruitment—which he has explained it is not—he would desire to go back to a system of voluntary recruitment?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am bound to say that is a hypothetical question to begin with, and I cannot deal with a hypothesis. It is a question which cannot be replied to in a simple form, and I think it is rather a matter for debate.
The defence policy that I have outlined to the House is, in many respects, a compromise. In present circumstances, it could not be otherwise. It represents a balancing of conflicting factors—of short-term against long-term needs—of what is theoretically desirable against what is economically possible. No Minister of Defence can, in existing international conditions, be satisfied with the resources at his disposal. But, with such resources as are available, his task is to ensure that the maximum benefits in terms of defensive strength are provided for. To that task I propose to address myself, in the firm conviction that our Forces have a 1280 great and honourable rôle to play in sustaining the supreme policy of His Majesty's Government—the preservation of peace.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
No one will accuse the Minister of Defence of plunging the House into vehement controversy by the speech he has just made. He seems to have been guided throughout by a strong spirit of self-restraint and of moderation of statement rendered even more remarkable by the regular forms of official verbiage in which it was so happily expressed. So far as adding to the knowledge of the House upon this vast and grave topic, I can only say that I found his remarks about the atomic bomb a model of non-informatory eloquence. This is what the Minister told us about the atomic bomb, which is after all, a topic of some lively interest: "The Chiefs of Staff have given full weight to this new factor." There we may leave it for the moment. Let us hope it will be content with that position.
As the House knows, I, and some of my colleagues, at the Government's invitation, have had several conferences with the Prime Minister and Service Ministers in the last Parliament at which disclosures of matters not known to the House, or not fully known, were made. In my published correspondence with the Prime Minister I made the following stipulation:In order that the Opposition should not be embarrassed in Defence Debates, I must ask you, as I did Mr. Baldwin in 1936, that we should be free to use in public any information of which we are already possessed, with due regard to the national interest and safety.The Prime Minister agreed to that. Last year, we moved a reasoned Amendment on defence and we had thought of repeating it in the same terms this year.
I was not myself particularly anxious to have a Division on this issue at this time, if it could be avoided. I found it, however, impossible to commit myself and my colleagues even tacitly to the word "approve" which was announced to be a part of the Motion to approve the White Paper on Defence which is now before us. Such a step on our part might well be regarded hereafter, in view of the conferences that have taken place, as to some extent committing us to sharing, albeit indirectly, in the Government's responsibility. While recognising the efforts 1281 which have been made we could not take any responsibility for the present state of affairs in the Armed Forces. I am, therefore, obliged to the Prime Minister for being willing to substitute for the word approve "the words" take note of in the Government's Motion. I am sure that, in all the circumstances that prevail, this is a right decision on his part. Therefore there is no need to divide the House tonight.
I must now refer briefly to the disagreeable topic of the recent Ministerial appointments in the military sphere. I do not wish to dwell upon them unduly, but they cannot be omitted from any review of our defence position. I said in December, 1948, in this House:We all understand the difficulties of a party leader in these times when he has not only to conduct government but to preserve general good feeling among all his supporters. In these appointments"—I am quoting what I said a year and a quarter ago—I must say it seemed to me that the Prime Minister put party first, party second and party third. … I thought the appointment of the present Secretary of War was surprising… I believe that the Army would be better entrusted to men who are not engaged in the most bitter strife of politics. Nor should the War Office be regarded as a receptacle for Ministerial failures."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 2026.]
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. James Callaghan)
Anyway, the right hon. Gentleman is the biggest party politician there is.
§ Mr. Churchill
I am merely reading what I said a year and a quarter ago. No doubt it has stung the right hon. Gentleman, but it is really not so much an attack upon him as a criticism of the method of these appointments. We now have a different situation. We have a new Parliament. We have other personalities, yet I cannot feel that my complaint of December, 1948, is not as valid and true as when I uttered it. Indeed, it seems to have had renewed confirmation. Under the Atlantic Pact we have much military business to do with the United States and other Powers, 1282 and I cannot feel that that business, or other aspects of our military organisation, will be facilitated by the Prime Minister's choice.
Coming to a more general question, it seems to me that more information should be given to the House about all the three Services. The guiding rule should be to tell Parliament everything that is certainly and obviously known to those foreign governments with whom we do not have confidential relationships in defence matters. That is a good working guide. It is not right, for instance, that the House of Commons should be so much worse informed about our defences than the Soviet Government. What is well-known abroad should also, in most cases, be imparted to the House of Commons which, after all, has the responsibility of providing the money now required on an unprecedented scale in time of peace.
I am sure it would be a great advantage if we could have a Debate in secret session on defence. We might then go into the atomic bomb question and see whether more information can be elicited than that "the Chiefs of Staff have given full weight to this new factor." I do not mean that the Government should impart all their secret information to the House Even if no further disclosure of military secrets were made, it would be much easier to discuss the whole question of defence without having every word reported and read all over the world.
It is sometimes one's duty to say things in public which give rise to anxiety and alarm. This may give satisfaction in some foreign countries and cause distress and want of confidence in us in others. I had to do this on several occasions before the late war when I was dealing with a Government and with Ministers at least as capable as those with whom we are now concerned.
§ Mr. Churchill
Yes, Sir. I certainly think he had a far greater command of the large sphere of thought and action over which he presided as Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence than—since the right hon. Gentleman puts the point—the right hon. Gentleman himself is ever likely to acquire. I carefully refrain from pressing the points against the right hon. 1283 Gentleman because, although he has many faults, I still believe his heart is in the right place. But he should not show himself so frightfully sensitive. We are only at the beginning of an ordeal which will be prolonged during this Parliament whatever duration it may be, and we earnestly trust the right hon. Gentleman will reserve some of his retorts and indignation for later phases in the criticism he will have to undergo.
I was on the question of the importance of having a Debate on defence in secret Session. I think it would be an advantage to have one in the next few months. I have never yet, in my experience, seen a secret Session from which the Government of the day did not derive advantages. I think there are a good many points which ought to be rammed home with more force than one would like to do on these topics in public hearing.
I therefore ask the Prime Minister to consider whether, in view of the balance of parties in the House and in view of the fact that the new House of Commons has been purged by the electors of certain untrustworthy elements, and that we are all united in our opposition to Communism, we should not have the advantage of the candour and freedom of speech together with any fuller information possible in a Session at which only the Members of both Houses can be present. If this request were refused, one would have to consider whether more would not have to be said in public upon matters already known to foreign governments in order that our own people should be more truly informed. This afternoon, however, I shall say nothing that is not public knowledge to the newspapers in this or other countries, or that I do not derive from my own knowledge and do not mention on my own responsibility
I will begin with the Army. In the forefront of Army policy comes the question of National Service. The Labour Government have enforced conscription in time of peace. Everyone is liable to serve in the Armed Forces for 18 months. We could not approve industrial conscription in peace-time, and I am very glad that it has been withdrawn, but we have felt it our duty to support, and we still support, the Government in maintaining the principle of compulsory National Service. It would have been 1284 very easy for us to gain popularity and votes at the recent election by denouncing it, as did the Liberal Party, but we felt bound to help the Government carry this burden.
We think National Service is necessary not only to maintain the structure of the Army but to preserve peace. If Britain were to repudiate National Service at this time, as the Liberals propose, it would mean, in my opinion, the downfall of the whole defensive structure embodied in the Brussels Treaty and in the Atlantic Pact, and now being very slowly brought into being. We therefore made our position clear during the last Parliament, and we adhere to it now.
I think we were somewhat ungratefully treated on this subject in the election. I was surprised to learn that an active whispering campaign was on foot, especially in garrisons abroad, in Germany and the Mediterranean fortresses, in Singapore and Hong Kong, that the length of compulsory service would be increased if the Conservatives were returned to power. [HON. MEMBERS: "We never heard of it."] We received numerous communications of that character. The troops were upset by the suggestion that they would be kept abroad for a longer time. We contradicted this false rumour as best we could, but it only shows how difficult it is to develop a true and wise national policy in a period when prolonged and vicious electioneering is the order of the day.
I still adhere to what I said last year:I am strongly of the belief that if the great policy and decision of national military service had been used properly and a smaller number called up for a longer time, great economies might have been made and might still be made in the military services."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1949; Vol. 468, c. 1625–6.]The right hon. Gentleman in one of his references did not challenge that. He said there were other considerations. Of course, that statement in no way affected men who were already serving, and I was much shocked to hear, for instance, that widespread rumour was being put about at Malta and everywhere that if the Conservatives were returned the men would all have their service increased.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman is constantly talking about whispering campaigns. There was the ridiculous one which he suggested had been put about that he was dead. No one has heard of these whispering campaigns except the right hon. Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Perhaps the hon. Members on the second Opposition bench will allow me to address their Leader. Unless the right hon. Gentleman can give us some evidence of where these whispering campaigns came from, he should not make charges of this kind. No one here has heard of any of these reports. I am unaware that anyone out in Malta has. it is extraordinary to have these constant suggestions by the right hon. Gentleman about these whispering campaigns being put about.
§ Mr. Churchill
I certainly do not withdraw what I have said. Hundreds of messages and letters were received. Of course, I have not suggested that the Prime Minister himself went about whispering, but that and other statements—
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
On a point of Order. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to certain documents. Ought not those documents to be available to the House?
§ Mr. Churchill
The hon. and learned Gentleman should learn a little more about our Rules of Order before he raises points of Order. All I can say is that I was very glad to be in a position myself to deny the rumour that I was dead, and I only regret it was not as easy to get upon the track of and kill a great many other falsehoods to which we were subjected. Personally I think it was very shabby for hon. Members and others, if they were engaged in the campaign at all—[HON. MEMBERS: "If"]—considering the help that we have given them in supporting National Service, to have taken every advantage that they could as occasion offered. Hon. Members do not disturb me at all by their indignation. I am only sorry that the topics I have to deal with this afternoon are of a laborious and technical character and do not enable me to stimulate them more vigorously than I shall be able to do.
§ Mr. Churchill
I am now coming to the question of the structure of the Regular Army. Here I must say that I do not agree with the Government's view, expressed in the last sentence of the White Paper on Defence, which reads:The idea that the present principle of universality of national service should be abandoned in favour of a scheme under which a smaller number of men, selected by ballot or otherwise, would be required to serve for a period of eighteen months or more is, in the Government's view, impracticable.Nearly 300,000 men come within the scope of National Service every year. Of these the intake for 1950–51 is to be 168,000. I am quoting from the Paper. I do not suggest that this number should be increased. On the contrary, I think that by wise administration it might well be somewhat diminished. But I believe that the method of choosing those who are required could be greatly improved, and I do not exclude the principle of selective service by ballot from a proper application of our National Service law. I think it is a matter which should not be too lightly brushed aside.
I believe that if, by various inducements of a voluntary or optional character, men called up could be persuaded to serve for a somewhat longer period, important economies, easements and improvements would be possible in our whole military system. I am satisfied that conscription could be applied with less burden and with less expense, combined with greater efficiency, having regard especially to our peculiar needs; and I do not think the Minister of Defence disagrees with that. I do not propose, however, to go into details, but I renew the assurance, which I gave during the election, that the Conservative Party do not intend to use compulsory powers to lengthen the terms of National Service above the 18 months which now prevail—not compulsory powers.
One aspect of the evils of the present application of the compulsory Service Acts is shown in our lamentable inability to produce, even with the present severe measures of compulsion, any adequate reinforcement or expeditionary force even for the minor contingencies which arise in the world, and that for a nation 1287 whose responsibilities, as the Minister of Defence reminded us, are still so widely spread as ours. We have, of course, the German garrisons to maintain and more troops are needed in the Far East; but to set against this there is the relief of what used to he our prime burden of maintaining a great long-service Army in India.
Even with all the compulsory powers which the Government have taken, with 380,000 men in uniform, I do not believe there are a couple of well-formed brigade groups which could be sent abroad at short notice—I should be quite ready and very glad to be contradicted on that point—not a couple of well-formed brigade groups. That would compare with the six divisions produced under the Haldane scheme, without compulsion, before the First World War, or with the four or five divisions which stood ready at the outbreak of the Second World War.
Of course, things are cot exactly on all fours, I quite agree. There have been many changes, but such great contrasts should not be ignored and, with facts like these staring us in the face, it is hard to believe that we are presented with a successful solution of the military problem by those who have had unprecedented control for the last 4½ years. We have an enormous mass of men in uniform, and here we are reduced to this pitiful shortage of the means to send small reinforcements, modest reinforcements, abroad at short notice. It is not a thing to laugh at; it is a thing to puzzle at, and to try to find a way to do it. We shall not get through our difficulties by this attempt at geniality when under examination.
Time does not permit me this afternoon to recur to the extraordinary disappearance and dispersal of immense masses of war materials which were at our disposal when the present Government came into office. The right hon. Gentleman said something about it, and of course some weapons become obsolete in a few years but others, properly taken care of, especially artillery and rifles, of which we had enormous masses, can be kept in good order for a whole generation.
Now I return to the recruiting for the Regular Army and for the Territorial Forces. How seriously this has fallen off 1288 is shown by the figures on page six of the White Paper. There has been a fall in the Regular Army recruiting from 33,900 in 1948 to 23,800 in 1949—that is to say, a drop of nearly one-third. Yet it is on this Regular Army, so heavily burdened by the need of training the National Service recruits, and losing them as soon as they begin to be most useful, that there falls the task of providing not only our garrisons overseas, with units of real fighting quality, but also the supply of effective reinforcements available at short notice, which all admit are needed
I come to the wider aspects of our military affairs. The decision to form a front in Europe against a possible further invasion by Soviet Russia and its satellite States was at once grave for us and also imperative. There was a school of thought in the United States which held that Western Europe was indefensible and that the only lines where a Soviet-satellite advance could be held were the Channel and the Pyrenees. I am very glad that this view has been decisively rejected by the United States, by ourselves and by all the Powers concerned in the Brussels Treaty and the Atlantic Pact.
I find it necessary to say, however. speaking personally, giving my own opinion, that this long front cannot be successfully defended without the active aid of Western Germany. For more than 40 years—and what years!—I have worked with France. Britain and France must stand together primarily united in Europe. United they will be strong enough to extend their hands to Germany. Germany is at present disarmed and forbidden to keep any military force. Just beyond her eastern frontier lies the enormous military array of the Soviet and its satellite States, far exceeding in troops, in armour and in air power all that the other Allies have got. We are unable to offer any assurance to the Germans that they may not be overrun by a Soviet and satellite invasion.
Seven or eight millions of refugees from the East have already been received and succoured in Western Germany. In all the circumstances this is a marvellous feat. Another quarter of a million are now being or about to be driven across the Polish and Czech frontiers. The mighty mass of the Russian armies and their satellites lies, like a fearful cloud, upon the German people. The Allies 1289 cannot give them any direct protection. Their homes, their villages, their cities might be overrun by an Eastern deluge and, no doubt, all Germans who have peen prominent in resisting Communism or are working for reconciliation with the Western democracies would pay the final forfeit.
We have no guarantee to give except to engage in a general war which, after wrecking what is left of European civilisation, would no doubt end ultimately in the defeat of the Soviets, but which might begin by the Communist enslavement of Western Germany, and not only of Western Germany. If the Germans are neither to have a guarantee of defence nor to be allowed to make a contribution to the general framework of defence they must console themselves, as they are doing, by the fact that they have no military expense to bear—nothing like the £800 million we are now voting or the contributions of the French and other treaty Powers, or the far greater sums provided by the United States. They are free from all that.
The Germans may also comfort themselves with the important advantages which this relief from taxation gives to German commercial competition in all the markets of the world, growing and spreading with every month that passes. I cannot feel that this is a good way to do things, or that we should let them drift on their course. I say without hesitation that the effective defence of the European frontiers cannot be achieved if the German contribution is excluded from the thoughts of those who are responsible.
§ Mr. Churchill
I am not at all disturbed by the meaningless interruptions of the hon. Gentleman. Would he like to go on shouting?
§ Mr. Churchill
The Minister of Defence did not attempt to deal with this issue, although it and others are the foundation of the responsibilities confided in him; but I hope that the Prime Minister will be able to speak to us about them tonight. The decision, of course, does not rest with this country alone, but we must have a policy, and the House ought 1290 to know what is our policy. To remain as we are now for a long period of time is certainly not the best way of preventing the measureless horrors of a third world war.
It is painful to witness the present indecision, and also the petty annoyances, by which the reconciliation of France and Great Britain with the German people is hindered, by the belated dismantlement of a few remaining German factories and the still more belated trials of aged German generals. All this plays into the hands of the Communist fifth column in Western Germany and the reviving Naziism, or neo-Naziism, which is only another variant of the same evil. All this squanders the precious years that still remain in which war can be averted and peace established on a lasting foundation. I felt it my duty to raise this subject today, and I think it would be altogether wrong that these Debates should proceed upon a basis of guarded platitudes and the avoidance of any real statement of the issues upon which our lives and fortunes depend.
Now I come to the Navy. Estimates of £193 million are put forward for the Navy, and a reduction is proposed in the manpower under Vote A from 144,000 at 1st April, 1949, to 127,000 in April, 1951. I do not quarrel with this. I have urged in successive years the combing of the tail and the numbers employed ashore in non-combatant jobs and in clerical duties at the Admiralty. I am glad to see that the Minister of Defence is a convert to this process. I am glad to see it has been going forward, albeit slowly and tardily.
I was sorry, however, to read in the Admiralty paper thatfor reasons of economy there will he no increase in the strength of the Royal Fleet Reserve during 1950 to 1951.The maintenance of the Royal Fleet Reserve is not expensive in proportion to the security which it gives and the service that it renders. I have also studied the tables given in the Admiralty paper of the strength of the Fleet, both active and reserve, and such information as is vouchsafed us about new construction, modernisation and conversion. I do not propose to make any comments in detail upon this, but rather to deal generally with the great change that has come 1291 over the naval position, and to try to focus for the House, so far as is possible, the new Admiralty problem.
This is not like the period before the First World War when all was thought to culminate in a decisive engagement between the battle fleets at sea; and we maintained the ratio of 16 to 10 over the German capital ships. There is no surface fleet potentially hostile to us in the world today. The only other surface fleet of consequence is that of the United States, nearly all of which—or a great part of which—has, with much wisdom, been placed in material reserve, protected from decay by costly but well worth while systems of preservation. In the Navy the war in the air and the war on the sea have become so closely interwoven as to be indistinguishable and inseparable.
It is obvious and imperative that the Navy should manage its own air service. Nevertheless, in the sea war of the future it is the air which will decide the fate and fortunes of ships of war. Therefore, the aircraft carrier with proper naval protection must increasingly replace the battleships of former times. But what kind of aircraft carrier, and how many of the large or small types? To decide this you must look at the actual problem which lies before us. The combat of gunfire between lines of battle is utterly extinct.
What we have to face in the next few years is the Germanised Soviet U-boat. The nation does not seem to know much about this, and the right hon. Gentleman did not mention it in his statement, but the salient facts are public property and govern the thoughts of all the staffs in many countries. I am not going to attempt to compute the Soviet U-boat force. According to Brassey's "Naval Annual," the strength given out by Soviet propaganda is 250, and Brassey's "Naval Annual" regards this as a reliable figure. Between 75 and 100 of these, according to this authority, are of war-time or postwar construction.
It may not be wise to publish what we ourselves have in anti-U-boat craft and forces, but there really cannot be any reason for the Government not stating broadly what we might have to (ace. At the end of the war the Soviets 1292 became possessors of a great part of Germany and of several of its Eastern Baltic ports. They engaged, by persuasion or pressure, a large number of German scientific personnel. They have made a great U-boat fleet, in the designing and building and even handling of which a considerable proportion of Germans are involved, by seduction or duress.
Certainly an immense advance has been made in the character and quality of the U-boat menace to the ocean life lines without whose maintenance we cannot live. An entirely new type of U-boat has been developed. Instead of a ship going eight or nine knots under the water and having to come up to breathe at comparatively short intervals, we have a type of U-boat which can manoeuvre below the surface at upwards of 20 knots or thereabouts. By the use of the breathing tube or Snorkel—or "snort" as we call it—it can make passages of thousands of miles without appearing on the surface where it might be detected.
The flotillas and anti-U-boat vessels which, in enormous numbers, broke the U-boat peril and saved our lives in the last war are now largely obsolete for this purpose. In those days we used to employ 12-knot or 14-knot ships to hunt the U-boats, and it was comparatively easy to multiply those; but now, with U-boats capable of moving, for a short time at any rate, at 20 knots submerged, all this great anti-U-boat fleet which we created would be useless. We should have to have much faster vessels going at 30 knots or more merely to do the same hunting as we did in the last war.
Here also is a sphere in which numbers are imperative, but to create vessels of 30 knots in the numbers required involves impossible expense. We have to have many scores of them and each one costs four or five times as much as the old kind and takes two or three times as long to build or adapt. The problem of mastering the new German-designed and Soviet-owned U-boat cannot be solved along the lines of multiplying flotillas of larger and faster vessels. If the story stopped here, I should feel gloomy about it. Happily, however, as is often forgotten, all things are on the move together, and here the naval air and longer-range land-based aircraft come to the aid of the Navy.
1293 The light type of aircraft carrier, if provided in sufficient numbers, can search immense areas of sea. There are also, no doubt, improvements in the methods of destroying U-boats. We have to find them, however, before we can destroy them, and only the air can do this. I submit to the House that the main emphasis of our naval effort at the present time should be to create the largest numbers of light fleet aircraft carriers and auxiliary carriers capable of carrying the necessary modern types of aircraft.
This is a time to concentrate upon essentials. It does not at all follow that this means a vast augmentation of expenditure. It is necessary to concentrate upon essentials and beware, of all things, of frittering strength away on remedies against dangers which have passed away in time. An intense effort should be made to improve the methods of detecting submerged U-boats from the air. Great advances have already been made. I heard no reference to this by the right hon. Gentleman, but I have already seen a precise demand made upon science by the military which has not been met. Perhaps the solution has already been found. At any rate, it may be possessed by others.
On 23rd February—a date when some of us were pre-occupied with other matters—the United States authorities published an official statement on new measures designed to combat the snorkel submarine. They said:The Navy has accepted delivery of a new model of the long-range Neptune, which will be the first aircraft specifically designed to meet the threat of snorkel type enemy submarines. This plane holds the world's non-refuelling distance record of 11,236 miles. Built by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, the twin-engined Neptune carries the latest electronic and ordnance equipment. Its sensitive search radar permits detection of smaller targets, such as a snorkel tube, over a much greater distance than heretofore possible with long-range patrol planes.That shows that the information that other countries find it possible to give has all been made public; instead of the limits to which the House of Commons is confined.
To locate submerged submarines accurately, the P2V will utilise magnetic detection gear and sonobuoys. These small radio buoys are dropped in a specific pattern over the area where a submarine is suspected. Floating on the surface the buoy lowers a small hydrophone to the proper depth, where the noise of the 1294 submarine's propellers is detected by the hydro-phone and transmitted. Receivers in the aircraft permit the operators to plot the submarine's position by interpreting the relative noise level transmitted by the sonobuoys.I have not read anything so encouraging or hopeful for many a long day. I am bound to say I am astonished that more information should not have been volunteered by the Minister of Defence in the statement which he has made. If this should come true, the menace of modern U-boats may be finally overcome under the attack of modern aircraft launched from a sufficient number of small aircraft carriers. I think that the House ought to know and reflect upon these important facts in a debate of this character, and that they should play a real part in our consideration of these questions of defence policy.
Now I come to the general air problem —not the one connected with the Navy, but the general air problem. Here again, I shall only mention to the House what is already well-known to those who study such matters. In the forefront stands the enormous numerical strength of the Soviet air force. There never has been an air force of the size that the Soviet have built and are building in time of peace. In the air, quantity is best defeated by quality. That is how we got through in 1940 when all hung in the balance. But now we have a far greater disproportion of numbers to face, though happily of a lower relative quality.
Still no one can say that a sufficient quantity cannot overwhelm superior quality. If we wish to have that strength which will deter war, or if the worst comes to the worst, to enable us to win through, we require far larger numbers of the highest class aircraft than we now possess. Every sacrifice should be made on other branches of defence to make sure that that is not neglected. The highest priority should be accorded to it. Fortunately and providentially there is the American air force, far stronger than ours and of equal quality. We have allowed them to establish in East Anglia a base for their bombing aircraft, the significance of which cannot be lost on the Soviets.
We on this side supported His Majesty's Government in the steps they have taken. If any other party had taken such steps I do not know whether the 1295 Socialists in Opposition would have sustained them. Certainly they have not been put to that test. It was certainly a step which in any other period but this strange time in which we live might have led to war. What has distressed and disquieted me is that those who took it should appear not to be fully conscious of its importance. Our defensive forces in fighter aircraft should be raised and our radar precautions should be raised by our utmost exertions to the highest possible level.
We have the jet fighter. This is the product of British genius. There is nothing to surpass it in the world and it is continually improving. I was glad to read in the White Paper, page 5, paragraph 15, the plan for doubling the jet fighter strength of Fighter Command would be completed. I hope that means really "doubling" and not merely filling up existing squadrons and bringing them up to strength. I was glad to read it for what it was worth. But I cannot understand why a British Government which has established an American base in East Anglia should have allowed anything to diminish the supply of jet fighter aircraft upon which our deterrent against war and our survival should it come might alike depend.
Here again I base myself only upon what has been made public in the newspapers and is common property. The right hon. Gentleman made a reference to jet fighters. British jet fighters have hitherto been for many good but insufficient reasons—and a good reason if insufficient in a matter like this is a bad reason—dispersed and distributed in various quarters. I am content to deal only with those which have been sold to the Argentine, or written-off against what are called "sterling balances" to Egypt. I do not know how many have been sent or given—for that is what it comes to—to Egypt; but it is already public knowledge that 100 jet fighter aircraft have been sold to the Argentine for little more than £2 million.
There is a sense of disproportion about an act like this which passes the frontiers of reason. The Air Force lays before us Estimates for £223 million, and yet to gain perhaps little more than £2 million of foreign exchange—which the Liverpool Cotton Exchange could have earned for 1296 us in a year; a trifle compared to the vast scale of our expenditure—100 of these vital instruments have been sent away.
Even upon the basis of the facts known to the public I am prepared to argue this matter in a little further detail. A wise use of our jet aircraft would have enabled the whole of our Auxiliary Air Force squadrons to be at this moment effectively re-armed. I do not think that those who conduct the Government of the country, although animated I am sure by a sincere purpose, have comprehended this aspect of their problem. As far as I could understand him this afternoon, the Minister of Defence gave a most extraordinary reason. He said that the Air Force could not afford to buy them; and when I asked why they could not afford to, it was because apparently they had overrun the Estimate agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But all this is in the same sphere of ministerial responsibility, and money should be saved elsewhere rather than that a vital need of this kind should be denied to the Air Force.
I will try to put this problem in the simplest terms for the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman. Here we have an Air Force at an overall cost of £223 million, and to get £2 million of dollar exchange we deprive ourselves of this part of an element vital to our security. Let me take a really simple example derived from the days which some of us have lived in, in the early years of the century, of old-fashioned war. Suppose we had a regiment of Lancers 500 strong. It might have cost £100,000 a year. There were the overheads; there were the fine uniforms, there were the horses, the barracks, the band, and all that. What would have been thought of an Administration which cut off the steel spear points of 100 of the lances and sold them to the local ironmonger at half-a-crown apiece to reduce expense? I have put it simply to the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope he has managed to take that in anyhow. But that is exactly what this particular transaction of selling 100 jet fighter aircraft to the Argentine, published in all the newspapers and common knowledge all over the world, has amounted to.
We shall hear all sorts of excuses about the time it takes to lengthen runways on 1297 the airfields, the collection of skilled mechanics, the importance of building up, as the right hon. Gentleman told us, a future clientele of customers abroad, and the like. We have only to think of the total cost of the Air Estimates of £223 million to see what such arguments are worth. We have only to think of the time that has passed since we allowed the Americans to establish their bombing base in East Anglia to see how vain are these excuses for not having taken all the concomitant measures at the same time. If we had strictly safeguarded our jet fighter aircraft of the waste of which I have given only one example—and that because it is public—the whole of our Auxiliary Air Force could have been re-armed by now, and even further aircraft might have been made.
In putting this point before the House I must repeat that I am citing no fact which is not known to the world, or was not known to me apart from any information I have derived from discussions with the Government. I do not know how much of this sort of thing has been vitiating our enormous expenditure upon armaments, but I am sure that far greater value for the money we voted could have been achieved, and that far better use could now be made of our British resources. If we wish to prevent the fearful tensions which exist in the modern world we must not only be cool and patient, but also firm and strong. Here is one of the reasons why I could not possibly accept the word "approve" when errors of this kind have been committed in the open light of day.
Do not, I beg the House, nurse foolish delusions that we have any other effective overall shield at the present time from mortal danger than the atomic bomb in the possession, thank God, of the United States. But for that there would be no hope that Europe could preserve its freedom, or that our island could escape an ordeal incomparably more severe than those we have already endured. Our whole position in this atomic sphere has been worsened since the war by the fact that the Russians, unexpectedly as the Minister admitted, have acquired the secrets of the atomic bomb, and are said to have begun its manufacture.
Let us therefore labour for peace, not only by gathering our defensive strength, but also by making sure that no door is 1298 closed upon any hope of reaching a settlement which will end this tragic period when two worlds face one another in increasing strain and anxiety.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)
When the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition talks on the question of defence there is no one, either in this House or out of it, who can speak with greater knowledge. Not only can he speak with great knowledge upon the subject, but he has matched that knowledge with a service to the liberty of mankind which is unrivalled. But it shows the difficulty of discussing this kind of subject for the ordinary Member of Parliament, even if he has been a Member of Parliament for a long time. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out the difficulty of obtaining adequate information. There is apparently an arrangement by which he and some of his colleagues meet the Prime Minister and discuss the question of the defence of the country.
§ Mr. Morris
No one would criticise that occurring, but for the average Member of Parliament that knowledge is not available; he cannot discuss these Estimates, presented by the different Services, intelligently one way or another. In discussing these Estimates the Select Committee found that at least one-tenth of the Estimates were secret; as to one-tenth of the whole of the Estimates, no information of any kind was tendered to the Estimates Committee. The Estimates Committee acquiesced in that position on the representation of the then Minister of Defence. I am not criticising the Select Committee for accepting that position.
I have no knowledge, and I have no means of knowing, whether that decision was right or wrong; but whether that decision was right or wrong, it affects the position of this House—and it affects it seriously. If this House is to be in a position to discuss these Estimates, and to discuss them properly, to discuss their relative value, whether they are adequate or whether they are not to meet the existing international situation, it must first of all have the information before it. It must be in a position to know and to criticise.
There are difficulties which 1299 the Select Committee accepted. The appeal of the right hon. Gentleman that there should be a secret Session of this House, in which information could be given to the House to enable it to form some conclusion, must be reinforced by every Member, because no information is available at the moment.
It is important, when these Estimates are being considered, to have criteria by which they can be judged. One criterion adopted by the Minister of Defence was to compare the position today with that in 1938–39. That is an idle comparison. It occurs in the report of the Estimates Committee, where figures are given for each of the Services for 1938–39 and the comparable figure for 1949–50. It goes on to show that the cost figures of the earlier year are roughly one-third of today's total for the Army, Navy and Air Force, and the same applies to personnel, but when we compare those figures, there is no means of making them intelligible.
We are living in a totally different world. The world of 1939 and that of 1950 are in no ways comparable. There is no method of making the figures even intelligible. It is not merely that the war has taken place, but we have to remember that we are living in a quickly-changing world. The position even since 1945 has so completely changed that there is no meaning in comparing 1950 with 1945—never mind 1939. This seeking for a standard year is a statistical device without any value in any sphere whatsoever.
Let us take the position today and compare it with that in 1945. Then we were hoping that the three great Powers who had won the war together, Russia, the United States and ourselves, would, through co-operation, secure a decreased armaments bill, which by 1950 would be much smaller. Five years later we find that the armaments bill in this country has grown to £780 million—£21 million more than last year. What has happened to the hopes? Instead of the realisation of our hopes that these three great Powers would co-operate, we have an iron curtain over half of Europe, and for the Western side of the Continent we have the Atlantic and Brussels Treaties. They are not the measure of the realisation of our hopes in 1945, but the 1300 measure of our failure. They may be a necessity. The ending of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was a true description of the position as it is today, but it is a grim picture and a grim outlook.
The Minister of Defence says that we are seeking in the Atlantic Treaty closer co-operation between the nations of Western Europe and the United States of America. Is that closer co-operation going to operate through National Service? If so, what arrangements has he come to with France about National Service?
§ Mr. Morris
They are a great land Power, but we were never a land Power until the last war, though some would say that we were not one even then. We are a great naval Power and a great air force Power. The speeches on the subject of defence which interested me in this House are those of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). He is always a very courageous speaker and he has always something to say. He has two tests which he applies to the efficacy of these Estimates. The first test is the foreign policy of the Government; and the second is the economic capacity of this country to bear the burden. They are good tests. But the hon. Member for Coventry, East, although very courageous in his speeches, lacks his usual courage in one of his articles, because he says that the Government today are to be supported on these Estimates by Members above the Gangway, and therefore the Left wing of his own party can be free to criticise on any aspect. That is not a very courageous action.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
It is a little unfair to attribute to a journalist articles written in the paper to which he contributes, but which are unsigned. It is not exactly etiquette.
§ Mr. Morris
I do not want to take any advantage of the hon. Gentleman. I merely say that the voice seemed to be his voice. The hon. Gentleman nodded his assent when I said what his criteria were. I do not see that there is much 1301 difference in quoting the other part which I mentioned. It is an important point. It is said that it will be safe for hon. Members opposite to criticise these Estimates because the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and his party support national military service.
It was not safe to criticise the Control of Engagement Order, nor to challenge the House upon it last week. Therefore, the Minister of Labour came down to the House and, without taking time to notify the Lord President of the Council, proceeded to annul the Order. In outlining the Business for this week, the Lord President of the Council last Thursday announced a debate upon the Control of Engagement Order. It was not safe to challenge the Government on that, so it was withdrawn. It is safe to challenge the Government on National Service because the Leader of the Opposition and his friends above the Gangway will support the Government in imposing such service.
§ Mr. Blackburn
I did not understand that the annulment of the Control of Engagement Order was a sudden thing. I do not think it is true to say that this decision was taken at the last minute. It was taken a long time ago.
§ Mr. Morris
I have no private information on the subject, but I am content to rely on HANSARD, and HANSARD states that last Thursday the Lord President of the Council, announcing the Business for this week, stated that there would be a debate on the Control of Engagement Order. Then the Minister of Labour announced its withdrawal.
This question of conscription is of importance to the safety of the realm. I am not going to repeat tonight the arguments the House heard when the Measure imposing it was first proposed. This country went into two wars a free country, and one of the reasons the Leader of the Opposition successfully led this country was that it was a free country. We are not going into the next war as a free country.
§ Mr. Morris
When the next war comes, the position will be totally different, and the greatest danger confronting this country is the imposition of this conscription. I want to turn for a moment to Western European Union. What is the defence for imposing military conscription? What about the wastage in the Regular Army which takes place to enforce conscription? That wastage has not been repaired. Our military service is for 18 months, six months longer than in France, which is a first-class military Power. We are using our young men at the age of 19, a year before they are fully trained. We are sending them abroad without being fully trained, and not even fully equipped. From a military point of view there is scarcely any value in the system.
The Minister of Defence said that we were gradually devoting more money to research and equipment. Is that due to a preconceived and deliberate plan, or is is being forced upon the Government because they are not getting their Regular recruits? The Minister of Defence shakes his head, but that is part of the necessity of the situation. The numbers of our Regular Forces are diminishing and are not being repaired by recruits under the National Service Acts. We are given the numbers estimated to be called up in 1950, 1951 and 1952, but we are not given the numbers to be registered. We do not know what the wastage is there, either by deferment or as a result of medical examination. No information is given.
I want to come now to the really important point. Either we cannot afford this money economically, or we are not doing enough to carry out the foreign policy of the Foreign Secretary.
§ Mr. Crossman
I agree with the hon. and learned Member about the preferability of voluntary service, but would he say that the cost of attracting volunteers would be less than the present cost of conscription?
§ Mr. Morris
I did not say that we could not afford it. I was coming back 1303 to the test applied by the hon. Member himself and I did not express an opinion on the matter. Of one thing I am quite sure; we can afford a free country and the security of a free system far better than we can afford a compulsory system. The free system is the only security that can be provided. I am not going into the quarrel between the hon. Gentleman and his Front Bench. The fact remains clear that there is something of very important consequence in his first point that the foreign policy of this country requires re-examination. The key to the situation is not in the Services but in the foreign policy of this country. If it is not being pursued with vigour, the result is this policy which the Labour Party are foisting upon us by way of conscription.
Here is the position: United Europe, the Brussels and Atlantic Treaties—I admit their necessity, owing to the developments of the last five years. The admission of that necessity is the measure of our failure. We have to start again and see whether we can find some other way. The hydrogen bomb is not the most dangerous bomb at the present time. The most dangerous is the belief that the State can be supreme throughout the world. Every country trying to build up a planned economy in the Western area, which always used to stand for freedom, is imposing upon itself under that planned scheme the same pattern of life against which it is protesting east of the Iron Curtain.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
The hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) has very rightly put the two vital questions of this Debate: Is the defence policy giving us the requirements for meeting our commitments? and Can we afford it? I noticed that in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition we had no discussion of the second point at all. There was no attempt to look at our defence bill in relation to our other domestic commitments. I can quite understand that, after the recent election, the Conservative Party are unwilling to look at the over-all picture, as I intend to do for a few minutes.
In yesterday's "Times" we read a very convenient tabulation of the six major items of expenditure. "The Times" very properly challenged every Member of 1304 Parliament to say on which of those items cuts should be made, if there is to be any substantial reduction of taxation. We are spending roughly £3,000 million, apart from capital expenditure. The tabulation and the six blocks are: On the Health Service we spend £406 million. The Opposition have already released that figure from a cut. On National Insurance, Pensions, etc., we spend £408 million. The Opposition want to increase that figure by concessions to the old age pensioners. On food subsidies, we spend £465 million. The Opposition promised slightly to reduce this figure but to compensate elsewhere, and so we have the same figure. Education accounts for £240 million. The Opposition have promised increases of pay to school teachers. Local authority grants amount to £100 million. I presume that that would not be cut, since the Opposition still believe in slum clearance as well as in the building of houses by private enterprise.
We are left with defence at £780 million, on which the Leader of the Opposition has made it clear that if he had his way he would treble the expenditure by retaining the jets which we are selling to friends all over the world and so strengthening the R.A.F. by an unspecified number of jets.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
The hon. Member might have the fairness to say that the cost of those jets would be compensated for by cuts elsewhere, for example, in the Royal Air Force.
§ Mr. Crossman
We are always hearing that there will be compensating cuts, but when we go through the items and ask "How?" and "Where?" no answer is given.
Perhaps I may quote again "The Times" on this matter. That newspaper concludes very reasonably that unless we can make major cuts in either all or some of these six items the most we can possibly economise in the Budget is £40 million. I think it is fair, in this Debate upon defence, where no question has been raised by the Opposition on this £780 million, to challenge the Opposition and say: "Since we have been right through the list, and since we have already, in a short week since the election, got the Opposition to oppose cuts in all of these six items, how can we have substantial reductions in taxation?" On every item, they 1305 agree that no major economy can be made. Frankly, I think it is very dishonest and irresponsible to go about the country and say, "Yes, we believe in all these domestic and foreign commitments, but there can be substantial reductions to taxation."
Now I want to leave that point and turn to the actual problem of defence. Let us now study defence but not in isolation. Even the brigadiers opposite will agree with me in that, because they are rather more modern soldiers than their Leader. They will agree that we cannot study defence in isolation. We cannot just say that defence has an absolute priority over, for instance, our social and economic commitments. There has to be a relationship between defence and other commitments, even from a strictly strategic point of view because we cannot have a sound defence policy unless it is commensurate with our economic strength. The question therefore is: Is this £780 million more, or less, or roughly the amount, which this country can possibly afford? It is 23 per cent. or 24 per cent of the Budget, and it is 7 per cent. of our national income. We must further remember that defence expenditure is the most inflationery expenditure, and consider how many dollars it consumes.
When we remember all those things I think we have all to agree that, judged by the strict rules of national economy, we are spending far more than we can afford on defence. I wish I could stop there and agree with some of my hon. Friends behind me who say that in that case it is perfectly simple: cut defence. But if we said that we should be shirking the whole problem. I agree that we are spending much more than we can afford upon defence, yet when I look at the White Paper I realise that we are spending much less than our foreign policy demands upon the Armed Forces. In view of our commitments, the £780 million, which is far too high for the national economy, is far too low for national security. Unless the House faces that dilemma it is not facing the serious problem of defence at all. It is no good the Tory Party saying, "Better not face it," and it is no good my hon. Friends saying, "Do not face it," because the problem is the incompatibility of our foreign policy in terms of defence, and the requirements of a sound national 1306 economy in terms of getting this country's economic recovery fully established.
When we consider (1) the Far East, (2) the Middle East, (3) Africa, and (4) Western Europe, I think I am not exaggerating when I say to the Minister of Defence that any two of those commitments might be adequately covered by the present bill we are asked to pay. But all four are stretching us beyond endurance and much of what is called "waste" on the Tory side is the result of trying to do too much with too little—scattering pockets of soldiers over the world because we simply have not enough with which to cover the vast commitments of this country. Yet I challenge the House to say how we could cut those commitments even if we thought it necessary to do so.
And still I have not stated the problem in full. The Minister of Defence spoke of stringent economies. That is true. I am certain that before these Estimates were produced this year there were vast reductions on what was regarded as the minimum requirement by each of the Services. This £780 million is well below the total of what each of the Services hold to be their minimum. In addition to that factor of the economies actually carried out by the Minister of Defence. we have also what might be called the involuntary reduction of costs owing to the shrinkage of manpower in the Regular Forces. I his, of course, costs us less, but it certainly was not the intention of any of the Service Ministers, and is what might be called involuntary saving—having fewer Regular soldiers than we really need.
Then I add a third factor. In addition to the stringent economies which have driven our Defence Estimates below what the Service chiefs require as a minimum, in addition to the involuntary economy of paying the shrinking Regular Army less wages, we have scarcely begun to attack re-equipment. We have spent five years living on our fat. If we had begun to attack re-equipment on the scale which the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) wants, this would not have been a £780 million Defence Vote, it would have been £1,200 million or £1,400 million. We have heard from the Minister of Defence the comparative cost of equipment for 1938 and today. Consider what I read in the papers, that it cost £18 million to equip 1307 an armoured division in 1938 and £50 million to equip it today. If we start re-equipping on that scale we must recognise that these Defence Estimates are bound to increase year by year.
On the present foreign policy and on the present commitments, it would be an illusion for this House to say that this £780 million is not well below the basic minimum demanded by those in charge of our national security. It is well below, and it is bound to increase. We have to face that, and we have to face the fact that, if it increases, our national economy and most of what we on this side of the House mean by Socialism, will be entirely ruined. That is the problem and I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen only he seems to think it is only a matter of conscription. It is a far bigger problem. It is a problem of having to do far more than we can afford to do and yet doing far less than we need to do. That is the problem set us by the men in the Kremlin. That is what they know. If they keep us in this state of suspension between peace and war, if they can hold out, having neither war nor peace long enough, they reckon that this dilemma will cause a breakdown in the Western world. Somehow or other the nations facing that dilemma have to find the answer to it.
I welcome the White Paper for a special reason, namely, for the first two pages. I am absolutely certain that, if each European state today tries to have a national Army, we shall all ruin ourselves within three years. If there is a case for Western Union soon, it is in terms of military integration. I can see the greatest difficulties on the political, social and economic sides I can see much fewer difficulties in terms of a military integration. We must face the fact that in terms of geography today these islands are part of the Continent. That demands a great shift of opinion in this House. No more talk of the Battle of Britain. Never again, in that case, can we refuse the metropolitan Air Force to the French. If we are part of the Continent then our aeroplanes go where the Continent of which we are a part requires them.
1308 Have we really assimilated that idea into our system? Is it on this basis that we are negotiating with the French the Dutch and the Belgians? If not, do not let us talk of integration. They are sick of hearing the word. The word for them means in one sentence the recognition by this country that we have fought the Battle of Britain for the last time in our history, and that from now on our frontier is really on the Rhine or the Oder or wherever it may be in Europe and that the defence of Western Europe must be a single integrated defence. As a matter of fact we have to recognise this. I have never understood how anyone could defend these islands if an enemy power captured the Channel ports and had rocket projectiles and everything else. There are good sound economic and strategic reasons for the change. We have ceased to be an island in a strictly strategic sense, though we are still the head of a Commonwealth, and we still have extra-European interests.
Strategically and militarily we depend on the Anglo-French Alliance—that is what upset me about the speech of the right hon. Member for Woodford—if we are militarily integrated to Europe, we are militarily integrated to France, and if we are militarily integrated to France then we are integrated to a Communist State if we re-arm Germany. I say it quite bluntly. The French people, in the event of the rearming of the Germans, would rather be on the Russian side. They do not look at Europe in terms of ideology, they look at it in terms of national survival. They have had Germans in twice and now, four years after the end of the war, the Leader of the Opposition, a week after the French President has been over here, talks in this House of Germany being allowed to play her share in Western European defence. Was Goebbels right after all? Did we fight the wrong war last time?
§ Mr. Macmillan
The hon. Gentleman accused the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) of wanting the rearmament of Germany. [An HON. MEMBER: "He said so."] Those were not my right hon. Friend's words. His words were very carefully chosen.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I said that the hon. Gentleman did not take part in the war himself. [An HON. MEMBER: "Neither did you."] I did take part in the war. I am perfectly willing—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
Order. The right hon. Gentleman must please allow the hon. Member for Coventry East (Mr. Crossman) to proceed.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I am perfectly willing to withdraw absolutely. My remark was not meant to be taken seriously.
§ Mr. Crossman
I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that, as I served on his staff during the war, it is a little remarkable that he should discriminate between his war credit and mine. Now, perhaps, we can return to the subject of the Debate and the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman now tells the House, after the right hon. Member for Woodford has gone out, that he did not say that Germany should contribute her share—
§ Mr. Macmillan indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Crossman
What does "contribute her share" mean? Was that deliberately ambiguous, just to cause despondency in France, or was it a commitment?
§ Mr. Macmillan
This is a really important point. I think it is within the recollection of the House that my right hon. Friend chose his words rather carefully. I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent them—
§ Mr. Macmillan
I have tried to be fair with the hon. Member, but it is not quite fair for him to say that my right hon. Friend was calling for German rearmament if that involved Germany's control of its own armies. That is all I want to go out; and it is different from what the hon. Gentleman has said, as. I am sure, he will agree.
§ Mr. Crossman
I accept the point of the right hon. Gentleman. It is a fair point to make to say that if we had a completely integrated political State in Western Europe and then allowed individual Germans to join the army of a Western European single State, that would be different; but the right hon. Gentleman was not talking about that. He was talking about the immediate future, and not a single German will understand him that way. He simply said that Western Germany should be allowed to make its contribution. I hope that in the next speech which the right hon. Gentleman makes he will deny that he said there should be a German Army, because there is no one in France or Germany who will not assume from his remarks that he was advocating a German Army. I am delighted to hear a repudiation within half an hour from the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan).
§ Mr. Macmillan
I said I thought it ought not to go out that what was meant was a German Army under its own control. That is what I thought was the danger.
§ Mr. Crossman
By the end of the Debate we will, I hope, get the complete disclaimer of their leader from the Tory front bench.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I hope that my hon. Friend is not accepting it from the right hon. Member that the Leader of the Opposition in his speech made no special qualifications—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—which the right hon. Gentleman is now making.
§ Mr. Crossman
We are used to the idea that Tory policy is determined by a series of repudiations of their leader.
I want to turn to the subject of Western defence and the Anglo-French alliance. I would stress again that there is no basis for an integrated Western 1311 European defence except on Anglo-French understanding, which means the permanent disarmament of the Germans. However difficult it may be, we will not have a European unity except on the basis of the disarmament of Germany, although that may set up problems. Anybody who tries to short-cut the building up of our defence by bringing in the Germans had better remember that the last time the Germans were rearmed with our permission they got the Russians to partition Poland because we refused to do so. There is no reason to believe that a re-armed Germany would not find the same method of winning wars without fighting them, as they did in the Hitler-Stalin pact.
§ Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth, East, and Christchurch)
That was on "the night of the long knives."
§ Mr. Crossman
We now have a second repudiation of the Leader of the Opposition by a right hon. Member who was not even present during the speech—it is quick work. Hon. Members opposite should read the speech first and repudiate it afterwards.
§ Mr. Crossman
Could we, perhaps, even across the Floor, agree that an Anglo-French alliance is the basis of any Western European unity, and that it is no good talking about military integration except on the basis of that policy and of our willingness to accept the French view of the German problem?
I want to put one other point on this subject to the Minister of Defence. If we are to have Western European integration it should extend beyond Western Europe down to the Mediterranean and across to the Middle East. It is probable that in terms of military strategy the Middle East is the most important single area of the world, possibly more important than Western Europe. But it is an area in which there is no foreign policy which can be the basis of a sound strategy, and I do not think we shall get 1312 an adequate British policy again in the Middle East except on the basis of an Anglo-French understanding on the Arab problem. What is the good of our dividing up the Mediterranean, with France running one Arab policy in North Africa and us another further East and then saying that we believe in Anglo-French alliance or Western European integration? Somehow or other we have to achieve with the French a common understanding on the Mediterranean, which means an agreed Arab policy such as enables strategy to be co-ordinated in their area.
Having said all that about military affairs, let me come to the obvious point. Military defence must remain the second line of defence. Our first line of defence must remain, as the Government have made it over the last four years, a social and economic defence, as the Minister himself has stressed. I should like here to quote something which may divide the House. I listened to the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) on the first day's Debate on the Gracious Speech, and this was the passage I noted. The right hon. Member described the releases of the sterling balances as "giant figures"—they are £276 million a year—and he went on:Let us look at that picture from another angle. It means that each worker—I think I am right in this calculation—engaged on production for export today is working one day in six on the production of goods for which no corresponding imports at all are received. Can we really continue indefinitely to carry that burden?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1950; Vol. 42, c. 58.]What is that burden of the releases of the sterling balances? Part of the money, of course, has been used to prevent India and Pakistan from collapsing. It has cost us £276 million last year; defence cost us £760 million. Let us see the whole problem in relation. Let us recognise that sterling balances released to prevent the collapse of India are, possibly, a cheaper and more important line of defence than a couple of hundred extra jet bombers for the R.A.F. which would otherwise go to the Argentine to earn us beef.
Have we not to face the fact that it is much cheaper to organise Communist insurrections in countries where people have despaired of democracy than to organise the military suppression of them? It does not cost the Russians a 1313 rouble to organise guerilla warfare in Indo-China, because democracy failed to do its job there, because the French were not wise enough to run a social policy there corresponding to our release of the sterling balances to India. Once we let it rip, once a country gets to the level of despair, once its people believe in nothing, we must pay hundreds of millions of pounds a year to try desperately by military means to suppress the evil of Communism. I say in all gravity that perhaps the greatest achievement of this Labour Government has been to understand that the social and economic defence against Communism must take precedence over military commitments, because without that social and economic defence there is not the basis for any military strategy. We cannot defend a country by force of arms where the people are against us or when we have lost it spiritually; and it is lost when the guerilla warfare is supported by the mass of the civilian population. That is what we found in Palestine.
Therefore, surely, we should understand in our defence Debate that the Tory who says we cannot afford £276 million sterling balances but we can, of course, afford £780 million on defence, is misunderstanding the basic problem of Communism. We must tackle the evil when it is still a social evil and not allow it to develop so far that policemen, machine guns and aeroplanes have to be used to force the people into submission. Had some of our Front Bench not appeased the other side we might have done even better, but I claim that whenever we have worked our social policy it has shown itself more economical, cheaper and more effective than anything proposed by hon. Members on the other side.
§ Mr. Bracken
I thought that the hon. Member was referring to the virtues of the Foreign Secretary. He ought not to go on attacking him.
§ Mr. Crossman
I do not know on what idea the right hon. Member based that remark. The Foreign Secretary has very great virtues. I think he has made very grave mistakes, because he has paid too much attention to the views of right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
I conclude with an answer to the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen. I 1314 have not in the course of my remarks solved the central dilemma, the dilemma that we are spending far more than we can afford on defence and yet that we need far more than we are spending to make our military policy make sense. I cannot solve it because, in terms of any Western European nation, even with all the integration possible, there is no solution. Russia and America may be able to afford atomic rearmament and to demand unconditional surrender of each other—they may be able to do so. One thing which is clear is that no other States in the world can afford to ego in for that. If Russia and America do it will ruin us. We, at least, cannot afford the cost of atomic rearmament and we cannot afford the demand for unconditional surrender, made either by the Communists to the capitalists or by the capitalists to the Communists—we cannot afford it.
That is why I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford was insincere when he talked about the need for facing the problem of the atom bomb, because he understands well enough that we cannot afford it. He knows well enough that with five more years of the sort of rearmament we are in for now, our civil liberties in this country will inevitably be endangered by the growth of the military machine which we shall have to build. I give him credit for sincerely understanding this. All I think is wrong is his rather exaggerated belief that a personal interview would solve the problem. It did not solve the problem at Yalta.
It is no use meeting the Russians unless we have detailed, constructive, Western European proposals. The Russian proposals about atomic control are based on national self-interest; the American proposals consider exclusively the security of America. I would like to see some proposals put forward based on the security of the peoples who live between the two, because such proposals may have a chance of driving the two great Powers to recognise that their national self-interest demands an international disarmament convention. Without some form of atomic disarmament convention in the next five years there is no solution of the dilemma with which have presented the House.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
There is no need for me to pretend those feelings of awe and hesitation which assail any hon. Member who rises to address this House for the first time, but I trust I shall receive the indulgence which is usually accorded to one undergoing that ordeal. I wish to address myself to the same problem as the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), but to address remarks to it expressed rather in the form of manpower than, as he did, in that of finance.
To anyone who reads the White Paper on Defence, the one outstanding feature is the staggering burden in terms of manpower which this country is called upon to shoulder. How great that burden is may be seen by a simple comparison with pre-war commitments. Our Defence Forces are today approximately double the size they were in 1938, but it is an under-estimate to say that our burden has only doubled, for the difference between our pre-war manpower in defence and our present manpower is filled by the National Service man, or conscript. The expenditure of manpower in the form of conscript service is the least efficient and the most dislocating to the national economy of any use of manpower. Therefore, it is fair to say that in so far as we have been obliged to double our burdens by taking upon ourselves the burden of conscription, that burden has more than doubled and any hon. Member in any part of the House must seriously address himself to the question whether that burden can be borne in its present weight and otherwise in what way it can be diminished.
In examining that, I wish to address myself particularly to the Army. There is good reason for doing so. The Minister of Defence concentrated attention on the Army requirement in manpower when dealing with this aspect of the question, and in any case two-thirds of our conscripted manpower are called for by the Army, so that if we focus our minds upon those causes which have doubled our commitments in respect of the Army, we may find some indication of the direction in which relief is to be sought.
Upon a rough comparison, we may say that we had serving with the Colours in the Army in 1938 200,000 men—actually the figure was slightly lower. The figure 1316 at which the Government aim by April, 1951—which is a figure, one gathers from the White Paper, they do not expect will thereafter diminish, or at any rate will not rapidly diminish—is approximately 350,000. We have a contrast between a pre-war Army of 200,000 and a post-war 1951 Army of 350,000. It is not, however, correct to assume that the commitments which our Army is meeting have increased in that ratio, because the 150,000 or 160,000 conscripts serving in the Army are not doing the work of 160,000 Regulars.
Approximately one-third of the service of a National Service man is not of practical utility because he is undergoing his initial training. There is the question of transport to his overseas station and transport back, and so forth. Besides that, we have an extra demand upon our Regular Forces for the training of the National Service man. I think it more than fair to say that the 150,000 or 160,000 conscripts in the Army are fulfilling the demand of approximately 100,000 Regulars, so that in broad terms the change which has taken place is an increase in our commitments of the order of some 200,000 to 300,000.
Before analysing the reasons for that increase, may I point out that it is upon the commitment for troops with the Colours that we must fasten our attention. The Minister of Defence was right in saying that there are two grounds on which the case for a conscript force rests—the meeting of current commitments and the formation of a Reserve. But no one will assert that if our current commitments could be met with Regular troops, we could not find more effective methods, more successful and economical methods, than the present system of National Service for forming the Reserve forces which we need.
We therefore have to ask what are these additional commitments which have enforced upon us the requirement of an Army of the equivalent of 300,000 as against 200,000 before the war. If we examine the distribution of our Army now and in 1938, we shall perhaps be surprised that the number of troops abroad, outside Europe, is no larger today—in fact it is rather smaller—than it was in 1938; but we should be very wrong to jump to the conclusion that therefore there had been no increase in 1317 our extra-European commitment for one simple reason. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) pointed out that in those 90,000 British troops who were outside Europe in 1938 were included the 55,000 British component of the Indian Army. Those 55,000 men were not merely, not even mainly, fulfilling an Indian commitment. They were a strategic reserve for the whole of the Middle and Far East and also, if need were—and on two occasions this was realised in fact—for Europe itself.
Therefore, if we now find ourselves obliged to station outside Europe as many men as before the war, that means that we have an increased commitment of the order of 50,000 men for the Middle and Far East, and have at the same time lost the mass of manoeuvre, the strategic reserve of our British and Indian component of the lost Indian Army. So we find in these facts the first great change which has come over our position. It is a change which follows from the loss of the Indian Army and the intensification of the threat to the Middle and Far East.
The remainder is attributable to the greater threat in Europe, which may be measured in numerical terms, perhaps, by comparing the small forces of occupation present in Germany five years after the First World War with the 70,000 or 80,000 stationed in Germany today. So we find that these two great changes, the loss of the Indian Army coupled with the increased threat to the Middle and Far East, and on the other hand the increased threat in Europe, are the reasons which entail upon us far more than anything else this doubling of our manpower commitment for defence.
Is there any escape? As the hon. Member for Coventry, East, asked in other terms, must we continue to stagger under this burden until it weighs us down and breaks us, or is there some escape? I suggest that there are two directions in which we could look. The first has already been suggested in my analysis of the causes of our difficulties. We have lost the greatest non-European army which the world has ever seen, an Army which made possible, as did no other institution in the world, the active and affectionate co-operation of European and non-European. I do not 1318 intend to go into the reasons for or justification of that event, but it is lost.
If we are an Empire defending the Empire, we must draw far more than we do on the vast reserves of Colonial manpower which exist within the Empire. The virtues which enabled British officers and British administrators to create the Indian Army are not dead. The virtues which made the Indian Army so great an instrument, although some of them are perhaps peculiar to the martial races of India, are paralleled in other parts of the world. Not only is it not impossible, it is imperative that we should create from the other parts of His Majesty's Dominions a replacement for that which we have lost.
Thinking in these terms, one is shocked to see from the Army Estimates that in the last 12 months there has been a decrease of 15,000 in the Colonial manpower serving with the Colours outside Europe, and an increase in the British manpower. Surely we are moving in the wrong direction. It is not to the point to say that this is also a question of finance. After all, Nepal does not pay for the Gurkhas but we are very fortunate indeed to be able to supplement our British manpower with the assistance of Nepalese manpower. Exactly the same argument applies to the manpower which can be afforded by our Malayan or our great African territories.
That is the first direction in which we ought to look—the replacement of the Indian Army. The demand that we shall do so rests ultimately upon the conception that what we are defending, His Majesty's Dominions as a whole throughout the world, are in reality a whole, and that the manpower of those Dominions has a right and a duty to come to their defence. I do not think that we are applying that principle to the maintenance of the European forces which defend His Majesty's Dominions. It is far from my mind to criticise or appear to criticise the Governments of the Dominions, but it is the fact that the populations of Australia, New Zealand and Canada together amount to between one-third and one-half of the population of the United Kingdom, whereas the proportion of their manpower which is engaged in the tasks of defence is less than one-eighth of our manpower.
1319 If what we are defending is indeed a unity—and the Tory Party at all events asserts that it is a unity—the duty of this defence is equally incumbent upon what we call the Dominions and upon the United Kingdom. We require, instead of mere consultation, mere machinery of co-operation, usually left somewhat vague, a real recognition of a truly joint responsibility amongst all His Majesty's Governments for the defence of His Majesty's Dominions. I am well aware that such a demand raises far reaching political implications. I am not afraid of those implications, indeed I desire them, for I am certain that unless we summon to the defence of this worldwide Empire all its resources, be they European or non-European, we shall fall under the load which we are attempting to bear.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
It is my pleasant task to congratulate the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. J. Enoch Powell) on his maiden speech. It was a very good and thoughtful speech. Might I perhaps on behalf of us all welcome him as a new Member not only of Parliament but of what we might perhaps call the "Services Club," in which he will find that divisions are not on party lines? They run across the House, and we try, I think quite sincerely and without thought of party advantage, to serve the security of our country. I am very glad to have heard the hon. Member's speech.
I am grateful indeed to have the opportunity to speak now, particularly as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) is here, because I want to welcome very sincerely the fact that at last some one has had the courage to say and to recognise that Western Europe without Germany cannot be defended. All the considerations which my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) presented with regard to French susceptibilities, important as they are, cannot alter that simple elemental fact that Western Europe without Germany cannot be defended. Indeed, the reason why we are today discussing these great Estimates so soon after the war is largely because of the failure of the right hon. Gentleman to recognise that fact before.
1320 Europe could no more afford the defeat of Germany than it could have afforded the defeat of Russia. Unconditional surrender was not statesmanship, it was hysteria; and it landed Europe into the state she is in now. It was the right hon. Gentleman who brought the Russians to the Elbe and who exchanged the province of Thuringia for a zone in Berlin. It was this failure to recognise the essential part blazed by Germany in the stability of Europe, that has created the instability from which we are now suffering. But, having said that, I am myself profoundly grateful that he should have recognised it at last. When I said this some two years ago the right hon. Gentleman repudiated it. I used these very words two years ago. The hon. Member for Coventry, East, asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he agreed with what I said, and the right hon. Gentleman said, "No."
§ Mr. Churchill
What is the point? Is it unconditional surrender that the hon. and learned Member is speaking about or is it the question of a German contribution to defence?
§ Mr. Paget
Let me put simply what it means. It means this, that Western Europe cannot be defended—and many of us have recognised it for a long time—by a number of independent armies. We must get a European army co-ordinated and commanded as a single army. In that army there must be German units, and those German units ought not to be a threat to anybody else; any more than British or French units. That army should be so built up—as indeed any great army is—that no unit of it can exist independently or act independently of the others.
As I visualise it, there would be German divisions with American weapons and with French supplies, co-ordinated with a British Air Force; with perhaps some, say, Belgian units of signals or engineers—all the various units of an army, each dependent on the other. If one creates an army of Western Europe 1321 commanded by a Western European High Command in which the general co-ordination, indeed the existence of units, depends upon the whole, then I for my part fail to see why any members of that union of defence should be endangered by the presence of others. Indeed, each would be providing security for the rest.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
May I put this question, because it is of very grave importance in view of what was said by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill)? Is what the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) now putting forward in full accord with what the right hon. Member for Woodford said, because the impression some of us got from what he said was that he was advocating the re-armament of Western Germany?
§ Mr. Churchill
I was proposing a contribution to the general structure of Western defence, but I meant an honourable contribution—a contribution on honourable terms.
§ Mr. Paget
I think the point has been made; but I think the right hon. Gentleman intended—as I have intended and as those who have advocated this union for some years always intended—that there should be a German contribution to the common defence of Western Europe which should be co-ordinated within a single structure, and that the members should not act independently in that European system of defence.
§ Mr. Paget
No, I am sorry, I cannot give way. I also welcome something else which was said by the hon. Member for Coventry, East, and that was that the 1322 basis for Western Union must be defence. We may talk about economic union, common currency and all that sort of thing, and we shall never get there. The only real substantial basis for that union is defence. When we have a common army we shall find we have to coordinate our methods for financing it. We shall find we have to co-ordinate our budgets. We shall have to co-ordinate the methods by which we raise our troops. All the economic, political and social aspects of union will, I believe, follow from the defence union when it is achieved. If it is not achieved Western Europe will not continue to exist, either as a whole or as defended units, because we can only exist as a union and it is a union which must be achieved primarily through a defence union.
It has always seemed to me that we are involved in two dilemmas in dealing with this defence problem. First, we have the dilemma which is involved in the need to defend ourselves against the major threat of Soviet Russia and also—which of course is our contribution to Atlantic defence—our position in the European Union. Then we have the other task which is that of Colonial defence. Our commitment for world Colonial defence does not stop—indeed it would intensify—in the event of a European war. I do not believe that we can have Defence Forces with alternative functions which can be used, or are designed to be used in Colonial defence at one time, and as our contribution to European defence at another. If we do that it would always be open to the Russians to disperse our forces at any time they chose, simply by creating trouble all over the world.
It requires quite a different type of force and organisation to manage the colonial commitments from that which is necessary to meet the European commitment. Therefore I am very glad to hear the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, in his maiden speech make his plea for the expansion of a colonial army. I believe that we should raise a colonial army to deal with those world commitments; we should also raise a Foreign Legion which we should keep in the Middle East at where ever becomes our base there. We should design the cruiser force of our Navy to carry assault landing craft and 1323 to serve as troop carriers. We should make all this an independent force for that type of colonial commitment organised, not on divisions, but in the very much smaller units which are required for this type of colonial service.
We in this country should concentrate upon creating the divisions which are the essential units for the type of war which would have to be fought in Europe, if a war is fought in Europe. I consider that in a European war we should have the advantage of air superiority and certainly bomb power superiority. That means, as I see it, not that one would be able to destroy massed armies, but one should be able to dislocate them to a considerable degree. If their communications are subject to atomic bombing and that sort of attack then, if we have a highly skilled small mechanised force of perhaps 20 divisions—which it ought not to be beyond the capacity of America and Western Europe together to have continually in the field—we would be able to concentrate so that, although there would always be a vast overall superiority in numbers on the Russian side, at any given point we could have superiority. One could win local victories and gain sufficient time for the American reinforcements to come across into the fort of Europe.
After all, this is not, as in the old wars, a problem of reserves. In the old days we relied primarily upon our economic strength to win wars. Somebody took the first shock. We developed our force during the war, and our unpreparedness was really the measure of our potential economic strength which became effective as the war developed. That has all changed now. America is occupying in the Atlantic alliance the position which we used to occupy in European alliances. Our job is to hold the fort long enough for the Americans to get across. There are plenty of reserves to come into the fort so long as we can hold it.
That is the job not of the reserve Forces which it is the function of conscription to raise, but of the highly mechanised forces which can only be brought about on a professional basis. Therefore, I believe that we should get away from conscription as quickly as we can. What we require is a smaller professional Army, and we should take the 1324 steps necessary to get the number of volunteers required. I agree that that is not primarily a question of raising the pay. There are a great many other factors which are considerably more important. I personally believe that the most important factor is the prospects in life which face a man after serving in the Army. A great many men feel that they would like to see the world; that it would be fun as young men to be in the Army, but that they would lose their place in the race of life if they went into the Army.
If we could create circumstances in which the man who has been in the Army has relatively a better prospect than anybody else to get on when he comes out, I think that we would build up our recruitment enormously. The sort of thing I would suggest would be a really substantial bonus after seven years, so that a man coming out of the Army would be supplied with some capital. I do not know, but I do not think that, spread over the years, a bonus varying perhaps from £750 to £500 for each man who came out of the Service, according to his rank—more for sergeants than for those who did not get stripes—would not be as expensive as maintaining a great many conscripts. Again, seven years hence when these engagements began to fall in, I would guarantee to the married man who came out of the Forces that he would be provided with a house. If those sort of proposals were adopted—bonuses, advantages and the certainty that a man could set up in life when he came out of the Service with good prospects of prosperity—I believe that we would get the recruits who are needed.
The other dilemma which one is up against is that savings in the budgetary cost tend to inflate the real cost. The real cost is man-hours. By using conscripts whom we can get at the pay which we select, we may make a budgetary saving, but we do it at the highest possible expense to industry in terms of man-hours. By paying more in the way of bonuses, and that kind of expenditure, we should certainly raise budgetary costs but, on the other hand, we should economise greatly in the general man-hour expenditure of the country on the Forces. The real cost in the balance of our economy is the man-hour cost and not the budgetary cost. Therefore, I urge that 1325 the idea that we have got to get back to a volunteer Army and away from a conscript Army, should remain prominent in the mind of my right hon. Friend.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Captain Ryder (Merton and Morden)
May I start by expressing my appreciation of the sympathy and understanding which I have seen that this House is prepared to accord to a newcomer? I am sure that I speak for many new Members when I say that that is a great help when we first come here and are faced with the task of mastering the intricacies of procedure. If I may ask for the indulgence of the House, I should like to put forward what I hope will be regarded as some constructive criticisms of this Defence White Paper. It is not clear to me, nor I venture to suggest is it clear to some others also, exactly what it is that we should discuss on this occasion and what should be reserved for the debates on the Service Estimates.
This point is more important than appears at first sight. Indeed, in the debate last year my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Homcastle (Commander Maitland) raised a matter of great significance affecting virtually the whole of our maritime strategy—I refer to the menace of the fast submarine—only to be waved off by the Prime Minister, who said that that was a matter to be raised on the Navy Estimates. Perhaps this time it may be expedient to reverse the process, or we may be told that this is not an occasion for debating matters of foreign affairs. But there is a danger if we deal with these matters in watertight compartments. We should know where we stand. I should like some confirmation that this is the occasion on which the broad strategical problems which face us in the world are to be discussed and questions answered by the Government, and that debates on the Service Estimates are more appropriate occasions for raising questions about the administrative affairs of the Services.
When I looked at this White Paper and compared it with its brothers and sisters, and when I listened to the remarks with which it was introduced by the Minister of Defence, I felt that there was a great deal of overlapping in the matter and far too little guidance on the strategical problems which we must face. I realise, of course, the need for secrecy. Indeed, 1326 I speak with some experience when I warn the House that every word that is written in this document is subjected by all the attaches here in London to the closest possible scrutiny. Every word that we say will be analysed and dissected for what it is worth. It is quite clear, therefore, that the House must, of necessity, be denied much of the material which it would like to have to aid it in this debate. This undoubtedly accounts for the somewhat modest appearance of this Command Paper.
I would like to think that that was the only reason, but I feel that the cloak of secrecy has often been used in the past to cover up deficiencies. Surely, we are entitled to some general review of the military situation in the world today. Or, have we become already so involved in the innumerable committees of Western Union and the Atlantic Pact that we are beginning to lose the power to think clearly and compile these documents in a clear manner? There is a danger there.
It is strange that there is no mention in this document, which bears no signature of a responsible Minister, of the growing threat of the military power of Russia. Are the Government afraid to publish these things so that we can see them? Are they afraid that the Russian Ambassador will write some note of protest to the Foreign Secretary? Certainly there is no guidance by which we might be assisted to make our decisions. Certainly, we have our own opinions, but I feel that hon. Members would like to satisfy themselves that the Government are viewing these things in a comprehensive manner. Surely, that is the first requirement before we can assess how we are going to allocate the Defence Forces and the material at our disposal?
There is no mention here of the atom bomb. We received a rude surprise in this respect during the last year, but we have been given no assessment in this White Paper of the effect of this new weapon on our strategy. I feel that there is an air of unreality about this White Paper which is in strange discord with the remorseless march of events in the world today. Perhaps the Minister has been intimidated by the Silent Service, but I would put in a plea that we should have a review of the military situation in the world today. We have been told 1327 on reliable authority that Russia is building 36,000 aircraft a year, but there is no mention of this very serious military development in this White Paper.
I should like to say that I have never been one who has felt that the atom bomb alone has stood in the way of any Russian advance to the West. I may be in some disagreement with some of my hon. Friends on this point, but I think we are apt to become a little dazzled by this powerful weapon. It is certainly far more of a menace to us in these islands than it is ever likely to be to the Soviet Union, with its enormous spaces and dispersed population. It would take a great many such bombs indeed to hold up any nefarious design which they might have.
I have also noticed a misleading assumption in certain quarters that war in the next 10 years is inevitable. For my part, I believe that we may never have a war if we act with firmness and resolve, but we must act quickly and study our opponents' methods and intentions. We must act in the correct way if we are to block this aggressive Power before she gains a dominating position in the world.
May I now set before the House the view that what is now holding the Kremlin, in fact, is not the atom bomb but the sure knowledge that, if they start a war, they know they cannot win it. They dare not do it. They surely see that there is no good purpose to be served by merely driving through to the Atlantic coast only to sue for peace when they get there. Surely, the last days of Hitler are a timely reminder of the futility of such a course, and I believe that that is the reason, and the sole reason, why at the moment they are not marching down to seize the oilfields in Arabia and Persia. Surely, no one is suggesting that it is because we have a senior naval officer and one sloop in the Persian Gulf?
We should ask ourselves, therefore, what is the Russian plan to overcome this barrier to their military designs. Is it not already clear that that plan is to intimidate and distract with one hand and with the other to embark upon a process of intrigue, unsurpassed in history in its world-wide extent and its oriental cunning? They penetrate, they weaken 1328 and they disrupt one country after another Let us look at the lesson of Berlin. There we were concentrating every effort and striving in every way to relieve the beleaguered city, and rightly, and yet, while all our attention was focused on that task, the whole of the vast country of China was incorporated in the Communist fold. While we were still congratulating ourselves that we had outwitted the Kremlin, one-fifth of the world's population changed sides.
That seems to be the plan they are pursuing, and I suggest that we should urgently look to see what is the next great step they may contemplate. We may perhaps be distracted by new development of the hydrogen bomb only to realise, perhaps, that India or half of Africa has been undermined and is already beyond salvation in that process of intrigue, corruption and decay. Or will this great military Power seek to step straight across to one of the South American republics, and in that way hasten forward to a position in the world—and this is the most important point—in which she need no longer fear to start a war because she could not win it? If we are to prevent this, I say we must act now. But what are we doing to prevent it? Are we acting with sufficient vigour and determination to meet this creeping attack.
We have read recently with some consternation the case of Dr. Fuchs, and I admired the Prime Minister when he said that he accepted full responsibility for this matter. But is it not indeed a very serious matter when the Prime Minister has to admit that there is no means of preventing this sort of thing in a democratic country? Indeed, how is democracy to defend itself, and how much more difficult in countries like Africa or India, where these things are not so easily handled?
Are we to stand like a rabbit mesmerised by the boa constrictor while it slowly folds its coils? Who, I ask, is fighting this battle and co-ordinating these affairs between, for instance, the Foreign Minister, the Minister of Defence and the Secretary of State for the Colonies? We have had some unfortunate instances. I need hardly remind the House of the unfortunate predicament in which H.M.S. Amythest was placed, and I ask who is co-ordinating these affairs so as to prevent 1329 any further blows to our prestige? Are we, indeed, employing all the forces at our disposal, moral as well as political and military?
I am not asking His Majesty's Government to divulge any secret information. After all, in what I have been saying there is nothing even remotely confidential, but I do suggest that some preamble to this Paper, on the lines on which I have been speaking—and there are many far better able to compile it than I—would enable this House better to appreciate whether our defence organisation, with all its complicated international commitments, is well able to meet this peculiar form of attack with which we are now faced, and to consider also whether we should not, for instance, even at this stage, conclude some military alliance for the protection of our friends and our own interests in South-East Asia, covering as it does the approaches to Australia, New Zealand and India. Those are the matters which I feel we should have under consideration when we ask for a review of this nature. To me, this document is inadequate. It contains only the appendices; the general review is missing, and there is no broad appreciation.
I will conclude by saying that it is my belief that the security of this country is not best achieved by ringing it round with any defensive network either of barrage balloons or radar and fighters. It is best achieved by making sure that our adversary realises that the counter-attack which we can launch will be sure and will be deadly.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Shackleton (Preston, South)
It is a particular pleasure to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Merton and Morden (Captain Ryder). It so happens that on several occasions in my life our paths have crossed. He may not remember the days when he was going off to Graham Land in the Antarctic, and when he played a very important part in a long and difficult Antarctic expedition. I also remember the occasion when we provided escort for him when he was returning from St. Nazaire. I am sure that all hon. Members will welcome him as a great asset, not only to the quality of the hon. Members who have come in from the Services, and from his own very distinguished Service, 1330 but also for the knowledge which he will bring to our debates. He made one point, which will certainly have struck an answering chord in the minds of hon. Members who were trying to debate defence matters in the last Parliament, concerning what it is proper to discuss in a defence debate and what should be discussed on individual Service days, but he did not allow that to deter him in any way. He certainly ranged widely and with distinction, and I am sure we all hope to hear him speak often in the future.
A point was made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), which I would like again to repeat, namely, that these debates do range to some extent across the Floor of the House and that the Divisions are not always strictly on party lines. I am glad in some ways that my hon. and learned Friend should have made that point, because later on I shall have occasion to disagree with him fairly strongly on some of the matters he mentioned.
I should like, first, to refer to some of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). It is very unfortunate that after the very helpful speech that we had right at the beginning of this Session by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), the right hon. Member for Woodford should bring into this Debate such very fractious matters as he did today, because it is really not good enough, after a speech of the kind we heard from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence—a helpful, a modest, a moderate and, indeed, a wise speech—that he should not have congratulated him on his appointment. I am sure that all hon. Members would wish to catch up on that omission and extend their congratulations to the Minister of Defence. We know that, despite what the right hon. Member for Woodford had to say about the Minister of Defence in the days when he was appointed to the War Office, he has, in fact, been an extremely successful Secretary of State for War, and we shall wish him equal success in his new r^ole.
One particular point made by the right hon. Member for Woodford, with which I am sure the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) will be dealing later, because I know it is a matter 1331 which he and the hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Low) have close to their hearts, is this question of selective service. We have had an interesting expression of view from the Leader of the Opposition on selective service. He says that he is not opposed to it, but is opposed to lengthening the period of service. What on earth is the purpose behind any such proposal? There is a case, which I fully understand, for introducing selective service as opposed to the universal National Service, but it can only have meaning if we are prepared to extend the period of service which the draftee has to undergo. If, in fact, in advocating selective service we are at the same time saying that we will not legally increase the period of service, then it is a completely pointless suggestion, unless it is intended as a means of cutting down our present Forces. That is the only significance behind it.
This brings me to the point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton on the subject of recruiting a Regular Army. I do not believe that, whatever devices he may suggest, it will be possible, whether by offering houses or any other incentives—and many of us can think of incentives which we could offer—to draw people into the Forces. We shall still not get enough men to make up for the number at present provided under National Service. Quite honestly, I do not see any very easy solution to this problem. It is certainly one which worries us on this side of the House very much. I believe that every member of the Labour Party who has at one time or another found himself compelled to support National Service has done so feeling extremely uncomfortable about it, and done so only because he believed it was essential and in the national interest. I hope it will be possible to see an end to National Service, but it is out of the question to come forward with proposals at this moment.
Another point made in passing by the Leader of the Opposition in connection with National Service was that the Forces lose the National Service men just when they are most useful. I would point out that the primary aim of National Service was to provide trained reserves, and not to provide men for the Army at the time they were doing their continuous service. It has become necessary to employ 1332 National Service men in rôles which we did not originally hope to employ them in. But their main purpose is still to provide reserves.
Another point made by the Leader of the Opposition was on the subject of war at sea, and particularly the development of a new type of U-boat. There have been since the war—and there were just coming into effect in the last days of the war—a number of very important developments with regard to high-speed U-boats. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that aircraft would be the best counter to this new development. I am sorry to say that I do not believe the R.A.F., which played a decisive part in winning the last U-boat war, can be as effective against this new type of U-boat.
The Leader of the Opposition must be encouraged very easily if, by reading that particular article, as he did, from an American paper, he thinks there is an encouraging prospect of solution in the use of the sonobuoy. The use of the sonobuoy was developed six or seven years ago. I remember writing tactical instructions for its use during the last war. Now the Leader of the Opposition comes along and tells us this is the great new solution to the problem of the highspeed U-boat. I am sorry, but it is not. It does offer certain possibilities, but its tactical use is extremely limited and extremely unsatisfactory, as also is the use of the magnetic detectors to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.
Surely the most important element in any defence debate, and in the functions of the Minister of Defence, should be the general co-ordination of the three Services into one operational force. I am not referring, of course, to the need to co-ordinate chaplains and medical services, and so on. We had these matters out in previous debates. When the Ministry was set up the Minister of Defence gave us cause to hope that there would be a different approach to the whole problem of defence and that there would be no longer three separate empires of Navy, Army and Air Force and that we would gradually move to a unified force. I fully realise the difficulties involved and that it is not enough to say, "Let there be one Service." But how far is the Minister of Defence devoting his activities to improving inter-Service liaison? I make no apology for 1333 raising this subject every year in the House. We practically never hear any reference to it, except some reference to combined operations. But it is of the greatest importance, and I would like to see a section of the Ministry of Defence devoted to this particular problem of inter-Service liaison. I hope the Minister will have something to say about it either today or on some later occasion.
I should like to refer to the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition and also by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton on a Western European force. I am afraid I do not take such an easy view as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) on this subject. I do not see that unified European forces are likely to lighten the military burden of this country very much. I take a very gloomy view of the burdens that are going to be imposed. I do not think that, however much we co-ordinate Western Europe, we shall be able to throw off our military commitments, which are so widespread throughout the world. Inevitably, we have to break up our forces into penny packets throughout the world. It is of the utmost importance that we should hold our position in the world today and that we should not allow any of these areas, which are vitally important strategically, to be lost merely for the sake of maintaining a striking force in Europe.
I therefore cannot see how we can hope to see any lightening of our military burden. I feel horrified at the suggestion at this moment that Germany should be brought into the Western European defence forces in any form. However strong the argument on military grounds, it would be absolutely disastrous politically—as disastrous, for instance, as any suggestion to bring General Franco into any position in Western European defence. It is true that the position of the West German Government is different. I do not want anyone to believe I am comparing Dr. Adenauer with General Franco. Nevertheless, there are factors we cannot ignore. Our best hope of maintaining peace in Europe must be the political and military neutralisation of Germany. Anything that brings German forces into Western Europe will be immediately disastrous to the position that we are trying to maintain.
1334 Therefore, while accepting and supporting the White Paper on Defence, I cannot do so with any great hopes. I see no alternative to the proposals. I believe this country is spending as much as it can afford, and is making the best use of that expenditure, but as far as long-term proposals are concerned, I see no great hope of easing our economic burdens.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
l should agree with practically every word the hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton) has said, except so far as Germany and Western Union are concerned. It is vital that Germany should make a contribution. That contribution need not necessarily be in armed forces. Why should not Germany make a financial contribution?
I do not think that on our side of the House there are many people who believe wholeheartedly in selective conscription for National Service. I have said, and will continue to say, that if some means can be devised for increasing the voluntary recruitment of the Regular Army, then automatically there can be a rundown in conscription. That is the only solution. With our commitments as they are in the world today, it is complete nonsense for anyone to suggest the abolition of conscription. I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the leader of the Liberal Party is not in his place. I should have liked to ask him whether the Liberal Party really mean that, if they had come into power, they would have done away with conscription in a few months. If so, would they have evacuated Hong Kong, stopped the struggle in Malaya and reduced our commitments in the Middle East? At this particular moment the conscript and Regular Army is stretched to its utmost limit. If it were not for conscription, we would not be able to fulfil our commitments.
I have no quarrel with the first two paragraphs of the White Paper, but I am unable to share the peaceful complacency it exhales rather like the aroma of lavender which pervades a lady's wardrobe. The Minister of Defence did inject a certain amount of life into that rather lifeless document. As it is, I regard it as a complacent document, and complacency at this moment is not warranted. When one is in opposition and when one 1335 has not access to secret files, it is not possible to make a completely constructive case. One has to rely upon the crumbs which fall from the ministerial table d'hôte and other rather meagre scraps for one's information. But with the information available, I propose to make a few criticisms tempered with constructive suggestions.
This problem of defence differs in this era from any other problem that has been facing our Commonwealth. The reason is this. The planning and the organisation for the possibility of a "hot" war has to be proceeded with while active operations are being put into effect in the face of a "cold" war. The two things are, of course, totally different, and therefore there is a dual form of planning in progress. As each day dawns we find the frontiers of the "cold" war alter, and new decisions have to be made as new situations have to be met.
There are four main areas of defence—South-East Asia, the Middle East, Western Europe, and the North American Continent and the Atlantic. In three out of those four areas the entire burden rests upon the United States of America and the Commonwealth. Only in the fourth is that burden shared by other countries, and that area comprises the Western States of Europe. Out of this, two vital matters arise. The first is planning, and the other is the inclusion in defence in those areas of countries which have not yet entered into a partnership against a potential aggressor.
I will refer to planning first. Surely, having regard to the fact that three-quarters of the whole of the defence of the free world rests upon the Commonwealth and America, is it not time that a joint planning staff was set up? We have consultations and liaison officers, but I think the time has arrived when that joint planning staff should be inaugurated. I know the objections. From the Americans we get the objection of security, and the Commonwealth are reluctant to forgo their right to decide whether or not to enter into a future conflict. I believe that they would not forgo that right even if they did enter into a wholehearted joint planning commitment. Furthermore, I think that to talk of security at this time is not facing up to the reality of the 1336 situation. I urge the right hon. Gentleman, in his new office, to use everything in his power to see that we have a joint planning staff such as we had during the war, because its place cannot be taken by liaison officers and by consultation.
The second vital matter which I mentioned is the inclusion of those countries which are not already taking any active part in defence. This affects the Middle East—the key to the whole Commonwealth defence—more closely than anywhere else. In what I have to ask, I shall probably be trespassing upon a foreign affairs point, but foreign affairs and overall defence are so closely interrelated that it is not possible to discuss one without the other. I should very much like to know what approaches have been made to Turkey, and what is the situation in regard to Turkey. There are many countries in what I would call the outpost position which are reluctant to take any apparent steps themselves, and are relying on America and us to provide all the security and defence necessary. There is no need to emphasise the military ability of Turkey. That has been amply demonstrated in the past. There we have a potentially extremely strong country right in the very centre of our key positions for Commonwealth defence.
I should also like to know what approaches, if any, have been made to the new, virile and young State of Israel. I should be very interested to know. I believe that we have there growing up a new bloc which may be intensely useful to the whole world and not only to us as an Empire. They have proved themselves to be keen and adequate fighters, and I believe that they should realise that it is their duty to decide with whom they are going to cast their fate. To emphasise a point which has already been made, I feel the time has come when we and the French must arrive at some co-ordinated policy in regard to that great Arab world. We must have fusion there at an early date.
Turning to the paragraph in the White Paper on Colonial Forces, I had the privilege of staying with the Commander-in-Chief of the East African Forces. That Commander-in-Chief had East African Forces under his command in the Burma campaign alongside Indian troops. I asked him whether those men were as good as the really first-class Indian troops. He 1337 said, "Undoubtedly, yes. Provided they have got good leadership, they are as good as their leaders. They are just as good as the Indian Army troops today.' I should like to know whether the objection to my suggestion is a financial one. I believe we have there an immense reserve of manpower which is cheaper than the manpower in this country. Let us not forget that although we have lost commitments in India, it is not true to say that the Indian Army was paid entirely by India, because the moment they went abroad they came on to the home Vote, and there were always commitments of that nature to which we had to subscribe.
Furthermore, the British Army had large and heavy commitments in India, and although they were being paid by the Indian Government, we had to keep up all the training establishments. Therefore, there should be money available for a very large increase in the East African Forces. I cannot speak with authority about West African Forces, because I do not know anything about them, but so far as the East African Forces are concerned, it would relieve this tension to which we are subjected at this moment with our present Army stretched to its utmost limits.
There is one other point in regard to economy in our own high-class troops. In my view, it is a terrible waste of first-class fighting troops to station them in places like Gibraltar, Malta and Aden. They should be replaced, because all they are doing is police work and guard duties. There was a time when they acted as a strategic reserve, but what is the use of a battalion of infantry as a strategic reserve in these days?
My suggestion is this. I believe there would be a large number of ex-Service time-expired men who would be only too willing to join the militia, take their families out to that lovely climate and live there, and perform these guard and police duties which are at present being performed by a first-class battalion in Malta and, I believe, in Gibraltar; I am not sure of my facts here, but there always was a battalion in Gibraltar and in Aden. These troops should be in the Middle East, where they can take part in formation exercises and proper training. I do not know what the difficulties are. The crumbs of information which have fallen 1338 from the table on this matter are very meagre. There may be aspects of which I have no knowledge. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take that as a serious suggestion and will look into it.
§ Commander Pursey
In order to get the point clear, may I ask the hon. and gallant Member what would be the difference between sending time-expired men out there and increasing Vote A? We should have to pay them, and the main factor today is pay. Does the hon. and gallant Member include Aden as a delectable place to which time-expired men could take their families?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I do not agree with the hon. and gallant Member that it is entirely a question of finance. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) who, I think, said it was very much more a question of manpower than a question of finance.
I want to turn to the area in which we are receiving assistance—Western Europe. Having some knowledge of this, I am afraid I must say there is a great deal that is on paper at the moment and apparently little of practical value being done. If hon. Members will look at this White Paper on collective defence under the Brussels Treaty and will turn to page 7, which gives the set-up and organisation of the various committees, they will see that that is all there is. Those committees may have had a part to play in the initial set-up and may still have a part to play, but they will not replace proper organised staffs and chains of command, things which, in my view, are lacking at the moment.
I will not weary the House by reading the names of some of these committees, but really they are almost laughable if that is all there is going to be upon which to pin a framework of command in the event of a crisis. I believe the time has come when that chain of command should be printed and when everybody should know what his job is. We cannot, of course, have the full staff operating at full war-time strength, but there should be a strong skeleton on to which people could be placed at very short notice. If not, we shall get what my hon. acid gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) often describes as an "ad hoccery" of the very worst order— 1339 an ad hoc staff, ad hoc commanders placed in position at a moment's notice and, what is the worst of all, ad hoc communications.
I am very glad to see, in paragraph 3 of the White Paper, that the Western Union countries are prepared to provide or are beginning to provide, some of their own equipment. I want to know how far that has gone. I want to know whether any equipment has actually been issued from countries in Western Europe or whether it is still in the manufacturing stage—or is it still only in the blueprint stage or in the stage of only a suggestion or a pious hope? I am quite certain that this country cannot continue for very long to allow some of its vital equipment to go out. We owe it to our own splendid National Service men and Regular soldiers to see that they have the finest equipment available.
Now I turn to the question of the defence of these islands. Here is a matter on which I shall join issue with the whole of the Defence Services in this country. I do not know whose decision it was, but it concerns anti-aircraft defence. I shall take a very great deal of convincing before I believe that the anti-aircraft gun will be the answer to the swift-flying jet bombers when they approach in any number. Nevertheless, practically speaking, the whole emphasis of our defence in this island today is on anti-aircraft, and here I have a suggestion or two to make.
One of the reasons why the right hon. Gentleman, in his capacity of Minister of War, was not obtaining the recruits for the Territorial Army that we all hoped to see—and he cannot deny that the Territorial Army is not up to strength—is that first-class, front-line field artillery regiments with tremendous esprit de corps have been turned into anti-aircraft units and the fellows just will not go back. I have done everything in my power to persuade them, but they say, "Oh, no; that is not my cup of tea at all; I want something very much more exciting than that and if I wait long enough they will want me somewhere else. I can join the Royal Tank Regiment or something like that." That is their attitude of mind. I think it is a great mistake to turn those first-class field regiments into A.A., especially in view of the fact that it may 1340 be for the permanent defence of these islands over a long period.
Without the detailed facts and figures I am not able to judge accurately, but obviously there are going to be a large number of reserved occupations. There will be many men who will never get into uniform at all. Would it not be possible to arrange for the training of those men in the form of a sort of militia for the defence of their own homes and their own towns? I know the quick answer is, "How are they to make munitions if they are going to be sitting on a gun site?" How did the fire-watcher manage to find time to fire-watch? As there are so many of these reserved occupations, might it not be arranged on a shift system? There would thus be a very great economy in the Regular Army and Territorial Army commitments in the A.A. services and defence of this country. Nevertheless, as I said at the beginning, I shall take a great deal of convincing before I believe that the A.A. gun is the right answer to the modern jet bomber.
I do not believe everything possible is being done to encourage people to come back into the Territorial Army. A good deal has been done, but not everything. A good deal more could be done. I suggest a personal appeal, and then another—and let the right hon. Gentleman go on doing it. Now that the right hon. Gentleman is in even a stronger position than he was previously, he will have to see what he can do. I suggest that the people of this country do not realise the seriousness of the situation. I do not believe that half of them—indeed I go further; I do not believe that 85 per cent. of them—who were in the Territorial units realise that the National Service men are coming out in June and have to be trained by somebody. There is a lot of ignorance in the country on that point. It has not been published sufficiently in the Press, or possibly on the wireless. That suggestion comes from somebody who has studied this at rather close quarters with friends who actually served with him during the war.
I am happy to see the amount of money to be spent on research, and I implore the right hon. Gentleman to see that some of it goes into the production of weapons for intensified fire power and greater mobility, because manpower can be replaced by fire power. I want to see 1341 the divisions of our Army—because there are not many of them—trained on the principle of the motor battalion, with intense mobility and intense fire power. In that way one division would, in my view, be worth two divisions on the old basis.
I have spoken longer than I intended and I thank the House for their tolerance. In conclusion, I believe and hope and pray that Russia will realise that a big land mass, operating on interminable lines of communication against nations who have command of the air and sea, has not a hope of succeeding in a major war. I hope that truth may dawn on them one day because, however unpleasant it may be at the time, the ultimate result is absolutely certain. At the same time, we must not relax our efforts because of that. We must continue to be strong because, in the words of the Scriptures,When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
I hope the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) and the House will forgive me if I do not follow in detail the various proposals and suggestions which he made. Of course, he speaks with great authority on a topic which he understands. I have to admit, if the House does not already know, that it is not a field with which I am at all familiar. Nevertheless, I think, or at least I hope, I can make in a humble way a contribution to the Debate which I believe may be useful.
Before doing so I want to admit to a considerable embarrassment which I always feel when I succeed in catching your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, on such a topic as this. I always feel that I am about to make suggestions which may seem to be completely out of harmony with the sort of topics which most hon. and gallant Members on either side of the House generally discuss. I seem to be throwing a spanner in the works, and if this is as great an embarrassment to other people in this House as it is to me, I am not surprised they sometimes feel uncomfortable. At least, that is the impression I receive.
1342 Now I want to put a point of view which is completely different from anything so far suggested. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing started by saying that he had no complaints about paragraphs 1 and 2 in the Defence White Paper, and he passed quickly on to the other sections. It is precisely with paragraphs 1 and 2 that I find complaint. It is those two paragraphs which make me convinced that what follows in the Defence White Paper is futile nonsense.
Before I continue on that tack may I try to protect myself by telling the House a story which, though probably apocryphal, was related to me. It was said that an eminent physicist was invited one day to address a committee of the Imperial Defence College. In the audience which had gathered to listen to him were many brass hats and notable admirals. The lecturer argued that the basic function and object of defence, particularly in the view of admirals, could be summed up in a simple phrase—it was the duty and function of the Royal Navy to knock a hole in any hostile vessel which was approaching our shores and which appeared to put the security of our people in jeopardy. To do this was often a very complicated process involving all kinds of mathematical calculations with automatic calculators and expensive instruments of that kind.
The scientist then said that he wished to demonstrate an alternative. On the table in front of him was a large tank of water. The water flowed in through a pipe at the bottom, and out through an overflow at the top. The scientist dropped into the tank a large sack of salt in order to make the water similar to the sea; and on the top he floated an egg. "Now," he said, "assume this egg represents a hostile vessel, the point is to attack it, knock a hole in it and sink it. We could discuss at great length how best to hit and to break it; but there is another way to sink it you forget." Then quietly with his right hand he turned on the tap. Fresh water came in. Salt water slowly went out. In a few minutes the egg solemnly sank. The element in which it existed had been changed. The point is that, of course, there is an entirely different method by which we could defend ourselves and gain a method of security, which appears to pass completely unnoticed by the kind of people who write White Papers.
§ Mr. Usborne
I will not express an opinion on that.
In the second paragraph of this White Paper we read:Until world peace can be assured by an effective system of collective security under the United Nations, …But we all know that if collective security for the people is required, it cannot be achieved if sovereignty for the nations is retained. That to me is evident and obvious. The United Nations retains and legalises the principle of sovereignty for nations. Therefore, we cannot have collective security through the United Nations. This White Paper therefore begs the question by what it says.
Later on this sentence appears:For these purposes adequate defence forces continue to be necessary and no drastic reductions can be made so long as the present unsettled international situation persists.Now the present unsettled international situation persists because of the continued existence of a multiplicity of national sovereign states, and the anarchy and insecurity which that involves. It is moreover absurd to assume we can add to our security by adding to our national armed forces when in fact the armed forces are the expression of that anarchy and the cause of our insecurity.
That conclusion should not greatly surprise the House, because so far we have not heard from any speakers any effective alternative. As soon as one person suggests something, someone else gets up and knocks it over. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) produced one suggestion, and in a moment I want to deal very briefly with it. He appeared to indicate that there was a solution. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) was more honest. He definitely and clearly analysed our difficulties. He pointed out the disadvantage of the various proposals that had been made, and he later admitted honestly that he could not see the answer or the way out.
I want to suggest to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton that his plan, as he himself admits, assumes that we can co-ordinate the supply problem. The House will 1344 remember that he argued that we do not need to think for the moment in any other terms than an integrated defence for Western Europe. For that reason he welcomed the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) that a contribution should be made to these forces by the Western German State. His proposition amounted to this—that if we could get an armed force closely integrated by the extraordinary system of receiving their equipment from different parts of the world, it would then be impossible to unscramble the eggs. In that way, he indicated to the House, nobody need have any fear of what the Germans might do with their contingent in the force.
Now I should like to ask him how, in fact, does the commander-in-chief of this scrambled armed force guarantee that he gets the supplies upon which his whole integrated army is based. It may be that in the flush of this new suggestion, some committee will say, "it is an excellent thing, we will now guarantee to provide so many million pounds a year." But how can they guarantee that later on the nations concerned will continue to provide the supplies and the money that is required? How can a guarantee be given that in the process of paying and producing these supplies, the countries thus integrated will be able to bear the intolerable burden? What confidence could a commander-in-chief have in such an assurance? I suggest that he would have practically none; no more assurance than Field Marshal Montgomery has now, which is nil.
I should also like to ask my hon. and learned Friend who would control the commander-in-chief, because, if in fact it were true that the commander-in-chief, by just asking for the supplies, would get them and could produce an army which was strong enough to check a possible onslaught by the Russians, he would become the second biggest despot in the world. He would be responsible to no one at all. Who would check him? If any single nation was able to check him. it follows that he could not be guaranteed the supplies he requires. The idea is absurd.
Let me go back for a moment to the proposition that I made earlier on. I 1345 should like to suggest that we ought to think in entirely different terms and to see whether it is not possible to get security for the people, our people, for mankind, in the only way that security has ever been obtained for groups or communities of people. The purpose of defence is to get security for people. But we must recognise that security is only to be obtained under law. There is no other way we can get it. There will always be disputes between groups, individuals, and organisations. Disputes are constantly arising. The question is how best to resolve them. One way is to take the dispute to a court of law and to enforce a decision. The other is to fight about it. It is easier to get security for the ordinary, innocent individual, who does not wish to be mixed up in disputes, if the disputants can be compelled to take their problems to law and to abide by the decisions of the court. But in the world as a whole we have no law. Hence, all disputes must be settled the other way. Thus we cannot get the only security which is possible until we are prepared to abrogate national sovereignty.
That brings me to the last and the most important point I want to make. I beg pardon of the House and of you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker if anything I have said seems obvious. I want to make the point to which I am now coming because it is not often made in this House although it has been made many times in certain journals around the world. But the matter is seldom talked about in the House of Commons. Nevertheless everybody now realises that the "Observer" was perfectly right when, in a leading article a few weeks ago, it said this:The heart of the matter is that modern scientific production spells the end of national sovereignty. If civilisation is to be saved, it must evolve a world government.I believe everybody knows that that is the stark, inescapable truth. Our problem is how to get started along that road. How are we to move towards the creation of an effective World Government, and this we cannot do until we are prepared to surrender sovereignty. Till we are thus prepared we cannot begin to move along that road. The problem of defence is politically the problem of obtaining a supra-national federal authority. That is the only way to sink the scientists' egg. But we cannot now do it this way 1346 because, apparently, this nation is not prepared to surrender its sovereignty.
It has been very mystifying and bewildering to people abroad to realise that Britain, composed of individuals who have a long record of political initiative and courage have, at this moment in history, when the whole of our destiny depends upon it, apparently no leadership to offer on this grave issue. People abroad are dismayed and perplexed. For four and a half years the voice of Britain has not been raised. It appears to the foreigner who considers what is written in our Press, what goes out of this House and what is said by the spokesmen of Britain, that we just have not got a clue: that for some unaccountable reason Britain has a blind spot on this issue of sovereignty. I wonder whether that is true, I want to suggest that it is only a false appearance we are giving; that in truth there is a good reason why we have not, as a nation, displayed our real readiness to move forward in this matter.
But first one word here about atomic control. We all recognise that ultimately mankind must form some kind of supranational, global authority because the weapons of mass destruction now available to mankind must be controlled. It is generally suggested that this should be done by some kind of convention; that states, if only they would be reasonable, should be got together and should agree not to use the atomic bomb. Then, all would be well. If it were possible to get nations to agree, it is of course unnecessary to get them to do so, because they would then willingly do what was required without signing pieces of paper.
We want to be quite sure that any nation which signs a convention will continue to keep it. We want to feel that the other person's assurance can be relied upon. But we cannot do that under a mere agreement. All we can do is to get a superior authority which can compel people, those who sign their names to the documents, to abide by the agreement. That brings me back to my earlier point, there is now no superior supra-national authority which has the power to enforce the maintenance of any agreement upon nations. The writing of a mere treaty is therefore a waste of time.
We should approach this problem in a different way. It is urgent, and public 1347 opinion demands that we should tackle it. I suggest that the right way of going about it is for all the nations who are willing to come together to explore the difficulties that surround this problem. But before they do so, the nations who are prepared to control atomic energy should pledge themselves in advance to join with any other nation that will do likewise. It is very easy for nations—America, Britain or anyone else—to say, "We would agree gladly to world control of atomic energy, but it is no good because the Russians will not agree to it." We can always find one person in a group not ready to keep an agreement. Therefore, we should say: "We ourselves will do it."
It is absurd to keep on saying: "It will only work when everybody agrees to it." That is not the way to get things done. Nations which express their readiness to control the bomb should send representatives to work out how it can be done, with the clear understanding that these nations, who want it done, will control its use among themselves, even if other nations are not prepared to join in.
I believe that we should then discover if we seriously tackled this problem that, with, say, France, America, Britain and a few other nations prepared to set up a supra-national authority among themselves, that it is in fact not possible to create supra-national authority solely to control the atomic bomb, we shall find it is a much bigger job than that. If we went into it in detail we should find that what is needed is a super-national federal government with the ancillary offices which are required.
I want this done because I believe with absolute sincerity that the British people are genuine when they say that they want the atom bomb and all weapons of mass destruction internationally controlled. However, foreigners do not believe us because they say, "you know that this means much more than a paper convention yet, on the other hand, you appear totally unwilling to surrender national sovereignty." The best way is for a group of nations to work out, through their representatives, what is involved in the super-national control of atomic energy; then those nations willing to 1348 agree to that should set it amongst themselves as a prototype for a world government which other nations we hope will ultimately join.
I apologise to the House for taking so long. Now I come to my last point. With these obvious facts—that world government is the goal, we must get it quickly, that there is no peace possible so long as nations retain their sovereignty, that there is no possibility of Western Union that can be effective and none of these things we desire can be achieved without the abrogation of sovereignty—then how is it that Britain appears totally unwilling to face it. That is the burning question. For four and a half years the Government of Britain have apparently been totally unaware of the significance of the age in which we live. This perplexes people outside our own country and all round the world.
If one could not explain this phenomenon I should despair utterly; but I can explain it and I wonder if hon. Members will agree with my conclusions. The 1945 Parliament consisted of individuals who were pledged to support and to work for the United Nations Charter which had just been written at San Francisco. None of us got a mandate to alter, to scrap or to replace that. Yet within six months of our arrival here we began to realise that the San Francisco Charter was totally unworkable; as a peace-preserving mechanism it did not work. The Government in power, which had never been mandated to abrogate sovereignty—was suddenly faced with this predicament.
What, under those circumstances, is the historical practice that the British Parliamentary democracy adopts? On such occasions I suggest to meet such situations, first His Majesty's Opposition flies a kite. They attack the Government of the day on their shortcomings, and thus focus the light of public opinion on the cardinal error. A controversy is started, is picked up in their Lordships' House, spreads all over the country and, after a few months, the electorate is, as it were, consulted and educated, the wind of public opinion fills the kite, and His Majesty's Government bow before it.
That is the way in which, in the past, British Parliamentary democracy has reacted to such a situation. In this instance that, however, has not been done. 1349 Three or four days ago the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) pointed out with some indignation the need to surrender of sovereignty. He challenged the Government and asked why they did not say something about it, why were they stalling on this issue? He would have done better to address his own Front Bench. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) has been vividly aware of this issue and, with continuous persuasion, has tried to move his party. The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) has also tried hard, and I could mention a number of other hon. Members; but the stubborn fact remains, the party opposite cannot be budged on the issue of national sovereignty.
The British Conservative Party believes in sovereignty, in "What we have, we hold," and in spite of the urgent need to fly this kite upon which the destiny, not only of our own country but perhaps of the world, depends, it does not do so. Britain is in a peculiar position on this question, she must give a lead or the thing cannot be done. In spite of that, His Majesty's Opposition, which have now, by the peculiar processes of our Parliamentary democracy, the duty to lead on this issue, cannot be budged. The silence of Britain is attributable, I think, to the failure of His Majesty's Opposition to do their duty in respect of the issues of national sovereignty.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Watkinson (Woking)
May I, in craving the indulgence of this House for my maiden speech, associate myself with the remarks made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Merton and Morden (Captain Ryder). He said that it had been a pleasant thing to experience the kindness and consideration of hon. Members on coming to this House; and it has been one of the most pleasant experiences of my life to receive so much kindness and consideration from hon. Members and officials of this House and I wish to make my acknowledgment to you, Sir, of that great kindness.
I have sat here attentively during this debate, and the wide way in which it has ranged over so many aspects makes one realise the many points of view there are on this great subject. As an ex-naval gunnery officer, I cannot agree 1350 with the theories on gunnery of the hon. Member for Yardley (Mr. Usborne). I shudder to think what my superior officers would have said if I had put to them a theory on gunnery of that nature. This brings me to the point I want to make, namely, that hon. Members have raised many points in this debate, but there does not seem to me to have been much said about the hard facts of the case. Perhaps I am wrong—and I am speaking as a new boy—but I thought we were discussing the White Paper on Defence and considering whether we were getting good value or not for the expenditure and plans outlined in it.
The motto of the naval gunnery school, of which I have the honour to be a graduate, is, "If you want peace, prepare for war." That is a good motto but it needs a qualification—that we should prepare for the next war and not for the last. In listening to this debate, I have had some doubt whether we were talking about the facts and the problems of the next war or whether we were talking about solutions that were applied in the last war. That is the question that worries me and which I put seriously and non-contentiously to the Minister of Defence and the Government.
I remember, in the early, bad years of the war, convoying ships from this country to Gibraltar and back, and I remember how time and time again we saw up to 50 per cent. of the convoys sunk because at that time we had not adequate air cover and had not adequate long-range destroyers which could convoy direct from ports in this country through to Gibraltar. We suffered many grievous losses both of ships and men that we could ill afford to. lose because at that time we were fighting the convoy battle on the methods of the First World War and not on the methods, of the 1939–45 war. The thing of which I am afraid is that we may approach these grave problems which are in front of us with the outlook and based on the experience of the last war.
Hon. Members opposite may feel that I am in some sense criticising hon. Members on this side of the House. I know I must not be contentious, but I think that all hon. Members have some responsibility in this matter; and I want to bring this point to the attention of the Minister of Defence. In considering this expenditure of a very large sum of money, are we 1351 quite sure, and are we taking every step to make sure, that we are really facing up to the very grave problems which I believe will confront us if by some frightful mischance we ever have to fight another war? That, I had hoped, would be the main point around which this grave Debate would revolve.
I should like to make one or two remarks on this matter. I am, after all, rather a peculiar hybrid, because, while I am really an engineer, for six years I had the honour to be a naval gunnery officer and can therefore speak with a foot in both camps; and because at the end of the war I had some part to play in the technical side of close-range weapons and certain other devices, I can claim to speak a little for industry and research in the development side of the Navy, at least as an amateur sailor.
I start by asking whether we are quite sure that the conditions in the next war will not be so entirely and radically divorced from the conditions in the last war that no experience gained by us in that war will be of any use to us. That is something I have waited to hear said during the Debate, because it is something which we must take very seriously into account. Take, for example, the development of the radar proximity fuse and the self-propelled projectile, whether fired from a gun or as a rocket or launched from some sort of catapult device. Those two things have radically changed all our conceptions of warfare; and if to those two we add the projectile with an atomic warhead, we have again radically changed the entire conception of warfare.
I return for a moment to my convoy problem. If we are to sail convoys in the next war—and surely we must assume that this country will still be provisioned in any war—under the threat of some form of atomic bomb, our ships must be spaced at distances of miles. The convoy will have to be dispersed over an enormous area of sea, which will make the task of defending it against submarine attack extremely difficult. That presents a problem right away and involves a re-thinking of our strategy of bringing convoys into this country in time of war.
In the Statement on Defence, paragraph 12, page 4, dealing with naval forces, I notice this statement: 1352The expansion of naval forces that would be necessary in the event of war would be achieved by the bringing forward of ships at present in reserve.That appears to be a very sensible device, but how many of those ships that are in reserve have the necessary speed to cope with the entirely new set of conditions of widely-dispersed convoys and snorkel-fitted submarines doing up to 25 knots submerged whilst none of our escort vessels, if brought out of reserve, can do more than 20 knots and most of them can do only a bare 16 knots? I instance these things to show what, I think, should be the method of approaching these problems and the need of bringing new minds to them and trying to relate them to the very worst conditions we think we may have to meet.
At the beginning of the last war, when I had something to do with sailing convoys through the English Channel, we were armed with Lewis guns as a defence against dive-bombers. I do not think that that was anybody's fault, but was due to the fact that we had never conceived it possible that the enemy would be able to base his dive-bombers within sight of the convoys. Are we quite sure that, in looking to the future, we are legislating for the very worst set of conditions under which we might have to fight—pray God we do not have to fight at all, but in case we do?
On the question of defence we should, I think, be discussing, first, spending the money which we have available for the very best purposes, and secondly, the new factors that will arise if ever we have to fight another war. In sea defence, which I have mentioned first, there is an entirely new situation, which we shall have to face. I mention next the question of attack by self-propelled projectiles fitted with atomic warheads. Here, again, is another new situation. I should like to confirm what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), who asked what use against that form of attack will be the 3.7 inch gun of the last war. None at all. The main task of the Territorial Army, however, is in training people to man exactly the same kind of weapon, a very good weapon in the last war and very useful when coupled with radar control and a good predictor against flying-bombs and against reason- 1353 ably low-flying aircraft, but no use at all against extremely high-flying jet bombers or self-propelled projectiles.
I mention that to point out the desirability of clearing our minds of the atmosphere of the last war and of trying to face clearly the worst we might have to face in another war, which in my view will be a "press-button" war, a war which has little relation to our whole conception of war and which will call for very highly trained technicians and not large quantities of half-trained or quarter-trained soldiers, sailors or airmen of any kind.
It is not my job, as I conceive it as a new boy, to try to suggest solutions to these grave matters, but I felt impelled to try to speak in this Debate. Perhaps I may be forgiven if, again as a new boy, I am inclined to tread where angels fear to tread. I felt it was time someone should say in this Debate what I sincerely feel. This is not a party matter. To my mind we should spend our defences in the best way we can, by looking forward and trying to perceive the worst that lies before us. Going back to my old gunnery school motto, "If you want peace, prepare for war"—but do not prepare for the last war. Try efficiently and honestly, and with as much drive as we can, to prepare for the next war.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. John E. Haire (Wycombe)
It falls to my happy lot to congratulate the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson). He has given us one of the most sincere maiden speeches we have heard so far in this Parliament. He has spoken with a well-informed mind on this matter and had not the slightest difficulty in catching the ear of the House. He will soon learn that that is one of the greatest achievements to be made here. He described himself as an engineer and gunnery officer. I am sure that if he continues to contribute to debates in this agreeable way he will soon be a "big gun" in his party and engineer himself a seat on his own Front Bench.
He and I had something in common, he served in the Navy in the last war and I in the Air Force. It was my lot to take part in Coastal Command and in the U-boat warfare he described. I can share with him many of the fears he has expressed. I sincerely hope that, if we 1354 find ourselves in another war—and God forbid we do—that we shall not go in so ill-equipped as in 1939, particularly in air sea warfare. The hon. Member may use some of his experience in speaking to his hon. Friends, who have disclosed a quite lamentable disregard of some of the things we learned towards the end of the last war.
With great surprise I heard the Leader of the Opposition tell us about some new discovery about which he had just read. Those of us in Coastal Command who knew about the development of the snorkel type of U-boat knew how difficult it was to detect. I remember at the end of 1944 and the beginning of 1945 reading tactical reports on the methods of combating the snorkel U-boat. We them knew about the new device of sonobuoys and how to lay a pattern of sonobuoys in order to detect the fast moving snorkel U-boats. I was indeed most surprised to hear the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon present it to this House as though it were a great new discovery.
I think the hon. Member for Woking can feel satisfied that those of our Ministers concerned with organising our defence are well aware of developments and are concerned with building up an adequate defence. I wish to congratulate the Minister for giving us what I consider to have been one of the best surveys of defence we have heard in the last five years. We welcome him in his new post. If he can continue to master the subject in this way, I feel sure my hon. Friends and I will be well satisfied.
In speaking of defence problems my right hon. Friend said there was no room for party manceuvre and that defence policy must be based on broad popular appeal. In my opinion it was most unfortunate that the Leader of the Opposition, speaking next, immediately brought this great matter of defence into party politics. Indeed, he began to play his usual party tricks, irrespective of our national reputation. I considered his reference to recent ministerial appointments was cheap and sneering. Indeed, it was calculated to injure our military reputation abroad.
I consider that that sort of speech is likely to devalue our defence efforts in the eyes of other nations. Some of his own appointments in the past, as we know quite well, did not bear close examination 1355 and in performance they were far from satisfactory. I also consider his call for a secret Session had dangerous implications. I consider it was likely to give a false impression to the outside world that we in this Debate were bent on an aggresive policy. After all, he has had an opportunity, along with his right hon. Friends, of meeting the Prime Minister and going into secret session with them, and obtaining information which we on these back-benches have not had an opportunity of obtaining.
I sincerely hope that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will resist the demand for a secret Session. Surely, on all sides of the House, we wish to give the impression from this Debate that we are not bent on war, that ours is a defence which has no aggressive intent whatever. Let is go out to the world that we are only doing what we consider to be our duty, to discuss the defence of our country should war unfortunately ever again arise. Then there Alias the right hon. Gentleman's reference to rumours that spread in the Far East. It is a well known, old political trick to put up a few skittles of one's own and then proceed to knock them down. We know that the right hon. Gentleman himself and the policy of his party was not very well beloved by the boys in the Army in 1945, and I have no reason to think that that has changed now.
The Minister revealed a most notable advance in the matter of Western European defence. It is to that subject in particular, and the subject of our integrated Commonwealth defence, that I wish to address myself. I was glad to read in the White Paper and to hear from the Minister today how much has been done in developing the Brussels Pact and the North Atlantic Pact towards a closer defence system in Western Europe. I was pleased to hear that the equivalent of £300 million became available from the United States in January last to help towards the re-equipment of Western Union. The Minister mentioned a sum of 1,000 million dollars, and he told us that most of this would be going to aid Western Europe and that we ourselves would be getting no great financial advantage from it.
I feel that we are still required to bear far too heavy a burden of this Western 1356 European defence. I hope that pressure may be brought to bear on the United States and others, if pressure is the correct word, so as to lead to a greater equality of contribution in the matter of our Western European defence. We still require to bear some 21 per cent. of our annual Budget as a defence charge. In 1947–48 the percentage was as high as 26 so that the trend is perhaps in the right direction. But 4s. 2d. out of every £ collected in tax is now accounted for by defence—6s. 9d. if one includes payments towards the liquidation of our National Debt.
A figure of 6s. 9d. out of every is far too great a proportion, and I hope that my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench who form the Defence Committee will continue to bend their minds to the question of reducing this figure in every way possible. I have made the suggestion to them that they might try to obtain for us a better proportion of the contribution being made to Western Union by the U.S.A. It is well to remember at the same time as we lament their own high expenditure that according to the latest available figures from the U.S.S.R. their annual expenditure on defence is about £3,000 million, which is the equivalent of our own total Budget. It is surely sobering for all of us to reflect that we are now spending, according to the White Paper, some £781 million compared to the Soviet Union's £3,000 million last year.
It is as well to remember also when we are concerned, as we have been in the country and in this House, about the high total figure we are spending today on defence, that it is little more if at all, expressed as a percentage of our total Budget, than we were spending on defence at the same period after the First World War. So, in the defence situation of today, which requires us to fulfil many commitments overseas, which is costly in terms of new equipment, research and development, defence is not costing this country much more in proportion than at this stage after the First World War.
I am one of those who have a great belief in the contribution which can be made by the Commonwealth towards our integrated defence. There has not been very much said in this Debate about what the Commonwealth is doing. During the period before the Dissolution, while we 1357 were in Recess, there was the Colombo conference, which was called mainly to consider the question of South-East Asian defence. We have not heard, as I should like to have heard, sufficient to indicate that this idea of integrated Commonwealth defence is being properly developed as a result of that conference. I am conscious of the informal association which we have built up over the years in the Commonwealth.
We consider it a matter of pride that without any chains to bind us such is the strength of the Commonwealth that its members have come to our assistance on many occasions in war and peace. But in face of the menace which exists in the world today, and the need for a firm defence policy, particularly in South-East Asia, I should like to know much more of what we are doing arising out of the Colombo conference. I myself consider that continued liaison by the Chiefs of Staff is good, and the Minister referred to it today. But it is not enough. I believe that we should have regular defence conferences, perhaps some definite commitments, so that we do not have to wait until the actual first shot is fired until we know whether our sister nations in the Commonwealth are coming in with us, and to what extent.
Yet again I would remind hon. Members that it would be wrong to assume that the Commonwealth in terms of its individual members is not playing a part in our whole defence system. I have looked at the figures of the defence costs for the four leading members of the Commonwealth in 1938 and 10 years later. I find that Canada in 1938 was spending something like 34.4 million dollars and today, in the Budget of 1949–50, is spending 383 million dollars; which is the largest defence charge ever. Australia in 1938 was spending £14.4 million, and now that she has a five year defence policy is averaging an expenditure of £60 million per year. New Zealand was spending £5 million in 1938 and today is spending £10.4 million on defence. South Africa was spending £4 million in 1938 and today is spending £9.7 million. That makes a total expenditure today by these four members of the Commonwealth of some £210 million, with a combined population of some 35 million. I think hon. Members would agree that all things 1358 considered, that is indeed a good contribution.
I would ask the House how in fact can we reduce otherwise this tremendous expenditure. Clearly there is this tendency for defence costs to increase. If we effect no economies, what with the development of all these modern devices and equipment, we must anticipate that in fact costs will rise. At the present time we are coming to a situation in the country where we must keep a firm hand on these ever-increasing costs. I would ask the Prime Minister if he considers that any further economies can be effected by closer co-ordination of certain services. After all, one of the functions of the Ministry of Defence when it was set up in 1946 was stated to be the co-ordination of certain common services. I wonder for example if there is room for improvement in the bulk purchase of supplies for our three Services? Might we effect certain economies if we coordinated certain common items of equipment? I believe there is wide room for improvement in the whole field of administration where certain services certainly could be integrated.
In the White Paper setting up the Ministry of Defence in 1946 we were told, for example, that it was thought that the medical services could be integrated. We were told at that time that a report would be made to Parliament in due course as to what had been achieved. I myself cannot recollect that that report has yet been laid. I believe that a good deal of co-ordination could be achieved in the initial stages of training. Combined administration could take place in the Pay Corps; combined operations, general intelligence—these are definite functions of the Ministry of Defence. But we rarely hear of what has been achieved and what economies of spending have been effected by their integration.
My view is that during the last General Election it became evident, I believe, to all hon. Members of whatever party that there was a great urge in this country for peace. People feared what they considered to be a drift to war. I believe something more must be done to show the nation that we mean business about the control of the atomic and the hydrogen bomb In my final words, I would make a special appeal to the 1359 Prime Minister to re-open this question of control of these diabolical weapons with the United Nations organisation. After all, let us hope that the goodwill which we have attempted to show to other nations in this Debate today might yet be forthcoming from other nations, which have so far frustrated us. if we give them yet another chance.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
In rising for the first time in this House, I ask hon. Members to afford me that generosity and tolerance which they have already afforded to my predecessors and to overlook any shortcomings in my speech.
I wish to deal with a matter which I do not think has been touched upon so far. I refer to the question of technical manpower and maintenance. We see from the White Paper that we are cutting down our Forces and increasing our expenditure on research and development; but I believe that both parties in this House will agree that we are having the greatest possible difficulty, even at this moment, in maintaining the highly technical devices with which our Forces are equipped. I am interested as an engineer. I see even more complicated devices being brought forward and I have grave fears that we shall not be able to do the absolutely essential job of maintaining all these technical devices in a very high state of efficiency.
I am sure that hon. Members will agree that this is not just a debating point. The anti-aircraft gun is useless unless it has radar and a predictor operating with it. It is virtually useless unless those two pieces of equipment are operating at peak efficiency. A ship cannot defend herself unless she has reasonable warning of an approaching enemy aircraft. She cannot locate an adversary and she cannot hit back unless her radar is working efficiently. In the Royal Air Force, of which I speak with some personal knowledge, as did the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire), they are even more dependent upon technical equipment. Jet fighters, about which we have heard a lot during this Debate, with their short endurance and high speed, might as well be left in the storage unit if they have not got radar to direct them, control them and 1360 enable them to find and attack their targets. In the anti-submarine sphere, we cannot find the very small response from the Snorkel, the breathing tube of a submarine, unless the radar of the aircraft is maintained at absolute peak efficiency. We have heard also about the sonobuoy. Both the buoy itself and the equipment in the aircraft must be properly maintained.
It was said at one time that an army marched on its stomach. There is absolutely no doubt that all our Forces today rely for their efficiency on their technicians. That point has already been made, but I repeat it because it is most important. We are spending £780 million in larger and larger proportions on technical equipment; but are we, in fact, able to maintain it? I have grave doubts. I am well aware that all the Forces' manpower commissions have given much thought to this problem, but if we judge by results there is still a great deal of distance to be covered.
The National Service man with just 18 months' service cannot be an efficient technician at his junior age, and all the Forces will agree that one only gets perhaps six months of operational service from him. The Royal Air Force have recently inquired of industry whether they would further a scheme to persuade technicians who are called for National Service to volunteer not for 18 months but for a three-year period. That is an admirable idea. The idea is that instead of National Service being a waste of time and a horrible break in civilian training, one should progress smoothly in one's trade training and that when one goes back to the same firm they should guarantee re-employment. This is admirable in every way. Another point which I think is also a valuable check is the proposal that the firm should keep a tab on the people it has loaned to the Service to make sure that they are occupied in a useful technical manner. I think that idea is in every way excellent, but I have seen that the R.A.F. are asking for 6,000 maintenance personnel from this source each year. I submit that, even with the full enthusiasm which industry would give to the scheme, it is quite unrealistic to expect numbers of that type.
What are we going to do? I was greatly impressed when discussing this problem with the American Forces. They 1361 had the same kind of problem, and even with their high rates of pay they had trouble in recruiting really high-grade technicians to operate their complicated radar stations. They have a scheme which I would like the Minister of Defence to consider. They went to their big radio companies and leased high-grade technicians for a period of a year, and I know of complicated radar stations on the continent of Europe which played a very important part in the airlift and of which the supervisory technicians, though wearing uniform, had no rank, and were, in fact, on lease from one of the big radio companies. I think that scheme might be explored further, because these companies are pleased to have these men back, since they go back with practical operational knowledge, and, incidentally, with knowledge of faults in design which can be corrected in the next mark of equipment. I think the Americans have got something there.
To summarise what I have said so far, we have the National Service man at the lowest level, the volunteers of the three-year type at the medium level, and now, I hope, these high-grade technicians at the top level; but all of them must surely be backed up by really good Regular Forces. We cannot depend on this type of technician solely; we must have good engineers in our Regular Forces. I believe that at the moment a great deal of waste of time is going on at all levels in the Regular Forces. It is not good enough to have to attend medical inspections, equipment and kit parades and parades of all sorts. Inspections of this, that and the other type all waste time, so that the people on the job are doing perhaps only two or three useful hours' work every day, We have got to make the optimum use of manpower if we are to get value for the very large sums we are now spending.
Lastly, the Minister of Defence mentioned the question of the short tail and large head, but a head with some teeth. If this is to be so—and I think that hon. Members on both sides will support that idea—has not the moment come to rely for first-line maintenance on the forces I have suggested, but, for second, third and fourth-line maintenance, on civilian industry? It happened immediately after the war that the aircraft, electrical and radio industries were busy rehabilitating war-time equipment. That is beginning 1362 to come to an end, and, on another score, we have heard of bombers being supplied from America. I have no doubt that the same applies to other items of equipment. If that is so—and I have that trouble in my own constituency, where we find that we have engineers and technicians being thrown temporarily out of employment—is not this the moment to say, "Right, we will throw our effort for second, third and fourth-line maintenance into these very channels where we have spare employees already trained and skilled in that very work." I think careful consideration ought to be given to that suggestion.
May I, last of all, mention the question of the co-ordination of our efforts? We have heard much about the supply of modern jet aircraft, not only to our Regular and Auxiliary Forces, but also to the countries of Western Europe, but are those aircraft backed up by the signal services and radar services which are absolutely essential if they are to do their job? I have my doubts. We read in the White Paper last year, under the heading Western Union, that:British ground radar equipment is also being supplied from the United Kingdom for an integrated early warning system.One could suppose that by now that integrated ground radar system has come into being, but I wonder if that is so, because there is no mention of it either in this year's White Paper or in the White Paper dealing with Western Union.
In three hours' time it will be two years since the Brussels Pact was signed. We have had two years of planning. In all humility, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he would give us some assurance that we have, in fact, made progress, not just in the planning, but in the real integration of the air forces of Western Europe? We must surely not only be able to use our squadrons in this country but be able to allow them to deploy all over Western Europe with the confidence that they can immediately pick up the first, class signal and radar services essential to their operations. Otherwise, I feel that we are merely deceiving the public, perhaps in this country and perhaps in Western Europe, into a false sense of security. If our squadrons cannot operate effectively because they cannot find their enemy, then they cannot defend the public against that enemy. If we cannot defend 1363 Western Europe, we cannot save this country, Western Europe or Western civilisation.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. William Wells (Walsall)
I am sure I shall have the agreement of the whole House in giving my most sincere congratulations to the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Charles Orr-Ewing), who has just addressed the House for the first time. It sometimes happens that as one sits on the benches listening to hon. Members who are about to make the same complimentary noises as L am making now, one hears them say, "What can I say to this fellow to be nice to him?" They think of a form of words. Let me assure the hon. Member with all the sincerity at my command that that question did not enter my mind. It was apparent to the whole House that it was not only an admirable maiden speech but an admirable defence debate speech, and I feel sure the whole House will have welcomed hearing it. We shall look forward to hearing the hon. Member on many occasions. If, in the course of time, he can infuse into some of the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who sit on the same benches some of the seriousness, the sincere and practical approach to the problem which he himself has shown, that will be an even greater reason for welcoming him here.
§ Mr. Wells
No, I have not spoiled it at all. I am merely saying how much better the hon. Member is than the others. I am sure that the points the hon. Gentleman has mentioned will be considered. They are essentially of a forward-looking character, and for that reason they are peculiarly welcome in this Debate.
All of us must recognise that we are dealing in this Debate with the very difficult question of reconciling the different needs of future developments and of present preparedness. Inevitably, these are questions of great complication. When we are trying to strike this balance between the needs of research and the calls of current efficiency, the first question we have to clear our minds about is what current efficiency means in this particular context.
1364 I submit that current efficiency does not necessarily mean an expeditionary force on the lines of 1914, or even of 1939, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), when opening the Debate, made great play with a number of innuendoes about the difficulty of raising, he said, even two brigade groups from the force in this country. The right hon. Gentleman should surely have been aware that the circumstances of today are not the circumstances of 1914 or of 1939. We already have considerable forces disposed on the continent of Europe. Even more considerable forces are disposed by the Americans, and there are forces disposed by the French. Cumulatively there is on the Continent today a higher degree of preparedness on the Western Union side than existed in the previous conflicts.
Therefore, the question we have to ask ourselves is this: does the shape our Forces have assumed today represent the results of agreements reached with the other signatories of the Brussels and Atlantic Treaties in the light of our well-known needs for home and Commonwealth defence?
The White Paper, on page 9, sets forth an elaborate chart of committees, interlocking and inter-related with each other, of an international character. The fundamental question is how this machinery is working out in practice. I very much welcome the fact that the Minister of Defence did make a serious contribution to the discussion of this question by telling us some of the subjects that these committees were dealing with. He did not tell us all the things we should like to know. It may be said even that he did not tell us all the things we ought to know. Time after time hon. Members who were in the last Parliament and who happened to sit on the Select Committee on Estimates were brought up against this vexed problem of how, in present circumstances, this House is to discharge its duty to the public of satisfying itself that the country is getting the right value out of the vast sums of money it is called upon to expend.
I found myself, at first blush, in some sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition when he made his request for a secret Debate. But then, one reflected, what would be the use of a secret Session when we had 1365 secured it. Would it be a matter of the submission by the Opposition of a series of practical questions, such as those formulated by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hendon, North, which it would have been possible for the Government either to answer or to say quite frankly, "The answer to this question is so secret that we are not able to discuss it even in a secret Session of the House of Commons "?
If it were possible to hold such a Debate and discuss these problems in that atmosphere, I believe it would be a valuable contribution to the organisation of our defence, and it would help this House to discharge its essential and inescapable responsibility for checking to some extent the expenditure by this Government on defence. But a secret Session of that kind would be quite useless unless it was held in a particular atmosphere. Whether or not it could be held in that atmosphere must depend on the sincerity with which the leaders of the Opposition approached the question. Nobody questions their sincerity in wishing to see the country defended—of course not—but are they really sincere in their approaches to this particular problem at this time?
I believe that to raise the issue of Western Germany in this Debate is to drag in a red herring. I believe that, in the first place, it is a highly complicated problem of international policy whose proper place is in a foreign affairs Debate and not in a defence Debate; and I do not believe that the right hon. Member for Woodford, having cast out his generalisations, has made any effort to follow them up or to make any constructive proposals in this regard. When I couple what I deem to be these irrelevancies with what I consider to be the scandalous attack he made upon the Minister of Defence—hon. Members may use what adjective they like, but I prefer to call it scandalous and leave it at that—and add the still more scandalous and utterly irrelevant remarks about the whispering campaign, then I believe that is some evidence of the sincerity with which the right hon. Gentleman approached this Debate this afternoon. I believe that the request for a secret Session of this House was merely a demon stration by the right hon. Gentleman that he was trying to pose before the people 1366 of this country as the great saviour of the country who once again—[HON. MEMBERS: "He does not have to pose. I Nobody denies the great services which the right hon. Gentleman rendered to this country in the past. The Opposition should not be so sensitive about these matters.
§ Mr. Wells
I was arguing that this proposal was not put forward with sincerity. If one reads the rest of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in cold print in HANSARD in the morning, that will be the inescapable conclusion drawn not only by hon. Members of this House but by members of the public outside as well. For that reason, and because it will serve no useful purpose whatever, I hope the Government will refuse this request which was part, not of a serious contribution to the Debate on defence, but of an electioneering speech.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Brigadier Smyth (Norwood)
I must ask the indulgence of the House as this is the first time that I have had the honour to address it. I feel that I am very fortunate to be allowed to speak on a subject which I think is so very vital, which I have so much at heart and with which I have been closely connected for a great part of my life. Not that I consider defence in its broad aspect to be in any way a specialist subject. The world is becoming smaller today. The speed of modern weapons and transport is every day becoming greater, and today defence is and must be everybody's business.
The area of world defence that we are considering is perhaps like a gigantic draughts board, which is spread before us and upon which all the world appears. But just as in realms of high strategy the whole conception is becoming simpler, I am quite certain that in the tactical handling of weapons and formations, defence is becoming a very professional business. Therefore, I am certain that it is a snare and a delusion to judge the fighting value of any defence force from the number of bodies that there are in uniform or even the number that there are in the reserve or the amount of money we may spend upon it. One must judge by different standards.
1367 In a maiden speech I do not want to be controversial. I do not think that defence should be controversial or in any way a party matter. It is essentially a national subject if ever there was one. But if I stray a little from the strict non-controversial paths, it is because I believe sincerely that no one who really follows our defence forces and their organisation today can be at all happy that we are really getting full value in terms of trained formations for the amount of money we are spending. I should like in the short time in which I propose to address the House to touch on three points. First, the purpose of our Defence Forces as set out in the White Paper; then a word about their character and make-up; and then just a word about their spirit and morale, a subject which I have not heard mentioned very much today, but which is an essential part of the strength and efficiency of any such forces the whole world over.
On both sides of the House we would agree that the most disastrous thing that could happen to Britain or, indeed, to our civilisation would be another world war. Therefore, I think that the Minister of Defence is our most important Minister. If we really believe that that would be the greatest disaster we could suffer, tour Defence Forces and our defence system should have the highest priority. As regards the purpose of our defence as set out in the White Paper, I feel that quite a number of people seem to imagine today that their purpose in the event of another world war is that we and our Allies in Western Europe and in America should emerge from the ashes of the conflagration and be able to say that we have been victorious.
That attitude I believe to be a terrible mistake. Our whole attitude towards defence should be that the war of the future must never be allowed to start. I do not find that dynamic approach in the White Paper, and certainly if I am mistaken and it is there, that dynamic approach has not permeated into our Armed Forces. If the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, I am certain that the price of peace in this unsettled world is eternal vigilance and then something even more, for which we have to work very hard indeed. The Brussels Treaty and the Atlantic Pact 1368 have been stepping stones towards our purpose of world peace, but Britain has to take the lead, even in the organisation and planning of European defence, to see that we put across to our Allies the essential idea that defence in these days is not merely a question of plugging holes in a defence line, whether in Europe or anywhere else. It is a dynamic idea that all our planning must be directed to the final purpose that there must not be another war. It must not be allowed to start.
I believe that it is because that supreme purpose for our defence planning over the last three years has not been realised that our rather expensive Defence Force does not really know which way it is going. I found myself in very great agreement with the Prime Minister when, on the first day of this Parliament, he said that what really mattered was not the value of this or that particular weapon, but the will to peace. I am certain that that is fundamentally true. If we cast our minds back to the end of the war when London was deluged with flying bombs, we shall understand how difficult it would have been for a British Government not to use any weapon, however terrible, which it knew would stop the flying bomb menace within a very short time.
The important thing is to get the will to peace. All the great nations can approach the will to peace in two different ways. They can do so because they really desire peace and they think it abhorrent that in these civilised times any nation should resort to war. I think that is the United Nations idea which we envisaged five years ago and of which we have fallen rather short today. There is another will to peace, on the part of a nation which considers that it is expedient not to go to war. I admit that that ideal is second best but we must cling on to it if we can. Any Defence Force which we create must not only seem good to us but it must seem good and up to its job to the whole world, friends and foes alike. In other words, we have to put a great deal more into our defence shop window than we have done in the past if we are to prevent the war of the future from ever starting.
The next war may also start from some smouldering disturbance, possibly in some out-of-the-way part of the world, which goes untended and then gets fanned 1369 into a big flame which is beyond our control. The measuring rod of our British defence force must be to deal with any situation which may arise in the future. We must see that it is highly mobile, highly efficient, and that a large proportion of it is in a high state of readiness. Otherwise it is a waste of money.
In regard to the character and makeup of our Defence Force, the Government mentioned in the White Paper cooperation and consultation with the Commonwealth. The co-operation we have achieved with the Commonwealth at the moment is a poor and anæmic thing to my way of thinking; in fact, we have not anything like such strong co-operation in our Armed Forces with the Commonwealth and Empire as we have with Western Europe. That is wrong, and I should like to see a Commonwealth defence secretariat set up in London as early as possible and our great Dominions bearing a much greater share of the manpower and expense of our Empire Defence Force than they are doing at the present time.
I want to see the training co-ordinated. At the end of the war we thought nothing of moving two or three divisions by air over such unpleasant country as the jungles of Burma. It is a poor thing that today we cannot send out our Expeditionary Force, however small, from this country to meet the forces of New Zealand and Australia in the Middle East to carry out training together. Also if a litle rumpus starts in Malaya, I should like to see an Airborne Division from New Zealand and Australia on the scene within a week. I am certain that the kind of disturbance which has proved so difficult to control could have been dealt with if it had been tackled immediately, whereas by delaying two or three months and then sending out a brigade from home we have found that in the meantime the little rumpus has grown into something beyond our control.
I would remind the House, as has been done before, that a big vacuum has been created today in our Commonwealth defence by the loss of our magnificent Indian army from our Empire Defence Force. It has not only disappeared from the credit side but it has rather gone over to the debit side owing to the most unfortunate situation over Kashmir. 1370 Although I know that on paper within the last few days the situation seems to have improved, the state of tension which exists over Kashmir ought to be watched. If I may say so without being controversial, Britain had a moral responsibility to settle the fate of Hyderabad and Kashmir before we left that country and no one but Britain could do it. And. just as we had that moral responsibility then, we have a strong moral responsibility today to see that the tension which exists over Kashmir does not result in one of those conflagrations which arise because it is nobody's business, and which might possibly lead the world into another war.
To come nearer home, I should like to refer to the problem of the Regulars and the National Service men. Every year this problem comes up in the Government Defence statement and every year we admit that it is becoming worse and that there is no solution for it. To my mind, conscription is not the real answer to our modern defence problems, yet I am certain that in the present position of our Armed Forces we could not possibly abolish conscription by a stroke of the pen. We have to face realities, and I say that any one who advocates the abolition of conscription, as many people do, and a lot of people did during the election, is supremely irresponsible and unwilling to deal with the problem which faces this country today.
The problem of the diminishing strength of our Regular Forces is nothing less than a straightforward business proposition. The right type of young man—we do not want any other than the right type if we regard security as highly as we should—will not become a professional gipsy— for that is what he does become if he joins any one of our Regular Services today—and be carted around the world, separated continually from his wife and family, unless the pay, conditions and terms of service are adequate and attractive.
The United States were faced with exactly the same problem two years ago but were in a different position from us and solved the problem within 12 months by increasing the pay and improving the conditions. The Government should come right out into the open on this straightforward business proposition of the Regular Forces and put quite plainly 1371 into the White Paper something like this: that in view of the difficulties of our economic situation today we are unable to offer the Regular Forces wages and conditions of service which will attract the men in the right numbers and that, therefore, we must continue to place reliance on the National Service men. It would be particularly wrong if we made. as I have heard suggested, full employment an excuse for not giving the nation security. It should not be made an excuse for that any more than it should be made an excuse for not giving the people houses. We want security and full employment, and houses and full employment also. If we were to place security at its proper value, I am sure that that is what we should have.
I should like to make one point on the important question of the spirit and morale of our Armed Forces, which I have not heard mentioned here today, but which is of absolute fundamental importance, because it is upon the contentment and morale and spirit of the men that the efficiency of any force must ultimately depend.
I urge the Minister of Defence to restore the status of the officer. Any junior officer would tell him what I mean. It is not just a question of pay. It is an awkward thing to play with men's souls. The junior officer feels he has great responsibilities over the lives of other people and particularly great responsibilities over money and his status has been very much lowered from what it was a few months ago. There are these continual cuts in his allowances, in his travelling and this and that, and he is made to feel, rightly or wrongly, that he is not of such great importance as he ought to be. The more democratic our Forces become, the more important it is that the status of the officer should be very high.
On the subject of the morale of the ordinary soldier, sailor and airman, I suggest that if we can make the ordinary soldier or airman who may be, perhaps, languishing in a swampy jungle in Malaya feel that he really matters, we shall have done an important thing. It is difficult, perhaps, to make him believe in fair shares for all, or that all men are equal, but I suggest we can make him feel that all men are equally important 1372 and that whatever corner of the world he happens to be in he is doing a top priority job and that in this year of grace, 1950, it is still a fine thing to be British. If we can give the man in the ranks, whether a volunteer or a conscript, the feeling that he really matters, we shall have started to give the people of this country the Defence Force they deserve.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)
It falls to my lot to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Brigadier Smyth) who has just made his maiden speech. He happens to share with me the privilege of representing part of the Metropolitan Borough of Lambeth. I know that in saying what I am going to say I shall carry the whole House with me. He has made a most useful contribution to our discussion and I know that hon. Members in all quarters will look forward to hearing further from him, at any rate during the lifetime of this Parliament.
The point I wish to raise is one which I do not think has been mentioned so far in the Debate. It arises from the important place that is occupied in the White Paper on Defence by the North Atlantic Pact and the Brussels Treaty. We know that the negotiations that have had to go on, the discussions which are still taking place, have been by no means easy. Those hon. Members who have had some experience of working some scheme of inter-allied co-operation during the war will know that it was not an easy task. They will appreciate how difficult it must have been during the last year or two to get some kind of understanding between various countries on the very important problems with which all those countries, including our own, were faced.
There is a suggestion I would like to make to the Minister of Defence which, I think, should be put forward in any discussions which may still have to take place regarding the respective contributions of the different countries involved in the Brussels Treaty and the North Atlantic Pact. I know that it may sound a little unfashionable at this time of day to keep on talking about fair shares, but in this respect we are entitled to ask that all the countries who are taking part in the Brussels Treaty, in Western Union and in the North Atlantic Pact should 1373 bear a fair share of the burden which will undoubtedly fall on each and all of us.
The only way in which the burden can be measured is by relating defence costs to the national income. When one examines the contributions from that point of view, it will be found that we in this country are contributing about 7 per cent. of our national income towards the cost of defence, whereas in the United States of America, for example, the contribution represents only 4 per cent., in Canada less than 2 per cent. and in France and Belgium also only 2 per cent. If these arrangements are to be acceptable to the people of this country, I maintain that the contribution should be on the basis of each country contributing an equal share of its national income towards the cost. If that principle is established and agreed upon by all these countries it may well lead to a lessening of the contribution which the people of this country will have to pay towards the cost of these organisations.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
It is true to say that at present Western Union and the North Atlantic Pact are a liability rather than an asset to this country. I hope that state of affairs will not be permitted to continue for a moment longer than can be arranged otherwise by negotiations.
I feel bound to make reference to the proposition, which was not put forward in a light-hearted or casual way, that in the defence of Western Union and the North Atlantic nations the western zones of Germany shall make a contribution. That statement was made by the Leader of the Opposition, speaking with authority from a carefully-prepared and carefully-worded statement. When at a later stage in the Debate he was asked to amplify or explain that statement, he repeated it in almost exactly the same form of words, namely, that western Germany shall make a contribution towards the defence of Western Europe. Surely everyone in this House and in the country, and the Governments of the other countries allied with us in Western Union and the North Atlantic Pact, are entitled to ask for something more detailed than a terminologically vague phrase of that kind.
As is known to the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head), 1374 who I understand is hoping to speak a little later it is not sufficient, when we are dealing with serious problems of this kind, involving all kinds of operational consequences, merely to come to this House and say that western Germany should make a contribution towards the defence of Western Union. I know that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) tried to claim that in putting forward that suggestion the Leader of the Opposition was following up something which my hon. and learned Friend had said a year or two ago. That does not add to the value or merit of the proposition that was made by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill).
The fact is that if we are to talk about some vague contribution to be made by western Germany, it will have to be translated into something more concrete. What does it mean? Does it mean that some form of German armed force is to be recruited and put into uniform and trained? If so, does it mean that they are to be trained by German officers in Germany? Or does it mean they are to be recruited and brought into France and trained by French officers? Or does it mean they are to be put into some kind of a Home Guard? What does it mean? The French Government and other Governments will want to know. In my view, it is both mischievous and irresponsible of the right hon. Gentleman to come to this House at such a critical stage in the fortunes of the world and make vague observations of that kind. I do most earnestly beg the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton to give this House some further enlightenment on that most alarming and disconcerting contribution made to this Debate by the right hon. Gentleman.
I am quite convinced that already the various Governments involved in the Brussels Pact and in the North Atlantic Pact will be on the telephone or getting into communication with each other, and with the Government of this country, wanting to know what it all means. For that reason I ask the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton to tell us specifically what is involved; and whether in saying what he did say the right hon. Member for Woodford was speaking as an individual or as the Leader of a responsible Opposition which a few weeks ago was 1375 almost at the stage of becoming the Government of this country—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Anyway the right hon. Gentleman thought he was on the verge of becoming the Prime Minister of this country. I cannot believe that this idea of re-arming the German people came to him suddenly since the election, and since he lost the opportunity of becoming the Prime Minister of this country. The impression gained by most of us on this side of the House from the speech he made this afternoon was that it is now the policy of the Tory Opposition that Western Germany is to be re-armed. I think this is a fair question and one which they ought to answer. Are the Tory Party now pledged to a policy of re-arming Western Germany in the belief that it is only in that way that Western democracy can be successfully defended? That is the question which they have to answer, because they brought forward the proposal, and I hope that question will be clearly answered before this Debate is concluded.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)
I hope that the hon and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) will not think me discourteous if I do not follow his remarks. I have only a very short time, and I have to make one single point in about five minutes.
I deem myself fortunate that I am addressing the Minister of Defence, the new Secretary of State for War and the former Minister of Fuel and Power who now ornaments the Treasury Bench, because what I want to say concerns them all. Earlier this afternoon the Minister of Defence said that where there is evidence of waste he would promise the House that it would be investigated. I am not going to produce actual evidence of waste, but I intend to suggest what I believe is a potential source of saving; and if a source of saving is neglected, it becomes waste.
That is in the Army. I suggest that the Secretary of State for War might signal his new command by asking for a Royal Commission to be set up to inquire into the financial relationship between the War Office and the Treasury. He should not ask for a Departmental inquiry but a Royal Commission which is something with real substance, the report of which would be public, and which could get all the information it required. I think that 1376 it would be found that the relationship between the War Office and the Treasury is not only unnecessarily repressive, frustrating and wasteful of time, but actually extravagant, particularly in the purchase of equipment. We were told earlier that this year £250 million of equipment was being bought largely by the Army. Economy is not only the art of not spending money; it is the art of spending it well. The Treasury and the War Office concentrate too much on saving every penny and too little on spending it well.
I should like to give an example. Every business man knows that if he makes a contract for a long period, say three years, he receives better terms than he gets if the contract is for one year only. The right hon. Gentleman knows that, due to the policy of confining the Army to a yearly budget, no firm contract can be given by the War Office for more than one year at a time. There may be a gentleman's agreement, but firm contracts cannot be given. I believe that the War Office get much inferior terms by that policy than would be obtainable if longer contracts were given. I understand that a number of foreign nations which deal with armaments firms here give longer contracts and get better prices as a result.
Our system was all right in the old days when very simple equipment was involved. Rifles, simple machine guns and horse-drawn transport were quickly made and there was not the same need for the contractors to have long periods in which to produce them. Now that we use tanks, radar and highly technical equipment of that kind, if the firms which produce them are to achieve economy in overheads, plant and so on, they must know for some time ahead that they will get the business and will be able to continue to produce the articles.
It may be said that this state of affairs goes back to the fact that the Army only comes into existence once a year when the annual Army Act is passed, that we cannot get over that, and that it is not a matter for Treasury reform. Just because some 300 years ago this House was frightened by Oliver Cromwell, is no reason for continuing this handicap today. Let us forget it. Let us get down to facts, and let us have some new system. I ask the Secretary of State for War to consider one further point. When the senior Service, the Royal Navy, buys 1377 highly complicated equipment such as a battleship, it cannot possibly do it under a single year's contract. The Navy use what I believe is called "battleship procedure." It might be worth while for the Army and the Treasury to get together to consider whether in the buying of much of this new equipment some system of "battleship procedure" should not supersede the present practice.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (Ayrshire, South)
There has been practically no difference of principle between the Opposition and the Government. The real opposition will come in the minds of the people of the country, in the minds of the Labour movement in the country, and in the minds of the rank and file of Socialists in the country, who do not think that, because an essentially Tory programme of defence has been enunciated by a Socialist Minister, it is not, nevertheless, the same reactionary bill for defence that they would have got from a Tory Government.
My hon. Friends and myself have tabled an Amendment to the Motion which puts the real opposition to this gigantic bill to be paid by this country for obsolete armaments.
[To leave out from "note," to end, and add "with regret of the increased expenditure on the Armed Forces as outlined in the White Paper on Defence at a time when the discovery of the atom bomb and the hydrogen bomb have revolutionised modern warfare; regards the expenditure of over £780,000,000 outlined in the White Paper as an intolerable burden on the British taxpayer, and a waste of the manpower which should be used for improving the housing of the people and building up peaceful and productive industry and by intensifying the armaments race offers no assurance of national security."]
In connection with the last Budget, there was issued a little illustrated brochure called "The Bill for Defence," and this item was contained in it:
The cost of defence—£760 million this year—is nearly half as big again as the State's contribution to the cost of education, health and housing. It is equal to an outlay of 22s. 6d. per week for every household in the country. Even the yield of the tobacco tax, which is one-sixth of the total income from all taxes, is less than enough to pay for the Navy, Army and the Air Force.
We believe that it is right to protest, on behalf of the workers of this country, at this 22s. 6d. per week burden being placed on the shoulders of the working classes for defence which is no defence at all.
§ Imagine the humbug of the White Paper at this time, when there is not one single reference in it to the atom bomb. It is quite true that the Minister of Defence did lift up the iron curtain about one-hundredth part of an inch. I have asked questions of the Prime Minister in this House inviting him to tell us if we have the atom bomb. The House does not know whether this country has the atom bomb. I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition knows whether we have the bomb or not. I am certain that the Secretary of State for War does. not know, and, if the Minister of Supply, who manufactures it, knows whether we have it or not, he takes shelter behind the familiar phrase, "It is not possible to give this information, in the interests of security."
§ The Leader of the Opposition today demanded a secret Session, but what have these meetings between the Opposition Front Bench and the Government been about? They have had three meetings in Downing Street, but the Liberal Party has not been included. Perhaps they contracted out; I do not know what happened, but it appears that their morale has deteriorated since I disappeared from the bench immediately in front of where they sit.
What I want to ask is this. What real security is there, in the days of the atom and hydrogen bombs, for the great masses of the workers of this country, living in great cities like Glasgow and London and in the Midlands? We have been told that a few of these atom bombs will destroy us, and I make a quotation from Lord Trenchard, who has told us, without any of the humbug or evasion of which the Leader of the Opposition rightly complained:
Is there any doubt whatever in any man's mind that the atom bomb today could probably destroy 10 million and up to 20 million people in a month? I am not overestimating … I say that a nation which lost that amount of manpower in such a short period could not exist and would have to submit.
This is stark reality, and when these casualties can be inflicted upon the nation, and when this nation has its heavy industrial population congested in these islands, to talk in the strain which we have heard today is evading the whole subject. I wish there had been in this Chamber tonight people who would say quite frankly, "The people of this country are not being safeguarded; there is no adequate defence for this country in this matter and the £780 million we are asked to sanction on so little information is a colossal fraud on the British people."
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
It is not altogether unfitting that I should follow the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes). In the past he has had the privilege of calling me a licensed slaughterer and I, in turn, will demand the privilege tonight of informing him that I do not intend to follow him in his insults or his arguments.
It appears to me that this Debate has been a very interesting one, and I hope I am not thought presumptuous in saying so. As the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said, there have been a great many aspects of the subject which have united the House and we have had from the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, from the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) and from the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton), if I may say so, speeches which I think were of interest to everyone who studies these subjects. In congratulating the hon. Member for Preston, South, who I regret is not in his place, I should perhaps congratulate him also on his new appointment and say that if he gets going, then on anything like previous form, he should be in the Cabinet within 18 months.
It would be wrong if I were accused of being partisan when I say that the outstanding speech has come from this side of the House—the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). As has been said on both sides of the House, his pronouncements on this subject are second to none in the world in authority, experience and judgment. In addition to that speech, 1380 however, we have had some very remarkable maiden speeches. We all know how frightening it is to make a maiden speech and I think that perhaps on this occasion the House has had an experience unique in its history in that never before has it witnessed two holders of the Victoria Cross who have successfully appeared so unutterably frightened.
Turning to the White Paper, of which the Prime Minister has asked us to take note, I hope I am not over-simplifying it if, having studied it and its predecessors carefully, I say that its general tone is "the mixture as before." I am not saying that there have not been certain changes, but my feeling is that those changes have been made more from expediency than from any feeling that the ingredients have to be changed because of new symptoms. I believe the changes have come about because the physician has run short of certain ingredients and has been forced to put in a little bit more of the others. I will not deal with that at the moment, but it is the feeling of many hon. Members on both sides of the House that the present system of manning, equipping and organising our Army and our Air Force is unsuited to the needs of our peace-time commitments and to our preparations to avoid or if necessary fight a war.
We believe that the present system needs modification, and we also believe that it has never been subjected to a really thorough policy review by any organisation within the Ministry of Defence. I think it is fair to say that our general system and policy have remained largely unchanged since 1945 and, if we remember the circumstances of its conception in 1945, it would indeed be remarkable if it needed no change.
As far as I know, this general defence system was adopted about the time of the Potsdam Conference, although it was implemented later after demobilisation. Russia was then our Ally and we were at war with Japan. There were many who felt that Russia was going to be a nationalist and not a militant world Communist power in the future. Naturally, another war seemed very remote. We foresaw that the Regular elements of the Army and Air Force would carry out our overseas policing, and that, as before, they would also form our strategic reserve in 1381 the Middle East and at home. The remainder of the Regular elements would form a cadre in this country for training National Service men. These would do their training in this country and would form the necessary reserve in what was then the remote event of war.
But at the time of Potsdam no one, not even the greatest crystal gazer, foresaw that in far less than five years we would be in the middle of an extremely intense and world-wide cold war, and that we would have vastly increased commitments overseas compared with any we had previously incurred. No one foresaw the present situation in the Far East or that we would have to contend with it without the Indian Army. No one foresaw that we would have to undertake definite territorial commitments for the defence of Europe and that the danger of war would have come as near as it is today.
It is my belief, and it is the belief of many hon. Members on this side of the House, that, since Potsdam, we have undergone a rapid and fundamental change, not only in the foreign situation but in our foreign policy. It would indeed be remarkable if a general system of defence policy initiated at the time of Potsdam fitted these fundamentally altered circumstances. It is our conviction that it does not fit. Therefore, I should like to string together some of the arguments already given to the House to see how the present system is working, both with regard to the Potsdam commitments and our preparations to avoid or, if necessary, to fight a war.
Firstly, at the present time, we are taking every possible military precaution to avoid losing the cold war. Our military forces are already ringed against an intensive and prolonged attempt by Russian fifth columnists and propagandists and so forth who have either infiltrated into or overcome certain areas in the Far East of great strategic importance to ourselves. That commitment cannot be fulfilled by a preponderance of the Regular element in our Forces. The strain on the Regular element of our Air Force and Army is such that we are forced to send not only to the Middle East but to Malaya the short service National Service men. Whatever the merits of this system when it was devised, there can be no more wasteful method of garrisoning Malaya or the Middle East 1382 than to send the short service 18 months man who spends a large proportion of his time on the boat going out, another large proportion in the boat coming back and only a tiny bit in the place where he is wanted. His 18 months' service is diminished into only three or four months where he was needed. In some way the numbers of long service men who could be there for a far longer time should be increased. The result today has been that the trained Regular element and the short period National Service element have been carrying on under great difficulty.
Having made this criticism of the Government policy I should like to say that nobody in this House would do other than show great appreciation of the way the Regular and National Service men of the Army and Air Force have carried out their duties. I am sure that instead of compliments they would prefer the greatest support they could get from this country. I ask the Minister of Defence, although it is not germane to my case, to consider two matters. He says in the White Paper that… the provision of the most modern equipment for future use must yield to the urgent present need for trained manpower.I hope that in Malaya and Hong Kong, which approximate to active service, these men will be given the most modern equipment—and not only warlike equipment but medical equipment as well.
This cold war commitment which I have mentioned is not a transitory matter in which we can say, "Soon we will withdraw our troops from Malaya, and that will give us a little easement and perhaps we will have something in reserve." In my belief, this is a commitment for a considerable time to come. I do not think that we should count on any relief in this respect, and it is for this reason that the present system, if prolonged indefinitely, will be more wasteful, not merely because of the continuing commitments, but because the trend at the present time is for a decrease in the Regular element and, therefore, of necessity, an increase in the Short Service element which has to be sent there. It is for this reason that I believe the present system is unsatisfactory and must be modified.
I should like to pass to an examination of how this system of ours fits, firstly, our efforts to avoid war; and, secondly, should war break out, to ensure that we 1383 do not suffer either an ideological or an actual defeat. I should like to divide the preparations we are making perhaps in a rather arbitrary manner, firstly on the scientific side and secondly on the more conventional preparation we are making.
As to the scientific preparations, I understand that these technicalities are extremely secret and that scientific matters are very difficult to discuss in this House in open Session. It appears to me that the scientific invention in future is going to consist of constant competition between the offence and the defence to overcome each other. An offensive weapon will be invented, and then there will be an attempt to provide a defensive weapon as a counter. In those circumstances, any nation must attach the very greatest importance to having information about the enemy's achievements, and to prevent the enemy getting information about their own.
For that reason I should like to ask the Prime Minister if he is really satisfied that the Intelligence Service, which has such a responsibility today, is really as efficient as it should be in these difficult times. The importance of intelligence today is out of all proportion to normal peace time situations. Its importance is equivalent to the war-time situations we have experienced, and recent events have not really reassured the House that our Intelligence Service has been functioning really efficiently, certainly in the matter of preventing information reaching the enemy.
I should like now to turn to more conventional subjects like the normal defensive rôle of armies, navies and air forces, quite apart from the new atomic inventions. I would be the first to recognise, as many speakers have tonight, that in the Middle East and in our obligations for Imperial defence we have matters of the utmost importance. I would, however, stress to hon. Members, and especially to those, who, I know, doubt very much what I am about to say, that one of the most important considerations, if not the most important, influencing our strategy and defence preparations must be our rôle within the general structure of Western defence. That must influence both our defence system and policy.
I was particularly gratified to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford underline the importance of our 1384 making a reality of the general defensive structure of Western Europe which so far has only been set up in treaties and pacts. Some hon. Members who have spoken tonight have said that such a barrier to the whole of Western Europe is well nigh impossible. But I would suggest to them that purely out of self-interest we must remember this. The speed and range of modern aircraft and of self-propelled weapons has made depth in defence of vital importance, especially where the air is concerned. Where will this island be if our defensive depth is forfeit and we find the enemy at the Channel ports? It is my belief that if we reject all other arguments, purely out of self-interest we are forced to co-operate in this task.
My second argument, which I believe to be important, is this. As my right hon. Friend said, if Western Europe is overrun we may fight a war and eventually and laboriously win it, but we shall have won it to find that Western civilisation in Europe will have disappeared for ever. That, it seems to me, would be a hollow victory. Therefore, I believe we are forced to attach the very greatest importance to making a reality of Western defence. Furthermore, unless we do it soon, I believe that time is against us, because if we make these pacts and it takes too long to make a reality of them, then the whole system will go by default and we shall revert to democracy's habitual system of sheltering behind committees, papers, planners and pacts. That would be disastrous.
It is with no pleasure that any of us sees that, so far, our steps seem to have been restricted to the exchange of equipment and the setting up of many planners and committees. When I was concerned with such things I remember an important and eminent civil servant saying to me, "Beware committees. Perhaps allow one, but practically never two. They breed like rabbits." Judging by the table in the last White Paper, the Atlantic Pact and the Brussels Pact have bred in a way which would do credit to the most amorous Australian rabbits.
Many of us at the moment feel that the situation among the Western Powers is that each is waiting to see what realistic contribution the other will make. The Americans are saying, "We are not going to endanger our economy and put up our 1385 taxes if the Western Europeans are not going to make a real job of this." In Western Europe they are saying, "We cannot do this alone. What are the British going to do?" It may be unfair that to some extent the lead seems to have been put with us.
I do not know what contribution we propose to make or what we have said so far. I do know that the present system and the present trend of our method of organising and manning our Forces is one which may give us large and efficient Forces six or nine months after a war, but if we continue in this way it will give us very little in the early stages of the war. The whole principle of Western European defence must be: What contribution can we make in the early stages? It is my belief that if we fail to make one we shall find a lack of effort and of reciprocity among the other countries concerned.
I have adduced two arguments for some modification in the system which we are following. But there are others. Not least is the difficulty in which we are finding ourselves today, and in which the Minister of Defence must find himself in regard to freedom of choice in the policy relating the proportions which he spends on equipment and manpower respectively. The trend of modern warfare is that scientific invention is making more and more complex equipment, more and more powerful in its hitting power, which very often can do the job which only many men with less up-to-date equipment could do.
Therefore, a situation arises in which we have to choose between complex and expensive equipment with fewer men, or more men and cheaper equipment. But in that very difficult balance, which should lie within the power of the Minister of Defence to decide, we are not free agents because our manpower is dictated not by choice, but by the minimum number of National Service men necessary to fulfill our overseas commitments. That is the quandary in which we find ourselves. It is a tragic quandary for a country which has high skill, high intelligence and high manufacturing power, and which should rely much more upon well-trained men with first-class equipment than on large numbers, if it is to repulse the massed numbers with which we are opposed.
1386 I would not feel so worried in the present circumstances were I not convinced by the figures we are given in the White Paper and which—if the Minister of Defence will give us credit for it—we have been foretelling for the past three years It is a fact that there is a gradual deterioration in voluntary recruitment and a gradual increase in the wastage. That means, if the present trend continues, that it will bring the balance of long service to short service men to an even more disadvantageous state than it is today. That position is not recognised by the White Paper, but it is recognised—this is an interesting point—in the short paper accompanying the Army Estimates. Whether the right hon. Gentleman wrote that paper as Secretary of State for War I do not pretend to know, but it gives a far more realistic view of the situation. It says:If the present trend continues we shall have a very serious situation, and it will be extremely difficult to maintain an efficient Army by 1952.The baby has now gone elsewhere, but I prefer the remarks of the Army Estimates to the somewhat complacent ones in the White Paper.
I am worried lest we should go drifting along until some changes are forced upon us by the deterioration of the situation. I would accuse the Government in this respect of being both complacent and defeatist. They are complacent because of their remarks in the White Paper. They are defeatists because the whole tenor of their review of the necessity for improving and increasing the longer service element is to say, "It can't be done." The right hon. Gentleman says in his White Paper, and indeed the late Minister of Defence said during the election, "You will never get voluntary recruitment in a country which enjoys full employment."
It is a pity that neither the Minister of Defence nor the White Paper looked at the facts. If the right hon. Gentleman will come with me behind the Speaker's Chair, I will show him a document which I have here. It shows that in the period between the two wars, and in the bad unemployment period between 1928 and 1931, recruitment was lower. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but what I am saying is an absolute fact. My figures come from no less an authority than the "Economist."
1387 It is a fallacy to say that recruitment is entirely dependent upon unemployment. That is disproved by the facts. Again, it is no good the Minister of Defence shaking his head. It is our belief that it can be done, and it must be done. The right hon. Gentleman says in his White Paper that in offering conditions of service to the Forces we cannot compete with civil life because it is too expensive. That may be true but we do not want to compete and outbid other industries. We merely want the right hon. Gentleman to give a fair deal to these unfortunate people.
The Minister of Defence is surely aware of some of the difficulties and hardships of people in the Armed Forces. The present rates of pay are miles below civilian pay. How the Royal Air Force gets technicians for radar and for the servicing of their machines, when I look at the alternatives in civil life, defeats me. I do not know how the armoured divisions get drivers, mechanics and fitters, or, when you think of the standard, how either service obtains the officers in view of the way they have been swindled—that is the only word for it—over their allowances by the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well the conditions in which officers live.. Many hon. Members think they spend their time swilling champagne surrounded by polo ponies and goodness knows what else. They are living, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, most of them in debt and in great hardship.
Some hon. Gentlemen may say, "You are only interested in the officers." I would only say this: I have never seen a bad unit with good officers and I have never seen a good unit with bad officers. They are worth spending a little money on when we are spending £800 million on defence. I recommend the right hon. Gentleman to look into the pay and, particularly, allowances not merely of officers but of N.C.O.s and skilled technicians. It will repay him one hundredfold for he will avoid the gradual drift away from the Forces, so damaging at the present time. The disturbing thing is that discontent with present conditions is increasing wastage. The right hon. Gentleman knows that just as well as I do, and that is what should be keeping him awake at night.
1388 I have criticised rather strongly the present policy of the Government and I have been 'brought up, perhaps unwisely, never to sit down without giving some views on the possibilities of solution. Here I must speak for myself, for we have neither staffs nor data available to give a thoroughly responsible solution. Any hon. 'Member who knows anything of this subject will agree with me there. Many of us believe, firstly, that alterations to the conditions of service should have been made long ago. In this White Paper, for the first time, we are considering alteration in the conditions of service. It is lamentable. The Government have three years of wastage behind them and they have lost three years' worth of people who might have stayed if they had done it earlier.
The Government must make of the Forces a vocation rather than an introduction to life. They must say to people who stay a long time—18 or 21 years—with good conduct, "We will give you a job afterwards." When one sees the present figures one feels that that should not be difficult and it is one of the few benefits of nationalisation that it should not be difficult under present circumstances. The Government must overhaul pay and allowances, as I have said already, and it is my belief that, until they do that, we shall not get the men.
Hon. Members will say, "Wages are frozen. We are out for economy. We are spending £800 million on defence." I could tell the right hon. Gentleman several ways by which he could cut the present defence expenditure. I do riot see why I should do it, however, because I should gain the unpopularity of the people I should mention. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] Hon. Members say Ah "but I expect the Minister of Defence has some idea. One way not to cut is to cut down on those people who are the foundation of our defence Forces, the long service Regular element. If we pinch on those people it is like building a vast skyscraper with the most beautiful offices, telephone exchanges and lifts, and then skimping on the foundations. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite have had great experience of erecting large office buildings. [Laughter.]
§ Brigadier Head
The Minister of Defence is attempting to introduce dry rot into the foundations and, if he is not careful, the whole structure will topple down for that reason.
I entreat the Minister of Defence to consider this matter carefully. We on this side of the House have been saying it now for some four years. It is a melancholy consolation to us that after four years our remarks have gradually crept into the White Paper.
There was a portion of the speech of the Minister of Defence—if he does not think it impertinent of me to say so—which might well have been drafted by any one of five or six people on this side of the House—
§ Commander Pursey
Why did you not do it in the 20 years before the war?
Brigadier Head: —in relation to the conditions of service and the improvements which must be made.
There is very little time to lose in this matter. If it goes on as it is going now, it is my sincere belief that we shall continue to lose in our defensive power and that we shall continue to decrease the value for money that even now we are barely obtaining. If that happens, it will be dangerous, not only from our own national point of view, but dangerous to the whole structure of Western defence also. If some hold back in making a reality of the structure of Western defence it is my belief that we shall all fail together, and if within the Western defence structure we do all fail together, then the price of failure will not be a national one, but it will be that the free world will pass over to godlessness and slavery.
§ 10.26 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
My right hon. Friend opened this Debate with a clear and balanced statement in which he abstained studiously from making any provocative or party point, and I hoped that this would set the tone of the Debate. I hoped that we would discuss this important, vital matter of national defence and security in a responsible and serious way. I have not been disappointed, except for one speech.
We have had a great many speeches today from both sides of the House, including quite a number of what I 1390 thought were exceptionally good maiden speeches. They were in the main speeches from men of great practical experience in the Forces. As one hon. and gallant Member mentioned, we heard two holders of the Victoria Cross. All of them made most thoughtful contributions, but there was the one exception, and that was the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I am bound to say that had it been made from the back benches, it was one of the speeches to which I should not have referred in reply, but as it was made by the right hon. Gentleman, who has a position of great responsibility, I must say something with regard to it.
The right hon. Gentleman started off with a number of cheap party points. He began by attacking Ministers, not in very good taste, and I should not have referred to his attacks except that I think that one should always stand up for people who are attacked quite unjustly. I could not help remembering the record of the right hon. Gentleman in this respect. I could not help remembering, when he made these strictures, that during the whole of the war we had a Labour Minister at one Service Ministry and a Liberal at another, and that in the other, after a succession of Conservative Ministers, the right hon. Gentleman then looked through the ranks of all his followers and finally had to appoint a civil servant. That is one of the reasons why I am looking forward so hopefully to some subsequent volume of the memoirs of the right hon. Gentleman, so that perhaps we shall have the reasons, at present hidden from everyone, for some of his remarkable appointments, particularly his choice for First Lord of the Admiralty in the Caretaker Government.
I cannot let pass one remarkable statement of the right hon. Gentleman. He thought, so far as I could make out, that no controversial, fighting political figure should be put in one of the Service Ministries. How fortunate it is that Mr. Asquith did not hold those ideas. I am old enough to remember what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Conservative Party and what the Conservative Party said about the right hon. Gentleman; and what is said by any politician today is as water to wine, compared with what was said in those days. But such a controversial figure—the right hon. Gentleman—was placed at the head of the Board of 1391 Admiralty. If the right hon. Gentleman's doctrine had then obtained, he would not have been there. And I do not forget that it was the Conservative Party that extruded him from that office.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
We do not forget what the right hon. Gentleman's own record was between the wars.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I am referring to the attitude of the present Prime Minister's party and their record between the two wars as far as Service Estimates were concerned and any form of rearmament.
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. and gallant Gentleman was not here and his experience of the House has not been very long—[An HON. MEMBER: "He was in the Army."]—I doubt whether he was quite old enough in the period to which I am referring, in which it was the custom to vote against Service Estimates and other Estimates—
§ The Prime Minister
Perhaps I may be allowed to finish my own sentence. The hon. Member is not in court just now. The custom was to vote against Estimates on points of policy. Parties have habitually done this and we did it on points of policy. It was misrepresented as a vote for total disarmament. That was invented by the present Lord Simon, although the Liberals only a year or two before, had done precisely the same thing with regard to a number of Estimates. That is the story. As a matter of fact, this party never opposed the proper rearmament of this country. [Interruption.] No, my speeches are on record in this matter. We were always prepared to support a system of collective security, but we did not support the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Conservative Party at that time because we did not believe it would make either for defence or for peace, and unfortunately we were right.
Before I deal with the more serious part of the Debate, I should like to deal with one or two more of the points made by 1392 the right hon. Gentleman. He spoke about whispering campaigns. I think it is time we did not have any more of his extraordinary habit of talking at intervals about whispering campaigns that no one has ever heard of except the right hon. Gentleman. I am bound to say that they must be an excuse for electoral defeat. But what I hear so often—not whispers—from many people, not of our party, is that the kind of irresponsible speeches made by the right hon. Gentleman form one of the chief bars to his return to power.
I am bound to say I was astonished at the right hon. Gentleman's irresponsible reference to the question of the rearmament of Germany. I do not propose to deal with it in any detail. It is more appropriate really to a foreign affairs Debate. It raises matters of high policy, which we cannot decide offhand in a Debate like this. We are acting with our Western Allies, with the United States of America, and with France. Our policy has been laid down in this matter perfectly clearly. I must say that for the right hon. Gentleman—I presume he was speaking for his party—suddenly to inject into a defence Debate a proposal of this kind is a very queer way of trying to build up the unity of the democratic nations and the unity of Western Europe.
The right hon. Gentleman knows that it is a most difficult and thorny subject, and I think his reference was extremely irresponsible and injudicious. The right hon. Gentleman, in reviewing the position of defence, rightly said that the naval position was very different from that in 1914. At that time the essential thing was to have a fleet in being ready to make a major attack upon the German fleet, and he pointed out the difference today when the chief menace would be the submarine menace. What surprised me was that he then went on to compare our present position with regard to the ground forces with that in 1914. There again, the position is entirely different, both as regards equipment and as regards requirements. I must say that I much prefer the more realistic discussion of our problems by many hon. Members on the back benches and in the speech, with which I shall deal later, of the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head). I do not think that a secret Session would be particularly valuable 1393 except that we might avoid these electioneering speeches. The right hon. Gentleman raised again the question of jet aircraft.
§ Mr. Churchill
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, will he say whether or not he will agree to a secret Session in the course of the next few months?
§ The Prime Minister
I will await a formal request, but at the present time I do not think it will be useful, and I do not think our experience of secret Sessions during the war shows that they were particularly useful.
With regard to the jet aircraft, it is the fact that we could not afford to buy all the aircraft produced by the industry. It has been our policy to keep such a war potential that in case of need we could have a rapid expansion, and for that purpose we could not afford to buy all the aircraft produced here. We sold them abroad. Most of them, as a matter of fact, have been sold to our Allies either in the Commonwealth or in foreign countries. Some have been sold elsewhere, and it has not meant a weakening of our Air Force at home.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman can raise it again on the Air Estimates, if he is present.
§ Mr. Churchill
It really is not the case that our Air Force has not been weakened by being denied the full equipment it could have had of jet aircraft if they had not been dispersed and scattered and frittered away.
§ The Prime Minister
One must not really take this as a question of an exact, particular time; one has to look over a period, and the period we have under consideration is one of building up and maintaining a potential and a steady development of our own Air Force at home. The right hon. Gentleman can raise the matter again on the Air Estimates. I noticed in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that almost all his points demanded extra expenditure: aircraft carriers, more naval aircraft, a greatly increased Air Force, expeditionary forces and all the rest of it; and it is remarkable the right hon. Gentleman, who has been 1394 talking in the country of reducing taxation and cutting down expenditure, on every occasion we have a Debate on Estimates raises the demand from the other side for more and more and more. whether it is housing, or health, or defence, or anything else. I think I have dealt with the point the right hon. Gentleman made. If there are any other points—
§ Mr. Somerset de Chair (Paddington,. South)
Would the Prime Minister deal with my right hon. Friend's point with regard to the sale of the jet fighters to the Argentine? He has not dealt with that.
§ The Prime Minister
I thought I had just dealt with it. Some at certain times were sold to the Argentine.
§ The Prime Minister
On these grounds, the need to maintain a potential and the need for exports. And it is valuable to have some of our things used by other countries with an eye on the future and not on the immediate present. The right hon. Gentleman will find that the other points he made were adequately answered, either in the maiden speeches made from his own side, or in speeches from this side of the House, if the reads the OFFICIAL REPORT.
I come to one or two of the points made in the Debate. I thought the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. Orr-Ewing) made a most admirable speech. He raised the question of technicians. Of course, it is a vital element in our Defence Forces that one should have an adequate supply of technicians. I can assure him that that matter is very present in the minds of all those concerned with the. Armed Forces. Last year there was a very important exercise called "Ariel," in which a great deal of the problem was explored. The hon. Member made an interesting suggestion about aircraft firms. I am asking the Secretary of State for Air to look into that suggestion and, if possible, I will ask him to mention it in the course of the Debate on the Air Estimates. It was a suggestion which I thought was well worth looking into.
1395 The hon. Member also, I think, dealt with the question of the integration of the air forces of Western Union. I think it was the same hon. Member who pointed out that we were selling jet aircraft abroad, but that the jet aircraft would not be of any use unless we had radar equipment and the rest of it. This was taken tip at once. It was quite an obvious thing, and it was a problem taken up in Western Union. The plan for these services exists but the speed of its realisation necessarily depends on the action of other Powers. Progress has not been unsatisfactory. I cannot say that it has been fully arrived at yet, but the matter has not been neglected. We must realise that these things do depend on the action of countries other than our own.
I thought the speech of the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson) was very interesting. A point there is the dilemma that has faced us all the time when we have to consider what are likely to be the conditions in another war, if war did come, which we all hope it will not. We have also got to consider how we are to fulfil the various commitments which we have all over the world at the present time. It has been an enormously difficult problem for the Chiefs of Staff to work out the balance for those two things, which do not necessarily merge exactly together.
For instance, the greater part of the weight of maintaining what has been called the "cold war" falls upon the Army. On the other hand, it is possible that in a future war the weight of expenditure would naturally fall on the Air Force. It is a very difficult thing to get the proper balance. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Norwood (Brigadier Smyth), in an extremely interesting maiden speech, touched somewhat on the same point.
There was a good deal of discussion on National Service. Broadly speaking, all hon. Members who spoke recognised the need for National Service. I do not think there was much support for the idea of a ballot. It was recognised that the present system was the best way of dealing with it. In fact, it is the only way in which it can be done in a democratic country.
That brings me to the question of the kind of forces that are wanted. The 1396 hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) suggested that we had adopted a certain set-up for the Forces in 1945, and that there had been no change. The matter is, of course, under constant examination, and there has been constant change all the time, though some of the broad factors remain. There is the question of a striking force, and of trained reserves. One of the points made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman was with regard to taking our part in the defence of Western Union. For that our trained reserves have to be built up, and we have been working on that plan, precisely on the basis mentioned by the hon. and gallant Gentleman that there will be no long period of waiting in which we can build up a force as there was in 1914 and in 1939.
That is why we have to have our professionally trained men, whom we can embody at short notice, which connects necessarily with the question of how great a proportion of Regulars we can have. We would like to have a greater proportion of Regulars if we could get them. I do not think it is purely a matter of pay. In comparing pay, people are too apt to compare that of the newest recruit with that of a skilled worker somewhere else. We have looked into this pay question with a view to trying to get it to correspond as near as we can to civilian life.
Much more important than pay are such questions as housing, married quarters particularly for the long-term men, amenities and the continuity of a career. That matter has been and is being gone into with very great care by the Services. A great deal has been done already, particularly with regard to the men in the ranks. I admit that it is a much more difficult problem for the officers, particularly the older officers. It always has been a problem, but I think that it gets more intense as the years go by because wars have become more and more young men's wars. This does mean that one has to get more adaptability. But on the other hand, service today does mean that people come out more highly trained for skilled work than they ever did before. As time goes on, I think all hon. Members will agree, we shall have a much greater continuity of jobs, and also greater possibilities for integrating the Service career with the civilian career.
1397 The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) and the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire) both mentioned the question of integrated Commonwealth defence. So far as Canada is concerned, she is a signatory to the Atlantic Pact; with regard to Australia and New Zealand, and other parts of the Commonwealth, conversations are going on in regard to these matters, but one has to work with other people. One cannot force the pace.
Reference has been made to the Colombo Conference; but that was not primarily a defence conference. It was concerned with foreign affairs, and no doubt there will be a follow-up of those discussions. The hon. Member for Wycombe raised the point of closer coordination, and a good deal has already been done. There is, for instance, bulk purchase; that is being dealt with very largely through the Ministry of Supply catering for the Army and Royal Air Force, and indeed for some naval centres. Joint intelligence is fully integrated, but integration is a much more difficult problem than people often think. If, for instance, you formed one medical service, you would not necessarily, I think, get economies. We have had the joint use of hospitals and some joint working with civilians, but I do not think that the building up of one organisation for all the three Services would be the means of achieving economies; it would be, on the contrary, both expensive and very top-heavy.
I was asked about the atomic bomb. It is not true to say that that question has been neglected; it is still with the United Nations, and I think that the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood put that matter in its right perspective. I think that many people delude themselves if they think that one can get rid of the menace of the atomic bomb by some sort of Queensberry Rules being applied to warfare. [An HON. MEMBER: "Queensberry Rules?" Yes, the Queensberry Rules, which say that one must not hit below the belt. It all depends on the will to peace, and it is for this that we are working, and have been working. So long as these things exist. I do not believe there is an effective way without the will to peace. One will not get one's desire merely by outlawing a certain weapon.
1398 There is, too, I think, a tendency to suggest in some quarters that because we have the atomic bomb, we have no need for other weapons. That is quite absurd. One might as well say that because one has a tremendous hammer for a certain job, one has no need of other tools. It is quite ridiculous. I think it is worth recollecting that Dr. Vannevar Bush, the great American authority, makes it clear in his recent book that in the view of the scientists the advent of atomic bombs does not make all other weapons obsolete. I should be the last to deny that this is one of the great menaces that hangs over us, and we will take any possible steps to deal with it.
As the hon. and gallant Member for Norwood said, the supreme interest of all of us is peace. I quite agree with him that it would be poor consolation to win another war and lose European civilisation. Therefore, I think that in all these matters of defence we have to be very careful what words we use. Everyone knows that this country does not want war. I do not believe any country wants war, but it is possible to get a state of mind in the world in which everyone begins to say that war is inevitable. That is a fatal attitude of mind. Whatever difficulties we may have with the United Nations organisation, that is a thing that we must stick to; that is our hope on which to build; and we must never be weary in trying to build up peace.
Meanwhile, we have to have our defences in as good a condition as we can. There is a limit to the amount we can spend on our defences because at the base of all defence must be a sound economic position. It would be equally useless to have enormous Defence Forces and ruin ourselves so that our economy collapses. Equally it would be wrong to try to build up an economy in which we had no powers of defence at all. It is. therefore, a question of balance in these matters, and we are endeavouring to get balanced Defence Forces.
It is not true to say, as I think the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton suggested, that there has been no review of our Forces. There was a very elaborate review undertaken by the Chiefs of Staff in this very last year We are not complacent, we are not sitting down and saying, "It was all right in 1945; it is all right now." There is a changing situa- 1399 tion, acid there have to be constant changes and adaptations. I am quite sure we 9110 all read very carefully the speeches made in this Debate, which I think has been one of the best on defence that I have heard in this House.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Statement on Defence (Command Paper No. 7895).